Sunday, June 23, 2013

My History with Shadowrun

I first played Dungeons and Dragons when I was 10 years old. For years, I was constantly lost in the realms of shadow demons, kobolds, hook horrors and of course... the trademark dragons. During this time, I also became an avid viewer of sci-fi. I watched 'Star Trek' reruns religiously. I stayed up way too late on Saturday nights to catch classic sci-fi movies on the tube. I was first introduced to my favorite Doctor (Tom Baker) in 'Doctor Who' reruns on PBS late nights. But the world shattering moment came when I first saw a little movie called 'Blade Runner'. I mean c'mon! This movie had everything! It had Han Solo running around killing synthetic humans, a sexy robot, Larry from 'Newhart' building cool little creatures, and Rutger Hauer as one of the greatest villains I'd ever seen or have seen since. Top that off with a storyline that makes you question what it even means to be human and you've got the recipe for one of my favorite movies of all time!

With Dungeons and Dragons and 'Blade Runner' as my backdrop for great storytelling, it should come as no surprise that when, in my 10th grade year of high school, FASA Corporation released the original 'Shadowrun' RPG, it was a must have for me. The idea was that, in a cyberpunk future, the magic of the old world had reawakened, creating a mash-up world where synthetically enhanced beings lived alongside elves, orcs, trolls, and dragons. Of course, that 1st edition game system left a lot to be desired but I played 'Shadowrun' anyway. The 2nd edition of 'Shadowrun' improved the game mechanics somewhat but they never reached the feel of Dungeons and Dragons for me and eventually my friends and I stopped playing and moved on to try new games and systems.

The years went by and I grew from a young geek into a geek father and husband. In that time, my collection of RPG rule books went into storage one by one. I switched from RPGs to video games, collectible card games, and board games. I only occasionally got to play some old school D&D on rare occasions.

Then, several years ago, with my kids a little older, I got the idea to drag back out those old rule books and introduce the younglings to the same realms of fantasy that I adored as a kid. They proved themselves to be my offspring and quickly took to loving the idea of interactive storytelling that pen and paper RPGs provide. We started off playing D&D 3.5 edition and we tried 4E but didn't like it. In the end, we turned back to old school 2nd edition. But, regardless of edition, I was back into pen and paper RPGs.

Then when I heard that 'Shadowrun', that cherished game of my youth, had returned with a 20th anniversary edition (Man! Am I that old?), I had to grab a copy. The mechanics that I so disliked in those earlier editions were completely changed. This new system seems so much more intuitive and easy to use. On the other hand, that world that I'd grown to love had also changed. As the real-world years moved on, the in-game story of 'Shadowrun' had followed along and 20 years had passed in that world as well. The harsh world of deckers, street samurai, and mages had turned into something else. It was still distinctly 'Shadowrun'... but something was missing. The grim and gritty setting seemed too bright to me. The matrix (one of my favorite parts of the original setting) had gone totally wireless, losing much of its flavor in the process. Still, I tried this new version of 'Shadowrun' a few times but it never clicked with either myself or my play group. And thus, my hopes of playing 'Shadowrun' as in days of old faded.

Then I hear rumbles of something on the internet of something called 'The Year of Shadowrun'. I hear that the various companies that now own the rights to 'Shadowrun' are making some new video games, a new edition of the actual RPG rules, and a few other goodies like a board game and miniature battle game as well. I was intrigued but skeptical. The world of 'Shadowrun' had moved on without me and I wasn't feeling it any more. Then I hear that the first of those two new video games, titled 'Shadowrun Returns' was going to be set in the year 2054 and I was sold. For those of you haven't played 'Shadowrun', 2054 was stepping time back 20 years into the original setting that got me hooked on the game in the first place.

So, I quickly read up on everything I could about 'Shadowrun Returns' and, despite my initial skepticism, it all looked good. Really good! Jordan Weisman, one of the creators behind the original 'Shadowrun' RPG was involved. It was a tactical turn based game, a genre that I've loved since playing 'Shining Force' so many years ago on the Sega Genesis. This was it! I was actually excited about 'Shadowrun' again! I might not be able to ever rekindle that pen and paper world, but darn it! I could live it out in a virtual one.

I was so excited about the idea of 'Shadowrun Returns' that I joined up to the online forums for the game and read up on every update and discussion. As the months passed, I was exposed to new info on the coming pen and paper system and, at first, I ignored it. Then I start hearing good news. The magic system is being overhauled and made even better than 4E. Okay good... but what about my beloved matrix? Wait! What? The hackers now need to plug into the matrix to do serious runs again? They need cyberdecks again to hack a system? My inner kid was aglow. It sounded like the 5th edition of 'Shadowrun' had fixed the qualms I had about the 4th.

After reading with bated breath each new press release on the 5th edition rules and snagging a quick start copy at this years Free RPG Day, I'm thinking I'm going to give 'Shadowrun' another chance. Here's hoping that the world of 2075 can find its place in my heart the way that 2054 did.

Stay tuned to this blog after I finally get to play 'Shadowrun Returns' when it released on July 25th and the actual RPG hits bookstores sometime in August. Until then... keep runnin', chummer!


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