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Shadowrun, Third Edition
Michael Mulvihill with Robert Boyle
FASA, 336 pages

Art: Paul Bonner
Shadowrun, Third Edition
Additional Information
The original version of Shadowrun hit the shelves with a bang a decade ago, and it's been turning heads ever since. An unusual mix of SF, fantasy and cyberpunk culture, the brand new 3rd edition of Shadowrun thrusts players into the world of 2060, where magic has seeped back into the world, bringing with it the vanished races of troll, dwarf, and dragon. It's a place where corporations hatch sorcerous plots, flesh and machines have merged, and the streets of the mega-sprawls are ruled by elf gangs and independent operatives -- shadowrunners, the best of the best. Compatible with earlier sourcebooks and adventures.

FASA Corporation

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Henry Harding

If you spell fun S--H--A--D--O--W--R--U--N, well, then you're spelling fun wrong. It's F--U--N. Get yourself an O.E.D. (that's Oxford English Dictionary for the uninitiated, the definitive dictionary of the English language -- throw away your Webster's) and look it up. Fun: it means amusing, entertaining, enjoyable. However, if you mean that Shadowrun, the crossover cyberpunk/fantasy game, is synonymous with fun I couldn't agree more.

What a laugh! Elves as hackers, gangs of orc cops on the graft, dwarven gumshoes. It's refreshing in a gaming world overrun by angst-ridden gothic vampires -- "Oh, what a moral dilemma! Do I suck every red corpuscle out of your body and agonize over my vampiric misfortune, or do I give it all up and face the dawn? Anyone got a straw?" -- and those annoying, Tolkien wannabes -- "Halt foul wurm! It is I, Sir Darren Toogood of the lost house of Pistachio, come to thwart your evil... hey, HEY! Stop gnawing on my leg. I haven't finished proclaiming yet." -- to finally come across a game where the underlying concept is fun.

The milieu is a familiar one. Hackers and street warriors, gangs and multinationals, cyberdeck cowboys riding the matrix. Player characters are shadowrunners, corporate espionage agents available for all B&Es, courier runs, smuggling, hits, and unscheduled data extractions... for a price. Yes, the anti-hero, criminal hackers are sticking it to the man and making a couple of extra nuyens.

What makes Shadowrun different is magic has returned to the world, dragons run for the President of the USA, and gangs of undead roam the seedy night streets. Characters can be any of the metahumans: trolls, dwarfs, elves, or orcs. Weapons can range from monofilament whips and forearm snap-blades to manabolts and death touch spells. Characters form a team of shadowrunners, essentially a small felonious business. With the nuyens they earn from contracts, they can buy lifestyles, or even pool earnings to purchase a grander lifestyle for the team, a swank office on Fifth Avenue hoping to attract more lucrative contracts. Sir Darren Toogood is replaced by a wiseguy elf knocking on a warehouse door and asking to speak to the Don. Nefarious capitalism comes to fantasy.

What Shadowrun does is break the rules. In speculative fiction there is a very sensible rule that states, "You can only have one type of magic," meaning you can't have hyperspace and warpdrives and generation ships and cryo-travel and anti-gravity drives and flying carpets all zooming around the same story. Having that "Anything Goes!" chaos bombs the willing-suspension-of-disbelief right out of any plausible storyline. (All Star Trek fans please close your eyes and hum very loudly over this paragraph, thank you.) But Shadowrun does just that. It mixes magic with near future technology, and it works because its tongue is planted firmly in its cheek. It has fun with the genres, pokes fun at them, and ultimately comes up with something that is pure, unadulterated mind candy.

This third edition jazzes the setting with new and improved game mechanics: the developers have jumped through flaming hoops covered in kerosene to simplify and quicken game play. Rules are grouped together in similar sections, magic rules have been totally revamped to resemble the rest of the game system, examples are concise and easy to follow, and best of all the Third Edition does not make other Shadowrun products obsolete. All the basic rules for game play are included in this edition. No need to go out and buy other rulebooks for riggers and drones and the Matrix. The info is all here. Included also is a section guiding you through the transition from previous Shadowrun products and the Third Edition. Plus all the rule changes are posted at FASA's web page.

And that's how I spell fun.

Copyright © 1999 by Henry Harding

Henry Harding has been gaming since he was knee high to an elf. If only someone would pry the dice out of his hands he might get started on that sequel to War and Peace he's been thinking of writing.

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