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Renraku Arcology: Shutdown
David Hyatt and Brian Schoner
FASA, 88 pages

Art: Doug Anderson
Renraku Arcology: Shutdown
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.

FASA Corporation
SF Site Review: Shadowrun: Technobabel

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Don Bassingthwaite

Umm... Eep?

Yes, I am struck very nearly dumb by Renraku Arcology: Shutdown. Other appropriate monosyllables would also by "unnnhhh...", "yeeargh...", and "gak!"

Normally, I don't like a lot of the full-length adventures published for RPGs. By and large, I tend to find them simplistic dungeon crawls or plotless death-traps. I generally prefer short adventure suggestions that can be easily customized and brought into a campaign. I also dislike artsy movies, but every so often I get dragged out to one that is really good. Renraku Arcology: Shutdown is really good. Oh my.

The problem in reviewing adventures is that a lot of the stuff that makes one so good is stuff that gamemasters don't want their players to know -- plot twists, secret info, that sort of thing. And naturally those qualities are exactly what impressed me about Shutdown. Interestingly, it is also stuff that is fairly readily available to the players' characters, waiting to be doled out as the gamemaster sees fit. Shutdown has a very interesting structure to it. I'd almost call it a sourcebook rather than an adventure except for its focus on one particular story line: the mysterious shutdown of Renraku Computer Systems' Seattle arcology, a very big, very prominent feature of Shadowrun's Seattle landscape.

(What's an arcology? A self-contained, largely self-sufficient living, working, recreational structure: apartments, offices, malls, schools, factories, all in one.)

The public knowledge of the situation: on December 19, 2059, the automatic security systems of the Renraku activated, killing several people and injuring dozens more. The arcology was then locked down. No one is getting in and no one is getting out. Locked inside are about 90,000 residents, plus another 10,000 or so Christmas shoppers. The current game date is February 10, 2060. The arcology has remained sealed for almost two months and the army of the United Canadian and American States has cordoned off the building from the rest of Seattle. What's going on? Ask the right questions and you might find out some of the answers.

The vast bulk of the book is presented in the guise of documents from various sources: chat logs, meeting minutes, a guide to the arcology for new residents, etc., all interspersed with commentary from various sources. It's lovely stuff and well-written, just dripping with information both overt and buried, and could be given to the players to read either as is (at the appropriate time, of course) or doled out in tantalizing morsels if you're nasty. The actual game material takes up only the last 20 or so pages -- and it's almost unnecessary except to round out some stats, fill in secret information, and give the gamemaster tips on how to run Shutdown. Everything else is filled in -- in one way or another -- through the rest of the book.

An interesting side effect of presenting so much information as source, rather than mechanic, material is that it strikes me Shutdown could be adapted quiet nicely to other settings. It's a very strong story and I can see it working well in certain Alternity campaigns (possibly the upcoming Dark Matter setting), Mage: The Ascension (especially running with Virtual Adepts or as a crossover with Werewolf: The Apocalypse and Pentex), and even fantasy settings with a little effort.

Be warned, however: this is not a particularly gamemaster-friendly book. A gamemaster is going to have to work to make it come to life. I wouldn't recommend it for novice gamemasters, but I think the experienced ones will have a blast. I wouldn't recommend Shutdown for novice players either. For one thing, I've found that running such a freeform adventure works a lot better with experienced gamers -- a lot of the plot is going to be driven by character actions and the adventure could turn into a pointless, frustrating death trap without some thought. For another, this is definitely a mature-subject matter adventure. I'd even say it's disturbing -- morals and ethics time, kids. This is a science fiction setting, but it has very real world resonances (and no spoonful of sugar). The back cover copy says Shutdown "offers a dark and gritty technological setting." They got that right. Shadowrun gets really, really nasty with this one.

The introduction to Shutdown notes that it is compatible with the new Shadowrun, Third Edition and that gamemasters will find the Virtual Realities 2.0 and Riggers 2 sourcebooks valuable. I'd support that, especially the Virtual Realities 2.0 book -- Shutdown depends heavily and expands on otaku, young cyber-wizards who have developed a metaphysical relationship with the Matrix. The introduction also mentions that useful information appears in the Blood in the Boardroom sourcebook and the Shadowrun: Technobabel novel. After reading Shutdown, I find myself intensely curious to see what appears in Shadowrun: Technobabel.

So you want translations of those opening monosyllables? "Eep?" I can't believe they had the brass ones to do this book. "Unnnhhh..." I didn't need to know that. "Yeeargh..." I hope that doesn't mean what I think it does. "Gak!" It meant it.

Copyright © 1999 by Don Bassingthwaite

Don Bassingthwaite is the author of Such Pain (HarperPrism), Breathe Deeply (White Wolf), and Pomegranates Full and Fine (White Wolf), tie-in novels to White Wolf's World of Darkness role-playing games. He can't remember when he started reading science fiction, but has been gaming since high school (and, boy, is his dice arm tired!).

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