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Shadowrun Companion
compiled by Michael Mulvihill and Robert Boyle
FASA, 136 pages

Art: John Zeleznik
Shadowrun Companion
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 that magic has returned to the world, dragons run for 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.

FASA Corporation

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Henry Harding

Capitalism is everywhere. We live in the middle of it, from baby bottles sporting Pepsi logos, to advertising in elevators. Each day we are bombarded by images and words urging us to part with our hard earned disposable income. The assault on young consumers is especially vigorous and unrelenting. But there is a pearl of wisdom, old as the Roman empire, that when adhered to can act as a beacon of reason in the tempest of hype. Buyer beware.

Let me underline that for you: BUYER BEWARE.

Nowhere is that more true than when purchasing RPGs. There is a ton of schlock out there, put out by companies eager to capitalize on the initial success of a good product. Soon the list of companions and sourcebooks and additional manuals grows, and when the profit margins shrink, then out come the 2nd and 3rd and 4th editions. Ever see a 7th edition of Monopoly? No. Because they got it right the first time. It's a quality product that continues to sell to this day three score and some odd years after its initial release.

Having come out of the corner swinging, let's take a look at Shadowrun Companion, a sourcebook for the très cool Shadowrun game where elves, trolls, orcs, humans, and other metahumans slug it out in a cyberpunkish world -- and remember, keep in mind that tried and true adage, BUYER BEWARE. First thing to be said is this is not an RPG. It is a companion for those players looking to add another dimension to the basic game. All that you need to play Shadowrun is Shadowrun, that's it. This should be something that adds or expands Shadowrun's milieu. And for my 15 US greenbacks, this one doesn't add or expand it enough.

Take the opening chapter which gives a detailed look at character creation. While this might be a valuable tool to the novice RPGer, for an experienced player, one who would already have had experience with the basic game, it's redundant. Been there, run that. And for my liking a little too detailed. Maybe I've been playing in campaigns with an extreme PC kill factor, but I don't want to spend two weeks creating a character only to have it blown away after the first infiltration of a hostile corp's security. It's an RPG, not a play by Harold Pinter.

And the added character classes. Great! Everyone looks forward to having new character classes with different gnarly powers to play. But these are the same classes with a different name. Look at the headings: GIANTS with Troll in brackets beside it, GNOMES with Dwarves in brackets beside it. These are the same character classes as in Shadowrun with a different coat of paint. The exceptions being the new Ghoul and Shapeshifter classes which look really cool, if a tad on the complex side.

I loved Shadowrun, Third Edition. By far, it is my favourite RPG. Pure fun. Maybe that's why after looking at Shadowrun Companion I feel such a let-down. Shadowrun Companion doesn't take the game into any new territory, doesn't add to the ease of play, and doesn't expand my game-play enjoyment. And it's so scant! Compared to Shadowrun, Third Edition at a whopping 334 pages, it's a 136-page-weakling.

Having said all that, you might disagree with me entirely. Fine. All I ask is that you keep in mind the ancient Romans when you're in the lineup before the cashier.

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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