After taking a bit of time to study up on the various systems involved in Shadowrun 4th edition, I think I’ve got enough of a grasp of it to give a first impressions report on the game as a whole, from the perspective of a GM.
So, after about a week or so of delving through this wonderfully laid out, beautifully illustrated, and incredibly dense rulebook, here are my first impressions:
- If pretty books are your thing, this is a PRETTY book – To be fair, I’m looking over the 20th anniversary edition, but man it’s pretty. Good layout, wonderful art, and tables that are easy enough to read.
- Rules: High Complexity, High Density - Take Runeslinger’s advice: Go slow, start with basic combat and gear, then make your way up to Magic, Tech and Riggers. This is not a ruleset that goes down easy in a single read, and may frustrate some first time GMs and players, but the rules are consistent and well written. Definitely not a system you can expect to pick up a day before you plan to run it and expect to pull it off well.
- Deep and Detailed Setting – As far as settings go, it’s easy to see that it really does have twenty years of thought put into it, and the setting has gone through a lot of change to make sure that it doesn’t end up outdated. There’s a lot of potential for this setting, and the characters aren’t confined to being criminals that take on risky jobs for money. I’m pleased that my initial, uninformed opinion of the setting was dispelled quite soundly.
- GM Advice - Actually, I couldn’t find a solid section in the book that actually talked about running a game. Sure it’s all over the book, tucked away in various paragraphs when discussing the various facets of the game, but first time GMs might end up a little lost. That said, they had a great deal of examples for damn near everything from task resolution to character generation, which is a definite plus.
If you’re a veteran rpg player with a good handle on more traditional systems (as opposed to Indie games) and are looking for a game that will handle your Cyberpunk or Urban Fantasy needs, then go grab Shadowrun. If you’re new to the hobby, feel free to pick it up but remember that it can get very complicated at parts.
Thankfully, there’s a strong and loyal following of people who love this game, so finding people who will answer your questions and point out your mistakes (just like Nychuus did with my error concerning the Glitch rules) isn’t going to be very difficult.
I’m pretty happy with my attempt to understand Shadowrun. I hope that my attempt to take a peek into it has given people an idea of what the game is like.