Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2012/09/25/tabletop-review-shadowrun-elven-blood/
Now THIS is more like it. The last few Shadowrun releases have disappointed me a bit. Romero and Juliette was flat out terrible. Land of Promise, while well-written, was far too short for what the subject matter needed. Then things like Mil Tech Spec 2, Used Car Lot, Sprawl Sites: North America and Magical Societies were a stream of mediocrity broken up only by the awesome Assassin Nation and The Clutch of Dragons release. So while 2011 was an amazing year for Shadowrun, 2012 has been blatantly less so. Well, Elven Blood is thankfully a step back in the right direction. Originally planned as a convention exclusive, things have changed, and CGL has made this collection of five adventures available to general public – something I specifically asked for in my Land of Promise review. For your $6.99, you’re getting five fun missions that revolve around elves in some way, nearly 100 pages of content, and best of all, it’s done in the Shadowrun Missions format, which makes things exceptionally easy to run, no matter how inexperienced your troupe’s GM is. You can’t beat the price, as it’s a little over a dollar an adventure, and after playing all five, you and your friends will no doubt have cause to debate the old Sixth world adage about trusting an elf…
Your first adventure is called Ancient Pawns, which is a direct sequel to Elven Fire, a first edition Shadowrun adventure. Unlike the debacle with Romero & Juliette‘s better half, Elven Fire IS readily available for purchase still. The only downside is that it’s first edition, so those of you who haven’t been playing Shadowrun that long may need some help converting the adventure to 20AE if you want to play it. This adventure places the PCs in the middle of a civil war of sort. There’s an Elven gang known as the Ancients. The current leader of the local chapter is a lady named Sting, while her lieutenant, Belial has decided it’s his time to go for the top spot. Instead of some sort of knockdown drag out fight, forcing members of the gang to choose sides, both potential leaders of the gang enlist proxies for them and send them off on a “Scavenger Hunt” – sixth world style. Activities range between saving some bliss enslaved prostitutes from a set of dwarven pimps to hijacking a truck. Of course, for those that want a little more violence, there’s also options like taking out a gang of trolls or a local Humanis chapter. All in all, it’s a set of easy activities for the PCs and at the end of the day, they should have the leader of the Ancients indebted to them.
I really liked Ancient Pawns. It’s a really fun adventure and it’s proof that not every adventure has to be grimdark or change the face of the Sixth World in order for players to have a good time. It’s about as light-hearted as a Shadowrun adventure gets and I’d purchase the collection just for this one. In fact, it would be a wonderful adventure for anyone completely new to Shadowrun, as it gives you a taste of various missions and a strong ally in Seattle. 1 for 1.
Hopping the Fence is your second adventure in Elven Blood, and it’s the first of four slightly connected adventures within the Tir Tairngire. Hopping the Fence is your standard smuggling adventure. You’ll be getting goods and services from across and into the Tir. There are a few unique aspects to this adventure however. You’ll be having to deal with the largest dairy farm in North America, a helicopter based shoot ‘em up, and who their employer really is. Again, this isn’t a hard adventure by any means, but it’s a nice balance between roll-playing and role-playing, which means all of your players should be happy with this one. As well, Hopping the Fence is another great adventure for newcomers to Shadowrun. It’s very straight forward, there aren’t a lot of layers or any backstabbing going on, so this works great as a “Gamer’s First Smuggling Run” adventure. Lots of fun here. 2 for 2.
Domestic Tranquility is an interesting adventure as it combines Romeo & Juliette with an ECW style Fatal Four Way. The players are still in the Tir (specifically Portland, OR) on a tourist visa, thanks to their employer from Hopping the Fence. Suddenly, in the midst of pomp and circumstance, gang related fatalities occur. This greatly annoys the PC’s employer, so he throws a few credsticks their way to solve the problem – permanently. What I love about this adventure is how open ended it is. The GM can decide the real cause of the violence and the players can decide to solve things diplomatically or with unchecked violence. It’s a lot of fun and it’s so great to see a published adventure being THIS flexible. It’s so well designed that it can accommodate any and every mix of player types. Although players that choose to say, shoot Smiles-Like-the-Sun in the head during a meeting of all four gangs to remove a bone of contention between them might find themselves in a more… stressful situation than others. 3 for 3.
The fourth adventure in Elven Blood is entitled Grocery List. This adventure is basically a series of fetch quests straight out of a video game RPG. PCs will be gathering five powerful reagents. Now this might not sound like the most exciting adventure, but there are three things to remember. The first is that PCs will be out in the wilderness, and thus outside their element (unless someone made a D&D style Elven Ranger…). The second is that players will effectively be poaching from the High Prince himself, which means stealth and subtlety is key. Third, some of these components don’t want to be poached. Smart DMs will want to peruse books like Parabotany to give the adventure even more flavor and/or depth. I also really enjoyed that the way the adventure ends is up to the GM. You’re given a choice between an encounter with a group of Paladins who catch the players poaching or a dragon. I think the vast majority of GMs will go the dragon route for the sheer coolness of it. However, my suggestion would be to run the dragon only if the PCs are good at keeping their hunting activities on the down-lo. If they’re loud and blatant, they should have to deal with the High Prince’s warriors instead. The only downside to this adventure is that some players and/or characters will balk at the killing of magical/Awakened species. Shadowrunners may all be mercs, but quite a few have a code of ethics. If you find wetworks style missions are ones your players refuse to do, you might have even more trouble asking them to, say, get the beak of an innocent griffon. All in all, another fantastic adventure that should make you want to run all of Elven Blood as a formal campaign, especially for newcomers to Shadowrun. 4 for 4.
The final adventure in Elven Blood is The Hung Over and makes for a nice finale while also bringing back NPCs from throughout the collection. The adventure starts with the PCs waking up in a hospital with no memory of recent events or how they ended up wearing nothing but dressing gowns. After locating their stuff and getting out of the hospital, the runners catch up with their boss, and discover they were in the midst of making some deliveries to various organizations when they were set up, taken down, drugged and dumped in a land rover. Now the PCs have to who did it and why. There are four possible options that the GM can choose from, although only one really works for the full flow of the adventure. The other three are definitely doable, but it will feel forced, more or less, if it is one of them. Still, it’s nice to have options. The adventure ends in a nice little bloodbath, with the PCs getting some cathartic revenge with the help of Sting and some Ancients from the first adventure. Everything wraps up nicely, and it’s a good, climactic and interesting way to wrap up the collection as a whole. 5 for 5.
Overall, Elven Blood is the best adventure collection Shadowrun has seen this year. You’re paying like $1.40 per adventure, and each one of them is wonderful, so this is an unbelievably good deal. Add in the fact that each adventure uses the Shadowrun Missions layout (although lacking the full colour spread of that line) and you have a terrific collection that anyone could run with little to no fuss. If you’re even remotely a fan of Shadowrun, you’re going to want to pick this up. I still can’t believe they considered making this a convention exclusive, as it would have deprived the vast majority of gamers the chance to read/play/experience/run this, and that would have been a damn shame. Seriously, go over to DriveThruRPG.com right now and pick this up. It’s one of the best adventure collections I’ve read this year, and arguably the best Shadowrun release of 2012 to boot.