Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2012/12/13/tabletop-review-shadowrun-bottled-demon/
Well now. THIS is a blast from the past. I actually remember playing this adventure in 8th grade so it was great to see Catalyst Games Lab bring back this back in PDF form. Bottled Demon is a first edition Shadowrun back when it was the 2050s, FASA was still making the game and we had DECKERS, not hackers. It’s a fun little adventure that highlights the power of dragons (and dracoforms), the drama that can unfold when a run goes spectacularly wrong and also brings us back to the days where combat trumphed everything else. Bottle Demon is definitely an adventure for characters that can do massive amounts of damage and take hits as well as they dish them out. As the adventure itself points out, deckers aren’t really needed here, so Physical Adepts, Mages with Hellblast, Street Samurai and Riggers that have a tank or something equivalent are all more than welcome if you want to get through Bottled Demon alive.
The PCs are contacts by a haggard and seriously stressed out shaman by the name of Topal. He want to hire the runners to accompany him as bodyguards on a meeting with three elven scholars. Sounds like easy money, but Topal is purposely vague on details other than they need to travel separately. It’s a little sketchy, but with good reason. Topal has in his possession an ancient artifact that is of great power…and great evil. Being wiser than most people in the Sixth World, he wants to get rid of the artifact knowing that it will seek the ruin of whoever possesses it. Unfortunately the meet doesn’t go as planned. The elven scholars have been killed by a runner named Blackwing (who modern gamers might recognize from his appearance in Elven Blood who in turn is being hunted by the police due to how sloppy his kills were. The Police, runners, Topal, and Blackwing’s group all converge and as you might expect, all hell breaks loose. Topal is killed and the runners end up in possession of the briefcase the idol is locked in. They have no idea what the item is, the power it possesses or why their boss was killed (and thus their payday lost). To make things worse, Blackwing is still gunning for them as they have the idol, the police are after them because they think they are part of Blackwing’s group, the net is flying with rumours that they killed their own boss (which is a huge no-no in the 2050s, equivalent to triggering a blood hunt ala Vampire: The Masquerade) and Topal’s fellow magic users want revenge on the PCs too due to the rumour. Can we say royally screwed?
The rest of the adventure has players trying to figure out what the object is and how to get rid of it. Eventually they are guided to a source that claims they will be able to dispose of it but of course, things go horribly wrong. Yes, even MORE horribly wrong. The adventure then climaxes with one of the biggest battles in first edition Shadowrun where the players have to go dragon hunting. It’s as brutal as it sounds, even with a plethora of help on their side. If the players make it through alive (notice I didn’t say unscathed.), they have to deal with the aftermath of everything from international politics to clearing their name for a crime they didn’t commit (for once). It’s a pretty fun adventure and it really gives a nice cross section of all first edition Shadowrun had to offer. A run gone bad, dragons, Lone Star and an encounter with a Street Legend. It’s a pretty fun adventure all things considered and it will take several gaming sessions for your crew to get through this. All this, some player hands outs and a bunch of old school 90s era maps. Not bad for a measly four bucks, eh?
Because this is a first edition adventure, Bottled Demon won’t convert very well to fourth edition/SR20. Although I know a lot of people that prefer 1st/2nd edition over the current system (I like both for different reasons), the only reason to pick this up if you play the current version of the game is for historical purposes, or just to read for the fun of it. Older Shadowrun gamers will also find this of note because the original version had a low print run and it’s been long since out of print. One thing that Shadowrun gamers across the board , regardless of edition preference, will love is the art in Bottled Demon. As much as I really enjoy the 2070s game, I really miss the art from first and second edition. Seeing the dystopian future of the Sixth World drawn by guys like Timothy Bradstreet and Rick Harris makes me long for the old days and this PDF is worth picking up for the art alone. That’s not to say the art in the current version of Shadowrun is bad by any means, but pretty much anything pales in comparison to the art from when FASA held the reigns of this game.
In a nutshell, this is a long intense adventure that fans of the old version of Shadowrun will enjoy reading and playing while those who play 20AE will fall in love with the art, while enjoying the plot amidst trying to decipher the rules and mechanics.