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Shadowrun: Street Legends $44.99 $25.00
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Shadowrun: Street Legends
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Shadowrun: Street Legends
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Jason C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/02/2013 00:00:00

I may be reviewer tilting this one a little high, but Street Legends does something very unusual that a lot of other NPC collections don't: they situate the NPCs within relationships with other characters. At its strongest, this creates characters that will evoke strong reactions in your players. But it doesn't quite hit the mark every time. Let's break it down.

Street Legends is a collection of 2-4 page descriptions of figures in the Shadowrun universe. Having checked out of Shadowrun early in second edition and only now coming back, I don't have a huge amount of knowledge of the Shadowrun universe or whether any of these people were important in the various novels, computer games, comic books or modules that have come about in the intervening 15-20 years. This makes me the ideal audience for an NPC book. The only fascination I can feel for these characters is strictly based on their utility at the table.

First, there's a nice variety of stat levels. There are characters who are just "at the start" of their shadowrunning career. Most are somewhat more experienced - some are frankly loaded down with magic and resources. None feel like they couldn't be a player character after some effort and time (except for the dragon.)

Second, there's a good variety of origins and statuses, ranging from non-persons who make an effort at erasing everything they do to globally famous celebrities, from privileged origins to run-down blanks. I feel like I get an idea of what sorts of people the player characters are likely to become after I read Street Legends.

Third, there's a good sense of the characters' various backgrounds. Even the characters I don't find compelling (see below) have enough details and information that I get some idea of the things they've done, and from their stats they seem like they could do those things potentially with some help, or perhaps with some exaggeration of the story.

That takes me naturally to the main point of this review, which is that Street Legends at its best speaks clearly through the voice of a character in the Shadowrun universe. One of the conceits of several Shadowrun books is that the information in the book is "presented" on a private Matrix board where various personalities argue, converse and provide each other with intel and stories. The best Street Legends are entries that permit us to learn not only about the character they're talking about, but the character that's "writing" about them. The two rival cat burglars who have written each other's snotty/adoring entries are a perfect example - as is the entry on Puck, which can be summed up as "this guy screwed up and everyone in the world hates him (within the margin of error)". Not only am I attracted to the voice of a character rather than a dry editorial voice, since I already have a Shadowrun corebook, I now have at least one relationship for the character to begin with.

Relationships are the core of cyberpunk (actually they are the core of almost all literature) - a cyberpunk protagonist is crushed between the soulless mechanisms of the world and the human feeling that pushes them to the edge. So it was a real pleasure to find in Street Legends information about love affairs, political causes, rivalries and vendettas. I'd say that a solid 80 percent of the entries in this book have solid relationships that help me see the character through a lens of emotion and put them in an interesting position as a result.

Street Legends doesn't hit the bullseye exactly, though. Some of these characters, while interesting in their own right, don't create actionable gaming material. As an example, the two rival cat burglars create a great dynamic between the two of them, but other than observing it (and probably saying "get a room"), there's not much that player characters can do about it and not many ways that the relationship will affect their game. Instead, what if these two criminals who are obviously obsessed with/into each other have significant others - each of them trying to stop their girl/boyfriend's obsession and clear them off the board. Now we have something where someone can hire a PC to do something about a situation rather than just constantly one-upping each other.

This isn't really a unique fault of Street Legends - a lot of NPC books fall into this trap (and, as a friend pointed out on Twitter, virtually all of some classic game settings like Over the Edge). The purpose of an NPC book should be to give me someone that I can use via the corebook to create actionable situations for the player characters. In a game like Shadowrun that means not only that they have interesting action-adventure abilities (since Shadowrun is an action-adventure game), but that they have some problem, flaw, or drawback that requires them to cope with the player characters in some capacity, either as allies, enemies or obstacles. This is especially important for supposedly "mysterious" characters - I actually am much more interested in Puck than in the dang dragon in this book for exactly that reason! A guy that everyone in the world hates is someone who is going to be real interesting in the same room with the player characters because I don't know what the characters will do. A mysterious figure with an unknown agenda? A guy that maybe did something in some other conflict years ago? Well, how can I really care about that? And if I can't, how can the players?

Even when you take this into account, Street Legends actually does much better than a lot of other NPC books - I'd say a solid half of the characters in the book have an immediate need or problem the PCs could pop up on one side or the other of. And I was able to come up with simple ways to improve many of the other NPCs in this fashion because the background and capacities of the characters are presented well.

For example, the first entry in the book, "Agent", is a disinformation guy in a South/Central American war, who has a mysterious cyberarm that the various fictional "contributors" argue about. Since he's a disinformation/psyops guy I have to give him a problem that he can't solve with disinformation - or maybe that he can only make worse with disinformation. Simple - I say that even he doesn't know how he got the cyberarm or where it comes from or why it doesn't interfere with his adept abilities, and everywhere he looks someone is just telling him what he wants to hear. Boom, a perfect reason he needs a bunch of weird magical people with machine guns (PCs) to help him out. And there's plenty of reason them digging around on him might create a lot of problems for him, the PCs, and those surrounding them.

I should note that I have this book in print - every character is vividly realized in a full-length portrait. Even if you're like me and trapped with a group that categorically refuses to play at a table, it's big enough to hold up even in a wide living room and get a good idea of the colors and appearance of the portrait. (I still don't like any dang art in books that are part of a verbal hobby but WHATEVER it's real good okay.)

As I was writing all this up I realized the bottom line is that I think my four stars are right on target. Street Legends is more than solid because of its approach to characterizing NPCs through each other, through trying to connect them to the web of shady relationships and gossip that should make up the world of the PCs as well as the world Catalyst is presenting. In other words, in the future, everyone is just a sum of their Twitter mentions. Let's do this.

[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Street Legends
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/05/2012 14:59:37

Street Legends is a collection of characters and fiction for the world of Shadowrun, useful for getting a feel for how the official Shadowrun world fits together with its power players. While some of these characters may be able to be used in high powered game, very few are suitable for inclusion in anything less high flying. Adventure hooks are implied in the character write up but some explicit adventure seed and scenario ideas would have made this book more useful.

Shadowrun: Street Legends is a sourcebook of some of the major players of the Shadowrun world ranging from hackers to dragons, fixers to deposed princes and corporate raiders interspaced with a fair amount of insetting fiction. Each of the just over 30 characters gets a full history and discussion, with questions about their accuracy embedded, and a complete character write-ups. While it is an impressive collection of intriguing characters, it is difficult to see how they would be easily integrated into anything but a campaign with power players.

[3 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Street Legends
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Adrian S. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/11/2011 22:20:54

These kinds of titles are just pure fun - and if you approach them in this fashion then you can't go too far wrong. I really have to be 'in the mood' to read through a book of NPC's as most that are published (I'm thinking of D&D in particular) are dry catalogues of characters who are cooler than the PCs and achieve this 'coolness' by breaking established rules.

Not so here.

'Street Legends' is actually quite a good read. Whilst I have always enjoyed the BBS-esque format of Shadowrun books, this one diverges and instead presents each NPC from an in-character perspective. The interspersed fiction is welcomed, and is quite well-written. As with the 'Sixth World Almanac' the fiction is used to change gears and provide some points of differentiation for the reader.

As for the actual characters chosen, it is a very eclectic bunch - mostly drawn from the newest iteration of SR (there are some exceptions, but not many). Does this detract from your enjoyment? Certainly not. What I would like to see, though, is a Volume 2 focusing on the 'old school' runners from previous editions - that would be a very neat supplement. There are methods of brining any of the NPCs into a standard campaign, without them overpowering the plot and taking centre stage, but any GM worth their salt can do this. The only disappointment for me was that there didn't seem to be an even enough spread among the types of characters offered - I feel that Catalyst could have covered a greater range of meta-humans. The meta-humanity angle seemed to be a missed opportunity, especially given the current 'Shadowrun: Missions' plotline.

In summary, it is a well-written, fine addition to your shelf, virtual or otherwise. It is fun reading for any Shadowrun fan. Ultimately, your appreciation (and use) of this supplement will purely depend on what your intended use for the title is. The newly discounted price makes it somewhat more accessible (and worth the price of purchase) - I certainly would not have paid USD45.00 for this PDF title.

I'll finish with the same thought as I started - if you want something that is a bit of fun to read then certainly pick up this latest SR4 title.

[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Street Legends
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/08/2011 07:24:06

Originally published at:

I have to admit, I’m always a little worried when a company publishes stats for the icons or legends of their gaming world. This is because when this happens, gamers fall into one of three camps: those that simply want to read and take note of the characters, those that will then make a list of all the discrepancies between said published stats and the previous appearances by those characters in fiction or other adventures, and those that will want THEIR characters to have equal or better stats. I think we all know people that fall into the latter two camps. Perhaps we were even there ourselves (or god forbid, still are) in our younger days.

At the same time the publication of this book made me wonder who would be in it. Would some of the characters from the 16-bit era Shadowrun video games make it in (No, I will never stop bitching until I get those re-released.)? Would classics like Harlequin, Sam Verner, Striper and more show up in here or would it be just a list of NPCs that no one had ever heard of with the word “legends” thrown on them to sell them to an audience that might otherwise balk at the $44.95 price tag? In truth the book is a little of both (but alas none of the characters I named above or Joshua, the Sega Genesis protagonist, show up here) and although you might not use any of the characters within the book, the layout, narrative and short fiction contained within definitely makes Street Legends worth flipping through, if not outright purchasing.

Street Legends provides its purchaser with thirty-two “legendary” NPCs, a historical background of sorts, and their stats. This is accompanied by six short fictional stories that feature many of the characters highlighted in the book, along with several who aren’t (perhaps for a volume two). If you’re a long time Shadowrun fan, you might be a bit disappointed that quite a few big name icons don’t appear here. As mentioned above, you won’t see Sam Verner, Harlequin or Striper, but you also won’t see characters like Joshua, Stark, Frosty and other Shadowrunnners of their ilk. I’m actually happy about this as again, I’d rather see these characters be SO legendary that so one has any conclusive data on them. This is a good move on the part of CGL as it prevents the disappointment and bitching that occurred when, say, TSR published Raistlin’s stats for Dragonlance, or White Wolf did the same with Vlad the Impaler for Vampire: The Masquerade. Some characters are best left hidden in the shadows (no pun intended). That’s not to say that all of Shadowrun‘s most famous characters are absent. Tommy Talon, who has appeared in several of the old Shadowrun novels is on full display here. The writers of Street Legends even do longtime Shadowrun fans a nice favor by pointing out exactly which novels these set of stats apply to. Even better, this helps younger or newer Shadowrun fans know which novels to track down if they like the character. Both (along with nearly the entire original run of Shadowrun novels) are available on so you can get the books for only S&H. Anyway, several well known characters like Tommy Talon do appear in here, so for those of you look for say, Blackhawk, might be disappointed by their absence can find other recognizable characters within these pages.

So the book doesn’t actually cover the crème de la crème of Shadowrun characters from First Edition to now, but it DOES provide a nice collection of characters that CGL has either pushed or will be pushing to the forefront of everyone’s favorite future cyberpunk-ish dystopia and even if you are one of those who will be disappointed that certain characters aren’t in the book, you will be happy with the collection of who (and what) is in here. My personal favorites were Cerberus, Winterhawk, Elijah, Tess van Hama and Lugh. However, every character here is interesting and no matter who you are, you’ll find someone you’ll absolutely adore and from there, it’s only a step or two until you figure out how to make them appear in your own campaign.

What I loved most about Street Legends is the format of the book. Unlike most supplemental handbooks that are told by an out of character narrator giving you all the information in a dry clinical fashion, Street Legends is almost entirely in character, with the stat blocks of each legend being the only exception to this. The entire book takes place in the actual world of Shadowrun via JackPoint. Think of Jackpoint as where several of us used to play tabletop games online in the mid 90s (Yes, I’m THAT old) meeting Facebook and a dash of Microsoft Outlook thrown in. It’s a place where Runners from across the Globe can meet to trade news, insults, gossip and contact information. The premise of Street Legends is that Fastjack, who can best be described at Jackpoint’s moderator for the purposes of this book, has gotten several Runners to write biographies on other Runners. As the book says, these aren’t the most famous or infamous runners. They are, however, the runners, that people are the most willing to talk about, for better or for worse. Each character “bio” is a Runner telling the life history of another Runner or major player in the world at large. There’s even one autobiography in the mix. Because many of these stories are second or third hand, both the reader AND the GM have to decide for themselves what parts are fact and what parts are innuendo. This allows for character customization and GMs to come up with plot hooks that can tailor the characters in Street Legends to their campaigns and not the other way around. Even better, you’ll get comments and even the occasional squabble from other Runners reading the bio in question. Sometimes the subject matter themselves will even comment, which is a delight and very realistic. Even if you don’t plan on using any of these characters in your Shadowrun campaign or hell, even if you don’t have a Shadowrun campaign at all, it’s a lot of fun to read this book and it works just as well as a short story anthology as it does a gaming supplement.

One of the other things I loved was the inclusion of an optional rule in order to help the legends stand out and keep them from saying being killed by one of your players who really just wants to railroad the game and be a prick (come on, we’ve all been there) with rulesmastery instead of wanting a good narrative. Any character can achieve Legendary Status if they a) accrue 500 Karma and b) spend 100 of that Karma on Legendary Status. This means that your players will have to not only save like Scrooge McDuck if they want it, but you’ll have to have quite a long campaign for them to achieve it. Legendary Status allows a character with this trait to roll successes on 4s, 5s, and 6s. This is nothing to sneeze at and it allows a DM to showcase why these particular NPCs are legends in the world of Shadowrun without really risking a haphazard die roll if they are running a campaign where everyone wants roll playing instead of role playing.

Perhaps my only real complaint is the lack of diversity in the book. Out of thirty two characters, the breakdown is as follows: 20 humans, 5 elves, 1 orc, 1 ghoul, 2 variable, 2 dragon, and 1 vampire. I was really disappointed that there was a single Dwarf or Troll. It would have been nice to see those races represented in some way. Alas, they aren’t here, so fans of those races will have to go on the CGL blog and say, “Why do you hate Trolls like WoTC hates Gnomes?”

So is Street Legends worth $45? Honestly, I have a hard time recommending a supplement of nothing but NPCs for that price, especially since most of the people who would be willing to fork over that much cash for something like this will want it to be filled with famous characters who don’t even get a mention by name in here, much less a section devoted to them. It’s especially hard if we compare this to something like Dungeons & Dragons‘ Neverwinter Campaign Setting which comes out next week and for five dollars less you are getting an entire setting and fifty pages more content, so comparatively you’re getting a better bargain there. Unless of course you’re not into replicating a video game experience with pen and paper…

Now I can’t say the same for the electronic copy of the book. At only twenty five dollars, you’re getting the exact same version of Street Legends but without the weight. For twenty five dollars you’re getting a full color high definition pdf with beautiful art and 186 pages of excellent storytelling/character backgrounds. If you look at Street Legends as both a gaming supplement and a fiction anthology, you’re getting a very good deal here. Like all my other 20th Anniversary compatible Shadowrun products, I can load Street Legends onto my Kindle and have all my resource books for a campaign with me –all with a net weight of less than a pound. If twenty-five dollars still seems a little pricey to you, do one of two things. First, remind yourself it’s a nearly 200 page full colour book and second, go look at the preview of the book up on sites like and try before you buy.

Overall, I’m very happy with Street Legends but Shadowrun also has a special place in my heart along with Call of Cthulhu and the old TSR Marvel Super Heroes games as my favorite systems/settings combinations. Street Legends isn’t something a Shadowrun fan or gamer NEEDS, but it a lot of fun to read due to how the book is laid out along with the constant “in-character” narrative of Fastjack and its users. I’m happy with owning Street Legends but the price tag on this book of nothing but NPCs might make this a pass for those with limited disposable income.

To learn more about Shadowrun, you can either visit the game’s official website or the official Facebook page. You can also download a set of Quick Start Rules here. Once I get my hands on a copy of the Runner’s Toolkit, I can let you know if that’s worth picking up for you Shadowrun newcomers as well.

[4 of 5 Stars!]
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