Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2012/01/13/tabletop-review-shadowrun-missions-hard-target/
Shadowrun Missions are a series of slightly connected adventures for the budget conscious tabletop gamer. This “season,” the set of missions are set in Seattle. So far we’ve see runners damage a politician’s career, help smuggle an elf out of the Salish-Shidhe lands, and even take out cyborg equivalents of the KKK. If your players have been using this season of Shadowrun Missions, they’ve had a busy year. This latest installment, Hard Target, takes a page out of the “Dawn of the Artifacts” adventure series, as players will be off on an artifact hunt.
One of the reasons I love the Shadowrun Missions series so much (besides the price) is how inviting they are to not only new players, but especially to new DM/Keepers/Storytellers/whatever term you prefer. These adventures really give detailed instructions on how to run them, along with tips on doing prep work, how to scale the adventure to best suit/challenge the players, and so much more. Shadowrun Missions are just so newcomer friendly, that I definitely recommend them to first time Gamemasters. Even if you’re not going to run the adventure, or even play Shadowrun for that matter, there’s just so much advice and help a new GM can get from these budget adventures that they’re almost required reading for a novice.
Hard Target consists of ten fairly straightforward scenes. Unlike previous Shadowrun Missions of the season, there’s a lot more flexibility in terms of whom the players will ultimately work with. The adventure contains five factions, one which triggers the initial run, three of which who will offer to play players to alter or add on goals to their mission and the fifth which is the target of the other four. It’s very well done, and in reading the adventure it felt more like a mission from a video RPG game turned into a tabletop adventure, instead of the other way around (which is what usually happens). I like that players and DMs can stack goals and objectives onto the core mission. This is a nice little change that makes Hard Target stand out from previous Shadowrun Missions. Depending on the gamers, this adventure can play out quite differently from one group to the next.
Although Hard Target is thirty-two pages long, only about half of it is actually the adventure itself. The rest of the adventure is either DM help, a one page story that is…brutal (which is a shame as the fiction in Shadowrun adventures and supplements is usually very well done), NPC info, maps and handouts. Don’t let the length of the adventure fool you. You can get about four to five hours of playtime out of this, depending on how off tangent characters get and/or how the dice roll.
The adventure itself revolves around the recovery of an artifact, as I stated in the opening paragraph. The fun is that no one, not even the players’ employer, seems to know what exactly it is or what it is does. As well, the only lead the characters have on how to proceed involves tracking down an extremely paranoid Nosferatu. Have fun with that. It’s a very balanced adventure too, which means characters are going to have to do a lot more than make NPC antagonists die horribly. In fact two of the goals players are tasked with involve taking two very powerful characters ALIVE. This is a great change of pace as it really changes the usual “run and gun” tactics. Stealth is a huge part of the adventure too as is the ability to negotiate. All this means every party member should have a chance to shine in some way. Of course if all you have are Troll hackers (DECKERS), things might be a little tougher…
All in all the adventure is great. I only have two very minor complaints about it. The first is the aforementioned piece of fiction that kicks things off and the other is that the climax taxes place in a forest near Auburn, WA….which doesn’t exist in real life. A more accurate location would have been Mt. Rainier National Forest or Snoqualmie National Forest. This is only going to be a quibble with those who lived in or know the Pacific Northwest, but just a heads up in case you get players that are like, “NU UH.” Of course another options for the GM is to say, “alternative future reality. There’s a forest.” to those types of gamers. Still, considering the mood of the adventure and both the use of spooky magic along with the creepy cabin in the woods has me surprised that once again Shadowrun fails to use the tag team of Snoqualmie and North Bend in any adventure well…ever. You’re making David Lynch cry guys. Again, these are two minor complaints that revolve around my own personal tastes and won’t detract from the adventure for 99.99% of the people who play it. Hard Target is up there with Rally Cry as my favorite adventure of the season just because of how outside the box the objectives are compared to most Shadowrun missions.
If you’re looking for a quality Shadowrun adventure to run or play, definitely give Hard Target some consideration, at only four dollars you’re getting an exceptionally designed adventure which is geared to help new or novice GMs tailor the experience to their specific group of players. It’s quite cheap, coming in at under four dollars, while also being in full colour and a lot of fun. This season of Shadowrun Missions continues to be my favorite and unlike the last two (Smuggler’s Blues and On a Silver Platter), Hard Target works just as well as a one-off standalone as it does part of an overall series. Another great job by the Shadowrun Missions team. Here’s hoping they keep the streak alive.