Obviously, like many lovers of Shadowrun; we've been avidly awaiting the release of the Runner's Toolkit back when it was a mere blip on the radar. Now seemingly out of nowhere it hits and I couldn't be happier.
To begin with this package comes with two things that most 4.0 fans already are familiar with: The Contacts and Adventures booklet (that was packaged with the original GM screen) and On the Run. The newly updated Contacts and Adventures book is pretty much the same as before, but the SR3 to SR4 conversion info has been replaced by a new section called sprawl sites which is, for me as a GM, instantly useful! This contains descriptive locations for scenes in-game as well as a few maps.
As for "On the Run" it is without a doubt a great sourcebook that was already available and is a simple adventure for a group of beginning Shadowrunners--a small note this mission can go a little haywire. If your players aren't the kind of people who ask questions and stick to the goal of doing what they were hired to do then they may finish this mission in one sitting. A great way to keep the mission going the entire book is to have the Johnson be killed before they get their payoff. Easy fix. Otherwise, you may need to ramp up the difficulty for the NPCs if your players are already experienced. Still for the value of what else is in this pack think of getting this mission as a nice bonus.
So what makes this a 5-star product for me? Well, lets start with the cheat sheets. Every person whose played Shadowrun knows that there are some mechanics that need to be fully researched to implement into game--this isn't a simple roll a dice and know your result game. There are often multiple rolls and effects that augment said rolls. These cheat sheets break a lot of it down and I fully expect to buy the Toolkit when it hits stores just to have a physical copy of these (how-to's of things like ranged combat, casting spells, banishing, etc) sitting at my table. Then there is the addition of the Compiled Tables. Essentially, the organized data of anything the characters may wish to buy with their hard earned nuyen all in one booklet WITH page references for the books they originate from so you look up the flavor/fluff text and extended rules of such items. These alone are worth the money and 5-star rating!
Toss into this the Anatomy of a Shadowrun (that gives both players and DM's ideas of what to expect from a well run Shadowrun session) as well as the interesting new take on character creation found in what is titled PACKS (Pre-Generated Auxiliary Character Kit System) which I intend to give a whirl. However, until then the last page of the Cheat Sheets has the original rules for character creation lined up on one page!
Great job, Catalyst!
[5 of 5 Stars!]