Originally published at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/05/05/tabletop-review-shadowrun-missions-5a-02-critics-choice/
Feetal’s Gizz! Has it really been seven full months between Chasin’ the Wind and the next installment of this season’s Shadowrun Missions? It sure has, but worry not, for it has been worth the wait! As you might recall, this season of Shadowrun Missions is taking place in Chicago. Chi-Town. The Windy-City. BUG CITY. That’s right, you’re smack dab in one of the creepiest locations in the Sixth World for the long haul chummers, so get strapped in and let your paranoia run wild because, when it doubt, it’s probably being possessed, manipulated or controlled by Insect Spirits.
Shadowrun Missions are by far my favorite line of adventures currently being published, and Critic’s Choice is a perfect example of way. The adventures are designed to be played in one or two sessions (generally a four hour block, which is perfect for tournaments at conventions). The format these adventures are laid out in are organized in such a fashion that even a neophyte GM can run one of these with little to no problem. Everything you need, from enemy stats to specific die rolls needed, are listed in each scene. Veterans GMs will also find ways to tweak the difficulty and possibly save the runners if they get in over their heads. I should also mention each Mission is (usually) in full colour, and with a price tag of only $5.95, you’re getting an incredible deal. Why Shadowrun fans don’t pick up each and every one of these whenever they are released is beyond me. You can play each one as a one shot, or you can string the set together as one drawn out campaign. Of course, with the gaps of time between adventures, you should probably wait until the season is complete before going that route.
There’s so much to love about Critic’s Choice. It introduces a fun cast of characters for your players to interact with – many of which will no doubt be showing up in later adventures this season. You have a rat shaman gang leader, an up and coming fixer, an ugly elven pit fighter, a kind hearted street doc who might actually be as benevolent as he seems, and a collection of lunatics who live, breathe and cosplay the vidtrid Neil the Orc Barbarian in overzealous fashion. It’ll be interesting to see which of these turns out to working for the Bugs (ALL OF THEM! ALL OF THEM I TELL YOU!).
The adventure is a pretty unique one as far as Shadowrun affairs go. First, you’re actually clearly wearing the white hat with this run. Your mission is to extract some documents from a long abandoned building so a doctor can claim it as his. Once it is, he can turn it into a new clinic which is closer to the containment zone and can thus help a lot of people in need, especially those living next to a Ghoul warren. There’s also a scene where you can optionally take down a gang who accosts and murders people to feed to ghouls. Yes, lots of ghoul references in this one. Of course, the mission isn’t a cakewalk. Once you get to the building in question, you’ll find it is currently being squatted in by a group of people who mean no harm and, aside from being obviously insane, are just trying to get by in one of the most horrible places on Earth. Is there a way the squatters and the doc can both get what they want/need from this situation? Definitely – as long as your team isn’t the type to shoot first and second. I absolutely loved that you can get through Critic’s Choice without a single shot being fired or blade having to be pulled. Although it’s not likely, this adventure can be 100% combat free. I’ve been playing Shadowrun since the first edition FASA days, and I honestly think this is the first adventure that allows for this. That’s pretty cool. Of course, that doesn’t mean there aren’t planned combat scenes in Critic’s Choice – just that you can avoid them. Most of the combat is pretty straightforward though, and shouldn’t give the PCs much of a challenge. Don’t worry though, this is just the second adventure of the season after all. By the time the PCs are done, they and their players should feel good about themselves and the work they have done for Chicago. It’s rare you get a run that isn’t super murky ethics and morality-wise, but I’m sure down the road we’ll see that the clinic you helped will be implanted bug spirits or be a Technomancer abattoir or something. It’s the Sixth World after all.
Overall, I really loved Critic’s Choice. I thoroughly enjoyed that the setup and each of the eight scenes that comprised this adventure included a reference to a line or song title from the musical Chicago. I loved how unique this adventure was in terms of setup and follow through. I really felt this would make a wonderful first adventure for people to learn Shadowrun with, be they new to the system or gaming as a whole. The scenes are short, and each provides a good cut-off point if you can’t finish the piece in a single session. The dice roll needs are on the low end. Combat is short and sweet, and much of the adventure is talking rather than shooting. All of these things should really help a newcomer learn Shadowrun, Fifth Edition quite nicely. Shadowrun is a pretty mechanics heavy system in the first place, and some other adventures might overwhelm or intimidate a less experienced gamer. So out of everything available for 5e so far, Critic’s Choice is definitely the best option for getting your feet wet with the Sixth World. If you don’t have the core rulebook for 5e, that shouldn’t be a problem, as you can still learn the game via this, the free Quick Start Rules and many a person willing to teach you the ropes at your local brick and mortar store, via Skype or Google Hangouts.