Originally published at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2011/07/18/tabletop-review-shadowrun-missions-srm04-03-rally-cries/
If you are a long time reader of mine from the video game side of things, than you know I am a big fan of Shadowrun in both pen and paper and electronic form. The SNES and Sega-CD both had their own unique and incredible Shadowrun video game, but the one for the Sega Gensis still remains the best ever conversion of a pen and paper game into a video game. It’s also one of the greatest video game RPGs of all time and I keep hoping and praying that the video games will someday make it onto the virtual console or that all three will be released as a compilation. Notice I am pretending the Xbox 360 tactical shooter game does not exist…
My love for the Shadowrun video games has no doubt grown as the Shadowrun tabletop game slinked further and further into obscurity. FASA died in 2001, WizKids horrible mismanaged the property and for a while stuff simply wasn’t being produced with the Shadowrun label. In 2005, things started to turn around thanks to Fan Pro USA. Their fourth edition version of the tabletop game brought Shadowrun back into the forefront. Things went quickly awry however due to their inability to meet deadlines or their own production schedule and for some time, Shadowrun went silent once more. Now though, we have Catalyst Game Labs, who gave us the wonderful 20th Anniversary Edition of the game (which I happily own). This particular mission, Rally Cry, is part of the current “Season” of adventures for the game and when I was offered a chance to review it, I leapt at the chance. After all, it gave me a chance to return to the world of Elven Deckers, Dwarven Street Samurai and Troll Riggers. How could I say no?
Rally Cry, and all Shadowrun Missions are meant to be short stand-alone adventures that together, create one overarching campaign. This is quite different from the adventures I used to play or buy back in first and second edition days, where an adventure could almost be a campaign in and of itself due to how long they were. Rally Cry is only meant to be four hours long, which a gaming troupe should be able to finish in a single evening. The more I ruminated on this, the more I realized I like this. There was no more keeping notes of where you left off the last time you played, no more trying to recreate the mood if you left off at a climactic moment, and so on. Now the streamlining of things does kind of force the GM to hand hold his players at time (in fact, the adventure even suggests this in the form of “be more generous”), but part of any storebought adventure is limiting what directions the players can go off in. It’s checks and balances.
Rally Cry is laid out very nicely and even a person who has never GM’d an adventure of any kind before will find this extremely user friendly. I loved the “debugging” section, for example as it gives ways that the adventure might be derailed, accidentally or purposely, and how to get things back on track. The adventure also gives a nice set of rules for running the adventure, which are not only ones that can be applied to any tabletop game, but are ones any good GM should memorize and take to heart. Remember, this is a game, not SERIOUS BUSINESS.
The plot of Rally Cry revolves around a Congressman named James Grey. The goal is to get him to appear at a Humanis Policlub (think racist bigots who don’t like metahumans) rally and alert one of the two news outlets to his appearance there, in order to cause a massive scandal. Sounds like a pretty simple drag and drop, but it isn’t. This is primarily a stealth mission, at least at first, so depending on your runners, it can be a simple as an invisibility spell or as complicated as trying to figure out how to get a whole group of Orcs that are more metal than flesh through the adventure.
Rally Cry is divided into ten short scenes, each of which are pretty tight and streamlined to prevent players from going off an unwanted tangent. Each scene is well laid out, gives the GM all the information they need to run things correctly and gives you the stats of all important NPC that might be dealt with. A few of the scenes are optional, based on how the team wants to go after Congressman Grey, which is nice as it prevents things from feeling extremely linear and set in stone – at least for the GM. Players won’t have any clue. The fact the adventure does provide all these options helps the actually playing of Rally Cry to feel organic and lets the players successfully complete the adventure without feeling like they were pushed in a specific direction. I remember I had that exact problem as a kid with a lot of 2nd AD&D or V:TM adventures which led me to write my own. The adventure also gives ways to increase or decrease the difficulty characters will increase, which again, is a great thing for a GM just starting out and who wouldn’t be able to think up stats for instantly needed backup on the fly.
The layouts are nicely done and the entire adventure is beautifully laid out. It’s easy to read, looks nice and it’s hard to believe this only has a price tag of four dollars, especially in this day and age. About the only downside I can say about the adventure physically is in regards to the artwork in the back of the adventure with all the NPC information. Some of it just looks really off, especially the human portraits. They look like late 90s CGI.
Although the adventure booklet is thirty-one pages long, the actual adventure itself runs from pages five through eighteen. The rest of the booklet is setup, NPC character data, information and rewards charts, a somewhat blurry map and a “Season Four Debriefing Log.” That’s a lot of nice extras to be included in the adventure, but it also shows just how short “missions” are on actual content. That’s not a bad thing as these are meant to be adventures played through to their completion in a single evening and the price point kind of clues you in on the length. Still if you’re looking for an adventure that can be played out over several weeks, consider running something longer (and more expensive) or running the whole set of Season Four adventures.
Overall, this was a really nice adventure, especially for the price point. If your players are more combat oriented or into hack and slash play, this might not be the adventure for them. There is the potential for combat, but the adventure really focuses more on schmoozing, thinking and stealth than anything else. It’s a good idea to have at least one magic user on the team and because the adventure revolves around an anti demihuman rally, a team that is mostly (or all) demihumans will have a bit of trouble getting through this thing successfully. The adventure does help provide the GM and players with an array on NPCs and factions to become friendly/antagonistic with, and even if this is the only Season Four Mission, you pick up, there are a lot of potentials leads and future hooks you can pull from this. For only four dollars, this adventure reminded me why I love Shadowrun so much and why I miss playing it so, so that alone lets me give this a strong recommendation. Now if only we could get CGL and Topps to reissue the 16 bit era video games. PLEASE?