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Shadowrun: Stolen Souls $44.99 $24.99
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/12/2015 09:55:51

Here we have a wide-ranging and varied text, a mix of immense plot ideas and the tools to help you incorporate them into your campaign, from the broad sweeps to the nitty-gritty of actually managing extraction 'runs... there's a lot here and it repays careful study. Even if you do not fancy the main thrust of the plot, you will find material that could enhance your game.

The whole plotline suggestion is based around the spread of a nasty mental illness, one which is spread disease-like from afflicted individual to afflicted individual. It's causing panic, of course, even in corporate circles... and when corporates panic, there's usually work for shadowrunners! Or your 'runners may know someone with this disease, or actually be motivated to try to save the world from it. To bring this plot into your campaign there's a wealth of resources, even down to patient records (unfortunately, not done as handouts, but possible to manipulate into in-character material if that's what you want to do). Fact and rumour, reports and speculation all work together to build up a picture of what is known about the condition and how various entities are reacting to it. You might choose to let this bubble along in the background, to gauge player interest, before deciding how major a role it will play in your campaign.

One odd side-effect is that there's been an upsurge in corporate extractions. It seems this disease, or whatever it is, strikes at those best suited to actually combat it... and so people with the right capabilities are in high demand just as they are getting scarcer. So much of the focus of the book is on extractions with everything from good locations to snatch people from (with a detailed look at the corporate hothouse of Manhattan) to discussions on the most effective way to perform them and a toolkit of useful equipment. Of course, studying the 'how to' of extraction is just as useful if you earn your nuyen protecting people, suggesting alternate slants if you might prefer to put your characters on the other side, so to speak.

Particularly of use should any character contract the condition - called Cognitive Fragmentation Disorder or CFD - or if they find themselves looking after a victim, is an extensive section on treatment which discusses a wide range of approaches from physical (anything from psychoanalysis to surgery or drugs) through magical and even use of the Matrix. It's presented as case studies, complete with narrative results. It will be up to the GM to put some numbers to any such treatment characters decide to try, though.

The neat thing is, that virtually all of this book is player-friendly. There's a short section at the back which gives the low-down about the real nature of the condition which explains a bit about what is going on and provides the necessary game mechanics, but the GM should feel able to let players read nearly everything else. Even the details about Manhattan and other corporate information is stuff that good research ought to discover.

Presentation is good, if sometimes a bit fragmented - a read-through is recommended first, so that you know where to find whatever you are after later on. It's really an idea-spawning and planning tool rather than an actual campaign guide, you are going to have to come up with your own campaign arc and individual adventures. In some ways, it is a bit narrow to be the focus of a whole campaign (is defeating a disease really what you're playing Shadowrun for?), yet in other ways it is ideal - a massive world-spanning threat which your characters might, just might, be able to defeat. Perhaps it could serve as a background thing or a sub-plot, bubbling up every so often amidst the other things going on in your shadowrunners' lives, then maybe taking centre stage when you decide it's ripe for a climax. It's thought-provoking, providing plenty of ideas worth thinking about and developing further - whilst the material on extractions is of general use to any 'runner.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
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Shadowrun: Stolen Souls
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