Shadowrun: Street Lethal bills itself as the Advanced Combat Sourcebook for Shadowrun but it is not that, there are new toys, some crazy bleeding edge technology, and some excellent information on corporate security along with updates on mercenaries, pirates and militias in the Sixth World. But apart from one rule section with very narrow applicability, there is not really much to make it an “advanced combat sourcebook,” it is however a very useful sourcebook, especially for a Shadowrun GM, but it could have used a more accurate subtitle.
Shadowrun: Street Lethal, the Advanced Combat Sourcebook of the 5th edition of Shadowrun, while it does not actually add that much in the way of rules it provides new weaponry, for player characters and NPCs, information on how Corporation Security works, and studies the role of mercenaries, pirates and militia in the Sixth World.
The book begins with one of the ubiquitous fiction sections, then moves straight into new weapons, with a detour through the role of less lethal weapons and the current status of some of the major weapon producers. Normally the new toys are in the back, but here they are front and center ranging from various handguns and new melee weapons, for day to day use, to machine guns and grenade launchers with a variety of new less lethal options. Also, one modification for armor is provided so defense is not totally neglected. Some of the new weapons fill useful niches, other fun and a few silly, the new weapons from Krime! mostly being in the later category (a sledge hammer than fires shotgun shells?). Several charts collect all of the weapons from this section (and this section only) for quick reference.
The next section is Military and Future Weapons (or toys for the GM), mostly comprising interesting ongoing projects from the corps such as new planes (the Blood Hawk) from Aztechnology. But there is a twelve-page section supposedly on the tech being developed in a secret base in Africa which includes gravity manipulation technology . . . This is so out there and so game and world changing that I am surprised it was not just mentioned in a thowaway section rather than page after page of stat for things like anti-grav powered vehicles, gravity grenade (no, really) and gravity force fields. I just cannot see how this section is supposed to be used, not only is such tech tonally different from anything else in the game world and it is too big of a change to suddenly add to the setting. Sure, we have magic, but now we have technology that totally breaks the laws of physics too. Why? I cannot see how this makes the game world any more plausible or interesting, just more unreasonable. Equally, even if you decide to use this crazy tech in your game, how do you do so without turning into a whole different game? This tech is not cyberpunk, it is space opera. After that it settles down a bit to Ares working with memory-wiping technology (ala Men in Black), smart bullets and anti-magic armor. Then there are microwave, sonic, centrifugal force and genetic weapons, plasma shields, warframes and powered armor (which, for some reason, is just not allowed to exist in Shadowrun in a usable form), anti-dragon weaponry, comments on atomic weapons and new nanobot and matix weapon just to cover all the angles. Apart from the one odd section noted above, this part of the book is packed with inspiration for runs and problems to happen on runs making it quite useful for the GM.
Opposition Report: CorpSec may be the most useful section of the book from the GM’s perspective, and it is not bad for players either, it begins with discussion of both what CorpSec does and how they do it, discussing active and passive security and a whole range of interesting subjects to help the GM think about how to make things secure (and make runs interesting and challenging for the players). It moves on to how each of the Big Ten megacorps approach security with some supplemental information for smaller companies and specialized subgroups. This chapter is rounded out with CorpSec themed qualities, life path modules and yet more new toys. The weapons included here are not collected in a single page reference nor are they included in the one are the end of the first section.
Unconventional Warriors covers mercenaries, pirates(!) and militias of the Sixth World, starting with a brief overview of the International Mercenaries Association, the licensing organization for mercenaries who ensure a particular code of conduct and professionalism among its members and tries to clamp down on unlicensed mercenaries. A good organization to have around and it makes sense for the world. Several mercenary groups are covered, some of which have been reference before, some of which are new and two of which are outside of the IMA and definitely enemy groups. While this is good world background it is probably of limited usefulness in most campaigns. The pirate section covers both groups and locations which makes it easy to plot intersection with where your games take place, everyone needs a pirate themed game on occasion, right? The militias are organized armed groups with political agenda, not terrorists but they may work with such. Again, lots of good adventure ideas here and they go out of their way to show what sort of work runners could find with these groups. The section ends with new qualities, new life path modules and NPC stats than can be used for members from these various groups.
Lethal Arts New Techniques and Options is where the new rules are, building from the small unit tactics rules, this adds mixed unit tactics as a skill and a bunch of maneuvers that can be executed with it along with a set of new maneuvers for small unit tactics. These are pretty much the only rules introduced in the book and they are of marginal utility.
The book ends with a set of Adventure Seeds, which I approve of, and almost all of them hook into pieces of the book, also a good choice. A few needed a little more fleshing out, but still a good addition. What the book does not end with is an index or a compilation of the new qualities and life modules, which are split across two sections, as are the new weapons and equipment (setting aside the bleeding edge tech) making finding some things more difficult than needed. A chart of all the new weapons and separate ones integrating them into the existing equipment lists would be a useful PDF addition.
Street Lethal is an interesting resource providing new tools for the GM and players, but it lacks focus, covering a lot of ground in different directions. But, on the GM side, it is well worth it for the information on corporate security and new toys to dangle in front of the characters.
Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/
[4 of 5 Stars!]