So, for folks who might not know (or care), 2009 is the 20th anniversary of the Shadowrun RPG. Shadowrun remains one of my favorite RPG worlds of all time, as expressed, I hope, by the amount of writing I did for it. Writing for SR got me my start in the RPG industry, and the game itself gave me a lot of fun memories.

It’s hard to believe the game is twenty years old: I remember quite well cutting across the Royal Ridge Mall from the camera store where I worked my post-high school/pre-college job to the small hobby shop and seeing the full-color rulebook for the first time. FASA’s promo fliers for Shadowrun were brilliant, tantalizing pieces of marketing, with their hints about a crazy mixed-up fusion of cyberpunk and Tolkien-eqsue fantasy. I bought the rulebook right away (scandalized at the time that it cost 28 dollars, the most I’d ever paid for a new RPG at the time) and that weekend convinced my friends to play it. We plunged into the Sixth World and never looked back.

Now, twenty years later, it’s fun to look back on things like this:

Pocket Secretary: The pocket secretary is an office for the businessman on the go. The compact unit functions as a portable phone, a computer (100 Mp), and filing system. Standard software performs call screening, answering-machine functions, automatic teleconfirmation of credit transactions, word processing with standard letters on file and stenographer functions. Pocket secretaries are never equipped for jacking into the Matrix. Cases are shock- and water-resistant for durability and long service. (Shadowrun, First Edition, 1989, page 125)

Which pretty much describes the iPhone sitting on my desk to a “T”, except the pocket secretary weights about half a kilogram versus the iPhone’s 133 grams and we still have no idea how much a “megapulse” of memory is versus my phone’s 16 gigabytes (indeed, “megapulses” were specifically chosen to avoid later embarassments like the starship computers from Traveller with 16 kilobytes of memory). Plus the idea of wireless connectivity and the things you can use it for is barely a glimmer back in the pre-WiFi/pre-Web Dark Ages. Shadowrun has made efforts to update its tech over the years, up to and including the current edition’s wireless and omnipresent Matrix (the name of which SR was using years before the film, by the way).

So, happy anniversary, Shadowrun. Hope your dark future’s so bright, you’ve gotta wear shades...
Tonight was the start of Andy’s new Shadowrun 4e game; it’s the first game I’ve played with the current edition (the quickie “getting the feel for it” session we played after character creation notwithstanding) and the first time I’ve played Shadowrun in quite a while (since the time when, you know, I “ruined so much of shadowrun”).

Our characters are a group of ‘runners who worked together in the Boston metroplex until a disastrous job a year ago, when several members of the team died, the rest going to ground or getting out of town for a while. Then we all get a message from one of those teammates we thought was dead, arriving at a meeting place where a virtual avatar of Bridger tells us he’s been working as a fixer over the past year, but is now missing.

The characters are: Rook (cyber ork mercenary), Kodachi (sword-wielding Japanese ork adept), Mustang Sally (human vehicle rigger), and Pickman (technomancer with a Lovecraft fixation), plus my character, Brandon Donelley, AKA “Bran,” an elf Raven shaman, “chosen” by the Morrigan.

We escape the hired muscle and hacker that jump us at the meet site; Pickman takes out the hacker and back-tracks him, so we grab and interrogate him, getting the name “Trance” as the person who hired him. Examination of Bridger’s house shows he was left an invalid by his supposed “death,” doing all his work via the Matrix, and taken by someone who used some sort of paralytic gas. Bran finds a hair sample to use as a magical link to track Bridger’s whereabouts, while Pickman is rewarded by watching the data-drop for Trance’s hired hacker. He gets access to Trance’s system and finds evidence of her involvement in Bridger’s kidnapping.

Bran finds their former teammate is being held at a location in South Boston and contacts the rest of the team. Next game we’ll see what happens when they go in!

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stevekenson

July 2011

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