Lately I’ve been pretty obsessed with second edition Shadowrun. There are just so many things about the world and the game that I really like, as a result I’ve been buying up pretty much every second edition book that I can get my hands on. Some are replacements for ones that I had a teenager (that have all gone to some sort of abyss of old role playing material, my contribution to this netherworld is substantial) and others are new to me entirely. One of the best parts of this is that not many people seem to be playing second edition these days so the books usually cost more in shipping than to actually buy them. The point is that I have been reading a ton of these things lately and, while many of them are excellent, the one that most stands out to me is Prime Runners.
Prime Runners is a sourcebook, but it is not location specific. It is essentially a book of NPC’s of all types. When I purchased it I had assumed that it would just be page after page of elite runners, which seems pretty cool to me. I like reading about badass futuristic mercenaries. But it is actually way better than that and gives such an interesting view into what makes the Sixth World really tick. There are runners contained in it’s pages, but there are also talismongers, journalists, fixers, writers, athletes, and pretty much anything else that you can come up with. To see how a world really lives and breathes it would be not all that useful to just see the runners that operate in it’s seedy underbelly. But to see how many powerful people in the world interact with and use this seedy underbelly is something else altogether. How did that fixer with the suitcase nukes get to be that guy? Why has that journalist been able to survive and thrive in the most dangerous places in the world? It’s all in there chummer.
Like all the Shadowrun sourcebooks, Prime Runners is presented as the work of someone else. In this case two runners who decided to compile a directory of people that other runners would need to know. Good concept. And like other books it is filled with comments from others who have read and commented on the entries. I love that. Usually the comments present various opinions on the person in question and bring up rumors about them as well. Aside from that all the entries have the character’s motivations, history (or what is known of it) and hooks to get the players involved with them. It is well written, smart, interesting and funny. If you can’t get something out of this as a GM then you should probably retire your dice.
One other thing that I really liked about the book was that it showed what a really tough character looks like. Since Shadowrun does not have a level system for characters it is sometimes difficult to know exactly when someone is very powerful, so much of it depends on the particular situation that they are in. And the location sourcebooks rarely have the stats of actual characters in them, that just seems to be how they are. But this books peels back the curtain and shows you how a real wiz runner scans. Take for example Teachdaire, the elven assassin. This guy is no joke. Skills as high as 13, all custom delta-level cyberware and rating six hydraulic leg jacks. Okay, the leg jacks are weird but I would not tell him that. But that is what elite level looks like. Two things really stuck out at me as I read his entry. One, in a standup fight he is virtually invincible. Super fast, skilled and deadly. And two, that with a good plan he can be killed with one shot just like everyone else. And that’s what makes Shadowrun so cool. At least one of the things.
Another runner I would not cross is the combat mage Sukie Redflower. She is totally absurd, both in attitude and ability. But the book is filled with compelling characters. As I was reading through it I was thinking with each entry how I would fit that NPC into our campaign, and it wasn’t stretch for any of them. When I finished the book I had a year’s worth of adventures planned. Isn’t that what a good sourcebook should do?