A Roll of the Dice – Shadowrun


Welcome back my fellow role players, to another review from the iron laden basement of yours truly, Fat Adam. This week we are diving into one of our last role-playing game reviews, so I decided to do one that even I wanted to know more information on, SHADOWRUN. A creation of the now dead game company FASA, SHADOWRUN is best defined as a science fantasy role-playing game, which uses a lot of futuristic vibes and cybernetics to create an almost cyberpunk reality. It mixes a lot of genres that players love to utilize anyways, such as horror, crime solving, cyberpunk, magic, fantasy, and in turn created a loyal fan base who helped several other products stem off from it.
Published in 1989 originally, SHADOWRUN has gone through multiple editions with minor rule changes, and released the most recent fifth edition back in 2013. Add to that all of the supplement works you can buy, adding new missions, campaigns, and additional material that most RPG’s have. They are not must haves, but from the looks of the artwork, the game dynamic, and the overall addition most of them provide, they will certainly by must wants.
Why don’t we see a brief run down of the history of SHADOWRUN?

– Released in 1989, published by FASA
– 2003 A Topps owned company now had publication rights, as Catalyst Game Labs licensed the property from Topps (Yes the hugely popular trading card company).
– There was an extremely unsuccessful collectible action figure game based on the SHADOWRUN series (Shadowrun Duels) which was released by WizKids (Some of the head people from FASA)
– In 2012 fifth edition was announced and sales started at the Origins Game Fair in June 2013. It became immensely popular, even being nominated for (and winning) several awards over the years.
– There is also a very successful line of novels taking place within the SHADOWRUN world, and an extremely popular card game which has also won a few awards on its own.
– To date, there is over a hundred supplemental books for SHADOWRUN, almost all including either minor rule changes, additional missions, and additional campaigns to run. Every one of them is a piece of the large puzzle that is SHADOWRUN.


SHADOWRUN uses what is called a priority-based system for the character creation aspect. Fourth edition tried using a point buy system (as with most popular pen and paper games) but went back to their original system with fans complaining it was becoming too cookie cutter of a game. You can still use the point buy system in fifth edition, but it is considered an advanced option in creation.
The priority-based system means you choose which of the five priorities listed above is most important to you. In the chart you see below, it shows the definition of the priorities. By choosing one of the five priorities for your first choice (defined by A on the chart), you nullify the ability to choose another “A” trait, so you move onto B for the next options.
This is an easy way to create a balanced and dynamic character, knowing you can utilize whatever means the most to your specific character, and in doing so create several hundred varieties of character to start off the game world with.
The game focuses on a D6 based system, similar to GURPS and Dragon Age, but instead of focusing on the class you are for benefits, it focuses on the skills you choose to progress with. There is a target number chosen based on the difficulty of the skill check or attack that you are making, and it is your job to meet or exceed said check. You do get bonuses based on your skills, your tools, and other resources you may have gained access to throughout your life. In the end, a simple roll of the dice can make or break the situations around you. You can do more than exceed too, as the roll can dictate you’ve greatly succeeded, allowing the Dungeon Master to add additional resources, information, or any other flavour they want into the situation (in your favour of course).
Certain tasks also have individual dice pools that players can draw from for assistance. By doing this though, you are removing a bonus dice from later use. This could pose a problem when you run into that one situation in every campaign designed to test how well you’ve planned the rest out.
Other than the basics, you just strap in for a disaster of a ride to hell and back.

The world that SHADOWRUN has created is the combination of fantasy and robotics. They meld the ability to utilize magic, with the ability to create some of the most technological wonders in existence. This merger feels unique to a lot of the game play you will find out there, and in doing so they add the post apocalyptic style of feel to it. For its time, they absolutely nailed how technology will eventually take over in every aspect of our lives, almost forcing us to submit or be left behind for good.
The world itself has different races, most of which look human, but have a few dissimilar traits, making them just different enough to say they are. It creates an amazing divide among the different races, allowing for a shift in power in any direction the person creating the story wants it to go, but not so far gone that the Player Characters can’t come to a consensus and work together. It leaves enough to care about, without diverting from its one true goal. Assume the role of our future, and find a way to survive.

+ A cyberpunk game, which was created in the freaking Eighties and has survived over Thirty years to still remain popular? Not even just popular,it still remains relevant to our modern society. Well done on the design of this world and everything in it.
+ Stream lined character creation (for the most part) makes things simple for a new player to jump into the fray and at least be able to understand the basics. It also adds a level of tactical awareness to the character creation as each stat is JUST AS important as another.
+ Who doesn’t love shooting futuristic space lasers at everything coming at you from all directions. Seriously though, I’d like to meet them.
– Hardcore gamers may find the lack of character point distribution a bit of a turn off, as they can not create quite as dynamic characters as they could with the point buy system.
– There is SO MANY damned supplements. It rivals Pathfinder in its ability to try and keep the consumers pockets empty, and even though not all of them are needed, they make you feel like you really do want it.


+ I feel I must say this every time, but honestly it is never any less true. With the right group, and the right dungeon master, all pen and paper RPG’s have an amazing amount of replay value.
+ The amount of supplements there are for the game add an immense amount of value to the replay aspect, as it will keep your urge to know more and play more fed for many moons into the distant future. Hell, by the time you played all of the campaigns, the world would most likely actually be like SHADOWRUNS.
+ Adding the games, card games, novels, and video games into the equation, SHADOWRUN quickly becomes one of the most replay value assets in role playing game history. The company knew what they were doing, and didn’t just settle at creating the game, they created a brand.
– Limited character creation with the core books means it is difficult to create 100% unique characters most of the time. It also loses some of the replay since no one wants to play the same character every single time they start a new campaign. Well, almost nobody.
– The overall flavor of the game relies HEAVILY on the dungeon master. This is with skill checks, combat, and basically everything you will do, so not having the right dungeon master could set the game up for failure almost immediately.

+ Futuristic technology combined with the power to fry a persons brain with the flick of a wrist. Seriously, this is exactly what a lot of us are constantly looking for.
+ The game dynamic and overall feeling of play, while being simplistic, is fun enough to captivate the player. It makes you feel like you know what you’re doing, even when sometimes you don’t.
+The feeling you get when you can showcase the true talents your character possesses (such as hacking, fighting, or just being charismatic) all comes together in one poignant moment. It makes the entire process of building to that point more than real.

– Limited character creation options make it harder to diversify the party. You will run into things that no one is equipped to deal with, and it is not as easy as picking new skills to counteract that.

– The flavor itself is amazing, but it has to be something you are really into. Not everyone likes the futuristic sci-fi genre for a pen and paper role playing game. It adds a level of fun that is not as well seen in this medium.


Honestly, this game is one that me and my group found fun. It is one you should pick up, because I know you will enjoy it. It is a game that I will not regret having, no matter the play time it may actually get. I know it will get chosen often enough, that it is more than worth the price tag attached.

Take a chance, make a mistake, and get completely dominated in a world where you will fight for everything you need and want, while hoping you have the needed resources to continue on to the next part of the journey. Only time will tell.

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