Tabletop Review: Shadowrun Missions: 04-04 Smuggler’s Blues

Shadowrun Missions: SRM 04-04 Smuggler’s Blues
Publisher: Catalyst Games Labs
Page Count: 20
Release Date: 09/23/2011
Cost: $3.95
Get it Here: DriveThurRPG.com

$3.95 doesn’t buy you a lot these days. An issue of Justice League by DC Comics costs more. A NES game for the Wii’s Virtual Console. Even a old black and white Game Boy port of Pac-Man for the Nintendo 3DS costs more. What $3.95 DOES buy you however in an installment of Shadowrun Missions – a short tabletop adventure set in the world of Shadowrun. Shadowrun Missions are meant to be played in a single gaming session rather than adventures that can take several nights of dice hucking to complete. This latest entry, Smuggler’s Blues is the fifth adventure in this “fourth season” of SRM, hence the designation “04-04” at the beginning of the adventure’s official name (the first was 04-00. Wacky, I know.). I reviewed 04-03 aka Rally Cry back in July and I loved it. So does Smuggler’s Blues fare as well?

The adventure starts out with a one page piece of fiction that sets up the mood and theme of the adventure. It stars a young lady named Fiona who will play a pivotal role in Smuggler’s Blues and will be a familiar face to those that have been playing all of the Shadowrun Missions from this season as she appeared in 04-00 Back in Business. Now the adventure is written as if everyone running Smuggler’s Blues has played Back in Business. If you haven’t, you can fudge things a bit, make up a quick adventure that includes Fiona in it, or just go back and buy 04-00. I’m sure Catalyst Games Labs would appreciate it if you did the latter.

Fiona plays the both the role of a Mister Johnson and a client in Smuggler’s Blues, hiring the players for an escort mission. Of course the catch is you have to get to her first before you can extract her and since she’s currently in Salish-Shidhe lands, the mission is understandably harder than simply playing “taxi driver” for her. What follows is an adventure that mixes inductive and deductive reasoning as you try to track Fiona down, along with repeated encounters with the Aleph Society who make an excellent recurring enemy for the duration of the adventure. Smuggler’s Blues takes place across seven scenes, three of that have the potential to be combat heavy, so you get a nice mix of role-playing and roll-playing here. My favorite scene out of the seven is the fourth one. My personal suggestion to all of you that plan on running this, give Sheriff Stone the voice of C. Montgomery Burns. It’ll be worth it for a single line of dialogue you’ll get to give if/when your players step out of line. There’s also an antagonist in two of the scenes that is an especially creepy foe that you might want to keep alive so it can continue to plague your Runners in adventures to come. Who knows? It might even show up in other of the other Shadowrun Missions this season…

One of the really nice things about Smuggler’s Blues is that there is something for everyone. If you’re a Street Samurai, you’ll have a chance to stick sharp things through soft things that scream and bleed. If you’re a Decker fan, there’s a chance to mess around with a node that is a direct shout-out to the early days of Shadowrun in its FASA era. If you’re a more cerebral type, there is politicking for you. If you’re a sneaky sort, there’s a part of the adventure where stealth takes center stage. The characters even get a chance to run a high stakes cyber-auction at one point. Hell, the adventure is written in such a way that even a troll rigger can have their day in the sun here. All that said, you’ll find the adventure a LOT easier if you have a Salish-Sidhe player character but it’s not needed by any means. All in all, Smuggler’s Blues should provide a balanced party with a nice collections of challenges, with everything reaching a conclusion before any of the players has to call it quits for the night.

I can’t say enough good things about the Shadowrun Missions line of adventures. For less than four dollars, you’re getting a nicely balanced adventure that can be tailored to any campaign. They’re also in full color and break things down in such a way that even an inexperienced GM can run the adventure in such a way that it is both successful and fun. I definitely would recommend this line of adventures to people new to playing Shadowrun as they are both short and a good way to learn the game. They’re also great for people who love to roleplay but just don’t have a lot of free time. More companies need to be doing these types of adventures. Low cost adventures geared for short sessions are a great way to bring in new blood to tabletop gaming.

To learn more about Shadowrun, visit the official website for the game. To learn more about this season of Shadowrun Missions, click here. To download a free set of quick start rules for Shadowrun that can be used in conjunction with Smuggler’s Blues, go here.

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