Tabletop Review: Shadowrun: Safehouses

Shadowrun: Safehouses
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
Pages: 18
Cost: $4.95
Release Date: 02/15/2012
Get it Here: DriveThruRPG.com

Shadowrun: Safehouses was released the same day I got married. Is the Sixth World trying to tell me something? In all seriousness though, Safehouses is a great little release from Catalyst Game Labs.

Safehouses is a nice mix of in-game fiction and mechanics that gives a detailed look at an oft-overlooked aspect of shadowrunning. After all, whether you’ve run a Shadowrun campaign or you’ve played in one – inevitably something goes horribly wrong. Maybe it was planned or just a truly terrible roll of the dice, but suddenly you’ve got everyone from Lone Star to Aztlan blood mages after you. You can’t go home because someone (or something) will be waiting for you there. Your friends, family and Johnsons are probably being questions as you try to regroup, but where can you (and maybe your team as well) go where you can be sure you won’t wake up to a bullet in the face? That’s where safehouses come in. When this situation comes into your own campaign, turning to this pdf lets a GM stay in control instead of scrambling for how to deal with a worst case scenario.

Half the PDF is comprised of in-game fiction. You get two short stories, one about Kane and Kat, and the other is about Kat O’ Nine Tails. For people who don’t pay close attention to the metaplot or newcomers, you might be confused by the two different Kats at first, thinking the second story is a continuation of the first, but don’t worry – it’s not. The other piece of fiction takes us to Jackpoint where Fastjack has made /dev/grrl write a report on safehouses. There are several bits, both by dev and the Jackpoint community, that made me laugh out loud – the best of which involved Man-Of-Many-Names making a reference to 1960s R&B band The Animals. The “report” gives you the flavor text to go with the last half of the pdf, which is all game mechanics.

There are three types of buildings where a runner on the run (Wow that phrase sounds awkward) can lay low. There are bolt holes, safehouses and off the grid. A bolt hole is a location owned and setup by the runner. A safehouse is run by someone else that a runner pays to stay at. Off the grid is exactly what you think it is. The mechanics gives you everything from a list of all the items a good bolt hole should have to a point/cost table for a safehouse. You also get a set of lifestyle categories (Entertainment, Necessities and Security) for designing safehouses, a list of “qualities” for a safehouse (think Merits and Flaws from Vampire: The Masquerade) along with a list of what qualities from Runner’s Companion can also be applied to a safehouse or bolt hole. The whole piece then wraps up with some samples of each.

Safehouses is quite short, coming in at only eighteen pages. With a price point of $4.95, it’s about half the length of one of the Shadowrun Missions suppliment, while costing a dollar more. This season of Shadowrun Missions is also in full colour while Safehouses is in black and white, so at first glance Safehouses might not seem like a very good deal to newcomers or casual Shadowrun fans. The truth is that Shadowrun Missions is pound for pound the best deal in tabletop gaming today, so ANYTHING compared to it will look unfavorable. For less than five bucks, this pdf-only release may not be a must own for every Shadowrun fan, but it does help to flesh out exactly what happens when a run goes tits up. It’s informative, well written and a lot of fun. I really enjoyed it and can say it’s easily worth a five spot. Any Shadowrun fan that picks this up will be happy with the purchase, although the actual in-game mileage one gets out of Safehouses may vary.

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