Shadowrun: Sim Dreams & Nightmares
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
Page Count: 17
Release Date: 3/13/2013
Get It Here: DriveThruRPG.com
I have to admit, five bucks for only fourteen pages of content is a little bit exorbitant, especially for a throwaway fluff piece like Sim Dreams & Nightmares. That alone would generally prevent me from giving something a recommendation, but three things saved the latest PDF supplement for Shadowrun. The first is that the piece is extremely well written. Sim Dreams & Nightmares is a fun read, and highlights an aspect of the Sixth World we don’t always think about – Sim abuse. The second is that the piece has some very nice full colour art attached to it, which is part of the high price tag. The third is that, although only eighteen percent of the PDF is actual game mechanics, what’s here can be really helpful if you have anyone in your troupe that wants to play a drug addict.
Sim Dreams & Nightmares contains two one page pieces of fiction that highlight how real Sims can be and the trouble they can cause. Poor, poor Bull. The bulk of the PDF, however, is a Jackpoint discussion on Simsense, BTL, skillwires, Personafixes and the like that a Metahuman can become addicted to with time. Case in point is Turbo Bunny, who leads this Jackpoint discussion. We all know she hops on and off the wagon like her vehicle of choice is an Awakened pogo stick, but it was nice to see a frank discussion of this side of the Sixth World led by someone who knows it all too well.
Although discussing drug abuse is undoubtedly a very dark topic, Sim Dreams & Nightmares is a surprisingly amusing piece, complete with running gags like Ecotrope having a massive (deserved) beef with Turbo Bunny, or /dev/grrl’s obsession with a sheep comment. It’s good to inject some humour into this piece, but it’s also good that it never becomes a total farce.
Mechanics-wise, you get three and a half pages on how to run addiction via dice rolling instead of just role-playing it out. There are five new negative qualities you get pick up for your character, along with a single positive quality. These qualities range from a generic addition to various drugs to no longer being able to feel a specific emotion, or even losing your original personality due to massive BTL/Sim/etc usage. A good roleplayer can definitely make use of these, although amnesiac protagonist is one of the biggest clichés there is in RPGs. The optional rules for addiction and how to get clean are quite interesting and well written, but I’m not quite sure how much use they will get. This is partly because you don’t see a lot of gamers who play addicts, and partly because the rules are in a throwaway PDF when we’re only a few months off from a completely new edition of Shadowrun. So the chance of these rules seeing play in too many campaigns isn’t very good, unless they end up doing a Shadowrun Missions where one of the PC’s gets addicted to something temporarily. Even then, the new season of Shadowrun Missions will be using the new edition rule set, so again, it’s not bloody likely these addiction and withdrawal/staying clean rules will see the light of day after this PDF.
Finally, the PDF gives you a full page of various drugs along with their new Addiction Rating and Addiction Threshold for easy access, along with half a page of prices and availability for Sim related products. Again, this is a fine idea, but it’s a bit odd to release new rules supplements so close to the release of 5e. Still, only a portion of fans move over to a new edition once it is released, so for those planning to stick to Fourth Edition/20AE, it’s good to know Catalyst is still supporting the system even in its last days.
All in all, Sim Dreams and Nightmares is well written, but it’s definitely overpriced for what you get. The good news is that if you do decide to pick it up, you get a smattering of great fiction set in the Sixth World, along with some potentially useful mechanics for addiction. The bad news is that if you’re planning to jettison 4e for the upcoming Fifth Edition of Shadowrun, what’s here won’t be of any use to you, unless you’re looking for an highly overpriced set of three short stories and some potentially outdated mechanics.