Tabletop Review: Shadowrun: Coyotes

Shadowrun: Coyotes
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
Cost: $7.95
Page Count: 30
Release Date: 12/14/2013
Get it Here: DriveThruRPG.com

..and with this, I believe I’ve cleaned up my backlog of reviewables that came in while I was on vacation. Except for White Wolf’s Blood & Smoke: The Strix Chronicle of course. That’s a big one. Anyway, Coyotes is the latest supplement from Catalyst Game Labs. Unlike Gun H(E)aven 3, which was released the same day, I really liked Coyotes, even if the price tage may give you some initial hesitation as to whether you should pick this up or not. Eight bucks for thirty pages of content is a bit high to me, especially for a PDF, but at least there’s actual CONTENT to this piece (all of which is really well done) compared to say 50% blank space, a picture of a gun, line of mechanics and three to four sentences of Jackpoint snark. Best of all, the content in Coyotes is wonderful and you’ll easily get your money’s worth out of this release. Let’s show you why.

In the Sixth World, the term “coyotes” is slang for smugglers. This might throw you for a loop because of the emphasis the game has on Native American folklore and culture. In many NA tribes, the coyote is the symbol of the trickster god. So why use this term for smuggling? Well, it makes sense if you think about a smuggler being a trickster itself. After all, they have to use wits and many a clever scheme to get their cargo to their destination as well as past corporate and government snoops. In this sense the trickster version of coyote is somewhat applicable, at least more so than the animal itself that bears the name. I’m not sure if that is the same train of thought the writers of Shadowrun used to come up with it, but I’d love to see the process. A book showcasing the process for Sixth World slang would in and of itself would be a great read….but I’m going off topic. Let’s talk Coyotes.

Like a lot of supplements for Shadowrun, Coyotes is a multi-faceted piece. You have some short fiction (three pages) to start things off and then it goes into a Jackpoint discussion post. Unlike most supplements of this nature which have the metaplot piece first and the mechanics at the tail end of the book, the crunch and fluff are seamlessly integrated into this release. It’s a bit jarring for those used to the old way these types of pieces were done, especially when you go to flip towards the back for a piece of mechanics and find it’s not there anymore, but it’s well done and if this is the way these pieces are going to be done for Fifth Edition, we’ll all get used to it. Finally, the piece concludes with an adventure, which was a nice little surprise. This is rarely done in Shadowrun supplements, so I loved seeing this at the end of the piece. The adventure, which we’ll look at in depth later on in the review is written with the Shadowrun Missions format, which I loved seeing, as it’s my favorite adventure format, regardless of system/setting because it’s so inviting to GM’s of all skill levels. All in all, you’re getting an amazing amount of content jammed into these thirty pages and I’m really impressed by this release.

“Transporter” is the name of the piece of short fiction that starts this piece off. It’s about a coyote named Tim (Who also appears to be a Rigger BTW) and his unfortunate dealings with a less than professional team of runners. The story is a fine read and makes a great warning for what happens to PCs that think all NPCs are disposable idiots. The story ends a bit abruptly and I’d have liked to learn more about Tim (especially how he gets away with using a “real” name) and Pax, but that’s what sequels are for, right?

The core metaplot content is done in the usual Jackpoint style. The author here is one Timothy Movo, presumably the same Timothy from the previous short story. It’s a great look at the ins and outs of human trafficking (which is mostly what this piece is about, not cargo) and it’s one of the more faceted pieces I’ve seen CGL do on a particular Sixth World profession. You are given examples of what is needed to survive as a coyote, why it’s hard to get out of the job once immersed in it, and the big mistakes people make in the field, which leads to them dying. This section also tries to differentiate between a coyote and a routine smuggler, but it mostly came off as semantics for me.

This piece also covers the various type of situations where PCs might encounter a coyote. Are you in a game where all the PCs work for a specific corporation? There is a section on corporate coyotes. Want to make a Coyote a big NPC contact for your PCs? There is a lot on how to contact and eventually befriend a coyote. There’s a ton of information on border crossings ranging from “very easy” to very hard” along with the types of security, both mundane and magical that you are likely to encounter. These sections really blur the line between metaplot and mechanics, so you would do well to go over this area several times if you plan on making use of it. Of course, where there are descriptions of security measures, there is also commentary on how to get by them, so you’ll want to read that as well, especially if you play Shadowrun rather than run it.

The metaplot bit just kind of tapers off without warning or any real conclusion. It just suddenly goes into six sample NPC coyotes for use with your game and then into the adventure. Three are riggers, one is a guide, one is an adept and one is a technomancer. If you don’t like any of these, at least you’ll come away with an idea for how to design one of your own.

The included adventure is entitled, “Piping Hot” and it’s a one shot adventure designed to introduce new players to the game (or just Fifth Edition). The adventure is for Fifth Edition only, but with some slight modification, I have no doubts it could be played with previous editions of the game. The adventure takes a bit of explaining. The PCs are all unrelated to each other and are called by a Mr. Johnson individually. It seems he needs someone smuggled into Seattle but his usual coyote has up and disappeared. The good news is that the coyote left a set of instructions on how to do the run. The bad news is the runners, all totally new to the concept of human smuggling, are tapped for the job. It SOUNDS simple enough – drive a van into Salish-Shidhe, pick up the client and come on back to Seattle, but when is a run ever as easy as it sounds? The adventure gives characters and players alike a chance to taste the coyote lifestyle and see if it is something that they would be interested in pursuing further. If so, the GM and PC get a chance at exploring a very different aspect of the Sixth World. If not, hey, it was a one-time experience they wouldn’t otherwise get, right? Either way, the adventure is pretty interesting and a nice change of pace.

Overall, Coyotes is a nice purchase that gives you a taste of everything – a fleshed out concept, some short fiction, a full adventure, some Jackpoint material and a decent amount of mechanics (far more than we normally see in a supplement of this type). Basically it has something for everyone. I’m very pleased with Coyotes and can happily recommend it to Shadowrun fans across the board. Definitely pick it up if you haven’t already.

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