Tabletop Review: Shadowrun: Run & Gun

Shadowrun: Run & Gun
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
Cost: $24.99 (PDF)/$49.99 (Physical)
Page Count: 218
Release Date: 04/10/2014
Get it Here: DriveThruRPG.com

Run & Gun is our second major Shadowrun release of 2014, with the first being the awesome Digital Tools Box. Usually Shadowrun has several small PDF releases a month, but Catalyst Game Labs has really cut back on that with the release of Shadowrun, Fifth Edition. For those that miss all those little one to two dozen page PDF stat block collections like Gun H(e)aven 3, Parazoology 2, Used Car Lot and others like them, you’ll be happy to know that a huge chunk of Run & Gun reads and feels like an omnibus of those pieces. There are roughly seventy pages of new armor and weapons in this this sourcebook! That should keep you busy well… until Sixth Edition rears its ugly head. Seriously, this book is a one stop shop for things to murder (or be murdered) with. Best of all those thirty page stat blocks tend to cost $7.95 EACH. So for Run & Gun, you’re getting the equivalent of a little more than three of those supplements (which would run you $23.85), but you’re also getting another 148 pages of content as well. Hopefully this knowledge upfront helps ease the sticker price of this sourcebook. I know my first instinct was, “TWENTY-FIVE/FIFTY DOLLARS FOR THIS? WHAT THE HECK???” Once the shock wears off however, you can see that you’re getting a much better deal cost-wise with Run & Gun than with all those little (overpriced?) PDF supplements. So for some of you, the lack of prolific releases for Shadowrun 5e will be made up by the sheer value of this weighty tome.

Of course, there is so much more to Run & Gun than exotic items like space armor, harpoon guns and monofilament garrotes. The format of Run & Gun follows the usual Shadowrun motif we have come to expect from CGL. You get short pieces of fiction interspersed with metaplot told from the point of view of JackPoint (a Shadowrun Matrix group for those of you who are new to the game with 5e) and a bunch of mechanics. It’s worth noting that unlike a lot of Shadowrun books, Run & Gun breaks from the Jackpoint POV to straight rules and back with little or no warning. That might make the book seem like a chaotic mess at first as you’ll wonder why the speaker du jour suddenly started talking in mechanics, but you’ll get used to it. Perhaps my biggest complaint about the book is this constant narrative style shift. It could have been a lot more seamless. While long time Sixth World fans are going to find the constant flipping back and forth weird but navigable, newcomers will be confused more often than not. Considering this is the first sourcebook for a new edition, Run & Gun should have been more newcomer friendly than this. Still, the book is very easy to navigate, ESPECIALLY if you get the PDF version so you can quickly turn to bookmarks and the like. Due to the twenty dollar difference and the power of CTRL+F, I’d definitely say the electronic version of Run & Gun will be a lot easier to use in your Shadowrun, Fifth Edition games. It’ll be easier on your wallet and take up less space/weight to boot!

The first third of Run & Gun are the weapons and armor stats blocks mentioned earlier. This is probably the section that will get the most use by players and GMs alike. After all, if you want to make an arctic saboteur, you’ll want the Ares Polar Sneak or Coldsuit. (Actually the art for Ares Arctic Survival Suit is a direct rip-off/homage to the Snow Serpents from G.I. Joe. I’m not sure if that is intentional or not, but it is awesome). If you want to relieve Games Workshop’s Chainsaw Warrior board game, you can do it in style with an Ash Arms Combat Chainsaw. So on and so forth. There is something for everyone in these two areas. Now that doesn’t mean ANYONE should buy a full sourcebook if all they want is a single weapon or piece of armor from it. A GM however, can really get use out of Run & Gun if only by throwing new weapons and armor at the PCs. Tired of the same old mooks and grunts? >Spiffy them up with a new machine pistol or give that gang some bike racing armor. This is especially good if you have players that have all the items in the core rulebook memorized and love to rules-laywer.

The other two thirds of Run & Gun are all new tactics and options that can be done during combat. It’s always great to see some new options in combat, but Run & Gun gives you an incredible amount. So many that there is no way even the most anal retentive player is going to memorize all, or even HALF of the options in this book. As such, even veteran players may be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of options and eventually a group is going to be split on what they want to allow and what they won’t. In a worst case scenario a bad group will want to use all of these and pressure a player into feeling like they MUST purchase Run & Gun. A good group will realize this is not a mandatory Player’s Handbook 2 set of canon rules ala what you see in D&D 3.0 or Pathfinder. If you think forty+ different Martial Arts (Yet the options are still missing Savate, Sumo, Sambo, and a ton of others) is too much for everyone, trim it back to what is workable for your group. The key thing to remember with Run & Gun is that the book is more New World of Darkness where you have a buffet you can pick and choose from than Classic World of Darkness where the books are written in a way where everything is canon and woe to you that can’t afford the latest release or who lack a set on index cards cross referencing everything. Yes the sheer amount of options are INSANE, but remember the focus should never be rules and mechanics first. It’s fun first, so if any of these optional rules don’t work for you or some players don’t have access to them, DON’T USE THEM! It’s that simple.

Our first section in this area is entitled “Sixth World Combat Tactics.” You get an overview of the basic tactics players and their characters know after spending a little bit of time in the Sixth World. “Geek the Mage First” and “kill the Decker second” sort of things. It also talks about the importance of team tactics similar to what you would see in a video game ala X-Com or Shining Force. There’s some really good commentary about how to work as a team and make sure everyone has a specific function or role when drek hits the fan. I’m actually surprised this piece wasn’t in the core rulebook because it’s advice Shadowrun players of all experience levels should read. This section also gives you eleven combat maneuvers which allow two or more characters to tactical options which will give them slight bonuses in specific situations. Case in point, you have a four player team that wants to attempt the “diamond maneuver.” This characters in the shape of a diamond moving in the same direction, thus giving them 360 degrees of sight. If you get four successes on this team attempt, all members doing the diamond maneuver get a +1 bonus to surprise/ambush checks and +2 to their Initiative rolls. This is nice. You get a small, non-game breaking reward for actually performing and moving as a team. Although there are only eleven of these options, an enterprising or creative GM can easily think of more. This section then ends with odd little tools like pain grenades (suck it invisibility spells!) and battering rams.

“KIllshots and More” is where things really start to get intense. You get six different OPTIONS for combat. These range from no action phase limits for simple actions to armor piercing options. My personal favorite is the alternative initiative where characters get rewarded for extremely high rolls and their quickness. Instead of getting one action per round, each player rolls their initiative and then goes in the usual highest to lowest order. Then everyone subtracts 10 from their roll. If they have a roll above 0, they get to go again. Repeat until everyone is down to 0 initiative and start again. I know I already made a World of Darkness comparison to this already, but in many ways this initiative option, gives extremely quick players something akin to Vampire: The Masquerade‘s celerity and I like that. Previously a high initiative “just” let you go first. Now you might be able to go first and get a couple extra attacks in to boot. This option also really lets mages get more out of slow and haste style spells. Of course, just because *I* like it doesn’t mean *you* have to. These are all optional rules; I can’t stress that enough. More options are always welcome while more forced canon rules appearing outside the core rulebook are rarely welcome.

This section continues with even more new combat options a character can take when his or her turn comes up. “More Called Shots” gives you twelve attacks that are more about style or positioning instead of damage. “Location, Location, Location” lets you take aim at sixteen different body parts (Yes, including genitals). “Ammo Whammy” gives you special actions to take with uncommon round types. For example, you can try to aim your Toxic round into a part of the body that will absorb the poison faster. You can’t obviously use an EX-Explosive round for an action designed only for a tracker however.

From there we get to one of the low points in the book. “More Actions” gives you over forty NON-optional actions. These are canon and are now part of the permanent action options so no doubt you’ll see them pop up in adventure with only a reference to Run & Gun, meaning you will have light pressure to buy this book to properly understand the published piece. That’s not cool, and although 4e was REALLY guilty of this, I was hoping 5e wouldn’t start off with it right away. Why these half dozen pages weren’t in the core rulebook for 5e is beyond me. They either should have made this a separate addendum, put them in the core rulebook or not done them. Most of these are common bits to begin with, so it’s more than a little inexcusable to have them in Run & Gun.

After that you have five new ways to spend Edge, seven new positive Qualities and one negative one. Then it’s the plethora of martial arts options I mentioned previously in the review. Besides all the martial art styles I mentioned, you also have techniques, which are the equivalent of called shots for martial artists. All of this is great if you are a physical adept, but these fifteen pages might have been better off as their own separate PDF so that more detail could have been added. As it stands, it’s a lot of options, but none of them have enough depth or detail. Basically this was a great idea on paper, but not enough follow through.

Can you believe there is STILL MORE CONTENT to talk about? At this point we’re only 145 pages into the 218 page PDF. The last third of the book is pretty much two chapters, “Staying Alive” and “Blow Up Good.” “Staying Alive” talks about real world hazards characters can face. After all, it’s not just bullets, dragons and magic that will kill you in the Sixth World. Here you are given mechanics for dealing with extreme heat, cold, radiation, pollution and more. Each of these topics only gets between one and three pages of content, but Space Combat gets about seven. How does magic work in space? How do laser or bullets? What happens if your character specialized in flame magic and he’s out in a vacuum? What happens when your suit starts to leak or the hull of your craft is breached? All of these are covered here. This is great stuff, especially with the earlier space suit bits in the armor section towards the front of the book. There are also two positive and three negative qualities in this section for characters to take as well.

The last real chapter in the book is “Blow up Good.” After that, it’s some short fiction and metric ton of tables. “Blow Up Good,” as you might have surmised, is all about explosives and/or things that explode. This is a pretty detailed chapter covering various types of explosives, different detonators, accessories, rules for cutting charges and even how to blow things up via your rigger’s drone. This is really well done for people that are interesting in sabotage or whose characters go around saying, “And so he says to me, he says, ‘You want to be a baaaaad guy?!’ and I say, ‘Yeah, baby! I want to be bad!’ I says, ‘Surf’s up, Space Ponies! I’m making gravy without the lumps!’ Ah ha ha ha ha haaaaa! ” Oh god. Now I want to make THE EVIL MIDNIGHT TROLL STREET SAM WHAT BOMBS AT MIDNIGHT. If however this isn’t your cup of tea, that’s thirty pages you can just skip over. “Bad is good, baby! Down with government!”

Overall, Run & Gun is well done, but it feels like a hodge podge of small PDFS supplements thrown together until they had enough of a page count to sell it as a physical release. This means that most gamers will only use a portion of the book and excise the rest from their Shadowrun, Fifth Edition campaign. Although it’s a lot cheaper to get the weapons, armor, tactics, actions, martial arts, explosives and environmental hazards as one big bundle rather than as seven or eight supplemental PDFs, the pieces in the book aren’t for everyone. A Physical Adept fan will enjoy the martial arts and action bits but not have a lot of use for the rest. Street Samurari’s will make great use out of the weapons and armor. Mages and Decker players don’t have a lot of use for this book at all. So the amount of use you’ll get out of Run & Gun really depends on what type of character you play and how much of a Shadowrun completionist you are. Remember, those supplemental PDFs tend to run eight bucks a pop, so purchased separately, the wildly divergent sections of this book would cost you between $56-$64 bucks. Instead you’re getting them bundled for $29.99. That’s a great deal price wise. However, if all you wanted were the weapons and armor, you’re stuck paying twice as much as you would have if you could buy each section separately. So the value for Run & Gun will vary greatly depending on your play style and how much of a Sixth World junkie you are.

Can I recommend Run & Gun? Most definitely! It’s not for everyone and the very different topics at hand make the sourcebook feel like more like a Frankenstein’s Monster type of deal rather than a cohesive collection, but the content is all quality stuff. In the end, no one gamer is going to make use of every aspect of this book, but there will be at least one section you’ll really enjoy – if not more. I’d definitely suggest going electronic over physical and remind gamers that if you look at Run & Gun as a bundle instead of sourcebook, the price tag on this thing looks a lot better. Whether or not it’s worth the full twenty five or fifty dollars is really going to be up to each of you reading this and if you like the wide range of content we’ve looked at today.

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