Shadowrun Missions 5A-01: Chasin’ the Wind
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
Page Count: 35
Release Date: 09/30/2013
Get it Here: DriveThruRPG.com
Okay, chummers, rise and shine, and don’t forget your booties ’cause it’s cooooold out there today! That’s right, this brand new season of Shadowrun Missions kicks off in Chicago smack dab in the middle of winter. Midwest winters are the worst because not only do you have temperatures well below freezing, but the winds can sometimes send the chill factor to as low as 100 below zero Fahrenheit. If you think that’s bad, imagine how it must feel to have a cyberlimb in that weather! Perhaps a more reckless character can be dared to lick a cyberdeck that’s been sitting out all night in the cold.
Now if the weather wasn’t horrible enough, there’s one big thing about Chicago in Shadowrun that you have to remember…or should I say BUG thing? That’s right – they call Chicago “Bug City” for a reason thanks to the infestation of bug spirits that plagued the city in the 2050s. New to Shadowrun? Then the best way to get caught up may be by playing the new Shadowrun Returns video game released earlier this year. If you’re not into video games, I would suggest either the novel Burning Bright or the classic second edition Shadowrun release, Bug City. You don’t need to experience any of the above to really enjoy this season ofShadowrun Missions, but all three are lot of fun, they’re cheap and they really will help you to understand how insidious and horrifying Insect Spirits are.
So with all that out of the way, let’s talk the actual plot of Chasin’ the Wind. What starts off as a simple routine everyday run (Well for Shadowrun) where you’re upgrading some Matrix nodes in the containment zone so your Johnson can piggyback off a pirate matrix grid turns weird. While in the Containment Zone (The quasi sealed off section of Chicago due to the whole bug thing), the PCs are contacted by one Simon Andrews, who works for Lofwyr, CEO of Saeder-Krupp – one of the biggest Mega-Corps on the Sixth World…and also a great dragon. Now you all know the adage, “Never Deal With a Dragon” when it comes to Shadowrun, right? Well, as true as it is, you also don’t want to get on the wrong side of a dragon by telling them to slag off. It’s also very lucrative to have a S-K contact who will vouch for you. So the question then becomes whether the PCs want to take a new, also seemingly easy mission or if they want to leave well enough alone. If the runners do take up Andrews on his mission, they’ll find themselves trying to locate a under the radar lab that has cut off from the outside world more or less thanks to being smack dab in the containment zone. From there, players will be sucked into a game of dragon politics, a secret cloning experiment and trying to run down a certain something that was missing from the lab.
I absolutely loved this mission as it’s a great introduction to how creepy and insane Bug City can be. This adventure should be run with a heavy atmosphere of paranoia and creepy spooky dread. To say Bug City should have similar tones to say, a Chill or Call of Cthulhu game is not that far off the mark. After all, there are hideous things lurking in the shadows everywhere in Chicago’s CZ and if your players aren’t ready to frag everything that moves, you’re not doing the location right.
One thing I discovered while running this adventure is that the more experience with Shadowrun a player has, the more likely they are to go off the rails and screw up. That’s due to knowledge of the location and insect spirits in general. By the time the players had investigated the lab, half the party was convinced that it was a secret bug location where they were cloning technomancer bodies for insect spirits to inhabit. I almost felt like Plan 9 was a PC in our run through of this adventure. Inevitably when someone from Aztechnology offered the players money to find a homeless person who happened to look just like the cloned bodies they saw earlier, conspiracy theories hit an all time high and well, there was no way they were helping Aztlan’s crazy blood mages. They shot first and asked questions later, leading to the first time I have EVER seen a Shadowrun Mission manage to go so completely and utterly off the rails. I mean these adventures are designed to be pretty hard to deviate from, but it sure happened here. Now had the PCs all been relatively new to Shadowrun without any knowledge of how messed up Chicago is, this would have been a fairly straightforward run without any of the, “Obviously there are going to be bug spirits in this adventure. BUG SPIRITS EVERYWHERE!” attitude. So GMs, keep in mind that this could happen to your game too, but you know what? Let it? Chicago, and especially the CZ, should be one of the freakiest places in the Sixth World and if the players let the city’s reputation run wild in their brains, it’ll be an all the more memorable experience for the party.
So now that we’re done with content, let’s talk about the good, the bad and the ugly. First up – the Good. With Season Five of Shadowrun Missions comes a new crisper, cleaner layout. You’ll notice each page has a set of bookmarks on the right hand side, which makes for quicker perusal and access to the information you want instead of scrolling through the entire thirty-five page PDF. This makes GM’ing with the PDF a lot easier too. I didn’t think it was possible to improve of the Shadowrun Missions design, but I was wrong – this thing is snazzy and so much easier on the eyes. As well, Shadowrun Missions still use the same layout, ensuring that a GM’s hand will be held from beginning to end. From ways to adjust the challenge of each scene, to a list of possible ways players can go off and mess things up for themselves, Shadowrun Missions are a GM’s dream come true as they make running a game exceptionally easy. Even somewhat relatively new to Shadowrun or tabletop gaming as a whole can take a Shadowrun Missions PDF and run it passably. These things really should be the gold standard for published adventures. In the case of Chasin’ the Wind, I ran this adventure SIGHT UNSEEN. It showed up in my inbox, I gathered some players and I ran the adventure AS I READ IT just to see if the SM format is as nigh foolproof as I thought. Guess what? The players didn’t realize it for a second. Granted I’ve been playing Shadowrun since the early 90s, but I feel this shows just how well designed the SM format it.
Now the bad. There’s a price increase. Shadowrun Missions used to be $3.95 a pop, and because they were cheaper than a comic book, I regularly called them the best deal in tabletop gaming. Well, the price tag has raised two bucks, so now it’s $5.95 for a mission. That equates to a little over a dollar an hour, so you’re still getting a great deal, just not AS good as in previous seasons. I am glad to see that the Missions stayed in full colour as I remember Bull stating they might have to go black and white. So while the price increase isn’t a deal breaker, the two dollars extra per Mission may add up for gamers with a shoestring budget. Just a head’s up.
Finally the ugly – the new Shadowrun Missions logo. Ick. That might be the worst logo I’ve seen in a long time. Ah well, art is pretty subjective, right?
All in all, Chasin’ the wind is a great start to this new season of Shadowrun Missions. It’s creepy, it’s low key and far more subtle than your usual Sixth World adventure, but not every missions has to be a save the world or take down a mega-corp’s insidious plan sort of deal. Chasin’ the Wind is a great way to introduce gamers to Bug City and I can’t wait to see where the rest of the season take us.