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Savage Shadowrun - Savage Fan Creation Review

I've seen a few Shadowrun conversion floating around the iterwebs, but it wasn't until I have received a request from +Christoffer Krakou to review his creation, that I really sunk my teeth into one. In all honesty I haven't seen the appeal of Shadowrun for the longest time. I mean, fantasy cyberpunk? I like my cyberpunk gritty and down to earth, not full of spell-slinging trolls. It wasn't until the recent Shadowrun video game reboot (Return, Dragonfall and Hong-Kong) that I have finally seen how awesome the setting can be. The only thing stopping me from playing it was the cumbersome mechanic. Enter Savage Shadowrun.

Disclaimer: I am not very familiar with the actual mechanics of Shadowrun. I have read through fourth and fifth edition, but I have never played the game itself. Most of the "feel of the game" I am basing on the above mentioned video games.

Unlike many other conversions of RPGs to the Savage Worlds system, this Savage Shadowrun feels very robust and complete. The conversions I usually encounter translate the most important aspects of a game and leave a lot of Savage Worlds unchanged. It is not a bad thing by any means, it works for many RPGs and keeps with the Fast, Furious and Fun spirit of Savage Worlds. However, when translating such complex system like Shadowrun, those extra rules add greatly to the "feel" of the game. Because what makes Shadowrun is not only the setting. A large portion of what makes the system click are the rules that interlock with different narrative parts of the sixth world. In that aspect, Christoffer's conversion does a great job at capturing the mechanical essence of the game.

In just under 80 pages, the document manages to squeeze every rule needed to play (from character generation, thru rules for magic and technology users, to cybernetics), a selection of weapons, spells and even few appendixes that give extra insight into some of the new rules. That's a lot of stuff for a free conversion. To be fair, Christoffer worked on this document for over four years, this shows some dedication. So let's see what hides between those pages.


Characters

This chapter is a pretty usual fair for conversions. You get lists of new races (that are more powerful than the usual SW races, clocking in at +4 instead of +2), Edges and Hindrances. To emulate the game, few new skills are included, mostly pertaining to the technology and magic aspects of the game. All of the stuff included here is of a really good quality, and reading through those makes me want to make a character or two. The one quibble I have here is the Deception skill. It is used both as type of persuasion and as a part of hacking. I think that is one of the mechanical quirks of the original system that can be streamlined in the conversion. If I were to run this conversion, I would probably skip it and just let Persuasion do the talking (and maybe add a new Edge for using persuasion during hacking instead of Deception).

Technology

This chapter talks mainly about Hacking, but also touches upon Rigging (using semi-autonomous drones), it is the most meaty of the chapters, as it introduces many new concepts. Hacking is a big deal in the sixth world, and has its own set of mechanics in the conversion. It seems a bit complex on the first read, but give it some time and it will make sense. After you wrap your head around the high concept of the Matrix and understand that it is a "different plane of existence," unlike the meatspace you will be fine. I think that those rules will make hacking a really cool aspect of the game, and it won't slow down the overall gameplay. Another cool thing is, that because hacking is a bit different from the normal Savage Worlds mechanics, non-hacker players will see it as some kind of techno wizardry. The only thing I wish the author would change are the names of the derived statistics for digital actions to more a Savage Worlds friendly terms, as right now it maybe confusing to players not familiar with Shadowrun. Adding digital before the name of the normal stat would resolve the issue. So, the Resistance would become Digital Parry for example.

Magic and others

The magical traditions are more akin to standard Savage Worlds ruleset. They use a tweaked variant of the "No Power Points" rules and a custom spell list. There is a lot of good stuff here that makes the magic more polished than a traditional Savage Worlds setting does. You get rules on astral space, summoning spirits and using a mentor spirit who gives your characters both pros and cons. The magic chapter has more of a DIY approach to magic, as the Shadowrun magicians are as varied as the rest of the world. A DIY approach is always a plus in my book.
The rest of the document consists of lists of various equipment and services the characters can obtain. Many of those come with special rules of their own and make the conversion more than just a collection of rules. There are few paragraphs of fluff and this fluff is used to explain various rules (the explanation of why Doubting Thomas Hindrance is forbidden is by far my favorite) and even some Shadowrun art to get you hooked up. You can run a bare-bones session with this document alone, but you will still want to have some of the Shadowrun books to really sink your teeth into the setting. All in all, this conversion does a great job at introducing players to the world of Shadowrun and provides a good alternative to the official mechanic.

Christoffer released the conversion and a set of character cards on his blog:  savageshadowrun.blogspot.dk. You should definitely check it out!