Back in the day, when Shadowrun first came out, 20 years ago, I bought a bunch of the books. I played some, ran a bit, but never really got much of a chance to get into it. That didn’t stop me from spending money on the books, mind you – I have plenty of game systems that I have bought, read and never played at all, so not playing is clearly no barrier to me – but it did mean that I didn’t get much of a chance to get deeply into SR.
I got busy with other things, and I think I ran out of money at some point in there, at least money for game systems I wasn’t actually playing. I think Magic: the Gathering may have consumed all of my available cash for a while.
But now I am back into Shadowrun, working on a game for Con of the North (coming up in just a couple of weeks – if you are a gamer, in the Twin Cities or thereabouts, and have the weekend of Feb 5-7 free, check it out). And while I still like the setting and the idea, the system has way too much embroidery for me to enjoy it.
Let me be clear: I’m a long-time roleplaying geek. My first RPG purchase ever was the first edition of the AD&D DMG, which puts me after the real pioneers who played the original D&D box but still pretty darn early in RPG history. I’ve bought dozens of game systems over the years, played many of them, GMed more than I have played. I like systems with depth and complexity, but Shadowrun 4th Edition is just… off-putting.
I think the key problem for me is that there are so many fiddly bits that I’m almost certainly sub-optimizing in some way, because I don’t know the system well enough. What’s the most efficient way to distribute build points? Should I be buying skill groups or individual skills? Should I take skillwires and activesofts for some skills? What’s the right balance between buying up attributes and buying up skills?
And how am I going to put together character sheets with all of these options on them in a way that makes sense to players?
Okay, enough complaining. Back to it.