So a new blog post is up from Catalyst about 5e Shadowrun. As I look back at my initial – admittedly knee-jerk – post when the whole thing was announced I still find that I feel the same way. As much as I love Catalyst and I love what they’ve done with Shadowrun and Battletech this new edition rubs me the wrong way already, and I know next to nothing about it(!).
I’ve been musing on that since my initial post on the subject – but first let’s engage in some pointless speculation about the scant knowledge we have from the Catalyst post (because it will make me feel better).
It is heartening to hear that the designer do actually like the edition they are leaving behind. It’s nice to know that they considered 4e a success and want to keep what worked. A+ to a rational approach to moving forward… this makes me (the reactionary gamer who loves 4e) feel better. The bit about “everything has a price” has been a consistent message across both press releases now and this – more than anything – has me worried. One of my favorite parts of 4e is that Shadowrunners can be all stripes of people from glamorous and mixing with the rich and social crowd to filthy gutter runners and it all works. Runners don’t have to be down on their luck, broke all the time, and only working hand to mouth always waiting for the “next big score!” I like the fact that while shadowrunners are still criminals and well… shadow-people… they don’t have to be desperate. It’s also a problem for me that this “should be reflected in the rules.” Hard choices don’t really work well “in the rules.” They work well at the table where players are put in situations that require them to think and work to succeed without sacrificing too much. I don’t want or need the rules to enforce that, especially not all the way from character generation. I’m almost certainly reading too much into this. I’m sure that I am. But the tone of this message and it’s early repetition just ring very wrong for me. I note that they point out here how they want success (and dice pools) to generate from the character – from attributes and skills – but I’m not sure how this aligns with their first release where they talk about revamping Gear to be so much more flexible and full of uses. I’m reminded of how 4e D&D said that it was going to really change the gear dependance of 3.5 and then went right ahead and built all your magical plusses right into the basic game math that everything depended on. Again – I’m sure that I’m making something out of nothing. I get that… but hey – I’m worried about the changes. There’s other stuff – let’s just say that I – and maybe it’s just me – but I am not a fan of “Amping up the Cyberpunk.” Cyberpunk has evolved considerably as a genre to the point where it may have evolved past itself. I’m thinking of William Gibson’s recent trilogy starting with Pattern Recognition, Daniel Suarez’s Daemon and FreedomTM. I’m thinking of Stephenson’s Reamde. These are more what I want my Shadowrun/Cyberpunk stories to look like – not Neuromancer or Snow Crash. I have no problem with that older style of cyberpunk being “at the table” but I’m hoping nostalgia doesn’t crowd out these other kinds of stories. Hell, I know I sound like the worst kind of edition hating gamer right now… but I love this game – and I’m worried…
Which is a pretty good time to move on to the other topic. What the heck, Editions? I think I’m a little burnt out with change. I’m a little done with “new editions.” I’m fatigued and have been too frequently disappointed. 3.5 D&D lasted about 8 years – 4th lasted about 4 (I know 5th won’t be out for a while but 4E is practically dead from a practical standpoint with WotC). And you know, I tried my hardest to like 4e. We bought everything they put out, subscribed to the digital tools, played it for a solid two years and in the end we just weren’t even sure why. We didn’t even like it that much – we just played it and tried to like it, wanted to like it. And now we play Pathfinder. Warhammer Fantasy 2e was one of my favorite games ever created. It was a fantastic rendition of the earlier Warhammer Fantasy RPG and it was a hoot to play. 3e, which resembles 2e in only a most cosmetic fashion is a game that well – I’ll be blunt, it’s one of the few games I’ll straight up cop to hating. There are plenty of games I don’t enjoy – but 3e WFRPG is, for me, a rare case of mind-blowing what the ****. I won’t even apologize. Everyone gets one. Mutants and Masterminds switched from 2e to 3e. My enthusiasm when I heard that Green Ronin had the DC license was HUGE. Now, I don’t even know if they ever finished releasing the DCU stuff because the game was a giant step backward and the DC books were (in my opinion) very poorly conceived and realized. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. We have Fantasy Flight releasing yet another Star Wars RPG – and using the same ridiculous dice mechanics they created for WHFRPG 3e – which pretty much means I’ll be missing that edition altogether. And I’m just over it all. I know game-lines need new product to survive but the march has become relentless. I even hear there’s a new edition of Exalted in the works… and I’m following the Fb posts for a Mummy project.
To be honest, I’ve been even feeling this with Shadowrun 4e. I’m incredibly disappointed by the constantly advancing timeline. It’s 2075 already? Really? Give a guy a break. I haven’t played in about a year and it feels like 3 have elapsed in the game world… When I pull out my shiny, beautiful Seattle 2072 and realize that it’s completely out of date, that’s disheartening. I’m hoping they’ll pull back on the breakneck pace of Shadowrun’s timeline in the new edition – but I’m not counting on it.
Anyway – I’ll stop at this. I’ve said enough. On a slightly administrative note, I’ve decided to move writing about Diceless games to Thursday and keep Tuesday open for whatever comes along. I’m looking forward to Thursdays more now.
As always, thanks for reading – and I’d love to hear your thoughts about Shadowrun 5e (or anything else).