Well, it happened.
Catalyst Game Labs released Shadowrun: Anarchy, an “alternate rules set” that aims at letting players run the shadows of the Sixth World in a more story-driven rules set.
If you’re looking for a solid, full review of Anarchy I highly recommend the Casting Shadows review. Otherwise, I’m just going to sit here and gush fanboy for a moment…
Tell It To Them Straight
I love this drek. There may be things I would’ve considered doing differently, and I’ll admit it feels a bit schizophrenic in places trying to decide its target audience (too crunchy for story gamers, too narrativist/hand-wavey for traditional SR players.) This isn’t 5th Edition trimmed down; this is the SR setting hacked & reskinned to fit the Cue System.
And that’s fine — I haven’t ran or played “Shadowrun proper” in years. I have a shit ton of old SR books on my shelf, and the latest ones I have are 3rd Edition. 4e character creation was too GURPS-ish for my taste; 5e looks wiz but I don’t have the time like I used to in order to teach it and run it.
Anarchy makes me nostalgic for what my favorite Shadowrun campaigns were — sessions where we disregarded the simulation, the minutiae, and focused more on the story. I didn’t punish my players for over-the-top, I rewarded them. I always made it a house rule that if you bought a few clips of ammo between runs, we’d play with “cinematic” ammo rules. I streamlined the fuck out of the Matrix with “Rule of Cool” and simple skill tests, because cyberpunk hacking is cool and realism is dull.
Anarchy is mechanically NOT Shadowrun. Yes, you’re rolling handfuls of six-siders and trying to wrack up successes. That’s sexy, and that’s honestly about as much “rules nostalgia” as I want. Combat is streamlined; there’s not even different modes of gun fire and initiative rolls are optional. Armor is just a bubble of extra damage pips before it goes on your actual health marks. Magic doesn’t have any Force and Drain — it’s straight forward effects.
I mean hell: magic, cyberware, adept powers, cool equipment, and any other strange knack that makes you a badass are all rolled under the banner of “Shadow Amps”. These could be called Gifts, Stunts, Feats, Perks etc in many other systems. And I’m cool with that.
If I was wanting to run a “pure” Shadowrun experience, I’d damn well play it. I have my favorite edition and plenty of material to work with. But I want to play Anarchy — it fits in more with my gaming style these days. Lean, mean, and pretty easy to wing it. It’s almost two games in one — the default “Narratavist” style is something to play on a moments notice. Grab a pre-gen character, pick a mission, everyone contributes to the story. It’s like Fiasco but more game-ish and pretty violent. Play it “Traditionally”, and with a few minor adjustments it’s a game I can actually see myself running a campaign of despite my limited schedule.
I want to tinker, I want to build, I want to convert and expand. It has warts, but it has my attention and I’m pretty much declaring this my new go-to for my favorite RPG brand.
As a final note: usually when I encounter a new RPG system, I often ask “How would I play Shadowrun with this?” Reading through Anarchy I started to ask myself “This is cool — What else can I play with these rules?”