Saturday, June 15, 2024

(Shadowrun 3rd Edition) Renraku Arcology Shutdown

A lot of Shadowrun supplements are fiction-focused, presenting a story and then daring you to roleplay an adventure inspired by that story, but even among that august company Renraku Arcology Shutdown (David Hyatt and Brian Schoner) stands out as being particularly story-focused. Nowhere in the first 70 pages of this 88 page book is there anything that even remotely resembles a playable shadowrun. It is 100% NPCs doing NPC things and the most you can really say is "hey, it would be cool to use some of those antagonists, hazards, and locations in an rpg."

But you know, I'm not mad about it because Renraku Arcology Shutdown is actually a pretty good story. It's a chilling bit of horror about a massive building (holds roughly 90,000 permanent occupants who live, shop, and work entirely within its walls) with a security system capable of holding off the UCAS military for months at a time, that gets cut off from the outside world by a merciless AI who subjects the trapped survivors to gruesome scientific experiments.

So despite the fact that there's nothing the PCs can contribute to any of the book's short-story plots, it provides you with plenty of ideas for new stories - helping the resistance rescue the AI's victims, recover lost Renraku assets, attempt to steal the AI's cutting-edge drone designs, etc. I'd say that's a pretty good bargain, especially considering the book was fun to read on its own merits . . . 

Well, maybe "fun" isn't the word I'd use. It's horror. Frequently, I'd see something that made me say, "oh no, that's not right." One of the chapters presents itself as a 10-year-old's diary and . . . it does not have an uplifting ending. There are portions that seem to revel in the degradation of the human spirit. And as always when I confront horror, I have to put my feelings under the microscope and ask myself if the reason I feel so uncomfortable is because it's particularly effective horror. It's the one genre where you can't just take for granted that "nope, don't want none of that, thank you" is a bad reaction.

And with that awareness, I think Renraku Arcology Shutdown is actually pretty good. I can easily imagine arcology-based Shadowrun games that really dial up the desperate survival elements, the psychological terror of the AI's mind control experiments (it basically got its start as the arcology's Alexa, so it knows enough about human foibles to have a really high success rate when it comes to brainwashing captives), and the disgusting indifference it shows to basic human dignity. You can face strangely biological robots, drugged-up fanatics with glowing cybereyes, and children-turned-sleeper-agents who carry exploding dolls capable of taking out a whole team of would-be rescuers. It's super fucked-up.

Never mind how weird it is to be in a situation where "it's super fucked-up" is probably a compliment.

Ukss Contribution: I'm afraid I'm going to have to go full "mild-salsa" with this gripping horror yarn and avoid all the scary stuff in favor of just the general concept of an arcology. As a certified Indoor Boy, there's just something about them that appeals to me.


  1. Arcologies are cool.
    I’ve been flirting with making a location “mini-setting” based around an arcology myself.

    1. I like the hubris of trying to create a perfectly controlled environment and the way the creators' idea of perfection inevitably informs their characterization.