Monday, June 3, 2024

(Shadowrun) Blood in the Boardroom

Blood in the Boardroom (Brian Schoner) is a book that falls into the infamous "we made our edition-change into a metaplot adventure so we could charge you extra for it" subgenre of rpg adventures. Structurally, it's very similar to Mob War! - you've got a series of events that you're meant to respond to, likely by committing crimes for pay. The main difference between the two is that Mob War! features NPCs and situations the players are likely to become involved with and Blood in the Boardroom does . . . the opposite of that.

I mean, okay, in the world of Shadowrun it's been established, from the 1st edition core, that the rich and powerful are in the habit of hiring expendable mercenaries from the dregs of society. So when Buttercup, the mysterious spiritual entity and de facto head of the Yamatetsu corporation needs to safeguard the secret of her true name from her rivals on the board of directors or Leonard Aurelius wants to recover the antique chess piece he received in Dunkelzahn's will, well they're going to hire someone and those someones may as well be the PCs.

It's just . . . it really doesn't feel like that's the point, you know. Half the NPCs in this book are Big Names in Canon and it never really feels like you're really being given the go-ahead to change the destiny of Damien Knight or Richard Villiers. It feels more like you're meant to Forest Gump your way through the Sixth World's tabloid pages.

Which isn't a terrible thing, per se. You get a chance to rob a space station, which is not the sort of heist you can do unless you're working for someone on the scale of Leonard Aurelius. And I suppose, if you're a late 2nd edition player, there's a certain thrill that comes from reading the setting section of the 3rd edition core and seeing a series of events your character had a peripheral hand in bringing about. But make no mistake, at no point did this book make me forget that its primary purpose is to advance the game's timeline from 2057 to 2060.

I guess I enjoyed it though. I'm pretty invested in the Shadowrun timeline at this point, so I can sincerely stroke my beard and say, "hmm, that Richard Villiers is pretty lucky the way his corporate rivals keep dying under mysterious circumstances." Likewise, I may have experienced a genuine emotional reaction when I learned that Arthur Vogel, formerly the world's coolest lawyer, is now the largest single shareholder in Ares Macrotechnology. Aw, c'mon man, I voted for you in the 2057 UCAS Presidential election, please tell me you haven't gone corporate!

Is this enough to carry the whole book, though? It was worth it for me because I'm in a "read the books for entertainment without ever following through with a real game" mindset, but I think if I were GMing Shadowrun, I'd be reluctant to use this book's adventure ideas just because they require the PCs to be ridiculously well-connected (and the aftermath sections of the adventures suggest that if they weren't connected at the beginning of the adventure, they will be at the end). On the other hand, do I really want a game setting where the players can't get involved in the big-time events? 

I think Blood in the Boardroom could work if it were more explicitly a high-level supplement for experienced Shadowrun characters. It's a good source of meaty assignments for top-tier mercenaries. Unfortunately, it never really presents itself that way, so there's little warning that there is not much to interest low-level gutter punks.

Unless . . . the title itself is the warning? Like maybe someone who was sufficiently familiar with the Shadowrun ethos would automatically realize that the boardroom is no place for newbs. . .

Aw well, it's got more canon, and that's enough for me.

Ukss Contribution: One of the adventures features of form of Black IC (dangerous Intrusion Countermeasure software for secure computers) that causes a decker (hacker) to start indiscriminately blabbing all their secrets. I had no idea the setting's brain-hacking technology was that advanced, but more than that, it is probably one of the most hilarious things you could do to someone who tried to steal your shit.

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