Review – Shadowrun: Chrome Flesh2 October, 2015
Shadowrun: Chrome Flesh provides background and game data for the wide world of improvements and augmentations availible in the Shadowrun world, everything from soft genetech to hard cyberware and everything in-between. Beside the fact that new toys are just fun, this book provides a wide variety of things to be stolen, hacked or otherwise used as the basis for shadowruns. The editorial quality feels better than the first of the fifth edition books as well. Overall, I would put this book into the needed source material column for a GM and most players will want it for the new toys.
Shadowrun: Chrome Flesh, is the core augmentation handbook for the 5th edition of Shadowrun providing information on cyberware, bioware, chemical, genetic and nano-enhancements. In other words, this product is full of new information but, more importantly, new toys for both players and GMs.
The book begins with one of the ubiquitous fiction sections and then moves into the current state of the metaplot, the continuing Cognitive Fragmentation Disorder (CFD) storyline and specifically how they effect cyberware and nanoware. While I appreciate the value of an evolving and changing setting, the CFD storyline does not appeal to me though I did like how it was used especially in the final section of this product.
A section on medical treatment options, framed around some lovely information from DocWagon, both corporate and “unofficial.” With a discussion of treatment for mental health issues, which includes CFD, and a discussion of using such in roleplaying (with appropriate disclaimers and warnings).
Then there are the obligatory positive and negative qualities, mostly tied to cybernetics and several linked to personasofts and BTL use (including Blank Slate, when someone’s original personality has been wiped by excessive use of personasofts). This section concludes with a few new Life Modules for the system from Run Faster.
Next, Cyberware, starting with a history of cyberware, why people use cyberware, and a discussion of the grades of cyberware available. All of that is good background and world information, but it is the part that come next that most people are buying the book for, more cyberware. Long time players will see a lot of familiar things here: move-by-wire systems, cyberskulls and so on, lots of interesting options. The things I really like are the low level cyberware, especially the cosmetic cyberware (light tattoos, led hair, and so on) which really feel like the sorts of things that would be developed for a consumer market and thus add a level of reality to the setting. The rules for the use of skillwires and skillsofts is expanded and clarified opening a whole range of interesting character options (“Oh of course I speak Mandarin/ hang-glide / swing dance. Why do you ask?”). A selection of common packages of cyberware for various purposes (as provided by your friends in the megacorporations) is provided and useful for stock characters.
Then comes Biotech, like the cyberware chapter before it starts with alight history of biotech and then talks about the major players in the biotech industries, which suggests a variety of potential Shadowruns. Then, new bioware, again, a mixture of revisions of older wares and new advances, again with a fair amount of cosmetic options and a variety of interesting symbionts. Though one of my favorite piece of bioware, the trauma dampener, has just become a pain editor and is no longer as fun or as useful as it was in previous editions.
Tangential to biotech but its own section is Genetic modification and Nanotech which rounds out the improvement section. It comes with an in-world debate on the technological possibilities, limits and risks of genetic tampering. Further, since the arrival of CFD on the world stage, using nanoware has become much more suspect and riskier but it can do some amazing things but it is far more limited than it once was. But there are still wide ranges of useful options available especially in the countermeasure department, such as anti-radiation protection, and minor enhancements. The wide range and narrow applicable genetic improvement and focused nanoware provides the tools to build uniquely specialized characters (and to improve existing specialists).
Next, the cheap and dirty options to make yourself faster, stronger, whatever, mostly applied chemistry but also chips and bottled spells. This is a good section especially for street level games as it gets into the dirty edge that these quick fixes provide, cheaply by comparison to permanent ware, but at a potentially deadly cost on the body and mind. Useful rules for customizing and making your own drugs are provided so you can have your own better life through chemistry.
The last section is looking to the future of enhancements and those affected by CFD, so it is full of adventure seeds and interesting world details, including a potential endgame for CFD. Possibly the most useful non-rules section for a games master.
The book ends with pages of master tables for all of the cyber/bio and other wares, from this and all of the other fifth edition Shadowrun books, useful if intimidating.