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Review – Shadowrun: Howling Shadows

12 June, 2016

Shadowrun: Howling Shadows is the latest creature book for Shadowrun and as such provides new beings and new challenges.  Worth putting on the ‘pick up if you are a GM list’ as it provides so many useful tools and potential adventure ideas, not nearly so useful for players but still a good read.

Shadowrun: Howling Shadows is a Core Critter Book for the 5th edition of Shadowrun, so it provides additional information on the strange, wonderful and dangerous creatures out and about in the Sixth World.

The book begins with one of the ubiquitous fiction sections, then it looks into how (meta)humanity and (para)animals interact from pets to the nations that include awaken animals as citizens or even rulers.  An interesting section though the viewpoint of the ‘author’ (as it is written in character) is a bit annoying at times.

Then we move to the part important to the core of the game, Untamed Security, which talks about how animals and para-animals are used by corporate security with subsections on how to train animals and how to defeat them.  The section ends with a quick guide to how the Big Ten megacorps approach using animals for or with their security.

Next up is mundane animals, alligator, boar, cockroaches and other animals we would recognize along with rules for basic genetic modifications (cloned, luminescent and so on) of such animals.  Eight new mentor spirits, from alligator to spider, are included in this section and add some nice options for magical characters.

Following is Paranormal Animals, filled with weird and wonderful creatures from the omnipresent (and omnivorous) devil rat to cerberus hounds and vollying porcupines, a fun variety to bedevil shadowrunners with.  My only complaint is that there are only a few illustrations and the descriptions are often short or nonexistent, yes, we can guess what a greater wolverine is like but what does a piasma or peryton look like?  We can guess but a proper description, or better yet, illustration, would have been very helpful.  A subsection covers beings altered by the HMHVV (Human-MetaHuman Vampiric Virus) which comes in three types and can infect and alter just about any sentient creature, so you have elvish banshee, human vampires, ghouls and so on.  Interesting and dangerous foes or possibly friends for those that still possess their intelligence.

For fun and destruction, there is a selection of Toxic Creatures and Mutants that have been changed and empowered by toxic wastes and radiation and even a couple warped by bad juju.  Lovely creatures such as Radhounds, radioactive dogs that hunt in packs, and souleater leeches that, well, I will let you work that out.  Many of these creatures are scenarios waiting to happen, if your shadowrunners are up to the task, most of these creatures are really dangerous.  This also has a section on the awakened creatures infected by HMHVV, so lamia (infected naga), chupacabra (which seem to be genetically engineered creatures deliberately infected) and others are covered here.  In this section there are two pieces of art that showed up in the first HMHVV section which is mildly annoying.

Extraplanar Travelers talks about being from the magical metaplanes who visit or have been pulled into our world, they are manifest spirits often of considerable power and alien agenda.  Interesting stuff here but using it strikes me as risking really changing the tone from fantasy cyberpunk to high fantasy with high tech trappings.  That warning being mentioned, I do like the Chindi, Native American vengeance spirits, and the spirit of a city made manifest, some good plot thread could be spun off from them.

Then come Technocreatures, which are to animals what technomancers are to other people, i.e.  animals that can interact in technology in unique and occasionally destructive ways.  From data devouring snakes to playful hacking dolphins, fun stuff to disrupt the cozy lives of the technology dependant.

Next there are the Protospapients, creatures of resonance who live in the deep web and munge (consume) code, including the dark dwelling Grue and the Sintax who very presence makes systems vulnerable to exploitation.  These are things to use carefully to drive stories not just to make life miserable for characters, which they would be perfect for, but do not be that GM.

Drakes get a more in depth write up, which admits that no one is really sure how the dragons make them but they do, and more rules for playing a drake and more options for drakes.  Though they are more likely to show up as NPCs then player characters as it is so expensive to play one.

The final informational section is Building Man’s Best Friend which covers: creating chimeric creatures, that blend traits from multiple creatures, Warforms, which are genetically perfected animals, dogs being especially popular.  Along with discussion of augmenting creatures through various technological means.  This section concludes with rules for training animals.

The book wraps up with new critter powers, an index to all of the critter power and a guide to where to find the various creatures.  Though it seems odd, and a missed opportunity, that we do not get any new qualities related to animals or other things included in this book.

Howling Shadows is a useful resource providing new tools for the GM, and possibly for the players, with a considerable amount of implied adventure ideas.

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