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Review – Shadowrun: Kill Code

21 January, 2019

Shadowrun: Kill Code is a sourcebook for Shadowrun and providing a useful (and clearer?) overview of the Matrix and how the rules system for it works, with general technological tools more options for technomancers and more information on the state of the Matrix. However to get best use from Kill Code you will need at least the earlier sourcebook Data Trails and several other source books. Unless you are running a Matrix, and especially Technomancer, focused game, this sourcebook is not a priority.

Shadowrun: Kill Code, is the Advance Matrix Rule book for the 5th edition of Shadowrun, this particular book expands ways to interact with and explore the Matrix for hackers, technomancers and others. As well as providing new tools and troubles for all involved in Matrix work.

The book begins with one of the ubiquitous fiction sections, then moves into a section titled “So you want to be a hacker?” which begins with a brief (in world) description of the history and current state of the Matrix, the global computer network. Followed by the Manual of the Matrix which redefines the Matrix for game play, referring back to the main rule book with page numbers and everything. Followed by How to Hack 101, which walks through the basic rules systems used for Matrix hacking. Not a good sign when you have to spend sixteen pages of a supplement to explain how the rules in the core book are suppose to work, but nice to have it clearly laid out. Then there is one new rule (reckless hacking) and a section of eleven new matrix actions, including the delightful named Squelch (which stops communications) and Subvert Infrastructure, which cover many of the things hackers need to do as shadowrunners. The Gamemaster’s Grimoire of the Matrix comes next and gives some advice for GM (naturally) on how to present and use the Matrix in play, including a nice chart for Matrix runs and advice on how the different types of hosts work and how to use them. It also answers the big question of the Matrix changeover of 2075 and what the Foundation of the new Matrix is. This is both welcome and surprising at Catalyst has a long tradition of hiding the vital “secrets of the world” in their novels and never explicitly explaining them in their source books. So, well-done Catalyst and please continue including vital setting information in the RPG source books.

Next we have Dips & Chips which includes new gear for hackers, technomancers and non-Matrix types, things for runners and tools for the corporations. There is a lot to digest here and GM will probably want to introduce part of the new runner oriented gear slowly so as not to totally upset the balance of a campaign. But lots of fun things here to provide advantage for, and against, hackers and technomancers ranging from weaponized spam to new decks and the corporations even get three new types of IC (rah?).

Disc Jockeys & Lightstream Riders provides new positive (four) and negative qualities (nineteen!) for hackers, though the write up on a few (such as Echo Chamber) are not as clear as they should be. A set of life modules, for that variant character generation system, for hackers and technomancers are also provided.

Data Streams follow another fiction section and provides paths for technomancers to follow: Sourcerers, Technoshamans, Machinists and CyberAdepts, each emphasizing a different aspect of the technomancer abilities and each gaining access to a unique complex form; these function in a similar manner to traditions for spell casters gaining advantages, the most game changing is the technoshaman being able to summon great form sprites which have very powerful abilities.

In the Flow adds eleven complex forms for technomancers, new positive (fourteen, seven of which can be taken by non-technomancers and one that can only be taken by non-technomancers) and negative (eleven, six of which can be taken by non-technomancers) qualities, two new sprites (companion and generalist), three new sprite powers, seven new optional sprite powers, and seven new echoes. Paragons allow for a mentor spirit like relationship for technomancers following by following the ideals of various Matrix-based paragons who aid in certain tasks and hinder others but allegiance to the Paragons in a fairly fluid thing and can be gained, lost and switched with comparative ease.

A Million Icon Bloom gives information on technomancer tribes, which are societies of technomancers (and, occasionally, others) who aid each other especially for submersion and advancement. Pretty much what you would expect with some useful bits about how to interact with these tribes for non-technomancers.

Diving Under gives some advice for those having to fight technomancers. This is an odd section, part advice and part commentary but almost entirely devoid of in game commentary. I would have liked to have seen more here especially a discussion of how corporations work to “technomancer-proof” their operations.

Infinite Realms details a few of the weird “resonance realms” that exist in the far corners of the Matrix and can be visited by technomancers. Interesting but of limited use unless you are playing a technomancer focused games. Reversing the Current look at those technomancers who have embraced the “dissonance,” the other aspect of the technomancer’s understanding of the Matrix. Three paths for dissonance users are provided each with their own tricks and abilities.

Null Signs brings us back to the Null Sect, first mentioned in Dark Terrors, which is a Matrix based and created set of being that seek to purge the Matrix of all beings and things with ties to the physical realm. An interesting idea but not sure what can be done with it in play and a lot of effort is spent spinning them into a major threat though to what end I am unsure.

Into the Wild talks about the “wild matrix” the parts that are not overseen by corporation or governments or, sometimes, any structure at all. Not quite the same as resonance realms as these can be accessed by anyone willing to leave the safety of the regulated Matrix. It also talks about who would be interested in paying you to go there or pay for data brought back from the wild.

The final section is The Core of Consciousness which provides more information and variants on the technocritters, animals with technomantic powers, and technosapients, beings of the Matrix, both first seen in Howling Shadows. Some fun creatures here that can be used by or against runners. More information about the xenosapients of the Null Sect is also provided (including some GM only information).

Kill Code is a mixed bag, there is some good information, such as making the Matrix rules a bit clearer but this should have been published as a free PDF for all players of Shadowrun (perhaps with the addition of a flowchart) as it is one of the more confusing subsystems in the rules. But it follows the trend of making magic, in this case technomancy, always ultimately much more powerful than what technology can provide hackers with. For some reason, I find that annoying as no one path should be objective the best when there are multiple paths. But overall a useful book for those campaigns that delve deeply into Matrix but primarily only for such campaigns.

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