Review – Shadowrun: Better than Bad

23 June, 2019

Better than BadShadowrun: Better than Bad is a sourcebook for Shadowrun and provides support for characters “hooding” or helping the little guy. As that is a campaign style that has not seen much support for this edition, I was pleased to see this book as it is a style I like to see. If you are interest in that style of pay, or Azania which also gets explored in this product, it is a worthwhile purchase but probably not a priority.

Shadowrun: Better than Bad, is a Deep Shadows Sourcebook for the 5th edition of Shadowrun, this particular book covers the idea that Shadowrunners can actually do good in the Sixth World and not just be corporate stooges along with a visit to Azania (formerly South Africa).

The book begins with one of the ubiquitous fiction sections, then moves into A Light in the Darkness, talking about “Hooding” doing good for the community and striking against the powerful, named after Robin Hood (of course). Various of the organizations that oppose the corps are covered ranging from self-help groups to full on terrorist organizations, something for everyone and a bit more. It also includes a pitch to fight the power, rock on Opti (aka Old Crow, active NeoAnarchist and host of the NeoAnarchist podcast).

Another fiction section leads into It’s All About Power, which are a bunch on in world pitches for hooding jobs across the globe from Atlanta to Mumbai, these serve as nice adventure seeds as well as giving information about what is happening across the Sixth World. A useful section is “Turning a Profit without Charging Money” which talks about the rewards for doing good beside money. It then turns to looking at some of the organizations and networks, such as the Draco Foundation and the New Underground Railroad, who are trying to do good work. A discussion of getting hired for this kind of job, for whom the contact is generically referred to as “Ms Smith” (as opposed to the corporate Mr Johnson) and how working with such non-professional tends to go very differently from the usual run along with some example run ideas and a set of random tables for generating more (though one of the tables is missing a result line).

Next we move onto the location-based section of the product, welcome to Azania (formerly South Africa) and specifically the Pretoria-Witwatersrand-Vaal Metroplex. If one wants to run some adventures in Azania, this will give you the information to do so including places to visit, what the Megacorps are up to (short but let you know what area is controlled by each, making it easy to link them to run), the political situation (more fodder for runs), and notes on likely opposition from the security forces and criminal elements. There are some new para-animals including dangerous paratypes of rabbits! The way SINs work are slightly different here with the addition of color codes and that is detailed along with the problems having the wrong codes can cause.

Jacaranda Citizens presents fifteen NPCs, mostly who operate at Hooders in the PWV sprawl, many of whom could be employers or allies, with one or two targets or enemies. I would have liked to have seen more adventure hooks and fewer stats (about five pages are consumed with stat blocks). The section ends with two new qualities, one positive and one negative, and a new mentor spirit that has the worst mechanical downside of any mentor spirit, a real, what were they thinking moment, as it has the potential to trigger “you cannot play this character is this adventure.” Bad design choice.

Being Less Bad looks at the nuts and bolts of being a hooder, from an in game perspective, and gives a lot of general adventure ideas in the process. Solid section and a good read.

Building a Hooder is where all the new toys are, the “grey tech” items which provide protection from magic (but are not recommended for magically active characters) and includes a drug (“blight”) that really messes up magically active beings. There are two new spells, two new adept powers, eleven (more) new qualities: seven positive, two masteries, and two negative. New Life Path modules for characters from the Azanian Confederation are provided. It concludes with some new rules with more uses for karma and street cred.

The book ends with tables to generate Hooding runs which are useful for inspiration as well but sadly, no index.

Overall, a useful book though I remain not entirely sold on the sourcebook/location book combo. I am all for encouraging less violent and more help the people style of play, part of any cyberpunk setting should be the focus on the do it yourself, build a community aspect of punk part of the name. So, I entirely approve of seeing that focused on here.

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