Review – Shadowrun: Cutting Black

9 March, 2020

Shadowrun: Cutting Black is a sourcebook for Shadowrun and lets you know how and where the metaplot is going with the Sixth World edition of the setting. It is mostly written in an engaging “what is happening?” style gathering fragmented information and shaping it into something coherent. It is almost all primary “in world” data with no authorial analysis, so you only get to see what the people involved can see with no explanations or looks behind the curtain. If you like that sort of sourcebook, it is a fun ride. I have some issues (placed at the end of the review to avoid spoilers) but I found it an engaging read.

Shadowrun: Cutting Black, is a Plot Sourcebook for Shadowrun, Sixth World Edition, this particular book provides an overview of what changed in the world as the editions rolled from 5th to 6th. Spoilers ahead so stop reading the review here if you want to experience them first hand

The material in this product is presented as an in game artifact of information, which is interesting, if disjointed, presented with information scattered and covering weeks of actual time as it was reported on the shadow boards. The information gathered from fragmentary news reports, first hand data being broadcast and other scraps of data that could be dug up.

Following an introduction, laying out the theme of the book, as is traditional, there is one of the ubiquitous fiction sections and then another, shorter one, leading into Ruptured Detroit. Long story short, Damien Knight and Ares brought all the toys to stomp a massive bug hive under Detroit and it did not go so well. Ares losses were huge, Knight is gone and Detroit turned into a battle ground between bugs and people and mixes of the two. This event is the catalyst for the rest of the events that follow.

Next section, Ghost Army, the UCAS mobilizes and sends a major force to intervene in Detroit and it just vanished. Roughly one hundred thousand soldiers and their equipment (and the area they were passing through) just gone. No explanation given but some very evocative stories from investigating where the army vanished from.

Next section, Blackout, which details the UCAS Government’s response, including abridging the Business Recognition Accords that gives the megacorporations such power. Then cities start going dark, all power and technological systems failing, the cause: unknown. But it causes havoc throughout the UCAS and only the UCAS.

A long fiction section leads to UchrASh which details further bad things happening to the UCAS, invasions from Quebec and some of the NAN states, which are not very successful by cause more troubles. Chaos erupting among the political classes in DeeCee and *drumroll please* St. Louis and Seattle breaking away from the UCAS to become free(ish) cities.

Detroit Now looks at what the current state of play is in Detroit, who has power, what kinds of opportunities are there to make money and what survived the bugs and the bombs. A great resource for Detroit after the disaster.

Next Atlanta, somewhere outside the UCAS!, gets an update in Atlanta Now! A short section bringing Atlanta up to date and its new status as the home to Ares Macrotechnology. But nice to see the CAS getting some time.

As the Dust Settles looks at some events outside of the UCAS even: the fall of the UK’s New Druidic Movement government and what replaced it, problems in the NAN and Quebec, and a little more.

The last page of the book is the only new game information with Sixth World stats for insect spirits. However, without support material, they are not very useful in and of themselves. No index.

Cutting Black is an interesting read but the lack of actual, well, information on what is happening (rather than just the in-game perspective on it) is deeply frustrating for a GM. Yes, it is a new edition, the Game Designers want to shake things up and tease new secrets to reveal later. I get it. But it makes it far less useful as a resource than it could be. Worse, from the perspective of me as a GM and my Shadowrun game (and I suspect for other long running SR campaigns), it makes a set of big, setting changing moves in the Metaplot . . . that cut across how my Shadowrun campaign has been developing the setting. I have a deep and abiding hatred of major changes made to the setting without involving the people who actually play and GM the game. And the changes here are significant enough that I either have to totally change my campaign or part ways with the new metaplot. As the new metaplot as presented in the book is rife with major actors taking stupid pills, unexplained choices, continued privileging of magic and dragons over megacorporations and technology and other sheer absurdities, I know which path I am following. So, while this book was an interesting read, it has almost no use to me as a Shadowrun sourcebook.

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