Review – Shadowrun: Emerald City

28 March, 2022

SR-ECShadowrun: Emerald City is a setting book for the Sixth World Edition of Shadowrun covering that most Shadowrun of all cities, Seattle. If you are running a Seattle-based campaign, obviously this book is going to be extremely useful while not indispensable but close. For non-seattle-based campaigns, it is a fun read and gives you some information of things that will have rippling effects on the rest of the Sixth World. However, the lack of district maps and an index do badly compromise its usability during a game.

Shadowrun: Emerald City is the Setting Book for Shadowrun’s hometown, the Metroplex of Seattle. Designed to link into the new city edition of the core and providing a detailed look at the city and its situation following the city’s declaration of independence.

As is usual, it begins with a brief introduction about why Seattle remains important and one of the shadowrunning centers of the world. Next is a short fiction section to set the mood and it does an alright job of showing a new runner in Seattle.

Following is the Weight of History, which gives a brief (Shadowrun alternate and future) history of Seattle. Then it pivots to looking at the current political situation in Seattle and how the other power players, both national and corporate, are approaching the new situation.

Seattle Basics, well, covers what it says, overall population numbers, getting in and out and getting around in the city all get covered in this section. All useful information for the runner (or other visitor to the city). Personally, some more information on public transportation would have been welcome and the cab fare seems way too low.

Next we move into the city, section by section, giving each a breakdown by population and other useful information including a color-coded “average security rating” which is not defined, so not as useful as it could be (also to make things more confusing, within each district, the old letter codes for security rating are often referenced and are also not defined). Each chapter ends with a few new qualities, mostly positive and a few negative, all themed to the district being covered.

There is little point in going through the districts chapter by chapter, each has a bit about local politics and what is happening there, some of the power players -individuals and groups- noted, interesting locations, and a lot of implied adventure hooks. Though perhaps some straight up, ‘here is what you as runners are likely to be hired to do’ in this district might have been helpful to focus the options for games masters and players alike. As is usual, some of the writing appeals to me more than others, but that is just the way of things.

However, the style of the writeup of the downtown section pleases me the most, just stylistically. While it might have broken up the “stream of consciousness” style of some of the reports, bolding the names of people, places and groups in the paragraphs would have been amazingly helpful in finding things when you go back to look for them especially when a character or place is mentioned halfway through a paragraph. Ease of use is important for game supplements, really people, it is. Also, though most sections are good at this, if you include a bar or restaurant, have a sentence or two describing the decor/feel of the place and maybe the food not just who you can meet there.

Now, this being Shadowrun, there is not much that breaks my suspension of disbelief (anti-grav technology aside), generally, maybe an eye-roll or two but even then, most things this reviewer will let slide. But a mercenary strike carrier? Specifically, a nuclear strike carrier. A helicopter carrier, that would work, but those big carriers? That is on the order of a minimum 6.2 billion just for the ship (or more than 13 billion for the new ones), air wing extra, and operating costs of 400 million or more a year! No mercenary company can afford that, just no. Especially as the next largest ship in the mercenary navy is a corvette, which pretty much the smallest warship you can have and still call it a “ship.”

As has been the case when they have done the qualities by chapter (I am looking at you Power Plays) there is no place in the book that gathers them in a single list for you to reference and be able to quickly find them in the book. Additionally, like all of the qualities, the price for effect is all over the place with many of them being with group X, you get one bonus edge for social tests, with sometimes an additional benefit. The social bonus should have been broken out and made into a general quality that anyone could take and define who it applied to and then the secondary part could have been made into it own quality (with the ability to combine with the previous one to get around limits on number of qualities possessed by a character). This would have made it more flexible (“I am not playing in Seattle and my character has ties with the Gulf Coast Smugglers”) and unified the pricing of Quality mechanics, which, as I mentioned, are all over the place when it comes to price for effect.

Now, for people, like this reviewer, whose campaign does not have Seattle becoming an independent city-state, how useful is this book for them? Well, obviously not as useful as if you are following the current official metaplot, but my guess is at least 85% of it will remain useful for any campaign set in Seattle (independent or not). It certainly has my mental gears turning with interesting ideas and runs set in districts rarely visited in my campaign.

However, and this is enough to cost it a star on DriveThru, no maps, at least one in the electronic version I have access to. There should be a big city map and each of the district sections should have started (or ended) with a map of that district. Without maps, the product is much less usable and gamer friendly. And, of course, no index either. So good luck finding a place or person if you remember the name but not the district they are in.

Note: The drivethruRPG link is an affiliate link and if you purchase through it, this journal will receive a small sliver of the money.


  1. Not to be a total nitpick, but a Strike Carrier is only scarcely larger than the LDAP-2 Essex, which is the “helo carrier” you are referencing (Wasp Class vessel in current US Navy).

    (while logging in to comment, I realized how utterly old that blog of mine is)

    • Not dismissing your knowledge, model naval architecture is not anything resembling a specialty of mine. But the vessel in question is specifically noted as being nuclear powered in the shadowchat discussion. At least in the current world, and things may change by 207x, none of the nuclear powered carriers are small ships. And from my, admittedly brief, research, even the small carrier run several billion dollars. Still seem well out of range for any mercenary group.

      • You are correct in that for the USA, these things do run extensively beyond budget considerations. Oh, and I bungled the typo… it’s LHD-2. BIG difference there. Nuclear power has undergone in the Shadowrun lore some strange twists and turns. It was described back in 1E as having reduced in size such that Bubble FUSION existed, and then because of changes in editions and contributing writers (more the latter), it fluctuated.

        Part of what I have always found odd is one of the landmark movies for most people to think of cyber-dystopia is Blade Runner. Everyone seems to forget that Blade Runner was incredibly space-tech. I point this out as a mention that while the Crash of ’29 happened, the tech explosion, especially post-Deus, was mind-boggling.

        Even back in 3E, the tech allowed for nuclear power as part of a build … no, it wasn’t NOT street level nor even standard prime runner level. But it was there as a tool, and because gamers used to be much bigger into the crunch of mechanics than we are today.

        So yeah, the tech in Shadowrun for this stuff has been around for a while. Most people just don’t realize it or utilize it.

        • Thank you for your insights. It still seems, to me, far too much money for anyone to risk on an asset whose purpose is to be routinely risked in combat.

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