Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2013/03/04/tabletop-review-shadowrun-missions-showcase/
I was actually kind of surprised to see a new Shadowrun Missions, honestly. I thought the season had wrapped up nicely with Election Day, and so I wasn’t really expecting any more until the new edition of Shadowrun comes out later this year. Still, you’ll never hear me complain about a new one. After all, Shadowrun Missions is the best deal in gaming adventure-wise. For less than the cost of a comic book, you get roughly three dozen full colour pages, along with all the aids and information you need to run the adventure and hopefully complete it in a single session. I say “hopefully” because we all know how off tangent a game can go. Shadowrun Missions even lets you track faction stats as you run through each adventure in this season. That doesn’t mean you HAVE to pick them all up; they’re each designed to be played as a one-shot, but you do get the most value out of the collection when you run them as an interconnected campaign.
Where Election Day wrapped up the political intrigue storyline of this season’s Shadowrun Missions, Showcase wraps up the “artifact hunt” side of things. For a few years now, a lot of Shadowrun adventures (Missions or otherwise) have focused on collecting magical artifacts, even though that have no discernible use. In fact, roughly half of the adventures in this set of Shadowrun Missions had you artifact collecting. Well, here is the payoff. Many of the artifacts you collected this season, along with several others, are on display at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Science. If you’re a long time Shadowrun fan, you can pretty much see what is coming. If not, well, the museum gets looted by shadowrunners and both the Atlantean and Draco Foundations, who each had artifacts on display in the showcase, are accusing the other of taking their otherworldly possessions. It’s up to your players to figure out who is behind the crime. In the midst of your research, you’ll discover that more than one party tried to steal the collection on the same night, which led to a comedy of errors. The only problem is figuring out which team of runners actually got away with the goods.
Along the way, your players will get offers from not one, but two, great dragons (through their representatives) to turn over the artifacts to them rather than their rightful owners in exchange for money and aid in procuring the objects. You’ll also run into elven archaeologist Fiona Craig as well as “Street Legend” Kellan Colt… unless, of course, your team let her die in a previous Shadowrun Missions adventure because, like a lot of Shadowrun fans, they hate the character and her novels, considering them one of the lowest points in the franchise. Whoops. Anyway, the adventure climaxes with a massive battle between the players (and any help they picked up along the way) vs. the people who stole the artifacts. It really is a huge battle and even though Shadowrun Missions is designed to help even the most inexperienced GM run a Shadowrun game, I would strongly suggest that you be extremely well versed in Shadowrun rules before attempting this thing. Hell, there’s even a sidebar about how to run a battle this large, which is probably daunting for less experienced GMs. Between the sheer scope of the combat and the fact that the adventure pretty much promises some PCs will bite it during the affair, you might want to think twice about running Showcase, even though it’s well written – simply because of the sheer amount of work you’ll have to put into the climax, coupled with the potential for the less mature members of your party to freak out when their character dies rather horribly. This is almost Call of Cthulhu guaranteed level dying here.
After the battle, expect betrayal from all allies. There is a very strong chance that even if the PCs win the battle, they will lose the war (meaning the artifacts, and thus their payoff) as their allies turn on them, taking the artifacts for themselves. Again, this adventure feels designed more to frustrate players (or kill their characters off) and have the season end on a dour note, which really isn’t cool in my opinion. Again, Showcase is a well written adventure, but it definitely feels like a big middle finger to all the players who went through some, or even every, adventure in this set. In this respect, I really wish this season ended with Election Day, as that was a great payoff to the season, where Showcase is just… anticlimactic and screws the players over big time in nearly all respects. Like I said, it’s just not the way you want to end a collection of interlocking adventures. A campaign needs to end on a high note… or with everyone dead, not leaving the players feeling like the entire adventure was a waste of time, money, and life. My suggestion is to flip-flop the order of the two. Run Showcase first and then Election Day.
If it helps, our team ended up getting a list of who owned what artifact, and then contacted both Foundations offering them one object from the other’s collection OF THEIR CHOICE in exchange for some slight aid. They also contacted Ares, since they were contracted to guard the artifacts, and got some help there. Ares got to prevent a PR disaster and get some revenge. Since Colt was dead by way of their previous choices, they didn’t have to worry about her, and both sides got five artifacts each (four of their originals and a trade!), and with Ares and the PCs there to play middlemen, neither foundation could risk a betrayal and everything went neatly back to the museum for the remainder of the show – with massively increased security. It was a win-win for all parties, but everyone who played was extremely experience in Shadowrun, so they knew all the possible angles without bleeding player knowledge into character knowledge.
Overall, Showcase could have been a bit more PC friendly (player character, not political correctness), as it really does seem to go out of its way to be mean to them. At the same time it’s well written and it really does weave all of the threads from the artifact hunt into one cohesive final story. Unlike most Shadowrun Missions though, this adventure is not for the inexperienced or casual Shadowrun GM. You really have to know the setting and system inside and out to make this flow smoothly. Finally, the adventure will more likely than not end on a down note, which is realistic, but unsatisfying, so you may want to just skip this and have your campaign end with Election Day. It’s your call. Thumbs up or a thumbs in the middle depending on the quality and experience of whoever is running this adventure. Either way though, it’s less than four dollars and a fun read, so Shadowrun fans will probably still want to pick this up to read, even if it never gets played.