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Holy Old School Crunch!

There are numerous things that where acceptable in the 80’s: mullets, stone washed jeans, mad perms, wearing odd-coloured fluorescent socks, loafers, skinny trousers a tad too short and numerous other fashion mistakes. In terms of RPGs, what was also acceptable in the 80’s, was ridiculous, epic crunch often with different, widely varied subsystems of perplexing crunch which inter-related in ways only the half mad could fully fathom.

I’ve played such systems in my time, most notably Middle Earth Role-Playing, which was tantamount to playing Rolemaster, and that can only need to madness and lots of tables. I’ve not run such a game, or if I have I’ve wiped it from my mind. The closest I might have come is a few sessions of Warhammer Fantay Roleplay here and there. I did play Golden Heroes a lot, which wasn’t that complicated, but it did involve division to work out damage. What were they thinking?

The next game to be played by the role-playing group in the eponymous Sunday slot is: Shadowrun 5th edition. I created my character during Cottage Con 2013, well, one might say less ‘created’ and more assigned a load of stuff in as little a random way as I could muster across a multi-stage process that seemed to take hours and that was with me not putting too much effort into equipment. It was an endurance event. It’s safe to say the game feels so old school it was giving me flashbacks.

Having come back at the character a few times since I can describe the process only as irritating, annoying, time consuming and just something I begrudged the time I’ve spent on it (and that’s with numerous people helping me out and actually doing the hard bit). It doesn’t help that I don’t have the time for these sort endeavours anymore, but the setup is also painful. It’s just so involved due to presenting too many interacting choices to get to a complex way of describing what you’re character can do. It doesn’t even tough or mechanically represent who the character is, beyond some old school disadvantages (which are easier to max out for some character types than others unless you want to find yourself running away from prawns, e.g an allergy to sea food).

It’s my worst nightmare in that it is obviously a game that has a significant and on-going character build game. You can build your character in many different ways and it would seem to make quite a difference. A part of the game is improving, getting more widgets, getting more stuff, earning more money, assigning more equipment. To be honest: I don’t really care about that much.

Despite all this I’m really looking forward to Shadowrun. It’s the visuals that sell it.

Let’s face it I love contemporary settings, the potential for the modern world to be writ large in glorious Technicolor: glorious landscapes, epic buildings, etc. While Shadowrun is set in the future the art paints fascinating cityscapes of skyscrapers, neon and futuristic vehicles. It looks fantastic. It’s also packed with awesome. Ancient, methuselah dragons ruling corporations. A plethora of characters in all sorts of action scenes oozing cool. I’ve not spent much time with the book, just glancing through it, and it paints a picture that inspires you to play it.

Let’s face it, it rolls together near future cool, elements of cinematic espionage, the clash of races, magic and technology. It actually folds in a lot of the modern, action film ‘stuff’ that I tend to love. So there is a lot to going for it.

Ultimately, the telling thing is, system aside, it immediately inspired me to frame a character in my mind. Admittedly, she’s largely a type, concept and set of visuals at this point but it was immediate. Ruby from the video game WET was the inspiration. For whatever reason this never happened with Dungeon World, the character remained a cipher, a playing piece. I had some idea, but it never seemed to solidify. I went straight for the jugular when Shadowrun became a possibility and sourced the image and started to throw concepts around in my head. This is the best sign of all I’m looking forward to it.

It begins in a week ‘Chummer’. I think that’s the lingo? Or it was, back in the 80’s.

About Ian O'Rourke

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