Shadowrun revisited

There was a discussion some time ago, back in the before times, about different editions of Shadowrun. I think I’ve figured out why I prefer the older versions, other than simply general principles:

When first released, Shadowrun was a science fiction game. Later editions are retrofuturism.

Maybe not a huge deal, and nothing wrong with retrofuturism, but to me, it does make a difference in the tone of the game. Matter of taste and all that.

Happy '22, everybody!

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to me SR is a mash of urban fantasy + cyberpunk regardless of edition

(with a neat world and a terrible system :rofl: )

Happy '22 :star2:

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Well, sure. It’s still fantasy and cyberpunk (which was an inspired combination), and cyberpunk is still cool. And I’m all over the retro thing. But cyberpunk then was SF, and cyberpunk now isn’t really.

Does that make a difference? I don’t know. Maybe. I think it does affect the fiction created by the game.

well yes that’s true for old books, movies & modules
that’s like saying De la Terre à la Lune is so “retro” because it was written 1865

Cyberpunk imo is about telling stories about futuristic technologies and how that would shape that future
plus protagonists, who would use those technologies to fight back “against the man” (that’s the “punk”)

Just take a concept that is futuristic in '22 (e.g. being able to up-/download souls to bodies), think about what that would do to society and run it as noir thriller :+1:

Cyberpunk is about the 80s. :slight_smile:

“nostalgia for a time that never was”

Heh. :slight_smile:

But yeah, it really is about the actually-was 80s, not some day-glo never-was version fueling today’s endless 80s nostalgia in which every song on the radio was a wave classic and not some easy listening schmaltz. Science fiction is about the present, not the future, and cyberpunk is about the Reagan era and all that.

And I think that gave the game a bit of a different tone in its early days. Cyberpunk had something to say; now it’s basically a background aesthetic even though many of its themes remain relevant today.

well … “yes and no”

It’s true that the scifi noir in the 80s feel a bit dated since some of the technology we have now even surpasses what had been described as futuristic back then
(that’s why I mentioned the 1865 Jules Verne novel as an extreme example earlier)

but in my opinion the core of scifi + punk + neo noir still can be pulled of
even in a Shadowrun rpg campaign
:point_right: if you take a concept that is futuristic-dystopic now and run it as a noir thriller

rpg example:
A few years ago I ran a Shadowrun campaign set in Vienna 2079.
The setting was basically, what would happen if all Viennese “Magistratsabteilungen” had been privatised in the past to finance themselves via fees, and then had been purchased by different often directly competing megacorporations.

e.g. MA 31 (“Wiener Wasser”) was controlled by Wuxing, but the MA 45 (“Wiener Gewässer”) by Mærsk


Yes and no right back atcha …

Cyberpunk isn’t dated because some of the technology has evolved in different ways. It’s not about the tech. The specifics of the tech don’t matter. It’s dated because the world that cyberpunk is about no longer exists.

And sure, you can run games about today’s future dystopias. That’s awesome. It just isn’t really cyberpunk. Today’s dystopian visions are different.

Well if you define cyberpunk from a pure 80s/Reagen-angle … true,
which would turn such rpg campaigns into a sort of nostalgia “New Retro Wave”. :slight_smile:
I think you can still run a cyberpunk story from todays viewpoints, if someone wants to.

All depends on how you define cyberpunk I guess. :man_shrugging:

For me it is:

  • sci fi tech / with at least a slight unhealthy dose of transhumanism
  • tell how said technologies would shape the near future
  • disenfranchised protagonists use said technologies to fight back (successful or otherwise)
  • neo noir thriller
  • use all of the above to make statements about the present / adress fears about a potential future

Happy '22 :star2:

Well, you can try, and I’m sure there’ll be interesting stories to be told. But the sky above cyberpunk will always be television, tuned to a dead channel.

It’s a retrofuture.

Mostly, however, I’m amused that we’ve been talking about this for two years now. How awesome is that? Hope you have a great '22, amigo!

Mostly, however, I’m amused that we’ve been talking about this for two years now. How awesome is that?

welcome to the future! :smiley:


First of all, happy new year!

Secondly, even if the games have changed over time, could you still play the older editions as an sci-fi game in 2022 at all? Simply because many things (mega corps, corporate slaves, hacking, etc.) are - as you wrote - not sci-fi for the players anymore.

On the other hand, last year you ran some AD&D sessions and we had a convincing taste about playing sword & sorcery styled fantasy in the 80’s, although all players were familiar with fantasy rpg - still, the magic happened.

Well, older SF is still SF, isn’t it? It’s just about a previous time.

And fantasy and SF are two different beasts. SF is about the time in which it was created; fantasy, whether it’s S&S or high fantasy or whatever, may be influenced by its time, but its themes are generally timeless. SF is talking about different things these days than it did 35 years ago, but fantasy isn’t.

(Cue all the people pointing out exceptions …)

I always considered Science Fiction to be based on current science and it’s possible progress, opposed to Science Fantasy (aka Star Wars) that tries to appear science based but doesn’t really base itself on any current science or predicted progress of science

(cue all the people hating on me for using Star Wars in this context :P)

But this exactly what William Gibson tweeted about, what if it is not, just because the world evolved so much meanwhile and now old Science Fiction now feels more like a “parallel universe” instead Science Fiction?

Maybe I’m wrong, but I feel a progression in the themes there at well.
Does Lord of the ring, let’s say the very early R.A.Salvatore books (the “dungeon crawler”-ones), the Witcher book or “The name of the Wind” have the same themes? Sure, (some form of dragons) are included in all of them, but all of these have totally different take on the fantasy world and how we should approach it.

On the other hand, if you mean fantasy is and always be about western mythology, generally you might be right, although the recent (e.g. 30-40 years) boom of manga and anime might changes this as well.

Although in Episode I (not in New Hope!) they introduced the concept of midi-chlorians and thus, they tried to introduce a bit more scientific plausibility for the existence of super powers by mere humans.

Nevertheless, your description fits - and I guess everybody watches Star Wars for fun.
And because we love the sound of spaceship engines in space.

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I think you’re on fairly safe ground as far as Star Wars is concerned. Didn’t Lucas himself say that Star Wars isn’t really SF?

But I wouldn’t draw the line at things that current science allows for. Invisible Men and Time Machines are definitely SF, after all.

I think Gibson was talking about creating cyberpunk stories today.

But an old picture of you is still a picture of you, isn’t it? You just have to keep in mind that it depicts you in the past, and wouldn’t use it to describe today-you. Same with SF. It’s a snapshot.

Which progression of themes do you have in mind?

Good vs. evil, loyalty and sacrifice, love and friendship … all of that is pretty constant.