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Sprawlrunners $6.99
Publisher: Pinnacle Entertainment
by A customer [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/10/2020 08:18:12

Well, I've read now the book a few times, wanted to post some loose thoughts and first impressions. So far this is based on zero playtime, just reading; but I have played a little Savage Worlds in the past so I'm not coming at it totally cold. None of the following is intended as a criticism; most of it I really like, but even the small amount of stuff I don't like so much is just a matter of taste and not in any way me saying Sprawlrunners (SpR) is bad.

First and foremost: know that SpR is very much a Shadowrun (ShR) second edition era take on things. Wired matrix, no technomancers, no bioware, no nanotech, hard split between hermetic mages and shamans. I don't think any of this stuff would be particularly difficult to add back in, if that bothers you (and if my table adopts SpR I will be taking a pass at some of it.) But you should be aware of what you're getting.

Secondly: SpR bills itself as a framework and that's worth emphasising. One of the joys of Savage Worlds, as it is a generic RPG engine, is that you have a wide range of compatible books to draw on, often crossing genres. For example, the cyberpunk system Interface Zero contains lots of ideas for game mechanics, gear, and chargen options that could be very easily dropped into a SpR game. There's an official Vehicles splatbook, and another for Science Fiction, and one for Horror; all of these contain material that could be leveraged in a SpR game. (Small footnote: updated versions of some of these books are not yet available for the most recent edition of Savage Worlds.) It's admittedly still not as big as SR5e + all its expansions... but it's nowhere near as messy, either. So know that you've got a broad palette to draw upon.

Now, back to the SpR book. It is lean and mean (71 pages), is high quality, has a good standard of editing, clear layout, and decent quality artwork. That page count goes a long way. All the core mechanics come from the Savage Worlds (SW) CRB, and SpR does an excellent job of getting down to the point. It probably covers about the same ground, in terms of character scope, gear, and mechanical systems, as the 2e CRB does. It feels more complete to me than Shadowrun Anarchy does. It also has no meaningful setting information of its own, which isn't likely to trouble any existing Shadowrun players like me.

So, overall, I like it a lot. Out of all the Shadowrun-but-not candidates I've looked at, this one is probably the best fit for my table.

Now for some more detailed comments on specific aspects:

Savage World's magic system is worthy of a comment. At first glance, it looks a bit slim - there's 40 or so "powers" (approximately the same as spells) in the core book, and they're mostly pretty generic. Not much like Shadowrun's grimoires packed with weird-and-wonderful oddities. However, this is a little deceptive. Each power, when learnt by a character, comes with "trappings" that alter how it works; some of these are cosmetic but others have game effects, like elemental damage. And powers also have a variety of modifiers that can be freely applied at time of use, like adding damage over time to an attack spell, avoiding friendly targets with an area-of-effect spell, or using Healing to cure a disease or poison. So each entry in the powers list covers a lot more ground than a single spell does in Shadowrun.

Something about SpR worth calling out is "logistic points" (LP). Characters do not buy gear with nuyen. Rather, they are assumed to constantly change their gear, disposing of hot items after a run, then re-outfitting themselves anew for the next mission, from some combination of borrowed and black-market-purchased gear. They can choose to spend their LPs at any reasonable point during the run, so they might use part of their budget for surveillance gear, complete legwork, decide on an approach, trade that gear away again, and then reuse those LPs on weapons and such they need for the run itself. There's not a lot of book-keeping here, characters start with 10 LPs (it goes up as they advance) and most common items cost 3-5 or so.

Permanent high-value possessions (eg cyberware, foci, signature weapons) are not handled as money or LP but instead via Edges. Edges in SW are somewhat similar to Qualities in ShR, but earned more frequently as characters progress. In SpR, characters can spend those edges on things like implant points (which they can then "spend" on getting more cyberware installed) or other pieces of durable, permanent gear.

Even lifestyle is handled this way, with the "Rich" edge upgrading a character to Medium lifestyle and "Filthy Rich" to High. With all of these changes, there's no need to track nuyen at all. This is perhaps a little jarring at first, but I think it works in the context of Savage World's general Fast-Furious-Fun philosophy. YMMV.

Another area where Savage Worlds and SprawlRunners differ significantly from core Shadowrun is character power level. In SW, by default, characters start weaker and advance faster than in Shadowrun. This is another trade-off decision that might suit you or it might not. It's certainly nice to have meaningful post-chargen advancement options, something that ShR can struggle to offer unless you play in longer term campaigns. If it doesn't suit you, you can always grant the characters some free "advances" (basically, Savage Worlds speak for level-ups) as part of chargen.

One final thing I want to note is around initiative and the role of combat-oriented characters. As written, SW and SpR does not have a mechanic for combat chars to dominate initiative; in fact, the primary method of gaining better initiative is an Edge that is available to anyone. Obviously, this is a significant change from core ShR, and oner that is is a mixed bag, IMO. It opens combat up to everyone in a way that ShR does not, but it risks diluting the combat specialist role. This latter part might be somewhat mitigated by other SW mechanics - eg. it's more expensive to be highly skilled, which I think would continue to distinguish the streetsams from, say, deckers with a big gun. But I need to play a few chargens out to be sure of that.

This would be quite easy to change back if you find it bothersome. Interface Zero (I think that's where I'm getting this from) has mechanics where wired reflexes allow characters to act more than once during the turn, which is a very classic-ShR feel, and would fit perfectly well in SpR.

So to sum up... there's a lot here to like, and what things suit my personal tests less would be quite easy to change. Savage Worlds is a solid system with a slant towards pulpy action, and with middling levels of crunch. Its classless chargen system still offers character-optimiser players a big palette to work with. And SprawlRunners does a great job of giving you a clean, foundational set of rules to play urban-fantasy-cyberpunk with.

So, yeah. I like it! I'm hoping to get some time to explore it with my table tonight, and if we all agree, I'm quite serious about moving my current ShR 5e game over to SprawlRunners.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
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