Do you like traditional fantasy but wish sometimes you could shake things up? I am the Dalton-Whitfield County Public Library resident game master, so when I am asked about what sorts of books I read for fun, they generally lean towards roleplaying game books, and usually they involve dragons and brave adventurers who are seeking fame and fortune through their adventures.
But what if those adventurers toted cybernetic, smart-linked pistols instead of swords and the dragon they were after was the CEO of a powerful megacorporation who uses the latest magical discovery as the next great consumer product?
In the world of Shadowrun, this is one of several familiar scenarios. Set on an alternate timeline of our planet Earth, the world as we know it, or the Fifth World, ended in 2011 when a plague called VITAS killed a quarter of Earth's population. Soon after that, random people were born with a phenomenon called Unexplained Genetic Expression (UGE). These people were born resembling dwarves and elves of the mythological realm, so they were labeled as such. Following UGE, a new event called Goblinization turned people into orks and trolls. These events ushered in the age of meta humanity. On top of that, magic reawakened in the world. Magic users, now called the Awakened, began to manifest. Even dragons began to appear all over the planet. The decade between 2011 and 2021 was the birth of the Sixth World.
The game is celebrating its thirtieth anniversary this year with the release of its sixth edition core Rulebook. The new edition, aptly titled "Shadowrun: Sixth World," is set in the year 2080, several decades since the Sixth World awakened. Now the face of civilization is drastically different. The United States as we know it no longer exists. North America is divided up between a dozen smaller nations that are ruled by city states.
The most significant change is a law called extraterritoriality. This effectively gave AAA-rated megacorporations the ability to have their own laws and regulations, essentially making them more powerful than a sovereign nation. Now the world is ruled by the Big Ten, a council of the 10 most powerful corporations. They regulate what it takes to become a AAA-ranked corporation, which grants extraterritoriality. Naturally, in a world where staying on the bleeding edge is the difference between staying at the top or being consumed by a larger corporation, many dark dealings go down.
That's where the players come in. In Shadowrun, you play as a group of outlaws, uninterested in living the comfortable but completely controlled life of a corporate wageslave. Instead, you take to the shadows, carving out a living as freelancers willing to do what it takes to stick it to the man. Shadowrunners are usually hired by other corporations to do their dirty work, whether it involves hacking into a high security database to lift a rival corporation's latest development or to make sure the rogue scientist who left the company against policy (likely kidnapped by another group of Shadowrunners) never spills his secrets.
They do what it takes to survive in a world where everything has a price, especially freedom. And to do so, the book equips players to fill any of the major roles needed on a team of Shadowrunners. Are you interested in playing a mage who is in touch with the astral plane and has the ability to fling fireballs and summon spirits? Perhaps you'd rather stalk through the matrix as a decker, shutting down security systems and bricking enemy weapons, making them useless. Every team is always in need of a traditional street samurai to protect his or her teammates from enemy bullets while they do their jobs on their respective planes, whether magical or technological.
The book comes filled with everything you need to get into the game, from a brief rundown of what the Sixth World is like to how to play the game, how to create your own Shadowrunners and lots of gear options to get you set up and ready for a successful run. If the game piques your interest, you can find the newest edition's PDF at the "Shadowrun: Sixth World" website.
The print book will be available in October, and you will be able to get your hands on it here at the library soon after its release. Until then, if you want to learn more about the Sixth World, there is 30 years worth of fiction out there. I recommend stopping by the library to read up and jump into the Sixth World. The shadows are dangerous, so be sure to know what to expect in order to stay alive longer than the other guys. Above all else, don't forget to have fun!
Logan Petty is the young adult coordinator for the Dalton-Whitfield County Public Library.