Musings on Shadowrun, evolving settings and building systems out of parts.

People are always telling me I need to cobble together my own game, out of pieces and parts, as it's the only way that I'll ever have a game that does everything I want from a system. I didn't think I'd have the same feeling about a setting and system that's been around as long as Shadowrun has. But, I do.

Settings have to change and evolve with time. Shadowrun has to try to keep up with a series of authors writing stories that were accepted as canon as well as the bizarre demands of the players who, at the time at least, were chomping at the bit to pay anthropomorphic animals and overpowered vampires - it was a sign of the times.

The system matured up through the third edition of the game, and then was changed up quite a bit for what I honestly think is the most popular version of the game, the fourth edition. I didn't ever get to play second or third editions, but fourth worked well for me for a good long time. It was not without its drawbacks, lord knows, but it wasn't until I read fifth edition, and took a retrospective look back at third edition that I realized that fourth was actually a much simpler and in some ways more simplistic game than either its predecessor or successor.

Fifth edition brings a lot to the table, and I must say that from a pure mechanics point of view, I think it's my favorite of the four editions I have any exposure to. I've sung hosannas in high praise of SR5 in the past, and will continue to do so, but with some caveats as time has passed, and more details have had a chance to really come to the fore.

This leaves me with a bit of a quandary. I really prefer the setting - the lore of it, the kinds of adventures you went on, and the relative cleanness of the way things worked - in the earliest edition. Before there were vampires and catgirls, before there was ubiquitous wireless. It was a simpler time.

So now I find myself wondering how hard it would be to bolt the mechanics from SR5 onto the world from, say, SR2 or so, making yet another Frankensteinian monster game just to serve my own nefarious purposes, or if it makes sense to just create from the ground up in a system I like even better.


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