Name: Bottled Demon
Publisher: FASA Corporation
System: Shadowrun 1st Edition
Format: Softcover book
Size: 28cm x 21.8cm x 0.9cm
Price: Out of Print $15.00 at publication
Rating: (4.0 / 5)
Bottled Demon is an adventure for Shadowrun, published using the 1st edition rules. It was written by James D. Wong published by FASA Corporation in 1990. Bottled Demon was the 6th adventure released for Shadowun. As with all 1st-3rd ed Shadowrun adventures, this book follows the standard Adventure Tree format, which I find particularly easy and convenient to run.
The cover depicts a woman wearing a tribal headdress and posed to suggest that she is engaged in something magical. Next to her floats the idol that is the subject of the adventure. The art is good, although prior to reading the adventure I could have sworn it related to bug spirits based on the picture as the markings on the headdress suggest the woman is a Wasp Shaman or the like. As it is, that couldn’t be further from the truth as she is, in fact, Arleesh, the Great Feathered Serpant.
The adventure is set in the year 2050 and in Seattle. While there is little, aside from the handouts, to date the adventure, allowing it to be set in any timeframe (most recently I ran it in 2061), many of the locations are directly tied to Seattle and therefore the GM will need to make some changes if they want to run the adventure in another city. As the rules are 1st edition, some changes will need to be made to make the adventure compatible with 2nd and 3rd edition, although these are mostly restricted to weapons and armour. Running the adventure in 4th or 5th edition may prove more challenging as the GM will need to update all of the rules specific information.
PLEASE BE AWARE, PLOT SPOILERS AHEAD.
The basic plot of the adventure follows the PC’s as they accompany a Johnson while he tries to sell and item to an elf named Blackwing, only for things to go south pretty quickly when Lone Star busts the meet and their Johnson gets killed. The players then end up that item, which turns out to be a very powerful, and somewhat cursed, magical totem. To top it all off their faces are all over the news as they become wanted for their involvement in the clash with Lone Star.
During that initial encounter the players also hear a rather important name, Blackwing. Now, it should be noted that this is written as Bloodwing in several places in the book and even changes between Bloodwing and Blackwing during the same piece of text. The name is definitely Blackwing and he’s important because he shows up in two other Shadowrun adventures, Dragon Hunt and Corporate Punishment. By the latter he’s advanced to a more prestigious position within the Tir Tairngire. It’s important to remember to name Blackwing as he shows up in a couple of places through the adventure.
The party have a couple of run in’s with others hunting the totem, including their Johnson’s former Magical Group and Lone Star. The latter serves as a nice way to kick start the adventure if it starts to stagnate, by having a random bystander recognise them and call in Lone Star in the hope of a reward.
Investigating the Idol teaches them that it’s pretty powerful, that using it boosts spells significantly and, maybe, that it’s rather addictive to use, having a very ‘One Ring’ aura about it. If they ask around they get pointed towards an elderly Dog Shaman named Trixie who advises them to destroy it, for their own safety but mentions that only a Dragon would likely be capable of such a task Fortunately she knows of a prominent one in town, the CEO of Lochlann Investments, Geyswain. The adventure name drops a little here by pointing out that another dragon that lives in the sprawl, the Security Chief for United Oil, Haesslich, is out of town on business. Fans of the Secrets of Power trilogy will recognise that name.
Getting a meeting with Geyswain and convincing him to destroy the idol is actually easier than expected. I played it to the dragons advantage and actually had him convince the runners that he’d need payment for the arduous ritual but, ultimately, he was just trying to conceal his desire to possess it. This was a good way for me to have him engage them in a mini-run side quest on a pro-bono basis. Regardless Geyswain is intent on getting the idol and the adventure covers several contingencies he has in place.
Just after this the runners get stopped by a vehicle in the street, a vehicle containing a beautiful woman (pictured on the front of the book). The book has a couple of scenarios for when this takes place but it has to be after they visit Geyswain and helps if it’s before they manage to lose their wanted status. The woman uses the fact that Lone Star is after them, timing it so she appears just as they need a place to hide, to get them into her car. She introduces herself as Arleesh, the Great Feathered Serpent (that’s right, one of the Great Dragons) and doesn’t hide her aura in case anyone wants to check. She tells the runners that only a Great Dragon can destroy the idol and tells them to go and steal it back.
After this the runners, ideally, just need to clear their name. My players did this by contacting the investigating Lone Star Officer, Grissim, and offering him Blackwing in exchange for leniency. There were a few finer details but it was a good plan and a bigger win for Grissim, given the number of assassinations attributed to Black Wing, and so he went along with it. That also went down well although, little did the runners know, but Blackwing actually had diplomatic immunity and so walked free from Lone Star, and they’d made an enemy. On the flip side, they’d dealt with Grissim fairly and so they gained him as a level 1 Lone Star Contact.
This leads to the final showdown of the run, between the runners and Geyswain at the Lochlann Investments Building. The set up has them meet up with Arleesh and hear her plan before someone decks into the Lochlann matrix to discover that it’s empty and unprotected. This should seem unusual. The runners roll up to Lochlann and use the classic damsel in distress con to get inside, or they would if anyone was on guard which should be another alarm bell.
Inside there are a couple of dead guards and Arleesh advises the runners to head downstairs, to the security room to take care of any other security before disappearing to conduct her own search. The runners find the place trashed, with almost all the security personnel dead before heading upstairs to Geyswain’s penthouse floor office.
The penthouse office takes up the whole top floor and has been converted into a desert for the comfort of the dragon, giving a nice contrast to the otherwise city based run. When the runners arrive they find that Geyswain has been consumed by his desire for the power of the idol and has gone stark crazy, leading to the inevitable fight with the dragon. Arleesh doesn’t show up during the fight, unless the GM needs her to bail the PC’s out, and her motivations aren’t really explained as to why, aside from the fact that she’s a Great Dragon and can pretty much do whatever she likes.
However Blackwing does appear and helps the party out, assuming they are willing to throw him a gun since he’s been disarmed and this gives them the opportunity to get on his good side, especially if they made an enemy of him earlier in the run (as mine did). Aside from this the fight goes as well as can be expected. If the party aren’t ready and prepared to fight a dragon then it could go south pretty quickly and the GM might need to bring in Arleesh to save the day. Fortunately Geyswain is pretty much insane at this point and so won’t he won’t be intelligently fighting so much as acting like a rampaging beast.
During the fight Lone Star and Grissim surround the building, meaning that the party will need to do a little bit of talking to finally escape. The run ends after the Geyswain is defeated and Arleesh has drained the idol of it’s power, leaving the statue inert. Blackwing claims the statue as Tir property (offering the runners up to ¥50,000 in exchange for it) and again flexes his diplomatic immunity to escape unscathed. Given the threat posed by the dragon the party should be able to talk their way out of the situation as they have prevented a much bigger incident and Grissim a reasonable guy.
All things said Bottled Demon isn’t a particularly long or difficult run, aside from the final showdown with Geyswain but if they go into that prepared then they’ll likely be ok. There is good potential for the runners to make friends and enemies though out their journey and if you are planning on running Dragon Hunt or Corporate Punishment then the running theme of Blackwing will add a nice bit of continuity to your game.
My only real criticism is that it’s yet another early adventure that involves a dragon, which, when you look at my previous reviews of Paradise Lost and A Killing Glare (add links), goes to show how many of the early adventures included dragons as protagonists. I don’t object the dragons as such, and the showdown with Geyswain is thematic and different because he’s been corrupted by the idol but it’s still a little bit of dragon overload.
That said, it’s s solid adventure and it’s nice that it features Lone Star so prominently throughout, something that often gets forgotten later on. Grissim is a typical hard boiled kind of detective and the fact that he’s actually a good guy, one of the few in the early Shadowrun dystopia, makes him a good addition to the run.
Bottled Demon is one of the few Shadowrun adventures that I’ve both played and run and it’s a blast from both sides. It’s short enough to play through in a couple of sessions, or a single long session, and it includes several opportunities to expand the plot and throw in side runs. It’s not the best of the published runs, but it’s solid enough that it’s certainly worth a look.