Name: Prime Runners
Publisher: Fasa Corporation
System: Shadowrun 2nd edition
Price: Out of print
Rating: (2.0 / 5)
Prime Runners is a sourcebook for the Shadowrun 2nd Edition roleplaying game. It was published in 1994 by FASA Corporation and was written by Mark Gascoigne and Carl Sargent. Prime Runners is an NPC sourcebook containing 41 different NPCs for GMs to pick up and drop into their game as needed. Each NPC gets 2 pages, or there abouts, that provides in game statistics and skills, an illustration, character background and plot hooks. As the title of the book suggests, the NPC’s in this book are considered to be at the top of their game and therefore may prove to be an interesting challenge or a powerful ally depending on how players interact with them.
The book follows the style of all early Shadowrun sourcebooks, which is black and white throughout aside from a handful of full colour images, in this case of some of the NPC in the book. There is a vivid full colour image on the front of the book, in this case of a runner riding on the roof of a car as explosions abound around him, and a little blurb on the back telling you what the book is about.
The book splits into 5 sections-
- Introduction, a brief section just describing what the book is and what it contains
- Welcome to the Freak Show, which lists 34 of the NPCs that are most likely to be friendly to the PC’s
- Prime Terrors, which is a further 4 NPCs that are generally going to be antagonists in a story, including a serial killer and 2 terrorists
- Wolfram’s Gang, which is a generic gang that makes up the rank and file that runners will face day after day. There are 3 example characters provided here.
- Threat ratings, which provides some rules and guidance around creating encounters and how to balance them against your PC’s abilities.
I won’t detail every character, there are far too many and so i’ll just go through a couple that I like the look of as an example of what you find inside.
Martin de Vries, Vampire Hunter. I picked Martin since he’s a character that I know from the novel The Terminus Experiment (which I talk about on this post) and because he has duel illustrations, both in the colours section and in his bio.
The book gives a nice rounded history for Martin, it describes how he was an accomplished mage and scholar, studying in the Netherlands before moving to Oxford and then Yale. He became a grade 3 initiate with the Ordo Maximus and became increasingly obsessed with a secret conspiracy of Vampires who intended to bring a powerful Astral entity to the world, one that would make Toxic and Insect spirits look like irritable toddlers. Somewhere along the way Martin managed to contract vampirism himself, likely deliberately in order to better understand his prey and he picked up a strange artefact that allows him to increase his essence far in excess of normal levels and therefore limit when he feeds.
Now Martin spends his nights hunting and draining vampires, trying to trace the elusive conspiracy he knows exists and occasionally crossing paths with groups of runners who had better hope they don’t cross him or look particularly toothy.
For hooks the book describes that Martin de Vries would be a very strong source of information for runners who need help taking down vampires and it also advises that he sometimes hires runners to help him on particularly difficult hunts. The conspiracy that Martin hunts could make the basis for an entire campaign if the GM chooses to run with it, tying the PCs fate and that of Martin de Vries inexorably. As a final note the bio makes reference to Martin having lost his weapon focus in the fight that turned him into a vampire and so he would dearly love to be reunited with it, or similar, and he would go to great lengths or pay large sums if someone could help him with that.
I chose Rhonabwy as the 2nd example because, being British, I love the idea that the great Welsh dragon is a real thing. I also thought that the Great Dragon was one of the more interesting and established NPCs in the book. Unlike the other NPCs Rhonabwy gets 4 full pages, as befitting a Great Dragon, and the great majority of this goes into explaining the history of the beast since he woke up on 22/02/2012.
Rhonabwy woke up near Carmarthen in Wales and subsequently destroyed the surrounding area in what he described as a fit of ‘post hibernation trauma’. He’s since spent a considerable amount of money in paying compensation to the families who lost property and loved ones. This generosity seems to be ingrained into Rhonabwy’s personality as he is known to pay well over the asking price for any property or land he intends to appropriate.
From the perspective of his affairs, the most likely reason the runners might get involved in his affairs, Rhonabwy is deeply invested in a significant number of mis size corporations as well as apparently owning 4-7% of AAAs Ares and Shiawase. He also appears to be quite the political player, seemingly supporting metahuman rights around the world as well as, in rather a contradiction, supporting secessionist and terrorist organisations in a variety of places, including both Tir’s.
The book does a solid job of playing up the secretive and apparently baffling motivations of a Great Dragon, providing a number of explanations as to Rhonabwy’s motivations but ultimately leaving the decisions up the the GM. This is particularly the case with regards to the rumours abounding about the relationship between Rhonabwy and a Sea Dragon in Cardigan Bay. Personally I like the suggestion that these are the two dragons of Arthurian myth, I think that fits well with the setting and the later confirmation of the existence of Excalibur in big D’s will.
For hooks the book doesn’t really provide much that is concrete and instead suggests that runners would rarely know of Rhonabwy’s involvement, either as a Johnson or a target, since the Dragon is far too clever for that. It advises that the runners may be hired by a nature spirit working for the Dragon, and if they were to find out that Rhonabwy was involved it would be over the course of a several runs, maybe an entire campaign. To my mind it would make sense for one of the targets of Rhonabwy’s ire, maybe one of the Tir’s, hire the runners to implant some information in Rhonabwy’s network that allows them to predict where he may next attack them. As with any run involving a Great Dragon, only the most accomplished of runners should even be considered as an opponent.
As a final point I very much like the Shadowland remarks on Rhonabwy, particularly the reply to the comment made by a poster named ‘Merchant Banker’. The reply simply reads “is that your real name, or is it just rhyming slang?” If that doesn’t mean a whole lot to you then I’d perhaps suggesting googling it, but to an Englishman, even one from outside London, I find that pretty damn amusing.
Looking at the book as a whole it has a few good points, the write up of Rhonabwy being of them, and a good number of negative ones. Art in particular is lacking in the book and while the colour images are nice, albeit with an art style that isn’t really in keeping with the style of the game as it looks more comic book, some of the black and white bio art is atrocious, in particular Rhonabwy’s.
Prime Runners is touted as containing the very best runners for the players to interact with and meet and to my mind this should include some of the more iconic characters from the setting, people like Dodger, Ghost Who Walks Inside, Dirk Montgomery and Argent. Unfortunately the book doesn’t include many known character at all, at least not to me, there is Martin de Vries, although his novel was published some time after this book, and there is Michael Sutherland a decker from the books set in the UK like Black Madonna. It’s a shame as it feels a bit like a missed opportunity to me.
On the whole Prime Runners is a pretty weak book. It has some use, especially to GMs who struggle for NPCs on the fly, but in general it’s feels much more like a cash in than a genuine attempt to try and expand the setting. It’s a rare miss for early Shadowrun, since most of the books have great content (just not necessarily great art) and tend to all help build the settings rich history. I’m happy to have it in my collection but i’m also happy that I didn’t pay too much for it, around £8 if memory serves. It’s not a common book but unless you are after a complete collection it’s not a book i’d suggest spending a lot of time and money seeking out.