Renraku Arcology Shutdown- A Shadowrun Sourcebook Review

Name: Renraku Arcology Shutdown
Type: Sourcebook
Publisher: FASA Corporation
System: Shadowrun 3rd Edition
Setting: Shadowrun
Format- Softcover book
Size: 27.5cm x 21.3xm x 0.6cm
Pages: 88
Price:  OUT OF PRINT ($15.00, approx £10.00)
Rating: 5.0 Stars (5.0 / 5)

Renraku Arcology Shutdown, cover

Renraku Arcology Shutdown is a timeline event specific Sourcebook for Shadowrun 3rd edition. It was written  by David Hyatt and Brian Schoner and published by FASA Corporation in 1998. It is a softcover book with colour covers and a black and white interior throughout.

Renraku Arcology Shutdown details the events surrounding the takeover of the iconic Renraku Arcology in Seattle by the AI Deus in 2059. Like so many Shadowrun Sourcebooks it is primarily written from an ingame standpoint via conversations between members of the Shadowland BBS and information gathered by that community. The vast majority of the book is devoted to ingame fluff with only the final 17 pages being given over to rules and game information.

The book is split into a number of sections chronologically looking at the Arcology starting from before the Shutdown and running through to early 2060. There is certainly enough information in here to use as plot hooks to include the Arcology Shutdown in your campaign but I have found that this particular book works best when split down as a series of handouts used to augment your game and as a companion to the Brainscan Campaign, which specifically deals with the events surrounding the Shutdown and plays them through to their conclusion.

As with all of the 3rd ed sourcebooks Renraku Arcology Shutdown starts with the inevitable Shadowland Hub page that acts as advertising for recently released products. For the record the recent releases at this point were Cyberpirates, Target: Smuggler Havens, Rigger 2 and Blood in the Boardroom. The upcoming releases were New Seattle, Magic in the Shadows and Corporate Download.

In addition to the advertising the book provides some little snippets of in game news including the announcement of Novatech’s acquisition of a Corporate Court seat, the disappearance of Renraku CEO Inazo Aneki, the Opening of the Astra Space Preservation Society in Chicago and details surrounding the rise of the Otaku and their various ‘tribal’ disputes.

The book opens with some framing fiction involving Dodger and Megeara, which helps build the background, especially if you plan on running Brainscan. After that there is the standard introduction from the iconic Captain Chaos (dated 10/02/60). this time discussing the series of events that were witnessed at the inception of the Shutdown. As is usual for this era, Captain Chaos also provides the introduction to the various chapters.

Chapter 1 is an in game propaganda piece that describes the Arcology from the point of view of someone who works at Renraku and is introducing new workers to the building. It comes with a little introduction from Sherman Huang, Renraku America President, that feels like so many corporate introduction speeches that we’ve all heard in our real lives and for that reason I find it quite amusing. This chapter, that covers the Arcology Residential Zones, Matrix, Recreation etc.

Chapter 2 is an anonymously uploaded diary written by a 10 year old inside the Arcology at the time of the shutdown. It describes the disappearance of his father and the emergence of the first victims of Deus’s cyberware implantation experiments. The chapter has a very sinister feel to it, made worse because it’s written through the eyes of a child.

Chapter 3 is a transcript of an emergency Corporate Council meeting called by Renraku in response to the Arcology shutdown. As you’d expect there is a significant amount of posturing between members of the Council who represent the major Mega-corps. Significantly this chapter provides some background to the Shutdown, including some mentions of the elf decker Leonardo and introduces Brigadier General Amanda Coulton, who is in charge of the UCAS National Guard who spend the next 18 months trying to reclaim the Arcology.

Chapter 4 is a personal favourite,  entitled Shutdown! it covers a conversation between the best of the best in the Shadowrun decking community, Captain Chaos, Dodger, Ronin, FastJack….. amongst others and it links the top datahavens in the world, Seattle, Denver, Singapore etc. These drek hot deckers are discussing the emergent AI when their system gets hacked by a group of Otaku loyal to Deus.

Chapter 5 gives some leaked details into the type of drones that deus is developing inside the Arcology and makes an excellent in game handout to forewarn any runners who plan on trying to break in.

Chapter 6 describes the various types of Banded, White, Blue and Green. Details are provided as to what their specialisms are and what kinds of cyber/bio-ware packages they have. Again this is written from an in game point of view and so makes an excellent handout to prepare your runners for what may lie ahead. The chapter also introduces Pax, leader of the White Banded and Deus’s most loyal servant, almost his High Priestess since the Whites tend to think of Deus as a Machine-God.

This chapter also provides a much updated view of the inside of the Arcology, including the changes made by Deus. These changes can be as simple as repurposed Hospital facilities to the Classrooms used to psychoactively brainwash and train children as the next generation of Banded to the dreaded Mazes, which are huge multi-floor deathtraps created by Deus to test new creations.

Chapter 7 details the resistance, a pivotal group in the Brainscan campaign and the key source of reliable information coming out of the Arcology.It’s written from the point of view of one of the few escapees, Peregrine who knows better than most what is going on inside. The chapter introduces key characters within the struggle to defeat Deus and explains what has happened to many of the top Renraku employees trapped within the Arcology.

Chapter 8 is a further piece of framing fiction, this time as an in game journal chronicling a run within the Arcology. The author is Devon Eurich, resistance leader and former Renraku researcher turned shadowrunner. This journal serves to provide a first hand account of the nightmare that has become of the Arcology matrix under the sway of Deus and the Whites.

Significantly this chapter introduces Deus’s Ultraviolet Host and mentions the Grendel Project, both of his are key components in the final act of Brainscan. Also, it introduces Deus in person, as he confronts Devon within the Ultraviolet Host. This last makes for an interesting conversation since it shows Deus to be more than simply an AI Overlord or computer gone mad. Deus is shown to be complex, determined and ultimately almost human in his desire to be free.

The final section is devoted to Game Information and covers much of the crunch that has been suggested in the fluff to this point. There are details and specifics of the Banded, their various ranks and cyber/bio-ware packages as well as statistics for the various drones that Deus has created. There is also a breakdown of the number of people inside with a breakdown by meta-human species.

The Game Information chapter also gives some basic information around getting in and out of the Arcology, for anyone foolhardy enough to try, and provides a strong overview of the security forces that surround the building, along with their equipment, capabilities and how likely they are to spot intruders. Unsurprisingly this chapter is also where you find out the Security Sheaf for the buildings matrix (lets just say that it’s not a great idea to try and deck in) and the stats for the internal remote control networks in case you happen to have a rigger in your party.

The last few pages provide some adventure hooks and Errata so as to update Otaku (who are pretty important to the whole plot) and a few other outdated Matrix and Decking rules that aren’t really fit for purpose.

Finally the last 3 pages are a Floor Index for the Arcology which is of exceptional value if you plan on sending a team inside. Want to know what’s on floor 134, thats fine it’s middle class housing, floor 281? Hydroponics. 311? Air Traffic Control.

This is an exceptional sourcebook, one long awaited for it’s detail on a truly iconic building. It honestly works best as a companion to the Brainscan Campaign (published 2 years later) but even if you have no intention of ever running the Arcology Shutdown as part of your campaign it makes for impressive background material to use to make your campaign world seem alive. The Arcology Shutdown dominated the news for over a year between late 2059 and May 2061 and the likelihood is that most runners would at least know someone who was trapped inside.

Throughout the entire book there are news reports in sidebars that provide actual in game updates as the average SINner would experience through mainstream media and then the various chapters, published on Shadowland provide the whole story and can be handed out if your runners choose to dig a little deeper.

If possible get the PDF and Sourebook, since the former is easier to break up an use as handouts and the latter is an essential part of any Shadowrun collection. The book is certainly geared towards GM’s more than players and I think thats for the best as GM’s should disseminate the information inside as they see fit.

There isn’t anything bad I can say about this book, aside from it’s rarity and price on the resale market. To me it was a Holy Grail item, one that I desperately wanted and took a long time to get hold of because of the relative cost. Fortunately for me I have a wife that understands and feeds my addiction, and so when I couldn’t justify buying it, she could.

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