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)
Shadowbeat is a setting background book for Shadowrun. I as written by Paul R. Hume and released by FASA Corporation in 1992. The sourcebook is set in 2052 and uses the 1st edition ruleset, although there are no weapons or armour within the book so little to nothing needs amending in order to make the book usable for the 2nd or 3rd editions of the game.
Shadowbeat is one of my favourite of the early Shadowrun books and it’s the first book that really expands the setting beyond the typical Shadowrun fare of runner vs corporation. Shadowbeat covers such topics as sports, movies and by extension SimSense, TV, music and pop culture in general helping to add depth to the Shadowrun universe.
The artwork on the front and throughout the book is ok, but not amazing. I’m not sold on the shocked reporter trying to interview the dragon on the cover and the style throughout, especially the colour art, is very 80’s, which was standard at the time. The black and white drawings, of equipment and the like, is nice though and I always find having an image of an item helps me when visualising my character.
If there is one criticism I have of Shadowbeat, it’s that it seems to be more or a response to aspects of Cyberpunk 2020. Cyberpunk added Rockers and Media as class archetypes, letting players play anarchistic musicians who incite the oppressed masses against the corporate machine or investigative journalists working for guerrilla and pirate news companies. Shadowbeat brings all of that firmly into the Shadowrun universe and while i’m happy to see it’s inclusion it still feels like Shadowrun was trying to copy it’s inferior cousin.
Shadowbeat is fairly typical in length, at just over 100 pages, and generally follows the standard format for a Shadowrun sourcebook. Unlike the later books it’s not written as an ingame runner resource and doesn’t have each chapter prefaced by Captain Chaos. Instead it’s written as a player and GM resource, providing specific information about aspects of the world that have only really been touched upon before in adventures.
The book has roughly 8 chapters, split down into a number of subcategories. Those categories are-
- Archetype Additions
Music, as expected for Cyberpunk style book written in 1992, has a heavy emphasis on Rock and Rocker style characters. The chapter splits between in game background source material and rules, giving you sufficient information to run and play characters with a focus in music. From a rules point of view the chapter gives you information on acquiring and building a reputation, booking and playing gigs and recording chips for distribution. The source material discusses the different types of music in the awakened world, including astral rock and different racial takes.
Broadcasting is a short chapter that discusses the different ways in which media is broadcast and received in the 6th world, which includes traditional methods along with the matrix and trideo. The majority of the chapter is given over to rules and character options for increasing a runners own home telecommunications set up, including what kind of upgrades come as standard for the various lifestyle levels.
The TV section gives a general breakdown of the kind of TV shows that are aired in 2052 and culminates with and in game TV guide. Generally discussed are soaps, sitcoms, gameshows and Running Man style lethal gameshows. One notable omission, that I think would likely still be very popular in 2052, is reality TV. It’s an interesting gap that really highlights the age of this book and shows how TV viewing habits have changed in the last 20 years.
The in game TV guide is an excellent addition that i’ve used several times to to highlight to my players that the world does extend beyond covert runs against Megacorporations by career criminals.
News is, understandably, still big business in 2052 and so this is one of longest chapters in the book. The chapter, rather surprisingly, doesn’t actually provide much background information on the the various news channels in Shadowrun, or the ways that folk get their news in the 6th world. Instead the chapter focusses on how a player might run a journalist characters. It breaks down covering a story into 3 basic stages and provides specific rules on how to research a story, conduct interviews and eventually release the story for maximum effect.
Sports is also a sizeable chapter and both traditional US sports such as Baseball, Basketball and American Football are covered, along with the newer sports of Urban Brawl and Combat Biking. Tradition sports have lists of the teams and include information as to how the sports have reacted and adapted to the inclusion of metahumans, cyberware and physical adepts. Additionally the topics of women in sports, amateur sports and the Olympics are covered, albeit briefly.
The newer combat sports of the 6th world are given a more detailed look. Both Urban Brawl and combat biker are given fairly detailed rules, full lists of teams and breakdowns which give you a fairly good idea how they’d play out. The Urban Brawl rules are particularly useful if you want to run the adventure A Killing Glare .
Simsense is almost entirely fluff based. It covers the specifics around what simsense is, how it is produced and the various types and stages of production. Also detailed are the various ways that enterprising criminals have managed to get in on the simsense racket, including California Hotsims and BTL chips. Simsense has always played an intrinsic part in Shadowrun for me, probably because of the 2XS novel and then how it has expanded from simple experiance ships to full on personality programs such as those used by the Yakuza in Bunraku parlours. It has immense possibilities in adventures and so the information in this chapter is pretty exciting to people like me.
After simsense comes the rules part of the book, which is split into 2 sections that cover character options and gear. The character options part provides details on new skills, job descriptions and pay packets for working for networks or as part of labels. There are also some limited details on SINS and how more reputable rock stars and athletes need them in order to actually make a living at their chosen profession.
Gear is fairly standard, but as I said at the start, it doesn’t include weapons or armour. Provided are prices and rules for cameras, musical instruments, simsense rigs and recording equipment and basically everything that a character that want’s a side career in a media based job might need in order to mae their way in the world.
The production values for the book are pretty standard for an early book and the overall layout and style is comparable to books like the original Seattle Sourcebook. It’s mostly black and white, aside from a few character archetypes in the middle of the TV section. The artwork is passible and far from the worst i’ve come across in a Shadowrun product.
Some of the information is a little dated and the two later 3rd ed books State of the Art 2063 and 2064 have similar information within then, albeit updated by a decade in game. Shadowbeat is a solid book with a plethora of information that isn’t really contained elsewhere within the Shadowrun line and, for that reason, it’s definitely a product I would recommend if you are looking to expand your Shadowrun games beyond the more common fare.