Role Playing Games

Sprawlrunners: RPG Review

I like Shadowrun a lot – it was the second tabletop RPG I ever played and my first cyberpunk RPG. I also know it’s clunky in a lot of respects. So, when I learned about Sprawlrunners about a more fast-moving way to run a Shadowrun-like game, using the new edition of the Savage Worlds I decided to pick it up.

Book Cover for Sprawlrunners

The good part of Sprawlrunners is that it gives you everything you need, mechanically, to create a character like one from Shadowrun. All the races are there, with the mechanics more or less replicating the flavor of those characters, without most of the more questionable elements (like Orks having a cap on their Smarts). All the magical traditions are there too along with two different kinds of netrunning rules – your more involved “crunchy” rules, and some quicker and lighter rules that I guess you could describe as “creamy”.

The book also features a different way to allocate resources. Rather than keeping track of cash, characters also have a selection of resource points that can be allocated for equipment, based on what is needed for a run. The characters can allocate those points as needed for gear, and after the run, they get any spent points back, though the players can certainly select some signature gear that their characters can always have equipped.

This does lead to a problem. The regular idiom of cyberpunk roleplaying is doing jobs for money, whether that’s to fund the characters’ existing lifestyle, to improve their lifestyle, to help their community, or to help friends or family. There… really isn’t anything to replicate that in Sprawlrunners.

Theoretically, the GM could take a cue from something like Blades in the Dark and that game’s “Clock” system – with the characters getting resources to put towards filling the clocks for those goals. However, there’s nothing in the game itself to help with that. Sprawlrunners would be really well served by having an additional chapter of just GM advice – to handle how to adapt the structure of a cyberpunk adventure, with the mechanics of how the game handles resources (on top of some sample NPCs). Maybe this will come in some later supplementary material. However, this is lacking in the book as written.

Still, what we got is a really great start. With the material in this book I was able to whip up a team of Shadowrunners in a couple hours, while it took me considerably longer than that to put together a team of Edgerunners from Cyberpunk Red or to even write out the stats for a pre-created team of Shadowrunners using the archetypes from the Shadowrun 4th Edition (20th Anniversary Edition) corebook.

Just keep in mind that if you pick this up, you’ll need to do a bunch more structural work to adapt any adventures you have in mind, beyond the nuts and bolts on the mechanical side of things.

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