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> Book Club: Runner Havens
Ancient History
post Oct 16 2007, 04:23 PM
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Sorry for the delay, my brain's working on Centauri time...this is just a collection of thoughts and observations to get the ball rolling; we can discuss anything in the chapter in greater depth.

The intro fiction to Hong Kong is a nice example of Jay's (the author, Jay Levine) fixation with local belief and superstition and how it affects everyday life. It's the kind of thing you find in every culture but don't always notice.

It's interesting to note that as the first real fluff book for SR4, the static shadowtalker list has to be filled out with guests to provide local color and the skinny on how things work...it'll be interesting to see how many of them show up in future products.

One of the downpoints of the chapter is that it still assumes Seattle as a sort of default setting, you can see it in the comparisons. I think part of that might have been because the writers weren't sure whether Hong Kong or Seattle would come first in the book.

Leave it to Jay to manage a reference to powdered dragon penis...readers should recall that RH was written before Street Magic, which is why some of the magical points might seem a little odd (but not contradictory). I think the higher emphasis on geomancy follows a trend from the latter SR3 products.

Say one thing for the chapter, it has a great handle on the geography, something sometimes lacking from SR locale-descriptions.

The Splendid Dragon Path was a terrific idea on Jay's part, and definitely a defining landmark in a sprawl that's easy to remember. I haven't heard of many people using it in an adventure, but it seems most people can recall it.

I don't know how it started, but there always seems to be shadowtalk about somebody losing a bit of themselves or eating. Hong Kong features both (p.15 and p.23). No idea why that is...well, that's a lie, I know why I do it, but not why Jay or anyone else does.

Considering the detail given to some of the other locations in Hong Kong, the Wuxing Skytower got fairly short shift. I don't think this was intended to downplay its significance, but maybe when there's so much you can say you actually end up saying very little. Maybe.

Now Kowloon Walled City is an odd duck; I'm still on the fence about whether it's my favorite part of Hong Kong or just damn silly. It serves its purpose as Hong Kong's de-facto Barrens area, at least, but I can't tell if the danger has been played up too much.

Mamasan Laan's also marks a heavier influence on vice in SR4 products-more on that in the Seattle chapter-particularly prostitution. Drugs also have a heavier emphasis, and on top of BTLs there's a greater emphasis on new drugs, some of which might be familiar (hyper-fabricated heroin, bliss, zen) and others that might be less familiar (red orchid).

BTW, Yen-Yen's reminds me of the movie and comic Old Boy, one of the great vengeance flicks of our time. If you want to move from a 2055 campaign to a 2070 campaign, there are worse ways to do it than spend fifteen years drugged up in a hotel room teaching yourself how to fight...

The Six-Demon Bag...if you don't get the joke, I can explain it to you, but then it's not as funny.

The Morgue, artificial intelligences, etc. - RH was also written long before Unwired and Emergence, so the authors were again working with things that hadn't been clarified yet...which often ran into the weird position of having to adapt to what was previously written.

The Wong Tai Sin temple and the Bureau of Heaven and Earth is a touch of weirdness, but one I like. Cybermancy and/or spirit possession was still very iffy and the intimation of it worked well in this case. Not too blatant. I think the older players might have gotten the reference while younger players might not have connected the dots.

It's fun to try and pick out every shadowtalker's specialty from their comments, which isn't always easy, but is usually pretty consistent and helps develop their personality. Sticks is probably one of the harder ones to nail down. One thing you might notice about Jay is that he tends to go in for longer shadowtalk than some of the other authors. More often than not you'll see a full paragraph (or three) sandwiched in between the >'s.

The Bleeding - I thought this was one of the best ideas in the whole chapter (which is saying something). What did y'all think of it?

There is, natch, a fun little Firefly reference in the Pirates of the South China Sea section, p.50. I can't prove it, but I think Jay might have written about the pirates specifically to do that bit.

Guanxi is, I think, one of the defining differences between Hong Kong and other sprawls, and definitely something to play up during a game...it involves a lot more interaction with contacts and adds considerably to the chapter setting, in my opinion. You could also export it in miniature to Chinatowns in other sprawls.

Dealing With Jet Lag is an example of Jay's knack to come out of the blue with some perfect little touch that really makes a piece. Doesn't it make sense that jet lag would be something your characters would deal with? Sure, there aren't any rules for it, but it makes for good roleplaying. Like bathrooms in dungeons, it's one of the things that helps remind us our characters are people.

I've mixed feelings about the Yama Kings, but then I'm rarely sold on anything that's pure bad or pure good without some redeeming interesting value. By themselves, the individual Yama Kings seem a touch too pat (though sufficiently undefined that GMs can do what they want to with them), though there might be peculiarities that add some uniqueness to them. On the other hand, the acceptance of the Yama Kings by the residents of the Walled City as just another part of their hellhole life is kinda nice. I can see some bum giving the Ebony Queen Lam Vy the two-finger salute before he gets eaten by a horde of roaches for his troubles.
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JBlades
post Oct 16 2007, 07:33 PM
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Good write up, AH! Here's just a few notes a made as I was going through it to add some thoughts.

Facetime Spots
-Charlie Chan's was, in my mind, clearly based on the restaurant at the opening of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. :D

- This might be a little obvious, but Cloud Nine is the perfect place for a dead drop. Just set up a fake persona in the data base, and give people the name to leave messages for you as personal ads.

The Unreal
-Anyone else get chills in the section on The Whampoa when they mentioned "The Captain"?

Pirates of the South China Sea
-While reading the Wuji Crew (Black Dolphins) segment, I immediately thought of Gibson's new book, Spook Country. this would be the perfect crew to have working as a cover for the CIA (or some other interest) operation when the find The Container. Check out the book, and with a little twisting it could fit perfectly here as an adventure launched from any city to runners into Hong Kong.
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Demonseed Elite
post Oct 16 2007, 10:18 PM
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QUOTE
I don't know how it started, but there always seems to be shadowtalk about somebody losing a bit of themselves or eating. Hong Kong features both (p.15 and p.23). No idea why that is...well, that's a lie, I know why I do it, but not why Jay or anyone else does.


I put at least one of those in Neo-Tokyo too. >_>

But I never realized how common they are until you mentioned it here.

QUOTE
There is, natch, a fun little Firefly reference in the Pirates of the South China Sea section, p.50. I can't prove it, but I think Jay might have written about the pirates specifically to do that bit.


I love pirates, so I had to put them into the HK section. Cyberpirates was a bit silly at times, but the idea of pirates in Shadowrun really appeals to me. As for the Firefly reference, I could not help but think of the Reavers when I wrote that bit. And I'm a huge Firefly fan.

QUOTE
Charlie Chan's was, in my mind, clearly based on the restaurant at the opening of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.


That scene was definitely an inspiration. 8)
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Ancient History
post Oct 16 2007, 10:35 PM
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QUOTE (Demonseed Elite)
QUOTE
I don't know how it started, but there always seems to be shadowtalk about somebody losing a bit of themselves or eating. Hong Kong features both (p.15 and p.23). No idea why that is...well, that's a lie, I know why I do it, but not why Jay or anyone else does.


I put at least one of those in Neo-Tokyo too. >_>

But I never realized how common they are until you mentioned it here.

Hey, I'm one to talk. Dog Days was almost entirely about food, and wait 'til we get to Seattle.
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Prime Mover
post Oct 17 2007, 02:40 PM
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Nice AH, just noticing you did'nt mention the "shallows".

Few things I've used in recent games.

1. Yama kings
2. Bleeding ritual
3 A mention of "heaven and earth"
4. Some social networking with new contacts in HK.

Was hoping for some more insight into the cyberskulled monk. Like idea of new magic as well. Got most of references you mention, even recently got to see the Old Boy promo on youtube.
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Ancient History
post Oct 17 2007, 02:57 PM
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QUOTE
Was hoping for some more insight into the cyberskulled monk.

Well, we can talk about that. I haven't asked Jay about it, but I reckoned it dates back to the Cybertechnology cybertactician and the idea of a cybermantic uberhacker in Cyberpirates!, with maybe a dash of Shadows of Asia for a twist.

When you think about Buddhism, cybermancy can take on a different light - a sort of escape (or at least a delayed return) to the cycle of reincarnation and the bounds of karma (in the spiritual sense, rather than the game mechanic). It reminds me of the lama's quest in Rudyard Kipling's Kim.
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Demonseed Elite
post Oct 17 2007, 05:06 PM
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The "cyber-monk" came from a few different inspirations. Reading about Taoist immortals and mummified Buddhas led to the basic idea. I really recommend looking up information about both of those topics if you want to get some great ideas for using that monk and his temple. I was reading about both of those topics during my research into writing about Tibet for Shadows of Asia and then again during my Hong Kong writing, and I really wanted to do something that mixed the two ideas.

I started to look at magical ideas for the monk, but then decided I wanted to do something different. I thought that it would be neat to come at those ideas from a technological perspective instead of a purely magical one. That led to the "cyber-monk", which also touched on ideas of cyber-tacticians and other "brain instead of brawn" ideas for cybermancy. Once I had the basic idea down, reading more about Buddhism and Taoism with a "cybernetic" frame of mind led me into interesting ideas about reincarnation, enlightenment, and advanced technology. Since many Buddhist traditions believe in boddhisatvas which are enlightened beings that stay on Earth to guide others instead of fully ascending, what if there was a branch that thought artificial intelligences might be a form of boddhisatvas?
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fistandantilus4....
post Oct 17 2007, 09:51 PM
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I've read a bit about that my self; self- mummifying monks, and had never thought of that angle with the cyber monk. Long story short, essentially the monks mummify them selves alive, taking herbs over the course of months to dehydrate their bodies, starving them selves to lessen their body fat, and so on. In the end they close them selves up in a small chamber, ringing a bell once a day to let the other monks know they're stil alive. Until they expire of course. Supposed to be extremely painful of course. But it's supposed to bring them closer to Nirvana through dissolution of the self.

Bear in mind that this is my very brief reading of it, but I can see how it would tie in to the cyber monk. Dissilusion of the self through removing parts of his body, breaking him self down one part at a time. Eastern religions in SR seem to take a different view of cyber tech, such as India. They don't necessarily think of it as destroying the spirit like westerners do.
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fistandantilus4....
post Oct 18 2007, 01:01 AM
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For my part, I wanted to focus on a specific area rather than doing the full range. So naturally I went for the coprorate sector. I'll likely post something on the organized crime area as well, since I love that stuff.

The Ares section was interesting because of it's hooking into, and there fore reaffirming, the strength and presence of organized crime in Hong Kong. It talks about KEs problems with corruption in the police, as they often work with the Triads. I love it because the Tirads work along side the cops to take out rival syndicates, making for less rivals for the Triads, and better balance sheets and numbers for the cops Crime gets more organized, less random violence in the streets, and KE has a hard time handling the whole situation because it's not how they think things should work.

There's also Saeder-Krupp playing via it's Swiss Bank divisions. In the lightly regualred Free Enterprise zone, they do all sorts of underhanded trade deals that they wouldn't dare try to do back home. You don't drek where you sleep and all that. Since it's their big foot hold in the Asian market, essentially being their gate into the rest of the play ground, they have what fun they can. In the mean time, WUxing gets pissed at them because S-K is drekking where Wuxing sleeps (they come over and eat all the food in the fridge too). So there's shadow assets going back and forth between them all the time.

Then there's more over flow from Celedyr vs HKB. HKB insures a lot of businesses in Hong Kong, and is one of the biggest banks in the world, with interests invested into many corps in Hong Kong as well. So if youre a dragon with a grudge, it's a natural place to kick sand in. Especially since Celedyr's new parent corp, NeoNet, is still trying to muscle it's way into Hong Kong. Might as well soften up the shores a bit for them. So Celedyr has a scape goat, the 'terrorist group' 9x9 hit a number of places HKB insures, then makes it suggestive that HKB is behind it. That 1)gets them in trouble for possibly working with a terrorist group 2)erodes confidence in potential investors/customers if the rumor sticks, as they won't want their business hit so that HKB can raise their rates, and 3) they're obstensibly doing it to raise rates. But first they have to pay out tons of :nuyen: to repair damage already done. Big pay off now, with no guarantee of an eventual pay back from a rate raise. Which is why you don't mess with a dragon's stock options.
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Demonseed Elite
post Oct 18 2007, 06:00 PM
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One thing I tried to accomplish with the corporate section is to give each of the corporations operating in Hong Kong their own set of challenges to deal with. I think it not only fleshes out the corporate presence in that city more (setting it apart from the same corporate office in Seattle or elsewhere) but also provides GMs with ideas for runs.

Readers familiar with earlier sections on Hong Kong from Third Edition will also notice that I changed the way the corporate-controlled Hong Kong government works. I felt that the idea of a corp just appointing a governor was a bit stale and didn't encourage the back-room wheeling and dealing that Hong Kong really thrives on. So I changed it so that the governors are more political creatures with strong corporate backing, sometimes from multiple corporations. So now they have to be more careful about balancing their alliances.
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fistandantilus4....
post Oct 18 2007, 08:38 PM
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I very much like the interplay between them and the run hooks right there for the taking. Good stuff. That's the sort of thing I want to see in a SB. Give me some rivalries to start on , and I can go with a whole campaign from it.
"Here's corp A. Here's Corp B" that's just boring. That was why I picked this section to go over, becuase I felt it was done well. So thanks again DE.
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Ancient History
post Oct 20 2007, 06:04 PM
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Seattle
Intro fiction is my favorite part of writing sourcebooks, I think, and the bit for Seattle was my first. A little long, a little rough in places, but I think it helps set the tone for the chapter.

If you look at the credits, Hong Kong was written by a single author and Seattle was written by about four-and it shows. You have a lot more variety in tone and presentation throughout the chapter.

I think there are still people out there that might hate the authors of Seattle, because the sprawl didn't get a book all to itself or because it didn't cover nearly as much as the previous two books...and to be honest, we didn't even try to. You can't pack two plus books worth of material in a chapter. It's also been said, rather unfairly, that Seattle is a kind of McCity-which is true in so far as any American/Canadian city can be swapped for any other on a general level. You can go from one end of the country to the other and still see a McDonalds or a prostitute walking littered streets. If the personality of the city really doesn't come out in the text to some people though...well, sorry. We tried.

Okay, enough bullshitting and on with the show.

Remember what I said about food? Traveler Jones does his bit on p.62. Anybody that endured my short story Dog Days might remember the same brand of beer.

I love Kane's comment on p.63.

Re: Giant Golden Dildos -> This comment was actually inspired by this poster or cover for The Little Mermaid where some thoughtful soul pointed out the distinct shape of one particular tower or something.

If you think The Exchange bears a close similarity to the network in Bruce Sterling's short story Maneki Neko, you're right.

Julius Struthers...heh. There was a lot of fun with the political stuff, and Jong Won Kim and I had a lot of fun with the candidates, all bitching from professional armchair political knowitalls aside. For those who don't know, Struthers' goes waaaay back to one of the first and best SR adventures, Dreamchipper and later had a cameo bit in the Sega Genesis video game. Program carriers were actual gear in first edition, phased out in second edition with an explanation in the Denver: City of Shadows boxed set about them causing damage. Call it a bone for trivia buffs.

Brackhaven, ye Ghost. Humanis Policlub supporter who ran for President of the UCAS against Dunkelzahn and lost. Running for governor is a bit like slumming...

Josephine Dzhugashvili - okay, open secret: it's the feminine form of Josef Stalin's original name. Her political stance hearkens back to the independence movements way back in the Seattle Sourcebook.

One thing you'll note as a big difference from Hong Kong is the higher tendency for shorter shadowcomments, usually more cryptic or joke-laden...the longer ones tend to be anecdotal.

Bonus points to whoever can get all references in the Box Office Top 5 on p.78.

Some of the corps and syndicates stuff covers a lot of old ground, but keep in mind that this product had to appeal to both newer and older players. Personally, I had a lot of fun shaking up the underworld and finally resolving a couple of lingering plots, while starting some new ones.

It's not that authors in earlier editions really shied away from prostitution and drugs, but we really wanted to emphasize the criminal nature of the syndicates in Seattle.

The name "Kenran" actually goes back to an old and nigh-forgotten Yakuza clan in one of the adventure modules.

Puck's comment on p.86 is a bit odd when you consider technomancers weren't publicly "outed" until Emergence. No doubt some of the Jackpointers were wondering what the hell the old otaku was talking about.

The Seoulpa Rings...were difficult. Basically the only reason the Yakuza didn't squash them was because they were busy fighting each other and everyone else, so when the Yaks did get organized...goodbye Rings.

The Laésa might seem a throwback to the elfcentric days of first edition, but when you consider that a lot of elves really won't grow out of their position in big gangs like the Ancients, it makes sense that frustrated younger members would start their own home-grown gangs and syndicates.

Early gangs in SR look like The Warriors meet Escape from New York. I think Robyn's take on gangs preserves the best of that but adds a touch more realism.

Seattle Etiquette goes back to the newer runners, but also as a reminder to how things can work a little differently in Seattle. It's not really Runner 101, as much as every bloody shadowrunner jumps in to give you their old-hat advice and stories.

A word on Or'zet - comparatively, there's a lot of it in this chapter. Consider that two of the main authors were pretty much responsible for introducing it back in State of the Art: 2064.

The Black List...it seemed like a good idea at the time.

I think the Districts covered a good bit of ground. Council Island got a big boost in detail (BTW, the Growp'skitch! tribe is properly pronounced with a click at the end; Frosty's comment still makes me laugh).

The Outremer is my fault, and yes it does hearken back to the bad old days when Europe invaded the Holy Land and took it from the people that had it at the time. The 99 year lease bit comes from old English property law.

The Ork Underground has historical roots in the Seattle Underground, but you'd be hardpressed to tell based on how the authors have used it over the years. It's the Shadowrun equivalent of the Underdark, minus the poncy black-but-not-African-just-sort-of-ethnic-elves, aberrations, and some of the luminescent fungi. In hindsight, I wish there had been more wordcount for it.

Seattle is a city with a long history in Shadowrun, which is why so much time is spent going over familiar landmarks like Club Penumbra, the Alabaster Maiden, and Underworld 93-the latter is the CBGB of SR in many ways. Some of the newer places like Aces are really cool, while a deliberate decision was made to avoid references to Microdeck and the like-the Crash 2.0 was supposed to take them out for good.

Re: Magical Tattoos -> Again, this was way before Street Magic. Likewise, the relative dearth on Seattle's Matrix was because this was long before Unwired as well.

The ACHE...heh. True story: when I told Adam the name and the acronym the first time, he laughed. Or at least the IM equivalent of laughing. The Arcology was one of the plot threads to tie up, and a massive social security experiment-cum-mall seemed like a reasonable way to go. I mean, Deus was out of there, the Army had finished mopping up, it was an Albatross around Renraku's neck...

I like Fungitek. It reminds me of the myconid-obsessed ork baron from Harlequin.
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fistandantilus4....
post Oct 20 2007, 06:37 PM
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Again, focusing on the plot hooks bits my self:

It's noted in the candidates intros that Josephine was once class mates with the Finnigan Dona, and Capa of Seattle, Rowena O'Malley. Now, a lot of people were classmates with a lot of other people and never even met. But in my conspiracy happy mind, it makes perfect sense that the two of them are working together to try to get a Seattle governor with Family ties elected. Which makes for a lot of fun with Brackhaven's guys working one end on the streets, and the mob working against them. I love throw downs where the villians fight the villians. The villains were always cooler than the 'good guys' anyway. Look at Cobra! I digress.

On the Ogranized crime front, my thanks for wrapping up some loose ends that had been bugging me for years. Miko Ishikawa as the yakuza Washagashiri is fun as well, because she's been a spy for years for the Watada Rengo. So having her in such a prominent position leaves it ripe for an assassination on Hanzo Shotozumi, at just about the time Akira Watada should finally be kicking off over in Japan. Some new blood possibilities as the head of Seattle's biggest syndicate, which always means more work in the shadows.

The laesa I enjoyed as well. Nice to see good ol' Gree Lucifer still hanging on. Although really I'd like to see him finally off ol' Sting. I've worked the new elven syndicate as a combination of the Ancient's off shoots (mostly led by people Green Lucifer didn't want playing in his sandbox) and more Tir dissidents. Not everyone likes to lose their importance and have to start voting now that the Tir is a democracy. Lugh Surehand taking some time to do business in Seattle , then a new elven syndicate popping up, again makes my Conspiracy prone self excited.

One of the things I loved the most about the Seattle section was bringing up old plot bits, and progressing, or wrapping them. Karen King is in the Ares section of course, on the Seattle City Council. I recall Karen being an encounter[/i[ in the original Sprawl book. She was still working as security then, in a bind because a co worker was trying to out do her, and was hiring for some in house work. A favor would likely be owed if the team pulled it off. But there's a lot of folks wishing they could be owed that favor right about now.

The ACHE made me laugh, but again, I wanted to see something more behind it. I've been hoping for a bug hive, maybe with wasps spirits, to be camping out up top. Really though with that much cheap labor, and the facilities the Arc has/had, it'd make a great place for cheap productino labor. I've been wondering mostly though how moving some 100,000 squatters down town and locking them in is going to change the face of our favorite Barrens area? Redmond could be looking very ghost town-ish, and perhaps leading to some urban renewal after all these years. It later lists the population as 700,000, so it may not be [i]that drastic
.Again, more possibilities for jobs.

Little bits like the smear campaing between Aztechnology and Telestrian makes me smile. Nothing like a proxy war between corps representing nations to make the shadows go round.

I also liked some of the newer gangs, like the Skraacha, and the Blood Brothers. The idea that metahumans meant no one else would ever care about skin color again never sat well with me. I also liked seeing the Spikes getting a bit dissillusioned with Torgo. Mostly for the same reasons I like Lucifer and Sting still in charge of the Ancients. Trolls agre faster, so a higher turn over rate would make sense. The same guy in charge, with the same agenda gainst an enemy they just can't seem to beat, focusing on nothing else, for over 10 years, just doesn;t seem very likely. Moving some of the old guard along is important to keep the setting fresh. Vladimir being a perfect example.

For my self, I also very much liked little bits like the ShadowSea want-ads, and the black lists board. We'd used stuff like that off an on in our games, so it's nice to see it pop up in the books. My one gripe though: I hate the name. Hate it. No offense to whom ever's idea it was. I just call it Shadowland still.
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Ancient History
post Oct 20 2007, 08:46 PM
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I usually call it "Dark Emerald" myself.
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Cain
post Oct 20 2007, 09:39 PM
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Sorry, AH, I have to disagree with just about everything in the Seattle chapter

I can tell you've read my review, which has got a lot of supporters behind it. But despite what you say, there seems to be a clear mix-up between in-jokes and atmosphere. There's a lot of references to past material, true: Just enough to baffle newer readers and annoy older ones.

I've lived in Seattle for over 20 years now. I've lived in perhaps half-a-dozen cities, and visited countless more. No city can really be swapped for another one, without people noticing. Just try and switch New York for LA sometime, you'll see an incredible difference. They might both have McDonalds, but the similarity ends there. It would have been trivial to bring more of the city into the writeup. However, as the review shows, it looks like Seattle was rendered bland and uninteresting on purpose.

It doesn't help that Seattle is next to the brilliant Hong Kong chapter. But where Hong Kong is bold and inspired, Seattle is cold and insipid. It's just a rehash of old plot points, and not even a terribly good one at that. After everything that's happened, the big news is an unimportant race for governor?

I wish I could post some of the PM's I've gotten over this, but some of them verge on flaming of the authors. (I take that back. Some are directly insulting.) Not one of them has to do with the length of the Seattle material, either. There's more than enough oatmeal to go around.

I posted the link, but if people want me to, I'll cut and paste the entire review over. I think a second opinion is always worth the read.
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Simon May
post Oct 20 2007, 10:44 PM
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The one piece I felt was truly lacking from the section in Runners Havens on Hong Kong was a serious look at Macao. To me, one cannot function without the other. Sure, Jay mentions the pirating, the Combat Inc./food runs hook, and the gambling, but with Macao acting as Hong Kong's dark little brother, it would've been nice to get a better look at the way things work there as well.
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fistandantilus4....
post Oct 21 2007, 12:47 AM
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QUOTE (Cain)

But despite what you say, there seems to be a clear mix-up between in-jokes and atmosphere. There's a lot of references to past material, true: Just enough to baffle newer readers and annoy older ones.


I can see what you mean Cain. The old stuff being addressed/wrapped was what really made this section for me. I suppose it just happened to be what I was looking for. It's hard for me to take the perspective of a new player, but it does seem that most sectinos would be a bit trim of the meat a newbie would need. That being said though, there's already a whole book on Seattle for a noob to get.

So on one hand they could address the old material from that and bring it up to date, or the other give us all new stuff. That's how I see it at least. I would say that it didn't annoy this older player, but it does seem to depend on what you're looking for in the section.

I have to admit I sometimes feel like an annoying fanboy though so it's nice to see a dissenting opinion. Thinking about something from a different POV is always a good thing.
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Cain
post Oct 21 2007, 07:44 AM
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To put it in the nicest way possible: AH's big flaw is that he forgets we're not all Shadowrun trivia buffs like he is. There's no argument that he knows more minutae about Shadowrun than anyone out there. In fact, he's the acknowledged expert. Before I realized he was the one who wrote it, I was thinking: "These are jokes AH would love."

I was annoyed by the vast number of in-jokes, many of which I only partially got. Like he said, there's a ton of references on the Top 5 Movies list; I knew they were there and felt like an idiot for not getting them. To a newbie, these would be totally incomprehensible.

YMMV, of course, but I think the in-jokes were way overdone, and came at the expense of atmosphere. Straight humor, rather than self-referential jokes, would also have been acceptable.

Serious question, AH. How many of you guys have lived in/visited Seattle? I know Jay took a trip to Hong Kong to research his part, and the section is all the better for it. I know JWK never left Uruguay, but what about the rest of you?
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toturi
post Oct 21 2007, 08:36 AM
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I agree with Cain, to an extent. I would not consider myself an expert on SR trivia, but I don't think I'm a slouch either. And the knowing that there's something that you're not getting detracts from the enjoyment of the read, like an itch you can't scratch or a joke that needed explaining. The loose ends that were tied up were nice. But I do not think that there is a brand new plot line and that lack of novelty detracts from the Seattle chapter, but considering that most of everything that could be written about Seattle would already have been written, I wouldn't complain too much.
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Ancient History
post Oct 21 2007, 12:49 PM
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QUOTE (Cain)
Serious question, AH. How many of you guys have lived in/visited Seattle?

Can't talk for the others, but I've been to Seattle before.
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post Oct 21 2007, 12:53 PM
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QUOTE (Simon May)
The one piece I felt was truly lacking from the section in Runners Havens on Hong Kong was a serious look at Macao. To me, one cannot function without the other. Sure, Jay mentions the pirating, the Combat Inc./food runs hook, and the gambling, but with Macao acting as Hong Kong's dark little brother, it would've been nice to get a better look at the way things work there as well.

Macao is a very interesting city and definitely important to Hong Kong, but there just wasn't the space to add much more about it. The section was about Hong Kong and if I put too much weight into a Macao description, it begins to look like a Macao write-up.
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NightmareX
post Oct 21 2007, 01:00 PM
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Myself I liked the Seattle chapter. But then again, a continuation of/update on the Seattle Sourcebooks and New Seattle is what I wanted to see, and that's what we got. So no complaints here.

I can see how it would perhaps fall flat with new players or people wanting something that could be dealt with from that perspective though.
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Demonseed Elite
post Oct 21 2007, 01:10 PM
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QUOTE (Cain)
I know Jay took a trip to Hong Kong to research his part, and the section is all the better for it.

Hmm...I didn't take a trip to Hong Kong to research for Runner Havens. I'm not sure where that comes from. I did take a trip to New York City specifically to research for that write-up and to take photographs of places I intend to use, but I go to NYC quite a bit.

What I did for Hong Kong was to just immerse myself in any information I could find. While writing the Hong Kong section, my desk had stacks of books about Hong Kong piled on top of it with dozens of bookmarks sticking out of them. I still have a folder in my web browser favorites called "Runner Havens Hong Kong" with roughly fifty web pages bookmarked that I used as references during the writing. I read Big White Guy (a blog about a Westerner living in Hong Kong) religiously. I bought a few books on feng shui and then redid my apartment after I finished writing. I even changed my desktop wallpaper on my home computer and work computer to pictures of Hong Kong to keep my brain focused on it.

That's usually my process, to just absorb background information like a sponge while I write about something. If the finished work resonates well with actual locals or people who have been to Hong Kong, then I have good source material to thank for that.
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Cain
post Oct 21 2007, 02:31 PM
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QUOTE (toturi)
I agree with Cain, to an extent. I would not consider myself an expert on SR trivia, but I don't think I'm a slouch either. And the knowing that there's something that you're not getting detracts from the enjoyment of the read, like an itch you can't scratch or a joke that needed explaining. The loose ends that were tied up were nice. But I do not think that there is a brand new plot line and that lack of novelty detracts from the Seattle chapter, but considering that most of everything that could be written about Seattle would already have been written, I wouldn't complain too much.

The lack of novelty certainly detracts from it, especially since there's so many other interesting plotlines that could have been dealt with. The entire Tir fallout got about a paragraph, but is more important in the grand scheme of things (plus runner opportunities!) than the insipid Governor's race. That's *another* example of how things could have been tied more into the city. Too many of the run opportunities are generic to any UCAS sprawl.

You can't do that to Hong Kong, of course. You cannot slap a Hong Kong adventure into Minneapolis, or even Tokyo for that matter. You have an example of a core setting done right.

QUOTE
  Myself I liked the Seattle chapter. But then again, a continuation of/update on the Seattle Sourcebooks and New Seattle is what I wanted to see, and that's what we got. So no complaints here.

See, what I was expecting was a "re-imaging" of the Seatle material, a la Battlestar Galatica. Not necessarily more material, or just tying up loose plot threads. I expected a reviatlized setting. Okay, so maybe the devs wanted to show Seattle as a punch-drunk city that'd seen better days, but you can do that and still have a vibrant setting. Just look at Batman's Gotham for an example of this.

QUOTE
That's usually my process, to just absorb background information like a sponge while I write about something. If the finished work resonates well with actual locals or people who have been to Hong Kong, then I have good source material to thank for that.

You know, I can't recall where I heard you traveled to Hong Kong either. But Hong Kong is a multifacted city, so showing so many faces is an amazing task. I got about as far as the public tours for the corporate stuff, plus the Victoria Peak walk. The rest of the time was spent in seamy Kowloon bars. You hit both those aspects, and quite well, IMO.

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Cain
post Oct 21 2007, 02:35 PM
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Getting kind of sick of repeating myself. So, here goes: The infamous review from RPG.net:
QUOTE ("Grandmaster_Cain")

Review of “Runner Havens?
Style: 4
Substance: 2

Runner Havens is the first major release for the SR4 line, where they start by introducing the core settings of the game. That’s right, settings *plural*: for the first time, Shadowrun has stepped away from Seattle, and is now trying to introduce an entire world to you all at once. The SR4 core book unapologetically lacks any sort of core setting whatsoever, so this book has been demanded by many fans, who want to see how the Shadowrun legacy has been carried on.

Production-wise, this is a beautiful book, clocking in at a fairly solid 144 pages. The oddball Prescott line drawings are noticeably absent, mostly replaced with some nice charcoal illustrations of street scenes. For those of you who’ve read my past review of "On the Run?, you should know that this is a hardcopy; I haven’t found out yet if Fanpro is bundling printer-friendly pdfs yet, so I’d still suggest that you not buy a pdf from them if you plan on printing it.

The book opens with a rather annoying “JackPoint? illustration, which reminds me entirely too much of the MSN homepage. It then launches itself full-force into the runner haven of Hong Kong. Immediately, you’re drawn into the tale of the city, and you’re rapidly carried through a bold vision of Hong Kong in the future.

I’m going to stop for a moment and let a few biases show. It’s been decades since I was in Hong Kong, and I mostly spent a few drunken nights with some bar girls in Kowloon. However, the memories of that time are emblazoned into my memory. I’ll never be that young and stupid again, but I’d be very disappointed if any vision of Hong Kong didn’t remind me of those astounding moments.

Well, I wasn’t disappointed. Far from it, in fact. The Hong Kong of 2070 not only carries with it all of the elements that have always made Hong Kong an amazing city, but has added to it. What’s more, the unique Shadowrun elements have been woven in beautifully; the addition of the “dragon lines? and “astral shallows? makes magic seamlessly blend into the cityscape. The Hong Kong presented here is a wonderful, alive, organic thing; it doesn’t just present a nifty list of things that Shadowrunners can do, it introduces you to a complete core setting, down to the fine details, making the whole place stand out.

But, to paraphrase Morpheus: “The fault lies not in your technique, Neo.? My gamer ADD has been worse than usual recently; I’ve either picked up, read through, or played all of the following: Wushu, Feng Shui, BESM (all editions), 7th Sea Cathay, HKAT!, and a few others in the last six months. I’ve also skimmed Weapons of the Gods and Qin, the Warring States. Mythic China and Hong Kong have become overdone recently; done to death, in fact. Despite the best efforts of the writer, nothing much can save this section from feeling an awful lot like something from another game line. Heck, I kept getting some of the Shadowrun elements confused with Feng Shui Buro storylines. The Hong Kong presented here is vivid and real, and perhaps not as over-the-top as other visions; but it’s still unmistakably Hong Kong, and there’s an awful lot of it out there right now. This of it this way: suppose you hired one of the best chefs in the world, turned him loose in a McDonalds, and told him to make you a Big Mac. No matter how much love and skill he shows and puts into his work, you’re still only going to get a Big Mac. This section wins major points for being bold and creative, yet true to the Shadowrun core; however, it loses out, through no fault of its own, due to overexposure.

But let’s go back to the basics. Shadowrun’s home has always been Seattle; that is the most unique setting for the game, and the place that this game should bring alive. You just can’t have Shadowrun without Seattle at the core. I’m going to stop and admit to a few more biases: I’ve lived in Seattle for over twenty years now. In fact, on thing that attracted me to Shadowrun in the first place was that it was set in my adopted home town; I can still recall buying the core book at Northgate Mall, and seeing how my town had fared. I was always amazed at how they managed to preserve the character of my home, while still managed to update it enough to be something unique.

Well, I’m a known anti-SR4 guy around the net, so rather than starting with my own rant, let me start by quoting a major SR4 fan. Bull is probably the biggest (and definitely the largest =D) Shadowrun fan out there. Here’s what he has to say:

“One of the other ideas behind these books is that the cities are designed to be somewhat malleable... Hong Kong and Seattle are presented as two distinctly different, yet still similar, locales. But you could file off the serial numbers and transport the Seattle info to, say, Minneapolis, if you really wanted. And the smaller write ups give additional info for other locales to help you transplant them, as easily.?

The way Hong Kong is written, the culture and the religion and the jobs are all seamlessly blended together, so you can’t simply slap a Hong Kong adventure into Parsippany. However, as Bull himself pointed out, the vast majority of the Seattle writeup is straight boilerplate: it’s not Seattle, it’s [insert name here] sprawl. This would be great if you’re looking for a book on how to create a nameless, faceless sprawl; but you buy a core setting book to learn about the core settings! Hong Kong comes across as a living, breathing entity; Seattle comes across as just another fill-in-the-blank city.

For example, let’s look at the Ork Underground. The Ork Underground has its history in the Great Seattle Fire of 1889, after which people simply built right over the first floors of the old buildings, leaving an amazing series of underground rooms and tunnels; you can even take a tour of it to this day. Originally, Shadowrun wove that history into the Ork Underground, blending fiction and fact into a unique view. Now, the Ork Underground is simply described as a vauge place under ground level that caters to orks, and has a particular attitude. You can fit that into any city, anywhere, which really removes one of the unique Seattle elements.

The Seattle as presented in Runner Havens can, with a small amount of white-out, become just about any other North American city you want it to be. Where Hong Kong is bold and inspired, Seattle is flat, uninspired, and overly generic. They made a few references to older Shadowrun material, probably in response to the overwhelming fan complaints about the lack of a setting, but they managed to lose the entire feel of the city; it’s like they mistook in-jokes for atmosphere. There’s just enough references to past material to confuse new players, while not enough substance to make Seattle come alive.

After the main two cities, we’re treated to four shorts: Hamburg, Caracas, Cape Town, and Istanbul (not Constantinople). These vary a bit in quality, but are solid performers overall. For example, Istanbul can be made over into many different Middle Eastern cities; but the shorts aren’t meant to provide as much of a core as an overview, anyway. They're solid capsule reviews, and do a decent job of stimulating the imagination, but that's about it.

Finally, there's a section on how to create your own runner haven. Unfortunately, most of the advice given could apply to just about any city, anywhere. The three elements of a runner haven-- Megacorps, Underworld, and Politics-- are pretty much a given in just about any city in the world nowadays.

Conclusion:

If I were coming to Shadowrun for the first time, I’d think that it was meant to be set in Hong Kong. That’s how dramatic the difference is in originality, creativity, and depth is between the “core settings?. Unfortunately, there’s far too much Hong Kong stuff out there right now, so even a very good Hong Kong setting is going to suffer in comparison. And what’s more, it’s focused more heavily on presenting a view of Hong Kong than it is of Shadowrun. The same section would make a very good supplement for Feng Shui or HKAT!; if you’re playing either of those, then this book might be worth looking at.

If you’re good at producing generic settings for Shadowrun, then you won’t need this book at all. If you’re looking for a core setting, however, you’re going to be disappointed; buy the old Seattle Sourcebooks instead. For your money, you’re going to get a good Hong Kong setting, a bland generic sprawl setting, and four short settings. Unless you plan on relocating your Shadowrun campaign to Hong Kong, then you can give this book a miss.
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