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> Feral Cities: Chicago, Review of the first half.
post Dec 18 2008, 07:16 PM
Post #1

Shooting Target

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Well where to begin. This is my first time I've tried to do a real review so hopefully it remains coherent.

First, I'll state my bias. Shadowrun's metaplot has always been my favorite aspect of the game. It may be rambling, and semi-coherent at times but I love it. I remember buying Bug City as a wee lad and promptly sending my PC's there just in time for the wall to go up. It was a TPK, and it was glorious in all it's 14 year old power fantasy munchkinism. At any rate, I've got a lot of good memories of Chicago, and after reading Feral Cities I do plan on sending my group back there.

Part 1: No Place Like Home 5 pages
This is the history lesson that is by now a requirement for any Shadowrun book. The last time we saw anything dealing with Chicago was Bug City, which I think was published in around 91, long before most current players cracked a Shadowrun book. My first impression was that it was really cool to see them revisit what was, I think the first major metaplot event in the 6th world.

The history lesson is necessarily short, but well focused, and it should give most GM's and players a reasonable understanding of what the hell happened between 2055 and 2070, and why Chicago is so fucked up. There is a brief expose on the Universal Brotherhood, but details are sparse. Copies of both Bug City and Universal Brotherhood would be useful for any GM's who plan on spending much time in the windy city. Street Magic is also essential if you plan on actually using Insect Spirits/Shamans.

Part 2: Econopocalypse 7 pages
A discussion of how the economy of Chicago 'works'. As one might expect it is barter based, though there is a 'currency' based on hours of labour that also gets some attention. The chapter also discusses the various commodities that are most valuable in the city. For the most part there are no big surprises here, food, clean water, guns, medtech, survival gear, and sex are all discussed. They also mention Skillsofts which is an interesting idea that a lot of GM's would probably otherwise overlook.

However, all is not sunshine and roses. A big part IMO of what makes a post apocalyptic setting is the cobbled together system of trade that lets the whole thing run. If you actually plan on having your PC's be a part of CZ society then having an effective way to substitute Nuyen for something else is essential. Feral Cities is sorely lacking in this department. It says that people are willing to pay for outside goods, but does not explain how they would do so. It suggests a couple of alternate currencies, but there are no hints as to exchange rates. Money is an important motivator for Shadowrun characters and Chicago's economy basically removes this from the equation.

Part 3: Mutants Madmen and More 10 pages
A discussion of the factions, collectives, and gangs that make Chicago their home. This has a nice variety of different groups, from go-gangs turned warlords, to bug spirit servants, to smuggling organizations, to communes of 'civilians' just trying to scrape out an existence. It also discusses the Mafia, who naturally still have a significant presence. They all need fleshing out, but that's fine and there are a ton of potential plot hooks.

Part 4: Fallout Zones 8 pages.
The requisite discussion of the various neighborhoods, not only those that make up downtown Chicago, but the sub sprawls that surround the core. The various zones all have their own 'feel' and it does a fairly good job of explaining how the city continued to function after the bugs. One of the major features is a discussion of the toll keeper gangs, who charge for passage along the freeways that let vehicles avoid traveling through the CZ itself. There's also a rather interesting back and forth bit of Shadowtalk between Haze, Fastjack and the Man-of-Many-Names about what he did (or didn't do) to avert the disaster.

Part 5: Locusts and Honey 10 pages.
Some talk about the local wildlife. Honestly, most of this is pretty dull and could probably be done away with. To sum it up... The FABIII virus killed most the dual natured critters that we're used to. Devil rats are still common, there are a few hellhounds and awakened cats plus a single wyvern. Half a page is spent telling us that no, there are almost no vampires in Chicago. There are a few ghouls who survived the FABIII but other than that basically no infected. Beyond that, there are lots of bugs... Apparently lots of bees.

This section also discusses some of the more resilient free insect spirits and insect shamans that have survived. This ranges from a girl go gang that's into mantis, to a bunch of physads who follow Ant, and my personal favorite, a crazy toxic windigo insect shaman named the Foul One.

Part 6: Hot Spots 12 Pages.
The subheadings probably say it best. "Where to Meet, Where to Work, and Where to Deal. Standard runner stuff. At least some of this could be transplanted into other Z-Zones no problem. I'm highly amused by the one gun store called Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms. That place is just begging for a franchise in Redmond.

Part 7: The Hidden Hives. 1 page.
The places you do not want to go. If you feel like throwing your PC's up against the bugs then send them to one of these places. Short on detail, but if you have Bug City or UB it should be easy enough to flesh them out.

Overall Feral Cities has done a good job of updating the information found in Bug City and makes Chicago into an entertaining run location, either for a short detour from a regular campaign, or a short campaign in and of itself.
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post Dec 19 2008, 07:26 PM
Post #2

Running Target

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I ahve been waiting for this book for forever: Not only are the feral cities themselves interesting but the barrens in any city should be run an awful lot like this.

Some notes:
For there not being many ghouls left in the city, they feature pretty prominently in the artwork, neh?

About economy: they have some decent notes, the main reason it doesn't go into more detail is IRL not a whole lot is known about how economies function on the fringe like this, especially by game developers. Figuring that kind of stuff out is a hobby of mine, and one of the major things I'm looking forward to is making my players figure some of this stuff out in game. But on trade with outside groups, it always go through an intermediary. Essentially there are going to be groups, such as smugglers and organized crime, who can stockpile money and do the actual trading. The people inside don't trade with the outside, they trade with the middleman, which is how they get outside goods with no outside money. The fixers are esssential.
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