My regard for Shadowrun didn't start with the PC games. I started with the SNES RPG before moving on to a slate of ill-fated runs in the tabletop game. Somewhere in a forgotten closet, I may even have one of the figures from the collectible action figure skirmish game. There's a sly, mythic hearts to these neon leather orcs and dragons manipulating megacorporations while punk cries ragged in the night. I spoke with Jason Hardy, Shadowrun line developer, to learn more about Shadowrun: Crossfire and how the core Shadowrun crew keeps in touch with their PC-gaming brethren.

Zach Welhouse: Shadowrun: Crossfire was released last year at Gen Con. What is it, and how is it different from the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game?
Jason Hardy: It is a cooperative deck-building game, so it has that in common with Pathfinder Adventures. I think one of the main differences, besides the setting, is the game has a longer timeline in how you advance the characters. The initial missions that come in the base game get pretty tough. The first one is hard enough for a new character; to get to the third one where you have to confront a dragon, you'll have to get a lot better.

The character advancement in Crossfire uses stickers. You earn karma and then buy stickers that give you more abilities and upgrade what you can do. Eventually they build you into a really powerful character capable of things you couldn't do right at the beginning. It takes a while to get that full measure of power. I think that long-term character development that sets it apart.

ZW: As part of this long-term character development, are you encouraged to play with the same people around the table?
JH: You can do a mix. As long as you're doing your character you can bring in whatever other characters you want. Like the Shadowrun RPG, the balance of characters helps. If you're doing a run with three street samurai, you're going to learn there are things that won't work for you. You'll find a Matrix-based opponent or a magic opponent that you can't do anything against. Having a balance is good, but if you want to play with different people and have different mages at your side that's good too.

Working together in this game is incredibly important. If everyone tries to solo, you're dead. After the run, you all receive Karma which can be spent on an upgrade. Then you can figure out what sort of balance is needed between the team members for total success on the next run. I don't want to make it seem like you can't have success without upgrades, it's just really hard.

ZW: What sort of new upgrades are available in the expansion you're premiering today?
JH: The one we have here is Character Expansion 2. That has base character cards with new art, but it also has five street legend cards. These are characters who've previously appeared in the Shadowrun universe. They'll be a little more powerful coming out of the gate. It also has a whole new upgrade sticker set.

We also have a full expansion coming out soon called High Caliber Ops. That has an all-new sticker set. Those stickers will be in Character Expansion 2. That will have new obstacles, new black market cards, five new missions, the new stickers, two new role cards that are dual-colored so you can specialize in two different areas, and more of everything.

ZW: Is Jake Armitage from the Shadowrun RPG from the Super Nintendo one of the street legends? He shows up in Shadowrun Returns as well.
JH: We've made some references to him here and there, like Stolen Souls has an oblique reference to him.

ZW: Speaking of Shadowrun Returns and Harebrained Schemes, does Catalyst Labs have much back-and-forth with them?
JH: We have back-and-forth. We have a good pool of writers who know Shadowrun, so we're able to share talent and share knowledge with them. They have a great pool of talent too, so there's some good cross-pollination. Jennifer Brozek, who has written for Shadowrun before, also did a lot of the dialog for Shadowrun Returns. They have a Hong Kong sourcebook to go along with their Hong Kong version of the game, and we have freelancers on the RPG side who will be working on that.

There's good sharing of information because if we all have good writers working on Shadowrun, we should share.

ZW: I know Shadowrun is your personal specialty, but I did walk by the Harebrained Schemes booth and I saw the logo for their big BattleTech announcement. Is there a similar resource sharing going on there between your BattleTech people and theirs?
JH: Yeah! I mean, we have a good relationship with Harebrained Schemes. There's been sharing on all the stuff we've been doing. Since I'm on the Shadowrun side I haven't been as closely involved, but I know that the management at Catalyst and Harebrained Schemes have been talking about what they've been doing with BattleTech.

ZW: Awesome! Thank you. I don't want to take up too much of your time, but I have one final question. I've been away from the Shadowrun tabletop RPG since third edition. I know that fourth and fifth edition have advanced the game quite a bit. Is that correct?
JH: Yes. Fourth edition advanced the timeline forward by five years and changed the rules significantly.

ZW: What's the most interesting thing about the new Shadowrun that you wouldn't get in the old Shadowrun?
JH: To me, the most interesting thing is the moving parts of the game work together better than they ever have. In some ways, Shadowrun has always been three different games: a combat game, a spellcasting game, and a Matrix-hacking game. Now, the mechanics are more unified and they work together more simultaneously than they ever have. It's a lot easier to integrate the hacking with the combat with the infiltration so they're all working together — and of course, spellcasting can affect all those areas.

The total integration of all the parts is the best it's ever been.

ZW: I'll have to look into that. Thanks!
JH: My pleasure!

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