Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Untethered

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Back when I was a kid there was this poster, which read “All I needed to know in my life I learned from Star Trek”, and listed a series of life lessons from the old series, the one with Captain Kirk, that at the time was the only one. At the time it was considered a nerdy thing, and nothing to be proud – the poster was an in-joke for the members of the community.

A few days back I jokingly said to a friend that is a game designer that I’ve been using Shadowrun: Attitude as a lifestyle guide to navigate these strange years, and it works just fine. We had a laugh.
But then I took my copy out and started browsing it and realized that something must have been sitting at the back of my mind when I made that joke – because Attitude does in fact work as a good starting point to survive in this moment.

In case you missed it, Shadowrun is a very old roleplaying game – and yet not old enough to benefit from the Old School Revival. Currently in its fifth edition and with a strong fan base, it’s a sui generis cyberpunk game, taking place in the mid-21st century, in a world in which ultra-tech and magic co-exist (and the authors did a great job of making the two paradigms work together seamlessly).

Attitude is a sourcebook published in 2011, describing the “untethered lifestyle” of the “shadowrunners” – freelancers and mercenaries that do the dirty work in this highly connected corporate world. And sitting here in 2019, it reads like something from some fringe publisher specializing in current issues.

And of course, the world of freelancers in Shadowrun has a lot to do with automatic weapons and dirty jobs, but is it really that different? Backstabbing and loose alliances, people stealing your job or lowering the fees to burn you, the importance of networking over competence (at least until something blows up), the need to manage your funds, to have a plan B but without being trapped in it…

It’s so current it’s scary.
Then yes, of course there’s a lot of in-world information – this is a game supplement, after all. But really, looking at my workday today, i realize I’ve been on pages 7, 24, 27-33, 107, 136-139.
And I suddenly feel like playing a game again – even if it might turn out to bee too close for comfort.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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