Shadowrun Cutting Black Sourcebook Review

Hello everyone, Darryl here to talk about a topic I have trouble shutting up about, Shadowrun. Catalyst Game Labs has been nice enough to provide me with review copies in PDF format of their two upcoming sourcebooks for Shadowrun Sixth World Edition, the event book Cutting Black and the adventure 30 Nights (which I'll be taking a look at later). In an additional disclosure, I have personal and professional relationships with several designers on this book and one of them appears as a co-host on my Twitch stream every other Sunday.

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The Shadowrun line has historically done things a little differently when it comes to expanding the core rules. Event books like Cutting Black are presented as in-universe documents like news reports, blog posts, call recording transcripts, and the like posted to the illicit bulletin board system Jackpoint (which replaced Shadowland following Crash 2.0). The denizens of this message board will annotate the document with their own knowledge, thoughts, and random speculation (along with the occasional trolling of one another), which was one of the ways Shadowrun was a bit precognizant of FASA as the sourcebooks have been written this way all the way back to 1st Edition back in 1989, predating the modern social media landscape by at least a couple of decades. It gives the books a verisimilitudinous feel by putting you in the setting and also gives GMs the out of “unreliable narrator” for anything they want to adjust or skip over for their home games. These event books function in much the same way campaign setting books work in other games, acting as a massive collection of plot hooks for gamemasters to expand on. They’re also pretty damn fun to read.

Cutting Black covers the events of July 2080 through March 2081 which radically alter the entire setting of Shadowrun in more than a few major ways. It’s interesting this book came out after 6e released rather than at the tail end of 5e as it’s typical for the “world-shattering” event book to close out an edition to make way for the new one (as previously done with System Failure from 3rd to 4th and Storm Front from 4th to 5th). That said, putting out these major changes at the start of the edition cycle works well for new players coming in, particularly returning players from older editions, as it puts the major changes right up front and in context of the events rather than summarized in a brief timeline in the core rulebook.

So, let’s talk about those changes…well, the entire theme of the book seems to be that the United Canadian American States is fraaaaaaaaged.

So quick history for those who don't know Shadowrun that well. At some point after the Awakening when magic returned to the world, the United States and Canada merged into one nation called the United Canadian American States (UCAS). Also, the states of the Southern United States seceded to create the Confederate American States (CAS). Also also, several indigenous North American tribes rebelled against the United States and formed their own countries out of most of the Western United States, known collectively as the Native American Nations (NAN). The result is a map that looks something like this:

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Without going too much into spoilers just yet...it doesn't look like that by the end of the book.

Before we get into the events, I wanted to talk about what the book covers in terms of locations. Full write-ups are given to the cities of Detroit, St. Louis, and Atlanta with smaller sections on the United Kingdom, Quebec, and the Algonkian-Manitou Council. Detroit in particular is given setting statistics and information from both before and after the events of the book, which is important because the city is completely different following everything that happens.

So here’s your delineation for spoilers as, while I won’t go into too much detail or spoil the biggest twists in the book, I will start talking about what happens in general so this is your final warning if you want to be completely surprised. Because while I am giving away some of the events and this may seem like I'm spoiling a lot, I promise I’m not giving away the biggest twists. Seriously, there’s more than this.

The book starts with Ares Macrotechnology, a megacorporation whose major focus is military and security, attempting to resolve the Insect Spirit problem once and for all in a massive strike called Operation: Latvian Gambit. It failed. It failed so hard. Ares attempted to gather all the insect spirits in the world in Detroit into one huge mega-hive on par if not exceeding with the one in Chicago in 2055 (you know, the one so big they had to drop a nuke on downtown Chicago to get rid of) to wipe them all out. Unsurprisingly, they grossly underestimated their enemy.

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The entire situation was made worse when Ares’s major secret weapon, a new type of manifest insect spirit called “Alphas” as part of their long-running experimentation on the bugs, went rogue almost immediately and attacking anyone and anything near them. The only saving grace is they seem to prefer attacking insect spirits over metahumans, but it’s still supersoldier insect spirits roaming the city with nothing on their agenda but death.

As a small digression, one thing I loved about the writing in this section is the Jackpoint comments. The chapter starts with their point of view of events from the outside, only knowing that Ares had amassed much of their military force in Detroit for an “upgrade” and that communications suddenly went out as the Matrix seemingly shut down. One user tries to say “Well this could be exactly what it seems to be on the surface, a widespread upgrade to their military and just a normal system failure” and pretty much everyone else on Jackpoint going “Oh, my sweet summer child, it’s never what it seems and this always always always ends up being A Thing.” The other in particular is the reaction of Bull, the board’s old-timer, who immediately reacts the same way I would remembering the events of Universal Brotherhood and Bug City by immediately overreacting.

Said overreaction was entirely justified as the fight is even more complicated than Ares vs Bugs vs Alphas as there is also a large number of former Ares soldiers in Detroit who saw this massive clusterfrag coming and defected. They’ve teamed up with shadowrunners, gangers, and civilians calling themselves collectively The Irregulars and have set up shop in Platinum, a former strip club which was owned by a former shadowrunner who made the place like a bunker in case of such an eventuality. And while the Irregulars do their best to protect citizens and reduce the threat of the bugs, they have to do so while also avoiding engagement with Ares soldiers who have been told on the Irregulars are shoot-on-sight.

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One thing that happens during the middle of the disaster is the UCAS government sends about a third of their entire military force to Detroit as an attempt to one-up Ares in the public relations department by marching in to save the city from the “neo-anarchist terrorist group attacking the city” (the cover story provided to the general public). They only make it to western Pennsylvania before disappearing in a giant mysterious fog. This event gets its own chapter but it’s never really expanded upon and, aside from a few very brief speculations as to the cause, it’s never said exactly what happens. This chapter feels very out of place and the only thing I can think of is that it was shoehorned in to set up some future events without actually integrating it properly into the events of the rest of the book.

The other major development coming from Detroit is that, because of Ares’s inability to contain the chaos they caused, the UCAS announces a repeal of the Business Recognition Accords. If your jaw didn’t drop like mine did when I read that, let me explain. The entire setting of Shadowrun is based around the idea of megacorporate extraterritoriality. That means corporations of a specific size are treated as nation-states unto themselves and their corporate property is literally foreign soil. So if you walk into your nearest Stuffer Shack convenience store, you are officially leaving the UCAS and walking onto Aztechnology soil and subject to their laws. The majority of the population are not citizens of a country but citizens of a corporation. The piece of law allowing this (technically a treaty with the Corporate Court) is the Business Recognition Accords. By withdrawing from it, UCAS stated that they no longer recognized the extraterritoriality of any corporation. Wow.

The second disaster comes not long after the BRA repeal when a large flash explodes in the sky of Philadelphia, followed by a city-wide blackout that scrambles every single electronic device. Which sounds like a just a pretty major inconvenience in a heavily technological society...except this is a cyberpunk society so the immediate death toll was in the thousands as people’s cybernetic eyes, arms, legs, spines, and in some cases hearts and lungs suddenly stopped functioning. Then it happened again in Baltimore an hour later. Then in Bangor, Halifax, Newark, Providence, St. John, Bismarck, Lexington, St. Louis, and Toronto. All cities in the United Canadian American States.

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The remainder of the first half of the book is devoted to the fallout of this sort of blackout and how it affects major metropolitan areas along with the politics of the UCAS leadership. It seems that pissing off every single corporation both big and small when said corporations have the power of entire nations means it becomes suddenly difficult to get foreign assistance during a disaster. So any aid even from the United Nations was slow-walked through the bureaucratic and diplomatic processes and the corporations themselves saw no reason to render assistance outside of their own property and people (as if there’s a difference between the two to a megacorp).

These chapters make a point of driving home what sort of living nightmare it is living in a cyberpunk world with no technology. Starvation is rampant for a variety of reasons. First, GridLink is down, which is more than just an AI-assisted GPS but also the way electric cars get power so shipments can’t actually come into the city without taking special precautions to make sure they have the fuel to get out again. Then there’s the pure logistics of a society so dependent on electronics. There may be plenty of non-perishable canned foods on store shelves and in warehouses, but how do you get to the food inside when there are no manual can openers?

To make matters worse, without proper communication or even functional weapons (yes, even guns have electronic firing mechanisms and thus were rendered inoperable), attempts by law enforcement and private security to maintain order in an already chaotic world become impossible as gangs and organized crime start to take over. Some of them are more benevolent than one would expect by aiding their neighborhoods, but others not so much. And if that weren’t bad enough, spirits that thrive on human misery and conflict like wraiths began to work their magic and heighten tensions even further to the point of almost universal violence and mini-riots throughout the affected cities.

And if things couldn’t get any worse for the UCAS, their neighboring countries smelled blood in the water and a few started to take advantage. The independent nation of Quebec attempted to reclaim all of Francophile Canada from the UCAS and were only barely repelled when the Sioux attacked across five different states in the west, claiming much of the Dakotas, Kansas, and other areas. Of course, if it’s not enemies without it’s defectors within as Kentucky announced their secession from the UCAS to join the Confederate American States. The biggest blow, however, may be the declaration of St. Louis and Seattle as free cities with the megacorporations headquartered there and, for Seattle, their powerful neighboring nations. The cherry on top? Ares, who always billed themselves as the All-American Corporation, announced they’re pulling all assets from UCAS and moving their headquarters to Atlanta.

The book ends with the aforementioned descriptions of the key locations as they are now and a bit of shadow speculation as to what caused everything, though no firm answers are provided. The one mystery that isn’t discussed at all in the closing chapters is the fog that ate a third of UCAS’s military and a few cities in western Pennsylvania.

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So time for my opinion of the book. I’d be lying if I said it was the best effort I’ve seen from Catalyst Game Labs. I personally found the media sourcebook No Future much more fun to read. The organization seems to be the biggest issue with the book as it’s trying to serve two masters – being a useful campaign sourcebook for a roleplaying game and being an interesting to read piece of fiction – and not doing well for either.

The book covers two big events that overlap one another slightly in the timeline, as the Blackouts start in the middle of the Detroit Bug plot, and the third overarching story with the downslide of UCAS’s political standing takes place over the course of all of it. However, each section is kept to its own chapters so you get bits and pieces of the story in different areas, like finding out the general overview of what happens to Ares after the end of the Detroit events but not finding out the full story of what happened until the UCAS political chapters, or the results of the UCAS Presidential Election when the last mention of the elections was that they’re being indefinitely postponed due to all the crises going on. This split makes it hard to follow the plot if you’re reading it as fiction as the story constantly spoils itself. This could be excused if it were easier to reference, but the organization doesn’t really help in that regard as several times writing this review, I had to flip all over the place to find information. I spent a few minutes flipping around through what I thought were relevant sections trying to find out what places other than Kentucky seceded to join the CAS as there were other places that jumped to the Confederation, but I eventually had to give up so I could finish the review.

The organizational issues also open up a few plot holes. Like I said before, both Ares and the UCAS government claim that the incident in Detroit is due to “neo-anarchist terrorist attacks” to prevent widespread panic from the public learning of another megahive of insect spirits breaking out. But later on, the President of the UCAS uses the insect spirits in Detroit explicitly as her excuse for some of the actions she takes. So does that mean at some point everyone abandoned the public story? And there was no fallout from the public being so blatantly lied to like that on either side, particularly when the UCAS and Ares were stated multiple times to be in a public relations war with one another over Detroit? And I know I’ve brought it up a few times, but the entire chapter about the damn fog feels just so out of place because no explanation is given or even hinted at and it’s barely mentioned outside its own chapter. For all I know, the fog sent several regiments of the UCAS military with tanks and all into Ravenloft and Strahd’s having a massive “What in the nine hells is that?” moment. All the other major events in the book weave into one another the way a series of major disasters will tend to do, but the fog just isn’t integrated in the same way to the rest of the book.

With all my complaints about the organization, I should note that the same issues have been part of the Shadowrun line since its inception. The issues just seem a bit more pronounced in this book than others because older books from 1st through 3rd Edition tended to be more narrowly focused in their sections, so it seemed to make a bit more sense that a commenter would bring up something you wouldn’t get the full details on until later in the book and it never quite felt as much of a spoiler as it did here. Probably because one of the biggest plot twists in the book is done in such a way, where it’s mentioned at the end of one chapter with next to no fanfare as if everyone already knows what’s going on then is fully explained a good 20-30 pages later in the book.

The organization aside, the sections themselves are very well-written and the plot is full of so many wham moments that you’d think it would end up overwhelming but somehow isn’t. The writers have managed to take a sledgehammer to a major part of the game’s setting and they do so with a sort of glee, but it never feels haphazard or that it wasn’t done with deliberate calculation (with the exception of the fog because I seriously cannot get over how shoehorned that whole bit feels). The events are presented in interesting ways from unique and changing viewpoints that keep the book fresh and fun to read. Well, at least until the last few chapters where it’s just city overviews, but it’s really hard to make “Here’s population density information, a list of airports and hotels, and information about city districts” feel fun to read. No matter how hard you try, it’s always going to come across as one of those Visitor’s Guides you get in the mail from random travel bureaus, even with random shadowrunners giving their two cents.

It’s a good thing that the writing is so strong because this is a must-read sourcebook for Shadowrun players who play in the canon world. If you’re not so worried about the official metaplot you can probably skip it as the only game information is updated stats for insect spirits. However, if you plan to involve the metaplot in your games even a little or even just read any upcoming sourcebooks at any time, you have to read this book because of the massive changes made to the setting. Like I said, it may seem like I spoiled a lot but I didn’t even get near the tip of the iceberg in terms of everything that happens. Don’t blame me if you pick up Firing Squad for the new gun rules when it comes out and are shocked and confused how [Spoiler Redacted] died.

Cutting Black is a 176 pages campaign setting book for Shadowrun Sixth World and is available now on DriveThruRPG in PDF for $22.99 and will be released this month in hardcover for a retail price of $44.99. (Edited to update PDF availability)
 
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Darryl Mott

Comments

Abstruse

Adventurer
Side note: I'll be around editing the podcast for the week so if anyone has any specific questions about the book, feel free to ask!
 

Shawn Dritz

Villager
Pulling out of the Corporate Accords is a HUGE change in setting, do they say at all about how they make it stick?
Because can't see the CC just take it laying down.
 

Abstruse

Adventurer
Pulling out of the Corporate Accords is a HUGE change in setting, do they say at all about how they make it stick?
Because can't see the CC just take it laying down.
That's part of the big speculation (did the Big Ten cause the blackouts as punishment and, if so, how did they do it?) and is the main focus of the political chapters. They're all about President Colloton and Ares butting heads, the repealing of the BRA, and the repercussions and PR wars that follow. It's even more of a focus than the invasions by Quebec and the Sioux. What happens with the BRA is kind of the close of that chapter so I didn't want to say whether it stays repealed, gets re-enacted, or if it gets replaced by something else entirely.
 

Ulfgeir

Explorer
Pulling out of the Corporate Accords is a HUGE change in setting, do they say at all about how they make it stick?
Because can't see the CC just take it laying down.
Another Omega order in the making? Haven't followed the timeline in quite some time now.
 

Abstruse

Adventurer
Another Omega order in the making? Haven't followed the timeline in quite some time now.
Quite possibly. In this case I'm not being coy about spoilers, we don't actually know the details of how the Corporate Court responded outside the PR p***ing match between President Colloton and Ares Macrotechnology. The only thing that's pretty much confirmed is they pressured the United Nations into slow-walking international aid to the UCAS during the blackout crisis.

However, the biggest theory about the cause of the blackouts is that the Corporate Court did something. No one's sure what because we don't know what caused the blackouts, but it happened not long after the UCAS repealed the BRA so the timing fits. Or it could've been the NAN doing it since the current working theory is that the blackouts were magical in nature (since there's nothing that indicates a standard EMP even though it had similar effects).

But all of this is conjecture (some of it mine, most of it from Jackpoint) because it's one of those open-ended mysteries for you and your players to explore. How would the Corporate Court react? And would they hire your team to do something about it?
 

Abstruse

Adventurer
Hr.

As you present it, it sounds a step away from dystopia and towards apocalyptic, which is not really what I want out of Shadowrun...
Not anymore apocalyptic than any of the previous big events in Shadowrun. Chicago/Bug City, Renraku Archology Shutdown, Year of the Comet, Crash 2.0, or the stuff from before the game even started like the VITAS plagues, Night of Rage, the Great Ghost Dance, the first Crash, the great New York earthquake...not to mention just the Awakening itself.

The only thing really different about this compared to the others is that it didn't happen the week of Christmas.

But more seriously, the disasters are limited to the UCAS and only the indirect implications affect the rest of the world so this isn't affecting Tokyo, London, Berlin, Beijing, etc. etc. or even neighbors in CAS, NAN, California Free State, Tir Tairngire, or Aztlan all that much.
 

Abstruse

Adventurer
Also, there are conclusions to all these plotlines. The blackouts don't last forever and infrastructure comes back up in the cities after a while. I just didn't want to spoil too many of the stories explaining when, how, and who gets the power back.

Though the title of the adventure book tied into this event, 30 Nights, kind of gives away how long the blackouts last :p
 

Stacie GmrGrl

Explorer
Wow, this all sounds like somebody woke up and threw a dart at a "whodowewanttofrag" dart board and the dart landed on UCAS.

All of this would be better if we actually understood the state of North America as a whole and what the status quo of the many various nations of NA were at before the events of this book.

I don't think I can remember there being a book in the last ten years that even talks about the Confederated States, or the NAN for that matter.
 

Derren

Adventurer
Does the book offer any information about how the repeal of the accords affect running? After all hopping juristictions should now be a thing of the past with KE (and Docwagon) having access to everything in theory etc. Or is this just an announcement and has not happened yet?

But I have to agree with Umbran. Much too apocalyptic for my taste. Even if only temporary I do not like "world shattering events" all that much in Shadowrun. Yes, System Failure was imo nice, but I rather just have normal chaos like a stock market crash than such superdisaster.
 

Abstruse

Adventurer
Does the book offer any information about how the repeal of the accords affect running? After all hopping juristictions should now be a thing of the past with KE (and Docwagon) having access to everything in theory etc. Or is this just an announcement and has not happened yet?
No, it happens. They make a point of saying how fast it happens too, by Washington DC standards anyway.

They do talk about how it affects Knight Errant and, to a lesser extent, DocWagon and Lone Star. The short version is that KE has a kill clause in their contracts and executed it, meaning they pulled out in very short order from every UCAS city they had a contract with. Lone Star stepped in to pick up the slack and get back quite a few contracts they'd lost to KE over the recent years and there was some last-minute negotiating between some cities and Ares directly to keep their contracts active. DocWagon said they'd still honor their contracts but with caveats. I mean why wouldn't they? Every extraction from a city affected by the blackouts was considered an HRT so they raked in millions from that alone.
 

Abstruse

Adventurer
Wow, this all sounds like somebody woke up and threw a dart at a "whodowewanttofrag" dart board and the dart landed on UCAS.

All of this would be better if we actually understood the state of North America as a whole and what the status quo of the many various nations of NA were at before the events of this book.

I don't think I can remember there being a book in the last ten years that even talks about the Confederated States, or the NAN for that matter.
Neo-Anarchist Streetpedia is basically the "Do you need to catch up on Shadowrun lore?" sourcebook. A lot of short entries on various locations (and NPCs and corporations and organized crime groups and big events and etc. etc.) that act to bring people who are brand new to the setting up to speed or to just give updates on what happened to people who may have skipped an edition or two. As far as I remember, there's nothing actually new in the book, it just brings all the little changes here and there over the last couple decades into one place so you don't have to go hunting down an obscure 4e sourcebook or 5e Missions adventure to learn what happened to a location. That said, the entries are limited to a couple paragraphs each, so if you do want more detailed information, you have to go digging.
 

Derren

Adventurer
No, it happens. They make a point of saying how fast it happens too, by Washington DC standards anyway.

They do talk about how it affects Knight Errant and, to a lesser extent, DocWagon and Lone Star. The short version is that KE has a kill clause in their contracts and executed it, meaning they pulled out in very short order from every UCAS city they had a contract with. Lone Star stepped in to pick up the slack and get back quite a few contracts they'd lost to KE over the recent years and there was some last-minute negotiating between some cities and Ares directly to keep their contracts active. DocWagon said they'd still honor their contracts but with caveats. I mean why wouldn't they? Every extraction from a city affected by the blackouts was considered an HRT so they raked in millions from that alone.
What I meant is that now DocWagon would technically be allowed to extract Runners from everywhere, even from inside corporation compounds, and using force if necessary. And Lone Star/KE would have jurisdiction everywhere, even in the local Aztechnology HQ.

That changes the dynamics of the setting a lot and I don't get the feeling that this decision was well thought out.

And imo there have been too many disaster recently anyway. The UCAS is basically half destroyed by now.
Chicago: Still recovering from the second bug business
Boston: Quarantined because of CFD
Didn't the closing of the rift not also do a number on Washington?
And now St Louis, Seattle and Detroit are lost.

Its a bit much, especially for the limited timeframe in which this is happening.
 
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Abstruse

Adventurer
What I meant is that now DocWagon would technically be allowed to extract Runners from everywhere, even from inside corporation compounds, and using force if necessary. And Lone Star/KE would have jurisdiction everywhere, even in the local Aztechnology HQ.

That changes the dynamics of the setting a lot and I don't get the feeling that this decision was well thought out.
Yeah, those concerns are addressed. Here and there KE takes advantage of it to take a peek around other corps' facilities while "in pursuit of a suspect", but they do their best not to step on anyone's toes too much lest they piss off the other AAAs more than UCAS has.

But trust me, I've been playing the game since 1991. I own somewhere around 2/3 of all the books ever printed in physical copies and the rest digitally. In my opinion, they did a good job balancing between breaking UCAS and making it unplayable by the end of the book. The blackouts only last about a month and the book takes place over the course of almost an entire year so there's plenty of time to rebuild, and enough of the status quo is returned overall that, while everything has changed, it's not unrecognizable. The UCAS still exists and is still the UCAS, there's just less of it and a lot of their hubris has been stripped from them.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Not anymore apocalyptic than any of the previous big events in Shadowrun. Chicago/Bug City, Renraku Archology Shutdown, Year of the Comet, Crash 2.0, or the stuff from before the game even started like the VITAS plagues, Night of Rage, the Great Ghost Dance, the first Crash, the great New York earthquake...not to mention just the Awakening itself.
VITAS, the Night of Rage, the Great Ghost Dance, the Awakening, those are all pre-game for everyone. Yes, lots of folks are hurt. They bring about the dystopia. For our heroes, the world is dystopian, not post-apocalyptic.

Renraku arclogy shutdown was local to it. Chicago/Bug city, also effectively local to one city. Crash 2.0 gave rise to... a world in most ways the same as before - largely because it was an excuse to bet Shadowrun technologically up to date.

This sounds like it basically throws an entire nation into the dumpster, into conditions that are post-apocalyptic.

But more seriously, the disasters are limited to the UCAS and only the indirect implications affect the rest of the world so this isn't affecting Tokyo, London, Berlin, Beijing, etc. etc. or even neighbors in CAS, NAN, California Free State, Tir Tairngire, or Aztlan all that much.
Yeah, well, everyone I know (which, admittedly, isn't a representative sample) is used to playing... in the UCAS. Those other places were where we went for visits to show a bit of something exotic, or a comparison to the PCs normal lives, or as a source of invading antagonists. The thing we are used to just got tanked.

This is always a potential issue with game metaplot - while you want to keep things fresh, if you change the world too much, or in the wrong way, there's folks who are going to decide you went too far. They did a major rewrite of the world sociopolitics, and that was a thing I was not looking for them to do. Unfortunately, it basically means that all the setting materials published from this point on... I am apt to avoid. Given that published modules often grounded in the world plots, I am apt to avoid them too... and thus possibly avoid the 6th edition overall.

You posted a review. I'm giving some feedback based on it. I'm not looking for you to defend the work, or convince me. Your review of the work has pretty much done that.
 

Stacie GmrGrl

Explorer
What does this mean for Seattle, now that the UCAS has been fragged into a near apocalyptic hole and Seattle was part of the UCAS?
 

zhivik

Villager
What does this mean for Seattle, now that the UCAS has been fragged into a near apocalyptic hole and Seattle was part of the UCAS?
I guess Seattle will have to do on its own, though this particular development was heavily hinted in various 5e books, and it was a matter of time before Seattle seceded. I suppose they will rely on heavy corporate presence as counter balance to the surrounding NAN states, something similar to Hong Kong. Who knows, they might even get a megacorp move its HQ to Seattle, as I expect Seattle still honours the BRA.

I guess a major shakeup was necessary, but I do long for a proper wiki for the Shadowrun universe, especially after so many events take place in adventure books, rather than setting ones. I guess the Neo-Anarchist Streetpedia will have to do until something better comes up.
 

Abstruse

Adventurer
What does this mean for Seattle, now that the UCAS has been fragged into a near apocalyptic hole and Seattle was part of the UCAS?
I guess Seattle will have to do on its own, though this particular development was heavily hinted in various 5e books, and it was a matter of time before Seattle seceded. I suppose they will rely on heavy corporate presence as counter balance to the surrounding NAN states, something similar to Hong Kong.
Pretty much exactly this. Seattle ends up a Free City, but the method it does so is pretty interesting and a clever little plot. There's a digital-only adventure called Free Seattle that came out a couple months ago about that as well, but I don't have a copy of that so I'm not sure exactly how it ties into the overall events aside from the obvious. But Seattle pretty much wraps itself in allies nearby (including a few very surprising ones) before making its move for independence as the entire mess of late 2080/early 2081 was the...I don't want to say "straw the broke the camel's back" but more like a massive 2x4 thrown onto the pile of other reasons that made it a pretty unanimous decision.
 

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