Review: Catalyst Game Labs – Digital Tools Box (Shadowrun)

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Digital Tools Box
Digital Tools Box is the PDF version of the Beginner Box Set and Runner’s Toolkit: Alphaware for the fantasy cyberpunk Shadowrun, published by Catalyst Game Labs.
By Aaron T. Huss
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Shadowrun Digital Tools Box is the PDF versions of the upcoming Beginner Box Set and Runner’s Toolkit: Alphaware. The Beginner Box Set is the penultimate quick start set for Shadowrun containing everything you need to get-up and get playing without digging too deep into the fiddly bits within the Shadowrun rules. You are presented with an extremely streamlined version of the rules, containing everything you need to get started, a collection of pregenerated characters, a book of Shadowrun fluff describing the way things are in the setting, an introductory mission, and an abbreviated GM’s screen. As stated, everything you need to get started. This is a teaser of the system and gives you a look at what’s possible with the game.

Runner’s Toolkit: Alphaware steps the action up by presented a deeper look at the Shadowrun rules, a full dossier of the pregenerated characters instead of simple quick start sheets, additional tools for the GM to utilize, more options (like gear and character types) pulled from the core rulebook, and “Alphaware Cards” to spice things up a bit. It’s essentially an add-on to the Beginner Box Set and designed to take the pregenerated characters through their subsequent missions and present the players with new features to either expand on the pregenerated characters or create their own.

I was given the pleasure of reviewing the Shadowrun 5th Edition core rulebook and I’ll admit something: it’s a lot to take in all at one time. The Digital Tools Box, and the included Beginner Box Set and Runner’s Toolkit: Alphaware, is by far a better starting point for those who’ve never been exposed to the setting, rules, or both. The mission included in the Beginner Box Set is a bit quick, it does present you with many aspects of the basic concepts of Shadowrun. If the GM and the players like what they see, then why not step up to the Runner’s Toolkit: Alphaware or the full core rulebook? The beauty of the Digital Tools Box is that you get both of these products in a single, low-cost offering. (Although I’ll bet the printed versions will be beautiful.) In fact, you could probably get full satisfaction out of Shadowrun with just these two products (or the single PDF set combining them) and simply pick-up mission supplements as you go along to prolong that experience.

The Digital Tools Box appears to have one marketing focus: introduce new and potential customers to Shadowrun (in electronic format). Does it do that? Absolutely! Does it do it well? Absolutely!! This is by far one of the best introductory sets I’ve seen as it takes the time to present the core of the setting (Seattle) alongside the core of the rules. Many introductory kits neglect the former and concentrate more on the latter. Sometimes the included adventure presents a taste of the setting, but do you really get the opportunity to understand it? Catalyst Game Labs goes that extra mile by helping you to understand the basis of the Shadowrun setting by including it in the Beginner Box Set. This might be enough to draw you in!

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