Art of the Genre

I have to say, at one time during my early college years I was a Shadowrun junkie. The game was so cutting edge at the time, so ‘real’, and yet so far-fetched, I just couldn’t help but buy everything I could get my hands on. I remember my roommate at the time, Jason, who was a non-gamer, pick up the 1st Edition Core book, read some of it, and then said ‘This game is on this side of cool’. For a pre-med student, that was pretty high praise, and I absolutely agreed with him.

One of the first supplements I got for the game was the Street Samurai Catalog, produced in 1989 and written by Tom Dowd. In reality, there isn’t much to it, and yet it is paramount to the system. In fact, it’s little more than an item catalog, but unlike magic items tomes in D&D, this book was SO important and cool that I read and used it until the cover almost came off.

The art is really little more than some standard design stuff for weapons, but one thing I take away from it now is the incredible work the art department did in facilitating the presentation. Now remember, this was WAY pre-Internet, like in the days of closed network college MUDs when email was a brand new concept and 80% of incoming college freshman didn’t own a personal computer. Still, FASAs vision of the future, and more importantly the Internet Shopping Cart, would incredibly dead on. If you take a look at any of the interior black and white work, you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about.

At the time, I never even paid attention to the upper right graphic, but after nearly two decades of cyber shopping, and owning my own cyber business, those icons immediately jump out at me as both important and innovative.

With a cover by FASA veteran Steve Venters, the book stands out, and I was certainly captured by the image, but I think the back character arctypes were probably my favorite pieces. Artist Jeff Laubenstein once again took on the task of creating more ‘iconics’, and some of these were so well received that he ended up colorizing them and they were added into the Shadowrun 2nd Edition Core book.

Overall, I give this product incredibly high marks for what it brought to the gaming table nearly twenty-five years ago.

Artistic Rating: 4 [out of 5]

Written by Scott Taylor — October 06, 2014


Todd Lockwood:

Oh, Shadowrun. Great game. Never saw this book though. I like your observations about cyber-shopping and the internet, though.

The companion game that followed later, Earthdawn, might have been my favorite RPG. The character I played in it was certainly among my favorite characters. My group was playing Earthdawn when I left Colorado to take the job at TSR in 1996. They’re still playing itl

October 06 2014 at 12:10 PM


Todd: I too played Earthdawn, but went back to D&D when the system just became too much to handle on a consistent basis, but yes, Earthdawn is awesome, especially in setting. FASA is producing Earthdawn 5th Edition with Jeff as the AD, so I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with!

October 06 2014 at 12:10 PM


Pre-internet is right. I remember hearing about this cool thing called e-mail a year or 2 after this supplement came out.

Around that same time, I read Neuromancer (and Gibson) for the first time. I was already hooked on Shadowrun with Scott, and finding Neuromancer was like finding a lost gospel.

We played the hell out of that game, and Laubenstein provided our mental vision of the characters and the sprawl. It was a great event meeting Jeff 20 years later, and I am proud to say I have an original Laubenstein on my wall.

October 06 2014 at 01:10 PM


Murph: If I’m correct, you and perhaps less then 20 people in the world have original Laubenstein’s on their walls, and I’ve been responsible for fifteen of those! :) Yes, we played this game till our heads heart, but it was really, really, amazing in its day. I’d like to say I could recapture the magic in the bottle, but I’m not really sure that is possible. Still, I’m glad we had the chance to do it. Oh, and remember ‘Yellow Triangle’ :)

October 06 2014 at 01:10 PM

Leave a comment