Introduction: Mr. Johnson's Little Black Book
by Rob Boyle
Mr. Johnson's Little Black Book is a gamemaster companion for Shadowrun, Third Edition. Though many parts of it will be on interest to players, the primary purpose of this book is to provide gamemasters with suggestions and tools for making their own Shadowrun games and campaigns more interesting. The only section of this book that players should not read is the On the Run chapter—you wouldn't want to spoil the excitement by reading an adventure's plot in advance now, would you?
This book aims to fill the gap left by two out-of-print rulebooks created during the first and second editions of the game. The first was Sprawl Sites, which provided an array of location archetypes with maps, random sprawl encounter charts and contact/archetype listings (for Shadowrun, First Edition). The second was the Contacts book included with the gamemaster's screen for Shadowrun, Second Edition. Though there is some overlap, the material in Mr. Johnson's Little Black Book is entirely new. Gamemasters may also find the gamemaster section of the Shadowrun Companion and the descriptions of daily life in the 2060s given in Sprawl Survival Guide useful for bringing their game worlds to life.
Mr. Johnson's Little Black Book starts off with Anatomy of a Shadowrun, which guides the gamemaster through the standard process of hiring the runners to commit a crime, step-by-step. It also provides a ton of gamemaster advice for handling other elements of a Shadowrun campaign, including character creation, incorporating deckers and creating a dynamic and fluid setting. This is the where you'll find the bulk of practical advice in the book; we suggest that all Shadowrun gamemasters read through it carefully.
The second chapter, It's Who You Know, delves into contacts. Over sixty different contacts are detailed, from all walks of life. The contacts are grouped together by type (corporate security, media, underworld, magical, etc.), with attributes, skills, gear and plot hooks listed for each. The first three contacts in each category are expansions of a single contact archetype - rather than include a generic Mr. Johnson, for example, we have a corporate headhunter, Mr. Fix-It and a mixed-up middle manager. Each contact includes a short write-up explaining who the contact is and how they might interact with player characters. This same chapter also includes suggestions for giving each of your NPCs a "gimmick" to make them notable.
Where It's At is devoted to locations. Over forty distinct places are described, broken down by category (bars, city streets, laboratories, etc.). Rather than generic archetypes, each location is given specific details, but they can easily be placed in just about any locale or even modified slightly to be a separate and distinct place. A quick neighborhood generation system is also provided, allowing a gamemaster to roll up a quick location on the fly, as well as a list of location gimmicks for giving each locale that unique feel.
The next chapter, On the Run, features a dozen short adventure plots for gamemasters who need to put together a quick run with no preparation time. A section of short random encounters follows, for gamemasters who need a short and quick scenario to throw at some characters in the midst of a run, or between runs. A system for randomly generating shadowruns on the fly is also included.
Wrapping up the book, Game Information, starts off with rules and guidelines for running low-level or high-powered Shadowrun campaigns, including alternate character creation systems. This is followed by sections on using reputation (both street cred and notoriety) and prejudice (expanding from racism based on metatype to include numerous other factors). The book wraps up with rules and advice for quickly resolving decking runs and vehicle combat so that they are faster and less complicated.