We talk a lot about Dungeons and Dragons here at D20Collective, but don’t think that we’ve forgotten all the other tabletop RPGs out there to play! And that includes a common sister-game to DnD, Shadowrun.
For those who haven’t played it – Shadowrun is a science-fantasy tabletop game, set in the far future of a fantasy world. Elves, dwarves, and orcs act as druids, wizards, and fighters, all in a futuristic cyberpunk setting ruled by megacorporations. If you’re a fan of Blade Runner, Red Dwarf, or other urban science-fiction, Shadowrun is a great option for sci-fi gaming.
(There’s also a cooperative Shadowrun board game, for those who’d like to get a taste of the world without having to invest in the effort of finding a DM, crafting a story, and scheduling regular sessions)
And just like last week, when I went over 5 anime recommendations for DnD players, I’ve also got several anime to inspire and engage your creativity in the setting of Shadowrun.
Here they are:
Set in the same world as the hit anime movie Akira, Bubblegum Crisis follows a group of mercenary exo-suit pilots as they solve various problems around the city of Tokyo. These problems frequently include so-called ‘boomers’ (dangerous androids akin to replicants a la Blade Runner), the devious machinations of the powerful megacorporation Genom, and the failings of the AD Police.
Bubblegum Crisis has fantastic music, several spinoffs, and tons of cultural impact. And while it doesn’t have any of the fantasy aspect that Shadowrun has, it’s setting and themes make for fantastic inspiration.
It even has a roleplaying game of its own! But that’s pretty hard to get your hands on nowadays and costs a pretty penny. We’d recommend transposing the Bubblegum Universe into Shadowrun or Cyberpunk 2077 if you’re particularly inspired by the show.
Irresponsible Captain Tylor
If you want something a little funnier than Bubblegum Crisis, and a little more into the space travel aspects of cyberpunk (yes, they do exist, although most works chose to limit themselves to a single city or enclosed location for the sake of storytelling), Irresponsible Captain Tylor is one of my personal favorites.
This anime follows the life of Tylor – a goofy, but lovable, doofus, who manages to flail and fail his way into saving the galaxy from interplanetary warfare. The show gets into the militaristic aspect of science fiction, for those who love it, while spending a great deal of time developing its characters and compelling you to root for them. Plus, you’re always likely to find yourself asking, “Is this guy secretly a genius?”
Sillier than Bubblegum and sexier than Tylor, Dirty Pair has appeal for fans of both old school and modern anime. It follows a pair of “trouble consultants”, employed by an interplanetary agency, who travel between planets and solve the various problems of each settlement. Sometimes they’re political, sometimes monstrous, and sometimes mysterious. But they’re always fun. Unfortunately, while they’re both supermodel gorgeous, they have something of a reputation for leaving unbridled destruction in their wake.
This series is great inspiration for the DMs who have particularly wild parties. Just look at all the consequences you can build up for your party of sci-fi murderhobos! Plus, Dirty Pair includes references to extrasensory and supernatural abilities, making it easier to pull into a fantasy world.
Chances are, you’ve already heard of City Hunter. It’s got tons of episodes, spin-offs, movies, and more. Even if you aren’t into animation, you might still enjoy the Jackie Chan movie that adapted it! It follows a jack-of-all-trades (but mostly private eye) with a thing for beautiful women as he goes about his work. To further complicate things, the sudden death of his partner leaves his responsible for their little sister (his love interest, of course). He gets into trouble, fails to learn his lessons, and is generally so 1980s that it actually hurts.
While City Hunter is set in “modern day” (at the time that it was released) Tokyo, it’s urban investigation and adventure premise makes it great for the gritty, street-level conflicts you most often find in Shadowrun. If your players haven’t seen City Hunter, you could almost take some of the plotlines wholesale from the anime!
The most recent anime on this list, and probably the most fantasy, Cop Craft is set in a world which has made contact with other dimensions. These dimensions include Fairies and Elves, who have a level of magic, which instantly becomes a tradable commodity. When a major fairy kidnapping ring is revealed, a police detective finds that he has to team up with a fairy knight, despite disliking them. They investigate, and the story unfolds around their crime solving.
This anime is the closest to Shadowrun in terms of setting and magical elements, although the police-procedural elements are a bit of a change. Still, if you’re looking for science-fantasy worldbuilding, Cop Craft provides some great places to start. Particularly when it comes to the ways in which a modern city would interact with magic, who would need or use firearms, and how the values of the long-lived species would conflict with the growth and world-altering of the industrial revolution.
Have you ever played Shadowrun? Where do you get your inspiration for it? Are there any other anime that we’ve missed that you’d recommend? Let us know in the comments below!
edit: We've made a couple changes regarding the history of the game and it's publishers, as pointed out by commenters below! Thanks for letting us know, and keeping us accurate!