Sometimes when I go to build a new campaign or figure out what I would like to play next, I go looking around at what art might be around to inspire and help with world building. Recently I have found a keen group of people to play some Shadowrun with and decided to explore some of the places available to play. Shadowrun has a good amount of detail on some regions, like Seattle in North America and some places in Europe, but I was curious about what they had written about China in the book.
Turns out in a future ruled by megacorporations that it’s very little!
Naturally I decided to type “Futuristic Cities China” into Google and came across Kuczek Adam’s brilliant work on designing a futuristic Shanghai. I thought his art was inspiring and provided a solid groundwork for how I would “envisage” China to look like in Shadowrun. The art felt like it fit with what I had seen from other Shadowrun projects, with a mixture of dirty and new, old architectural styles clearly reflecting back on Chinese culture while still having a very sleek and futuristic look contrasting it. With such a great base to envisage the world I was trying to create and describe I instantly went with picking Shanghai.
There are far more examples of his great and inspiring art on his website, so go and check it out!
In more general roleplaying terms, there are good reasons to go with a location that doesn’t honestly seem to have a lot on it. While I found some information about what had happened in China and at least what the overall politics were like, I discovered that there was pretty much nothing about Shanghai anywhere other than a mention of what group it belonged within (Coastal Provinces). This provides a great opportunity and also some considerable challenges. For one thing, I didn’t have much of an idea what the place looked like in Shadowrun because they’ve not really given it a lot of detail, hence why I went looking to see what art someone else had done to come to the above.
Secondly it means I have to go much of the groundwork on the politics, people and what the place looks like in the future for myself. On the other hand these are also all huge advantages, because they allow me to set my own pace, tone and build the world into something I want. Whatever final story I end up coming out with can be built into the world naturally, without needing to worry about whatever the core books have told my players beforehand about how the setting “should” work. Minding, this puts extra onus on me as the Gamemaster to provide this information for the players in a comprehensible fashion.
Beginning this project I firstly sketched out the idea for the general plot of the game and where I wanted to go with it. That told me a lot about what kind of NPCs, corporations, enemies and allies I needed to ultimately create. Then I began building places and locations into Shanghai for various Shadowruns to take place and develop, so that I could reference a few locations and have it make sense (such as the large, centrally dominant Wuxing Incorporated tower). Now I’m into the mechanical nitty gritty such as designing runs, balancing fights and deciding how to introduce the overall story.
With a group of people excited to play and the game still a month off I have plenty of time, which is good because it’s been a long time since I ran anything Shadowrun related!