I looked at Cities Without Number recently to run a Shadowrun-style game, and I wondered if Shadowrun is a bit dated? Not in tech, rules, or style, but in the general sense that its story of humans mutating into fantasy races and the societal tension that causes - and is core to the story - is not unpalatable to today's gamers who prefer the Cartoon Network 'happy time friends' style of backgrounds that all get along, there is no animosity between groups, and player choice needs to be protected at all costs.
Shadowrun is infamous for its tensions between the awakened and the not, which is core to the story. Now, I checked out at 4th Edition, so I can only speak to classic versions, and this may have changed.
If Wizards or Paizo were to make this, priority number one would be to strip out anything that insinuated that any animosity or tension exists at all between anyone. The 'lifestyle brand' marketers are in charge in those places, and they cannot make anyone feel bad about their choice. If you choose to play an orc, you are celebrated and loved by the world. Same with trolls, dwarves, and elves.
|AI Art by @nightcafestudio
A few aspects of the setting could remain, like rich-versus-poor and powerless-versus-powerful, but the core story of the awakening happening would be pushed to the background to appease the 5E crowd. It would turn into Fantasy Hackers 2049, a 5E-style mess of 'animal cracker' sort of flavorless dough backgrounds and power-gamed classes that feel like mobile-game gimme mechanics. This modern style of 5E design feels like you won the game before you even begin, like an MMO where you are guaranteed to get to the maximum level.
Oh, and everyone would have night vision except humans.
The 5E style of game design is becoming its own predictable trope.
I don't know if there is a place outside of old-school gaming for Shadowrun. Cyberpunk 2077 made the underdog of the cyberpunk RPG movement the winner, and it would take a similar open-world experience to reinvigorate Shadowrun. But it would have to be done right and focus on the core conflicts and stories in the world rather than lean too heavily on 'this is modern D&D' for it to have meaning.
Shadowrun was designed in the 1990s during the Vampire RPG craze, so players could choose to be outcasts - and that was cool. Dark Sun also played to those feelings, and you need to understand the 1990s and RPGs to understand Shadowrun. This was an era where the Satanic panic killed D&D for us. D&D died with the mainstream 2nd Edition, and it was time to play other games that let us be the outcasts that society feared.
They did an excellent job with Battletech recently and the wargames on PC. I would love an open-world Shadowrun RPG. But I would hate to see it become another 5E and lose what made the world special.
That rebellious spirit. That sense that society disliked the awakened.
I don't want to be accepted.
I want to be cool. The outcast. The hated.
That is where you become heroes.