Well, the name says it all doesn't it? Cannon Companion (CC) is about weapons; melee weapons, projectile weapons, heavy weapons, special weapons, weapons build rules, advanced weapons combat rules . . . did I mention it's about weapons? It's another of the rules expansions for Shadowrun 3rd Edition (SR3) that FASA has been putting out since SR3 was originally released. This book takes information from a number of 1st and 2nd Edition books and puts them all into one source and updates the rules for SR3 compatibility along with a number of weapons and rules never seen before.
Note: there are a number of chapters here covering specific weapon types that have listings in the SR3 base book. If a weapon is listed in the base book (for example the katana), it will generally NOT be listed in Cannon Companion, though there are a few exceptions.
Everything covering melee weapons from whips to polearms is covered here. Included is a great section on 'improvised melee weapons' with examples like 'beer bottle', 'potted plant', and 'pool cue' for those times when your knife isn't with you and your hold-out pistol is out of ammo.
This chapter includes all ranged weapons that are muscle powered. Throwing Stars, Bows, and nets, for example. Yet again the 'improvised' section rears its head. . . from 'cue ball' to 'Molotov Cocktail', and for those of you who wanted to know how much damage you get by throwing a Troll that's covered under 'Metahuman Body'.
This is actually a rather slim chapter since most of the firearms in the game made it into the Base Book, but there are more in this chapter in categories ranging in size from hold-out pistols to shotguns. Larger weapons are covered in the next chapter.
Weapons ranging in size from the light machine gun to heavy anti-armor missiles are shown in this rather diverse chapter. Vehicle mounted weapons are NOT covered here (they're covered in the recently released Rigger3 expansion).
There are just weapons that don't fit into nice categories and so they ended up getting placed into this catchall category. Flamethrowers, lasers, gyrojet pistols, and other weapons are shown here, as are the special rules that generally accompany them updated for use with SR3.
'Ammunition & Explosives':
As if there weren't enough types of ammunition in the Base Book, there are yet more varieties in this chapter. Some are rather powerful (AV ammo for instance) and should be regulated very carefully by a GM. Other rounds are very useful, but only in niche applications. The Hi-C Plastic rounds are great when you want to sneak your pistol through metal detectors, but they don't do as much damage as normal ammunition. Grenades, and mines are covered here as well.
'Armor and Gear':
This is probably my favorite chapter in the book. In it are dozens of lines of clothing; everything from Armante's Dallas line of executive business suits to the Industrious line of construction overalls. This chapter is a much needed addition to SR3 for both GMs and PCs since saying 'all your enemies are wearing SecureTech jackets' gets old after awhile. A few of the pieces of armor need to be weighed carefully though by a GM for balance's sake like the Hardened Military Armor or the Form Fitting Body Armor which doesn't count against the armor stacking rules. There is also misc. gear here like the Battletac system which improves small unit tactics, as well as parachutes and underwater gear.
After all the weapons chapters this one just pops in out of the blue as a change of pace. This chapter is dedicated to skillwires, BTLs, and other brain programming toys. There are numerous options for either a PC building Simsense programs or for a GM to toy with PCs who buy Simsense products.
'Firearms Design & Customization':
A character can build weapons from the ground up in this chapter. Most of the main weapons types are covered here from the Hold-Out Pistol to the Assult Cannon, though the grenade launcher and carbine frame types are not available. There are dozens of options from the useful Non-Metallic Design option which makes detecting weapons with this option more difficult, to the purely aesthetic options like Chrome Plating. After building a few weapons I came to 2 conclusions: 1) you can build weapons that are MUCH more powerful than the standard ones found in the rest of the book and 2) guns built from these rules are EXPENSIVE. The only thing missing are rules for Availability and Price-Index on weapons built with this system.
'Advanced Melee Combat':
For those of you who don't like the way Unarmed Combat normally runs this chapter is for you. Information on different types of martial arts and different maneuvers that go with them are included. In my mind this system actually works somewhat similar to totems for magicians. Each style of combat gives you bonuses to performing certain actions, and penalties to performing others. As an example from the book Aikido gives a bonus to subduing and throwing opponents, but a penalty for initiating melee combat.
'Advanced Combat Rules':
A bunch of interesting new rules (and updated rules from Fields of Fire) that will be useful for less traditional use of the SR setting. The rules for sky diving are pretty comprehensive and include options for HALO jumping (a very useful option for both special forces and shadowrunning teams who want to get in unseen).
Thanks to the bequests made in the Portfolio of a Dragon SB for developing an underwater arcology, the release of the Cyberpirates SB, and the rules for ship building in Rigger3 the rules in this book for diving are very helpful. There's even an option for a Liquid Breathing system (ala the Abyss).
The rules for Ambidexterity have also been changed and can be found in this chapter. Basically it's an advantage that can be picked up in 2,4,6, and 8 point increments and each level reduces the penalties for two handed firing. The 2 and 4 point advantages require purchase of a separate off-hand weapon skill to use 2 weapons, while the 6 and 8 point versions do not.
The last 10 pages or so are dedicated to numerous tables ranging from weapons range tables to general weapons statistics.
Though the sections on 'improvised weapons' in the melee and projectile weapons chapters and a few of the pieces of artwork (pg 100) try to enliven the book, it's still a rather dry read. I don't really see any way around that though given that it seems like half the book is nothing but weapons tables. The rules in the book seem well written and most of them are very useful.
The 'Applied Simsense' chapter sticks out like a sore thumb in this book. Though the rules are well written I really can't understand why it was included in this book unless they needed to expand the page count. If it should be anywhere it should be listed in the 'Matrix' expansion given that Simsense is very much a computer related field.
The artwork is a slight turn off at times. There's some recycled artwork that's excellent quality (pg 47 is nearly perfect in subject and placement in the book) and some new artwork that is also very well done, but a lot of the new artwork is a little too 'Hong-Kong Action Theater' for SR in my opinion. One nice thing they DID do though was include a number of graphics of different firearms.
This book is a great resource for those new to SR or those who don't have the money or inclination to pick up all the Out Of Print books that CC takes its material from. For those of you who have most / all of the 1st and 2nd Edition books that CC pulls its source from then this book isn't very useful for new information, but its EXTREMELY useful because now you don't have to carry all those books around, instead carrying a single 125 pg. book.