Anarchy is Dead
Watch your back!
Never deal with a dragon!
Those are the fundamental rules for surviving in the Shadowrun world. Beyond that, individuals have their own rules—codes, or lack thereof. There are people who steal from the rich and give to the poor, and people who steal from the rich and laugh at the poor. People who are flamboyant, pulling off capers in grand style, and people who are never seen, not for a second, by those they don’t want to see them.
The point is, there are all types of shadowrunners out there, and it is time now to create one and take to the streets of 2075. Take your best shot, fight the odds, hope for the best, and show everyone you have the guts and the skills to do the impossible. You may never be accepted in “civilized” society, but you can take pride in the fact that you’ve earned everything you own—including your freedom.
The first crucial element of a character is their metatype. People in the Sixth World belong to different strains of metahumanity, which means the hands attempting to strangle the life out of you come in a variety of shapes and sizes. During the Awakening, when magic returned to the world, humans started turning into the creatures out of fantasy and fairy tales, and these kinds of people are now common sights in many parts of the Sixth World. Your Shadowrun character will (generally) be one of five different types of being (called metatypes): human, elf, dwarf, ork, or troll. There are other sub-types out there as well, so don’t feel limited to the basic five if none appeal!
Homo sapiens sapiens is the metatype that has been around the longest (well, with one possible exception). You know them, you love them, and if you’re reading this there’s a high probability that you are one. They are balanced in their abilities and tend to have a little larger portion of luck than other metatypes.
Homo sapiens pumilionis, as you may guess, are shorter and stockier than humans. They tend to be quite strong and very resilient, able to recover from damage ranging from knocks to the head to doses of hemlock. Or knocks to the head with a club wrapped in hemlock leaves. Dwarfs are hard workers and tend to be highly valued by corporations, which means they are more deeply integrated into human society than the other metatypes. They still face discrimination due to their size, and they often have to take steps to make a world built for humans suitable for them.
Homo sapiens nobilis are taller than humans, thinner, and have pointed ears. They have an extremely annoying knack for being more nimble than humans, and they generally are better looking to boot. They also have very long lifespans, and continue to look young into their forties and fifties. They have occasionally been known to lord those facts over humans, or anyone who comes within hearing range. While most elves emerged at the Awakening along with the other metatypes, there are rumors that a few elves were hiding somewhere during the magical ebb of the Fifth World, and they are far older than any creature has a right to be.
Homo sapiens robustus look like the creatures that have been dying by the score in fantasy movies and trideos for almost one hundred fifty years. With protruding brows, prominent tusks, and a large stature, orks have trouble avoiding the stereotype of being unthinkingly violent brutes. It doesn’t help that there are more than a few orks who are happy to live up to that stereotype rather than fight it. The end result is a certain underlying tension between orks and humans, which leads to both groups often preferring to live in separate communities. Elves and orks, on the other hand, often prefer to live in entirely separate countries. Despite the stereotypes, orks can be found in all walks of life, from dank alleys to corporate boardrooms. They have a shorter lifespan than humans, which often leads to them having a certain desperation to pack as much living into their years as they can.
Homo sapiens ingentis make orks look like the ordinary man on the street. Orks might be, on average, less than a quarter-meter taller than humans; trolls, by contrast, are more than a half-meter taller than orks. Orks might look like a monstrous version of humanity; trolls, on the other hand, look like vaguely human versions of the creature from your most recent nightmare. With thick, curled horns on their heads (some trolls prefer to have them cut, while others polish them with pride), spiky protrusions of calcium on their joints, and individual muscles that are larger than a full-grown pig, trolls give the immediate impression that they are built for destruction. Most of them are able to live up to that image. Not all trolls, though, are about absorbing and inflicting damage. They have tried to find their way into different roles, but their large size combines with cultural stereotypes to make it hard for them to fit in. Orks tend to be the most accepting of trolls, and the two metatypes often inhabit the same neighborhoods. Typically these are not the most resource-rich neighborhoods in any given sprawl.
The following are archetypal Shadowrun characters. Feel free to select one as a starting point for a character concept, or, at the very least, look at these as examples of the variety of characters typically found in a group of shadowrunners.
He’s where he began: out on the streets and alleys. Growing up looking for an edge, he found a job, and then he found another. And he made every nuyen stretch. Then, piece by piece, he put in new implants until he reached his goal: street samurai. Not just any razor guy, but something more. Not some wise guy, or augmented thug or merc. He earned his honor by his work and learned from generations of noble warriors of old, giving him a soul, the spirit of bushido. Now he runs shadows with his team.
Covert Ops Specialist
The covert ops specialist aims to be a ghost in the world. She trains and equips herself to slide in and out of places without leaving a trace. Every security system has a weak point, an avenue of approach that was forgotten or that no one believed anyone would be able to exploit. The covert ops runner makes it her living to know these weaknesses and use them. She’s fast, agile, and strong, meaning she can quickly adapt to any situation, avoiding noisy combats and leaving before anyone even knew she was there.
She’s the private dick you want on your side when the drek hitting the fan comes with an aura. She walks like an angel gliding on silk, talks like the only woman in the bar you want to meet. She’s smooth, like a Manhattan: complicated under the surface, bittersweet with an old and formidable soul. She’s got the conventional sources—a bartender, a detective, that sort of thing—but she also collects information from wandering spirits and shimmering auras. The strong would call her life adventurous, the weak would call it trouble. She just calls it business.
One who came into his magic late in life, the street shaman relies on the spirits of the land more than the medicine that Bear has taught him, well aware that his own magical power pales before that of the spirit world. He has long healed the people of his community, but he has decided that the time is right to share his knowledge. The sprawl has been sick from many cancers and, with Bear’s strength, he will do his best to cure it.
Magic has a lot of uses, from sneaking into places to manipulating people’s minds to healing and strengthening other members of his team. But there’s always magic that just blasts suckers in the face. This is the combat mage’s strength. He’s large, rough, and not subtle in the least, and he leaves scorched marks and bruised bodies in his wake. He’s the reason opponents want to “geek the mage first,” but it’s going to take a lot more than a street proverb to bring him down.
The brawling adept is an unstoppable typhoon of kicks and punches but is also a modern-day youxia, a wandering force that stands up for those who cannot defend themselves. In a youxia’s eyes, it is the duty of the strong to protect the weak, not dominate them. The brawling adept puts her fists and force in the service of others, battling against those who oppress the common people. In the modern world, this most often pits her against the megacorporations, but corrupt government officials, criminal syndicates, and twisted spirits have all been known to draw her wrath as well, and her wrath is a force of nature.
In a field of street scum, corporate runaways, and neo-anarchists who refuse to bend knee to “the man”, the weapons specialist stands out as a true professional, a mercenary whose loyalty ends with a credstick and who takes nothing personal; a tour in a war-torn country burned away most of her idealism while forging her into an icon of death. The question isn’t if she will succeed in killing her target, only how she’ll do it. Pray this walking arsenal is never aimed at you.
One time, when he was a child living in a burned-out apartment, whoever happened to be acting as an authority figure for the face told him to use his words instead of hitting. Unlike almost every other child, the face took this advice to heart. Whether he’s squeezing a few extra nuyen out of Mr. Johnson, convincing an ork security guard to let him past, or persuading the middle manager to leave his job for greener grass at some other corp, the face knows how to use his words and is a charmer and a persuader first and foremost. He also knows, though, that words sometimes fail, so for good measure he carries a few well-hidden guns. He may not have quite as deadly aim with them as he does with words, but he’s still deadly enough.
Imagine how tough a person has to be to survive in the Sixth World without the comforts of technology or modern living—then augment that person for life on the streets. She comes from a tribe that values the ability to survive, even alone in the wilderness, but that wasn’t challenge enough for her. She moved into the plascrete jungles of the Sprawl and found the shadows there to her liking. She’s gotten her team out of more than one scrape on pure tenacity, and when the drek really hits the fan she can dish out the grief. On her tribe’s lands, she was a tough, dependable woman, but in the shadows she is a walking tank.
The decker moves through the digital world, a Sixth World Boudicca who strikes hard and vanishes before the G-men show up. A code poet among programmers, she moves at the speed of thought in the Matrix, taking control of the devices that stand between her team and their objective. When the lead starts flying, she destroys her enemies’ weapons and equipment, leaving them helpless. In the physical realm she is a wizard of engineering, building and hacking her way through the team’s technical problems and tuning their gear to perfection.
It started when she was twelve and she saw a sports car going into a garage in a subdivision near where her wageslave parents worked. The door closed, removing the sports car from her view, and she thought I want that to stay open, and it did. Then she started seeing things, colorful waves of data flowing all around her, mesmerizing her. His parents knew something was wrong with her, and when they found out what it was, they put her on the street. That was mostly for her own protection, as they knew what their corporation did to people who manifested those sorts of abilities. They left their child to fend for herself, and she did, discovering that her contact with living data had value on the street. She still bends electronic objects and data to her will, but now, when she opens a door, she’s more likely to take out whatever she found inside.
It started when the adept was a kid, and he shot a devil rat off a roof ledge with a BB gun from 300 meters. With a battered gun he found behind a dumpster. The amount of time people repeated the story let him know it was something special, so he dedicated himself to honing his skills, making himself deadlier with each day. People started offering him all sorts of money to use his skills, and he could have left a long path of bodies behind him. He decided, though, that powers like his had to be used carefully, so he developed a code to put boundaries around when he lets his abilities loose. When he does, though, make sure you’re either on his side or very far away. If you are his target, his bullets will find you.
The drone rigger is the master of remote-piloted vehicles. She has a large stable of drones to call upon for almost any need from surveillance, to intrusion, defense, and front-line combat. She can pilot any kind of vehicle that rolls, walks, or flies with incredible skill, projecting her mind into the machines to accomplish amazing feats. When not experiencing life as a tiny bug, or an armored combat machine, she is fixing or upgrading her vehicles. They are her family—occasionally tough to deal with, but always there when she needs them.
The smuggler knows the ins and outs of the Sprawl—literally. He can go where others can’t, not because he’s welcome, but because he dares. Master of land, sea, and air, the smuggler is a wheelman without equal. While he prefers his work to be quiet, when the big guns come out he can match the biggest on the street, and back it up with a menace that can only come from the blurred boundary between man and machine.
Gangers. The sprawl’s filled with them. Most wind up dead or in jail, a rare few crawl into positions of power, and some? Some graduate to the big time. The sprawl ganger is a cut above the usual street scum; he’s faster, smarter, tougher, meaner, and has learned how to run an operation. He’s seen how much nuyen passes upstairs and has decided that he wants to start taking a bigger cut by going pro and running the shadows. He’s not a part of his gang anymore (though everyone knows you never really leave) and is in business for himself, kicking some of his funds back to his family and his neighborhood. In return, the neighborhood looks out for him. After narrowly escaping with his life (but minus an arm), he’s starting to realize that there’s more to life than being a gangbanger—now he just has to figure out what that is.
He’ll hunt man or beast—bail jumpers, devil rats, runaway daughters, wyverns … whatever you pay him to find, he’ll track it down and bring it back alive, dead, or as a trophy. Truth be told, it’s not the money that matters so much as the challenge of pitting himself against man and/or beast, facing down whatever life throws at him and returning the winner. Plains, desert, or the concrete jungle, he’s the alpha predator. And you? You’re just prey. Run if you want, but when he’s chasing, he knows how it’ll end.