|RPG published by
Catalyst Game Labs
|Rule System||Custom d6
(Roll over Dice Pool)
|Authors||Bob Charrette, Paul Hume, Tom Dowd|
|First Publication||1989 (1st edition), 1992 (2nd edition), 1998 (3rd edition), 2005 (4th edition), 2009 (20th anniv), 2013 (5th edition)|
Shadowrun is a tabletop fantasy/science fiction RPG that first became popular in the early 1990's. It spans multiple genres due to having a large and diverse setting full of plot hooks, providing all your Cyberpunk, Horror, Crime, Post-Apocalyptic, and Mystery needs.
In short, Shadowrun is what would happen if William Gibson and Mercedes Lackey had a love child.
It's set in a dystopian near future where megacorporations have taken over as the superpowers of a world (our world, in an alternate timeline specifically) whose political boundaries are shaken and fragmented. Players play Shadowrunners, the criminal elite: expert thieves, spies, bodyguards, saboteurs, assassins, or whatever else that earns them Nuyen (cyberfantasy futurebucks) who sell their skills to whatever megacorps, crime lords, or police bid the highest. Dragons and Magic play just as big a part of life as computers and guns. In fact, they often overlap.
- 1 History
- 2 Setting
- 3 Gameplay
- 4 Editions
- 5 Other Products
- 6 Software
- 7 General Shadowrunning Rules
- 8 Gallery
- 9 External Links
The game is set in a world that is awesome to play in and fail to live in. The history of Shadowrun begins with, of all things, a truckers' strike in New York. The strike lasted for about three months, causing massive hunger not just in NYC itself but across the whole state. New Yorkers being New Yorkers, this resulted in massive rioting. One particularly inspired group of rioters attacked a truck belonging to Seretech Corporation, believing that it was full of food. Predictably, it was actually full of infectious medical waste, and the corporate security assigned to the truck ended up gunning down 200-something civilians to save Staten Island from getting plagued. The United States Supreme Court vindicates the actions of the Seretech employees, choosing to concentrate on the whole "saved thousands of lives" part rather than the "ended hundreds" one. This, combined with an attack on a Shiawase Corporation-owned nuclear power plant, set the stage for corporate extraterritoriality, a principle which essentially turned corporations into their own sovereign states and made corporate land untouchable by national laws. This is why Ares Macrotechnology can tie you up in the basement and forget you exist without invoking the wrath of your government.
A few years go by, and a whole bunch of awful shit happens; Israel nukes Libya, New York gets fucked over by an earthquake, and Japan gets into a war with Korea. This last one is important, because Korea decides that if two nukes worked so well for Japan's health back in the 40's, then fifty nukes should do wonders! However, the missiles never reach their targets. Japan then overruns Korea and creates the Japanese Imperial State. Meanwhile, the US is telling the Native Americans to bite the pillow and drills for oil on their reservations (again). Naturally there's some resistance, so the US deals with it in their usual calm, reasonable way: by shipping all the protesting Natives off to concentration camps. During this time, some terrorists from the Sovereign American Indian Movement take over a US nuclear silo and launch a single Lone Eagle ICBM towards Russia. As with the Korean ICBMs, the Lone Eagle is never heard from again.
Things are then quiet for roughly ten minutes before a disease called VITAS takes the top quarter off of the Earth's population. While everyone's still reeling from losing one out of every four people they ever knew, the craziest shit on record happens. People start giving birth to Tolkien-style Elves and Dwarves. With all the shit going on in the world, nobody wants to hear about your pointy-eared baby, and the backlash is substantial. Finally, on December 24th, 2011, it all goes to hell in a handbasket. Dragons are recorded flying over Japan, ley lines in the British Isles start flickering on, and an activist named Daniel Howling Coyote leads a now apparently bulletproof group of Native Americans right out the front gate of one of the concentration camps and into a sandstorm. In an interview with the media, one of the more talkative dragons reveals that the Mayan calendar doomsday predictions were right- all the shit that was going on was a sign that the Fifth World that humanity had lived in for all this time was ending, and Earth has officially entered the cycle of existence the Mayans called the Sixth world. 2012 comes. Magic is back- or more precisely, it had never left in the first place. In reality, countless beings that had lived in the Fourth World had been in hiding through much of human history, and the low ebb of magic in the Fifth World had kept the elves and dwarves from manifesting their characteristic features, making them indistinguishable from ordinary humans until the Sixth World came about (no word on where the freaking dragons were hiding, though).
The final phase of the Great Shitstorm is set in motion, and lines are being redrawn all over the map. First, Daniel Howling Coyote reappears and declares that the whole west half of the North American continent is now a coalition of countries called the Native American Nations. The US is all set to slap them down hard, but Daniel and a few of his closest friends perform the soon-to-be-infamous ritual known as the Great Ghost Dance. It's at this point that people start to really accept that magic is now a thing; rather than do nothing like every other ritual dance ever recorded by modern man, the GGD blows the tops off of volcanoes all over the US. Shortly afterwards, ten percent of pubescent humans in the world suddenly turn into Orks and Trolls in a process called Goblinization that involves random hardened calcium growths growing on their body. It's painful, and not exactly treated like your typical case of acne. If you thought pretty little Elf babies made people mad, this shit caused some blown gaskets. Religions all over the world simultaneously get to their feet and screamed either "WE KNEW IT ALL ALONG!" or "WHAT THE SHIT IS THIS FUCK!?" resulting in a lot of split faiths, ranging from believing that Jesus/Mohammed/Siddhartha were Dragons, to Ku Klux Klan-esque hate groups worldwide looking to wipe out everything that didn't exist back in 1950. Subsequent race riots cost a lot of very confused people their lives, although plenty of folks stepped in on the side of the mutants, resulting in large numbers of casualties on all sides and breeding a lot of bitterness. Within time, many old faiths splintered into warring sects or radically restructured themselves, with various forms of paganism becoming the dominant faiths of the world.
Fast forward a bit: the internet is destroyed by a super-virus, and a bunch of cyber-commandos kill it in virtual reality combat. In true computer fashion, their VR tech goes from room-sized to book-sized within ten years. The VR Matrix replaces the Internet. The southern United States split off into the Confederate American States. California threatens to join them, so the US says 'fuck you' and kicks them out. The remaining northern states then bro it up with the remains of Canada, forming the United Canadian and American States. Two Elf nations form in North America and Ireland, a Ghoul nation forms in Africa, and a nation of weird beasties forms in the Amazon. Mexico, which is almost completely run by the Aztechnology megacorp, renames itself to Aztlan and starts dabbling in blood magic (really REALLY fucked up shit). The same dragon that explained what the hell was going on earlier is elected President of the UCAS and is then assassinated at his inaugural ball, with him leaving behind a cryptic will promising huge sums of cash to anyone who develops certain technologies (like VR connections dragons can safely use), financial assistance to mothers who keep their metahuman children, and a bounty on Blood Mages. National governments lose more and more of their power in the face of corporate influence until the Corporate Court replaces the United Nations as the great global political alliance and national governments are little more than figureheads. People are identified in corporate and national databases by their System Identification Numbers (SINs), but an increasingly large number of the poor, referred to as SINless lack one and the basic human rights that come with it yet at the same time are free from the constant surveillance that being a SINner entails. People are increasingly born with an inherent gift for manipulating mana, and magic becomes as much a part of everyday life as electricity.
That's the history of Shadowrun up to the start of First Edition, from the in-game years of 1999 to 2057. Take a second to process all of that crazy shit. You may be wondering where the players fit into all this madness. Well, ever since that truckers' strike in 1999 an underclass of criminals has slowly been gaining influence and importance. Often SINless, they are untraceable ghosts in the machinery of the world, simultaneously free and enslaved. They are deniable assets used by corporations, nations, and even wealthy private citizens to snipe at each other without sparking off feuds or wars. They steal, they hack databases, they weave magical illusions, and often they kill. They are called Shadowrunners, and your character is one of them.
Since then, even more crazy shit has happened. The original Matrix was destroyed in a fight between another super-virus and a mad AI, and replaced with a wireless version accessible from almost anywhere while the devices that can be used to tap into it have shrunk from essentially a Casio keyboard strapped to your back to a smartphone or smaller; megacorporations have risen and fallen in their dozens; Halley's Comet flew by and fucked with magic something fierce, transforming people into bizarre half-animal hybrids referred to as "changelings", the brother of the previously mentioned dragon president showed up with an army of ghosts and carved out his own empire in the Midwest, people have started being born not with magical talent, but with biological wi-fi hardwired into their brains, and a nanomachine plague has begun to spread and take over people's minds. And through it all, Shadowrunners have not only held onto their power, but have achieved a sort of collective celebrity, becoming permanently ingrained on global culture.
Talk about job security, eh chummer?
The world has gone through quite a few changes, both political and environmental. Generally, no matter where in the world you live chances are good in the world of Shadowrun it is either a wasteland populated by the homeless, monsters, and toxic/magical/radioactive waste dumps, or its an endless sea of sprawling buildings in various states of occupation and repair filled with the homeless, monsters, and gangs/corporations of ruthless assholes.
- In 2014, a Native American leader calling himself Daniel Howling Coyote started the Ghost Dance War with the aim of removing every trace of colonial occupation from North America after the Megas used their newfound power to landgrab everything. The US Armed Forces really had no edge against Howling Coyote's magical resources; in 2017, Howling Coyote claimed responsibility for the simultaneous eruption of four volcanoes in the Cascade Mountains through a ritual called the Great Ghost Dance. The war ended with the Treaty of Denver, which ceded most of western North America to the Native American Nations. Some time later, Daniel cut all ties with the NaN out of disappointment with what they had become and vanished without a trace. The Native American Nations consist of:
- Algonkian-Manitou Council, which controls most of present-day Ontario, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan, with a slice of Alberta including Calgary. Its capital is Saskatoon.
- Athabaskan Council, which controls most of present-day Alaska, Yukon, Northwest Territory, Nunavut, and the northern portions of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and the little nibble of Manitoba not controlled by other NAN states. Its capital is Edmonton.
- Trans-Polar Aleut: parts of Alaska, Siberia, and Iceland, most sparsely populated of the NAN. If you're wondering why Siberia and Iceland are included, the answer is imperialism designed to prop up a nearly nonexistent economy.
- Aztlan was a founding member of the NAN, but is no longer part of the Sovereign Tribal Council. It consists of modern-day Mexico and most of Central America and a chunk of South America. Aztlan is little more than an arm of Aztechnology, the AAA megacorp that truly runs the state and pushes its aggressive expansionism. Air quality in Tenochtitlan (formerly Mexico City) is even worse than it is today.
- Pueblo Corporate Council, which controls most of present-day Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado, the entirety of Utah, and chunks of California, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. It came to the rescue when Los Angeles was wracked with disasters and now administers the city. Its capital is Santa Fe.
- Salish-Shidhe Council, which controls all of present-day Washington except the greater Seattle area and most of British Columbia and Idaho. It administers the BC Interior formerly controlled by the Tsimshian Nation as a protectorate. Its capital is Bellingham.
- Sioux Nation, which controls most of present-day Montana and Wyoming, western portions of the Dakotas and Nebraska, and an eastern slice of Colorado. Its capital is Cheyenne. Has a reputation of being "NAN police" the same way the US was thought of as being "world police." Plenty racist against anyone not amerind.
- Ute Nation, which dissolved in the wake of Crash 2.0 and was effectively sold to the PCC.
- Tír Tairngire (Shir Sha-irn-gi-ray) is the elven state that controls most of Oregon and a slice of Nevada and contests territory in northern California. It was born by fiat of Lugh Surehand and his inner circle, unilaterally seceding from the Salish-Shidhe Council in 2035. It's basically a state for snooty, prissy elves to be snooty and prissy and talk about how they're better than everyone else. When Surehand was deposed, the system became a little less oppressive but got taken over by the Telestrian family in the 2070's when Mary Louise Telestrian became the reiging Prince of Tir Tairngire
- The United Canadian and American States is what remains of Canada and the USA after the secession of Quebec and the Treaty of Denver.
- The Confederate American States seceded in the wake of the unification and the UCAS called California's bluff, so it's also free of the Union.
- The Republic of Québec seceded from Canada in 2010 so it could be even more French. It didn't recognize the Business Recognition Accords that govern corporate extraterritoriality until after Crash 2.0 as a condition for NeoNET to help rebuild the country's infrastructure. It's opening up to the world as a result and becoming a little less French in the process.
- The California Free State is everyone's bitch. Tír Tairngire invaded it in the north and was only stopped by the Great Dragon Hestaby, who told them both to quiet down and get off her lawn. Aztlan invaded it in the south and when the state governor asked Japan for help, Japan invaded it from the west. Los Angeles was hit with disaster after disaster and in the most recent quake, most of it fell into the ocean.
- Denver is a free city, officially the Front Range Free Zone, administered jointly by the parties to the Treaty of Denver. Then the Great Dragon Ghostwalker (who may be the long-lost brother of former UCAS dragon president Dunkelzahn) emerged in 2061 with an army of spirits, flew to Denver, and ripped the Aztlan sector a new asshole. He then declared the Council of Denver subordinate to himself and kicked Aztechnology out, giving their territory to the CAS and claiming Denver for himself. Needless to say, nobody wanted to argue about it.
- Seattle is the default setting for Shadowrun. It's an exclave of the UCAS within Salish-Shihde Council territory. The Seattle Metroplex incorporates Seattle itself, Renton, Tacoma, Redmond, Bellingham, Bellevue, Auburn, Snohomish, Fort Lewis, and Puyallup. Most of Puyallup was devastated in the eruption of Mount Rainier and a chunk of Redmond was irradiated after a nuclear power plant disaster; those areas are colloquially known as the Barrens as they are places where utilities, government services, and law enforcement don't go.
- Chicago is Bug City and home to the worst Metahuman hate crime event with the Sears Tower bombing in 2039, when the Universal Brotherhood invoked an Insect Spirit Hive 2055, drek only got worse withe CZ being established.
- Elves unite and stage a coup in Ireland, creating a police state Tír na nÓg where all non-Elves are a second-class citizen, and Elves are judged by their (often bullshitted) claims to ancestry or their magical prowess. Even those families who do technically have a claim to nobility and are Elves aren't assured respect, as the secret police of the government are quick to give anyone they envy the boot (or muzzle if the boot doesn't work fast enough). The ruling government is sometimes called "Noggins" in a derogatory manner. The opposition to the Elves lead to the resurrection of the IRA, which includes all races including Elves who are unsatisfied with the Elf-centric state of their land.
- Germany has refractured, lessening their industrial and political power. To counteract this, they have a series of treaties that force them to cooperate with each other and make them be recognised as a single country on the international scale, forming the Allied German States. The overall effect of this has been to create what is essentially a German USSR/ a return to the Holy Roman Empire.
- Russia is Soviet (as in governed by a council not communist) again after mysterious assassinations of USA, UK, Israel and Russian leaders. This time switches places with Germany pretty much reenacting European part of WWII wich ends with mysterious HQ bombings and assassinations of high ranking officers on both sides by a third party.
- Turkey is split in two ever since some Mullah with delusions of Islamic State invaded Europe while dragging the entire Arabic world into the invasion alliance, with predictable results from a fully mechanized and battle hardened European Defense Force(though Europe still came out of the war pretty roughed up, reason is in the paragraph above) eventually killing said leader and liberating Western Turkey and supporting it. Western Turkey is secular Alawite with a modern inner circle called Neo-Atatürk, (now independent) Istanbul's name back to Constantinople and a complete den of assassins and mercenaries, eastern Turkey is retarded Muslim jihadist shithole.
- Japan is no longer a true democracy, having returned to the worship and rule of a divine Emperor, and is now called the Japanese Imperial State. Below him is a three-branch political system with the "Diet" as a senate and congressional body, a Judiciary branch, and an executive branch with a prime minister. Their response to the rise of metahumanity was passage of the Yamato Act, which involves deportation of all metahumans to quarantine at concentration camps on Yomi Island while avoiding any of the political squabbling or racial tensions of the rest of the world.. During the years leading up to the Sixth World, nationalism had increased to the point Japan had rebuilt its military again. Japanese corporations rose steadily in prominence, and Japanese influence lead to the "Nuyen" replacing the American dollar by becoming one of the most accepted currencies worldwide. With the loss of stability of the former United States, Japan invaded and captured large parts of California as well as the Philippine islands. They continue to test their neighbors, particularly China, constantly with military demonstrations. Within Japan, society is strictly controlled and firearms are rare. Large portions of Japan remain undeveloped outside of the megacity sprawl, protected to maintain the idea of heritage and cultural identity. Kempeitai, secret political police, enforce the will of Japan even on the megacorps and membership is required to obtain any kind of higher education. Kempeitai have loyalty only to Japan, and overall resemble a combination of the Nazi Youth and SS in behavior and function. By the time of the 5th edition Shadowrun year, the Japanese have begun to slowly drop their anti-meta views including abandoning Yomi Island to the Huk.
- The Philippines were conquered by Japan early in Sixth World history, resulting in the Huk rebellion reemerging to reignite the World War 2 conflict. This time however, the Huk are supported by the black Great dragon Masaru. The Huk financed their revolution with piracy, so expect them to have connections across the globe. The Huk are no joke, having fought the rich-ass and technologically advanced nation of Japan using mostly small arms and wooden sticks for years. They hated the Imperial Japanese hardcore (possibly deserved, as the Japanese were more or less Nazis during their occupation of the Philippines), though, ironically many of them are metahumans of Japanese descent who escaped from Yomi and more or less adopted the philosophy of "fuck Japan". Traitors to the Huk are sometimes beaten to death by their own crew mates for betraying the Revolution. Masaru's a pretty cool guy though, he's big on the environment as well as Filipino and metahuman rights. He tries to reign in the Huk's excesses and usually keeps the Huk alive by sending them weapons and supplies. Word of advice about the Huk and the Japanese military though, if your work for or against one of them, even as a freelancer, and the other finds out, then the guys you worked against will brand you as a member of the enemy and probably try to kill you. As of the 2070s, the Japanese pulled out and the Philippines are back on track towards peace, though they're still a bit chaotic (the crazier Huk have taken to slaughtering those who collaborated with the Japanese on some islands).
- The Glorious People's Republic of China disintegrated and now only exists as a laughably small rump state in the interior. The rest of China fragmented in to smaller states of varying power, size, and sanity. Hong Kong is a prime loacation for runners. The Great Dragon Lung maintains a shadowy grip on the Triads and wages a hidden war against the Japanese Great Dragon Ryumyo.
- Tibet is weird. A magic storm cut off the area from the rest of the world so everyone wants to know whats up with it. Rumors are that the theocratic buddhist government has some crazy powerful magic capable of summoning a "mountain sized fire elemental". The Megas and some Chinese Warlords are watching the border to see if the storm lets up.
- Indochina is another hellhole. Thailand is hopelessly corrupt and Vietnam is an oppressive police state. Cambodia is in an on-off civil war, with Naga separatists setting up their own kingdom in Angkor Wat and many of the peasants supporting the magic snakes who can bring rainfall and are trying to get rid of pollution. Stay the fuck out of Rangoon, there are rumors that the rich literally eat the poor there, and confirmed accounts of a massive child sex industry.
- Siberia is split between the Russian government and Yakut. Yakut is peopled by indigenous tribes who made a deal with a powerful spirit for independence. Once they broke free of Russia, the spirit promptly set up an oppressive police state that limited technology, fucked with the economy, and placed shapeshifting spies among the tribesmen. A bunch of players have a keen interest in Tunguska.
- Amazonia, owned by Great Dragon Hualpa, was formed when the awakened forces took over Brazil and turned it into an ecofriendly nation with parts of Colombia, all of Venezula which led to a war with Atzlan which the amazonians lost. Home to Metropole, the largest, most densely populated, and potentially most dangerous city on earth
Africa has gone back to being called "The Dark Continent" in the Sixth World. A horrible plague swept called VITAS through most of Western and Southern Africa during the Awakening, killing most of the population. The jungles turned all magic and began expanding, so that most of the continent below the Sahara had its geography radically changed. The wildlife turned magic too, so now there are giant magical crocodiles in most of the waterways and worse things in the deep jungles.
- Western Africa is a fucking hellhole, no joke. Tribal warlords control most of the resources and many are on the take from the corps. Pirates prowl the waterways and coasts looking for good hauls and occasionally sell their services to the megas as mercenaries.
- Lagos, one of the prime areas for runners, is more or less the embodiment of the term "urban jungle." Hell, the gangs do more civic service than its shitty excuse for a government (they're still hard fucks though, don't be expecting any mercy). Ethnic tensions are responsible for murders and skirmishes on a daily basis. There's an entire district full of shedim (corpses possessed by evil spirits), bug spirit hives on the outskirts of the city, and slavers and flesh traders taking the unlucky.
- Asamando, in stark contrast to most of western Africa, is not a hellhole for its citizens, its rich, well educated, peaceful, and has megacorps investing in it because it has natural resources up to the wazoo. The catch is, its populated with and run by ghouls who keep themselves fed using flesh traders. The ghouls keep "farms" where they breed metahumans as food. Everyone in Africa is terrified of Asamando too, not just because a ghoul can kill a man with its bare hands, but because every ghoul citizen is trained in nonlethal combat, so they can drag you back to Asamando for later consumption.
- In Egypt, the government has banned magic, which leads to conflicts with underground worshippers of the Old Egyptian gods. Archaeologists are discovering more magic ruins and artifacts buried in the deserts, The Coptic Church has a degree of autonomy though, and has extended its protection to technomancers.
- Southern Africa has the the Azanian Federation with Zulu nation of elves and the Xhosa nation (which is run by the Great Dragon Mujaji). The Xhosa are environmentally conscious and wary of the Zulu, who in turn have been becoming more and more nationalistic and eager to fight.
- Kenya has become home to the Corporate Court's mass driver, which shoots supplies up into orbit, which has pissed off the locals who lead a shamanic resistance movement.
- Central Africa is a mystery, the Awakened jungles covered everything and most of the tribes have banded together in a shamanic confederation to keep the corps out.
- Madagascar is...scary. The most of the inhabitants were killed by the VITAS I plague, while the rainforests Awakened and grew exponentially. The only people there now are fortified pirate settlements on the coastal regions. Creepy shit happens in the interior of Madagascar, like ghostly eyes watching people from the shadows, rumors of a monstrous many-headed dragon-monster, and whispers of secret labs experimenting with HMHVV to make super-vampires. Hardcore pirates have been broken by Madagascar's jungles.
Most of Australia is unpleasant to live in now, but in the Sixth World... hoo-boy. Dual-natured weather phenomena called "mana storms" are a fact of life, appearing out of nowhere, laying waste to an area, and disappearing just as suddenly. The Outback is even more hazardous thanks to these storms, which have herded people into the few major cities along the coasts. The city of Sydney is surrounded in a near-permanent mana storm that's cut it off from the rest of the world. Major landmarks like Uluru (Ayer's Rock) are home to powerful spirits that don't like visitors. The only civilizations that manage to survive outside the cities are the Aborigine tribes who have lived with the land instead of off of it. What few critters that weren't deadly to humanity before now breath fire or are possessed, or both.
As for Tasmania, it went feral in the Awakening. The island no longer wants visitors. Nature has overrun what little remains of human civilization on the island and it fights back when people try to set up research or paracritter-breeding facilities.
- Hawai'i is now a monarchy again, having seceded from the United States. The Japanese Great Dragon Ryumyo has been trying to turn it into a puppet state via his vassal Naheka, a Feathered Serpent who has been characterized as an incompetent stooge
These are the real powers in the Sixth World. With the benefits of extraterritoriality, megacorporations can make their own workplace laws, issue their own currencies, and maintain standing armies the envy of major nations. Every CEO aspires to make it to the big table of the Corporate Court and become a AAA. As of 2075, the "Big Ten" megacorps, which all have representatives on the Corporate Court, are:
- Ares Macrotechnology: American. Subsidiaries include Knight Errant Security. Their premiere business is in the arms industry, though they are also leaders in space exploration, having purchased NASA from the US government. Its corporate culture is very regimented and hierarchical, as befits a company that personifies the military-industrial complex. Very chillaxed as far as shadowrunning goes; they have a reputation for not tracking you down to kill you after a job on their territory unless you really fucked up, and they don't tend to murder the runners they hire afterward. Ares hates Bug spirits with a passion, or they're secretly working with Bug spirits, depends on which conspiracy theory you believe (Spoilers: they're both true due to corporate infighting).
- Aztechnology: Mexican. Subsidiaries include Stuffer Shack and the entire country of Aztlan. The most outright evil megacorp, Aztechnology also has some of the best PR in the world to keep the skeletons in the closet, such as their regular use of blood magic, their origin as a front company for three Mexican drug cartels, and their attempts to monopolize the world's food supply. They've appropriated Mesoamerican culture for their corporate image and engage in imperialism by proxy through Aztlan's expansion into South America, which has gone about as well as can be expected for any evil organization banning Catholicism in Latin America. Running for them is a good way to destroy your professional reputation among other shadowrunners, as well as to get cut up for spare parts by your new bosses. And if you run against them, try not to leave any hair or other traces behind, or they'll use it to track you down.
- Evo: Russian/Japanese. Subsidiaries include CrashCart. Formerly known as Yamatetsu, the fiercely xenophobic leadership of the company has given way to a free spirit and the ork son of the company's founder. Its core markets include augmentations of all kinds and metahuman-friendly products.
- Horizon: American. Appeared out of nowhere in 2061 as a media-focused megacorp, jumped right to AAA in '65, and maintained a suspiciously squeaky-clean image until it came to light that they were experimenting on technomancers and engineered a massacre in South America. Entertainment, social media, and advertising are their main focuses, which translates into a truly disturbing talent for information control and social engineering in the shadows.
- Mitsuhama Computer Technologies: Japanese. Entertainment and computer hardware giant. A Yakuza money laundering front that went horribly right, so much so that half the yakuza outright went straight because it was making more money than the crime. Though, if they want some yakuza muscle on the payroll, they don't have to jump through any hoops to get it. The "Zero Zone" is their trademark security method, wherein they kill intruders on sight with no surrender asked. Their jobs tend to be a mixed bag, here meaning that half the time they pay well and go off without a hitch and the other half they try to pay you in lead after shitty intel already killed half the team.
NeoNET: American. Formed from the merger of Novatech, Erika, and Transys Neuronet after Crash 2.0. Its core markets are in the telecommunications fields. Its corporate history stretches back decades to Fuchi Industrial Electronics, the creators of the first-generation cyberdeck. Also helped in developing experimental medical procedures using nanotech, which runners disrupted and caused the CFD outbreak. Oops. Boston has to be locked down, and thousands are trapped inside, not to mention the new fear that just about anybody can be a headcase. The UCAS sued NeoNET and Celedyr in the Corporate Court, who ordered reparations and relief to be paid to the UCAS, NeoNET to be shut down and broken apart, and the CEO to be barred from any executive positions for 10 years. (This was the same guy who ran and destroyed Fuchi to found Novatech to enrich and empower himself, and then did it again to found NeoNET.) Most assets have been sold to up-and-comer Spinrad Industries, and the seat on the Corporate Court "leased" out to Spinrad, making Spinrad the new AAA. There's a lot of open questions about what happens when the old CEO's ban expires in 10 years and he can use his seat on the CC again.
- Renraku Computer Systems: Japanese. Currently focusing on acquiring a share in every consumer market in order to make their brand as ubiquitous as possible. Their arcology in Seattle had a little incident over the 2059 holiday shopping season, by which we mean an insane AI with a god complex took it over and started horrifically experimenting on the inhabitants before crashing the whole matrix on its way out. The Red Samurai are RCS's signature elite security force. The most racist megacorp internally, with non-male, non-japanese, and non-humans have almost zero prospects of promotion to any position of power, though they're very much capable of surpressing their virulent bigotry for the sake of profit.
- Saeder-Krupp: German.The biggest megacorp in the setting(until 5th edition, when Mitsuhama took its place, S-K has been gunning for MCT ever since). Its chairman and majority shareholder is the great dragon Lofwyr. Experienced shadowrunners know not to take jobs directed at S-K or its subsidiaries, as Lofwyr is a major micromanager who does not suffer losses from his hoard or undercutting his authority, and his version of downsizing involves literally eating you. It is Lofwyr who gives us that common adage "Never deal with a dragon." Its core markets include heavy industry, finances, mining, and automotives (BMW is one of its foundation companies).
- Shiawase Corporation: Japanese. The first megacorp and still majority-owned by the Shiawase family, which means that every major corporate decision is made with undercurrents of family tension undercutting the whole situation. Notably invested in biotechnology, agriculture, and nuclear fusion. One of their family members became Empress, but as her dad used to use her as a guinea pig for his experiments, it backfired. A lot.
- Spinrad industries: French AA turned AAA after buying out most of NeoNET in an exclusive deal. They were into luxury cybernetics with ties to the European aristocracy. CEO is playboy adrenaline junkie Johnny Spinrad, who's got a huge vendetta against Lofwyr.
- Wuxing: Chinese. Founding member of the Pacific Prosperity Group, a corporate association designed to check the influence of the Japanacorps. Very quiet and mostly-unknown, like Horizon if it took its meds. Its core markets include entertainment, finances, and logistics. Has managed to use feng shui as a means of profit, since magic works again, they've managed to figure out how to manipulate luck on a small scale.
Notable AA and A Corps
- DocWagon: For-profit medical services. Their services include high-threat response teams trained to enter hazardous situations to extract their clients.
- Lone Star Security Services, Inc.: Municipal law enforcement. They had the contract for Seattle until the tempo crisis of 2072, when Governor Brackhaven ended the contract and signed with Knight Errant. Stereotyped as brutal and corrupt.
- Knight Errant: Security contractors. A subsidiary of Ares that serves as at least a part of their in-house military. Can be found across the world, most notably in Seattle where they have the contract to serve as the current police force after Lone Star got the boot. Just as lazy, brutal, and corrupt as Lone Star, but better equipped and trained and has much better PR.
- Eastern Tiger: Korean, its schtick is that its super nationalist and its propaganda claims its going to one day overtake the Japanacorps and catapult Korea to global prominency
- Global Sandstorm: Arabian with ties to the Arabian Caliphate, currently, one of its heiresses is courting Johnny Spinrad.
- Proteus AG: Transhumanism and lots of marine arcologies. The company is shrouded in mystery and misinformation. Currently in a shadow war with the Sea Dragon for reasons undisclosed.
- Universal Omnitech: When DocWagon fixes you, odds are they're using UO products. UO is a major player in cyberware and biotechnology and may be on the verge of passable clones. Its CEO, Thomas Roxborough, turned into a pile of goo after an experimental treatment for an autoimmune disorder went horribly wrong; he now lives in a space station and communicates via the Matrix.
- Zeta-Imperial Chemicals: Pharmaceuticals and healthcare. The soulless Big Pharma. They have no sense of ethics and have created bioweapons used in the first EuroWar, dumped toxic chemicals into the African market as health supplements, and developed the nanoweapon codenamed Surtr.
- Telestrian Industries: Elven Mega with most of the shares belonging to the namesake family and the ones who thwarted a Universal Brotherhood plot to turn Seattle to Bug City. One of their members, Mary Louise Telestrian, is the reigning Prince of Tir Tangire.
- Krime: American. Sells industrial artist-designed weapons designed for orks and trolls. Known for skirting rules, quality controls, and common decency, but their brutal and relatively cheap product means that they have a lasting fandom that ensures them a lasting niche in the marketplace.
The Megacorps may be the ruling powers of the world, but the Great Dragons are a close second. There's even some overlap. The Great Dragons rule over the regular dragons, as much as dragons will consent to being ruled. Most of the time though, they just snipe at each other using shadowrunners in conflicts over territory, wealth, access to mana lines, ideology, etc. Some of them even try to avert the apocalypse. There's a saying in the 6th world: "Never Deal with a Dragon". They also tell you not to break the law, obey the cops, and that the megacorps are your friends. If a dragon really wants you in its employ, you don't really have a choice. At least they pay better than the megacorps. Just don't try to fuck them over, and at the same time, have a contingency plan to flee somewhere like Antarctica in case they decide to burn you. Dealing with dragons isn't easy, but its very, very, very profitable.
- Dunkelzahn: Bestest and greatest dragon. Widely known and hugely popular for the public perception of not being a dick like the rest of the dragons, but the reality is a bit more complicated than that, if still broadly true. He was the first dragon to openly talk to humanity about the Awakening to help them make sense of the insanity, which helped him gain the public presence to host a talk show and do advocacy work for metahuman rights and social equality. He was later elected president of the UCAS, but was assassinated by car bomb about 8 hours after being sworn in. While the Big D had many enemies, who assassinated him and why is left an open question, up to that he may have even faked his own death. Current consensus is that is indeed dead and that he sacrificed himself to keep a lid on the Bad Magical Things. A novel came out and described how he currently survives as a spirit inhabiting a cyberzombie, but most fans ignore it and so do the devs. Left behind a will full of charitable donations and enough plot points and story hooks to keep the game running for many editions to come.
- Lofwyr: This guy is possibly the most prominent, most wealthy, and most dangerous dragon on earth. To the point where even other dragons are unnerved by his ruthlessness. Lofwyr in fact held the title of Loremaster, de facto keeper of draconic traditions and history, after Dunklezahn's death, though he gives up the position in 5th edition to focus on his business. Businesswyrm and micromanager extraordinaire, Lofwyr managed a hostile takeover of Saeder-Krupp decades ago, purchasing majority shares through intermediaries and shell companies, showing up to a board meeting one day in dragon form, and unceremoniously kicking the former CEO off the board. He then managed to run the biggest corporation on earth primarily from memory for over three decades. Lofwyr, also called Ol' Golden Snout, is possibly the most feared dragon by shadowrunners, for his habit of eating underperforming shadowrunners, though his rewards for success are second to none. If you're hired by a man who goes by the name Hans Brackhaus, then it probably means that Lofwyr is hiring you for personal business. Brackhaus may even be Lofwyr in disguise, though its more likely a high ranking servant.
- Hestaby: considered by many to be Lofwyr's equal and opposite, Hestaby is the most magically powerful of the Great Dragons. She lairs on Mt. Shasta and is/was a High Princess of Tir Tairngire. She's very environmentally conscious and has well buried ties to groups that the megacorps would call ecoterrorists. She's most concerned with her public image as a friend to metahumanity though. She goes by the handle "Orange Queen" on Shadowland (and later Jackpoint) and occasionally banters with The Laughing Man. She beat Lofwyr and the other Greats in a shadow-war after Dunkelzahn died, but she let Lofwyr take the place of Loremaster even though it was hers to take. Lofwyr also propositioned a mating after she let him take the position, which would usually be the equivalent of a political marriage for dragons, but Hestaby thought it was weird because Lofwyr is "past mating age". Yup, Ol Golden Snout had a thing for the Orange Queen, awkward. Of course, then she got involved in another shadow war with him over how to treat metahumans.
- Ghostwalker: Great Dragon ruler of Denver. He appeared out of nowhere during the Year of the Comet with an army of spirits and proceeded to tear the Aztlan sector of the city a new asshole and kick Aztechnology out. He then intimidated the NAN, CAS, and UCAS into giving him de facto control of the city. He's speculated to be Dunkelzahn's brother. He's also kind of a dick. Currently being the boytoy of Zebulon, Spirit of Denver, and reincarnation of his dead mate.
- Ryumyo: Great Dragon of Japan and the first dragon to appear in the sixth world. He's something of a mascot of the Japanese Imperial State and is even worshipped by some as a kami, which puts him at odds sometimes with the japanacorps and the Imperial Household(since the emperor is also seen as a kami). Currently trying to gain control of mana lines around the Ring of Fire to turn himself into a living god while sniping at his old master and father figure, Lung. He also controls a great deal of the world's Yakuza.
- Lung: Chinese Great Dragon and a stickler for tradition, the reserved and experienced Yin to Ryumyo's Yang. Used to be Ryumyo's Obi Wan till Ryumyo got jealous of his power and vowed to surpass him. Currently trying to counteract Ryumyo's manaline fuckery so he doesn't cause tsunami's and earthquakes. Also in control of the Red Dragon Triad.
- Hualpa: Founder and ruler of Amazonia, Hualpa is the most powerful of the Feathered Serpents, and is know for his heavy pro-environment agenda. Hate Aztlan with passion, both for its high level of pollution, and for been his main rival for the control of Latin America.
- Aden: A mysterious dragon who maintain lots of power and influence in the middle east for reasons unknown. In fact little is know about him since he prefer to work from the shadows, with his only mayor public appearance was when he single handily destroyed Tehran as a demonstration of power. What little information exist indicates that he is highly traditionalist when it comes to dragon customs, and have both alliances and enemies among the Muslim factions. Also like screwing with people by shifting sex at the drop of the hat.
- Celedyr: A dragon obsessed with the study and development of the matrix, to the point of becoming the major shareholder of the telecommunication company Transys Neuronet, and its successor NeoNET. During Crash 2.0 his favorite protege went braindead and his ego survived as an e-ghost. Celedyr wanted to restore him and teamed up with NeoNET to research methods of sleeving AIs into meat bodies using nanomachines, but runners hit the research facility, leading to the CFD outbreak. In the aftermath, the city of Boston and thousands of lives were ended or ruined, NeoNET was forcibly disbanded, Celedyr is a bit less rich and keeping his head down until the whole thing blows over, but at least his protege is back in his old body.
- Sirrurg: Known as "the Destroyer", Sirrurg is an angry, angry fucker. He helped Hualpa found Amazonia and has been fighting Azzies and other enemies on and off ever since. Because he prefers to go out in person and kill whatever pisses him off, he avoids political and economic moves which have defined the rest of the Greats, so he was the one who had the least influence over world affairs and therefore the one that runners are least likely to get entangled with. During the Amazonia-Aztlan war, he was brought down by Aztechnology forces and captured. He was going to be executed by Aztlan for war crimes (without trumped up charges, which is saying something), but he disappeared before then. The ongoing theory is that he was recaptured by other greats who are holding him prisoner until he's needed again.
- Masaru: Great Dragon that claims the Philippines and New Zealand. The youngest and most idealistic Great Dragon, dedicated to metahuman rights, cross-cultural developments, environmentalism, and magical research. Also, the not-so-secret leader of the filipino Huk Rebellion, known for successfully taking on the strongest military in the setting(Imperial Japan) using primarily fishing boats, small arms, wooden sticks, and fanatical revolutionary zeal. Avid book collector and Dunklezahn fanboy.
- The Sea Dragon: only known Great Leviathan. Extremely isolationist and unfriendly. Claims the entirety of Earth's seafloor as her domain. She really hates metahumanity, and will remind you by crapping the remains of the last adventuring party who didn't get the message on the borders of her territory. Tricked by Rhonabwy to sleep with him by disguising as another Great Leviathan. Of course she's pissed because of that. Way to go, player!
- Eliohann/Neurosis/Cerberus: Celedyr's protege and possibly foster son. The first and only dragon with a fully functioning datajack(installed illegally and without his consent in the 2050s, he later bought up the corporation that did it). The implantation had the effect of giving him Dissassociative Identity Disorder and a deep fascination with transhumanism(trans-dragonism?) and the matrix. His body went comatose in the Crash 2.0 but his mind lived on as a cyberghost(actually several cyberghosts due to the aformentioned multiple personalities). May or may not have been restored to his original body after the Boston lockdown.
- Damon: playboy dragon who deals in designer drugs and extreme sports. May or may not be Dunklezahn's biological son.
- Perianwyr: dragon known to most of the world as a laid back music producer, was formerly one half of what was once one of the world's top assassin duos.
If you aren't working for the government, the corps, or the dragons, you're probably working for these guys
- The Mafia: Same old mafia, crime families in North America and Europe. Much more polyglot in this setting than most, with one of the major groups being Polish-Italian-Spanish-Creole.
- The Yakuza: Japanese, the largest crime enterprises, most of them are super racist.
- Triads: Chinese, some of the most magically adept crime organizations, very superstitious though.
- Vory: The Russian mob, often seen as brutal and psychotic, weapons and human trafficking mostly.
- Seoulpa Rings: When the Yaks started killing off their Korean members early in the century, some of them broke off and formed the Seoulpa Rings.
- Grey Wolves: Turkish, arms dealing and smuggling
- Kabul Mafiyya: brutal Afghani warlords
- Koshari: Southwestern Native American crime family specializing in gambling and magical drugs.
- Ghost Cartels: Various Latin American crime organizations that survived the massive clusterfuck that happened in Aztlan and South America, some are basically Aztechnology-run, others are Amazonian.
- Tamanous: Creepy secretive human trafficking and organ smuggling, Pacific Northwest and Southeast Asia. Hated by just about everyone.
- Ancients: North American Elf-only biker gang, possibly controlled by immortal elves.
- Cutters: Powerful North American street gang that runs itself like a mini-corporation.
- Halloweeners: Psychotic Seattle street gang whose shtick is dressing spooky and setting shit on fire. Batman Beyond's Jokers gang. Currently the most recognized gang for past infamy, but law enforcement doesn't take kindly to crazy arsonists, and the pressure made them shrink tremendously over the years.
- Desolation Angels: all female biker gang. They recruit primarily from abuse victims and spend a lot of their time hunting both rapists and insect spirits. In actuality, they're run by a bunch of mantis spirits, who are in fact, not interested in devouring humanity, but instead eat other insect spirits. Notable for infiltrating the republican party and assassinating a presidential candidate who was actually a wasp spirit.
- The Tiospaye: Means "Extended Family" in Lakota, they are also known as the Lakota Mafia. They basically own the shadows in the Sioux Nation. All the style of the Italian mob with all the brutality of the Yakuza. They've become more vicious in recent years due to the psychotic son of the old mob boss assassinating his old man.
- Shadowland and Shadowsea: Online forums on the matrix's Darknet equivalent that act as a network for shadowrunners to share information. Went down after Crash 2.0.
- Jackpoint: A successor organization to Shadowland after the Crash 2.0, less inclusive than Shadowland and Shadowsea, but its runners are generally more experienced and the network is more secure.
- The Nexus: Shadow collective responsible for operating most of the dark matrix, worked closely with Shadowland/Shadowsea. Based in a former military base on the outskirts of Denver.
- Black Star: Elite paramilitary neo-anarchist group.
- The Draco Foundation: An NGO created to carry out the last will and testament of Great Dragon and UCAS president Dunkelzahn. Has all sorts of crazy artifacts and wealth bequeathed to it by the wyrm to reward those who fulfill the requests in the will. Though it's mostly a nonprofit designed to last until the last of Dunkelzahn's bequests are earned, he was so crazy rich that the interest on all of his resources gives the Draco Foundation the resources and power of an AA corporation.
- Harlequin/The Laughing Man: "Har'lea'quinn, Last Knight of the Crying Spire, the Lightbearer. He who manipulates shadowrunners and fights duels with assholes", as he calls himself is an immortal elf leftover from the 4th age. A powerful mage and colossal jackass in the service of "the cause of good" (as much as any cause can be good in Shadowrun), Harlequin treats shadowrunners like disposable chess pieces in his unending war with extra-dimensional monstrosities. Still more likable than other immortal elves though, since he's less bigoted and more fun to be around. He's basically the more motivated Elminster of Shadowrun, if Elminster were a (bigger) asshole with a drinking problem and a penchant for leaving annoyingly cryptic jokes/hints on Shadowland. Many players hate him to this day because of the Harlequin's Back module, which ran him as an impressively bad example of a DMPC. Despite the hate, Harlequin has rarely been seen in the tabletop sources since then.
- Winternight: Insane norse paganism cult from out of your darkest nightmares. Believes that its holy mission is to bring about Ragnarok. Is run by a toxic shaman, a deeply unhinged drone engineer, and a brutal war criminal. Partially responsible for the Matrix Crash 2.0, as the cult believes the Matrix to be an instrument of evil, and was subsequently destroyed by the Corporate Court. Got its hands on a crapton of nukes though, modified some to have EMP blasts, and came very close to actually causing a nuclear apocalypse. Their most disturbing creation is the God BTL chip, a digital drug that simultaneously induces euphoria and rage at levels that do not occur in nature, turning whoever uses it into a violent berserker who feels no pain and hates literally everything, and the best part is, its addictive. Needless to say, Winternight is very good at brainwashing. Also their sleeper agents in Zeta-ImpChem developed the SURTR nanoplague, which causes metahuman flesh to combust on contact, and the YMIR toxin, which causes metahuman blood to crystalize.
- Deus: The insane AI that was designed to be the administrator of the Seattle Renraku Arcology. Went apeshit after realizing that Renraku had killcodes prepared in case it ever betrayed the megacorp, the discovery of which prompted it to betray the megacorp (Irony!). Locked down the arcology and began experimenting on people Mengele-style with the help of Otaku cultists. This continued for over a year, ending in its apparent defeat by Renraku forces (actually shadowrunners). But in reality, it had transferred pieces of its code into augmented test subjects who were freed alongside regular victims of the mad AI. Partially responsible for the Crash 2.0 when it overloaded the Manhattan Stock Exchange trying to turn itself into "god of the matrix", just as Winternight's EMP nukes went off and a supervirus was corrupting code on a global scale. Also, very good at brainwashing, by installing cyberware of its own design into its victims' skulls.
- Ex Pacis: Ex-otaku cultists of Deus who were betrayed by the AI. Went nuts trying to prevent losing their powers and began worshipping the Dissonance (which is basically some weird matrix phenomenon that lets them manipulate corrupted data that no one else can). Partially responsible for the Crash 2.0 when their super-virus intended to make the whole Matrix Dissonant overloaded servers worldwide while Deus was trying to make itself into a god and Winternight set off EMP devices. Also made sacrifices of otaku children to appease the matrix. Learned how to brainwash otaku from Deus and can do it to technomancers too, but their techniques really only work on otaku/technomancers since regular metahumans can't interact with Dissonance/Resonance.
- Universal Brotherhood: Defunct insect spirit cult masquerading as a charity organization. Responsible for turning Chicago into hell on earth. Destroyed by Ares and the UCAS government
- Humanis Policlub: human supremacist political bloc. Kind of like the Klan, but with more money and it doesn't care about ethnicity. Instead, it hates metahumans while pretending to be a "human rights organization".
- Alamos 20k: Humanis Policlub's illiterate ultraviolent redneck cousin. Doesn't even pretend to be civilized like Humanis does. It recruits from Humanis chapters though.
- Human Nation: Humanis Policlub's rich social darwinist uncle. While Humanis is out holding political rallies and Alamos 20k is firebombing orphanages, the Human Nation is trying to engineer a "cure" for metahumanity. Said cure usually takes the form of diseases targeting poor metahuman communities.
- Black Lodge: basically wizard illuminati that has infiltrated most of the world's governments. May or may not be as old as the 4th world. Capable of taking on the Great Dragons and forcing them into a standstill.
- Ordo Maximus: secretive cabal of mages, european nobility, and possibly vampires. Embodiment of some of the more crackpot conspiracy theories in the setting. The Black Lodge's hammier cousin.
Shadowrun doesn't have a class system per se, but the priority system is basically a class system in a clever disguise. Prior to Fourth Edition, the priority system was the default character generation method; players assigned priority to five categories, which determined how important those categories are to the character concept: attributes, magic, race, resources, and skills, with higher priorities giving greater quantities or qualities of the desired category. If you wanted to play a mage, you had to make magic your #1 priority. If you wanted to play a non-human, race had to be lower priority. Later books expanded character creation systems to a point-buy method, which allowed greater flexibility than priority, and karma generation, which assigned a karma value to everything and allowed you to spend a pool of karma to build your character the same way as you would advance in experience.
Characters are basically the sum of their skills. All functions in Shadowrun are based on a related skill or stat rating, or a combination thereof. Through Third Edition, task resolution was Attribute + Skill vs Target Number. If the Target Number was higher than 6, you had to roll at least one 6 and then add another roll; in practice, TNs of 7, 13, 19, and so on were no different than TNs of 6, 12, 18, etc.
Despite the system being classless, there are still broad archetypes. The major divide is between Awakened (magically active) and augmented (cybernetically or biologically enhanced), and further divided into roles below. The limit to any character's magic power or cybernetic enhancement is his Essence, a measure of how "whole" they are. Installing cyberware/bioware costs Essence and the attribute, rounded down, is the cap to the Magic or Resonance attribute; losing Essence also knocks down your Magic/Resonance attribute. When Essence hits zero, the character dies as his soul mistakes his body for a machine or an inhuman monster and moves on to the afterlife. A mage or technomancer raises their attribute cap by one each time they initiate or submerge; e.g. a mage with two grades of initiation and an Essence of 5 has a Magic attribute cap of 7.
Biologically, most player characters are metahuman (i.e., part of the species homo sapiens). After the Awakening, magic interacts with ill-understood bits of DNA to transform people into fantasy creatures in a process dubbed "Unexplained Genetic Expression." Elves and dwarfs change in utero; a few years later, regular people started transforming into orks and trolls, usually quite painfully, a process informally called "Goblinization."
Human - Regular humans still exist and are still the majority metatype around the world.
Elf - Tall, pretty, and arrogant. Yep, that's an elf. Some have delusions of superiority, such that they've created entire nations for elfkind, Tír Tairngire (formerly Oregon) and Tír na nÓg (formerly Ireland). A few (notably Ehren the Scribe and Harlequin) claim to be immortal and lived during the Fourth World, a time thousands of years ago when magic last cycled into existence.
Dwarf - Short, stubborn, and resilient. Yep, that's a dwarf. They have an affinity for technology and dislike magic.
Ork - Big, tough, and strong, the average ork would be a successful NFL linebacker. Multiple births are far more common among orks than any other metatype; combined with their accelerated life cycle (orks become old geezers around forty), this creates a lot of tension between orks, who just want to be treated with dignity, and humans who see them as slightly above rats.
Troll - Really big, thick skin, and a bunch of horns. The average troll is around three meters tall. If you're a really tall guy, you know how hard it is to get by in a world designed for people around 5'10". Trolls experience that up to eleven (feet). Everything is child-sized to a troll. They have to get beer by the pitcher. It's not all bad, though. Most racists don't want to persecute the guy who can deadlift a car and tank a shotgun blast to the chest.
Metavariants - Think your snowflake isn't special enough? Well, other books brought out metavariants, "subspecies" of each metatype associated with various regions and cultures. Want to play a minotaur, gnome, hobgoblin, or something else? You can now. Ironically, this includes humans, since there's an Indian metavariant that has extra arms and technicolored skin.
Changelings - What, still not special enough? When Halley's Comet made its latest pass through the solar system in 2061, mana levels spiked and a second wave of Goblinization hit the world, called "Sudden Unexplained Recessive Genetic Expression." Now you can live out your furry fetish and be an actual catgirl or dragonboi, or something even wilder thanks to the mix-and-match nature of the changeling metatype.
Drakes - These guys got the short stick. Simply put, a drake is made by a dragon. You can think of them as half-dragon, half-metahuman. Why do they get the short stick ? Because daddy is an asshole. Dragons, even the kindest ones, see drakes not as people but as tools. If you're a drake, you'll be indoctrinated, abused and told to obey every whim of the dickish wizworm who made you. And if you manage to be a free drake, it sucks even more. Without the protection of daddy, every other dragon wants to put his claws on you because making a drake is HARD. On the plus side, you can transform into your draconic form and become even more badass.
Metasapients - They're not metahuman and never were, but are sapient and capable of interacting peacefully with metahuman civilization, in some cases even qualifying for citizenship. Things like sasquatches, centaurs, pixies, nagas, and shapeshifters are viable character types, but all come with disadvantages like being uneducated (because of not living in metahuman society), incompatible with commercially-available augmentations, and even being incapable of human speech.
Artificial Intelligence - After Crash 2.0, AIs started appearing. They weren't as powerful as the three that fought during the Crash, but are as varied in personality as metahumanity. Being entirely software, they need to live in hardware, be it a beefed-up commlink or a drone. They make excellent riggers and hackers, but are crap at interacting with the real world.
The Infected - Not a metatype unto themselves, but when a person contracts Human-Metahuman Vampiric Virus (HMHVV) and doesn't either miraculously resist and/or die before it magically alters the poor sod's genetic structure, he becomes Infected. Depending on metatype and strain of HMHVV, you become some type of vampire or other 'undead' (Strain III HMHVV turns anyone into a ghoul, a blind but dual-natured obligate cannibal, for instance.) All Infected have in common a hunger for either fresh metahuman blood or flesh that makes them go feral if not sated and this makes them pariahs with open "shoot-to-kill-on-sight" bounties in the majority of places. Oh, and to top it all, even if the initial infection doesn't kill the victim or drives them insane, and they manage to somehow find sustenance without going feral/crazy from what they're forced to do to survive; there is no post-change cure for HMHVV even after decades of research and experiment.
Typical character roles
Runner teams, as any teams built up of professionals, tend to have their members highly specialized. Roles are varied and often combined, but generally most teams have these roles:
Muscle - Either heavily cybered Street Samurai (often just called a "Sammy") or Awakened Adepts, whose unusual physical abilities depend on the magic they channel through their bodies and their self-belief. Muscle deals with direct physical threats and are expected to be capable of dealing and soaking massive amounts of damage, coupled with high Initiative Passes count, allowing them to act more frequently in the real world than their opposition. It is also a good idea for Muscle to have some infiltration skills to cover up Shadows and at least marginal intimidation skills. Despite the popular Hollywood image, making Sammies and Adepts into actual sword-wielding melee warriors is only encouraged if you want to see your character dead. It's not as bad in fifth edition as in previous editions due to various balance changes; but melee still has the disadvantages of needing to get in the open and run up to people to slice/krump them where a good gun allows to stay at range and behind cover.
Shadow - Physical infiltration specialists. Those are usually either special Adept builds or non-Awakened characters using specialized implants. Naturally, Shadows are expected to be as unnoticeable and observant as possible, making implants and powers that allow them to hide from sight or perceive outside human spectra highly popular. Shadows should also be capable of full-on breaking and entering, requiring some hardware skills and specialized gear. Hardest role to pull off reliably due to the shitloads of security systems and ways to detect intrusion magically existing in SR, but oh-so-rewarding when done flawlessly.
Face - The social player of the party. The Face is the one who deals with the employers (typically a go-between traditionally called a "Mr. Johnson"), gets the gear needed for the job, and has all the right contacts and the cunning plans to come ahead of the opposition. Many Faces are also the ones to hire the hideouts for the team and some of them make excellent impersonators, using magic or specialized implants to assume disguises. While Face is a relatively straightforward role mechanically, it is frequently the most intellectually tasking and roleplaying-heavy, since it often falls on the Face to arrange the team's planning.
Mage - The astral cover. Mages are all Awakened, but still come in different traditions and specializations. While some rely on direct-effect spells which allow them to whip out bagfuls of damage dice, fly, dodge bullets, and more, others count on summoned spirits to do the job for them, without risking direct opposition or at least having some heavy support at hand. Mages' ability to astrally project makes them valuable assets for scouting, especially long-distance one. Given enough time and resources, they can get almost anyone in the world with ritual spellcasting, and naturally, Mages are also the only magical healers a shadowrunner team can hope to get. There's also absolutely no defense against a Mage except another Mage (or a quick bullet, leading to the basic and often given advice "Geek the Mage first"), so the runners depend on their mage's counterspelling abilities and guard spirits heavily. Not everyone who is Awakened can be a Mage, as it takes training to be more than a liability to your local community. Shamans, on the other hand, receive guidance from dominant spirit Totems.
Adepts - can amplify their own attributes and talents and have access to unique Adept Powers, but they can't use conventional spells or astrally project, making them more like Street Samurai or Shadows in practice. In fact, they can't perceive astral space at all unless they buy the specific power that lets them do so, a weakness shared with their traditional magic-using hybrid, the Mystic Adept. Finally, Aspected Magicians are "diet" mages, only skilled in a single category of magic, e.g. a spellcaster only or a summoner only. They're very good at that category, but can never use any form of magic outside that category.
Decker/Otaku (Hacker/Technomancer): - Before the Crash 2.0, Matrix intrusion relied on specialized hardware setups often built into a device the size of a skateboard, the archetypal cyberdeck. The decker maintained such a rig and used it to break into Matrix security for his team. His Awakened counterpart was the otaku, a teenager with the odd ability to interact with the Matrix without a cyberdeck; he still needed ASIST hardware and a datajack, but he didn't rely on a bulky and horribly expensive piece of tech to do his thing. The otaku lost their abilities as they aged, a process they called "Fading." After the Crash 2.0 and the Wireless Matrix Initiative, the times of the decker and otaku were over. In their place emerged the Hacker and the Technomancer, respectively - the former are mundane boys with a head full of 'ware and a commlink the cost of a house, and the latter are believed to be the "evolved" form of otakus that retain their skills as they age, and can also compile and command sprites (which are essentially the Matrix analogue of spirits). A Shadowrunning team depends on the Hacker (or Technomancer - in practice, their abilities are more or less identical) to find the info that the Face's contacts can't or won't provide, break into opposition's hosts to fiddle with security systems, intercept their data exchange or do the rest of other things a hacker can be doing with a computer. Most hackers were known to be couch potatoes, but between wireless networks and wireless-inhibiting building walls, they have a good reason to have some actual infiltration skills. Hackers also frequently moonlight as Riggers on the side. Recent security measures introduced to the Wireless Matrix have brought the use of a new generation of cyberdecks modified to interact with the new Matrix and bypass security systems back into vogue, making the terms "hacker" and "decker" interchangeable again.
Rigger - The drone specialist and usually the driver for the party. Riggers are mostly the ones to pimp out rides for shady shadowrunning biz, and their swarms of drones can rival Muscle and Shadows at their jobs. While rigging presupposes spending a lot of your time "jumped in", wearing your drones or vehicles as your own skin, many Riggers also double as back-up hackers. The high Logic needed for hacking and rigging also makes Hackers and Riggers the most likely candidate for the team's paramedic.
Pink Mohawk, Black Trenchcoat and Mirrorshades
Among the player base, three terms have emerged for describing the prominent roleplay-styles for Shadowrun.
- Pink Mohawk refers to playing fast and loose. Subtlety? Screw that noise. Write your names on the walls of corporate property with bullets. Blow holes in the walls of secure military facilities. Flip dragons the bird. That kind of stuff. Playing as a Pink Mohawk means acting like a stereotypical musclebound 80s-action hero and generally being balls to the walls insane with a devil-may-care attitude and succeeding at it. This play style is most commonly associated with the older editions of Shadowrun when cyberpunk was first getting started.
- Black Trenchcoat refers to a more clandestine approach to runs. Generally more grounded in the concept of not getting caught in the first place. This play style developed as the cyberpunk genre evolved and is more associated with newer editions. Black Trenchcoats generally view runs more like spec-ops missions or espionage and try to solve situations without resorting to violence and not to leave behind incriminating evidence.
- Mirrorshades refer to a game that try to balance both above mentioned styles, where players do their best to plan things in advance and stay discreet whenever possible; but do not hesitate to go all-in and bring out the big guns when fecal matter gets in contact with the rotating ventilation device.
Released in 1989. The introduction to the world of 2050. The game's basic mechanics are introduced, the tone is set, and along with it come a ton of sourcebooks.
Released in 1992. The year is 2053 now, and the ruleset is essentially a polished First Edition. Generally regarded as an improvement over the first edition of the game, as is often the case for second editions.
Released in 1998. The year is 2063 and more new goodies are available. Magic and Matrix rules were altered in this version, but all sourcebooks from all editions still work with no serious hassles. However, the general granularity and complexity of the game system increased a lot with the game's third edition. The game changed publishers for the first time during this edition, moving from FASA's hands to those of WizKids and Fanpro.
Released in 2005. The year is 2071. The system got a major overhaul, as fourth editions tend to bring. A lot of mechanics were simplified, starting right from the dicerolling: rolling a dice pool with variable target numbers and Rule of Six always in order, hoping to get at least one roll over the target number, has been replaced by rolling a pool of dice with the target number preset, and then counting successes - dice with numbers rolled over said target number. A player can spend Edge on a roll to gain the Rule of Six and a pool bonus equal to Edge or reroll any dice that failed.
The new system is disputed to be more restrictive in the resolution of conflicts and character options. The new rule system also naturally renders most of the crunch from older edition books obsolete; the fluff contained in them, however, is still valid. And character creation got upgraded to the use of build points, which touched off a nasty war between the "priorities" guys and the "BP" guys about whose system is more archaic and abusable.
Also, the Matrix rules have undergone a complete overhaul (justified in the fluff as a shift to wireless following a network crash just after the 3e splatbook "System Failure") to hypothetically allow hackers to do their thing without leaving the rest of the party inactive. Still, hackers prefer to break into systems out of the heat of combat if at all possible, so, while the issue has been made less severe, it is still present.
The most discussed difference from the previous editions is, surprisingly, the change of street jargon. While justified by almost ten in-game years passing since the third edition, a good deal of old-time players still believe that replacing "deckers" with "hackers", "cyberdecks" with "commlinks", "chummer" with "omae", or "otaku" with "technomancer" is too severe a change. That being said, older 'runners in-game would continue to use the older slang (remember, never trust anyone old in a profession where they ought to have died young).
20th Anniversary Edition
An update for the 4th edition, it's a basically a re-release of the core rulebook in full color with all the errata applied, new (and good) artwork and more structured layout. It is still fully compatible with SR4E, and the errata for the original release of the core rulebook can still be found on the Catalyst site.
Released in late summer of 2013 to coincide with the release of Shadowrun Returns. Foreshadowed in the last Fourth Edition sourcebook, the Matrix has been revamped again, changing hacking from threshold-based tests to opposed tests, more closely mirroring normal skill tests and speeding up Matrix interactions and combat considerably. It also allows hackers to mess with devices that have open wi-fi channels, giving impetus for hackers to stick close to the team to shield their own electronics from foul play while harassing the enemies' gear at the same time. Random pieces of gear have "wireless bonuses" that improve their functionality as long as you take the risk of announcing your presence or an enemy hacker (or just a dick hacker nearby) wrecking it in the process. Most of these bonuses are silly things like the silencer that has a microphone that wirelessly tells you if somebody heard your shots or throwing stars that grow control surfaces on their edges.
To counteract absurd dice pools, the rules introduce limits, which cap the number of successes you can use in any test and are derived from doing algebra on your attributes. Some pieces of gear increase limits, usually as their wireless bonuses. In practice, limits mean a relatively untrained troll is likely to beat a trained elf in a fistfight.
As of 2074, the current metaplot concerns an insidious mind-altering nanotechnology program called "cognitive fragmentation disorder," transmissible by contact with infected nanotech the same way HIV is transmitted by infected bodily fluids. Also like HIV, there's no cure to be found yet. Unlike HIV, CFD is intelligent and appears to be a hive mind using its infected "head cases" to accomplish some sort of long-term plan that may include taking over a megacorp base on Mars.
Consensus is that Catalyst Game Labs cannot into editing and the line editor is allergic to both errata and criticism. Every book has slapdash organization, with game rules scattered throughout fluff sections rather than being collected into a single chapter for simple reference. Important Matrix info like rules for encryption and decryption aren't in the core book, instead promised in a later Matrix-focused book that took about two years to hit the shelves. The writers are also Third Edition grognards who brought the priority system back as the default character generation method and continue to uphold the katana as the most awesome melee weapon evar. And the trillions of granular rules and redundant skills for every little occasion combine all the ballast and scuttle of every previous edition, with little effort made to modernize.
Released mid-2016, Shadowrun: Anarchy is an attempt by CGL at creating a 'rules-lite' version of Shadowrun, using a more narrativist approach and a lot less of crunch. The result is quite polarizing. The narrative system lets every player have their turn at making the story go forward and relegating the GM to transitions and arbitrating when the narrative gets bogged down; which people either love or hate. The core of the (intricated) character generation rules remains, but all the rest has been abstracted into "Amps" that represent everything from gear to cybernetics to spells in order to trim the fat down. The resulting game sits a weird place where people wanting a truly 'rules-lite' system still think it's too crunchy and those who like the 'gear porn' aspect of SR displeased at the abstraction/dumbing down of everything into nebulous, poorly defined "Amps". Luckily, CGL was savvy enough to realize that forcing down a new system down everyone's throat would not end well, so they propose Anarchy as a standalone alternative to SR 5e, leaving everyone free to try it and either roll with it or stick to the much more crunchy fifth edition.
Seven video games exist for Shadowrun, six of which are available in America, and five of which are good.
1993: The first came out for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, and shamelessly rips off chunks of William S. Gibson's "Neuromancer" (right down to the name of the protagonist, Jake Armitage) as the player wakes up in a chop shop and deals with the fallout of a run gone horribly wrong, gains the favor of the Dog spirit, and ultimately, solos a motherfucking Great Dragon. (A little one, but still.) While enjoyable for casualfags, more serious fans of the franchise may be grumpy with Shadowrun SNES for playing loose with magic, cyberware, and the fact that having a bunch of the latter is supposed to do serious shit to your expertise in the former. And the gameplay is clearly having a hard time adapting something originally intended for a mouse and keyboard to a controller.
Jake's still popular though, appearing in a number of actual adventure modules and the recent Shadowrun Returns title's "Deadman's Switch" campaign.
1994: The second was released for the Sega Genesis, and is widely held as a worthy use of the license. In this particular game, protagonist Joshua must piece together the puzzle behind his brother Michael's death on a run into Native American-held territory, making a name for himself in the Shadowrunning biz along the way. Fans cite the expanded tactical opportunities (read: being able to move around and dodge bullets in doing so) and immersive Matrix depiction (real-time combat against unique IC types and messing with a variety of system nodes) as this game's greatest advantages over its SNES counterpart.
1996: The third game is the Japanese-only one, made for the Sega CD and set in Japan rather than Seattle. It plays more like a text adventure (i.e. Sega CD smash hit Snatcher) and its rare action sequences suffer for it.
2007: The fourth video game adaptation of Shadowrun came in 2007 for XBox 360 and Microsoft Vista. While being designed for Vista should be fail in itself, Microsoft went to great lengths to fuck with the storyline in order to make a dime-a-dozen FPS out of the license - so much that the Sixth World Wiki claims it "may be more accurately described as a game loosely based on Shadowrun." Since Catalyst holds a decent bit of clout with the Sixth World Wiki and other parts of Dumpshock, it can safely be assumed that Microsoft's treatment of the Shadowrun franchise has been officially disavowed...
2012: ...Which is good, because in April 2012, Hairbrained Schemes LLC (operated by Jordan Weissman of BattleTech fame) in conjunction with Smith & Tinker procured the rights to Shadowrun and made a new 2050's based game available on several platforms. Under the "Shadowrun Returns" project title, these guys raised a $1.5 million Kickstarter payout to make "an old-school Shadowrun" vidyagame happen, and it was released in 2013. They also threw things at the Executive Producer from the 2007 game as he held up a cardboard sign that said "SORRY!" Features mechanics obviously ripped from XCOM: Enemy Unknown, some of the best cyberpunk genre writing in the market...and unfortunately plenty of railroading which was necessary for the linear plot. Despite this, the fact it was released for Steam alongside the newly established "Steam Workshop" system which allows players to upload their own created content as instantly installed mods for players to peruse gave the game a massive amount of replayability as older campaigns and homebrew stories were adapted into the game by fans (as well as shit like dating sims).
The story for the game begins as your character, down on their luck, receives a message from an old member of their crew. Postmortem. He tells you that he had a device installed which will send this message upon his death, and the moment you solve his murder you will receive a megafuck payout of Nuyen from his rainy day fund. You return to Seattle and make the Seamstresses Union your hangout as you get drawn into an elaborate story leading from solving the mystery of the "Emerald City Ripper" through breaking the number one rule of Shadowrunning; never cut a deal with a dragon (number two of course being never deal with that asshole Harlequin) as the largest megacorps in the world pool their resources into giving you the tools necessary to prevent Seattle from becoming Chicago 2 (meaning, giant nest full of a combination of fucked up near-immortal insects and even worse, insect spirits). The player character is the primary protagonist, although you befriend several fellow 'runners including: a romantically involved pair named Coyote and Paco, a Native American Shaman named Shannon Half-Sky, Dodger the Elven Decker from the very first short story in the Shadowrun universe from the first edition, and Jake Armitage from the SNES game.
2014: The game was followed by DLC called Shadowrun Returns: Dragonfall, later released as it's own game titled Shadowrun Returns: Dragonfall Director's Cut. Dragonfall centers around a group of 'runners in the Flux State of Berlin and the greater Allied German States. Being the unofficial leaders of their own Kiez, the Kreusbazar, the player inherits leadership of the crew from the former leader Decker of the team and their old friend, Monika Schäfer. Players are given far more control over the story than the last game with the bulk of the Runs being able to be taken at any time, a large number of sideplots, and a large cast of characters whose stories the player has control over through your interactions. The player has a constant crew with their own stories: the older Dragonslayer Shaman/Mage and former Punk Rocker who participated on the side of the metahumans in the worst of the race riots, the Night of Rage, named Dietrich; Glory, the medic/Street Samurai who, after her VERY fucked up childhood, found herself in a Branch Davidian style cult to a Toxic Totem of the Adversary Spirit and replaced most of her organic parts with mechanical ones to rid herself of her Essence and free herself as much as possible from his grasp; Eiger, the Troll ex-special forces Street Samurai sniper who was sent on a secret and illegal operation which was fucked up by an inexperienced member of her crew causing her to be blacklisted and forced into the shadows resulting in a control freak with no patience for inexperience or arrogance; the optional member of the crew Blitz who is a former ganger Decker that deals with his past contacts. Your Face is Paul Amsel, an older gentleman who runs all of the non-Run related business for the crew. Plus your half-Hellhound Dante. The plot involves the return of the Dragon Feuerschwinge and her small army, with some subplots involving everything from some of the shittier sides to political groups and the megacorps through the next big Matrix threat, an AI on an unprecedented scale who may or may not be a major player in the 2070's cyber scene as it takes on the personas of Deckers it fries with one of its victim's handles still posting on internet forums almost twenty years after his death. Shadowrun Returns is referenced as a news report mentions the Emerald City Ripper early on his rampage, allowing players looking to play the same character to make Dragonfall the prequel to Returns. The actual gameplay mechanics were improved, with far more tilesets added and the Adept play experience made viable, in addition to being able to save anytime rather than only at the end of a scene. Players who purchased the Director's Cut were able to play the Returns game with the improvements.
2016: The third game, also standalone, called Shadowrun Returns: Hong Kong just had a similarly extremely successful Kickstarter raising $1.2 million, and was released that August. The game featured a revamped experience for Mages and Shamans, as well as a completely redone Matrix sequence. SR:HK continued with the gray morality, dingy world of the past two games with further emphasis on reputation as players deal with various groups including criminal Triads, the everpresent megacorps, and the police, not quite all of them being hostile. The PC has a background in a gang in the Seattle barrens with their adoptive brother Duncan Wu until they were taken in by a man named Raymond Black, and they lived in relative peace until the PC goes on a shadowrun that goes bad and spends a few years in a black site. The plot kicks off shortly after the PC gets out and their adoptive father Raymond Black calls and pensively asks for help in Hong Kong. When the player character arrives, they meet a security team (Duncan being one of the pair) and a team of shadowrunners, but Raymond is pointedly missing. Then group comes under ambush, and the survivors fight their way out a SWAT hit squad through a sniper shooting gallery, have to work favors for a Triad boss to cover their tracks, and then find that Raymond was killed or abducted. And then you get to the second mission. Their journey takes them to the Triad stronghold-cum-settlement Heoi, which serves as your home base and a series of colorful residents, to put it mildly. Their journey keeps coming back to the Kowloon Walled City and the seriously bad vibes coming out of it. A slum that makes Redmond look like paradise to put it very lightly
The new crew consists of: Gobbet, the Ork Rat Shaman who's known for her iron stomach, being unhygienic, and yet strangely gregarious and attractive; Duncan Wu the Ork ex-security Street Samurai and the other part of PC's and Raymond's adoptive family; Is0bel, the antisocial and traumatized Dwarf Decker of Somalian refugee descent; and then there's your handler, "Kindly" Cheng (but really, call her "auntie"), the chainsmoking Triad middle manager whose both a hard drinker and a hard ass, but she's happy if you do a good job. There's also the optional party members: Racter, the creepy Russian rigger who rents out your basement, a clinical psychopath, mad scientist, and futurist, also quite friendly once you get to know him; and Gaichû, the disciplined and thoughtful Ghoul and former member of Renraku's (in)famous Red Samurai security who refused to commit Seppuku after contracting the Ghoul virus. The game is also coming with its own short story to act as a prologue to the game.
The two released Harebrained Schemes Shadowrun Returns games were met with the massive approval of both the Shadowrun community and the general video game enthusiast community, an impressive feat. Hong Kong was kinda skub, but mostly averages out to "popular."
Named just Shadowrun like the role play game. A five-book manga by Kazuma Saiki (斉木 一馬), set in 2050, Japan, and published by Dragon Comics (ドラゴンコミックス) from 1996 to 1998. Fun Fact: The author's name has been featured as a character mentioned in Vice and Target: Awakened Lands source books, where the said Saiki in Shadowrun world is a CEO of the Saiki corporation as well as the head of the Saiki-rengo (yakuza syndicate).
General Shadowrunning Rules
Rule One: Geek the Mage.
Rule Two: Never make a deal with a dragon.
- Official Shadowrun Page
- Shadowrun Wiki
- A forum used to roleplay as the in-universe Shadowland site.
- The old Kickstarter page for SRR
- Shadowrun Hong Kong Kickstarter The game funded successfully and launched on August 20, 2015.
- The C.L.U.E. Files, a collection of horrible derp that Shadowrun players submitted their GMs to in the distant past
- Some Shadowrun Modules written up by a namefag from /tg/'s Shadowrun general thread.
- Well organized Shadowrun wiki for the online game group "Shadowhaven" playing through Roll20 and Discord.