How to Character - Tips to make everyone's life more awesome

I’m assuming you’ve read or at least glanced through the “Creating a Shadowrunner” section of the Core book before getting here. If you haven’t, you should probably do that first.

Important Errata

First things first, the Core rulebook has some serious editing issues, and Catalyst has published Errata for it. For character creation, the most important ones are:

  • Trolls lifestyle costs are 2x, not 1.5x
  • Dwarves get Thermographic Vision
  • Mystic Adept Power Points cost 5 Karma, not 2, taking them from “Crazy OP” to “meh”

All of the errata should already be accounted for in the latest version of Chummer5, if you’re using that.

House Chargen Rules

Some of these are meant to work around the fiddlier parts of the Shadowrun rule-set, and others are meant to help develop characters more fully.

  • You don’t need to obsess over tracking ammunition. Normal ammo is “free” and already reflected in your pay.
    • If you want specialty ammo, you’ll need to track it yourself. I don’t care how precisely, as long as the net result is that characters using more expensive ammo have comparatively lighter pockets. You can take a discount of 20¥ on any specialty ammunition rounds, since normal ammo is free. I won’t nitpick the bullet counts on special ammo. If during a run you find you accidentally bought 10 too few tracer rounds, you don’t run out – just remember to spend some cash later to make up the difference.
  • Contacts can’t have a total Connection+Loyalty rating over 8. You can’t be BFFs with the CEO of a Megacorp, no matter how charismatic you are.
  • No, you can’t take the Exceptional Attribute or Aptitude qualities. They’re dull and min-maxy.
  • Most Qualities and any number above 3 on your character sheet need to be explained, at least briefly, by your backstory. I plan to run very character driven adventures, so I want to know how you came to be such a badass, 6-skill Gymnast, how you got to know that Connection 5 corporate manager, or why you’re Prejudiced against Elves.
  • If gear’s availability is above 8, it’s probably not easy to come by. I don’t care about non-restricted items. If it’s just a digit and the availability is 12 or less, you’re fine.
    • If it’s over 8R, you might need a license for it, or I might ask you to explain how you got it off the books. That doesn’t have to be elaborate – “Contact X pointed me to a shady street doc” can suffice.
    • If it’s over 8F it may cost more than the printed value, depending on your contacts and/or your Negotiation skill. Let me know about these in advance and I’ll tell you what the markup is.

The Things I Really Care About

The most important thing to me is your character’s backstory. I want to know who they are, and why they run the shadows. Born in the slums? Black stain on your reputation, keeping you from taking legal work? Anarchist at heart? There are a lot of reasons characters live the lives they do, and I want to know yours. I fully intend to write sub-plots for each character, so the more fleshed out and interesting your backstory is the more interesting a story I can write for you.

The second most important thing is your Contacts. The more points you put into a contact, the more information I need you to give me about them. Their personalities, skills, and relationship with your character are going to become important to how the game plays out. I also have to build characters for them and roleplay their interactions with you, so the more you can help me out with the important Contacts in your character’s life, the better.

The rest? Eh. It’s all numbers on a sheet designed to help us throw dice and get whatever degree of ‘realism’ we want, whatever that means. Backstory and Contacts are what’ll build our story.


  • Give your character a Street name. The name you go by on the job tells everyone a lot about how you work in just a few words, be it “Tiger Lord” or “Zelda.”
  • Consult with the other players. Feel free to form pre-campaign relationships between your characters and intertwine your backstories. Also, you should probably share your high level concept with everyone early so we don’t end up with 3 Mages and 4 Deckers. That being said, some skill overlap between characters is a good idea. Hacking, Ritual Spellcasting, or pulling off a long con is always easier as a teamwork test.
  • Don’t make a “Loner” character. If you run off and do things alone, then I can only spend half as much time on it as I can with two characters who go execute a plan together. I like brooding, melodramatic characters as much as the next guy, but with as many players as we may have a loner won’t get a lot of “spotlight time” from me. At least pre-establish a relationship with one other PC if you want to go the “loner” route so you have someone in your party you’re willing to work with at the start.
  • There are no “classes” in Shadowrun. The 6 “types” in the rulebook are rough guidelines. Your character should be good at more than just one thing, otherwise life may become very difficult for them very quickly.
  • Consider Multiple SINs. Even if you took a negative quality and have a real one, consider grabbing a fake. You wouldn’t want those weapons you left at the scene of the crime to be tracked to the same identity that pays your rent, would you?
  • Consider DocWagon. I don’t like killing characters, so you can always burn edge if you want to not die, but burning edge to cheat death doesn’t mean you won’t experience some nasty side effects. It’s only 5,000¥/year to avoid permanent brain damage from that time you should by all rights have bled out behind a dumpster.

How to Character - Tips to make everyone's life more awesome

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