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All stuff related to the Shadowrun game system

1 - Which edition of Shadowrun is right for me?

An attempt to answer an impossible question

compiled and edited by PenLlawen (twitter, reddit, SR forums)

discuss this document: (Reddit thread)

1.1 - Which edition of Shadowrun should you play?

Why this is a difficult question

When it comes to Shadowrun editions, there are no easy answers; only annoying compromises. Sorry!

Each version of SR comes complete with a significant number of foibles and fiddly bits, and I can all but guarantee that some of those are going to drive you mad. Every version of SR comes with bits you’re going to want to patch or houserule over. There is no clear winner in that department.

To make things worse, a lot of people get emotionally attached to their favourite edition, come to terms with its faults, and then like to get in arguments online about it1. So this can be a contentious topic to discuss, despite the fact that it’s a really common-sense question for a new player to ask.

So, setting out to write this doc, I thought the fairest way to do it was: attempt to give you some moderately objective facts about each version, then give the microphone to one or more ride-or-die megafans of each version in turn to make the case why this is the one you should play. Hopefully this will give you a rounded perspective; though not, perhaps, the easy answer you were seeking.

Before we start: obvious tie-breakers

Given that there is no right answer, there’s a couple of factors that might make the decision for you without much further thought:

  1. If you or anyone at your table already has some experience of one specific Shadowrun version - probably pick that one. Shadowrun can be hard work to get started with. Prior experience smooths over that significantly, so it is pretty valuable.
  2. If you or anyone at your table already owns a lot of books for one specific Shadowrun version - probably pick that one. Unless you’re desperately keen to spend more money, anyway.
  3. If community support is important to you - strongly consider 5e. It’s currently the most commonly played edition, and therefore has the liveliest threads. If you ask random questions on community forums or Reddit, you’re more likely to get good answers quickly if they’re about 5e. It also has the best selection of digital tools available, such as chargen utilities, or Roll20 character sheets if you play online. It has the largest number of fan-made materials, like quick reference documents. Finally, it has a huge number of officially published sourcebooks available.

  1. I am not innocent of this, either. ↩︎

1.2 - Comparing editions through the ages

I also have a doc that breaks down key game systems (combat, initiative, spellcasting, …) and compares them, line by line and side by side, in all six major releases of Shadowrun.

It’s difficult to present as a web page - it has very large tables - so you can download it as a PDF instead.

1e 2e 3e 4e/4e20A 5e 6e
Publisher FASA FASA / Wizkids Wizkids / Catalyst Catalyst
Core mechanic Skill or stat; variable target number Skill+stat; variable dice pool
Tone Retro-futuristic Some transhumanist/sci-fi themes
Matrix & comms tech Wired & chunky; voice-only cellphones & PDA-like pocket computers; some “dungeon crawling” Matrix Wireless & sleek; smartphones; Matrix stuff somewhat more integrated into gameplay
Deckers exist as a distinct role? Yes Sort of Yes
Editing quality / organisation Good Mostly good; later books poor Poor Poor
Roll20 charsheet? No Yes Yes Yes Yes WIP
Foundry system? No No No No Yes No
Sourcebook selection, community support, quick ref material, digital tools Good Good Great Good

Tone through the ages

  • 1e through 3e are a bit more “pure ‘80s cyberpunk”: chunky cyberdecks with QWERTY keyboards, everything is plugged in with cables, simplistic (and very expensive!) smartphones, people call the police via phone booths and receive breaking news via faxes. At the time, this was futuristic; to modern eyes, it’s fair to describe it as “retro-futurism.”
  • 4e onwards increasingly introduce more modern elements into the setting, including transhumanism and more obvious sci-fi. These editions have wireless charging, laser weapons, railguns, nanotechnology, and ubiquitous augmented reality. In later 5e books there is even anti-gravity tech and a colony on Mars. Everyone has a smartphone analog (“commlinks”) capable of full wireless Matrix access; hacking is via devices that look like tablet computers.

Deckers through the ages

  • 1e-3e feature deckers who are quite “disconnected1” from the rest of the team: they have Matrix “dungeon crawls” that can involve a prolonged exploration of computer systems while the other characters might not have anything to do. This can be a challenge for GMs to manage.

  • 4e attempts to address this by adding the ability to get hacking done to any character willing to spend money on gear, so at least all the characters can participate in hacking together. The addition of the wireless Matrix means hackers also have things they can hack in real-time during combat. But this dilutes the iconic cyberpunk hacker tropes. Many people felt this was a net loss. (But they are wrong! -Tony, 4e advocate)

  • 5e & 6e revert back to having a distinct decker role, but continue to try to offer deckers the ability to act in concert with everyone else through wireless hacking. But again, complex Matrix actions can involve the decker doing their own thing for prolonged periods while the rest of the team is idle. GMs still need to work to manage this, although it’s not as tricky as with 1e-3e. Some tables still take an “all decking is done by NPCs” approach.

Dice mechanics through the ages

Shadowrun started in 1e with a kitchen sink approach to dice mechanics: variable target numbers, dice pools, and two different vectors of modifiers for difficulty – plus opposed and resisted rolls, and other mechanics. Some of these were phased out gradually, others still exist in modern Shadowrun.

  • Variable target numbers: roll a number of dice equal to your skill, against a target number set by the difficulty of the task. Count the number of dice that succeed.
  • The target number would be further modified by the situation, as would the number of dice you rolled.
  • With variable targets, the target might be higher than 6; this required the rule of 6. If you roll a 6, you re-roll and add the next roll to 6, and keep going until you beat the target. If at least one dice beats the target, you succeed.
    • This results in some odd maths because 6 and 7 have the same probability of being rolled, but the system doesn’t adjust for that. Taking a +1 penalty to a target number of 5 and one to a target number of 8 has a very different effect on your chances of making the roll.

Variable targets were phased out over 2e & 3e, for a static target number of 4, although sometimes they could still vary, and it would still be modified up or down by situational modifiers.

In addition to the above, SR1-3e have “dice pools": some number of dice that the player can choose to use on important or difficult tasks. Once used, though, they couldn’t be used again until the pool refreshed - typically the next turn. These dice pools are derived from your character’s skills and attributes and are the primary way attributes affect their chances of success. This can be a fair bit of book-keeping, as each character has multiple pools to draw upon, that must all be tracked as they are used and later refreshed. However they do give players a good amount of tactical agency.

From 4e and onwards, there is a major change to these mechanics. The “dice pool” term is re-used, now defined to mean “your skill rating plus the rating in a linked attribute”; for example, to shoot a gun, you might use a number of dice equal to the number in your Pistols skill plus the number in your Agility attribute. The target number is always 5 and situational modifiers only influence the number of dice you roll. This results in a smoother probability curve, but you’re rolling (and counting) a lot of dice. 20+ is quite common; 30+ is possible; for very powerful characters 40+ isn’t unheard of.

5e introduced a system-wide mechanism called “limits” in an attempt to curb powergaming. Each character has a set of intrinsic limits, derived from their attributes, which cap the maximum number of successes they can achieve on a test, regardless of how many dice they roll through combinations of high skills, expensive gear, magic spells, etc. It is also used for some gear, eg. the accuracy rating of a gun is applied as a limit on the hits when rolling to attack with it. Limits are often criticised for being fiddly to apply and ineffective at stopping players becoming very powerful. They were dropped in 6e.

  1. Pun intended. Sorry. ↩︎

1.3 - Why should you play Shadowrun 1e?

The one that started it all

By u/AstroMacGuffin


The root of my undying love for first edition Shadowrun is that it is too good to be left behind. Second edition isn’t simply a “1e but fixed”, it’s also fundamentally changed in a few places. Comparing 1e to later editions generally, nobody will ever convince me that a 300 page book is somehow a streamlined version of a 200 page book. Meanwhile, plenty of people make almost all of 1e work to great effect (frag you, vehicle combat rules). My nostalgia is happy sticking up for the underdog edition.

But besides that, some other reasons I’m on this weird hill:

There’s a “less is more” effect in play: 1e puts greater emphasis on the heist, or on being a detective, or whatever’s your flavor of underbelly RP, and it adds that emphasis by having fewer rules (and sometimes simpler rules).

Every player has a chance to shine in their unique way because at the same time the rules are diverse and thus bent toward emphasizing play style. There is no same-y-ness between magician, decker, muscle, and detective play styles, nor is there any of that pesky streamlining to narrow down the number of viable play styles per role. This is a game for going as far off the beaten path with a character concept as you could want and still be viable as a shadowrunner, all in barely 200 pages.

Variable staging numbers on weapon damage represent important parts of the simulation and were a key part of characterizing weapons. Higher staging numbers mean a character must be skillful in order to do extra damage, and that the target had better stay out of the field of attack. Lower staging numbers mean you could accidentally decapitate yourself with the weapon, but it’s reasonably easy to deflect with a little skill. That’s a lot to lose in the name of streamlining and so I still don’t know what they thought they were going to gain by removing variable staging from the game.

The classic priority system and other parts of character generation all dictate that the player must get creative. Harsh constraints just have that effect, and 1e’s character build rules are both generous and difficult to overcome.

1e is the most basic system. If something isn’t covered in the rules you do some kind of Test and move on with the game. It’s more personal, tactile, that way.

By keeping the simulation a little simpler, 1e’s rulebook is smaller and looks more approachable. The game requires patching and house ruling, and the GM must take extensive notes, but I like that. The structure of the book’s information needed a lot of work, and sometimes I’m thankful for a clarification from 2e or 3e, or for something introduced in the 2e equipment chapter; but I find that a physically thicker, larger book is intimidating to new players, and more expensive as a ticket price, and that’s before you count the extra cost of time getting familiar.

1.4 - Why should you play Shadowrun 2e?

Not currently written up; can you help contribute?

Sometimes described as “a polished version of first edition”, it’s close enough that a lot of game material and expansions barely need changing to work across both versions. However, there are still a good few differences.

Nobody has contributed yet!

If you want to contribute a writeup about why SR 2e is the One True Edition, contact me via the links in the page footer on Twitter, Reddit, or Discord.

1.5 - Why should you play Shadowrun 3e?

The ultimate evolution of the OG game mechanics

By u/JessickaRose


If I misremembered something or forgot something, please feel free to correct, but I’ll just ignore any “but X edition is better because Y” responses, that’s not what I’m here to do. I just want to clarify a few things that are often misunderstood, and explain key differences.

I’ll try to keep it sweet and compartmentalised, and I won’t get bogged down in which is best and why you should play it. I play 4eA at the moment, and we’re unlikely to go back to 3e but it definitely did some things better than later editions in my opinion.

People get bogged down and scared because ‘high target numbers’, but in most circumstances it’s no more or less crunchy than 4eA, indeed many of the modifiers are literally the same number, they just modify the base of 4 rather than adjust from your dice pool. In either case, number of successes equates to degree of success. The difference is simply rolling a fixed dice pool based on skill+stuff against that modified number, or rolling your modified dice based on skill+att+stuff pool against 5.

3e also has dice pools based on your stats. (not the same as what 4e onwards calls “dice pools”) - Combat/Spell/Hacking - which allow you some flexibility as to where you want to really put in the extra effort. You also have a Karma Pool, which naturally grows over time as you earn karma. In later editions, these mechanics became ‘Edge’ but as taht is just an attribute you can boost it doesn’t reflect gaining experience the same way.

It’s a more deadly system, the way damage is stepped from L through to D means a lot of damage can happen very quickly, you only need 4 net hits to step from M (3 boxes) through to D (10 boxes). You can bleed out fast, and you only ever get one Hand of God, which is very costly. Furthermore, armour acts to reduce the target number of a soak roll, but the roll itself is only your Body dice - so a Body 2 mage is going to get hurt no matter how much kevlar you wrap them in.

However, while more deadly, 3e is more forgiving of cinematic action gameplay. Your dice pool will never say ‘no’: Jonny the Mage can pick up that discarded shotgun, take that shot in the rain through eyes filled with blood from casting drain, and take down that last bad guy whose only illumination is a flickering street light to save the day. It probably won’t happen with 2 dice against a target number of 37, but he can try (and I’ve seen people pull off even more remarkable feats that the whole table enjoyed).

I think that may be the point where people get the bad impressions from it, as there isn’t really a ‘no you can’t’ point of running out of dice, because there will be a number you can crunch out to say ‘you need this to do it’. That can make it a little slower to work out the nuances, as those less than practical actions come up a little more, but the payoff is characters pulling off superhuman efforts, which is part of role playing and part of why you spent a fortune on that ‘ware.

Defaulting between weapon types is more logical; you take a +2 modifier for, say, picking up an Assault Rifle when you do not have the Rifle skill. +4 to default to a stat.

Perception is just an Int roll, not a skill. Athletics and Stealth are their own skills as well, so between these I think you’re not stuck with quite so many “must have” skills, like Climbing, Running, Infiltration, Shadowing, and indeed Perception which limits choices outside of them. That streamlines things a lot outside of combat, as well as in creation.

There are a couple of creation systems, both point build and priority.

No Vampires, no AIs, no Free Spirits, no Pixies, no Sasquatches… Changelings came in in YotC.


Mages and Shaman are much more distinct.

Mages are depicted as scholars, they summon Elemental which they must bind to their will, they’ll have a Hermetic Library, they’re not bound by the whims of a Totem, although they might have a bent based on their Tradition.

Shaman are more primal, they have to follow a Totem which gives them bonuses and penalties, and a path of behaviour. They summon Nature Spirits which are bound by Domain, and can’t call upon an army of them as Mages can Elementals - however, they’re free, on demand, and offer a little more versatility. Some Totems switch out Nature Spirits for Spirits of the Elements.

There are other Traditions with their own selections of Spirits and rules such as Voodoo and Wuxing.

Spellcasting is much the same regardless of tradition. However, unlike later editions, spells are learned by Force, so if you want to overcast a Force 9 Powerbolt, you’ve got to learn Force 9 Powerbolt as an individual spell - which is a tough roll just to learn the spell.

Magic Loss is kind of a big deal, it can happen just from taking Deadly wounds, it isn’t recoverable except through initiation, and you have to offset with Geasa - so you’re not likely to risk using slap patches. If you don’t offset, you lose it forever.

Spell Defence also means allocating some of your Sorcery and Spell Pool to that, which means you have less to be offensive with. Because yeah, Sorcery is a skill, Ritual and Counterspelling aren’t separate, nor are Binding and Banishing separate from Conjuring.

I think Magic is a little less strong in 3e than 4e because of how spell defence works.


Cyberlimbs allow for breaking down of pieces and partial installations, like if you have a cyberarm, you cut the price of the dermal sheathing on the rest of you by 20%, or if you want to install a smartlink and already have an image link and the induction pad can be installed in that cyberarm, you only need the limited simrig and processor. Limbs add more body rather than damage boxes, because you get 10 boxes regardless of how tough you think you are. Dermal plating, bone lacing etc also adds to Body, not armour.

Having loads of ‘ware would also increase your signature for targeting by sensor weapons.

Bioware uses its own “bio-index”, which is even worse on magic than cyberware, as it doesn’t just reduce your magic rating, it does so in a way you can’t offset with geasa.

I think this actually offers better granularity and they are actually easier to track as separate systems than “one costs half the Essence of the more expensive pile”. Though the effect on magic is really harsh.


Drone-riggers and getaway-driver-riggers are more distinct through skillsets, expense, and do not mean you can also try your hand at decking. Learning to rig a CCSS system to take over a building can be useful though.


Is very much its own thing, probably a bit too far from the rest of the group. You have data size and memory to think about, I/O speeds of your connection, and might end up running a different dungeon crawl to the rest of the team. Definitely possible to run a combat decker and go in with the team, hack standalones/closed systems, depends how your GM sets you up, but it’s also entirely possible to be playing a completely different game.

Your own team is also less liable to get Hacked themselves, Electronic warfare is something only the rigger might worry about, because Wireless is a very limited thing, so no Hacking the security team’s guns either. There might be sentry guns and stuff you can play with, but the kind of Matrix overwatch is I think a bit different.

There are no technomancers, and otaku (a sort of prototypical technomancer) are bad.

1.6 - Why should you play Shadowrun 4e?

The ‘second era’ of Shadowrun game systems

By u/tonydiethem


I’m going to keep this general… I don’t see the benefit of arguing about specific skills or anything. So…

One of the things I love about future fiction is that it tends to heavily reflect the time in which it was written. Old Atomic Age fiction is fascinating to read as a person of this time and place.

Cyberpunk, and hence Shadowrun, is heavily rooted in the 80s. The hair, the punk, the neon, the dark dystopian future full of acid rain and big hair.

But it’s not the 80s any more. It’s inevitable that Shadowrun updates to the times. It was getting rather silly that the cyberpunk future didn’t have wireless everything. We needed to capture the zeitgeist of our time. Cellphones are cheap and ubiquitous. Megacorporations know more about our shopping habits than we do. The problems with end stage capitalism are staring us in the face. And we can keep the neon, the hair, the ‘tude, etc.

So, we update from 3e and we get wireless, AR, cheap computers, cheap drones. And a certain “Apple-ification” of tech, yes.

Shadowrun had a problem. It was the “Everyone go get pizza, it’s time to do the decker minigame.”

4e makes everything wireless and that gives the hackers stuff to do in combat. Hack the opposition’s ‘links, sign them up for spam, turn off their firewall, mess with their drones, listen in on their coms, disable their smartguns, etc etc etc. Judicious use of wifi blocking walls made it necessary for the hacker to come along for the ride too.

Wireless and cheap computers allowed people to “rig” on the cheap. Nothing beats a dedicated rigger, but the Street Samurai could keep a couple of cheap drones for peeking around corners or watching the escape route. Everyone could, and that is futuristic and good.

Virtual Reality is so…. Lawnmower man. 80s. AR is a more up to date and believable interface that lets you check out that hot elf chica’s social media profile on the dance floor, which fits the zeitgeist better.

I get that many people like the tone of earlier editions, but tone is largely set at the table anyway. You can have neon and mohawks and punk with 4e rules. You just also get ubiquitous cell phones and network connectivity.

4e also did away with a priority character generation system. I think the point buy allows for more nuanced characters. I think priority gen forces stereotypical characters.

I liked the metaplots. I thought the Brackhaven political stuff was interesting and plausible, for example.

I think the 4e matrix rules make sense. I’m a techie by trade. I get the 4e matrix rules. They make sense. They’re not complex, but they ARE…. there’s a lot. Trying to explain all of that to my friends felt like I was trying to give them a networking certification. I get why 5e tried to simplify the matrix rules. I just think they made it worse….

So why not play 5e? 6e?

The editing is atrocious. The 20A book had all the splat books in the main book index. You could look up anything from all the books in one spot. That is awesome. (So does the 5e Master Index Edition, to be fair —Editor)

I find 5e and 6e hard to read. Again, the editing sucks. There’s too much gratuitous filler text, and they changed the background color to blacks and reds. Ooooohhhh. Edgy! Ugh. The language took a tone change too. I liked the “drek” of previous editions. Really though, after the beautiful editing and cross referencing available in the 20A book, reading 5e and 6e makes me angry… Why? Why’d they have to mess up something so basic? It makes it so hard for new people…

I already have all the splat books, and 5e/6e gave me gratuitous filler text instead of… gear, weapons, adept powers, etc that I had taken for granted as being “Standard”. I don’t appreciate being charged for something I already have.

The 4e Seattle book is awesome. I feel like 5e and 6e tried to go away from Seattle, but never released a good meaty book on other locations, so everything got kind of…. Fuzzy… for locations. That might just be me though.

They brought back priority generation after 4e. The standard priority gen is… well, everyone uses alternatives for a reason. Try making a troll decker. You need high priority for Troll, you need high priority for money to afford the stupid expensive cyberdeck, and you still need stats and skills. It doesn’t work. So people use alternatives. Also, it felt like a naked attempt at “We’re going retro!” without a good reason to do so.

Cyberdecks are expensive again. Some cyberware got more expensive too. Why? Tech gets cheaper, not more expensive with time! It beggars belief. It flies against the zeitgeist of the time. And again, it felt like a naked attempt at “Look at us, we’re going retro!” without a good reason to do so.

I hate 5e limits. I loathe them. If they’re an attempt to cut down on power gaming munchkins, they suck at it and instead of saddling every single roll in the game with something to check, they could have just imposed limits on dice pools ONE time at character generation. If they’re an attempt at “realism”? They’re not needed, and they saddle every single roll in the game with something to check. They’re no benefit, high cost.

I don’t like the 5e or 6e metaplots. They feel recycled. Another crash! Another Chicago, but with nanites this time! And 6e feels even worse.

I don’t like the matrix Foundation runs. If I want to play Wild West or Fantasy or whatever, I’ll go play a different game.

I don’t like the matrix rules. They don’t make SENSE, from a technical standpoint. They brought in moveable matrix stats, which is just more headache to keep track of. The matrix needed a simplification, not a completely new ruleset with completely new problems.

I loved the 5e idea of grids. It brought in the Net Neutrality issues of our time. And then they did away with them….

I’m rambling…

4e20A. Better than 1-3e because of more believable tech, no pizza run/matrix time, better character generation.

4e20A. Better than 5-6e because the editing doesn’t SUUUUUUCK, better character generation, more believable tech, no limits, and the plot isn’t recycled. Again.

1.7 - Why should you play Shadowrun 5e?

The last ‘complete’ version

By u/Deals_With_Dragons


  • While 5e is not without issues, it is in general a fully working, complete edition. Meaning there are a lot of supplement books you can use. A few of them are really good and pretty much spot on their theme (for example Chrome Flesh, Rigger 5.0, Street Grimoire).
  • It has a large community and was the latest edition people generally consider playable. You can ask a lot of questions.
  • A lot of the background material from 4e is compatible and the rules are often “close enough” to make easy adjustments. This means even more material for 5e.
  • While 5e can be deep and crunchy at times, you can also easily handwave/ignore/change/simplify rules so it’s working for your table.
  • 5e resembles our own world (technology!) closer than the old ones did. So if you’re looking for a “projection of our world in a dystopian future” you’re closer with 5e than with 2e.

By u/adzling

5e is the most recent complete edition, as a result it has the most sourcebooks and most up-to-date vision of what the 6th World would like in relation to real life.

Core mechanics work pretty well and are quite simple and oddly elegant (attribute + skill = pool).

Situational modifiers that add or subtract from the dice pool are easily fine tuned by the GM, impose meaningful variables on the chance of success, and reflect the reality of the environment / world pretty well.

Success thresholds (how many successes you need to succeed) are easily understood and reasonably reflect the difficulty of succeeding at any particular task.


In 5e speed (initiative / dodge), competency (dice pool) and resilience (armor and body) works as one would expect in a game that reflects “Matrix” movie style combats. Depth and nuance of character building allow you to build a “Neo” type who can literally dodge bullets or a “Hulk” who can shrug off smaller caliber firearms and light melee weapons. It’s “cinematic” but retains enough relation to reality that armor can stop bullets and a 600 pound Troll hits with more force than a 6 lb Pixie. Gear choices significantly affect the outcome and bear a reasonable relationship to action movie reality. While it’s possible to “break the game” by building for the extreme this is mostly controlled by the realities of the 6th World – your GM isn’t going to let you walk down the street in heavy armor with an assault rifle or combat axe without attracting Lone Star and likely heading to jail. This creates the all-important dynamic of choosing your gear to suit the situation.

Weapons and armor include significant variance and customization options (important for the combat focussed PCs) that import meaningful choices on the player/ PC.

This nuance and depth is critical for delivering meaning to the combat focussed characters’ choices. It’s one of the shining successes of Shadowrun in general going all the way back to 1e.


One of the requirements of a heist type game like Shadowrun is usabe rules for social interaction and cons. Luckily 5e’s social rules don’t suffer from the inane rules bloat that other sub-areas do (looking at you, rigging and matrix). Social is mostly a question of opposed dice pools and modifiers and that’s just fine. Toss in some bonus modifiers for good RP and you’ve got all you need. Need more depth and nuance? Cutting Aces provides some good ideas on how to essentially use teamwork tests within the scope of conning someone.


5e’s magic system is very similar to prior versions and works out of the box without modification, well almost. The core issue of “magicrun” (whereby magic trumps everything else) is an unfortunate side effect of the continuous expansion of magic power within the mechanics and supplements. You know this is a problem when all your players turn up to the table with a mage or mystic adept. There are some very easy ways to mitigate this via houserules (ban reagents for increasing limits, restrict the number of active spirits at once, ban mystic adepts, etc). You might not feel this too much if your players are relatively low-powered, but even straight out of chargen savvy players with mage characters can be almost obnoxiously powerful. This only gets worse the longer you play. GMs should keep a weather eye on it, lest the mage players start to overshadow the rest of the table.


While 5e’s Matrix does address the shortcoming of 4e’s script-kiddie syndrome that rendered deckers irrelevant, it feels like it was written by someone who was reaching for detailed, nuanced mechanics and edited by someone who failed to playtest it. The end result is a confusing mess of overly complex, nested systems that utterly fail to address the core aspect of any RPG; IT MUST BE FUN. The action economy also renders almost all Matrix activity less effective than just shooting the person / thing / target. The supplements help, a little, but it’s hard to fix the core rules without fixing, you know, the core rules. This is sad and a terrible miss in a game that is meant to embody a mashup of Cyberpunk and Fantasy.

Vehicle chases / rules / rigging

Perhaps the worst aspect of Shadowrun 5e, the entire vehicle rules section is utterly atrocious. Riggers are a confused mess where it’s not even clear what attributes to use with the various vehicle control options and even if you do figure it out / houserule it riggers still suffer from Multiple Attribute Dependency (MAD). The vehicle chase and movement rules are an example of what goes wrong with poorly abstracted mechanics. Due to this abstraction simple questions like “how fast does my vehicle go” are not even answered. Rules that were bolted on afterward in Rigger 5.0 don’t help much either. The Swarm rules are terrible from a balance perspective and inane from a common sense perspective. Overall it’s best to ignore the chase rules and heavily edit what’s used from the supplements.


Like all Catalyst Shadowrun products 5e suffers from extensive copy-pasta, resulting in rules that make no sense, that reference non-existent rules from prior editions and mechanics not matching the descriptions. The worst offender is the Street Grimoire but you will find this particularly pathetic example of editing in almost all Shadowrun products somewhere.

Perceived vs. Real complexity

5e is perceived as a complex system, but is it? Yes and no. As you can see from above the core mechanics are very simple and easy to grok. The complexity comes from all the small details and the three overlapping subsystems of meat, matrix and astral. While those three subsystems have always been present in Shadowrun (and hence always upped the complexity level) it’s also true that 5e’s complexity was increased by the many “fiddly details” for these subsystems and the many supplements across which these are strewn. To some degree that’s what happens when a game has as many supplements as 5e does, however it’s exacerbated by Catalyst’s poor layout and editing. This is not unique to 5e, it’s present in all Catalyst products and is a product of their poor line editing in general. This can be dealt with to some degree by the judicious use of cheat sheets that summarize and condense these modifiers however it can be very daunting for someone learning the system for the first time. There are ways to manage this information overload by chunking how you learn Shadowrun into meat, matrix and astral sessions, using the aforementioned cheat sheets and simplifying/ hand-waving stuff you cannot remember in the moment.

The advantage of depth and nuance in an RPG

So we’ve covered why Shadowrun in general and 5e in particular is complex and often perceived as more complex than it is. The question that follows naturally from this is “why would I want to play a complex system instead of one where I can learn it in one session”? The answer is nuance and depth. Systems that tilt towards simple are great for introducing new players but tend to be terrible for long term durability. In the end all characters of a specific type end up feeling the same with little differentiation. With 5e there are so many ways to build AND PLAY a character that they almost never feel or work the same. Everyone’s an individual with nuanced and unique options that drive characterization in a meaningful way.

1.8 - Why should you play Shadowrun 6e?

The latest? Yes. The greatest? Hmmm.

By u/The_SSDR

6e, aka Sixth World Edition, aims to be a fast-playing version of Shadowrun. This is meant to contrast with the previous editions where the natural flow of roleplay tends to be repeatedly interrupted by searching for dice pool modifiers or obscure rules.

For good or for ill, much of the crunch from previous editions has been weeded out. On the upside it keeps the game (and therefore the fun) moving, but on the downside many players who are used to Shadowrun’s long-established run as an ahem “game with a high threshold for system mastery” may find this 180 degree change in direction jarring, unfun, or both.

6e has matured considerably since initial release in 2019. It’s uncharitable, but fair, to say it was rushed out at that date. Since that initial release there has been significant errata to clean up sloppy editing and choppy rules. However, you never get a second chance to make a first impression and unfortunately for some players these improvements simply were too little or too late to change their minds.

As of this writing, the expansion rulebooks for combat (Firing Squad), magic (Street Wyrd), rigging (Double Clutch), and pop culture/media (No Future) are available, with more resources (Companion, Matrix) coming out later this year.

Please consider an updated-for-2022 Pro/Con list:


  • Simplified skill list – there are two or so skills every shadowrunner should have, and most archetypes only require 2 more skills on top of that. The 5e corebook’s 79 skills becomes just 19 in 6e.

  • Simplified initiative and action economy – there are no “initiative passes” as existed in previous editions… everyone gets one turn per round. Bonuses like wired reflexes now give you more actions during your one turn per round.

  • Matrix hacking rules are the fastest-playing version yet – they are functionally very similar to those in 5e, with the major difference being access is gained at the entire network level rather than icon by icon. In 6e you don’t have to waste time rolling dice to get marks on every single file or device you want to hack… once you’ve hacked access to the host, you’ve got access to everything the host controls!

  • Any metatype can do any role – in 6e everyone’s attributes begin at 1 and you can pick any metatype right from the get go at priority E (higher metatype pick gives you more attribute points for the attributes where they’re ‘better than humans’).These design changes serve a couple desirable ends: metatypes that have always been thinly veiled analogues for racial minorities are no longer mentally penalized, and you can build any metatype to perform any role without having made the “wrong” choice. Trolls are just as good at being deckers as anyone else, and anyone can be as good a close combat specialist as a troll!

  • Status effects – this is a new concept to 6e. There are 25 different “statuses” in the CRB that give consistent rules for all sorts of different conditions like being blinded, in cover, on fire, etc. Many effects inflict statuses rather than having their own custom rules that might be slightly different from a mechanically similar one.

    For example, rather than there being slightly different rules for invisibility vs concealment, there’s a single status that both the spell and critter power apply and use the exact same rules for.

  • Combat is generally less dangerous than prior editions – arguably, the least lethal Shadowrun has ever been in any edition. While some might think of this as a downside because it’s somewhat more difficult to one-shot anyone in 6e… I’d call it an upside because honestly who has fun being one shotted? NPCs can use snipers too, ya know!

Controversial Stuff

  • The two most common complaints you’ll hear about 6e is that “strength does nothing” and “armor doesn’t help”. Both statements are really talking about the same thing: when you get hit you get hurt, but you probably won’t die. These complaints should be taken in the spirit of “I don’t think strength helps ENOUGH” and “I don’t think armor helps ENOUGH”. Because it’s objectively true that you do in fact benefit from strength in close combat and you are in fact better off wearing armor than not.

  • If a complaint is not about strength or armor, then it’s likely about not liking the new Edge system. There’s nothing wrong with opinions, but bear in mind that 6e is as big a break from 4e/5e as 4e was from 1e/2e/3e and the new Edge system is the reason why. People are going to have opinions about that, and hostile viewpoints tend to be more vocal!

    Rather than being a measure of luck that manifests as meta dice manipulation tech, Edge in 6e has a hugely expanded role. In addition to dice manipulation, Edge also serves as the mechanic by which positive and negative modifiers are applied to a test. Lastly Edge also serves as a meta currency you spend to perform special actions like calling a shot or disarming someone.


  • If you prefer crunchy, detail-driven rules systems, then 6e is likely not for you.1 Rather than having specific rules codified for this modifier or that, in many cases 6e simply looks to gamemaster discretion based on the specific context that’s going on in play. Furthermore, the rules tend to be written in conversational language rather than a precise, “rules lawyerly” way. Errata cleaned up many ambiguities, but the concept of “if it’s unclear, then the GM decides” is very much baked in to 6e’s bones. That’s not for everyone.
  • 6e did away with Force for spells. That experiment diverges from every version of Shadowrun before this one, but the execution strikes a decent balance between keeping spells from being neither OP nor useless. It’s listed as a downside here because Force wasn’t removed across the board: spirits and foci still have Force, so it makes Force-less spells seem all the more jarring.
  • 6e didn’t always commit to the new Edge mechanics. Occasionally you’ll still see rules that add or subtract dice to your pool. This inconsistency means you must keep straight which times you modify a roll by altering the number of dice rather than using the Edge mechanics.
  • While 3 heavy waves of errata have made the 6e core rulebook an improved product, it does mean there’s a “right” version and a “wrong” version of the core rulebook to buy. You absolutely want to get the third printing (Seattle City Edition) as either hardcopy or PDF. If you bought a first or second printing of the core rulebook from Catalyst’s online store or DriveThruRPG you can download the Seattle City Edition. Unfortunately this leaves people who only own an obsolete hardcopy in the poor situation of having to buy another copy, or making do with a booklet-sized errata add-on.

By u/D4rvill

Sooo…. 6e. The newest and without much doubt most divisive edition of Shadowrun with the big overarching goal of simplifying things. While having several similarities with 5e, it also features some huge changes.

The biggest of them is the new edge system. Instead of being a limited resource used for powerful effects, gaining and spending edge is now common during a session and can also be used for smaller effects, e.g. rerolling one die or increasing the number of a die by one. Many modifiers and qualities were changed in gaining edge and it is now a central part of the system. It also is the most debatable mechanic of the system, bringing its own slew of issues. Many of the problems I am mentioning later on are at least a bit tied to the edge system. Therefore, before starting with 6e, I highly recommend reading more about it beforehand. If the problems it creates might be a dealbreaker to you, don’t try this edition. Edge is so deeply embedded in 6e that it is nearly impossible to houserule it out without changing half of the book.

I’m giving now a quick overview of the most mentioned pro’s and con’s of 6e. If not explicitly stated otherwise, you can assume that I share the public opinion due to my own experiences with the edition.


  • Simplified Skill List. That is especially positive for the matrix. Combat skills might be too grouped up for some though, when looking for houserules (and trust me, you WILL do houserules - but this is very likely true of any version of Shadowrun), you will sometimes see that combat skills are actually a bit split up again (including me). All in all though, it’s better than the 5e list.
  • Simplified initiative and action economy. While true that it might not represent the speed of street sams enough and also has a sudden jump in damage output at a certain threshold, the reduced bookkeeping makes up for it.
  • Handling of knowledge skills.
  • German supplements for 6e. They are awesome, trust me. Go Pegasus! Yes, call me fanboy here, but they are really doing a great job. Also, the german core rulebook is laid out better and includes many (so far exclusive) errata. If you can speak german, you definitely have an advantage here.

Mixed opinions

  • “Simplification” of Matrix. Some say it’s noticeably simplified, others say it’s no better than 5e. For me, most of the noticeable simplification in the matrix is due to the simplified skill list and simplified initiative. Taking that out, the rest is only slightly simplified and slightly more intuitive due to rewording things, removing one mark/access level and removing grids. So yeah, it’s improved, but not as much as other ones let it seem in my opinion. Still, I take it :) However, I urge you to houserule matrix search, in its current state it’s broken and actually not intended to work this way.

  • Attack Rating and Defense Rating. Some weapon stats are merged into Attack Rating, which describes the general effectiveness of weapons. Armor (and some other things) adds to Defense Rating. The concept of simplifying offensive and defensive stats this way is interesting, but in its current state, it’s heavily underbaked. It just determines the gain of one single point of edge (or the non-gain of it). Also, with the range of possible numbers being quite limited (base Attack Rating is from 1 to 14), weapons all feel the same. There was a tease though that in the incoming splatbook Firing Squad these two stats are getting more meaningful, so hope is not lost here.

  • Priority table. A huge improvement here is that every metatype is available for Priority E to C. You can therefore always take the metatype you like without gimping your character. However, it has problems in other areas. Several options are near impossible to take for building a viable character (Attribute E), others are way too powerful or too cost effective (Attribute A, Metatype C). Humans are not a viable metatype. The options are therefore actually more limited than they already are due to using the priority table chargen. I just did an homemade version of karmabuy for my players.


  • Strength is almost meaningless. With the recent errata, there is nowhere a direct impact on the damage of melee attacks. The most it does is increasing your Attack Rating (a bit more on that later), which translates to an edge, which most times only translates to ⅔ of a hit. So basically a little child can challenge a dragon to a boxing match and both will do the same base damage. Other than that, it’s used almost nowhere.

  • Armor is almost meaningless. It isn’t relevant for the soak test anymore. That leads to problems like the ones we have for strength. If you ever see the joke of bikini trolls, it’s because of the crazy nerf to armor in 6e.

  • Skills cost the same as attributes. Because an attribute affects several skills, it is something that just can’t be right.

  • The majority of qualities and flaws are off at least karmawise and sometimes even effectwise. The usual suspects here are Analytical Mind, Focused Concentration and Impaired Attribute. Analytical Mind in its original form is so cost effective that in my opinion there is not a single character who should not take this quality. In Debt is nicely done though, really like this flaw.

  • Confusing, missing or contradicting rules, While also true for (at least some of?) the other editions, 6e is the worst here. It is said sometimes that without knowledge of 5e, it is harder or even impossible to play 6e.

  • Bad editing and layouting. Similar to the point before, while also true for 5e, it’s worse for 6e. German rulebooks excluded though.

  • Rules contradicting shadowrun lore. By far the biggest offender here are the changes to bullets which would lead to a complete turnaround of the weapon industry lorewise without a reasonable benefit AND also violating rule zero of Shadowrun.

  • Rules contradicting the design goal of simplification. Again, ammunition, which price calculation suddenly got an additional layer of complexity. It’s often said that 6e missed their design goal. For me, it’s only partially right because of the listed pro’s which are quite impactful. It’s also debatable if the edge system is a simplification or actually brings more complexity.

  • Mages being even stronger than in 5e. Have to see it more in action, but so far, I would share that opinion. Direct combat spells are a total joke though.

  • Driving rules. The amount of vehicles you can choose that have doable piloting tests for an average driver is quite limited. January errata did an essential buff to rigger controls though, so riggers are at least a bit playable now (but still in a bad position overall).

Keep in mind that right now we are in a phase where there can still come a potentially bigger amount of errata. So maybe, with just a bit of patience, some of the issues are going to be addressed. If you want to try it out now, DON’T buy the physical version as of now. Because the first printing is missing an huge amount of errata, it’s unusable. Get the PDF (which can be updated) and wait at least for the second printing if you like physical copies. That also applies to the german core rulebook.

  1. Editors note – I personally think SSDR is over-stating this as a “con”. If RPGs had a sort of 1-to-10 scale for crunchiness, with (I dunno) GURPS being an 8 and Honey Heist a 1, then Shadowrun 6e is only ½ or 1 point below from the other editions. It’s a bit less crunchy in a few places, and asks a bit more of GMs to adjudicate details, but don’t confuse it for a narrative style game like Fate or Shadowrun: Anarchy, or even a middleweight game like Savage Worlds. It’s still not that style of game. But that’s just my opinion! And it’s not SSDR’s! ↩︎

1.9 - Alternative rulesets for Shadowrun: Sprawlrunners

My personal favourite

Savage Worlds ($10 PDF, $40 hardback) is a generic RPG engine which has numerous supplements and rulesets in all sorts of genres, from the high fantasy of Savage Pathfinder to the Weird West of Deadlands and the post-apocalyptic The After. But no matter the setting, Savage Worlds prides itself on always being Fast, Furious, and Fun!

This cartoon is an excellent overview of the core Savage Worlds game mechanics, if you want a taste of the basics.

An overview of Savage Worlds

Savage Worlds has many characteristics that make it a good fit for playing Shadowrun:

  • It’s a classless system
  • Its rules are (much!) sleeker than Shadowrun’s, but it still has plenty of tactical depth to combat (in the distant past, Savage Worlds descended from a tactical mintatures wargame.)
  • It has rich character creation, with a large array of unique abilities to choose from.

It’s worth noting there are some characteristics that make it not to everyone’s tastes, however.

SWADE’s core dice mechanics are a little more chaotic than Shadowrun’s. The interaction between the exploding dice mechanic and how SWADE determines success level means a small number of rolls – less than 1%, but not none – will produce results that surprise you. This is quite different to Shadowrun, where the boundary of outcome of a roll is much more pre-determined; the odds of a critical failure are almost zero and staggering successes are capped by the number of dice being rolled.

Whether it’s the PC getting a lucky shot at the Big Bad and taking half his life in the first round of combat, or the single NPC goon who refuses to die because he keeps passing Soak rolls, once in a while the dice will shock you. Your mileage may vary if you think this is a bug or a feature. My table loves it!

Playing Shadowrun in Savage Worlds

Savage Worlds been a popular choice for playing Shadowrun via various fan-made hacks for many years. I’m going to mention two specific options based on more polished commercial releases.


Weighing in at a svelte 71 pages, Sprawlrunners ($7 PDF, $25-35 POD) is the all-killer-no-filler Shadowrun ruleset you need.

What you get in Sprawlrunners

Sprawlrunners takes the core Savage Worlds rules and adds everything you need to play in a classic era Shadowrun 2050s setting, including:

  • Rules for cyberware
  • Physical adepts
  • Two arcane traditions – hermetic mages and shamans – each with their distinct feel
  • Gear listings
  • Decking (via wired connections and VR only - no wireless, no technomancers)
  • Riggers (including a variety of drones and rules for jumping into vehicles)

The book is careful to make the minimum set of adjustments to Savage Worlds necessary, making it easy to learn and easy to modify and tweak.

For example, all character improvements (including getting cyberware fitted, learning new spells, increasing skills, etc) is handled via Savage Worlds’s Advances (basically, levelling up.) Nuyen-tracking is eliminated, and replaced with a flexible pool called logistic points. LPs are used to purchase the gear needed for the mission ahead, which the characters then discard and replace for the next mission – just like in a heist movie.

Sprawlrunners covers a wide range of options for weapons with a few dozen basic statblocks (“light pistol”, “compact SMG”, “assault rifle”, etc) which the players can combine with a few dozen modifications and variations (“burst-fire mode”, “smartgun adapter”, “folding stock”, etc.) It walks a good middle line between allowing players the breathing room to build signature items of gear for their character, without overwhelming new players with too many options.

Tweaking and expanding Sprawlrunners

The author of Sprawlrunners, Manuel Sambs, is quite open that it was designed first and foremost as a toolkit for GMs to build the game they want. As such, it has been kept easy to tinker with; a neat and tidy base that can be used as-is or expanded to your tastes.

I have my own extensive houserules and expansions for Sprawlrunners elsewhere on this site, including wireless Matrix, rules for downtime actions, expanded cyberware, and more!

In addition, there are several excellent commercial expansions for Sprawlrunners.

  • MagusRogue has a Technomancers supplement ($2 PDF, 10 pages) with several variant rulesets for introducing technomancers into Sprawlrunners.
  • He also has Guide the Sprawl ($4 PDF, 17 pages), which includes rules for Voodoo, mystic adepts, metasapient variants, toxins and drugs, alchemy, and more.
  • Sambs himself has written Furious Magic ($1 PDF, 5 pages) which is a ground-up alternate magic system for Savage Worlds. Although not explicitly designed to work with Sprawlrunners, it pairs very well with it.

Beyond these, Savage Worlds has a wide range of settings and expansions to draw upon for inspiration for further modifications. Compared to hacking on the Shadowrun ruleset, this is process is a joy; I find Savage Worlds to be much easier to work within.

Interface Zero

If you prefer a crunchier approach, another option for using Savage Worlds to play Shadowrun is the cyberpunk setting Interface Zero 3.0 ($20)/. Unlike Sprawlrunners, IZ has more of a maximalist take on gear, with a very large selection of weapons, cyberware, etc. Take those two, and add on this (free) fan-made hack (which cleverly uses pre-existing Savage World rules for fantasy elements like magic and metahumans) and you get yourself a pretty neat Shadowrun system.

1.10 - Alternative rulesets for Shadowrun: rules-light options

There are various hacks of Shadowrun into rules-light narrative-first RPG engines. These fall into two broad categories:

  1. PbtAs (Powered By The Apocalypse), games that take mechanical inspiration from the seminal and influential RPG Apocalypse World.
  2. FitDs (Forged in the Dark), which use mechanics from Blades in the Dark1.

This style of RPGs can be divisive; many people love them2, some find their light-touch GMing style and emphasis on narration over crunch to be too far away from the Shadowrun feel they crave. You’ve little to lose by checking them out though!

For SR play, a few rules-light narrative-first options I really like are:

  • Shadowrun in the Sprawl (donation) takes The Sprawl ($15) (a straight-up cyberpunk PbtA game) and blends in the urban fantasy elements we love about Shadowrun. You need those two books to play, but nothing else. It makes for an impressively breezy, fast-paced system - you can play out an entire run, soup-to-nuts, with a few complications and twists thrown in, in a few hours. But don’t mistake that for being easy on the players. They’ll still have to make hard, hard choices.
  • Runners in the Shadows ($15) is a Shadowrun-inspired FitD. You don’t need any other books to play this. This is quite a light touch hack, as the core Blades in the Dark book is already very close to Shadowrun anyway – being a game about desperate criminals doing risky heists in a world of dubious morality.

  1. An argument can be made that Blades in the Dark is itself a PbtA, as although it doesn’t draw on Apocalypse World mechanically it definitely shares a lot of key design principles. But that’s a side-note here. ↩︎

  2. I am one of those people. ↩︎

1.11 - Alternative rulesets for Shadowrun: Anarchy

Catalyst themselves have had a pass at the idea of a less crunchy Shadowrun, in the form of Shadowrun: Anarchy. As a system it has good bones but is criminally underbaked in lots of different ways. You’ll likely quickly find yourself looking for more houserules to bolt on. If so, start by taking a look at Surprise Threat!, which has lots and lots of thoughtful suggestions.

(The world would be a better place if the author of Surprise Threat! was given free reign to write Anarchy 2e, but we are where we are.)

2 - Shadowrun houserules section

A master list of all my Shadowrun houserules and rule ideas

This section contains a variety of houserules. Some of these were canon for my campaign when we still used Shadowrun; others are ideas we were discussing; others are just sketches of ideas.

2.1 - Characters

2.1.1 - Simplified skills

Trim the number of skills back

These rules are canon for my current campaign.

These rules are designed to hopefully prune back the skill list a little in ways that make sense and make some skill-heavy archetypes have a little bit of an easier time of it (most notably, riggers and deckers.)

Skill group cost changes

Reduce karma cost to level up a skill group from 5x new rating to 4x new rating. Skill Groups are less powerful than attributes, so shouldn’t cost the same to advance. In addition, few Skill Groups contain three or more equally useful skills, so charging them as double the normal skill cost seems more balanced.

This is designed to make it less painful to use Skill Groups as a way of mitigating the large numbers of skills needed for some archetypes.

Remove skill group points entirely at chargen. Instead, increase skill points available as follows:

  • Skills Rank A now gets 66 (instead of 46/10)
  • Skills Rank B now gets 46 (instead of 36/5)
  • Skills Rank C now gets 32 (instead of 28/2)
  • Skills rank D still gets 22
  • Skills rank E still gets 18

At chargen, allow Skill Groups to be taken for 2x Skill Points per point going into the Skill Group. This is so players are free to mix and match skills and skill groups as they desire.

Skill and skill group changes

In the below tables, changes to SR5 RAW will be highlighted in yellow.

Magic skills

  • Add a new “Astral” skill group, spanning the Arcana, Assensing, and Astral skills.

Combat skills

  • Rename the Pistols skill to “Handguns”
  • Remove the Automatics skill
  • Move machine pistols and SMGs into the Handguns skill
  • Move carbines and assault rifles into the Longarms skill
  • Add Gunnery to the Firearms group

 Social skills

  • Merge Instruction into the Leadership skill

 Physical active skills

  • Merge Navigation into the Tracking skill
  • Merge Free-fall into Gymnastics
  • Add Locksmith to the Stealth group
  • Merge Diving into Swimming (because honestly, Diving, wtf?!)

Decking / Technomancer skills

  • No changes here.
    • But the cheaper skill groups should allow deckers to cover all their bases for a bit less karma/skill points than they could before.
    • Deckers are perhaps the only archetype who, per RAW, have skill groups with three all-killer-no-filler skills in.

 Piloting skills

  • Merge Pilot Aerospace into Pilot Aircraft.
  • Merge Pilot Walker into Pilot Groundcraft
  • Add a Rig Vehicle skill group.
    • This can only be taken by characters with Vehicle Control Rig cyberware. Piloting an aircraft and a motorbike with your hands is very different… but doing it via a rig is a more similar experience.

 Technical skills

  • Merge the various Mechanic skills into a single skill.
    • Again, designed to reduce rigger skill crunch and increase flexibility
  • Merge Biotechnology and Cybertechnology into Medicine
  • Put Chemistry into the Biotech skill group
  • Delete Forgery skill
    • Electronic forgery eg. cloning a keycard moves into Computers
    • Physical artefact forgery eg. faking an ID pass with a photo moves into Artisan
  • Add Fabrication skill group

Knowledge and Language Skills

No changes to 5e’s RAW, so to summarise:

  • Characters receive free Knowledge and Language skills points equal to (Intuition rating + Logic rating) x 2.
  • These points are spent in the same way as other skill points, meaning that spending 1 point gives 1 rank in a skill.
  • In addition to the free points, your character receives one language that they know as a native language at no cost.
  • To increase knowledge or language skills during play, it costs 1x the new rating (so taking a skill from 1 to 3 costs 2+3=5.)
  • See also my downtime houserules, which give you free karma to spend on knowledge and language skills.

Design notes

2.1.2 - Downtime

Things to do between missions

These rules are canon for my current campaign.

After each mission, your characters will (usually) enjoy a downtime phase. During this phase, you get four “scenes” that you can allocate to activities as you please. You also have to pay one amount of your lifestyle costs.

You get two bonus scenes - so, six in total - if you have any of the following augmentations: sleep regulator bioware (CRB); metabolic control adept power (CRB); booster endosont symbiotes (CF pg 123) or hyper-glucagon geneware (CF pg 160).

Spending one scene can give you any of the below options and benefits. Note: almost all tests for activities should be resolved by buying hits, except for a few noted exceptions, and Edge cannot be used in downtime to effect test outcomes. Ask me if you’re not clear if you should roll or buy hits.

Also note: you have to spend at least one scene on Leisure. All work and no play makes Jack an unhappy shadowrunner. If something happens that prevents you from spending a scene on Leisure, you cannot heal stun damage or refresh your Edge pool. Yes, ouch.

Karma & nuyen activities


A scene spent on leisure gives you:

  • 3 free karma to spend on knowledge skills
  • an additional 1 free karma to spend on qualities - either buying new positive ones (at 2x the listed price, as is normal for buying new qualities in play) or buying off existing negative ones.
  • A complete refresh of your Edge pool.
  • Heal all stun damage.

You can save these karma points up, and you can combine them with regular karma to buy knowledge skills or qualities.

Reflection & self-improvement

You gain 1 karma, to spend on whatever you want.

Working for the man / people

Convert nuyen to karma or karma to nuyen, at a rate of 2000¥:1. You can convert up to five points for one scene. You can only do this once per downtime phase.

Training Montage

Except where noted below, increasing skills or attributes doesn’t require any scenes. You pick it up on the job, so to speak. Knowledge skill increases never require a scene.

However, these increases do need some investment during downtime:

  • Increasing an attribute to higher than 2 points less than your racial maximum (ie 4 for humans): 2 scenes
  • Increase a skill beyond 6: 2 scenes

Side Hustle

You spend time pitching your skills to do side jobs for your contacts and your contacts’ contacts. See calculation below. Most characters can earn 750-2000¥ for one scene spent on Side Hustle. You can only spend one scene on this; your contacts and their contacts only have so many opportunities for these sorts of off-the-books odd jobs.

See side hustle calculation for details on how to calculate the money earned.

Social activities

Hang Out

Earn a number of Favour Markers equal to your Charisma. You can use these to pay off markers you owe or bank them against future times you ask the contact for help. You don’t need to declare which contacts the markers apply to now, you can hold them as a pool and use them for whichever contact you want later.

You should expect to have to owe contacts Favour Markers when you ask them for help during play. See TBD link

Increase contact loyalty

You can raise a contact’s loyalty by spending a number of markers equal to twice their new loyalty value. I will encourage you to do a bit of roleplaying around this event! However, note you cannot raise a contact’s loyalty if you owe them any Favour Markers.

New Friends

Try and make a new contact, of any type you want.

Choose a contact rating for your new contact. Do an opposed test between your Charisma and the contact rating. If it succeeds, you find someone who will trust you enough to become a contact.

Yes, this means you’re unlikely to make friends above connection 3-5 this way. More powerful friends will need GM approval or to be made during normal play.

At the end of the downtime, the new contact will have loyalty 1.

Recovery activities

Rest & Recuperation

One scene is enough rest to heal any amount of physical damage short of being in overflow. If the character went into overflow on the last run, it takes two scenes to heal up. If you have a medical support contract, this is free. Otherwise it costs one favour marker per scene used.

Lie Low

If you didn’t gain any notoriety during your last mission, you can spend 1 scene to reduce your notoriety by 1. You can only do this once per downtime phase.

Acquire Gear

First, find the base number of markers this is going to cost you, depending on the item’s price:

Cost of item Number of favour markers
Below 5000¥ 0
5000 - 50k¥ 1
50k - 100k¥ 2
100k - 250k ¥ 3
250k+ 4

You have to pay these markers for anything you buy, even legal items. They represent the extra hassle of buying expensive items when you don’t legally exist.

Now, work out if you can get it. Each pass through this table takes one of your downtime scenes, except for the first row.

Avail score (legal gear) Avail score (R or F) Outcome
Below 18 Below 9 You get it automatically. This doesn’t need you to use any scenes, either. You still pay markers as above.
18+ 8-12 If you have any gear-related contact, you get it automatically; if not, you or any contact can roll. If you use a non-gear contact, this costs +1 marker.
13-18 If you have a gear contact specialising in this type of gear, you get it automatically. If not, you or any gear contact can roll (again, this costs +1 marker.)
18+ A gear specialist contact can roll. This costs +3 favour markers.

(These numbers err somewhat on the side of generosity.)

If the result is “can roll”, remember you are rolling against the availability of the item, as a dice pool. You can purchase extra dice on this test at a cost of 25% of the item per dice. Remember, for very big-ticket items (high-end cyberware, big vehicles, cyberdecks, etc) it can be more effective to negotiate to receive them as ‘run payouts rather than sourcing them through contacts.

Repair Gear

If you have an appropriate skill (Hardware for Matrix damage, Mechanic for vehicle/drone damage, etc), you can repair up to your total dice pool in damage track boxes across any of your gear for one scene’s worth of your time. You can spend multiple scenes on this if your gear is really badly banged up.

You have to have access to a facility; either a Garage/Workshop/Facility in your dwelling or access to one via a contact.

There is no further cost; a supply of parts comes with the nuyen you paid for the garage/workshop/facility.

Get Augmented

It takes time to have ‘ware installed, recover from the surgery, and then learn how to use your new abilities. This varies with how invasive the ‘ware is:

  • 0-1 Essence: 1 scene
  • 1-2 Essence: 2 scenes
  • 2-3: 4 scenes
  • 3+: 6 scenes

Magical Initiation

Take an extended test: Arcana + Intuition [Astral] (initiate grade, 4 scenes)

If you can’t get all of this done in one piece of downtime, you can “bank” the scenes you have spent and to return to it during the next downtime phase.

Learning spells

First buy the formula (see below.) Then resolve a test of (Spellcasting + Intuition) [magical lodge’s force]

Like most downtime actions, don’t roll actual dice, just buy hits.

Substitute in Ritual Spellcasting or Alchemy if that’s what you’re learning

Learning the spell takes two entire scenes, divided by the number of hits on the test. This means you can learn more than one spell in a single scene, as long as you have 4+ hits on the test. Other than that, you don’t get any sort of refund for part-used scenes, however.

Create alchemical trinkets

You can create a number of trinkets equal to your Alchemy skill in a single downtime scene. See Reagents in the Magic section for more information.

  1. Choose how many drams of reagent to use
  2. Roll Alchemy + Magic (this will usually be rolled and not fall back to buying hits)
  3. Resultant trinket has Force equal to the lesser of the roll and the number of drams used.

NB: Regardless of resulting power, all the reagents you declared in step 1 are consumed.

See addiction houserules for full details on these.

  • Indulge - lose 0/1/2/4 scenes if you choose to indulge your addiction, depending on its level (mild/moderate/severe/burnout)
  • Go cold turkey - lose no scenes, but you have to roll for withdrawal at the start of the next mission
  • Rehab - spend 1-3 scenes undergoing therapy and treatment for your addiction. Each scene offers a cumulative +2 bonus to your next withdrawl roll. There’s also an escalating cost: 1 scene costs 1000¥, the second costs 2500¥, and the third costs 10k¥.

You can’t combine indulge and rehab.

Other activities

Each scene can be used for 60 hours of downtime to do things like binding spirits, enchanting, making gear, etc. Anything that needs extended tests in the book and isn’t mentioned above can be done via this scene.

Modified downtime rules to account for qualities

Shadowrun has many, many qualities, and probably lots of them should affect the rules above. These are just the ones I’ve thought of so far.

  • Side Hustle and Day Job: if you have Day Job, you must spend downtime scenes working.
    • at the 5 karma level, you have to spend one scene working.
    • at the 10 karma level, you have to spend two scenes working, but earn a minimum 1,500 nuyen.
    • at the 15 karma level, you have to spend three scenes working; you earn a minimum 2,500 nuyen.

Other qualities I think should affect these downtime rules, but I haven’t yet had a player take them so don’t have numbers at the moment:

  • Dependent: reduce scenes
  • Addiction: reduce scenes when it gets past a certain level

Side hustle calculation

First, choose a skill you are going to use to freelance. Find your highest relevant skill dicepool on this list:

Skill Base
Medicine, Biotechnology, Cybertechnology 4
Technical skills (except the ones above) 3
Pilot Aircraft, Pilot Aerospace, Pilot Exotic <br/> Sneak 2
Social Active skills<br/>Combat Active skills<br/>Professional knowledge skills<br/> Arcana <br/>Pilot Walker, Pilot Watercraft 1
Academic knowledge skills <br/> Pilot Groundcraft 0

Add +1 to this for every rank you have in the skill over 4. Don’t include things like improved ability, reflex recorder, etc - just the normal skill score.

Add bonuses (these all stack):

Skill Bonus
One or more specialisations in your chosen skill 1
At least 4 ranks in any Influence skill (Leadership, Negotiation, Etiquette) that you are not using for the skill you are selling 1
At least 4 ranks in a skill related to the skill you have chosen 1
At least 4 ranks in 4+ skills related to the skill you have chosen 1 (plus the 1 above)
Have a rating 6 fake SIN, or a real national/corporate SIN 1
You have a control rig & are using a vehicle skill 2
You have the Fame quality at National or higher level 1
Your best fake SIN is of rating 3 or below -1
No fake SIN, or your best fake SIN is rating 1 -1 (plus the -1 above)
Lifestyle is Squatter -1
Lifestyle is Street -2

Add all these together to get your multiplier.

Finally, work out how many hits you can buy in your chosen skill - that’s your dice pool, divided by 4, rounded down.

Each scene spent freelancing will earn you:

multiplier * bought hits * 50¥

This is a fair bit of crunch but each character should only need to do it once.

Remember, characters can only spend one scene on doing this sort of work before there are no more opportunities to be done. They don’t have the right sort of criminal networks and reputation to find these jobs endlessly. If they did, they probably wouldn’t be shadowrunners.

Side hustle example activities:

  • Deckers - small-scale theft/fencing of low-value paydata; spider work securing illegal business’ Matrix stuff; repairing other people’s gear
  • Riggers - package delivery (for packages of varying illegality); smuggling; repairing other people’s drones
  • Street sams / physads - paid muscle; bodyguards
  • Mages - Astral security for illegal business, providing low-level spirits for one-off services
  • Face - running cons, negotiators on others behalf
  • Medicine skills - patching people up, light including cyberware repair
  • Everyone - training others in their skills

Appendix: important acknowledgements

I didn’t realise I wanted downtime rules until I looked at the ones from A Light In the Dark… then I immediately saw that I did. A few things didn’t fit though; they’re optimised for a living campaign, so they’re a bit too detailed in places and a bit too simple in others.

So I wrote my own, which you can read here.

I’ve never been completely happy with how I’ve handled downtime. It felt a little like an underbaked idea, a randomised tax the GM imposes; “well done for finishing that run. It’s now going to be… ummm, let’s say three weeks until your next one. Pay lifestyle costs. OK next run!” This system puts players in control, with a series of options they can pursue. Hopefully, the balancing works where all the options have their own attractions, without anything being overly powerful or creating a cognitive dissonance around “well, why are these people shadowrunners, then?”

I’ve tried to minimise dice rolling, including a speedy gear acquisition path that makes stuff easier to get hold off when the schedule isn’t tight. I’ve added a sort of resource currency for contacts, to represent the flow of favours back and forth to them, and hopefully give a little flavour of being part of a group of criminals. I’ve added zero-cost healing and repair options to recover between runs.

I’ve also taken the chance to buff a few things I feel are a little underpowered in RAW. Sleep regulators become quite potent, for example. Faces should shine here, able to butter up contacts for future favours as well as find new contacts more easily. People with good technical skills might make a non-trivial amount of nuyen on side hustles, which is more for feel and plot hooks than anything else.

Feedback welcomed! I’m still very much moving some of the numbers around, and trying to balance options against each other; I expect this will continue as it gets a proper playtest. But to tell me if you spot any egregious oversights or exploits.

For all the work I’ve done, this remains very closely based on these houserules for A Light In The Dark SR living campaign. All credit for any goodness here belongs to them. Anything you don’t like was probably something I added. More credit goes to u/mercilessming_, from whose houserules I derived further inspiration & the term “scene” which was much better than what I had before..

2.1.3 - Contacts rules

How to know a guy who knows a guy

These rules are canon for my current campaign.

These rules introduce a simple currency for contacts: favour markers. Certain services from your contacts will cost markers; either instead of, or in addition to, nuyen.

Contacts will generally refuse to help you when you owe them more markers than they have Loyalty rating with you.

Markers are an in-universe concept; characters can talk about them. They can even be traded around (“You still owe me for that time in Cuba. But if you help my boy here out, we’ll be square. OK?”)

Contact types

For each contact you should declare a speciality, an area of expertise. Some examples are below but feel free to ask for more if you feel these don’t cover something you want:

  • Legwork: Knows things, or finds them out. Examples: Bartender, Journalist, Info Broker
  • Gear: Has things, sells things, finds things. Examples: Talismonger, Armorer, Car Dealer
  • Service: Does things. Examples: Mechanic, Smuggler, Medic, Janitor
  • Networking: Knows people; can introduce you. Examples: Fixer, Club Owner

Marker costs

Contacts don’t generally have stats. Unless otherwise specified, when it says “roll” below, the roll is:

  • ((Connection Rating × 3)+Loyalty rating) if this is the contact’s area of expertise
  • ((Connection Rating × 2)+Loyalty rating) otherwise
Action What the Contact Does Cost
Legwork (Knowledge Skills) Rolls vs threshold based on obscurity of knowledge For Legwork contacts: free.Otherwise, 1 marker.
Legwork (Asking Around) Rolls vs threshold based on obscurity of knowledge For Legwork contacts: 1 marker.Otherwise, 3 markers.
Networking Rolls vs threshold of the target NPC’s connection rating. Even on a success, you might only meet with a subordinate. For Networking contacts, none. Otherwise, 1 marker. Arranging a meeting with dangerous people (like mafia dons or dragons) might cost more, at the GM’s discretion.
Gear Rolls vs. Availability of item (opposed test, not threshold.) For Gear contacts, see above. Otherwise, as above, plus 1 additional marker.
Services Rolls their appropriate active skill or uses their special ability. For service contacts, 1 marker for up to 8 hours of work. Otherwise, 3 markers per 8 hours.

Using other people’s contacts

If you want to make use of someone else’s contacts, they need to pay the favour markers, not you.

2.1.4 - Addiction rules

Drugs are bad, mmmkay

These rules are not yet canon for my current campaign. Although simpler than RAW, they are still too complex, I feel.

Addiction qualities

(Unchanged from RAW; repeated here for ease of reference.)

  1. Mild (4 karma): If suffering from withdrawal, the character takes a -2 penalty to all tests that use Physical and/or Mental attributes, depending if the addiction is physiological, psychological, or both.
  2. Moderate (9 karma): Withdrawal penalty is now -4.
  3. Severe (20 karma): constant -2 to all Social tests as the character’s degradation becomes obvious to everyone. Same -4 when in withdrawal as for Moderate addiction.
  4. Burnout (25 karma): -3 to all Social tests. -6 penalty to all Mental and/or Physical attribute tests when in withdrawal.
  5. Beyond burnout: each time a character in Burnout fails an addiction test, they permanently lose 1 point from either Body or Willpower, whichever is higher.

Dry Addict (also in mild/moderate/severe/burnout levels, at 50% of the karma of the above qualities): must pass a composure test at thresholds 1-5 (depending on stress level) to turn down an offer of the addictive substance. Take a 1-4 dice pool penalty on addiction tests following use of substance.

Addictive substances

Addiction Threshold Recovery Period Addiction Period Addiction Type
Alcohol [*] 2 1 3 Both
Bliss 3 1 3 Both
Cram 3 1 3 Psychological
Jazz 3 2 2 Both
Kamikaze 3 3 1 Physiological
Long Haul 1 1 3 Psychological
Nitro 3 3 1 Both
Novacoke 2 2 2 Both
Zen 1 1 3 Psychological
BTL (Dreamchip) 1 2 2 Psychological
BTL (Moodchip) 2 2 2 Psychological
BTL (Personafix) 2 2 2 Psychological
BTL (Tripchip) 3 2 2 Psychological
Essence Drain 2 (Critter’s Magic)/3 [*] Psychological

Addiction tests

When asked to roll an Addiction or Withdrawal test, the dice roll is:

  • Physiological: Body + Willpower vs Addiction Threshold for the drug
  • Psychological: Logic + Willpower vs Addiction Threshold
  • Both: roll both tests, if either fails then the whole test fails

Addiction during missions

If you have an addiction and start a mission after not indulging in your addiction during the last downtime, you must roll for withdrawal. Roll an addiction test as above. If you fail, you take an ongoing penalty on all rolls, according to your addiction level, as listed above. This will vanish immediately if you use the drug again.

If you use any addictive drugs during the mission that you do not already have an addiction to, make a note that during the next downtime you will experience cravings.

Addiction during downtime


Drugs are more-ish. That’s kinda their whole deal.

After any use of an addictive substance, your character will crave it. This will last for a number of downtime sessions equal to the drug’s Addiction Period. Keep track of how many missions you use the drug on while this is happening.

At the end of the Recovery Period, make an Addiction Test. Subtract one from the drug’s Addiction Threshold for each entire mission where you didn’t use the drug at all. You cannot use Edge on this test. If you pass the test, the cravings end and you’re in the clear. If you fail the test, bad news: you now have the Addict (Mild) quality.

Characters with the Dry Addict quality take a penalty of -1 to -4 on this test, depending on the level of their former addiction. In addition, if they fail the test, they get the Addict quality at the same level as their Dry Addict quality, not at the Mild level.

If you pick up an addiction quality this way, you do not receive any karma for it.

Addictions place certain requirements on you between your missions, as per my downtime houserules.

You can choose to Indulge your addiction. This means you will suffer no ill-effects during your next mission. However, you lose a number of downtime scenes according to your addiction level:

  • Mild - 0 scenes lost
  • Moderate - 1 scene
  • Severe - 2 scenes
  • Burnout - 4 scenes (this means you will not be able to do a Leisure scene, so will not heal stun damage or recover Edge during downtime. Yes, this hurts.)

Instead of indulging, you can go cold turkey: you will have to roll for withdrawal at the start of your next mission, and take the penalty for withdrawal if you fail (or choose to get a fix during your next mission.)

Finally, you can choose to rehab, for 1-3 scenes of time. Each scene will grant you +2 dice on your next Addiction Test. There is an escalating cost associated with this, as your character spends time in therapy, purchases detox meds, undergoes magical treatments, etc. In a given downtime phase, the first rehab scene costs 1000¥, the second costs 2500¥, and the third costs 10k¥.

The downward spiral

After a number of consecutive downtime phases and missions during which you indulge your addiction equal to the drug’s Addiction Period, you must roll an Addiction Test. You cannot use Edge on this test. If you fail, the addiction gets one step worse (Mild -> Moderate, Moderate -> Severe, etc.) You do not gain karma for the worsening addiction. If you are at Burnout and fail this test, you stay at Burnout, but also permanently lose one point of either Body or Willpower - whichever is higher.

Getting clean

To get clean, a character must:

  • Successfully go cold turkey for Recovery Threshold downtime phases in a row
  • not have used the drug during missions
  • make one final successful Addiction Test (you can use Edge on this test, but this Edge will not return until after your next Downtime phase.)
  • and pay the karma to buy off the negative quality (at 1x price, so 4 karma for a Mild addiction.)

They can then swap the Addiction quality for Dry Addiction. They do not receive karma for this new negative quality.

After another period of (Recovery Threshold) downtimes of complete abstinence (ie. you cannot have rolled any Addiction Tests at all), they can once again pay karma (at 2x the cost of the Dry Addict quality) to remove that as well.

2.1.5 - Posthumans

The next stage of human evolution

These rules are not currently canon for my current campaign.

Just as metahumankind’s understanding of magic has altered in the decades since it returned to the world - with the emergence of UMT providing a framework for understanding all magical traditions - so too does its understanding of the effect of cybernetic augmentations on the manaflow through an individual. The old theories - that cyberware was fundamentally antithetical to the flow of life force and that as cyberware increased so the subject’s essential humanity inevitably ebbed away - no longer hold true. Instead, a new, deeper understanding is emerging from theoretical thaumaturgists in leading research labs.

It is true that cyberware seems to disrupt the flow of mana being channelled for magic, and it continues to be the case that even small amounts of augmentation is devastating for an individual’s ability to wield magic. But studies of people receiving posthetic limbs or transgender surgeries revealed surprising results - if anything, their interaction with the mana flow improved as the physical reality of their bodies moved into closer alignment with their mental self-image. It now seems that the harmful side-effects of disrupted mana flow are not inevitable, and come not from some immutable law of nature but rather from conflict between the individual’s body and that internal sense of self.

Furthermore, that sense of self is not fixed, but can change over and time through the individual’s will.

For many of metahumankind, it remains harmful to take too much cyberware. On some deep level, their psyche rejects it. But there is an emerging trend of people who choose to see the world, and their place in it, differently. For these people, their relationship with the mana flow is altered in such a way as they can choose greater amounts of augmentation. Their self-image is that as they alter themselves, they are not straying away from what they were meant to be; rather, they move closer to it.

They do not become less than human. They become… something else, something different. Posthuman.

Rules for posthumans

Posthuman is a quality that can only be taken post-chargen and only by characters whose current Essence is 2 or less. It costs 20 points of karma, plus 10 points per level (so 30 points for level 1, 40 for level 2, 50 for level 3…) Each level gives the user a 1-point essence “hole” they can choose to install cyberware, bioware, or other body modifications into without changing their current essence score.

Posthumanism does not mix well with awakened abilities. The total penalty to a character’s magic score is always equal to the sum total of the essence cost of all ‘ware installed, regardless of the Posthuman quality.

Posthumans pride themselves on the perfection of their altered bodies and should always seek to install the highest quality ‘ware they can. They also shun and pity cyberzombies, their twisted cousins, as unnatural creations.

2.2 - Action economy

Initiative, combat turns, and actions

These rules are mostly canon for my campaign (see sub-pages.)

2.2.1 - Introduction

Design goals, summary of changes from RAW

Design goals

First and foremost, to reduce book-keeping and confusion:

  1. Remove the need to track anything between phases:
    1. Whether a character has used their Free action
    2. Progressive recoil
    3. How much of a character’s per-turn movement allowance has been used
    4. How many actions a character has used outside their phase1
  2. Remove all changes to the initiative value during the turn:
    1. No more multiple passes
    2. No more interrupt actions

Second, to make some mechanical/balance changes:

  • Make streetsams/physads more distinctive by giving them combat powers other archetypes cannot access.
    • Also return to them the ability to frontload a number of their attacks, so they get a natural spotlight moment as they mow down mooks before anyone else can blink.
  • Give AR deckers and riggers an easier time of it – so they can get out the car/van and come along on the run without worrying that their floppy meatbods will get hurt while they are in VR because that’s the only way to get a good action economy.

Third, to explore an idea. With the exception of 4e, Shadowrun has always tightly coupled together two concepts: how soon in a turn a character acts (their initiative roll) and how much they can get done in a turn (how many passes they get.) These houserules decouples these and allows them to vary independently under some combinations of character abilities.

Reddit threads about these rules

  1. Unlike 6e-style “anytime” actions, which mean a character can use Major or Minor actions outside their normal phase, which means you need to keep track of how many they saved from their last phase. ↩︎

2.2.2 - The combat turn, initiative, and bonus actions

How to figure out who goes when and what they can get done

These rules are currently canon for my campaign. Although they are a bit experimental.

The combat turn

Initiative time is split into a series of turns, with each turn representing a few seconds of in-game time. During a turn, each character gets a phase in which to do their actions. The order in which characters get phases is determined by the initiative roll.

Each combat turn runs like this:

  • Everyone rolls initiative.
  • Count down from highest to lowest; when a character’s number comes up, they get their phase.
    • (Break ties with “ERIC” as per 5e RAW - compare the two characters Edge, Reaction, Intuition stats. If it’s still a draw, flip a coin.)
  • During their phase, each character takes their action(s).
  • During any phase that is not theirs to act on, any character can take one Free action.
  • When you get to 0, the turn is over1. Re-roll initiative and start over at the top again2.

On their phase, everyone gets one normal Complex or two Simple actions as usual, and they might also get bonus Simple actions3 (see below).

Complex and Simple actions can be freely interchanged as usual (one Complex = two Simple and vice versa.)

A character’s normal Complex action can be used for any type of action, but their bonus Simple actions can only be used to perform specific types of action (physical / Matrix / magical), depending on where the character got the bonus actions from.

Free actions

Each character can take a Free action on any phase, including their own. They can do this as many times during the turn as there are phases.4

Rolling for initiative

What you roll is determined by “where” your character is:

Where Roll
In the physical world (including AR) Rea + Int + 1d6
In VR, cold sim DataProc + Int + 3d6
In VR, hot sim DataProc + Int + 4d6
Astrally projecting (Int × 2) + 2d6
  • Physical initiative can be boosted by various sources: augmentations, spells, adept powers, combat drugs, etc.
  • For avoidance of doubt: mages who aren’t astrally projecting and deckers/riggers who are using AR roll physical initiative.

Getting bonus actions

Summary table; discussion follows below:

Bonus actions
Wired Reflexes / Improved Reactions (etc) Rating 1 +1 Simple (physical)
Rating 2 +2 Simple (physical)
Rating 3 +3 Simple (physical)
Drugs None
AR with DNI or cold-sim VR +2 Simple (Matrix)
Hot-sim VR +3 Simple (Matrix)
Initiated magician Grade 1 +1 Simple (magic)
Grade 2 +2 Simple (magic)
Grade 3 +3 Simple (magic)

Note that no metahuman brain can cope with the multiplicity of inputs of being active in more than one “world” at once. Hence, characters can receive bonus meatspace actions, bonus matrix actions, or bonus magic actions; but only one. If they are eligible for more than one at once, through whatever combination of gear/augments/spells/etc, they can choose freely when rolling for initiative which “world” is getting their attention and hence which bonus minor actions they will receive.

Physical actions

Characters can receive bonus physical actions via any sort of normal initiative augmentation: this includes wired reflexes, Improved Reflexes adept powers, and other cyberware, bioware, or magical initiative augments (including spells like Increase Reflexes). But not drugs; see below.

  • They generally run from Rating 1-3.
  • Each rating makes the usual changes, eg +1d6 to initiative.
  • For each d6 added to initiative, the user also adds 1 Simple action to the amount they can do in their phase but this action can only be used on physical (meatspace) actions, not on Matrix or magic.
    • So someone with rating 2 wired reflexes can do 4x Simple actions; or 2x Complex actions; or some other combination.

Magic actions

For every initiate grade from 1-3, mages get an extra Simple action that can only be used for magical actions (incl spellcasting, summoning, banishing, etc). This bonus applies equally in the physical world and while astrally projecting.

(Note that this means after their first initiation, a mage can summon a spirit (Complex action) and order it (Simple action) in a single phase.)

Matrix actions

Bonus Matrix actions depend on the decker’s or rigger’s interface mode.

  • In AR without DNI: no extra actions
  • In AR with DNI or cold-sim VR: +2 Simple actions
  • In hot-sim VR: +3 Simple actions

As usual, the bonus actions received can only be used for Matrix actions. These include driving tests if the character is piloting a vehicle via AR.


Drugs that increase your initiative roll do not grant extra actions. However, their effect does stack with extra actions gained from other sources. So an initiated mage using Kamikaze can go earlier in the turn and still use their normal Complex action and any bonus magical actions from initiating.

Obviously, combat drugs come with other downsides.

  1. These rules eliminate multiple passes. ↩︎

  2. Or keep the values same and start over without re-rolling as SR 6e does, if you prefer. I like the dynamic feel of re-rolling each turn though. ↩︎

  3. These bonus actions replace the multiple passes mechanic of normal Shadowrun 5e. ↩︎

  4. This restores how Free actions worked in older editions of Shadowrun. It faciliates team communications via the “speak/text/transmit phrase” option. I don’t think there are any game balance consequences to speak of, but we’ll revisit this rule if I’m wrong. ↩︎

2.2.3 - Physical actions

Actions done in meatspace


  • Speak/text/transmit phrase (Free)
  • Observe in detail (Simple)
  • Use skill (Complex)


Characters move at different rates, measured in the number of metres they travel during their phase.

  • Crawling (no action used) - prone characters can crawl up to 2 metres.
  • Walking (no action used) - all characters can walk up to 5 metres1 in their phase without using any actions or taking any penalties.
  • Running (Free) - characters can quicken their pace to a run by spending a Free action. This lets them move 10+(Agi×2) metres. They will take a -2 penalty to almost all actions they do during the phase, though. (However, note it becomes a +2 bonus to melee combat; this is the ‘charging in’ modifier.)
  • Sprinting (Complex) - characters may travel even faster by spending a Complex action to make a sprinting test (Running + Strength [Physical]). For every hit on this test, most metatypes can travel a further 2 metres than their running distance. Dwarves can only travel 1 metre further per hit, however. They will continue to take a -2 penalty, as for running.

Take cover (Simple)

Assuming there is some nearby suitable object, this grants the in cover bonus (+2 or +4 to defence rolls) until the character moves again. Note they might get flanked, though.

Drop prone (Free) / Stand up (Simple)

Drop to the ground or get back up again2.


  • Drop object (Free)
  • Pick up / put down object (Simple)
  • Use simple device - includes pressing buttons, turning something on or off, ejecting a weapon clip, changing a weapon’s fire mode, etc.
    • with DNI (Free)
    • without DNI (Simple)


  • Ready weapon 3
    • Pistol w/ slide or quick draw holster (Free)
    • Handgun (up to SMG) or short melee/thrown weapon (Simple)
    • Long gun, sword, bow, etc (Complex)
  • Insert clip (Simple)
  • Reload non-clip weapon (special)
  • Call a shot (Free)
  • Take Aim (special) (TODO)
  • Attack (Complex) (see below)
  • Declare split multiple attack (Free)
  • Carnival of Carnage (special) (see below)


You can do as many attacks, during your turn, as you have actions to spend; the only exception is for single-shot (SS) weapons, which can only be used to attack once per turn4.

  • Complex action:
    • Fire Weapon (SS) (only once per turn)
    • Fire Bow
    • Fire Weapon (SA, BF, FA)
    • Throw Weapon
    • Melee Attack
  • Complex + Free action:
    • Multi-attack (split dice pool - as per 5e CRB)
  • Complex + variable number of Simple actions:
    • Carnival of Carnage multi-attack (full dice pool; see below)5

Recoil is no longer tracked across turns, but it does apply (in total) across all the attacks done within a single phase.

Carnival of Carnage

If the attacker has either:

  1. a ranged weapon and
  2. extra physical/meatspace actions and
  3. a smartlink with a DNI connection to a smartgun


  1. a melee weapon and
  2. multiple targets within movement range

…then they can use a new type of multiple attack, Carnival of Carnage.

To use CoC:

  • It requires one Complex action, plus one Simple action for each additional target in addition to the first.
  • Calculate recoil according to the total number of bullets fired and apply it to each roll.
    • Eg. if using one Complex and two Simple actions to shoot three people with a burst-fire gun, it’s 9 bullets.
  • Roll your full dice pool (plus modifiers) against each target.
    • (For simplicity’s sake, unless the modifiers are different, just roll once and use the same number of hits against each target.)
  • Resolve damage against each target as usual.

Note that you cannot use Carnival of Carnage to attack one target multiple times.

  1. This is deliberately a fair bit less than RAW for many characters. My table plays theatre-of-the-mind and we hardly ever have accurate grids during combat. So I wanted there to be a clearer difference between ‘walking’ and ‘running’ rates. ↩︎

  2. I have removed the requirement to pass a test to stand up if the character is wounded. ↩︎

  3. This is changed from RAW; I have removed the Quick Draw action and instead made quick draw holsters a Free action. Larger weapons become a Complex action rather than a Simple to ready up. ↩︎

  4. Although you can dual-wield them and attack once per turn per weapon, if you wish. ↩︎

  5. Shoutout to the rad action movie RPG Feng Shui, from whence I stole this name. ↩︎

2.2.4 - Matrix actions

Actions done in the matrix (for riggers & deckers)

All the vehicle actions listed below count as Matrix actions for any character using AR or VR, and thus can be done with a character’s bonus Matrix actions.

TODO(check CRB pg 202-203)

Matrix actions

The SR5 core rulebook has 37 normal actions plus 9 magic actions. It also has 42 Matrix actions. Kill Code adds another 11. This is too many. See my matrix houserules for a streamlined set.


  • Fire Mounted Weapon (when it’s an electronically controlled turret) (Complex)
  • Rigger Jump In (Complex)
  • Make Vehicle Test (for vehicle piloting actions eg. stunts, pursuits) (Complex)
  • Send Message (to command drones) (Simple)
    • By default, can command one drone; if the drones are connected to a PAN centered on an RCC the user can send the same command to multiple drones for a single Simple action.

When a rigger is jumped in, Control Vehicle becomes a Free Action ie. a rigger no longer needs to spend one Complex action per turn to stop the vehicle going uncontrolled. This is only true when jumped in, and jumped in continues to require VR.

2.2.5 - Magical actions

All magic-related actions (in meatspace or the astral)


  • Activate focus (Simple)

  • Shift perception (Simple)

  • Astral projection (Complex)

  • Summon spirit (Complex)

  • Call bound spirit (Simple)

  • Command spirit (Simple)

  • Banish spirit (Complex)

  • Dismiss spirit (Simple)

  • Reckless spellcasting (Simple)

  • Cast spell (Complex)


Remove Reckless Spellcasting (the ability to cast a spell for a Simple action at +3 drain.)

Spell defence now requires a Simple action to declare, which must be a deferred action from the mage’s last phase. However, it protects up to (Magic Rating) targets, all of whom get the mage’s full Counterspelling skill to add to their spell defence dice. This can be done as many times as the mage has actions.

2.2.6 - Interrupt actions

Acting defensively out of turn

There are two different systems for interrupt actions here; one is the ones we are currently using. The other is a more radical system that uses Edge instead of changing initiative score. These are not currently in use.

Interrupt actions

These rules are currently canon for my campaign. Although they are a bit experimental…

Interrupt actions no longer change your initiative score by -5 or -10 when taken. Instead:

  • A character may save any number of actions unused from their phase
  • These may be used at any point before or during their next phase
  • They can save them to use defensively (eg Parry) or take an action later for tactical reasons
  • The deferred action cannot be held any longer than whenever their next phase is
  • If they are still holding a deferred action when their next phase arrives, they can use it as part of that phase
  • No character can take any defensive actions on the first combat turn before their first phase

Edge interrupt actions

These rules are not currently canon for my campaign. Although I plan for them to replace the rules above in time.


2.2.7 - Appendices

Footnotes, miscellaneous stuff

Possible future changes / other ideas

  • Physads: need consideration re: the new multi attack.
  • Deckers: some bit of gear (deck add-on? A program?) that can grant an extra +1 Simple
  • Mages: vary the number of actions necessary to cast a spell or summon a spirit:


  • Force < (Magic rating /2): 1 Complex
  • Force between above and below: 1 Complex + 1 Simple
  • Force > (Magic rating): 2 Complex


Spellcasting Summoning
1 Simple action Force <= Magic/2
1 Complex action (in between above and below) Force <= Magic/2
1 Complex + 1 Simple Force > Magic (in between above and below)
2 Complex Force > Magic

Worked example with my current PCs

Old rules (RAW) Proposed new rules
Initiative roll 12+3d6 12+3d6
Phases per turn 74% chance of 3x

26% chance of 2x

Always 1x
Actions per phase 1 Complex 1 Complex (anything)

+1 Complex (physical)

Max attacks per turn 2x or 3x 3x
Old rules (RAW) Proposed new rules
Initiative roll 9+1d6 9+1d6
Phases per turn 83% chance of 2x

17% chance of 1x

Always 1x
Actions per phase 1 Complex 1 Complex (anything)

+1 Simple (magical)

Mr Atom
Old rules (RAW) Proposed new rules
Initiative roll 10+1d6 10+1d6
Phases per turn 2x 1x
Actions per phase 1 Complex 1 Complex (anything)
Max attacks per turn 2x 1x
Project: Heartbreak
Old rules (RAW) Proposed new rules
Initiative roll 9+1d6 9+1d6
Phases per turn 83% chance of 2x

17% chance of 1x

Always 1x
Actions per phase 1 Complex 1 Complex (anything)
Max attacks per turn 2x 1x
Twitch (physical)
Old rules (RAW) Proposed new rules
Initiative roll 14+3d6 14+3d6
Phases per turn 0.5% chance of 4x

83.3% chance of 3x

16.2% chance of 1x

Always 1x
Actions per phase 1 Complex 1 Complex (anything)

1 Complex (physical)

Max attacks per turn 2x - 4x 4x
Twitch (matrix AR DNI / VR cold sim)
Old rules (RAW) Proposed new rules
Initiative roll 14+3d6 DataProc+6+1d6
Phases per turn 0.5% chance of 4x

83.3% chance of 3x

16.2% chance of 2x

Always 1x
Actions per phase 1 Complex 1 Complex (anything)

1 Complex (Matrix)

Max attacks per turn 2x - 4x

2.3 - Combat

2.3.1 - Combat modifiers

An attempt at streamlining this ungainly beast

These rules are not yet canon for my campaign.


Factors effecting: visibility (rain/fog/smoke), light level (darkness/glare), wind

  • If there’s enough of the factor to affect you: take -4
  • If you compensate for the factor via gear: take -2
    • eg. it’s dark and you have low-light goggles/glasses
  • If you compensate for the factor via innate traits, cyberware, or magic: no penalty
    • eg. it’s dark and you’re a dwarf with thermographic vision

Penalties stack across categories eg. if it’s dark and there’s fog it’s -8. Compensation does not stack within a category eg. if you have low-light cybereyes plus thermal vision goggles, you take -2.


Define weapon rages as:

  1. Hand - within arm’s length
  2. Close - a few steps; in the same room
  3. Near - a few dozen metres; within the same street
  4. Far - maybe a hundred metres; a large field
  5. Extreme - further

Take penalties as follows:

Hand Close Near Far Extreme
Pistol, Taser 0 0 -4 no no
SMG 0 0 -2 no no
Shotgun -2 0 -2 no no
Rifle -2 0 0 -4 no
Sniper rifle -4 -2 0 -2 -4
Machine gun, Assault cannon -4 -2 0 -4 -6
Bow, crossbow -4 0 -2 no no
Grenade launcher no 0 0 -4 no
Rocket launcher no no 0 -2 no
Missile launcher no no 0 -2 -2
Thrown 0 0 -4 no no


Ranged combat attacker

  • Running: -2
  • In melee combat: -4 (handgun) or -8 (long gun)
  • Using off-hand weapon: -2
  • Called shot: -4 (or more)
  • Firing from moving vehicle: -2
  • Firing from full cover with imaging: -4
  • Aim: +1 per whole combat turn spent aiming, max of Willpower
  • Smartgun: +2

Melee combat attacker

  • Charging in: +2
  • Attacker prone: -2
  • Higher ground: +2
  • Off-hand weapon: -2
  • Called shot: -4 (or more)
  • Touch-only attack: +4


  • Partial cover: +2
  • Good cover: +4
  • Running: +2
  • Prone: -2
  • Unable to move freely (eg strapped into vehicle): -4

2.4 - Magic

This is the magic rebalance section. In addition to the specific sections below, here’s a few generic notes:

Healing drain

  • A mage who takes drain for something cannot heal that drain while the something is still ongoing. So spell drain and summoning drain is permanent as long as the spell is sustained or the spirit not yet dismissed or disrupted. An exception is binding; once a spirit is bound, the summoner can heal drain as usual. Slap patches still mitigate the effects of drain in the usual way, however.


I believe that, per RAW, the enchanting rules are very weak and uninteresting. They need a ground-up rewrite if they are to be as useful as spellcasting or summoning.

Mystic adepts

Mystic adepts, like magical adepts, must choose one of the three magical skills to specialise in: spellcasting, summoning, enchanting. They cannot do the other two.

Even with this change in place, I suspect mysads are still over powered. This is a start though.

Prior art / acknowledgements

Large swathes of these rules owe debt to: Lormyr for this post and this post (see also this thread) (and this post) u/dezzmont for these (quite radical!) suggestions

Design goals

  • Eliminate the infinite power scaling possibility for mages. Although it’s theoretical in my campaign right now, it still troubles me.
  • Reduce the incentives for mages to game the system by casting spells or summoning spirits during downtime then healing up before stuff kicks off.
  • Make it more expensive for mages to get access to higher buffs (of the order of +3/+4 to attributes and +3/4d6 to init.)
  • Give mages something to spend nuyen on; elevate powerful foci to be as rare and exotic as deltaware mods.
  • Recalibrate foci boosts to fall into the rough envelope of “+1 to +4 dice” that Shadowrun generally applies to various kinds of buff, eg stat augmentations.
  • In return, give mages some greater tactical flexibility, eg. by making spell foci more general-purpose.

Something else I’d like to tackle but haven’t currently found a way: give physads a different mechanical feel to “samurai, but magic” and also give them more benefit from the (expensive) decision to increase their Magic attribute versus just initiating again and again and taking the Power Point metamagic. I am considering doing this by allowing them to take more powers than they have power points and swap them in and out in a ritual process that takes several hours. This would give them some role flexibility that cybernetic characters couldn’t match.

2.4.1 - Summoning and spirit rebalance

Rebalance spirits to make them less overwhelming in combat

These rules are canon for my current campaign.


  • Spirits cannot be “oversummoned” ie. you cannot attempt to summon one with Force greater than your Magic value.
  • Any Spirit of force 8 or greater can choose to ignore the summons at its option. Expect to roleplay a short scene to convince it to answer your call…


  • Spirits no longer get Immunity to Normal Weapons when manifested by default.
    • A summoner can give Immunity to Normal Weapons as an optional power to their combat spirit type, chosen at summoning in the usual way. This will take two optional power slots, so is only available on spirits of Force 6 and above.
    • All spirits that do not have ItNW get an armour value equal to 2x their Force. This armour also applies if ItNW is bypassed, eg. by a weapon focus.
      • Some sample soak dice pools:
        • Water F2: 6 dice
        • Air F4: 10 dice
        • Earth F6: 22 dice
        • Beasts F8: 20 dice
    • Blight ammo will be fairly rare amongst opponents due to its high cost (250¥ per round.)
  • As before, a summoner can only have one non-bound spirit at a time. The total Force of all bound spirits cannot exceed the summoner’s Magic rating.
  • Spirit’s Energy Aura power no longer adds +Force to their Engulf attacks, as that results in 3×Force total damage, which is too much. Instead Energy Aura only changes the spirit’s Engulf attack to match their elemental type. 1


Binding a spirit now requires the creation of a binding trinket, consuming a number of drams of reagent equal to the spirit’s force. No extra roll is done for this, it’s just part of the binding process. As with other trinkets, this lasts a few weeks but then fades away, releasing the spirit. Binding is no longer permanent.

You have to have the associated trinket on your person to call the bound spirit.

At any time, a summoner can bind a number of spirits with a total force equal to 2× their Charisma.

Remove the following bound spirit services:

  • Spell sustaining
  • Spell binding

Change Aid Alchemy, Sorcery and Study: instead of a flat bonus to your roll equal to the spirit’s Force, treat this as a standard Shadowrun teamwork roll. The spirit rolls (2×Force) dice. Each hit on that test contributes a bonus die to the magician’s test and raises the mage’s limit by 1. The maximum number of bonuses is equal to the magician’s skill rank.

Example: Alice the mage has summoned Bob the Force 4 fire spirit. Alice asks Bob to help her cast a Fireball. Alice has Spellcasting 4 (she’s a novice.) Bob rolls F×2=8 dice, scoring 5 hits (lucky Bob!). That would get Alice 5 bonus dice, but she has Spellcasting 4, so she can only get 4 dice.

  1. thanks to u/mitsayantan for this idea. ↩︎

2.4.2 - Foci rebalance

Nerf foci, but make them more flexible too

These rules are canon for my current campaign.

  • All Foci have a maximum rating of 4. Add (Force x 3) to all foci availability codes. All nuyen costs are multiplied by the focus Force value. (See below for tables that work all this out.)
  • No action (casting one spell, summoning one spirit) can be affected by more than one focus. If you have more than one focus that can help (eg. a spellcasting focus and a power focus), you have to pick one. That focus can only contribute to one aspect of the process eg. the spellcasting test or the drain test, not both.
  • Make spellcasting and summoning foci multi-purpose by combining the subtypes. For example, a single Combat spell Sorcery focus can be used for spellcasting, counterspelling, rituals, or sustaining, however the mage needs at that point in time. However it can only do one thing at once, so if it is sustaining a spell that means it cannot be used for spellcasting while the sustaining is still going.
    • Additionally, allow spell foci and spirit foci to offer dice on the drain resistance test equal to their Force, if they were not used to contribute dice to the sorcery roll.
  • The total Force of all bound foci must be less than or equal to 2x the character’s Magic rating.
  • Remove focus addiction rules.

Idea to discuss but don’t yet have full rules for: foci can be attacked via Astral combat. After a certain amount of damage, their link to their user is disrupted. The focus can no longer be used until it is re-bonded to the user in the usual way (ritual + karma cost.)

Reference tables for focus price/karma changes

Power foci

A Power focus adds its Force to the user’s Magic attribute, and hence all spellcasting and summoning dice pools.

5e RAW Houserule version
F1 6 karma, 18 k¥, 4R unchanged
F2 12 karma, 36 k¥, 8R 12 karma, 72 k¥, 14R
F3 18 karma, 54 k¥, 12R 18 karma, 162 k¥, 21R
F4 24 karma, 72 ¥, 16R 24 karma, 288 k¥, 28R

Spell or spirit foci (karma/nuyen/availability numbers are the same)

For spell foci: for one school of magic (chosen at time of binding the focus), it adds its Force to the dice pool used for one of spellcasting, ritual spellcasting, or counterspelling. Or it can sustain a spell from the chosen school of Force less than or equal to the Force of the focus.

For spirit foci: for a specific type of spirit (chosen at time of binding the focus), it adds its Force to the dice pool used for summoning, banishing, or binding that type of spirit. Or it can be used to increase the user’s Magic rating by its Focus rating for the purposes of determining the maximum total Force of spirits that can be summoned at once.

5e RAW Houserule version
F1 2 karma, 4 k¥, 3R unchanged
F2 4 karma, 8 k¥, 6R 4 karma, 16 k¥, 12R
F3 6 karma, 12 k¥, 9R 6 karma, 36 k¥, 18R
F4 8 karma, 16 k¥, 12R 8 karma, 64 k¥, 24R

Weapon foci

5e RAW Houserule version
F1 3 karma, 7 k¥, 4R unchanged
F2 6 karma, 14 k¥, 8R 6 karma, 28 k¥, 14R
F3 9 karma, 21 k¥, 12R 9 karma, 63 k¥, 21R
F4 12 karma, 28 k¥, 16R 12 karma, 112 k¥, 28R

Metamagic foci

5e RAW Houserule version
F1 3 karma, 9 k¥, 3R unchanged
F2 6 karma, 18 k¥, 6R 6 karma, 36 k¥, 12R
F3 9 karma, 27 k¥, 9R 9 karma, 81 k¥, 18R
F4 12 karma, 36 k¥, 12R 12 karma, 144 k¥, 24R

Qi foci

Not currently sure. Might make them the same as power foci.

Enchanting foci

I cannot imagine why any PC would ever want one of these, so I haven’t houseruled them yet.

2.4.3 - Reagents and trinkets

Change reagents to add a new option - trinkets

These rules are canon for my current campaign.

  • increase the cost of reagents, for now let’s say to 1000 nuyen per dram * (remove rules for harvesting your own for a bit, they need rebalancing now)
  • remove all RAW uses of reagents (except binding - see the Summoning section)
  • add a downtime action to create a trinket. You can create a number of trinkets equal to your Alchemy skill in a single downtime scene.


Trinkets are small objects that are linked to the caster’s tradition or personality in some way and can offer a one-time boost to a magic test. They are crafted by using reagents:

  1. Choose how many drams of reagent to use
  2. Roll Alchemy + Magic
  3. Resultant trinket has Force equal to the lesser of the roll and the number of drams used.

NB: Regardless of resulting power, all the reagents you declared in step 1 are consumed.

Trinket usages

Similar to foci, trinkets can be used to add a number of dice equal to their force to any given magic roll. Unlike foci, trinkets burn out after one use. You do not need to declare how a particular trinket will be used until you come to use it.

  • Spellcasting - can aid the spellcasting roll or the drain roll
  • Summoning - as above; can add to summoning roll or drain roll
  • Sustaining - can sustain any spell for (Force) Combat Turns.
  • Counterspelling
  • Dispelling
  • Banishing
  • Hide magic - add its Force rating to the roll to avoid having magic activity spotted
    • so the test becomes Perception + Intuition [Mental] vs (magical skill being used + trinket rating - spell/spirit Force)

Trinkets on the astral

Unlike foci, trinkets do not have their own aura on the astral when not being used; they can be noticed but only if someone assenses your aura (and they can be disguised by Masking in the usual way). Therefore carrying one does not immediately mark one out as a magician to anyone who glances at you on the astral plane; they have a stealth advantage over foci. If a trinket is actively sustaining a spell, it can be seen at a glance, however.

Maximum number of trinkets bound at once

A magician can only bind a number of trinkets at once equal to their Magic attribute.

2.4.4 - Initiation and metamagic houserules

Cap initiation, cap max number of quickened spells, but make quickened spells more durable

These rules are canon for my current campaign.

  • Normal characters have a maximum initiation grade of 6, and a maximum Magic attribute of 12. Getting beyond that is out of reach for PCs or normal NPCs (barring dragons, immortal elves, Things Man Was Not Meant To Know, etc.)
    • If it ever matters, I might add in a way for grade 6 initiates to continue to learn new metamagics. Seems unlikely my campaign will need it, however.



  • The total maximum Force of all quickened spells on one person or object is equal to the lowest Magic stat that was used to cast any of the spells.
  • Dispelling a quickened spell now only disrupts it. It can be restored via a ritual that takes a few minutes.
  • Quickened spells cast on living subjects with a Magic stat “bed in” to the subject’s aura over a period of a few hours. They cannot be detected other than by assensing, and they can be hidden via the masking metamagic power. They can also pass through mana barriers unimpeded.

2.5 - Matrix

My v1.0 Matrix houserules are based on a backport of most of the new ideas from Shadowrun 6e to 5e, while maintaining as much of the original system as possible. These are (hopefully) going to be replaced by the other Matrix rules presented here. These rules are also canonical for my currently campaign. For now, you can read my backport rules here.

The rest of this section represents an early draft of my v2.0 houserules, which further builds on the backport to streamline some areas.

2.5.1 - Introduction to my Matrix houserules

Discussing what I am trying to achieve here

These rules are not yet canon for my current campaign, as they are incomplete. But I hope to finish them soon (at least to a playable state.)

Note that these rules are intended to be used in conjunction with my re-written Matrix fluff.

tl;dr: comparing these rules to RAW

Some loose, probably incomplete notes on what I’ve changed and why.

Changes intended to make the fluff and mechanics align better:

  • Splitting the Matrix into local mesh / the backbone: intended to justify why deckers have to get out into the field and can’t hide in a darkened, safe basement far from the action.
  • Clarify how deckers mess with other people’s gear: for example, by clearly stating the limits of Send Command.
  • Clarify exactly what a decker sees in AR: intended to resolve the long-standing “can deckers see through walls?” FAQ.
  • Buff AR accessed via DNI to close the gap to cold-sim VR: intended to encourage/empower deckers to get out into the field without having to risk their meatbods by dipping into VR.

Changes intended to make play faster by either reducing steps to resolve outcomes or making the steps easier to remember:

  • Streamlined action list: intended to make it easier to keep track of what deckers roll to Do The Thing without having to rely on cheat sheets. I have taken inspiration from the magic system in Shadowrun: a small number of standardised rolls but with the outcomes applied in different ways, as opposed to the RAW for Matrix actions, where there’s 40+ actions to choose from and each has a bespoke roll associated with it.
  • Streamlined access levels to outsider/user/admin, inspired by SR 6e. Also, access levels now apply to everything in a PAN or WAN after one hacking roll.
  • Remove data bombs: encouraging deckers to do Matrix perception to every file before they manipulate it significantly slows play down.
  • Make Matrix perception work like meatspace perception: ie. the decker rolls once and applies the same result to everything they could potentially notice, rather than rolling once per target.

Changes intended to increase player flexibility or offer players hard choices between trade-offs:

  • Included a variation on the Probe/Backdoor Actions from SR 6e to offer more variety between the stealthy and non-stealthy approaches. I have changed the exact mechanics of Probe/Backdoor to suit my own preferences, however.
  • Reworked Overwatch Score and what happens when it reaches convergence; intended to reduce book-keeping but add a push-your-luck mechanic for brave deckers.


  • u/cras_, who was always willing to subject his characters to my half-baked ideas
  • u/Ingnimortis, who was kind enough to review drafts of these rules and offer comments and insight
  • Banshee, who generously shared insights into his design process for the SR 6e Matrix rules
  • Anyone who has ever shared Matrix houserules on r/shadowrun; I drew inspiration and ideas from many such sources. In particular, u/dezzmont and u/LeVentNoir. And to u/ReditXenon, who’s encyclopaedic knowledge of Matrix RAW kept me honest on numerous occasions.

2.5.2 - Matrix basics

Matrix attributes, types of devices, commlinks

These rules are not yet canon for my current campaign.

Matrix basics

This is covered in more detail in Matrix fundamentals in my fluff writeup, but a quick summary:

  • Devices (in the real world) have icons (in the Matrix).
  • Commlinks/cyberdecks/RCCs being used by someone get a special type of icon called a persona.
  • The Matrix comes in two parts:
    • the local mesh is a peer-to-peer network of devices routing traffic between themselves; typically extends a kilometre or so in an urban area (more in rural areas). It’s vulnerable to signal disruption and has limited range.
    • the backbone is a world-wide network of fibre cables, satellite links, and other high-tech stuff that carries data around at approximately infinite capacity and speed.
    • the local mesh and the backbone are bridged by uplink nodes, which are extremely well-guarded hosts.
    • devices co-operate to send traffic between each other until it reaches an uplink node, at which point it is whisked away to the backbone.
    • hence, deckers are masters of the local mesh, but are hampered by having to get within range of their hacking targets.
  • Hosts are the “servers” of the Matrix
    • Some are “local hosts” - hosts that only work with devices within local grid range. These are smaller / cheaper.
    • Others are “cloud hosts.” These are connected to the backbone so are accessible world-wide. They are larger / more expensive.
    • There are whispered rumours of mysterious “foundation hosts”, strange and powerful, that somehow work without any connection to the backbone at all…

Matrix attributes

Unchanged from RAW; used as a combination of limits for tests and part of a dice pool for resisting tests done against you.

  • Attack
  • Sleaze
  • Data Processing
  • Firewall


Every Matrix-enabled device - and in the Sixth World, that’s a lot - is represented in the Matrix by an icon.

Some of these are persona devices: these are the subset of devices that can let people get onto the Matrix, in the process creating a persona so they can interact with other devices. Examples include commlinks, cyberdecks, and RCCs.

  • Commlinks are the everyday Matrix devices of the masses.
  • Cyberdecks are like hot-rodded commlinks with the extra processors and software necessary to break the rules of the Matrix and bend it to your will
  • RCCs are the rigger’s cousin to the cyberdeck, optimised to allow long-range signals for remote drone control.


When you sign into the Matrix via a commlink, cyberdeck, or RCC, the device gets a special icon called a persona. Personas are your own personal digital mirror image. Persona’s appearances are often very elaborately customised, particularly by wankers.

You cannot steal anyone else’s persona, nor can you have two personas at once. (More on why here.)

2.5.3 - Spotting icons & hiding on the Matrix

How to find things, and avoid being found


“Spotting” is the process of your persona device becoming aware of some other device’s icon so it can show it to you.

Spotting is an automatic function of basic Matrix protocols within a short horizon; typically around 100 metres, although it can vary with network conditions (more noise = shorter range). Your device is constantly keeping track of these devices as it helps to route traffic around in the local mesh. To detect icons further out, you can instruct your commlink or cyberdeck to actively monitor local mesh connections. See Matrix Perception, below.

Cloud hosts are always spotted, from anywhere on the planet. Local hosts are spotted the same as any other device.

Once your persona has spotted an icon, it receives an approximate physical location and direction of travel for it, typically accurate to a couple of metres but can randomly vary. In AR, this positioning information is used by your commlink/deck/etc to decide where in your vision to place the icon. In VR, your device will probably play a little looser with reality, and icon positions will be optimised for usability (for example, overlapping icons will be spread out a bit to make them easier to see.)

For more information on the in-universe experience of spotting icons in AR and VR, see Spotting & Positioning.


Once a persona has spotted an icon, they can keep track of it as long as it is within local mesh range. They will automatically get an approximate physical location and direction of travel, and if they also have (hacked or legitimate) access they can make that perfectly accurate via Trace Icon actions. If someone knows or suspects they are being tracked this way, they have a few options to escape:

  • Try to shake the tail by moving to within range of a different uplink node, so as to break the local mesh range. The tracker can attempt to re-establish contact (via another Matrix perception action) if they can get back within range.
  • Run a succesful Hide action (opposed test) to confuse the tracker and lose their attention.

Note that rebooting your device is not enough to break spotting, but the persona being tracked could turn all their devices off completely instead.

Running silent

Devices can choose to remove themselves from the local mesh, refusing incoming connections and effectively vanishing from sight. This is called running silent.

A naked device, outside of a PAN or WAN, cannot run silent. Any PAN or WAN can freely choose to run silent, however this setting applies simultaneously to all devices in the PAN or WAN. If the PAN controller is a commlink, without a Sleaze stat, it will remain very easy to detect.

Matrix Perception


2.5.4 - Access, getting it, and protecting against hacking


“Naked” devices - low-end things connected directly to the Matrix - are notoriously at risk of being hacked. Most people therefore protect their stuff by creating a Personal Area Network (PAN) and using their commlink as a shield against incoming hacking attempts.


Personal Area Networks - PANs - are local networks of devices all sheltered under a controller. The controller must be a device running a persona, so a commlink, cyberdeck, or RCC. The controller monitors all traffic within the PAN and between the PAN and the public Matrix, guarding against hack attacks.

PANs always run across the local mesh part of the Matrix, and have a restricted range to around 500 metres, depending on local network conditions (it gets smaller if the area is noisy). Devices that pass out of range will drop off the PAN. (Note that riggers can extend their PAN to greater ranges for drone control, as their RCCs have heavy-duty antennas. This also makes them physically bulky however.)

PANs can have dozens of devices attached to them; for most game purposes it isn’t worth keeping track of.

A device in a PAN can choose to roll the PAN controller’s device rating and the PAN controller’s ASDF stats instead of its own to defend against any Matrix action. However, it does not have to do so, eg. if it has a better Firewall stat than the controller does.


Wide Area Networks - WANs - are very similar to PANs, but the controlling device is a host instead.

Like PANs, WANs only work on the local mesh, so have a restricted range and must be controlled by a local host. Cloud hosts cannot be PAN controllers.

WANs have essentially no limit in how many devices can be attached to them.

It is common for WAN controller hosts used in wageslave offices to be running silent and also protected by RF-blocking building measures. See spotting for more information.

Access levels

Your persona can have three different access levels to any given device, host, PAN, or WAN on the Matrix:

  • Guest: the default permission level for persons that are unknown. Sometimes this means you can’t access anything, sometimes it means you can go inside a host and interact with some of it. Depends on the host.
  • User: a normal user’s access rights. Can usually read/write files, give standard/routine commands to attached devices. Occasionally very secure devices or files might require Admin access instead.
  • Admin: full control, can order devices to do anything they can reasonably perform.

These access levels apply to an entire PAN or WAN at once. If you have User access to a PAN, you have User access to every device connected to that PAN. If your persona is running on a device controlling a PAN, then you have always have Admin access to everything in the PAN.

Direct connection hacking

If an attacker can achieve a direct, physical connection to a device that is part of a PAN or WAN, they can bypass most of the protections. The device must roll its own Device Rating against the hacking attempt, and it is treated as having a Firewall stat of 0.

This is doubly dangerous, as from that compromised device the attacker can move into the rest of the network. Any access levels obtained on the device apply to the entire PAN or WAN.

Direct connections are not always easy to obtain. For many secure devices that use wireless connections to their hosts (eg. an external camera or maglock), they may only be present as physical connection points on the internal mechanisms, hidden behind reinforced casing. These are difficult to jerry-rig.

Some secure devices use wired connections to their WANs instead. These devices are impossible to wirelessly hack, but the tradeoff is that it’s much harder to armour their controlling cables and hence a lot easier to attackers to get a physical backdoor.

To achieve a direct connection, roll Hardware + Logic:

  • For wirelessly connected devices, use a threshold of (host rating ) / 2 to represent the physical security
  • For wired devices, reduce the threshold by 1 (minimum 1) and add +4 to the attacker’s roll.

These are not hacking rolls, and there are no implications for OS tracking etc.

Hacking via Snoop

If a decker is listening in to an active connection (can be a voice call, a video stream, a text message chat, etc) via a Snoop action, they gain extra opportunities to hack remote targets by inserting hacking commands into the datastream.

Unlike other hacking attempts, they do not need to spot their target for this, so they can use this vector to hack one end of a phone call, then hack the device at the other end, even if it not within the decker’s local mesh.

  • Roll Backdoor Entry or Brute Force (decker’s option) as usual.
    • Either action takes 10x longer to perform than usual, because of the need to carefully weave the hacking commands into the datastream; 10 combat turns / 30 seconds.
    • This counts as a directly connected hack, so the device rolls only its Device Rating against the hack attempt, with no Firewall.
    • It is very unlikely the decker will be able to arrange things to make Probe viable due to how long it takes. Remember that Backdoor Entry without Probe first takes a -6 penalty.
    • Brute Force, whether it succeeds or fails, is likely to alert the remote target and cause them to terminate the call.
  • Once the decker gains User or Admin access, they can carry out commands as usual and at their usual speed.
    • Trace Icon is a good choice, or Edit File if the decker wants to look around the contents of the device.
  • When the call/video stream/etc ends, the decker loses access immediately.

2.5.5 - Matrix damage and how to fix it

Various kinds of Matrix damage, link-locking, biofeedback, etc

Matrix damage

  • Each device has 8+(Device Rating / 2) boxes of Matrix damage track.
  • Matrix damage is resisted with Device Rating + Firewall.
  • Tests using the device take a -1 penalty per 3 boxes of incurred Matrix damage.
  • If the Matrix damage track fills, the device is bricked, and is non-operable until repaired.

Repairing Matrix damage

  • Base time of 60 minutes
  • Hardware + Logic [Mental] test
  • Split hits between reducing time and doing repair
    • Divide base time by number of hits spend to reduce time
    • Repair number of boxes of Matrix damage equal to hits spent doing repair


  • In AR via goggles/glasses/image link: no effect
  • Stun damage if in AR with DNI or cold-sim VR
  • Physical damage if in hot-sim VR
  • Resisted with Willpower + Firewall


  • In AR via goggles/glasses/image link: no effect
  • If in AR with DNI or in cold-sim VR: 6S
  • If in hot-sim VR: 6P
  • Resisted with Willpower+Firewall
    • If the deck just got bricked, Firewall will be 0
  • -2 dice on all actions for next (10-Willpower) minutes
  • Can affect any user in AR with DNI, cold-sim VR, or hot-sim VR
  • While locked, cannot use Switch Interface, Enter/Exit Host, or Reboot
  • Can take Jack Out action but with an opposed test
    • Hardware + Willpower [Firewall] vs Logic + Attack
    • Will take dumpshock if succeed

2.5.6 - Matrix actions

A streamlined set of Matrix actions

These rules are not yet canon for my current campaign.

Dice pools for devices

All resistance rolls below are expressed as an Attribute plus one of the ASDF stats. However, this only applies when the defender is a persona. When it is a host or device, substitute values for the roll as follows:

  • For the resistance Attribute: use the Host Rating or Device Rating.
  • For the ASDF stat:
    • Naked/standalone device: use Rating for D/F, use 0 for A/S (unless it’s special)
      • Unattended vehicles with an active Gridlink subscription get +3 bonus Firewall, as Gridlink has some limited monitoring of Matrix traffic for devices under its purview.
    • Device in a PAN or WAN: use the PAN/WAN controller’s ASDF stat
    • Host: use (Rating+2) for D/F, use Rating for A/S (most Hosts are defensively configured, but this can vary if desired)

Just lookin'

  • Roll: Computer + Intuition [Data Processing]
  • Resist: Logic + Sleaze (for Perception) or against a threshold

Determine threshold and base time as below. Hits over threshold used to divide the base time. If the test fails, the character spends the full time looking before coming up empty-handed.

Threshold Time
General knowledge / public 1 1 min
Of limited interest / not publicised 3 30 min
Hidden / actively hunted & erased 6 12 hrs
Protected / secret N/A N/A

Suggested dice pool mods:

  • -1 if information is intricate or specialised
  • -2 if information is obscure

When looking for specific files inside a host, use thresholds as above. The base time is always 1 minute.

Matrix perception

To spot nearby silent running icons on the local mesh: do an opposed test as above (ie against the icon’s Logic+Sleaze.) The decker rolls once against every silent running icon, and spots all the ones that fail the test in one go.

Repeated attempts within a short period of time take a cumulative -1 penalty, as usual.

To examine a device, roll a simple test. Each hit answers one question from CRB page 235.

Getting into places you shouldn’t be

Roll: Hacking + Logic [Attack] or [Sleaze] Resist: Willpower + Firewall

Brute Force (aggressively)

Roll: Hacking + Logic [Attack] Resist: Willpower + Firewall

  • 1+ net hits gives User access.
  • 3+ net hits allows Admin access at decker’s option. (Remember that Admin access accrues OS more quickly.)

Probe / Backdoor Entry (sneakily)

Roll: Hacking + Logic [Sleaze] Resist: Willpower + Firewall

Ideally, the decker first does Probe to scout the target for security vulnerabilities: roll as above, take net hits, split into two groups as decker wants.

  • Base time is 60 minutes, divided by the however many hits the decker wants to use to reduce the time.
  • Rest of net hits is recorded to use with the Backdoor action later.
  • Probe results stay valid for (3d6-Host/Device Rating) hours (minimum 1), but persist if the decker logs out or reboots.

To actually hack the system the decker does Backdoor Entry to use the discovered vulnerabilities to get access. Same test as above.

  • If the decker didn’t do Probe before Backdoor Entry, they take a -6 penalty.
  • 1+ net hits gives User access.
  • 3+ net hits allows Admin access at decker’s option. (Remember Admin access accrues OS more quickly.)
  • Even after the decker trigger’s GOD’s interest, if they are only maintaining access to systems that was gained via Probe then OS does not start accruing for a number of combat turns equal to the hits left over from the Probe test. After that it accrues as normal.

Matrix attacks

Roll: Cybercombat + Logic [Attack] Resist: Willpower + Firewall

Ways to deal damage or crash software. These are all Complex actions.

  • Data spike: does (net hits + Attack) boxes of Matrix damage, resisted by the target with Device Rating + Firewall.

  • Popup (requires User access): Target must be a persona using AR. Flooded with Matrix spam. Takes (net hits) as a negative ongoing dice pool penalty to all tests until the end of the next turn.

  • Denial of Service: Target is one or more specific devices. Target’s data streams are polluted with noise. Take 2*(net hits) as an ongoing penalty to all use of the device until the end of the next turn.

    If the decker has no access, this can only be used against a single device. If the decker has User access to a PAN or host, it can be used against up to 3 devices that are in that PAN/WAN. If the decker has Admin access, it can be used on 6 devices.

    “Devices” can include smartguns and cyberware. If a given action is affected by Denial of Service more than once - eg. if DoS is used against a character’s cybereyes, and cyberarm, and smartgun - then the penalties stack.

Manipulating icons

Roll: Computer + Logic [Data Processing] Resist: Willpower + Firewall

Once you have access on an icon (or the PAN/WAN that it is part of), you can do the following actions to it without any further tests.

If you have User level access:

  • Edit file (no test, Complex action) - create, change, copy, delete, or protect any type of file.

    Note that some of these actions (particularly copy) may not complete instantly. The decker doesn’t need to spend any other actions, but they may need to wait.

    If the edit is particularly intricate or tricky, GM may call for a test of Computer + Logic [Data Processing] vs a threshold to determine how successful it was.

  • Send message (Simple action) - send a message to a person or an order to a drone or other semi-smart device. Can be textual, audio, a picture, or a short video clip.

  • Control device (Simple/Complex depending on what you’re doing) - may require a test depending on what the goal is eg. shooting a turret requires a Gunnery roll. Control Device cannot override the neural connections used control cyberware.

If you have Admin level access:

  • Reboot device (Simple) - you cannot reboot cyberware. Rebooting weapons or vehicles disables their electronic features but they typically still work via manual controls.
  • Trace icon (Complex) - see below.
  • Snoop (Complex) - if you have Admin access on one of the devices, you can run Snoop without any further tests.
  • Change icon (Simple action)

Some actions still need tests however. These both need User level access to the file in question:

  • Encrypt file (Complex action) - roll Computer + Logic [Data Processing]. Number of hits is the protection rating on the file’s encryption.
  • Crack file (Complex action) - roll Hacking + Logic [Attack] vs protection rating x 2.

Trace Icon


Manipulating datastreams

Roll: Electronic Warfare + Logic Resist: Willpower + Firewall

These are all Complex actions.

  • Snoop (no access required): listen in on the link between any two or more devices. Can be used to monitor a video feed, listen to an audio call, intercept commands sent to drones, etc.

    Note that if you have Admin access to any device in the link, you can perform Snoop without any test being required. You only need to roll the above test if you do not have access to the devices.

    Once you have performed Snoop, you can also insert hacking commands into the datastream to hack the remote device. This can even be achieved if the remote device is outside of local mesh range. Roll Probe/Backdoor Entry/Brute Force as normal.

  • Spoof Command (no access required): send a single command to a device, carefully constructed to look like it came from a legitimate source. See below for discussion.

  • Subvert Infrastructure (requires User access): Take control of up to (net hits) simple infrastructure devices connected to the PAN/WAN. Control continues as long as the decker maintains access to the host. Examples of devices include traffic lights, vending machines, home appliances, desk lamps, etc. Different commands can be issued to multiple devices for a single Simple action.

  • Squelch (no access required): prevents target device from calling or sending any messages for (net hits) number of minutes. If the target is a host subsystem, it prevents alerts leaving that subsystem and deploying IC in other subsystems for (net hits) combat turns.

Spoof Command

Spoofed commands are considered to have User level access, not Admin. This causes some limitations in what you can do with Spoof Command, such as:

  • Lock or unlock electronic doors and maglocks
  • Tell a camera to replay its last footage endlessly, creating a camera loop
  • Tell a drone to target a specific person, as long as that person is not specifically tagged as a friendly
  • Tell a drone to cease firing (although its controlling host or rigger will likely tell it to start again soon afterwards)

But some things you cannot do with Spoof Command:

  • Interfere with cyberware - the neural interface used by cyberware overrides commands sent from the Matrix
  • Reboot, format, or shut down devices completely - these need Admin level access
  • Change a drone’s friend-or-foe identifier

Manipulating yourself (mostly no tests)

  • Switch AR/VR mode
  • Jack out
    • Opposed test if link locked
  • Reconfigure deck
  • Matrix defence / counterhacking (something like counterspelling?)

2.5.7 - Cyberdecks

Decks, programs, agents

Stats are unchanged from RAW; Cyberdecks have an attribute array that can be allocated across the four Matrix stats. Takes a Free action to swap any two stats. Remember you can only do one Free action per turn. If you want to do more reconfiguring than that, you can use Matrix Simple Actions.

Cyberdecks are reduced in price to 25% of RAW. See the gear houserules for more information and statblocks.



  • decrease to ((Deck Rating) / 2) slots?
  • add a few more impactful ones?
  • add a one-shot +2 dice boosts that burn out after use? (like trinkets) (deckers craft these with Software in downtime?)

Hacking programs

  • Chaff: any attempt to Trace Icon against the persona will be inaccurate by (1d6 * 10) metres; if the direction matters, use the scatter rules. This also applies to the tracing that happens after convergence from GOD. (Replaces Cry Wolf.)


  • Deck can only run agents of a rating equal to or less than the deck rating.
  • Agents take a program slot while active.
  • Agents have a hardware module with embedded memory chips and co-processors. As such, they cannot be swapped in and out of a deck like other programs. They take a few minutes to connect or disconnect.
  • Agent stats are equal to the deck rating, agents use the deck’s ASDF, and agent skills are equal to its rating. Hence agents are typically rolling ((agent rating) + (deck rating) [Deck stat]) as a dice pool.
  • If used to assist the decker on an action, it takes a Simple Action to order the agent to help. Then it rolls its dice pool as a teamwork test. It then takes another Simple Action to order the agent to resume whatever it was doing before, if the decker desires.
  • Agents running the same task over and over (eg Matrix perception to watch for nearby icons that are running silent) are not subject to the -1 penalty per repeated attempt as other characters. However, any tests required are always resolved by buying hits on both sides of the test.

2.5.8 - Hosts & devices

Hosts, common devices, and IC

Device ratings

  • Local hosts (rating 3-8), cloud hosts (rating 6-12)
    • A/S = (Host Rating)
    • D/F = (Host Rating)+2
  • Commlinks (rating 1-7)
    • A/S = 0
    • D/F = (Device Rating)
  • Other devices (1-6)
    • A/S = 0
    • D/F = (Device Rating)/2

Typical device ratings:

  1. Vending machines
  2. Public terminals, entertainment machines
  3. Standard personal electronics
  4. Basic/alpha cyberware, basic vehicles
  5. Beta/delta cyberware, expensive vehicles
  6. (and up) Milspec

Devices from rating 4 up might run additional protection software that grants a further +2 to +4 to its Firewall stat.

Unattended vehicles with active GridLink subscriptions automatically connect to a GridLink firewall service, giving them +2 to Firewall.

Pre-calculated defence pools and bought hits

Naked device Vehicle Commlink/PAN Host
1 2 / 0 2 / 0
2 3 / 0 4 / 1
3 5 / 1 7 / 1 6 / 1 8 / 2
4 6 / 1 8 / 2 8 / 2 10 / 2
5 8 / 2 10 / 2 10 / 2 12 / 3
6 9 / 2 12 / 3 14 / 3
7 14 / 3 16 / 4
8 18 / 4
9 20 / 5
10 22 / 5
11 24 / 6
12 26 / 6

First number is the dice pool, second number the bought hits.


Host types

  • Cloud hosts are planet-scale servers attached directly to the backbone. They can be accessed from anywhere on the planet. They are close to unhackable, not only because of their own defences, but also because of the security on uplink nodes and the backbone itself prevents hacking traffic from ever reaching them.
  • Local hosts are hosts that only work in the context of the local mesh. Most corp facilities will have a local host that runs the office, provides security to wageslave’s devices, and keeps all their files and work. Corporate local hosts are often combined with RF-blocking buildings to further reduce their range to inside an office. Local hosts can connect to cloud hosts for backup etc, either via the backbone or via dark fibre.
  • Rumours abound of secret, powerful, arcane Foundation hosts, that are somehow tied to the mysterious force of power used by Technomancers and somehow function without any connection to the backbone at all. But ‘runners are sometimes overly fond of tall tales about the dangers they faced. Who can tell if there’s any truth in this…?

For more information, see Matrix fundamentals.

Entering hosts


Local vs cloud hosts

Why don’t the corps put all their valuable secrets on impregnable cloud hosts, outside of the grasp of shadowrunners? Sadly for the corps, it’s not that easy.

  • Highly rated cloud hosts are staggeringly expensive, and department directors and VPs are forever looking for ways to make themselves look good by cutting budget items. They’re too short-sighted to realise they are leaving themselves vulnerable to espionage until too late.
  • Cloud hosts are very powerful, but they still don’t have enough data processing capability to run vast chunks of a megacorp’s infrastructure.
  • Cloud hosts cannot form WANs, as the latency becomes too great. So corp facilities always require local hosts to run their physical security infrastructure (locks, cameras, drones, guards with guns), as well as less exciting stuff like the building’s AC and the egghead’s research terminals.
  • The corps do not completely trust GOD, and GOD has complete dominion over traffic on the backbone. Megacorps worry their rivals will have demi-GODs in their pocket, stealing their secrets. Smaller corps worry the megacorps will steal everything. So for the most valuable secrets, the most important R&D data, the darkest paydata, there is still a need for guarded data storage in anonymous facilities and data couriers with wetware storage to move it around.

Wired vs wireless for security PANs



Many larger local hosts are internally divided into different subsystems. Each subsystem has a different purpose and different access levels.

For example, a corp R&D facility might have:

  • general host: the lowest security level, and the first subsystem users attach to when they log in. Low-security users like admin staff might never go deeper than this.
  • industrial control: runs all the obscure tech junk the eggheads are using to do their jobs
  • secure file storage: where the eggheads keep their juicy data
  • security: runs the cameras, doorlocks, turrets, etc. Also runs the WAN that hosts the security personnel’s guns and gear.

In game terms, each subsystem is treated as a separate host in terms of hacking rolls. Access levels are per-subsystem. Completing a hack on the general host doesn’t give access to the security subsystem, and so the invading decker needs to complete a second round of hacking. However, for the purposes of Overwatch Score accumulation, the entire host is tracked as one value. For example, if a decker has Admin access to the secure file storage subsystem and User access to the general host, it’s still only +2 OS per turn.

Note that there is no “map” of these hosts; the internal architecture is flat. Any user can see all the subsystems at once and move between them with ease.


When most hosts are not in an alert state, they are only running patrol IC (see below.)

Once a host is in an alert state (same conditions as tracking OS - a failed sleaze action or any attempted attack action), it starts deploying attack IC:

  • Host launches 1 IC of its choosing (or randomly selected) per combat turn (at top of turn).
  • The host can have (host rating) IC running at once, but can only run one copy of a given IC.
  • If IC take full Matrix damage, they crash, but can be re-loaded as usual by the host.

IC stats:

  • Each IC has its own Matrix damage track.
  • Each IC gets one Complex action on each action phase, and all IC actions are Complex ones.
  • Each IC rolls ((host rating) * 2) + 4d6 for initiative, and for ease of tracking this is usually one roll (although it can be one per IC program).
  • All IC rolls (host rating) * 2 [Attack] to carry out its actions against a persona. For most hosts, Attack is (host rating).

IC types

  • Patrol - see below.
  • Degrader - targets the persona’s weakest ASDF stat.
    • Persona resists with Willpower + the targeted stat.
    • The persona stat is reduced by the number of net hits.
    • If the stat hits zero, it prevents the deck from carrying out any actions that use that stat as a limit.
    • Persona stats are reset when the device reboots.
    • If the persona reconfigures their deck, the penalty stays with the lowest number eg. if their Attack score is reduced to 2 and they swap Attack and Sleaze, their Sleaze stat is now 2.
  • Blaster / Grey IC / Black IC - damage-dealers
    • resisted with Willpower + Firewall
    • does (net hits) matrix damage to the persona
    • Grey IC also does stun biofeedback
    • Black IC also does physical biofeedback
    • Any given host will only have one of these programs; which one depends on how secure it is / how paranoid its owners are.
  • Track & Trace
    • Resisted with Willpower + Firewall
    • Any net hits linklocks the decker
    • Any net hits on a decker who is already linklocked does an automatic Trace Icon test without any further chance to resist

Patrol IC


2.5.9 - Overwatch, GOD & convergence

All about the Grid’s po-po

The Grid Overwatch Division is the Matrix police. TODO: MORE


Overwatch is a 12-segment clock. This clock is public, ie. the decker player can see it. (Delete: baby monitor program, check OS action.)

The clock ticks up when:

  • +1 on any Attack roll, success or failure
  • +1 on any failed Sleaze roll
  • +1 per combat turn if maintaining user access to any PANs or hosts after rolling any attack action or failing any sleaze action
    • increase to +2 if maintaining admin access
    • if the intrusion was via a successful Probe / Backdoor Entry, there is an additional grace period before the clock starts incrementing; see Matrix actions

The clock resets only when the deck reboots and the decker’s persona logs off entirely. The decker loses all access to systems at that time, although any vulnerabilities discovered through Probe and not yet used for Backdoor Entry remain active.

Once the clock fills, GOD is alerted to the decker. A demi-GOD agent starts hunting them.

At the end of each turn, the demi-GOD rolls a number of dice equal to the clock vs a resistance from the decker of Intuition + Sleaze. If there are any net hits, the decker suffers convergence immediately. If there aren’t, the number of hits rolled (not the net hits) are added to the clock, and the demi-GOD will roll again at the end of the next turn.


Same as RAW:

  1. Persona’s deck receives 12 DV of Matrix damage, resisted with Firewall + Device Rating
  2. Persona is rebooted, erasing all access levels and inflicting dumpshock (6S or 6P; resisted with Willpower+Firewall; Firewall will be 0 if the <atrix damage bricked the deck)
  3. Decker’s physical location is traced and reported to authorities (including owners of the Host they were in, if any)

Convergence does not change if the persona is in a host or not when it happens.

GOD & the megacorps

GOD is run by the Corporate Court and staffed by loaned headcount from all the AAA megacorps. Despite that, the corps do not completely trust it. They worry about a demi-GOD who is loyal to their parent corp using their position to leak information back to them. (Of course, they also attempt to convince their own demi-GOD agents to do the same. In practice, GOD keeps its deckers on very short leashes, so this rarely works - but not never.)

As such, the corps sometimes take measures to keep their darkest secrets outside of GOD’s purview. This can include:

  • Use of dark fibre connections to send traffic between sites that GOD cannot intercept or inspect. Can be used if the data itself is top secret, or simply to hide the location or existence of a secure facility that would otherwise be betrayed by its present on the Matrix.
  • Refusal to alert GOD to hostile decker activity. In game terms, this means the decker does not accumulate OS for hacking attempts in the system. This is not good news for the decker in question, however. It means they are on dangerous ground that will be ruthlessly patrolled by novahot spiders and the blackest of IC.

2.5.10 - Common Matrix actions & how to do them

Short examples of common tasks for criminals
  • Spy on phone calls: run Snoop while you have spotted one or more personas on the call. Once you run Snoop, you automatically spot all personas on the call, regardless of where they are.
  • Trace phone calls even if you haven’t spotted the icon on the other end of the call:
    1. have Admin access on one of the devices on the call or place the call from one of your own devices or have successfully Snooped the call
    2. Probe or Brute Force the device at the other end to get Admin access to it
    3. Trace Icon (no test required)
  • Mess with people’s cyberware or weapons: Spoof/Send Command doesn’t work against cyberware, as the user’s neural commands override any commands send from the Matrix. See instead the options under Matrix Attacks.
  • Disable security cameras if they are wirelessly connected:
    • With Outsider access: Spoof Command
    • With User access: Send Command to loop them
    • With Admin access: Send Command to shut them down
  • Bypass a host’s firewall via a device that is hardwired to the host:
    • Find the port on the device (might be armoured/hidden and require a Hardware roll to open it up)
    • Roll Hacking against the device’s own rating, with no Firewall from the Host
    • Any access levels you get from this test are applied to the entire Host WAN
  • Spot icons inside a host: By default, most personas connected to a secure Host (eg for work) will run silent, so drop off the public grid. Run Matrix Perception test as usual to spot them and initiate a hack.

2.6 - Riggers


2.6.1 - Driving, chases, stunts, and crashes

These rules are not canon for my current campaign.

Piloting conditions

All vehicular action happens in one of two types of environment:

  • Speed environments are when the terrain is open: clear roads, calm seas, open skies. Tests are limited by the vehicle’s Speed stat.
  • Handling environments are when the terrain is crowded: busy roads, heavy storms, nape-of-the-earth flying. Tests are limited by the vehicle’s Handling stat.

As vehicles travel, the type of environment may change. Characters may seek to use this to their advantage by steering the action to an environment that favours them and their vehicle.

Standard test types

Vehicle driving tests

All vehicle driving checks use Intuition when a rigger is jumped in. Reaction continues to apply for vehicles being piloted in AR or via physical controls.

As per RAW, stunts are an unopposed driving tests with a threshold of between 1 and 4+, depending on difficulty of the manoeuvre being attempted. Stunts are always limited by Handling, even in speed environments.

  • Basic form of test when not jumped in:
    • Reaction + Vehicle Skill [Handling] or [Speed]
  • Basic form of test when jumped in:
    • Intuition + Vehicle Skill [Handling] or [Speed]
    • Reduce threshold by VCR rating

Vehicle defence tests

When a vehicle is attacked - either shot at or rammed - we need a dice pool to defend against that damage. What this dice pool should be is pretty unclear from RAW. I am borrowing the below wholesale from A Light In The Dark; that link has further discussion about why they made these choices.

A vehicle can only roll this test if it is in motion. Stationary vehicles do not get a defence test.

  • Vehicle or drone on autopilot: The vehicle or drone defends with pilot + maneuvering autosoft. If it has no autosoft, with twice its pilot. The vehicle can full defense; if it does, it applies its pilot to the roll.
  • Driving vehicle in the meat (physical or AR controls): You make defense tests for the vehicle using your Reaction + Intuition, as normal. You can’t block or parry. You can’t full defense for the vehicle, but you can evasive drive, which applies your intuition to the defense test. Combat sense applies.
  • Piloting in VR (no control rig): You make defense tests for the vehicle using your Intuition + Intuition. You can’t block or parry You can’t full defense for the vehicle, but you can evasive drive, which applies your Intuition to the defense test. Combat Sense does not apply. Hotsim does not apply a bonus.
  • Jumped in (VR, control rig): You make defense tests for the vehicle using your Intuition + Intuition. You can block or parry if the drone or vehicle has arms, or arm-equivalents (GM discretion); if you do, the vehicle’s handling is your limit. You can full defense, and if you do, the full defense “follows” you if you switch what vehicle you’re jumped into; it applies your Intuition to the defense test. Your control rig’s rating is not applied to the defense test. The Control Rig Booster or Control Rig Optimization bonuses do apply. Combat Sense does not apply.

Controlling vehicles

A person controlling a vehicle manually must spend at least one Complex Action per turn on a Control Vehicle action, otherwise they will lose control of the vehicle at the end of the turn. Uncontrolled vehicles impose -2 dice pool penalties on all occupants as they skid around, and will either be brought under control by the autopilot or crash.

However, if the driver is controlling the vehicle via AR and choose to receive two bonus Matrix simple actions, they can use those actions to control the vehicle, effectively doing so for “free.” This does mean they cannot receive any bonus meatspace actions, however. See the action economy page for more information.

A jumped-in rigger can do their Control Vehicle for a vehicle with a Free action.

Vehicle damage

Crashes & ramming

First, work out the impact speed:

  • If the vehicle is ramming a stationary object, as long as it has enough runup, the driver can choose any speed up the vehicle’s maximum. GM might restrict this if there’s not enough room.
  • If it’s vehicle versus vehicle and both are moving:
    • First, pick a vehicle stat to use:
      • If it’s a handling environment, use the two vehicles' Acceleration stats. Putting on a last-second surge of speed is the important thing here.
      • If it’s a speed environment, use the two vehicles' Speed stat. Raw top speed is what matters.
    • Now, compare the stats:
      • If it’s a head-on collision, the attacker can choose the impact speed, up to their vehicle’s full Speed or Acceleration stat.
      • If it’s a from-behind collision, subtract the stats. If this ends up less than 1, use 1.

Second, roll to hit:

  • Attacker rolls: Int/Rea + Vehicle skill [Handling] or [Speed]
  • Defender rolls: defence test as detailed above (usually Rea+Int or Int+Int)

There is no clean miss here. If the defender gets more hits, they can still end up damaging the attacker - keep following the below.

Third, work out the damage code done to the defender: take attacking vehicle’s Body, subtract defending vehicle’s Body (minimum 1.) Add attacker’s net hits. Multiply by the impact speed. This is the number of boxes the defending vehicle has to soak with Body + Armour.

Fourth, work out the damage code done to the defender: take defending vehicle’s Body, subtract attacking vehicle’s Body (minimum 1.) Subtract attacker’s net hits. Multiply by the impact speed. This is the number of boxes the attacking vehicle has to soak with Body + Armour.

Forcing a stop

Attacker declares as a Complex action. Resolve initial test as for a ram, but if there are any net hits to the attacker then before damage is taken, the defender has a choice: they can avoid all damage and come to a halt, or they can keep moving but resolve it as a ramming attack with full damage for both sides.

Chases & pursuits

For each pairing of vehicles, start a four-segment clock to represent the distance between them. The clock represents the distance between the vehicles, from very close (empty) to very far (full). For example, if the PCs are being chased by two NPC vehicles, there’d be two clocks. (If there are large numbers of NPCs, combine their clocks as appropriate.)

For special circumstances where a longer range applies - eg. air combat - use a six-segment clock instead. (I don’t expect to do this often, if at all.)

At the end of each turn, roll a vehicle test, limited by each driver’s vehicle’s [Handling] or [Speed] depending on what kind of environment the vehicles are in. Compare each pair of rolls for each clock. The winner of the test can choose to increase or decrease range by one step, as they prefer.

If the clock is empty, the vehicles are almost on top of each other, and either driver can attempt to ram or force a stop. If the clock is full and any driver adds another segment to it, they get away clean, and the chase is over.

Stunts in pursuits

As a Complex action during the turn, any driver can attempt a stunt to try and increase or decrease the distance clock. The driver nominates a stunt difficulty, then both drivers roll separately against the stunt’s threshold. If one driver succeeds and the other fails, they can increase or decrease the clock by one tick.

Pursuit clock segments & gun ranges

A gently streamlined list of clock segments and ranges for different types of guns:

0 1 2 3 4 5 6
Pistols Medium Long Extreme - - - -
SMGs, shotguns Short Medium Long Extreme - - -
Rifles, long arms Short Short Medium Medium Long Extreme -
Machineguns Short Short Medium Medium Medium Long Extreme
Assault cannon, rocket launcher Short Short Short Medium Medium Long Extreme

Vehicle-mounted weapons

If a gun is being used manually (either via a pintle mount or manual/AR remote controls of a mobile turret), the standard roll is Agility+Gunnery. The character can choose to roll Agility+appropriate weapon skill instead with a -2 penalty. Smartgun bonuses apply to both the above rolls if appropriate.

If a turret is being controlled via VR (either a jumped-in rigger or anyone else in VR), it’s Logic+Gunnery.

Appendix: some typical vehicle/barrier ratings

Vehicles (ratings are body / armour):

  • scooter: 4 / 4
  • small car: 8 / 4
  • sports car: 10 / 8
  • armoured limo: 15 / 15
  • SUV: 15 / 12

Barriers (ratings are structure / armour)

  • Glass: 1 / 2
  • Drywall, plaster, doors: 2 / 4
  • Furniture, ballistic glass: 4 / 6
  • Trees, hardwood, posts, chain-link fence: 6 / 8
  • Security door, armoured glass, Kevlar wall lining: 8 / 12

2.7 - Gear, weapons, and other equipment

Houserules relating to gear, weapons, etc

2.7.1 - Concealing gear

These rules are not yet canon for my current campaign.

Taking heavy inspiration from Blades in the Dark:

  • Before any scene, players declare a load level in terms of the table below.
  • During the scene, players may dynamically decide that they have brought an item of equipment, subject to limitations as set out below.
  • The second column is the penalty or bonus applied to a Perception check for anyone to notice your gear.
    • Note that someone noticing your gear isn’t automatically an issue, of course, it depends on context.
  • Wearing a lined coat or having a conceal holster at levels Medium or below imposes an extra -2.

The limitations:

  1. You may carry one piece of equipment at your declared level. For example, if your level is Medium, you can have a heavy pistol or a cyberdeck, but not both.
  2. You can carry two items of gear chosen from the level below your declared level. So if you declare Medium, and you declare that your heaviest item of kit was a heavy pistol, you might later decide you have two additional magazines for it, or one magazine and a low-rated medkit.
  3. You can carry four items chosen from the tier below that.

In theory I could keep doubling here, but I plan to handwave it away at some point. Don’t take the piss and declare that because you have a machine gun you also have 10,000 knives, or I will engineer the situation so you really wish you had a spoon.

Here’s some common items of gear grouped into load levels. Some GM moderation will be necessary to slot other items into this list as they come up.

Level Perception modifier Weapons & ammo drones Electronics and other gear
Always hidden micro drone RFID tag, bug, slap patch, credstick, chips
“Naked” -8 Hold-out pistol. Knife, sap. Revolver speedloader. Throwing knife, shuriken. Commlink, jammer, lockpicks, goggles
Light -4 Light pistol. Monowhip, collapsible baton. Magazine. Microgrenade. mini drone medkit (R1-2)
Medium 0 Heavy pistol, machine pistol (stock folded). Club. Extended mag. Grenade, flashpak. Cyberdeck, RCC
Heavy +4 SMG, sawn-off shotgun (stock folded). Sword. Ammo belt/drum. small drone medkit (R3-4)
Loaded for bears +8 Sport / assault rifles, shotgun, grenade launcher, crossbow. Katana.
Loaded for dragons Always spotted Sniper rifle, machine gun, rocket launcher. Claymore, staff. Bow. medium drone medkit (R5+), metahuman body

2.7.2 - Direct Neural Interfaces (DNI)

What it does and how to get it

Direct Neural Interfaces are the process of extending a user’s neural commands onto a generic system that can then be used to control arbitrary electronic devices. Basically, you think it, and the machine does it. What’s not to like about that?

Note that although many cyberware systems - for example, replacement limbs - are controlled via neural shunts, they do not count as DNI. They have their own bespoke cabling into your nervous system. However, in some circumstances, having DNI can help two systems that would otherwise conflict interact more harmoniously, for example Wired Reflexes and Reaction Enhancers.

In game terms: replace all “wireless bonuses” with “DNI bonuses.” DNI bonuses apply whenever the character has a direct neural interface connection to the item of gear, and hence can control its full funtionality via mental commands. You do not need to maintain any access to the wider Matrix to use them, but you do need either a wired or a wireless connections between the devices and your datajack.

In real world analogy terms, think of DNI as being like USB combined with Bluetooth, with one end plugged directly into your brain. Just about anything you own can hook into it and work with anything else, and your brain can command anything hooked into it.

Getting DNI

There are two main ways to handle the interface between your gear and your brain matter:

  1. Trodes are a small net of sensors you fix around your head. They’re pretty crappy, and they lose connection easily if jostled but they work alright if you don’t move around too much.
  2. Datajacks are far superior, although they do involve drilling a hole in your head and letting someone stick wires into bits of your brain. Datajacks have an actual jack (hence the name), but also a wireless comms module. You can use either interchangeably.

More than half the population have datajacks fitted, and if you exclude the SINless poor that rises to more than 75%. They are cheap and common.

Several items of common cyberware include a datajack for free:

Wireless vs wired

Your datajack can connect to stuff over a wired connection or a local wireless one. Both offer the user equivalent levels of control over their gear. Wireless, however, has the risk of getting hacked. Wireless devices can be targeted by hostile deckers with a variety of offensive Matrix actions.

In game terms, these are largely interchangeable, and you get any DNI bonuses whether you use wired or wireless connections. However, it can require an extra Simple Action to plug cables in if you want to avoid wireless.

2.7.3 - Electronics, commlinks, cyberdecks, etc

These rules are canon for my current campaign.


Cyberdeck prices are reduced to 25% of RAW.

Vision accessories

Contacts can no longer accept any vision mods other than image link. For avoidance of doubt, mages can cast spells through these, as the contacts allow natural light to pass through with AR content overlaid. Obviously, contacts must be wirelessly connected.

Smartlinks are now changed to a piece of headware, so are no longer eligible for addition to contacts/glasses/goggles/etc.

Other than that, glasses and goggles are unchanged. Mages cannot cast spells through glasses or goggles when using enhanced vision modes (eg low-light, themographic, magnification, etc) as these rely on electronic post-processing.

Fake SINs

Prices and availabilty in RAW are for permanent fake SINs. These last until they are burned.

There is a cheaper option: burner SINs. These will only last a few days before being discovered by routine scans in the SIN database. These are good choices when a criminal needs a good-quality SIN for a mission but doesn’t need it to last a long time.

In game terms, a burner SIN is subjected to an escalating dice pool of verification checks each day: 1 die on the first day, 2 dice on the second day, 3 dice on the third day, etc until it is discovered. The user will receive no warning it has been discovered until they try to use it.

Avail Cost
Fake SIN (Rating 1-6) (Rating × 3)F (Rating × 2500)¥
Burner SIN (Rating 1-4) (Rating × 2)F (Rating × 1000)¥
Any licence for fake/burner SIN 9F 500¥

2.7.4 - Firearms accessories

Gun modifications and accessories

Firearms accessories


  • Concealable Holster: -2 to weapon concealability. Only for pistols/tasers. Weapon takes a Complex action to draw.
  • Arm slide: Only for holdout/light/taser pistols. No change to concealability. Weapon takes a Free action to draw.
  • Quick draw holster: +1 to weapon concealability. Only for pistols/tasers. Weapon takes a Free action to draw.
  • Standard holster: suitable for any handgun (up to SMGs). Weapon takes a Simple action to draw.

Long guns:

  • Strap: lets you wear a gun on your shoulder. Weapon takes a Complex action to ready. It might be (just about) concealable, if you’re wearing bulky clothing.
  • Tactical sing: suitable for any long gun. Holds weapon around your chest. Weapon takes a Simple action to ready, but it cannot be hidden.

Accuracy modifications:

  • Imaging scope: can hold up to Capacity 3 of image enhancements.
    • Low-light vision, flare compensation, thermographic vision, image magnification - halve the penalties to shooting from darkness, glare, or range.
  • Laser sight - increases weapon accuracy by 1. Not cumulative with smartguns.
  • Smartgun - see below.

Recoil compensation (RC) mods:

  • Bipod: 2 points of RC. Requires 1 Simple Action to set it up and get into a firing position, which must be repeated each time the firer moves.
  • Shock pad: 1 points of RC. Only usable on weapons with stocks.
  • Gas-vent system: 2 points of RC.
  • Gyro mount: 6 points of RC.

Other mods:

  • Suppressor: -1 DV to weapon, -4 dice pool to anyone attempting to notice the shot or locate the firer. Complex Action to attach or remove.
    • DNI: By electronically moving the suppressing baffles, firer can choose whether to use the suppressor or not on each individual shot, without having to attach/remove it.
  • Airbust link: reduces scatter of launched greande by 2m/hit instead of 1m/hit. Does not function without DNI.


All guns are one of three kinds:

  • Unwired / throwback - no electronics at all
  • Standard - limited onboard electronics
  • Smartguns - fully integrated electronics with motorised components

Standard guns

Standard guns, when connected to the user via DNI or cabled directly to goggles or glasses, can use augmented reality to communicate with the user:

  • Display an ARO with current ammo count and selected fire mode
  • Pop-up alert AROs to remind the user of the gun’s maintenance schedule or warn of jams
  • ARO-enhanced holographic sights

Hacking standard guns has limited effect; it can change or disable the AROs but that’s about it.


Smartguns have a full suite of internal sensors and motorised components, including a rangefinder using time-of-flight radar and a tiny gun camera.

With DNI to a smartgun, any user gains the following benefits:

  • +2 to weapon accuracy due to trajectory computation enhancing the targeting AROs.
  • Can use mental commands to change fire modes or eject the clip as Free Actions.
  • Can use a mental command to fire, bypassing the physical trigger (although it typically remains on the gun as a back-up)
  • The weapon gains optional Friend-or-Foe detection that works across everyone in the same PAN or WAN and can lock out the fire feature when there is a chance of friendly fire. (Shadowrunners usually disable this, and sneer at people who use it.)
  • The same status AROs as normal guns, plus further things like barrel temperature and weapon material stress.

However, to really unlock the full potential, the user has to have DNI and also get the smartlink cyberware. With DNI to a smartgun (wired or wireless), a user with a smartlink gains:

  • Everything in the above list.
  • +2 dice to all attacks with the gun.
  • Integration of the gun camera into their AR setup, meaning the can blind fire (eg around corners or from full cover) at -4 dice pool.
  • The ability to use a powerful multi-target attack action.

2.7.5 - Drugs

These rules are canon for my current campaign.


Banned. This stuff is terribly OP.

2.7.6 - Cyberware

Cyberware, bioware, and other augmentations

Cyberware upgrades

Characters can upgrade cyberware or bioware systems in-place, eg. from Wired Reflexes 1 to 2, by paying the difference between the ratings (in nuyen and Essence.)

Removing augmentations leaves an “Essence hole”. Your Essence doesn’t go back up, but you can now get further augmentations installed without reducing your Essence further until the “hole” is filled.

Cyberware that includes datajacks

The following items of cyberware include all the functionality of a datajack, including giving the user DNI and a port for direct wired connections:

  • Vehicle control rig
  • Implanted commlink or cyberdeck
  • Internal router (see below)

Clarification of cyberware & the role of wireless connections

All basic cyberware comes with a constantly running wireless Matrix connection. This applies even for ‘ware like cyberlimbs, where all the control the user needs is done via a direct neural shunt, so the wireless connection isn’t needed to use it directly.

This wireless connection is used for downloading firmware updates, running diagnostic routines, and communicating status and error reports back to the user (it’s hard for a cyberarm to tell its user its time for a maintenance routine without this connection. Although some corps have experimented with persistent itching sensations in particular spots, but it has not been popular.)

Where a piece of cyberware has no listed wireless/DNI bonus, a character can disable this wireless connection without penalty. This offers protection against interference from hostile deckers. However, it might attract attention from the authorities if the cyberware is visible but not wirelessly active, as that raises questions.

Corps do not encourage this behaviour in their own security personnel, as they prefer to keep a close eye on their wageslaves - especially the ones with guns, as wireless PANs and friend-or-foe tagging is key in preventing friendly fire incidents when the undertrained and underpaid guards get trigger-happy. Only the most elite troops, above HTR grade, are likely to engage in combat with wireless disabled.

Internal Router

  • Cost: 15 k¥
  • Essence: 0.5 [^1]
  • Availabilty: 12

The internal router is the device for streetsams who want to make themselves hacking-resilient without relying on a decker. It replaces the use of ubiquituous wireless connections to link together all your equipment with alternatives wherever possible. Internal cyberware systems are linked via subcutaneous wiring. Induction pads in the users palms are used to communicate with smartguns. Several discreet additional datajacks are included at the wrists, ankles, and base of the spine, for more convenient connection of wired gear.

The internal router also includes processing systems to mediate between otherwise-incompatible cyberware from different manufacturers.

In game terms, the user can benefit from all the usual bonuses for DNI without having to have most devices exposed to wireless hacking via the Matrix. An internal router system includes a datajack for “free”.

Grey/used/basic grade internal routers are extremely obvious to anyone looking at you, as they use visible subcutaneous wiring over large portions of your upper body, including the face and hands. This wiring becomes less visible in alpha and betaware, and is almost undetectable in deltaware. Although internal routers are not illegal, they are commonly used by heavily cybered (ie. dangerous) individuals and so likely to mark the user out for further investigation if openly displayed.

  • type: headware [^2]
  • Cost: 4 k¥
  • Essence: 0.2
  • Availabilty: 8R

The smartlink is a headware module and software suite that offers an interface between the user’s nervous system and a smartgun. It can only function with DNI to the gun, although this can be wired or wireless.

It offers an advanced co-processor for realtime targeting calculation, 3d modelling of the environment built from the user’s senses, trajectory tracking for each round fired that feed back into the system to make future shots more accurate, and integration from the user’s nervous system into the targeting computation that automatically corrects for movement, hand microtremors, and body posture.

[^1] Reduced from 0.7 in RAW. [^2] No longer eyeware, as in RAW; smartlinks can only be implanted now, and not built into gear or into cybereyes.