How the wireless Matrix works, from an in-game perspective
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Sprawlrunners: urban-fantasy-cyberpunk for Savage Worlds
- 1: Savage Worlds for Shadowrun players
- 2: Goals and notes
- 3: Changelog
- 4: Characters
- 4.1: Chargen
- 4.2: Races
- 4.3: Skills for my campaign
- 4.4: Edges
- 4.5: Cyberware
- 4.6: Advancement and rewards
- 4.7: Downtime
- 4.8: Wealth
- 5: Magic
- 6: The Matrix
- 6.1: Setting information about the wireless Matrix
- 6.1.1: Making the Matrix
- 6.1.2: Matrix icons
- 6.1.3: The everyday, augmented
- 6.1.4: Hacking the Matrix
- 6.1.5: Other stuff
- 6.2: Rules for the wireless Matrix
- 6.2.1: Matrix Actions
- 6.2.2: Sleaze hacking on the wireless Matrix
- 6.2.3: Cybercombat
- 6.2.4: Combat decking
- 6.2.5: Alarms
- 6.3: Comparing these houserules to Shadowrun 5e/6e
- 7: Riggers / Jockeys
- 8: Gear
- 9: Quick reference material
- 9.1: Combat
- 10: Dice probabilities reference
1 - Savage Worlds for Shadowrun players
You need two books:
- Savage Worlds Adventure Edition - the core rulebook for Savage Worlds itself.
- Sprawlrunners - add-on rules that build on top of Savage Worlds to create an urban-fantasy-cyberpunk setting.
(For players in my campaign - our Google drive share is here. For players not in my campaign - this link is not public; sorry.)
Philosophical differences between Shadowrun and Sprawlrunners
- Sprawlrunners is a 2050-era setting that is closely aligned with early editions of Shadowrun: no wireless hacking, no technomancers, distinct rules for mages and shamans, etc.
- In Savaged Worlds, by default, characters start a bit less powerful than they do in Shadowrun, but progress at a significantly faster rate. You can mitigate this by using the “characters start at Seasoned rank” optional rule, and we will do so in our campaign.
A note about Trappings
Savage Worlds relies in having simple, reusable rules but making them versatile via trappings. You can create a trapping to dress up just about any ability your character has however you please. Suppose a face, a streetsam, and a physical adept all take the Level Headed edge, which gives them an advantage in initiative draws. This game mechanic could represent, respectively, an intrinsic talent for the face, a piece of augmentation for the streetsam, and a mystical ability for the physad. I encourage you to go nuts with this!
2 - Goals and notes
Why not Shadowrun?
The Shadowrun system is a huge, sprawling, bloated beast of a thing. For any given edition, the CRB plus splatbooks contain thousands of pages of rules; it’s just too much. Inconsistencies and unbalanced elements abound. Pages are devoted to irrelevant rules like SCUBA diving. On-the-fly rules clarifications are required of GMs constantly.
Like many GMs, I hacked away at it, trying to cut it down to something manageable (see my efforts on the rest of this site) – but I tired of the fight. I’d much rather be devoting my energies to running my games than rewriting rules.
Furthermore, these issues are getting worse over time, not better. Shadowrun 6e did little to address the issues of 5e, while having significantly worse editing and organisation. I no longer have any trust in SR’s publishers to assemble a high-quality product that I want to play.
Why Savage Worlds?
There’s lots of fan hacks around that aim to use other RPG systems to run Shadowrun games with. But for my table’s style of game, I think Savage Worlds is a good choice. Why?
- Savage Worlds is a classless system, like Shadowrun. We prefer this to the class-based approach adopted by PbtA and FitD games.
- Savage Worlds excels at pulpy high-action play styles. Our Shadowrun campaign leans pink mohawk, so that’s a good fit.
- Savage Worlds is a mainstream system with good support from digital tools, in particular for character generation and for virtual tabletops like Roll20 and Foundry. Both are important to us.
- Savage Worlds, as a generic RPG engine, has lots of content out there that spans other genres like horror, high sci-fi, and fantasy. Content from these can be pulled in as needed for Shadowrun’s more outré elements such as metaplane adventures or ultraviolet VR hosts.
Simply put, Sprawlrunners is by far the most polished and well-considered of the various hacks that attempt to blend Shadowrun’s setting with Savage World’s ruleset.
It is also probably the adaptation that sticks most closely to the vanilla Savage World rules. For example, the use of (mostly) existing Edges and Racial Trait rules and costs to model cyberware means the game is more easily balanced.
Why change Sprawlrunners?
Sprawlrunners is perfectly playable as-is, so why have I written all these houserules for it? It’s mostly a question of game era. Sprawlrunners has a very classic FASA-era SR feel — the first to third editions. This means:
- Only two magic traditions (hermetic mages and shamans), with a lot of differences between them. Nature spirits and elementals are very different.
- Wired-only, VR-only cyberspace.
- No technomancers.
There’s nothing wrong with those decisions. But they don’t work for our table because we already have a pre-existing campaign and pre-existing characters set in the 2070s using the Shadowrun 5e rules. One character is a chaos mage, and doesn’t fit into the hermetic mage or shaman traditions. One character is a rigger/decker, optimised for in-combat AR hacking.
I do not want to start with fresh characters, I want to convert my ongoing campaign. Hence: I wrote the rules you find on this site. They attempt to extend the Sprawlrunners base to cover wireless hacking and unified magic theory, plus a few extra houserules of my own divising just to suit my own tastes and biases.
3 - Changelog
- Substantial overhal of Matrix section; added “combat decking” page, added actions list, moved a lot of existing content around to more logical places
- Renamed “Occult” skill to “Arcana”. Added a new knowledge skill: Corps.
- Add Etiquette and one of either Fighting or Shooting to core skills. (Character’s choice of which they get.)
- Move cyberware to the character section
- Re-shuffle the ordering of the cyberware edges (it’s now Chromed -> Man and Machine -> Betaware -> More Machine Than Man -> Deltaware)
- Remove Smarts requirement from wired reflexes; make move-by-wire require Veteran
- Add grapple hand to cyberware
4 - Characters
4.1 - Chargen
There is a character generation tool for Savage Worlds at savaged.us. It’s free, and has support for Sprawlrunners, but there’s a few non-obvious things to getting the best from it. It also has a few minor areas in which it doesn’t quite reflect the Sprawlrunners rules, so you’ll need to manually adjust your character or just ignore it’s validation warnings.
NB: the chargen quick reference in the SWADE CRB, pages 55-63, are very good and are recommended reading. Remember that the Sprawlrunners book adds extra options on top of those, though.
Doing it manually
SWADE chargen is pretty simple, especially compared to Shadowrun, so you might like to do it all by hand. Even if you do use savaged.us, it helps to understand the steps.
This is covered in detail in SWADE pgs 9-59, but I’ll do a summary here.
- Concept: Start with a general idea of what you want to play. There’s many ways to approach that, but a good strategy is always to pick a specialised role and build towards being good at it. The classic list of Shadowrun archetypes include combat (either cybered or physical/qi adept), decking/hacking, rigger/vehicles/drones, magical abilities, or face (social manipulation of others).
- Race: Choose your character’s race and apply the bonuses and special abilities it grants. The five classic Shadowrun races are available; if you want to play a variant metahuman type, ask me, and we will figure something out.
- Hindrances: Select up to four points of hindrances (major hindrances are worth 2, minor are worth 1)
- For 2 hindrance points you can raise an attribute one die type, or choose an edge (see below.)
- For 1 hindrance point you can gain another skill point.
- Attributes: Attributes start at d4. You have 5 points to distribute among them. Each step costs 1 point.
- Attributes may not be raised beyond d12 unless your hero’s racial bonus states otherwise.
- Skills : Athletics, Common Knowledge, Notice, Persuasion, and Stealth are core skills and start at d4 for free. (Trolls do not get Stealth for free.) See skills for a complete list of all skills and skill specialisations in my campaign.
- You have 15 points to increase your skills. Note that this is raised from 12 in core SWADE, because a modern game setting tends to be a little more skill-heavy than a fantasy setting; for example, almost everyone will want a point or two in driving, shooting, etc.
- Each die type costs 1 point up to and equal to the linked attribute; then 2 points per step after that. Example: Suppose you have d6 Agility and want to take Shooting to d8. It takes 1 point to take Shooting to d4, 1 point to take it to d6, then 2 points to take it to d8, for a total of 4 points.
- A d8 is a pretty high skill, think of it as being roughly equivalent to a 12-dice pool in Shadowrun. I would encourage you to target rolling d8 or at most d10s in your character’s speciality, so you have enough points to build a rounded character. I will be basing NPC power levels around this; a ganger would roll d6 to attack, a trained corpsec d8.
- Also, don’t forget PCs also get a Wild Die in addition to their trait die.
- Derived Statistics
- Standard Pace is 6″, but may be changed by racial abilities, Edges, or Hindrances.
- Parry is 2 plus half of Fighting. If you don’t have Fighting, it’s just 2.
- Toughness is 2, plus half of Vigor, plus any armor. Note the amount of armor in parentheses like this—Toughness: 11 (2). This means 2 points of the total 11 Toughness comes from Armor. An Armor Piercing attack could bypass those 2 points but not the other 9.
- Edges: Use any leftover Hindrance points to take starting Edges if you like. Each Edge costs 2 Hindrance points. Some Edges have additional rules to be aware of:
- Mages take one or two special Edges called arcane backgrounds. There are four arcane backgrounds: two flavours of spellcasting, spirit summoning, and physical adept. Once you take the arcane background edge, it unlocks powers. See Arcane Backgrounds for more.
- Note that all the Power Edges in core SWADE are removed, with the exception of New Powers. They are replaced by a selection in Sprawlrunners pg 16 (although few are available at chargen.)
- Cybered characters will want to take the Implanted and Chromed edges. Chromed both grants Implant Points to spend on some cyberware systems, and unlocks access to further Edges used for other cyberware. See Edge trappings for details.
- Mages take one or two special Edges called arcane backgrounds. There are four arcane backgrounds: two flavours of spellcasting, spirit summoning, and physical adept. Once you take the arcane background edge, it unlocks powers. See Arcane Backgrounds for more.
- Powers, cyberware, and physad powers: If you took Edges that give you powers to choose, cyberware implant points to spend, or physad power points (called “chi points” in Sprawlrunners), spend those now. These are chosen from the Sprawlrunners book.
- Advances: All of the above creates a character at the Novice level. We will start new characters at Seasoned instead, so you now get to apply four advances to your character. Each advance can be used in one of a few ways:
- Gain a new Edge.
- Note that mages have access to a Power Edge called New Powers that gives you… new powers. You get to pick two new powers each time you take this, and you can take it as many times as you like. This is how you learn new spells.
- Increase a skill that is equal to or greater than its linked attribute one die type.
- Increase two skills that are lower than their linked attributes by one die type each (including new skills the character didn’t have before at d4).
- Increase one attribute by a die type. This option may only be taken once per Rank. Legendary characters may raise an attribute every other Advance, up to the racial maximum.
- [Not during chargen] Permanently remove a Minor Hindrance, or reduce a Major Hindrance to a Minor (if possible). With the GM’s permission, and if it makes sense, two Advances may be saved up and spent to remove a Major Hindrance.
- Gain a new Edge.
[DEPRECATED] Using savaged.us
WarningAs of right now, the below instructions are deprecated - the custom settings I created at savaged.us are rather out of date, and it’s easier to create characters manually than it is to fix them.
You can only access the Sprawlrunners tools in savaged.us if you register for the site. So do that. Note that it has a bit of a habit of logging you out unexpectedly - keep an eye on that (if it does log you out, it’ll have a Login prompt at the top right.)
I have a custom setting for our campaign here: savaged.us/s/qlp2jxy3. It includes, wherever possible, houserules we are using. Click that link and click “use setting” at the top right to start generating your character.
NoteThis custom setting is pretty experimental right now and I’m changing it quite often.
Notes on each step
Once you’ve done the above, you’ll get a series of tabs you step through in order (more or less) to create your character.
Most of this is completely optional but selecting your native language is helpful later. All characters speak two languages by default: your mother tongue (English, Japanese, German, etc) and “Sprawlspeak”, a pidgin commonly used on the streets of metroplexes. If you want more, take the Linguist edge.
Don’t worry about adding Sprawlspeak to your character sheet at this point. There’s no way to do it that won’t cost you points. We’ll take care of that during play.
For now, I think we’ll be starting freshly generated characters at the Seasoned rank. This will not only make you more powerful, it’ll also significantly expand the options open to you.
To do that, go to the Advances tab and enter “4”. You don’t need to use those advances – for extra edges, points etc – just yet. But doing this now will open up options to you through the rest of character generation.
To play a mage, shaman, or physical adept character, skip ahead to Edges and add “Arcane Background”, then come back. This will unlock other options you want to take.
Remember that you are restricted to no more than 4 points of hindrances, where a Minor hindrance is worth 1 point and a Major hindrance is worth 2 points. You can use these points for various boosts, like increasing skills or more Edges. You can choose how to use each point in the “Perks” box in the left column.
For descriptions of the Hindrances, see the SWADE CRB and the Sprawlrunners book. You also get a one-line summary within savaged.us when you add them to your character.
Also remember that you can use Hindrances to your advantage – when you roleplay them well, I’ll generally five give you a Bennie.
Keep in mind it costs more points to raise a skill to a die type higher than the linked attribute. For example, if you have Agility at d6, it costs 1 skill point to take Shooting to d6, then 2 more skill points to take it to d8.
Note that some skills you get for free at the basic, d4 level: athletics, stealth, common knowledge, notice, and persuasion. For any other skill you don’t take, you will roll (d4-2).
Some notes about specific skills:
- Fighting is all melee combat; Shooting is all guns; Athletics is all throwing weapons (including grenades).
- Occult is used for theoretical knowledge of magic (can be taken by non-magical characters.) It’s similar to Arcane in Shadowrun.
- Spellcasting is used for all magical actions, including summoning spirits.
- Driving is all ground vehicles and drones, Piloting is all aircraft, Boating is all aquatic vehicles.
- Persuasion is your go-to “lie convincingly” skill.
- Notice is your perception skill.
For more information, see the Skills page.
Guns, vehicles, and other gear
Sprawlrunners uses an innovative system for most gear where you do not purchase it at character generation. Instead, your character has Logistics Points (LPs), representing their cash on hand, contacts, and trustworthiness. You “spend” these points during play to acquire gear you need for the mission, then discard the gear later so you can’t be traced or tracked through it. This gear is off-the-books; your contacts have taken the time to scrub it clean of any identifying or traceable marks, and it comes complete with low-grade fake licences where appropriate.
You can use LPs to buy stuff in chargen if you want, just to get a feel for what it costs, but you’re not committed to those purchases.
If you want more LPs, look at the Rich or Filthy Rich edges. You will also earn more as your character advances.
Special gear: cyberware, foci, signature weapons
Items your character owns permanently, like cyberware or magical foci, works differently. You choose an Edge and get the gear, forever, without spending LPs.
To get cyberware, take the Chromed, Man And Machine, and/or More Machine Than Man edges. Each of these gives you 2 Implant Points to spend on cyberware. Note that (for technical reasons) the cyberware part of savaged.us lists the “cost” of cyberware as Logistic Points, but this is incorrect, they’re actually Implant Points. You’ll have to double check the calculation manually.
Some common/small cyberware doesn’t cost any Implant Points. To get these, you have to take the Implanted edge. You can take any amount of zero-rated cyberware once you take the Implanted edge once. The Implanted edge is free, but note that savaged.us will charge you a point for it.
Adept powers & spells
To select your spells or adept powers, you’ll use the Powers tab. This will appear once you select an arcane background.
Adept powers work similarly to Implant Points. You get Chi Points with your Arcane Background edge, and more via other edges as your character progresses. Then you spend those points on powers.
Mages and shamans also use the Powers tab to select their spells. Note that shaman have a much shorter list of allowed powers, but their summoned spirits can cast spells, whereas a mage’s elementals cannot.
4.2 - Races
These are closely based on the rules in Justin Licht’s Savage Worlds / Shadowrun conversion (also available directly on Google Drive.)
Note that these are based around +4 racial attributes per race, rather than the standard SWADE +2. This change gives each race more room to breath and be more closely modelled on the original Shadowrun races. The races are still balanced against each other. I think it also balances against some of the racial traits granted being quite situational or easily replicated with advanced gear in a cyberpunk setting (eg low-light or thermal vision.)
Note also that players in my campaign using my custom setting in savaged.us don’t need to do anything extra to use the rules below; they are already applied correctly in Savaged.
- Adaptable (2): Humans seem to have an unlimited ability to adapt to their circumstances. They begin with a free Novice Edge.
- Lucky (2): Fortune smiles on base-model humans. Every time Bennies are refreshed, humans get an extra one. This stacks with Edges like Luck.
- Thermal Vision (1): Dwarves see heat. This halves Illumination penalties when attacking warm targets (including invisible beings).
- Focused (2): They are single-minded people and start with a d6 to Spirit (with a maximum limit of d12+1).
- Tough Constitution (2): Their resiliency and natural resistance to toxins and poisons is renowned. Dwarves start with a d6 in Vigor (with a maximum limit of d12+1).
- Short Legs (-1): Being stout and having short legs means Dwarves don’t cover as much ground as the rest of metahumanity. Their Pace and running die are reduced by one.
- Low Light Vision (1): Elves ignore penalties for Dim or Dark illumination (but not Pitch Darkness).
- Agile (2): Graceful and quick, Elves start with a d6 in Agility (with a maximum of d12+1).
- Attractive (2): Considered to be the ideal image of desirability in metahumanity, elves are idolized by most and add +1 to Performance and Persuasion rolls.
- Slight (-1): They might be slender and graceful, but they tend to hurt a little easier than other metatypes. Elves subtract one from Toughness.
- Low Light Vision (1): Orks ignore penalties for Dim or Dark illumination (but not Pitch Darkness).
- Size +1 (1): Orks are large and tough. Their Strength attribute maximum is increased to d12+1, and they get +1 to Toughness.
- Strength (2): Orks are strong. They start with a d6 in Strength (with a maximum of d12+1).
- Thermal Vision (1): Trolls see heat. This halves Illumination penalties when attacking warm targets (including invisible beings).
- Size +2 (2): Toughness +2; max Strength is d12+3 (when combined with Strong, below.)
- Strong (2): Trolls start with a d6 in Strength (with a maximum of d12+3).
- Brickhouse (2): Trolls can take a beating. They start with a d6 in Vigor (with a maximum of d12+1).
- Natural armour (1): Bony deposits on their skin grant +2 points of armour (stacks with anything worn).
- Oversized (-2): It’s not easy living in a world made for smaller beings. Trolls subtract 2 from Trait rolls when using equipment that wasn’t specifically designed for them and cannot wear armor or clothing designed for other metatypes. Their food, clothing, and other lifestyle items are more expensive; they have a penalty of one step applied to their wealth die. They may take situational modifiers when trying to work in cramped conditions that other metahumans would ignore.
- Ostracised (-1): Trolls have suffered the most from marginalization, and are often looked upon with prejudice and stereotyped as dumb knuckle draggers. They often have little recourse other than resorting to crime or security work to make ends meet. They begin with the Outsider (Minor) Hindrance.
- Too Big To Hide (-1): Trolls tend to be terrible at moving quietly and hiding. Can you blame them, they’re huge! Stealth is not a Core Skill (starts Untrained instead of at d4).
4.3 - Skills for my campaign
My houserules make some small changes to the available skills in Savage Worlds and Sprawlrunners. Below is a complete reference to all the skills, including the ones in core SWADE. It also has some clarifications of which skill applies to some common actions where it’s perhaps not immediately obvious (eg. is a Matrix search Electronics, Hacking, or Research?)
A small number of skills have specialisations available. This works as follows:
- When you take the skill, you get one specialisation for free.
- Purchasing extra specialisations costs 1 skill point.
- All use of the skill when one of your specialisations applies is rolled as normal.
- For any use of the skill when you don’t have the appropriate specialisation, you take a -2 penalty on rolls.
ExampleDuring chargen, Project: Rewind takes her Shooting skill to d10. Her agility is d8, so this costs five skill points. Shooting has four specialisations: projectiles, handguns, long guns, and heavy weapons. She chooses handguns for her free specialisation, then spends a sixth skill point to learn a second specialisation - long guns. When firing pistols or assault rifles, she’ll roll d10. But if she picks up a grenade launcher, she’ll only roll (d10 - 2).
Specialisations are also available for Common Knowledge. As for other specialisations, they cost 1 skill point per specialisation you take. Unlike other specialisations, they don’t change the roll, but they provide considerably more information on a Success or a Raise than if you didn’t have the specialisation. The narrower the specialisation, the more information you’ll get on a Success. You can purchase as many of these as you want.
If a skill doesn’t specifically mention specialisations below, then it doesn’t have any. You can ignore the “add specialisation” button in savaged.us.
All characters get a d4 rank in these skills for free, without having to spend any skill points. You can, of course, spend points to improve them further.
- Athletics (Agility): Running, climbing, jumping, balancing, throwing (including weapons), catching.
- Common Knowledge (Smarts): General knowledge of daily life in the Sixth World.
- See note above for specialisations.
- Etiquette (Smarts): see specialisations below. Only one specialisation is included in the core skill.
- Notice (Smarts): Awareness and perception; the ability to spot trouble coming, find non-obvious clues, or read body language to guess at someone’s emotional state.
- Persuasion (Spirit): The ability to convince others to do what you want; via negotiation, orders, or lies. (But not threats; see Intimidation, below, for that.)
- Stealth (Agility): The ability to sneak and hide, tail people without being noticed. (But not spot a tail that’s following you - that’s Notice.)
- One of either Fighting or Shooting, at your choice. Only one specialisation is included in the core skill.
- Battle (Smarts): Strategy, tactics, and understanding military operations. Particularly important in the Mass Battles game mechanic.
- Fighting (Agility): Skill in armed and unarmed melee combat. Specialisations:
- Unarmed (including Killing Hands and cyber-implant weapons)
- Blunt (any crushing weapon)
- Blades (all knives and swords)
- Exotic (eg. mono-filament whips)
- Shooting (Agility): Precision with any type of ranged weapon, including bows (but not thrown weapons). Specialisations for this skill:
- Projectile weapons (bows, crossbows, etc)
- Handguns (including all tasers, pistols, machine pistols, compact SMGs)
- Longarms (normal SMGs, all rifles and light/medium machine guns)
- Heavy (any turret-mounted gun; heavy machine guns; launchers of all kinds; flamethrowers; assault cannons)
- Boating (Agility): Ability to sail or pilot a boat, ship, submarine, or any other watercraft.
- Driving (Agility): The ability to control, steer, and operate ground vehicles - whether with wheels, treads, or legs (eg. walker drones).
- Piloting (Agility): Skill with maneuvering vehicles that operate in three dimensions, such as airplanes, helicopters, spaceships, etc. Includes ground-effect vehicles like t-birds. Also includes rotordrones and fixed-wing drones.
- Riding (Agility): A character’s skill in mounting, controlling, and riding a tamed beast. Probably not very useful in an urban cyberpunk game!
Physical active skills
See also “Athletics” and “Stealth” under common skills, above.
- Gambling (Smarts): Skill and familiarity with games of chance.
- Healing (Smarts): The ability to treat and heal Wounds and diseases, and decipher forensic evidence. Note that dealing with cyberware systems might also need Electronics and/or Repair, depending on what you’re doing.
- Survival (Smarts): How to find food, water, or shelter (including in urban environments).
- Thievery (Agility): Sleight of hand, pickpocketing, lockpicking, setting/disabling traps, and other such ethically dubious feats of legerdemain.
See also “Persuasion” under common skills, above.
- Etiquette (Smarts): A character’s ability to blend in with the background, dress and carry themselves so they don’t stand out, or talk the right lingo to appear to be part of the crowd. Some specialisations are below; let me know if you want more:
- Organised crime
- Socialite/elites/high society
- Intimidation (Spirit): The ability to threaten others into compliance.
- Performance (Spirit): Singing, dancing, acting, or other forms of public expression.
- Taunt (Smarts): Insulting or belittling another. Can be done during combat to distract opponents.
If using a social skill in a language other than the character’s native tongue, if their language dice is lower than their social skill dice, roll the language dice instead. Sprawlspeak (a pidgin made up of English, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, German, and many others) never counts as a native language for this rule, as it’s somewhat clumsy and not suited to rhetoric. If you’re playing a social manipulator role, strongly consider taking the Linguist edge so you can talk to people in their native language.
- Astral (Smarts): The skill to assense living beings' auras or engage in combat on the Astral Plane.
- Conjuration (Spirit): The skill for summoning or banishing spirits, for all magical traditions.
- Sorcery (Smarts): The spellcasting skill for Arcane Background (logical spellcaster).
- Sorcery (Spirit): The spellcasting skill for Arcane Background (intuitive spellcaster).
See also “Arcana” under knowledge skills, below.
- Electronics (Smarts): The use of electronic and computerised devices and systems. Their manipulation, repair, and sabotage. Anything involving computer hardware (as opposed to software, which is Hacking.)
- Hacking (Smarts): Legal and illegal computer use; coding, programming, and breaking into computer systems. (NB: simple, everyday Matrix actions fall under Common Knowledge and do not require a Hacking roll. Complex Matrix searches fall under Research.) Two specialisations:
- Sleaze: used to discreetly break into systems, take control of devices, and hide your presence on the Matrix or in hosts.
- Cybercombat: used to violently crash systems, disrupt Matrix signals, and interfere with device’s functionality.
- Repair (Smarts): The ability to fix, build, and modify mechanical and electrical gadgets, including weapons, vehicles, etc. Also used for setting and using explosives and demolitions.
When repairing or modifying electronics, use the lowest of the characters' Repair and Electronics skills.
See also Common Knowledge, above.
- Language (Smarts): Knowledge and fluency in a particular language.
- Arcana (Smarts): Knowledge of magical theory, supernatural events, creatures, history, and ways. (Renamed version of “Occult” in core SWADE.)
- Corps (Smarts): Knowledge of corporate structures, management theories, economics, accounting, the law. Knowledge of specific corps and their areas of expertise and specialities.
- Research (Smarts): Finding written information from various sources. Used for Matrix searches.
- Science (Smarts): Theoretical knowledge of scientific fields such as biology, chemistry, geology, engineering, etc.
For reference: what I’ve changed
- Added some skill specialisation options
- Added Astral and Conjuration to magic skills, renamed Occult to Arcana.
- Reshuffled the boundaries between Hacking, Electronics, and Repair to make them slightly more intuitive (to me, at least.)
- Added Etiquette
- Added Corps knowledge skill.
4.4 - Edges
Mage characters will need to take one or two special Edges in order to become mages. These Edges, in effect, unlock a whole skill tree. See Arcane Backgrounds for more information.
Edges with required augmentation trappings
Cyberware in our campaign uses a two-track system.
Savage Worlds already has a game mechanic that is very similar to cyberware augmentation, in the form of Edges. Unlike cyberware, however, these are available to any character. This (IMO) goes against the grain of cyberpunk a little - I value the genre trope where the only way to survive involves desperate self-sacrifice, by literally having bits of yourself chopped off.
Sprawlrunners extends the core Savage Worlds edge system to offer an additional catalog of cyberware at different power levels. This is designed to be complementary to core Savage Worlds edges, not to replace them. It does this via a series of three Edges (Chromed, Man and Machine, More Machine Than Man) that give you implant points. These implant points can be spent on items of cyberware chosen from the catalog. This approach is a little unusual, but it keeps the game very close to core Savage Worlds, which is good for game balance.
As a houserule, I will be enforcing that a number of Edges can only be taken with a trapping that they are cyberware or physical adept powers. This means they are out of the reach of mundane or mage characters. It also, effectively, extends the cyberware catalog. Edges were such a trapping is required are listed below.
Edges taken with a cyberware trapping do not cost implant points, and those taken with a physad power trapping do not cost chi points. They are paid for as an Edge, as usual.
The edges that are only available as cyberware or physad powers will gain extra pre-requisites. These are in addition to any pre-requisites on rank, trait, or other edges.
For cyberware, before you can take an edge with the cyberware trapping, you must first also take one of the cyberware edges per the table below:
|Edge level||Pre-requisite edge|
|Seasoned||Man and Machine|
|Heroic||More Machine Than Man|
For physad powers:
Other edge pre-requisites, including those on skills or stats, remain unchanged.
New and amended Edges
Only available with augmentation trapping.
These are edges that give a character implant points, that they can (in turn) spend on getting cyberware.
Per Sprawlrunners RAW, the Implanted edge doesn’t cost an Edge point, and once you take it, you can have any amount of zero-implant-point cyberware. This might seem slightly counter-intuitive, but that’s because it only exists to track the effect of these implants on magic users.
As such it is functionally equivalent to a rule that says “Anybody can take any amount of 0-cost implants they like. However, mages or shamans with any number of 0-point implants take a -1 penalty to all magic rolls, which stacks with any penalties from the Chromed edges.”
If you character is not a mage of any kind, you can skip the Implanted edge entirely, as it has no effect on you. If your character is a mage, and you do want to take some zero-implant-point cyberware, that’s the only time you need to take it.
Note that if you take Implanted on savaged.us, it’ll use up one of your perk points, as there’s no way to zero-out the cost of an Edge on there. So just skip adding it on the site, and only add it to your character sheet later if you need it.
Required: Novice, Spirit d6+, Vigor d6+
Man and Machine
Required: Seasoned, Spirit d8+ or Vigor d8+, Chromed
Same as Sprawlrunners RAW (pg 15).
Required: Veteran, Man and Machine
The character has gained regular access to a betaware clinic, which can offer a higher grade of cyberware, more closely tailored to the user’s system. They get 2 more implant points.
More Machine than Man Required: Heroic, Betaware
Same as Sprawlrunners RAW (pg 16) but you can only take this Edge once.
Required: Legendary, Betaware
The character has gained access to a top secret black lab that offers the most cutting edge cyberware in existence. They get 2 more implant points.
Improved Level Headed
Only available with augmentation trapping.
Rock and Roll!
Only available with augmentation trapping. (See cyberlimbs.
Nerves of Steel
Improved Nerves of Steel
Only available with augmentation trapping.
Requirements: Novice, Repair d6+
Character gains a pool of 3 Mod Points.
Mod Points are used to represent access to tools and parts. They are spent similarly to Logistic Points, and can be used to upgrade vehicles before the mission, or even during it if the opportunity presents itself. See vehicle mods for how to use Mod Points.
Improved Mod Shop
Requirements: Seasoned, Repair d8+, Mod Shop
Character gains a further 4 Mod Points, in addition to the 3 granted for Mod Shop.
Requirements: Veteran, Repair d10+, Improved Mod Shop
Character gains a further 5 Mod Points. This Edge can be taken a second time at Legendary rank.
4.5 - Cyberware
In general, as long as the storyline allows time for characters to go through the necessary surgery, characters may choose to have old cyberware systems removed or upgraded when acquiring new cyberware.
Mostly as per Sprawlrunners RAW; small changes:
Clarification that all cybereyes provide, by default, approximately 20/10 vision and around 2x magnification without significant degradation in image quality.
Implant points: 1 (reduced from RAW)
These do not count as natural weapons, and therefore their damage does not stack with Edges like Martial Arts / Brawler / etc. They can be fitted to a cyberlimb, but they do not require one.
Only available as part of a cyberarm; see below.
Artificial muscle replacement
(See Sprawlrunners pg 54) To clarify: These augments boost the entire body. If the user has cyberlimbs, the base stat of the cyberlimb always matches the rest of the body.
Implant points: N/A (take as an Edge)
Requires: Seasoned, Man and Machine
Implant points: N/A (take as an Edge)
Requires: Veteran, Wired Reflexes, Betaware
Cyberware trapping for the Level Headed / Improved Level Headed edges (see SWADE pg 43.)
A character with Wired Reflexes draws two action cards in combat, and chooses which to keep. A character with Move-by-Wire draws three and chooses one to keep.
Implant points: N/A (take as Edge)
Requires: Novice, Agility d8+, Chromed
Cyberware trapping for the Quick edge (see SWADE pg 43.)
When dealt an action card of 5 or lower, you can discard it and draw again; you can repeat until you get a 6 or higher. If combined with Wired Reflexes or Move-by-Wire, you first draw the additional card(s) and pick which one to keep. Then, if it’s 5 or below, you draw again.
Implant points: N/A (take as Edge)
Requires: Novice, Chromed, Vigor d8+
Improved Pain Editor
Implant points: N/A (take as Edge)
Requires: Novice, Pain Editor
Cyberware trapping for the Nerves of Steel / Improved Nerves of Steel edges (see SWADE pg 43.)
The character may ignore 1 level or 2 levels of Wound penalties.
To unlock any of the below upgrades and add-ons, you first need to replace the limb:
Cyberarm or cyberleg
Implant points: 0.5 (each)
Required: Novice, Chromed
+1 Toughness per pair of limbs.
Natural-looking disguised cyberlimbs use the same rules as Sprawlrunners RAW (see pg 55.) In addition, they can only fit TBD implant points of mods before they’re just too bulky to look realistic.
Limb replacements are usually fitted to the shoulder or hip joint, replacing the whole limb. Partial limbs can be taken (eg starting mid-bicep or at the elbow) with no change to game rules.
Cyberarms can be fitted singly. Cyberlegs can be fitted singly if you want a straight replacement, but if you want to fit any additional modifications, you need a pair. It’s really difficult to balance a natural leg and a amped-up cyber one for comfortable walking and running.
Cyberlimb boosted Strength/Agility
Implant points: 1
Adds 1 die type to the stat for tests when only the limb with the boosted stat is being used. For example, boosted strength applies to calculating melee damage when the limb is being used to attack with, but not to a test to lift something heavy.
This boost has no effect on skill dice increase costs. Example: Alice has Agi d8 and Shooting d8, then gets a boosted Agi cyberlimb. It would still cost her 2 skill points to take Shooting to d10.
If the user has artificial muscle replacement or muscle enhancement, this increase applies on top of that. Example: Alice has Strength d6. She takes Artificial Muscle Replacement and then adds Boosted Strength to her cyberarm. Her cyberarm now has d10 Strength.
Implant points: 2 (reduced from RAW)
Str+d6 damage in melee combat. Owner always counts as Armed, so never suffers the Unarmed Defender penalty (which grants melee attackers +2 to Fighting rolls if their target has nothing to parry with.)
This counts as a Natural Weapon, and hence the damage increases with use of Edges like Martial Arts and Brawler.
Implant points: 3?
TBD; probably pick from light pistol w/ autofire, heavy pistol, or flechette pistol.
Recoil compensation system
(Cyberarm only, requires smartlink & smartgun) Implant points: 1 or 2
A feedback circuit from the user’s smartgun to their cyberlimb or limbs automatically counteracts recoil and barrel climb in real-time as they fire.
Reduces the recoil penalty by 1 (for one Implant Point) or 2 (for two Implant Points.)
For one-handed weapons, this will work with only one cyberarm. For two-handed guns, two cyberarms are required.
Implant points: 1
Increases Pace by +2 and running die by one type.
Implant points: 1
Character can jump twice as far as usual. In addition, they add +4 to damage when leaping as part of a Wild Attack, rather than the usual +2. Can only be used if there’s enough room (vertically and horizontally) though.
Implant points: 0.5
Required: Novice, Chromed
An extendable, fireable grapple system, using a small spool of lightweight polymer rope hidden inside the wrist and the hand itself as the launched projectile. The launching system is pneumatic; recharging the compressed air takes one minute after each shot.
The rope is a maximum of 15 m long, although it can be very difficult to aim at that range. Grip strength is usually slightly boosted on the hand so it can grab onto things securely. The overall system is strong enough to pull the user up, although not to carry much extra load.
Make an Athletics roll to attempt to attach the grapple successfully.
4.6 - Advancement and rewards
Core SWADE has a simple structure for advancement: every so often, the character earns an advance. Each advance can be spend on a few things, such as improving traits or new Edges. Every three advances, the character also improves their rank, which unlocks new Edges and other abilities. Sprawlrunners doesn’t change this structure.
Advances are quite “large”, as it were. Each one is quite a significant power boost for a character. It’s slightly tricky to work out at what rate to hand them out, as our mission length varies quite a lot and our sessions are quite short.
For my campaign, to smooth over this, I’m going to make a small change, and re-introduce karma from Shadowrun. Karma will be simply spent on advances at a straight 10:1 ratio (ie. one advance costs 10 karma.) This means I can have a slightly more granular mechanic to reward you than just SWADE advances, but it doesn’t change any game balance.
Each advance can be used in one of a few ways:
- Gain a new Edge.
- Note that mages have access to a Power Edge called New Powers that gives you… new powers. You get to pick two new powers each time you take this, and you can take it as many times as you like. This is how you learn new spells.
- Increase a skill that is equal to or greater than its linked attribute one die type.
- Increase two skills that are lower than their linked attributes by one die type each (including new skills the character didn’t have before at d4).
- Increase one attribute by a die type. This option may only be taken once per Rank.
- Legendary characters may raise an attribute every other Advance, up to the racial maximum.
- Permanently remove a Minor Hindrance, or reduce a Major Hindrance to a Minor (if possible). With the GM’s permission, and if it makes sense, two Advances may be saved up and spent to remove a Major Hindrance.
There are two rewards characters will earn from a mission: karma and nuyen.
I’ll typically award karma at a rate of 3-5 per session, depending on how much you get done, and also give out occasional bonus points for cool writeups of downtime actions and stuff like that. (Note: at-the-table cool stuff, like clever strategies, funny jokes, and excellent roleplaying will earn Bennies, not karma. This is to your advantage; Bennies are powerful.)
Nuyen will be negotiated in-game by your characters, as usual. Nuyen is used to cover your lifestyle costs for a while after the mission ends, during which time you can do some downtime actions; see downtime for details. The more nuyen you earn, the more downtime you get.
Note that nuyen cannot be spent as a replacement for Logistic Points. See wealth for more information.
4.7 - Downtime
Every 10k¥ you earn from a run buys you enough time off afterward to complete one of the below Downtime Actions.
Rest & recuperation
If you took any Wounds in the last run (even if they were treated with first aid), you need to recover from those injuries. This takes one action and clears all lingering damage to your body and your gear/cyberware/etc.
If you attracted an unusually breathtaking amount of attention on the last run, and the wrong people know it was you, you might need to skip town for a while until the heat dies down. This takes one of your actions. Be less obvious next time!
I’ll let you know if Lie Low is required.
Spend 10 points of karma to advance, as per usual SWADE rules.
You spend time honing your skills. Take a free point of karma.
You spend some quality time with your nearest and dearest. Write a scene telling us what you do together, and take a free point of karma for your trouble!
You spend time working your contacts, buttering them up, making sure the next time you come calling they’ll have the good stuff ready for you.
Roll a standard Negotiation test. If you succeed, take +2 bonus LP on the next mission. For each raise, take a further +1LP.
You can only do Network once in a given downtime.
Shadowrunner’s skill sets can be used for more mundane activities than the epic, daring heists we play out at the table. Riggers can do courier work; streetsams can work as bodyguards; mages can provide protection services; deckers can skim low-security systems for paydata.
If your character spends their downtime on a side hustle, they can earn a little extra cash in their pocket. Take a one-off bonus to their wealth die type for the next mission.
You can only do Side Hustle once in a given downtime.
4.8 - Wealth
Your character’s gear will be bought with Logistic Points, as per Sprawlrunners. LP represents not just the cost of acquiring any old gear, but the cost of acquiring gear suitable for crime: untraceable, scrubbed of all hidden RFID tags, no inconvenient ballistics records on file, etc.
Occasionally, though, your character might need to buy other things. Incidental lifestyle expenses in the game (eg. if Mr Johnson stiffs you on the restaurant bill.) Bribes to get past a snooty nightclub bouncer. Spreading some cash around to grease the wheels during legwork.
For these, I am going to use the SWADE wealth mechanic (pg 145.) These abstract the amount of liquid cash your character has available to a SWADE-style die type.
At the start of each mission, Wealth resets to your lifestyle’s die type. For most characters, that’s a d6. If you have the Poverty hindrance, it’s a d4. The Rich edge makes it a d8; the Filthy Rich edge a d10.
Trolls starting wealth die is one step worse than usual, because of their increased lifestyle costs.
If you use the Side Hustle downtime action, you can get a temporary bonus to your wealth.
When the time comes to spend money, I’ll tell you what to do, based on how much you’re spending and what your current Wealth die is:
- If it’s a trivial amount, you succeed automatically. (If you make a lot of trivial purchases in a row, I might eventually call for a Wealth check on one, just to represent the accumulated expenditure.)
- If it’s too large an amount, you simply cannot afford it. Sorry chummer.
- If it’s somewhere in the middle, roll a Wealth check. If it succeeds, you can afford the expense, but your Wealth die goes down a step. If you get a Raise, you can afford it and you don’t need to reduce your Wealth die.
Note that this might mean that when (say) splitting a restaurant bill, some of you are rolling to see if you can afford it, and others aren’t. It sucks to be poor.
5 - Magic
5.1 - Arcane backgrounds
These houserules contain quite a few changes from normal Sprawlrunners. The intent is to enable the addition of more magic traditions beyond hermetic mage and shaman.
Note that this section assumes a reasonable familiarity with existing Shadowrun rules and canon for magic abilities; I won’t do a full recap of them here.
RAW Sprawlrunners offers three types of Arcane Background - hermetic mage, shaman, and qi adept (like physical adepts in Shadowrun).
For my game, I am moving these up a bit, into the following four Arcane Backgrounds:
- Physical / qi adept - the classic Shadowrun physad. Doesn’t have an arcane power skill. Rules are the same as Sprawlrunners RAW.
- Spellcaster (Intuitive) - magic users like shamans, whose approach to magic works on an artistic, instinctive, or naturalistic level. Arcane power skill is Sorcery (Spirit).
- Spellcaster (Logical) - magic users like hermetic mages, whose approach to magic is more scientific, rigorous, or based on theoretical study. Arcane power skill is Sorcery (Smarts).
- Summoner - an Awakened person who can summon spirits. Arcane power skill is Conjuring (Spirit).
For avoidance of doubt: the only difference between Spellcaster (Intuitive) and (Logical) is the role-playing aspect and the choice of linked attribute for the skill. Everything else is the same – power list, drain rules, etc.
These Arcane Backgrounds can be taken individually, or combined to produce the classic Shadowrun archetypes:
- Mystic adept: Physical adept plus any one other.
- Full mage: one of the Spellcaster arcane backgrounds, plus Summoner.
No other combinations are permitted.
Most of the powers listed in SWADE are available equally to both kinds of spellcaster arcane backgrounds. The arcane background comes with three starting powers at chargen; these powers are broadly equivalent to spells in Shadowrun. Almost all the Powers in SWADE are applicable here, but note that Summon Ally and Banish move to the Summoner Arcane Background (see below).
You can gain more powers after chargen by using advances to purchase the “More Powers” edge. Each time you take this, you get two new powers.
See Spellcasting for full details.
The Summoner arcane background only has three powers associated with it, two from core SWADE and one new one:
- Summon Ally (greatform): used to summon spirits. Can be taken multiple times. Each version of it is specific to one greatform spirit.
- Banish: used to banish other people’s summoned spirits. In a change from SWADE core rules, this is available at Seasoned rank and above.
- New minor forms: unlocks more spirit minor forms the mage can summon. Each time this power is taken, two more minor forms can be chosen.
PCs can select four powers at chargen for free, as part of the arcane background.
For more information, see Summoning.
Full mages get a free Astral Projection power. All other Awakened characters can purchase Astral Perception, either for 1 Power Point (for physical adepts) or for 1 power (everyone else.)
Activities on the Astral plane, including assensing and astral combat, are governed by the new Astral (Smarts) skill.
See Astral Space for more details.
5.2 - Spellcasting
Most rules are unchanged from Sprawlrunners RAW. However, all magic traditions take the same drain roll.
All powers in SWADE (pgs 154—171) are allowed as part of the Spellcaster arcane background, except the following:
- Banish, Summon Ally - these are included in the Summoner arcane background.
- Drain Power Points - meaningless in a game that doesn’t use power points.
- Burrow, Divination, Intangibility, Resurrection, Teleport, Zombie - contradict core Shadowrun canon.
Notes/clarifications about specific powers
Note that this overlaps somewhat with the Shielding edge (see Sprawlrunners, pg 17). I won’t stop you taking Arcane Protection, but the edge is arguably more powerful and useful.
Healing cannot be used to heal Wounds caused by drain.
By default, Illusions are mana-based; they only appear within the minds of living creatures. Purely technological systems like cameras or drone sensors see nothing. (Living characters with cybernetic senses like cybereyes still see the illusion, however.)
The Strong modifier (+2PP) instead produces a physical illusion, which does affect technological systems.
Relief cannot be used to heal Fatigue caused by drain.
5.3 - Summoning
Greatforms and minor forms
Spirits are divided into archetypal groups, called greatforms. There are six primary greatforms: earth, air, water, fire, beasts, and man. (Some NPC-only spirits, like insect spirits and blood spirits, fall outside this classification.)
Greatform are not spirits that are summoned but families of spirits from which a summoner can draw. Summoners choose from an endless number of variant minor forms, each of which is linked to one of the greatforms. For example, spirits of air could be summoned as Tornado spirits, Storm spirits, or Cloud spirits. Each of these minor forms has a statblock and is associated with one of the spirit power levels - lesser, common, or greater.
Greatforms and minor forms are linked to SWADE skills as follows:
- Each greatform is a separate instance of the Summon Ally power. For example, a hermetic mage might start play with Summon Ally (Fire) and Summon Ally (Earth). Mages can learn more of these through advances, as usual.
- When a mage first learns the ability to summon a new greatform, the player defines the first specific minor form it will take for that mage. This is specific to the character and to their magical tradition, and players are encouraged to roleplay our what a given spirit might mean to a given mage. This involves creating the stats for each minor form at a specific power level - Lesser, Common, or Greater.
- During play, the mage might want to learn more minor forms. A new power, More Minor Forms, allows this; the mage may create two new minor forms for any greatforms they know.
Eddie the chaos mage starts the campaign at Seasoned rank. He learns two greatforms: Fire and Man.
Eddie’s player Bobby creates two new spirit types that he feels embodies the philosophy of a chaos mage and fit the greatforms Eddie can summon: Blaze (a lesser spirit of fire) and Hearth (a lesser spirit of man.)
Later in the campaign, Eddie advances to Veteran rank. He now gets to create two new common spirits, one for each of his greatforms. Bobby creates stats and powers for an Inferno spirit (of fire) and a Trickster spirit (of man).
Eddie’s next advance is used to purchase a new summoning power - Summon Ally (earth). Bobby can immediately create two new types of earth spirit for Eddie to use. He creates a Mud spirit (lesser earth) and a Rock spirit (common earth.)
Now Eddie advances one more time. He takes the New Powers edge and decides to use one of the powers it grants on two new minor forms. Bobby creates their stats; they can be of any of the greatforms Eddie knows (Fire, Man, and Earth), and at any of the power levels Eddie can summon (lesser or common).
Finally, Eddie does one last advance, taking him to Heroic rank. This unlocks greater spirits. Bobby creates three new spirits, one per greatform that Eddie knows. Eddie is really a force to be reckoned with now!
Spirit chargen rules
For the main, these will follow the rules in the Savage Worlds Summoner’s Circle supplement.
Each greatform at each power level has some pre-defined stats that cannot be altered; the player is then free to spend the rest of the build points (per the Summoner’s Circle system) to customise them and create the minor form they will summon.
(I haven’t created those statblocks yet. We’ll fill them in as we need them, and I will document them here as we go along.)
All spirits have the following powers and abilities. Numbers in brackets are the points value from Summoner’s Circle.
- -4 damage to mundane ranged attacks (2): difficult to harm with physical objects alone.
- Dual-natured (1): native to the astral plane; is always astrally perceiving at all times.
- Elemental (5): doesn’t need to eat or breathe; immune to poison/disease; immune to called shots; ignores 1 level of Wound penalties.
- Extraplanar (-2): can be targeted by the Banish power.
- Fearless (2): immune to fear effects.
Earth, air, fire, and water also each have special minor forms called “elementals”, which match up to the boring stereotypes used by dreary hermetic mages. There is no such thing as elementals of beasts or man, though.
Elementals are different from other spirits; they are plodding, incurious about the world around them, less likely to bear grudges if abused by their summoner.
Elementals use the statblocks from Sprawlrunners RAW.
Servants / watchers
Rules as per Sprawlrunners RAW.
Summoning game mechanic
Roll Summoning skill, taking a penalty according to the level of the spirit:
- Servant/Watcher: no modifier to roll
- Seasoned rank (Lesser spirit): -2 to roll (4PP)
- Veteran rank (Common spirit): -3 to roll (6PP)
- Heroic rank (Greater spirit): -4 to roll (8PP)
Take drain on a natural 1 as usual.
Spirit control is based on the concept of favours. Each spirit is summoned with two favours by default. Each Raise on the summoning roll adds another favour. If the mage is summoning a spirit of lesser rank than themselves (eg a Veteran mage summoning a lesser spirit), they get an extra bonus favour.
The spirit enters play, materialised on the physical plane, and can act immediately. In combat, they act on the same initiative card as their summoner. Mages can send mental commands to their summoned spirits as a free action.
Any commanded use of the spirit’s powers outside of combat uses a single favour. Participation in an entire combat uses a favour. Remote service uses all remaining favours.
By default, summoners can only have one lesser/common/greater spirit summoned at a time. This does not count as maintaining a power, so there is no ongoing penalty to the mage’s rolls. They can also keep one servant/watcher summoned.
(Slightly changed from RAW.)
Rank: Seasoned (changed from Veteran in RAW)
Power Points: See below
Forces other summoned spirits back to the metaplanes. Opposed roll of caster’s Conjuration skill versus the target spirit’s Spirit. Success leaves the spirit Shaken; each raise inflicts a Wound. If the spirit is incapacitated, it is dismissed from service and returned to the metaplanes.
If the spirit is a companion (see Sprawlrunners pg 17), then it gets to roll the summoner’s Spirit in addition to its own (choosing the highest dice, as usual.) Additionally, if incapacitated, it will not be permanently banished, but will return to the summoner’s side after 1d4 days.
The power point cost, and hence roll penalty, is determined by the target spirit’s rank, similarly to when it is summoned. Hence:
- Servant/Watcher: no modifier to roll
- Seasoned rank (eg lesser elemental): -2 to roll (4PP)
- Veteran rank (eg ‘standard’): -3 to roll (6PP)
- Heroic rank (eg greater elemental): -4 to roll (8PP)
5.4 - Astral space, perception, and projection
Sprawlrunners RAW does not use astral projection and significantly limits astral perception.
Our campaign will allow astral projection as a houserule. Astral perception will work like Shadowrun (long distance) and not Sprawlrunners (where it has a very short range).
Adepts - people with only one Arcane Background - can choose to purchase Astral Perception as a power. They cannot astrally project. Full mages - with two Arcane Backgrounds - can both perceive and project, without having to buy any powers.
Seeing the astral world
- Auras of living things appear like melanges of bright colours in the approximate shape of the person. Sentient beings have a dizzyingly complicated aura of swirling colours; non-sentient ones have simpler patterns but still glow brightly. Plantlife is more muted but still unmistakable.
- Physical objects appear as flat, opaque, grey shadows. All technological detail is obscured; it’s extremely difficult to tell a gun from a commlink. Glass is not transparent on the astral plane.
- Objects that have spent a long time in proximity to someone who associates them with emotional heft - eg. a wedding ring - carry an echo of that emotional resonance. This slowly fades over time if the object is removed from the person, though.
A mage can safely astrally project for (Spirit Die/2) hours.
Beyond that, the mage must roll a Spirit test every ten minutes, at a cumulative -1 penalty each time (so -1 after 10 minutes; -2 after 20 minutes, etc.) When the caster fails a roll, they get 10 more minutes, then if they do not return to their body they will fade away and die.
Movement in the Astral has two speeds: ‘slow’ is Pace 100, ‘fast’ is 5 km per initiative turn. At the ‘fast’ rate, everything whizzes past in an incomprehensible blur, so it’s really only useful for long distance travel where the mage knows where they are going.
Astral beings can fly freely up to the limits of the manasphere (about 80 km). They can pass through any solid objects but cannot pass through the living earth, however, as that has its own aura.
Astral beings cannot pass through each other. They can pass through the auras of living beings on the physical plane, but the process isn’t very pleasant, and the person being passed through can roll Notice to be aware of it (it’s like an amped-up version of the “someone just walked over my grave” creepy feeling.)
Astrally projecting mages can “manifest” to show themselves to mundanes in the physical world. They appear as a hazy, ghostly version of themselves. They can be seen by people, and talk to them.
This is actually a sort of localised psychic link. They don’t have a real form, and cannot interact with any physical objects. They cannot be recorded by technological devices like cameras.
Manifesting is difficult, and can only be kept up for ((Spirit Die type) * 5) minutes at a time.
Losing your body
If someone moves a mage’s body while they are away from it, they’ll need to make a Dramatic Task to re-locate it before their time on the astral plane runs out!
Roll Astral versus TN4. If the target has the Masking Edge and are choosing to use it, they can oppose this test with Spirit. If the target has Masking and the assenser does not, the Spirit roll is made at +2.
Depending on the outcome, you might learn the following:
- Failure - The assenser doesn’t notice anything special. Without masking, the target appears to be healthy, mundane, and be experiencing no strong emotions. If the target is using masking, they can choose to appear however they want.
- Success - the assenser can tell:
- The target’s metahuman race
- The general physical condition of the target - healthy, injured, or sick
- If the target is mundane or Awakened of some kind
- If the target has any cyberware
- If the target’s aura was masked
- Raise - the assenser gets more information:
- The Wound and Fatigue levels of the target. If the assenser is familiar with diseases, they can often take an educated guess at any serious illness.
- The power level of an Awakened target, relative to their own (in terms of their arcane skill)
- The general amounts of and types of cyberware (headware, bodyware, limbs, nervous system mods, etc.)
This is handled very much like melee combat:
- Attacker rolls Astral
- Defender’s Astral Parry is (2 + (1/2 Astral skill die))
- Base damage is attacker’s Spirit die
- Weapon Foci add their die type to this
- Physical adepts with Killing Hands add their approriate die type
- Astral toughness is (2 + (1/2 Spirit die))
- Apply Shaken and Wounds as normal. Wounds dealt in Astral combat manifest themselves upon the mage’s comatose body.
Note that - given how fast astral travel is - the back-and-forth of astral combat can easily cover an area hundreds of meters across.
Powers in Astral space
Spells can be used between targets on the Astral plane as usual, but an astrally projecting mage cannot cast spells at auras that exist on the physical plane. However, dual-natured beings (like some magical critters or an astrally perceiving Awakened) can be targeted for spells.
6 - The Matrix
By default, Sprawlrunners presents a classic ’80s cyberpunk take on cyberspace: wired decks and VR hacking. Since 4e, Shadowrun has moved away from this, blending in modern technologies like cellphones and wifi. People have different opinions about how good an idea this is, but I quite like it, so below are some houserules aimed at putting wireless devices and hacking into Sprawlrunners - while hopefully keeping it Fast! Furious! And Fun!
NB I will use Shadowrun-speak in this section ie “decker” not “operator”, “host” not “system."
What the Matrix is made of: the backbone and the local mesh; hosts and other icons
How things look in the Matrix
How augmented reality works and feels
Bending the Matrix to your will
Smaller bits and pieces, plot devices, etc
Game rules for how the Matrix works
All kinds of things deckers can do
What to hack and how to hack it
Disregard stealth; brick devices instead
How the decker can help in combat
How the authorities catch deckers
A quick list of the simplifying assumptions I have made
Some of the game scenarios these rules are intended to support are:
- Sleazing on commlinks - snooping on calls and files, legwork type stuff, tracing people and tracking them.
- Hacking the security host in a facility (in VR), then switching to AR (so the decker can move with the team), and then during combat, using that access to mess with gear on the defending security team - AR spam, disrupt smartlinks/smartguns, take down their comms, etc.
- Environmental support hacking - switch the lights off so the enemies are confused, turn traffic lights to green to expediate an escape, make GridGuid freak out to block pursuers with traffic, trigger a fire alarm in a building to cause confusion. The Matrix-of-things world is a decker’s playground.
- Combat decking - hacking opponent’s gear to distract them, running and defending a tactical network to give the decker’s team the edge.
A note about hosts and nodes in my game
Sprawlrunners RAW describes very large hosts that are made up of many, many nodes, arranged in sprawling, labyrinthian structures. I do not plan to use this (typically, at least). Most hosts in my game will either have a single node that takes care of everything; or they will be divided into a handful of nodes, each dedicated to a task (eg. file storage, building system control, security.) Each node can typically be accessed from any other node; there is no internal “map” as such.
6.1 - Setting information about the wireless Matrix
NotesAlthough this overlaps with my Matrix re-fluff for Shadowrun stuff elsewhere on this site, it is signifcantly pared down. The intent, here, is not to contort the fluff to fit baroque existing Shadowrun rules; but rather, to present a straightforward base for wireless hacking to exist in a Fun! Furious! Fast! cyberpunk setting.
6.1.1 - Making the Matrix
The third-generation Matrix of the 2070s is a technological marvel, delivering immersive AR and VR applications to users without the need for wires. But how does it manage such fast connections without requiring the user to physically connect a cable? The answer comes in two parts.
NotesThe design intent here is to keep deckers close to the action by tying their hacking activities to a short-range mesh network.
The first part is the global grid, also known colloquially as the backbone. This is broadly equivalent to what was known in the early 21st century as “the cloud”; it’s the sum of all the physical infrastructure of fibre trunks, satellite uplinks, and other super-speed connections that connect all the Matrix’s hosts together. Within the backbone, speed is functionally infinite, and distance is no issue. But you can only use the backbone if you have a physical, wired connection to it. Nobody wants that.
Early 21st century cellular wireless standards are no help. The Matrix demands very fast high-frequency ultra-wideband radios, but they are easily blocked by the gleaming steel-and-glass towers of the sprawl. You’d never get a signal. How to square this circle?
The local mesh
The answer is a short range, peer-to-peer mesh network. Suppose Alice wants to check the latest updates on her P2.1 social feed. Her commlink sends the request to her neighbour Bob’s commlink. From there, it’s forwarded to Charlie’s commlink. And so it travels, until it reaches an uplink host - which has a hardline connection to the backbone. From there, it can speed off to its final destination. The P2.1 host sees the request, and sends the response back down the same link. This all happens in the blink of an eye.
Every Matrix device automatically self-organises itself into a reliable mesh network, and sets up forwarding and routing so that everything transparently works. This is the local mesh. At all times, your Matrix devices exist in a bubble, extending perhaps a hundred meters around you. Somewhere in that bubble is your closest uplink host, the one you will send backbone traffic to. But where is your traffic going? Well, for most people, it’s usually a host.
Hosts come in a few major types, depending on what kind of connection they have.
First, there are the aforementioned uplink hosts, sometimes called beanstalks. These bridge between the backbone and the local mesh, a bit like an old-time cell tower. People don’t really think about them too much; like any piece of reliable infrastructure, they fade into the background. But they’re there, scattered around the sprawl.
The most common type people interact with in their personal lives are cloud hosts. These are hosts made up of many physical servers distributed around the planet, all with their own connection to the backbone. They exist everywhere and nowhere at once. Cloud hosts are very powerful and very secure.
However, you can’t use cloud hosts for everything. When Wally Wageslave sits working in his office like a good little drone, that office’s various systems - heat, light, power, security, Wally’s files and emails - are all run by a host located inside the building. These local hosts work exclusively on the local mesh, without a backbone connection. Local hosts have one defined place of existence; somewhere, there’s some computers in a rack you can point to and say “this is the host for this building.”
Some of the more prominent and successful hacker collectives might run illicit local hosts, sometimes called dark hosts as they (for obvious reasons) do not advertise their existence like most legal hosts do.
Offline hosts are computers that are totally air-gapped, with no connection to the local mesh or the backbone. The only way to connect to them is directly via a cable. Offline hosts are often used for very important, secret file storage, and are placed in locations that are very physically secure.
But how do you actually get stuff done on the Matrix? Well, you interact with icons.
Everything on the Matrix is represented by an icon. Icons can look like anything; cartoonish symbols, abstract runes, photorealistic 3d images; anything (although most sane Matrix designers use icons that at least vaguely resemble what they are used for). Icons can represent one of a few different types of thing:
- Tags: tiny little passive chips. They have no batteries or computing power of their own; they are powered by wireless power gathered from the Matrix. They typically hold and/or broadcast some number of files. They cannot be hacked, as such, as they lack any processor of their own. See Tags for more.
- Files: any type of data (text, audio, video, computer code, …), stored on any type of medium (in a tag, on a commlink, in a host, on a storage chip, …).
- Devices: toasters, cars, door locks, speakers, microwaves, etc etc etc. In the Sixth World, near enough everything that has electrons flowing through it also has a functioning Matrix connection of its very own. Devices can be directly connected to the matrix (unattended) or protected inside a network run by a commlink, ‘deck, or host.
- Commlinks: special devices that people use to see and interact with the Matrix.
- Cyberdecks: souped-up commlinks that can be used to bend the rules of the Matrix by hackers and counter-hackers. There’s also drone decks, which are similar but specialised and used to remotely control drones.
- Hosts: as mentioned above, these are the “servers” of the Matrix; big computer systems you can go into and do stuff within. So the social network P2.1 has a host that you go into to read your friends’ updates, post messages, play games with them; that sort of thing.
- Some hosts are so big that internally they are sub-divided into zones called nodes.
6.1.2 - Matrix icons
When you view the world in AR, your commlink or cyberdeck can overlay icons for any (and all) nearby matrix devices onto your vision. This is rather overwhelming - in an urban area, the local mesh can contain thousands of icons. So most people run filtering routines that hide most of them and only show ones deemed important. For example, in a crowded street, you might only show icons for commlinks for people you know, and hide the rest.
The mesh networking routing protocols that keep the wireless matrix working tracks the approximate position and motion of all these devices, so it can predict when devices are about to go out of range of each other and have fallback routes prepared to keep traffic flowing. AR leverages this information to position icons in the user’s sensorium in vaguely the correct place, relative to where the device is.
When the user has line-of-sight to the device, this positioning is quite accurate; glance at a coffee machine in AR and you’ll see its glowing matrix icon hovering just over it. When there’s no line of sight, position accuracy drifts randomly, often by a few metres. If you are in a shopping mall and your friend is in the store a few doors down from you, you’ll see an icon for their commlink, but it’ll appear vague and fuzzed-out so you know it’s only an approximate position.
When using VR inside a host, there is no need to make things correspond to meatspace. Icon positioning is arbitrary and governed by the sculpting of the host. Some hosts look like glowing neon wireframes, with icons clustered across an infinite 2d plane. Others are painstakingly rendered 3d environments with icons grouped logically and scattered across rooms or areas. The possibilities are limitless.
Types of icon
- Tags: tiny, passive chips; see Tags.
- Files: any type of data (text, audio, video, computer code, …), stored on any type of medium (in a tag, on a commlink, in a host, on a storage chipdrive, …).
- Devices: toasters, cars, door locks, speakers, cameras, drones, microwaves, etc etc etc. In the Sixth World, near enough everything that has electrons flowing through it also has a functioning Matrix connection of its very own.
- Commlinks: special devices that people use to see and interact with the Matrix.
- Cyberdecks: souped-up commlinks that can be used to bend the rules of the Matrix by hackers and counter-hackers. There are also drone decks, specialised variants used by riggers to control drone networks.
- Hosts: the “servers” of the Matrix; big computer systems you can go into in VR and do stuff within. Some hosts are so big that internally they are sub-divided into zones called nodes.
- Inside hosts, you can see (lots of!) icons for files and connected devices.
- Hosts also contain personas, which are VR icons representing people using the host. Personas can be very simple and generic, or highly customised and tailored to the person they represent. See Personas.
- Hosts also contain ICE, intrusion countermeasure electronics. These are autonomous software agents that form the first line of defence against hostile deckers.
6.1.3 - The everyday, augmented
On this page, I present an overview of my personal canon for how augmented reality works in my cyberpunk setting.
I freely admit that I am attempting to have my cake and eat it. Traditional ’80s cyberpunk has a traditional view of computing and in particular the internet: it is a place where you go to. Computers are large, they are fixed in place, and they are used mostly by specialists. This is mirrored by the role of VR in my campaign.
The modern world of the 2020s have rendered this view obsolete. Smartphones have made computing and the internet ubiquitous, always within arm’s reach, and accessible to everyone. This is mirrored by the use of AR in my campaign.
Hopefully, my approach blends the two; maintains the feeling that VR is a special domain only open to a few, while keeping AR for the future masses who are as addicted to their social media feeds as we are today.
Interface issues: augmented reality is not telepathy
When a user is in VR, their body’s nervous system is partially shut down by a RAS override. One of the effects of this is that by blocking sensory input to the brain from the user’s body, it makes it much easier for their datajack to read their conscious and sub-conscious impulses. This, in turn, creates a really efficient control surface; the user can send instructions as fast as they can think.
AR doesn’t work like that, as it has no RAS override. The datajack has to try and pick out the impulses amongst a storm of unrelated sensory processing. For this reason, most control of devices via AR is done indirectly through holos (see below) instead of direct brain-computer interfacing as is typical in VR.
One area where AR can directly read thoughts quite successfully is via a sort of text-to-speech service. As long as the user deliberately and clearly forms words in their mind, their inner monologue can be picked up by the datajack and sent to a commlink or other device. This is often used for text messaging or sending very simple commands, eg. to turn a smart device on/off or fire a smartgun. Compared to doing stuff in VR, it’s glacially slow, though - only about the same speed as talking, perhaps a bit faster if the user has had a lot of practice.
For anything more complex than a on/off switch, the primary type of interface in AR is an Augmented Reality Object (ARO) - often called “arrows” or “holos” in everyday language.
For a user with a datajack, holos are inserted directly into their sensorium. They typically appear as semi-translucent neon glowing screens and buttons, floating in space (hence the name “holo”.) They can have sound elements, and usually have tactile elements too - holographic buttons and controls feel real when the user touches and presses them.
Holos can be private, viewable only by one person; this is typical for someone using their commlink via AR. They can be public, viewable by anyone; this is typical for advertising hoardings and billboards. Or they can be semi-private, shared with a selected group of people.
Perhaps surprisingly, a lot of work still happens in meatspace, with physical displays and interfaces.
The early promise of VR as an accelerator for productivity never emerged, for a variety of reasons. Firstly, using VR for extended periods of time is exhausting, both mentally and physically - it’s like running full-throttle for hours and hours. Few people can maintain the pace. Secondly, the sensation of being cut off from your body when it is in a public place is quite disconcerting to most people, and they find themselves constantly distracted by worrying about their meat. So outside of a small handful of elites working from private offices, most wageslaves only dip into VR occasionally for remote meetings and the like.
AR is more commonly used, but that also has limitations. For one thing, it’s not all that much faster to use than an old-fashioned screen and keyboard. And for another, using holos for detailed work like reading lots of text or running complex simulations often cause troublesome headaches or eyestrain if used for very long periods. So the typical wageslave bounces back and forth, dipping into AR screens while on the move, but falling back to large screens at their desks.
AR and VR without datajacks
Users who do not want or cannot afford datajacks can still get online, but with some big caveats.
VR can only be achieved with a clumsy ‘trode net worn around the head. Sensory fidelity is reduced, compared to a datajack, and speed is reduced. Worst of all, the trodes have to be placed in the right spots, and are easily dislodged if the user moves around while wearing them.
Users can get an AR overlay with a variety of sense link devices: smart contacts, glasses or goggles for visual, earbuds for audio, and feedback gloves for tactile elements. As with ‘trodes, these are clumsy and inferior to datajack interfaces, but they are usable. Civilian versions of these devices are mostly fairly delicate and easily damaged by rough handling in combat. Ruggedised versions exist, but are bulky and obvious.
6.1.4 - Hacking the Matrix
The end of encryption
The incorporation of early quantum processors into the first cyberdecks sent an earthquake through the tech world from which it never recovered. Even the strongest, best designed encryption of the day fell before it in fractions of a second. There could be no more secrets.
Today, things have improved only slightly; the most advanced encryption in the world still cannot hold up to sustained assault from a skilled hacker with high-end cyberdeck.
This single innovation has reshaped the world.
Rise of the spiders
Faced with the total loss of passive defence - ie. strong encryption of data - the megacorps had to pivot to active defence.
First, they built high walls around their kingdoms. Some of the most sophisticated pseudo-AI on the planet exists to run ICE: Intrusion Countermeasure Electronics. ICE patrols and defends the megacorp’s hosts tirelessly, rooting out invading hackers and - sometimes - frying their brains.
But ICE isn’t all-powerful, so the corps also set people to guard those walls. These counter-hackers, called spiders in the language of the street, sit in the middle of sprawling webs of sensors and alarms. Attract their attention, and they are swiftly dispatched to deal with you. And they are good, with all the equipment and training of their deep-pocketed masters.
The Grid Overwatch Division (GOD)
Each megacorp can hire its own security staff to patrol its own hosts, but that leaves the backbone itself vulnerable to attacks. It’s too important to leave undefended, so the Corporate Court formed the Grid Overwatch Division (GOD). GOD is a semi-autonomous organisation, tasked with defending public grid infrastructure, staffed by spiders and technicians loaned from the AA and AAA megacorps.
How to hack
Sending hacking traffic over the backbone is near-impossible. The uplink nodes are equipped with powerful coprocessors that carry out deep packet inspection, scanning for anything out of the ordinary. At the first sign of trouble, aggressive autonomous agents are deployed, rapidly followed by elite GOD spiders.
It is on the local mesh where the deckers can bring their powers to bear. Hampered by the need to maintain backwards compatibility with millions of devices that have fallen into planned obsolescence, and with even small changes to the protocols requiring dozens of squabbling corps to agree, the local mesh is… well, it’s a mess. Deckers exploit this ruthlessly, using vast databases of known vulnerabilities to carve through the laughable defences that devices rely on.
There is an obvious problem, though - the local mesh is small, typically extending only 50-100 metres. With the wireless matrix, Deckers need to get close to their targets. They can no longer sit in the safety of armoured bunkers, hundreds of miles from danger.
What to hack
Any device that is attached directly to the matrix is considered to be unattended. Civilian and even security grade unattended devices have very weak defences against hacking.
Most ordinary people will arrange all of their various matrix gadgets into a personal area network (PAN.) A PAN is controlled and monitored by their commlink, which routes all matrix traffic through itself. Devices in a PAN cannot be hacked individually; instead, the decker must hack the commlink instead. PANs are a little bit more difficult to hack than an unattended device, but the main benefit is that if the commlink notices the hack attempt it can alert the owner at once. They can then take action, such as shutting down their devices.
The corporate grown-up version of a PAN is a wide area network, or WAN. WANs are very similar but instead of a commlink they are controlled and monitored by a host. As with a PAN, you cannot hack individual devices in a WAN; you have to enter VR and hack the host directly. If you can get a direct cabled connection to a device that is part of the WAN, you can exploit that to more easily hack the host. For this reason, corps tend not to put easily-accessed exterior building defences like cameras or maglocks on their primary security WANs.
Finally, there are also secure PANs, or s-PANs. S-PANs are PANs that are run from a cyberdeck or drone deck and are being actively monitored by a decker or rigger. S-PANs cannot be hacked at all, as their admin will swiftly notice any hack attempts and take defensive action. They can only be knocked offline via cybercombat.
The local mesh protocols specify that all devices monitor all the traffic they can see to scan for hack attempts. This isn’t hard to avoid in the short term, but as a decker carries out more and more hacks using the local mesh against devices and PANs, it gradually becomes more and more difficult to hide. Once it reaches a critical level, GOD will deploy autonomous agents to hunt the decker down; if they are unsuccessful, a GOD spider will reinforce them. A skilled decker relies on speed and stealth to achieve their goals before this happens.
Hosts maintain their own alarm state, separate from the local mesh one as they are outside of GOD’s jurisdiction. They react to alarms by deploying ICE and security counter-hackers, as well as alerting security personnel in meatspace that a possible intrusion is underway.
6.1.5 - Other stuff
NotesThis is a grab-bag of small things, intended to be used as optional/situational plot devices or for added flavour.
The backbone infrastructure is administered and patrolled by the Grid Overwatch Division, and is theoretically neutral between the megacorps. But the corps didn’t get rich by trusting each other. Where security demands it, it’s not unusual for corporations to run their own private communication lines - for example between a secure, hidden facility and a more public one. This lets the secure facility access the Matrix discreetly without making its location or purpose obvious. This is called dark fibre.
On the local mesh, dark fibre functions like a wormhole. If you can hack the controlling host on one end, you can coerce it to carry your traffic to the other, and suddenly you can “see” devices that could be dozens or even hundreds of kilometers away. Occasionally, wily shadowrunners use this as part of a smash-and-grab, using a forgotten dark fibre link to hack into a distant host that is too physically well-protected to get near in the physical world.
Tags are tiny, passive chips, with a small amount of ROM and minimal processing power. They use the ROM to store a small number of data, which can then be broadcast onto the matrix. They usually have no battery of their own, or only a very small backup battery; instead, they rely on wireless power transmission from nearby Matrix devices.
Tags cannot be hacked, as such, as they lack any processor to hack. They can be erased by a specialist tool that generates a powerful electromagnetic field, but it only has an effective range of a few centimetres, so you need to know where the tag is.
Tags are very common in my campaign, and have numerous uses:
Broadcasting a fixed AR holo - eg a billboard, signage, an animated menu outside a restaurant, or a piece of grafitti.
Local tracking of things - most goods that cost more than a few nuyen have tags included in the packaging. Warehouses and retailers can use these tags to track inventory and ring up your shopping bill.
Global tracking of things - tags can be configured to upload their location to a cloud server whenever they have a working Matrix connection. People use these as locators for any of their stuff they want to keep track of.
Theft prevention - a variation on the tracking idea, most expensive, durable, or legally restricted goods (definitely including vehicles, guns, and ammunition) are infested with multiple tracking tags. If the goods are noticed stolen, they can be swiftly tracked down via the locations being uploaded from the tags.
Sneaky users might have tags on their items that do not broadcast their location all the time, but sit passive and undetectable until certain times or they receive an incoming signal; this makes it very difficult to know you’ve definitely wiped every tag off something you just stole. Items the characters purchase with from the black market LPs have already gone through this.
One-time pad encryption
While most encryption has been superseded by the quantum processors used in cyberdecks, there is one notable exception: one-time pads. This uses pre-arranged private encryption keys that are all but uncrackable - but both parties using the encrypted channel have to have exchanged the private keys in advance. Furthermore, the keys have to be regularly cycled (every few seconds of a video steam) to avoid them becoming attackable as they become stale.
This makes the key management extremely awkward, and reserved for only the most critically important of communications. Data couriers are often employed to move encryption keys from place to place, but if they are intercepted and the keys stolen, then the communications can be intercepted - without anyone knowing. These are therefore high-value targets for corporate intrigue.
RF blocking paint
The local mesh relies on ultra-wide band signals that can barely penetrate walls at the best of times. So it doesn’t take much to block them almost entirely via smartpaints that use nanotech to assemble a crude Faraday cage as it dries. This prevents any decker outside the area from seeing in; icons for devices inside cannot be seen from the outside, and all hacking traffic is blocked.
Smartpaints are quite expensive, so tend to be reserved for only high-security areas within a facility. These are, of course, combined with physical security measures and access controls. Smartpaints are also wildly unpopular with workers, as they are inconveniently cut off from the outside world.
Personas are a special kind of icon used in VR to represent a human user. They are endlessly customisable, by creating custom 3d models and animations and/or by purchasing expensive digital goods from your favourite brands. Most of humanity is happy with a generic persona, perhaps with a small purchased accessory or two. But for some, particularly those who live in the matrix, persona customisation is an important part of how they express themselves. This is particularly common in decker circles.
People who have spent a lot of time or money customising their persona often want to show it off in AR as well as VR. They run special programs on their commlink that do a public broadcast of their persona as an animated ARO. A miniature version may float over their head or ride around on their shoulder. Some people go so far as to animate a life-size version of their persona and have it envelop their meatbod, effectively hiding them within it. This is very difficult to do well; often they will clip through the animated persona, ruining the effect.
6.2 - Rules for the wireless Matrix
6.2.1 - Matrix Actions
Offensive & defensive actions
Requires: Fighting utility
Rolls: Hacking (cybercombat specialisation) vs target firewall
Use on: s-PANs, PANs, devices, ICE
Action: DoS attack
Requires: Fighting utility
Rolls: Hacking (cybercombat specialisation) vs target number
Use on: devices
See DoS attacks.
Requires: Persuasion utility
Rolls: Hacking (sleaze specialisation) vs target rating
Use on: unattended devices, PANs, hosts
Gain access to something, hopefully without anyone noticing. See Hacking.
Requires: Stealth utility
Rolls: Hacking (sleaze specialisation), maybe vs Notice
Use on: your own s-PAN on the local mesh, or your own persona a host
Can be used on the local mesh to disguise and hide your s-PAN from observers; see Matrix Stealth for more. If nobody is actively looking, the target number for this test is 4. If you are being actively hunted by ICE or a persona running the Notice utility, it is opposed by the hunter’s Hacking skill.
Can be used within a host to hide your persona from ICE and security spiders, see “Deceive ICE” on Sprawlrunners pg 39 for more.
Action: Improvise utility
Rolls: Hacking (no specialisation)
See Sprawlrunners pg 43.
Action: Change utility loadout
See Sprawlrunners pg 39. Takes a couple of seconds to do outside of combat.
Action: Jack out
See Sprawlrunners pg 38. Can be a Free action, but then comes with risk of dumpshock.
File and device actions
Action: Manipulate files
Rolls: N/A or as required
Use on: any file(s)
Can be used to copy, edit, erase, or search for files or other data in any kind of store - a host, a node, a commlink, a data chip, etc.
Doesn’t usually require a test, but if a series of edits to the files have to fool someone (or the erases to be made are subtle eg. removing entries in an access log) then a test might be needed.
Copying or erasing a very large number of files under time pressure might be a dramatic task.
Action: Decrypt file
Requires: Decryption utility
Rolls: Hacking (no specialisation) vs file encryption rating die type
Use on: any encrypted file
Decrypting a number of files is usually a dramatic task.
Action: Manipulate device
Rolls: Hacking (sleaze specialisation) or varies
Use on: any device
Can be used to give commands to a device, or manipulate it in other ways. Maglocks can be told to lock or unlock, cameras can be shut down or told to loop a fragment of footage. Commlink calls in progress can be snooped on. The other end of a commlink call can be traced to a physical location.
If the device is part of a PAN or WAN, the PAN or WAN must be hacked first. If the device is part of an s-PAN, the s-PAN must be crashed first.
In general, the target number for this roll is the target device’s Firewall stat.
Rigger & drone actions
Free action: Jump in
Used by a rigger to assume jumped-in control of a drone or vehicle.
This is a normal action if the rigger is not already connected via a cable or a drone deck’s s-PAN.
Free action: Give command
Give a one-sentence command to a drone or vehicle autopilot. If the rigger is using a drone deck and has multiple drones/vehicles in its s-PAN, they can issue the same command to any number of the drones/vehicles for a single free action.
Action: Enter host/node
Rolls: None or as Sleaze, above
Use on: host/node
Enter a host (from the local mesh) or a node (within a host that has multiple nodes.) Simultaneously switches the decker’s mode from AR to VR.
Some hosts/nodes have security checks for access; if so, they must be successfully hacked with a Sleaze roll to enter.
To exit a host/node again, see Jack Out, above.
Requires: Notice utility
Rolls: Hacking (no specialisation)
Use on: any target
Get more information about a persona, ICE, icon, or device.
6.2.2 - Sleaze hacking on the wireless Matrix
Types of hacking target
Sprawlrunners' RAW defines one type of hack target - nodes. In my houserules, these are expanded to include unattended devices, PANs, secure PANs, and hosts/WANs. See Hacking the Wireless Matrix for definitions of these terms.
Local mesh hacking
All hacking against unattended devices or PANs is done over the local mesh. This means the hacker must be able to reach the target via the local mesh, which has a typical range of around 50-100 metres (but can vary with local network conditions, Faraday cages, signal-blocking smartpaint, etc.)
To carry out the hack, the decker rolls Hacking skill vs the device’s Firewall stat. If hacking a PAN consisting of lots of devices protected by a commlink, it’s the commlink’s rating that is used here.
All local mesh Hacking rolls contribute to the local mesh alarm state as follows:
- successful hack with a raise - 0 points
- successful hack - 1 point
- failed hack - 2 points (and if the hack target was a PAN, the PAN owner is alerted)
- critical failure - 3 points (everyone on the local mesh is alerted)
All local mesh hacking is carried out in augmented reality.
Hacking unattended devices
Unattended devices have a rating and a Firewall stat according to their type (Firewall is dice type / 2):
- Low-end consumer: d4 / 2
- High-end consumer: d6 / 3
- Security spec: d8 / 4
- Milspec: d10+ / 5+ (unusual for these to be unattended)
The decker does not need to gain any sort of access before issuing hacking commands; common tasks such as opening a maglock or looping a camera feed is a single action and a single (Hacking) roll.
Hacking commlinks and PANs
Civilian commlinks have ratings and Firewall as follows (Firewall is 1 + dice type / 2):
- Low-end consumer: d4 / 3
- High-end consumer: d6 / 4
- Elite consumer: d8 / 5
To manipulate devices attached to a PAN, first the decker must hack into the commlink that is running the PAN. Once there, the decker can manipulate devices on the PAN (eg snoop on phone calls, read files stored on the commlink, or trace the device’s precise physical location). Each of those is an action and a further Hacking roll against the PAN’s Firewall (note: not the device’s Firewall), same as Sprawlrunners RAW.
Any failed hacking roll against a PAN immediately makes the owner aware of the intrusion attempt; they will typically react by rebooting or shutting down their devices, unless they are distracted or have some reason to think they are not under attack.
Hacking cyberdecks and secure-PANs
Secure-PANs, guarded over by a watchful decker, cannot be hacked via stealth. Any would-be attacker has to engage them in active cybercombat. Cybercombat does not contribute to the local mesh alarm score.
Hacking Hosts and WANs
A WAN can only be hacked by entering the host or node that controls it, in VR, and avoiding or defeating the ICE within. See Sprawlrunners for rules. Once a decker has gained access to the host or node that is running the WAN, they can issue commands to the devices connected to the WAN.
If a decker can get physical access to debug ports on a device, they can get easier access to hack it. They take +2 on the Sleaze roll.
This can be used when hacking standalone devices or PANs but it becomes particularly potent when hacking hosts. The bonus applies if the decker can access any device in the host’s WAN, as well as any ports that are part of the host infrastructure itself.
To hack a host through a WAN device, this usually requires a roll of the lower of Electronics and Repair to open up the device and hook up the necessary connections. If the decker succeeds, they take +2 on all actions in the connected host node.
Host sysadmins are aware of this weakness, and do not usually put external devices like cameras or maglocks onto WANs for that reason. Security WANs tend to be reserved for more serious defences that are harder to get near, like turrets or security guard’s weapons.
6.2.3 - Cybercombat
The rules in hacking cover stealthy intrusion techniques so a decker can discreetly manipulate devices for their own ends. But if you want to take something offline right fraggin' now, what you need is cybercombat.
Basics of cybercombat
- Attacker must have the Fighting utility loaded (or roll to improvise a replacement, as usual.)
- Roll Hacking skill against the defender’s Parry value, calculated as:
- Cyberdeck with Fighting utility: (1/2 the user’s Hacking skill) + 2.
- Cyberdeck without Fighting utility: 2
- Commlink or standalone device: 2
- ICE: (1/2 the host rating) + 2
- Do base damage of 1d4 + Hacking skill. +1d6 if the attack roll had a Raise.
- Compare attack damage to target Firewall, calculated as:
- Cyberdeck - intrinsic stat depending on ‘deck rating
- Commlink or standalone device: (1/2 the device rating)
- ICE: (1/2 the host rating)
Calculate Shaken and Wounds as usual.
As per Sprawlrunners core. Shaken applies to the decker using the ‘deck. Cyberdecks have three Wounds; if all Wounds are taken, the decker must resist dumpshock.
Commlinks and other devices
A commlink or other device that is Shaken is put into a crashed state. Starting on the next turn, it can attempt to restart itself (on the owner’s turn, but not costing the owner an action) by making an unshake roll using the device’s rating die type. Until it does so, it is offline, cannot function, and cannot be targeted for further Matrix attacks. The owner/controller of a Shaken device can choose to immediately restart it as an action without needing to pass any test.
If the device takes a Wound (via a raise on the attack roll) then they are bricked. They do not function again until repaired.
If the commlink that is running a PAN is Shaken, every device on the PAN is Shaken (and hence unusable) with it, until the commlink comes back. If it is crashed, every device on the PAN is Shaken. They can roll to unshake as usual (just roll once for all of them), but will come back as standalone devices, without the protection of the PAN.
Consequences of crashing things
Smartweapons and similar gear that are Shaken can still be fired, as they have manual fallback controls, but they lose any bonuses they normally get from their electronics eg. smartgun bonuses. Note that it might be more effective for offensive deckers to use a DoS attack instead.
Similarly, if you disrupt the Matrix component of a vehicle, then the autopilot and navigation is disrupted, but the occupants can still use manual controls to drive it. If they don’t, then a backup failsafe will attempt to bring it to a safe halt.
6.2.4 - Combat decking
The rise of wireless hacking has made the decker much more useful and powerful on the modern battlefield. Deckers are now key parts of combat squads, performing counter-hacking, defening against attacking deckers, hiding their team from sight on the Matrix, and running denial-of-service attacks against opposing forces.
A decker facing an opponent using wirelessly connected devices can distract them by interfering with the systems using a special form of the Test action (see SWADE pg 108), called a DoS attack. The decker makes a Hacking roll opposed by the target’s Smarts trait. The following modifiers apply:
- If the target has a few items of cyberware and/or wireless gear: no modifier.
- If they have lots of gear, extensive cyberware, or both: +1 to the decker’s roll
- If the target is a drone or vehicle working on autopilot: +2 to the decker’s roll
- If the target’s gear is protected by a PAN and the decker hasn’t hacked the PAN: -2 to the decker’s roll
- If the target’s gear is protected by a secure PAN: -4 to the decker’s roll
- If the target’s geat is protected by a WAN that the decker hasn’t hacked: -4 to the decker’s roll
On a success, the decker can inflict either Distracted or Vulnerable on the target, as they prefer. On a Raise, they can also inflict Shaken.
As a general rule, you cannot hide on the matrix. Any smart devices - and this includes many items of gear and most items of cyberware - inherently rely on the matrix to work at all, and so anyone glancing in your direction will see the corresponding icons.
There is an exception, however. A decker or rigger running an s-PAN from their ‘deck can ‘hide’ it by minimising traffic and disguising the devices within it as innocuous ones.
The ‘deck must be running the Stealth utility. Hiding an s-PAN is also an active, ongoing action that requires quite a bit of attention from the decker or rigger at all times; about half their time, out of combat, and one action per turn, in combat.
To attempt a successful sneak, roll Hacking (Stealth) against a target number of 4 (if no-one is actively looking for the s-PAN) or opposed by Smarts (if people are hunting for it.) This test will need to be repeated
While an s-PAN is in hidden mode, all traffic between devices is cut to the bone. It can only be used for voice and text comms; streaming video is capped to low-resolution, riggers cannot Jump In, and most electronic items are only semi-functional (eg. no smartlink or tacnet bonuses.)
If combat starts and the s-PAN is still in stealth mode, the decker or rigger can drop the stealth as a free action.
A tacnet is a realtime augmented reality overlay used by all members of a team to co-ordinate their actions and share tactical data. Tacnets were created for us by elite corp special-ops teams, but have been co-opted by shadowrunners and other criminals (at least, those who can afford them.)
Tacnets can only be run by a decker using a cyberdeck. They require an s-PAN, and they require the hosting cyberdeck to be running the Tacnet utility.
Game effects of tacnets
Tacnets extent the Command Range for all Leadership edges to include everyone using it (see SWADE pg 44).
If anyone on the tacnet has a Battle skill of d8 or more, the tacnet itself also gains a Bennie pool with 1 Bennie in it. This can be spent by anyone attached to the tacnet if they have no Bennies of their own left (ie the shared pool is used last.) It refreshes at the same time as other player pools, and receives a bonus Bennie if any user of the tacnet draws a Joker action card.
All of these benefits are lost if the s-PAN is crashed. This makes s-PANs a priority target for Matrix attack during combat - and the deckers priority targets for physical attack.
When the NPCs are using a tacnet, they get an extra Bennie to spend. If the PCs can crash it, the GM loses two Bennies immediately.
Maintaining access to a hacked node from AR
Suppose a decker has hacked into a building facility’s security node in VR and now wish to move with the team while maintaining that access.
They can do so via a new utility called KeepAlive. This allows the decker to switch to AR while keeping their matrix presence active. They can carry out actions against whichever node they are in as if they were still in VR, although they cannot move to other nodes without logging back in.
The decker has to keep KeepAlive in their deck’s memory to maintain the access. In addition, while running KeepAlive, the decker cannot act promptly to defend themselves; all ICE take +2 on all rolls against the decker.
6.2.5 - Alarms
Alarms are a game mechanic that simulate how aware the authorities are that there is an intruder, and how close they are to finding them.
Within a host, alarms capture the alert level of both the host’s autonomous defenses (ie. ICE) as well as any metahuman sysops. On the local mesh, they measure the alert level of the mesh itself, and local GOD agents guarding the nearest uplink node.
The alarm clock
There are separate alarm clocks for each host and for different parts of the local mesh. These clocks are typically 12-segment.
Alarms typically increment by 1 point for each successful hack (0 with a raise) and 2 points for each failed hack.
If a Raise on the hacking roll can be used to make the hack more effective, then the decker can choose to use the Raise to avoid the alarm increment or improve the hack effectiveness, but not both.
Each time the alarm score is incremented, roll a d12. If the result is lower than or equal to the current alarm score, consult the table below to see what happens.
- 1-3 - no effect
- 4-8 - autonomous tracing persona start to patrol, running on the nearest uplink node. Treat these as Trace ICE.
- 9-11 - Killer ICE is deployed.
- 12 - a GOD counter-hacker with at least a d8 in Hacking and a mid-to-high-end ‘deck comes to kick ass and take names.
NotesTBD, but depends on the host’s overall security level.
Reducing the local mesh alarm score
Deckers can use a new utility called Spoof to dodge the effects of a high local mesh alarm score. Spoof works by routing all the decker’s traffic through a nearby device, setting it up to look like the culprit when the authorities notice.
The decker has to have had Spoof loaded before the first hack begun, and kept it loaded throughout. When Spoof is unloaded, the local mesh alarm value immediately halves (rounded down).
Spoof doesn’t help with host hacking.
6.3 - Comparing these houserules to Shadowrun 5e/6e
These rules attempt to simplify the Shadowrun 5e Matrix rules by removing a number of options. For quick reference, some of the changes I have made include:
- Streamline and merge the “AR / VR” and “in host / on grid” distinctions. Now, being “in” a host means always being in VR, and if you’re not in a host then you are in AR.
- Split the Matrix into two parts; a localised, short-range, wireless mesh network and a global, wired network. Hacking is only viable on the former; the latter is ruthlessly protected by GOD agents. Thus, deckers need to be fairly close to their targets, so they can reach them via the local mesh.
- Mostly remove the concepts of personas and their associated magic unhackable digital ownership.
- Introduce a hard line between regular PANs (hosted on a commlink) and secure PANs (hosted on a cyberdeck or drone deck.)
Hacking & cybercombat
- Distill all primary decker offensive actions to three kinds: hacking (stealthy, grants access to manipulate devices), cybercombat (overt, violent, crashes devices), and disruptive quickhacks (disrupts traffic to/from a device or PAN to impose penalties on people using it.)
- If a device is in a PAN or WAN, it cannot be hacked directly; the attacker must hack the PAN or WAN instead (this is in Shadowrun 6e, to be fair.)
- If a device is in a WAN, and the decker can get physical access to its internal debug ports, they can compromise it and get a big bonus to hacking the WAN host through it. Hence corps rarely put easily-accessed external devices like maglocks and cameras on WANs; instead, WANs are reserved for stuff like security guard gear and internal turrets and sensors.
- Secure PANs annot be hacked; they must be crashed in cybercombat.
- Via a program on their cyberdeck, hackers who have infiltrated a host (in VR) can switch to AR (to move with the team) but maintain a connection to the host and still send hacking commands to devices attached to it. However, the persona they leave running in the host is more vulnerable to ICE.
Wireless off / running silent / Matrix stealth
- Wireless devices are always visible on the Matrix - no running silent, and devices connected to PANs or WANs don’t disappear from view on the local mesh.
- s-PANs (and only s-PANs) can be configured to hide themselves on the Matrix; they minimise traffic between their devices, cutting back to just text/voice comms. All devices are otherwise inactive and no game mechanical bonuses can be derived from them as long as the s-PAN stays in stealth mode. This is an active process that must be maintained by the decker/rigger running the s-PAN.
7 - Riggers / Jockeys
7.1 - Drone decks
Basic idea: similar to cyberdecks, but cheaper. Several tiers with different LP costs. Each tier can load a different number of modules.
- Extended s-PAN range for drones only: 1km -> 10km
- Stealth: can hide s-PAN
- Drone hacking: as Persuasion utility, but only works against drones
- Firewall: adds cyberspace parry as per Fighting utility (2 + 1/2 Hacking)
- Pilot: add wild die to drone piloting rolls
- Gunnery: adds wild die to drone ranged attacks
7.2 - Vehicle mods
Per Sprawlrunners RAW, anyone can purchase an untraceable vehicle with LP; riggers get no special abilities to tune their vehicles. This aims to address that by giving riggers access to a workshop (via new edges ) that can be used to boost vehicle stats or outfit them with add-ons.
Spending Mod Points
All the below cost 1 point each. They can be applied multiples times, but each subsequent application costs +1 mod points. For example, to add +3 to a vehicle’s handling would cost (1+2+3)=6 points.
- Increase handling - add 1 to the vehicles handling stat.
- Increase speed - add 20% to vehicle top speed.
- Add armour - add 1 point of armour.
You can also add vehicle accessories. Some of these don’t fit on all vehicles eg. you can’t put a medium turret on a motorbike or a medium drone rack on a single-seat commuter car.
- 1 point - gas sealing - ability to hermetically seal the vehicle. Has a small reserve air supply, typically good for 10-15 minutes.
- 1 point - small drone rack - sufficient to launch/land a surveillance or recon drone.
- 2 points - medium drone rack - sufficient to launch/land a hunter drone.
- 1 point - smuggling compartment - hidden from sight and shielded from scanning. In most vehicles, big enough to hold a couple of rifles.
- 1 point - off-grid modifications - extra fuel tanks / batteries, dual-fuel systems, off-road tyres, and other mods to enable use for extended periods in the wilderness.
- 2 points - Valkyrie system - a full smart medbay built into a folding gurney mounted in the vehicle’s trunk, with facilities to provide first aid and stabilise badly wounded people. Needs to be the size of a large car or larger.
- 2 points - small retractable turret - up to SMG sized weapon (comes with the weapon).
- 3 points - medium retractable turret - up to assault rifle sized weapon (comes with the weapon).
Other mods available by negotiation ;)
8 - Gear
8.1 - Weapons
These are intrinsic to the weapon when it is purchased. Below are some houseruled additions to the standard ones list in Sprawlrunners (pg 56):
- Revolver: reduced shots (already reflected in statline). If it is a smartgun, character can load different ammo types in different cylinders, and choose which cylinders to fire for each attack via a mental command as a free action. Plus swinging the gate open to dump spent brass is extremely cool.
- Heavy calibre: applies +1 AP, requires 1 more die type in Str. Costs +1LP.
- Extended mag: +33% shots, +1LP, +2 to Notice due to the weapon’s awkward, bulky shape.
- Smartgun (houserule version): subtracts 2 points of penalties from a Shooting role or adds 1 to the roll. (+1LP to weapon cost)
- Imposing - oversized; bulky; threatening.
- Blinged - made of mirror-polished chrome; colour-changing smartpaint; public AR broadcast of a killcount holo.
- Sleek - matte black; no protrusions; militaristic and efficient.
- Tacticool - thinks it is sleek but is actually covered in superfluous grips, accessory ports, flashlights, and other junk only valued by poseurs.
- Sci-fi - weird shapes; modern smart materials; sculpted to look bio-organic; covered in neon lights.
- Double-barrelled - has two barrels (shock).
|Ares Lightfire 70||—||—||Sleek|
|Streetline Special||shots: 7, -4 Notice||2 LP||Compact Frame|
|Walther Palm Pistol||shots: 2, -4 Notice||2 LP||Double-barrelled, Compact Frame. Can fire both barrels for +1 damage.|
|Colt America L36||—||—||—|
|Beretta 201T||RoF:2||3 LP||Machine pistol|
|Ares Lightfire 75||—||4 LP||Silencer, internal smartlink, sleek|
|Fichetti Security 600||shots:20, +2 Notice||4 LP||Extended mag, laser sight|
|Ares Predator||—||4LP||Integrated smartlink, imposing|
|Browning Ultra-Power||—||4LP||Laser sight, sleek|
|Ruger Super Warhawk||shots:6, AP2, minStr:d6||4LP||Revolver, heavy calibre, extremely imposing|
|Colt Government 2066||—||—||—|
|Fichette Tiffani Needler||shots:4||4LP||Compact Frame|
|Remington Roomsweeper (slug)||damage:2d8||4LP||Reinforced Frame|
8.2 - SINs and licences
In a society defined by the haves and the have-nots, the sharpest line between them is the possession of a System Identification Number or SIN. A combination of citizenship, a passport, voting rights, and taxation obligations, it gives you the ability to live and work legally. To be SINless is to fall outside the system on almost every measure - no support, no right to employment or vote, unable to use public facilities or transit, turned away from shops and restaurants.
What a SIN is
SINs are issued by a wide variety of governmental and extra-territorial corporate entities. They can be granted by birth or by a similar process to obtaining citizenship. Sometimes, corps grant them to particularly desirable hires. Often, corps use the threat of revoking someone’s SIN to keep their workers in line.
Physically, a SIN is merely a string of alphanumeric characters. The only human-readable part of it is a prefix code indicating the issuing entity - country or corp - who owns and controls the SIN. What counts isn’t so much the SIN itself as the data associated with it in various online hosts and datafiles.
SINs are the de facto unique identifier in the Sixth World. They are tracked everywhere, both in person and in the Matrix. Every interaction and transaction you have can be tied to your SIN and tracked in some database - and almost all of them will be. Hence every SIN has, trailing behind it, vast wakes of data, scattered across innumerable databases.
Those who don’t have a SIN - the SINless - are condemned to a life of misery. They are locked out of legal employment, of all banking, of reasonable healthcare. They cannot vote and they have no social safety net; even their basic civil rights are reduced. They face a lifetime of grinding for low cash-only wages and paying shady landlords high rent for shitty apartments, and praying that when they get sick there’s room at the charity hospital for them.
Matrix protocols have a special sidechannel for SIN broadcasts, beamed out at all times from your commlink. These broadcasts are not quite legally required, but in any lower-middle-class or better area, not having an active broadcast is a screaming red flag that will definitely attract attention. (Note that in very rough parts of town, the kind where police only travel in entire squads or not at all, broadcasting a SIN becomes a mark that you are easy prey. Choose wisely.)
SINs can’t separate the privileged from the scum unless there’s a way to know which is which.
Simple ID checks
Every SIN issuer makes available a listing of basic personal information associated with the holder of the SIN: name, date of birth, metahuman race and ethnicity, home address, stuff like that. If you attract the attention of a beat cop on the street, you can expect them to pull this up; and if your SIN is fake and the details don’t match you, well, you’re in trouble now.
Unfortunately for the police (but luckily for our plucky criminals), the SIN database infrastructure is run by for-profit corps, so carrying out a check like this costs a fraction of a nuyen. So penny-pinching corps like Lone Star and Knight Errant put their cops on quotas, preventing the authorities from just checking everyone they see.
If someone wants to go a bit further in verifying your SIN, the next step is to validate that the datastream attached to it looks legitimate. SINs are tracked everywhere, and that tracking information ends up in numerous databases owned by data brokers; these brokers' main line of business is selling access to the data to advertisers so they can track your every desire. But a lucrative sideline for them is running pseudo-AIs over each SIN’s profile to see how real it looks. This often catches out fake SINs, as generating a detailed, realistic, long-term history for a fake SIN is a lot of work.
This is the most secure form of check; gather one or more biometics from the person in question (finger print, retina scan, even a DNA swab) and compare them to the biometrics stored on file for the SIN.
Just one problem: jurisdictions. SIN issuers do not make these biometric files readily available to anyone who asks, because the corps do not trust anyone with that data. Outside of investigations of very serious crime (eg. terrorism), most of the time, the only entity that can check biometrics is the corp or nation-state that issued the SIN.
The ins and outs of fake SINs
Every ‘runner has a fake SIN (or perhaps set of fake SINs) that they live their day-to-day lives under: buying groceries, paying rent, running their GridGuide subscription, that sort of thing. They don’t use this for criminal work, because it would make them far too easy to track down. There is no overhead associated with this, it’s absorbed in day-to-day living costs.
Although they last a long time, these fake SINs aren’t particularly good, and can’t pass a lot of inspection. Most people interacting with it – like ‘runner’s landlords – most likely know it’s fake, but aren’t the kind of people who are looking too closely. This is one reason ‘runners tend to live in the less gentrified neighbourhoods.
Where necessary, ‘runners can buy extra fake SINs for a job (1 LP for a SIN, 0.25 LP per type for a licence - civilian or security firearms, magic, cyberdecks, security-spec vehicles or gear. Milspec gear like APDS or Ex-Ex ammo, heavy weapons, very heavy armour cannot be licensed this way.)
A fake SIN will pass simple ID checks from a beat cop on the street automatically. The fake datastream associated with the SIN might stand up to a consistency check, should the ‘runner try anything that might provoke one; for example, infiltrating a secure area through the front door via a fake identity. In game terms: roll a Notice check for whoever is inspecting the SIN to see if they spot any weirdness in the analysis results. This might be a +/- 1, depending on the resources of the corp doing the check.
Gear licences for these SINs are “open carry”, in the sense that the presence of the licence is automatically broadcast alongside the SIN. This can (obviously) attract attention, and often does.
Fake SINs are inserted into tracking databases via hacks that are quickly discovered and deleted. They are typically only useful for a week or so.
High quality fake SINs
If you’re really up to something nefarious, you can purchase a high-end fake SIN - 4 LP for the SIN, 1 LP per licence.
These are far better quality, with skilled counterfeiters creating near-impeccable fake histories spanning multiple databases. They pass all simple ID checks and consistency checks automatically. They might, or might not, pass a biometric test run against the SIN database of whoever ostensibly issued the fake. In game terms, this is a Notice check by the host/system running the scan - typically a d6-d10 rating.
Licences on high quality fake SINs can be open carry, or if the purchaser prefers, “concealed carry” – meaning the SIN broadcast does not tag the person as carrying concealed weaponry. They are still licensed, however, and get to be extra rude and snooty to any beat cops who notice their gun, stop them assuming they are unlicensed, then discover they are (seemingly) VIPs.
High quality fake SINs are still deleted after ~1 week, though, just like low-quality ones.
FAQs about SINs
Why can’t the cops look up my DNA/fingerprints/etc that I left at the crime scene?
Although many SIN issuers do gather and store a biometric profile, they don’t make this information available to the authorities (except, rarely, in the case of high-profile crimes like terrorism.)
What about criminal SINs?
9 - Quick reference material
9.1 - Combat
- Initiative is determined by card draw. Some Edges let you manipulate this.
- On your go, you can perform a few free actions and one normal action. Multiple free actions can be combined only if they can reasonably be done at the same time in real life, eg. speaking a sentence and drawing a gun while dropping prone.
- If you are shaken, you first attempt to unshake as a free action.
- Free actions:
- Move up to your Pace stat (without penalty). (NB: -1 to Pace stat per Wound taken.)
- Run up to your Pace stat + Running die (at -2 penalty to all other actions during this turn)
- Speak a couple of sentences
- Drop prone
- Drop an item
- Ready up to two weapons or other items, as long as they are not in awkward positions eg. ankle holsters.
- Normal actions:
- Aiming (special rules apply; see SWADE pg 97)
- Supporting allies
- Testing foes
- Using a power
- Can do multi actions: more than one action on your turn.
- If you do two actions: take -2 to both.
- If you do three actions: take -4 to all three.
- Some Edges and cyberware modify these penalties.
- Attacker rolls Shooting skill vs target number 4 (for ranged combat) or defender’s Parry score (for melee combat).
- Roll damage for the weapon type. Ranged weapons are fixed; armed melee are weapon + Strength state; unarmed is just Strength (some Edges increase that).
- If damage < target Toughness, nothing happens.
- If damage >= Toughness, stuff happens. (Full rules: SWAGE pg 94.) 5. Target wasn’t Shaken: they become Shaken. They also take an additional Wound for each Raise. 6. Target was already Shaken: they take a Wound. The first Raise does nothing. Second and subsequent Raises each do a further Wound.
- Target can spend a Benny to Soak damage. Roll Vigor; each Success and Raise reduces damage by one Wound. If they soak all Wounds, they also remove Shaken.
Common ranged combat situational modifiers
- Range: -2 at Medium; -4 at Long; -8 at Extreme. Aim action is mandatory at Extreme.
- Light level: -2 (dim) / -4 (dark; can only see 10" distance) / -6 (pitch darkness / target invisible or totally concealed). Can be countered by vision augmentation.
- Recoil: -2 if shooting multiple rounds in one attack. Reduced by gas-vent or some other gun mods.
- Called shots: -2 for limbs, -4 for hand/vitals/head. Can be used to shoot around armour. Vitals/head shots do +4 damage. Hand shots can disarm.
- Injured: -1 for each Wound you have taken.
- Scale: from -6 to +10 when attacking objects of different sizes.
- Small drones are -2.
- All metahumans are 0.
- Most vehicles are +2.
- Cover: -2 / -4 / -6 / -8 depending on how much cover there is.
- If the cover makes the difference between the shot hitting and missing, and the cover material could be shot through, then the cover acts as armour instead, rated between +2 and +10.
- Aiming: an Aim action before shooting allows attacker to ignore 4 points of penalties due to range / cover / called shots / scale / speed.
- “The Drop”: if the defender is totally unaware of an incoming attack, the attacker gets +4 to attack and +4 damage.
- If Shaken or worse from The Drop, character must pass a Vigor or be knocked out. If the attacker calls a shot to the head, this Vigor check is at -2.
- Ganging up: when melee attackers outnumber the attacked characters, they all get +1 to their attack rolls for each additional person they have on their side. Eg. if three people attack one, the three are all at +2.
Armour: armour adds its value to the character’s Toughness stat, and therefore effects what damage roll is needed to inflict Shaken or Wounds. Toughness is written as eg. 11 (2), meaning they have 11 total toughness and 2 of those 11 points come from worn armour.
Some weapons are armour piercing: they remove the value of their AP stat from the defender’s armour value before the damage effect is calculated.
Mixing ranged and melee
- Firing into melee: on a normal shot, each skill dice that rolls a 1 hits the wrong target. If using a shotgun or firing more than 1 bullet, becomes a 1 or a 2.
- Using a ranged weapon in melee: nothing larger than a pistol. Target number for test is the defender’s Parry stat. If you fire against anyone other than the person you’re in melee with, you become Vulnerable.
Slow attacks and evasion
- Evasion: if the attacked character is aware of the attack and it is an attack type that can be evaded, they can take an Agility check at -2; if they pass, they take no damage.
These are caused by various things happening to you.
- Shaken: can only take free actions until you pass a Spirit check or spend a Bennie to cancel the Shaken status.
- Distracted: take -2 on all Trait rolls until the end of the next turn.
- Vulnerable: All actions and attacks against you take +2 until the end of the next turn.
Shotguns firing shot give attackers +2 to hit. They do 3d6 damage at Short range, 2d6 at Medium range, 1d6 at Long range.
Shotguns firing slugs do 2d10 damage at all ranges. You don’t get the +2 bonus to hit.
Each gun has a rate of fire (RoF) stat. If this is greater than 1, it can fire more than a single shot in each attack. With most guns (but not all), this is optional, and you can fire at a lower RoF if you want.
- Declare how many shots you are going to take and who you are targeting.
- Roll one Shooting dice per shot taken, plus one Wild die.
- Assign the dice to targets however you want. Any single Shooting die can be replaced by the Wild die roll, if you want.
- Resolve each damage rolls separately.
Note that full-auto attacks take a -2 recoil penalty to all Shooting rolls (listed under situational modifiers above.) This penalty can be reduced by Edges and gun modifications.
If a gun description notes it can fire Three-Round Bursts (or it has been modified to add that ability), then that counts as a RoF of 1 (so incurs no penalty to attack), but it adds +1 to Shooting and damage rolls. This can only be done against a single opponent.
Declare how you are helping, what skill of yours this is using, and what skill roll you are supporting. Roll a test using the skill as usual.
On a success, the person you are helping takes +1 on their next action using the skill you declared. Get another +1 per Raise. But if you critically fail, they take -2!
If they don’t use their bonuses before the end of the round, they expire.
This is the opposite of supporting: it’s annoying an enemy in some way. Declare what you’re doing and a skill for it. Roll an opposed test of your skill vs. the opponents stat that is linked to the skill.
On a success, you can choose to inflict Distracted or Vulnerable.
Taunt is a good skill for this!
10 - Dice probabilities reference
The core dice mechanic in Savage Worlds is simple to explain, but not always easy to reason about: roll your attribute or skill dice (a d4, d6, d8, d10, or d12), plus your Wild Dice. Each dice explodes, ie. if you roll the maximum, you re-roll, and add on; repeat as needed. Once you’ve finished exploding each dice, take the highest of the two numbers.
Below are tables of the chances of hitting at least a given target number, for each type of attribute or skill dice.
For brevity, I have omitted “unskilled” (d4-2) and dice beyond d12, as well as any rolled total above 20.
NB you can generate the above tables using anydice.com and the following script:
output [highest of [explode 1d4] and [explode 1d6]] named "d4" output [highest of [explode 1d6] and [explode 1d6]] named "d6" output [highest of [explode 1d8] and [explode 1d6]] named "d8" output [highest of [explode 1d10] and [explode 1d6]] named "d10" output [highest of [explode 1d12] and [explode 1d6]] named "d12"