Updated: 1/1/16

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Character Generation Guidelines
What Runners Do

Character Generation Guidelines

Creating a character is done as per the rules found in Shadowrun, Third Edition. Make sure you have the latest printing of SR3 - if you do not, please contact the
GM. You may also click here to download a copy.

Note 1: Here is a sample Shadowrun character to assist in creating your own.
Note 2: All character generating data will be made available online once that section of the site gets completed.
Note 3: See the
House Rules for a complete listing of the rules that will be strictly enforced, those that will not and those that have been changed.

We will be using the standard system for generating characters. When creating a character, keep in mind that in Shadowrun it may not be in a player's best interest to create a highly specialized character. Also keep in mind that having a Hermetic Mage or Shaman on the team is a good idea.

Standard Gear is limited by what you can carry or store (if you end up having a place of your own or access to another chummer's squat) and how much money your character starts with. Weapons and high tech equipment will be strictly regulated and will require the GM's approval.

You'll want to create some kind of background story for your character. It doesn't have to be a novel, but you should be able to define what your character did before entering the shadows; how your character became a shadowrunner, what his/her motivations are and how he or she feels about things like wetwork, etc.

Players are strongly encouraged to carefully consider the contacts they choose and the false identities they purchase for their character. A few contacts are outlined in the Contacts section of this site. Contacts can be fleshed out by each Player or by the GM once they are established.

The rules for addiction to various substances are enforced, such as BTLs and drugs. Should your character use such substances and become addicted, they will suffer the consequences of the addictions negative qualities. That is the price for the thin line they have chosen to walk.

If you are pressed for time, you can certainly select one of the pregenerated sample characters found in the core rules or here for your first Shadowrun mission. If, after playing that character, you realize that you'd prefer to create your own, you may transfer the debriefing log to a new character of your own creation. This is a one time allowance for new players.

Tracking Your Character

After completing each scenario, you will receive a Mission Debriefing Log which will show the progress of your character and any special items, abilities, contacts, or other things which your character may have garnered during the scenario. Keep these logs with your character as a reference and to see how he or she has progressed and what your character has done in the past.

You will also want to track your character's adventure history and down time activity on a Shadowrun Missions Calendar. Tracking adventures and down time activities becomes critical for keeping track of when monthly lifestyle expenses are due.

The gamemaster may review your character prior to running the next mission. You may be asked to not use a certain item, ability, or skill during the scenario - not because it is not "legal", but because the GM may not feel comfortable with the item or may need you to play along in order to advance the storyline.

Advancing Your Character

Characters advance by spending earned Karma as normal. Skills and Attributes may be raised normally in accordance with the basic rules. No official training is required, nor is any "time" spent - your character is assumed to have been training in the Skill or Attribute for some time, and only gains the new level of ability upon spending the required Karma. Spells can be purchased through various channels, or you may learn a spell from someone who already knows it, including other player characters! If you seek out an NPC magician, be prepared to pay the fees necessary for the instruction. You can certainly attempt to discover or develop the spell yourself. Keep in mind that this takes time which will need to be recorded on your calendar and will incur lifestyle costs.

Equipment that has a Legality Code of Legal may be freely purchased between scenarios - it is assumed that you have worked up a temporary ID sufficient to pass the low level scanners at various markets, or have gotten them through fixers or other grey market channels. Note that anything that has an Availability Rating of greater than 4 or 24 hours may incur lifestyle costs to reflect the time needed to "grease the wheels". Any equipment which is illegal will require interaction with an NPC Fixer to determine actual availability and time required to attain the item or service in question.

What Runners Do

Shadowrunners commit crimes, usually for money. When a corporation or other sponsor needs someone to do their dirty work, they look to the shadows. As “deniable assets,” runners make advantageous—and expendable—tools. Runners usually operate in teams. A team can be any combination of character types, depending on what the players want to do. The team should have a plausible reason for working together, such as being old friends or cellmates, having the same interests, or even being forced together by circumstance.

Different teams will have different capabilities, and the gamemaster should plan accordingly. For example, one team may excel at breaking and entering, while another might be a squad of bruisers who work best as hired muscle. Runners have contacts, who represent other potentially useful people they know. Some of these will be other underworld types, like a gang member or a hit man. Others may be ordinary people, useful for information or for “special arrangements” - for example, the corporate secretary who lets you know when the wiz research scientist you’re supposed to kidnap will be leaving the building.

The most important contact for shadowrunners is the fixer. A fixer acts as a middleman and can usually help the runners find gear, other contacts or work—all for a fee, of course. A corporation or other employer that needs shadowrunners sends someone to a fixer to ask for recommendations. If a team of runners has a good reputation and meets the job requirements, a meeting is arranged to discuss details and haggle over payment.

Because such matters are highly sensitive, anonymity is par for the course, and employers of this type are known simply as “Mr. Johnson.” Mr. Johnson may not always be a corporate representative.

The world of Shadowrun is rich and complex, with many people and groups who may need to hire runners to accomplish certain goals. A criminal syndicate may hire runners to strike at rivals, a mage may hire them to acquire certain rare materials for magic use, or Joe Neighbor may need to find the terrorists who kidnapped his wife. Regardless of the sponsor, if a job involves doing something dangerous and potentially illegal, it’s a shadowrun.

Shadowrunner teams may even take the initiative, doing jobs of their own accord. For example, a player character may have a grudge against a certain megacorp, or perhaps he doesn’t like how a certain gang treats people in his neighborhood, or she may decide it’s time to get her criminal record erased.

Runners accomplish their tasks by working the streets for information, calling in favors and markers from friends and contacts in the shadows. They take whatever action their job requires: surveillance, theft, breaking and entering, even murder.

Runners do these things because they are survivors. Many of them grew up committing crimes to get by, or perhaps they obtained special training somewhere and want to put it to use. Some may have extended families to feed and no other source of income. Many of them prefer the freedom of the shadowlife, controlling their own destinies as opposed to being a wage slave in some drab corporate business park kissing corporate hoop all day. Others enjoy the thrill of running, thriving on its risks. Finally, some are inspired to run by a sense of social justice; they want to damage the powers-that-be however they can while providing for the underclass. These runners are known as “’hooders” for their Robin Hood outlook.
Shadowrun is filled with adventure, danger and risk, and characters usually end up in the middle of it all. You determine what your character does in a situation and how well she does it by making a test—rolling dice and determining the outcome by how well or poorly you rolled. There are many situations in which the gamemaster will ask you to make a test to determine how well you perform, be it bypassing an alarm system, shooting an assassin, or persuading a security guard that one’s presence in the corporate facility is legitimate.
Shadowrun uses a number of six-sided dice to resolve any challenge for a character. The gamemaster will not require a test to find out if a character can open the door, but will probably ask the player to roll dice to see if his character can somersault through the glass sunroof, land on his feet, and smack the detonating switch out of the terrorist’s hands - all without splattering himself on the floor or setting off the bomb.

The gamemaster will provide the player with a target number against which he will make the dice roll. The player rolls the indicated number of dice and then compares each die result individually to the target number. Unlike most games, the results of the dice rolled are NOT added together. Each individual die that scores equal to or greater than the target number is considered a success. The more dice that score successes, the better the result.

[Nik is rolling four dice against a Target Number 4. The four dice come up as a 2, 3, 4, and 6. The 4 and the 6 equal or exceed the target number, which gives Nik 2 successes.]

Target Numbers

The gamemaster determines the target number necessary for success in a test. The Difficulty Number Table on p. 92 of the Skills section provides a list of target numbers based on the difficulty of the activity—4 for average tasks, 10 for nearly impossible tasks, and so on. In most cases, the rules specify a target number for specific skill uses. Circumstances and conditions (bad weather, stress, acting while moving, and so on) can change the target number.

No target number can be less than 2. If modifiers reduce the target number below 2, consider the target number a 2 for purposes of making tests.


The Shadowrun rules often call for a plus or minus modifier to a test. These modifiers can result from injuries and situational factors that affect what the character is trying to do.

Unless otherwise stated, that modifier is applied to the target number. Thus, a –3 modifier to a Target Number 5 produces a modified target number of 5 – 3, or 2.

If the rules call for +2 dice or –1 dice, the player adds or subtracts that number of dice from the dice for the test. Thus, a shaman who has +2 dice for summoning certain nature spirits adds 2 more dice to the usual number he can roll for that test.

Rule of One

Any time a die roll result comes up 1 in a test, that die is an automatic failure, no matter what the target number. But the test can still succeed as long as other dice succeed.

If ALL the dice rolled for a test come up 1s, it means that the character has made a disastrous mistake. The result may be humorous, embarrassing, or deadly. The gamemaster determines whatever tone is appropriate for the situation, the players, and the dramatic or humorous needs of the moment. Individual rules may also have particular results when the Rule of One is applied.

Rule of Six

The Rule of Six allows tests to succeed against target numbers greater than 6 (since a die only has six sides, it’s probably a good thing this rule exists). When making a test against a target number greater than 6, the player may re-roll any dice that comes up a 6 and then add the new result to the 6. Say, for example, that one die result is a 6 in a roll against a target number greater than 6. The player re-rolls the 6, with a result of 5. Adding the two together, the new die roll result is 11 (6 + 5). The player can re-roll additional 6s if the current die result total is still less than the target number. For example, to beat a target number of 14 (really hard) the player would have to roll a 6, then re-roll for another 6, and then re-roll for a 2 or better (6 + 6 + 2 = 14).

Remember, though, it does not matter by how much the individual die roll beats the target number, just that it does. Once the target number has been equaled or exceeded, stop rolling.

The Rule of Six does not apply to Initiative Tests.
There are four types of tests common to Shadowrun, each with their own mechanics: Success Tests, Opposed Tests, Success Contests and Open Tests.

Success Tests

A Success Test is the standard test to see if a character can accomplish a given task, and how well. The number of dice used is equal to the appropriate Attribute or skill rating (see below) of the character who must make the test. In other words, that rating indicates how many six-sided dice to roll for the test. For example, to make a Firearms Test, check the character’s Firearm Skill Rating and roll that number of six-sided dice for the test. For a Willpower Test, use the character’s Willpower Rating to determine the number of dice to roll.

The rules give the target number for many tests. For others, the gamemaster determines what is appropriate. Each die result that equals or exceeds the target number is a success. A single success indicates that the character has accomplished the task, but the more successes rolled, the better. In most situations, multiple successes mean that the character will receive more information, or do more damage, or make that bank shot off the troll’s head and into the side-corner pocket look so easy a child could do it.

In Shadowrun products, this standard Success Test is often written in an abbreviated form, such as Willpower (5) Test, which is really just a shorthand way of saying “make a Willpower Test using a Target Number 5.”

Opposed Tests

An Opposed Test occurs when two characters are in direct conflict with one another. In this case, the chance of success is not based so much on the situation as the opponent. The rating being used by one character is pitted in direct opposition to the rating used by the other character. When making an Opposed Test, both characters roll a number of dice equal to the appropriate Attribute or skill rating, with a target number equal to the opponent’s Attribute or skill rating. Usually, the character generating the greater number of successes achieves her goal.

In the event of a tie, usually nothing happens.

[Max is holding the door shut while a security guard tries to push it open. Max has a Strength of 4, the guard a Strength of 5. Max rolls four dice against a Target Number 5 (the guard’s Strength) and gets a 5, 5, 6, 6 - four successes! The guard rolls five dice against a Target Number 4 (Max’s Strength) and gets 1, 2, 2, 5, 6 - only 2 successes! Miraculously, Max barely holds the door shut while his team escapes.]

Success Contest

A Success Contest is used when two characters come into conflict with one another, but when various other factors come into play. Usually, what this means is that instead of each character pitting a skill or Attribute directly against the opponent’s skill or Attribute, more than one skill or Attribute is used in the test. Basically, a Success Contest is two opposing Success Tests, with the character who achieves the greater number of successes achieving his or her goal. Unlike a standard Opposed Test, however, characters involved in a Success Contest often roll different Attributes or skill ratings, and their target numbers are not necessarily the Attribute or rating being used against them.

Because Success Contests can be broken down into two opposing Success Tests, they are often written in a similar abbreviated form.

In the event of a tie, usually nothing happens.

[Dodger is hacking his way onto a corporate mainframe. Dodger has Computer Skill of 8, and a Detection Factor of 8. The computer host has a Security Value of 4 and an Access Rating of 6. In order to gain access to the computer host, Dodger must win a Success Contest. Dodger is making a Computer (6) Test (his Computer Skill against the host’s Access Rating) to get in, while the host makes a Security (8) Test (Security Value against his Detection Factor) to keep him out. Dodger gets three successes, the computer gets one, and he is in!]

Open Tests

Unlike standard Success or Opposed Tests, in which players attempt to achieve set target numbers with their dice rolls, Open Tests have no target numbers. Instead, the result of the Open Test may serve as a target number for subsequent tests or generate other results.

When making an Open Test, a player rolls a number of dice equal to the skill rating or Attribute she is using for the test. The player then discards all but the highest single die result. The Rule of Six applies to Open Tests.

Sue rolls 5 dice on an Open Test. She scores 1, 3, 4, 6, 6. Rolling the two sixes again, she gets a 2 and a 6. Rerolling that last die again, she gets a 4. That gives her a result of 16 (6 + 6 + 4) for the highest die.
In most situations while playing Shadowrun, time need not be strictly kept track of as long as the gamemaster and players have a clear sense of continuity and the sequence of events. While it may often be necessary to keep track of time for specific periods within the game (for example, if the runners must meet with the Mafia don for a dinner, and he hates tardiness), time is generally best dealt with in a fluid and abstract manner.
In certain situations, such as combat or pursuit scenes, timing becomes critical. When this occurs, the Shadowrun game proceeds in turns. Each character acts in order, the fastest first, in a set sequence known as the Combat Turn. Each Combat Turn is roughly three seconds long. Based on how fast a character reacts— their Initiative—the character may take actions during one or more Initiative Passes (see Combat, p. 102). The point during each Initiative Pass when a specific character can act is known as a Combat Phase.
After determining who acts and in what order, the Combat Turn sequence is used to resolve all forms of combat, including hand-to-hand, ranged combat, firearms, magic, vehicle, critter or Matrix combat. Specific details about specific types of combat appear in the Magic, Vehicles and Drones, Spirits and Dragons and Matrix sections. All of their specific actions fit within the Combat Turn sequence.

The following combat rules apply to all player characters, non-player characters (NPCs) and critters alike unless otherwise noted.

All the various Dice Pools of all the characters involved refresh. Karma Pools refresh every 24 hours, or at the gamemaster’s discretion (see Karma Pool, p. 246).

Determine Initiative for all the characters, critters, spirits, intrusion countermeasures and anything else involved in the fight. The order of Initiative Scores from high to low determines the order in which the action will take place.

Characters involved in the combat now take their actions sequentially in the first Initiative Pass, starting with the character who has the highest Initiative Score. This character is the acting character. If more than one character has the same Initiative Score, see Initiative Ties, p. 102.

A. Declare Actions
The acting character declares his actions for the Combat Phase. He may make Free, Simple and Complex Actions, in any order. Any character can declare a Free Action even if this is not their Combat Phase, as long as they have already acted in the Combat Turn prior to this Combat Phase.

If a character has delayed an action and wishes to act during this Combat Phase, he must declare it at this point.

B. Resolve Actions
Resolve the actions of the acting character.

C. Declare and Resolve Actions of Remaining Characters
Move on to any other characters acting in that Combat Phase and repeat Step B for them in the proper order. Once all eligible characters have acted in that Combat Phase, move on to the Combat Phase of the character with the next highest Initiative Score and resolve the actions of that Combat Phase, starting with Step A above. Continue repeating steps A through C until the actions of all characters have been resolved for that Initiative Pass.

D. Calculate the Next Initiative Pass
Once all of the characters have acted and the all of the actions have been resolved for that Initiative Pass, the gamemaster subtracts 10 from each character’s Initiative Score and calculates the order for the next Initiative Pass. Step 3 is then repeated.

If a character’s Initiative Score is equal to or less than zero, the character takes no more actions for that Combat Turn. Gamemasters must remember to immediately apply to a character’s Initiative Score any Initiative modifiers from wound damage.

Begin a new Combat Turn, starting again at Step 1. Continue repeating steps 1 through 3 until the combat ends. Any unused dice in a character’s dice pools do not carry over to the next Combat Turn (except Karma Pool).
GM NOTE: There are other types of Dice Pools that are used for specific things, but will not be listed here.

The first step in the Combat Turn is for all dice pools to refresh. Characters can then draw from them during the Combat Turn. Dice drawn from the pool are no longer available, until the pool refreshes at the beginning of the next Combat Turn. Characters may use more than one die from a pool to augment a test, subject to the limitations of the dice pool in question. Each pool’s limitations are discussed in the Game Concepts section under Dice Pools (p. 43).

When using dice from a pool to augment a test, the player simply adds the pool dice to those normally used for the test. If a player would normally roll four dice for a test and takes three dice from the appropriate pool to augment the test, he rolls a total of seven dice. Pool dice should be a different color than the other dice used in the test.

Unused pool dice do not carry over from Combat Turn to Combat Turn. Dice remaining in the pool at the end of a Combat Turn are simply lost.
Players may allocate dice from the Combat Pool to any offensive or defensive combat-related tests. They may also use dice from the Combat Pool to dodge and help resist damage from normal attacks (see Dodge Test and Damage Resistance Tests, p. 113). The Combat Pool and its uses are discussed in detail on p. 43.
When a character’s Combat Phase arrives she must decide what she’s going to do. Multiple options are open to the acting character during his or her Combat Phase. An action is a character’s attempt to do something: fire a gun, cast a spell, activate a computer program and so on. Characters can carry out three types of actions during their Combat Phase: Free, Simple and Complex. A character can take either two Simple Actions or one Complex Action during their Combat Phase. In addition, each character may take one Free Action during anyone’s Combat Phase (including their own).

Note that the various actions possible in the Matrix and in vehicle combat are detailed in the Matrix section (see Actions, p. 224) and in the Vehicles and Drones section (see Vehicle Actions, p. 141).
When it is your character’s turn to act, you must declare the actions that he or she is going to perform during the Combat Phase. You may take Free, Simple and Complex Actions in any order during your Combat Phase. If there are multiple characters acting within one Combat Phase, the characters declare their actions in reverse order, moving from the one with the lowest beginning Initiative Score (or whatever is used to break an Initiative tie, see Initiative Ties, p. 102) to the character with the highest Initiative.

At this point, characters can declare their intention to delay their actions (see Delayed Actions, p. 103). If a character has decided to act from a previously delayed action, they also need to declare that they are intervening at this time. Free Actions must always be declared at the beginning of a Combat Phase.
In Shadowrun, Karma measures the experience characters gain when they go out on an adventure. They do not get Karma for doing the laundry, unless the laundromat is in an urban combat zone. Karma is used to improve Attributes, skills and special resources.

Karma is awarded at the end of an adventure, but not necessarily after a single playing session. The gamemaster decides who gets Karma and how much they receive. Every character in a group receives Karma for some things, but certain awards go only to individuals.

Each surviving member of a team gets Karma for staying alive, succeeding at a mission, and for the degree of danger in the mission. Individual characters can pick up additional Karma for good roleplaying, gutsy fighting, smart planning, sheer luck and other personal feats.

Once awarded, Karma is split into two subsets, Good Karma and Karma Pool. Good Karma is what the players use over time to improve their character. Karma Pool is used by players during game sessions for saving their character’s hoop in tight situations. Both are tracked separately, and the Total Karma a character has been awarded should be noted as well. All awarded Karma counts as Good Karma, except for every twentieth point, which is added to the character’s Karma Pool.