A (Hopefully) Comprehensive Guide to Shadowrunning [INPROGRESS]

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A (Hopefully) Comprehensive Guide to Shadowrunning [INPROGRESS]

Post  DentedDementia on Sun Mar 18, 2012 3:29 pm

I: A summary of the world

2072. Handbasket still in motion.

Since the turn of the century, the world has changed in unimaginable ways. The mystical energies of the universe have been steadily rising in power and concentration, bringing magic back to the world—the Awakening. Elves, dwarfs, orks, and trolls have assumed their true forms, throwing off their human guises. Creatures of the wild have changed as well, transforming into beasts of myth and legend. The many traditions of magic have returned—magicians from all walks of life have carved out a place for themselves in the new world. Though many aspects of the Awakening remain mysterious, modern society has learned much about the workings of magic and how to harness it as a force just as important as technology.

The decades that followed the Awakening were years of panic and turmoil, as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse seemed to race across the Earth. Cultures that had never lost touch with their mystic heritage used magic in uprisings against the nations that had suppressed them for centuries. The vast global telecommunications network collapsed under an assault by a mysterious computer virus. Dragons soared into the skies. Epidemics and famines ravaged the world’s population. Clashes between newly Awakened races and the rest of humanity became common. All central authority crumbled, and the world began to spiral downward into the abyss.

But man and his kin are hardy animals. Out of the devastation and chaos, a fragile new social order slowly emerged. Advanced simulated sensorium (simsense) technology helped eradicate the last vestiges of the computer virus. Amerindians, elves, orks, trolls, and dwarfs formed new nations. Where environmental degradation and pollution have made many areas uninhabitable, eco-groups wage war on polluters, and Awakened powers use incredible magic to heal the earth. Central governments have balkanized into smaller nations and city-states, as fear of the world’s changes drives wedges between people of different backgrounds. Vast metropolitan sprawls known as metroplexes cover the landscape; these urban jungles swallow whole regions. Police departments, unable to contain crime waves and civil unrest, have been privatized or had their work contracted out to corporations.

Megacorporations are the new world superpowers, a law unto themselves. The entire planet speaks their language; the nuyen is the global monetary standard; and the highest court in the world is the Corporate Court, made up of members of the top ten megacorporations. The megacorps play a deadly game, paying pawns in the shadows to help them get an edge on the competition. Meanwhile, corporate executives and wage slaves hole up in their own enclaves, safe behind layers of security and indoctrination. Outside the walls of these arcologies and gated communities, whole stretches of the sprawls have become ungovernable. Gangs rule the streets; the forgotten masses grow, lacking even a System Identification Number (SIN) to give them any rights. These outcasts, dissidents, and rebels live as the dregs of society, squatting in long-abandoned buildings, surviving through crime and predatory instincts. Many of them attempt to escape their miserable existences by slotting addictive Better-Than-Life (BTL) chips, living vicariously through someone else’s senses. Others band together, some for survival and some to gain their own twisted forms of power.

Technology, too, has changed people. No longer content with the limitations of flesh, many have turned to the artificial enhancements of cyberware to make themselves more than human—stronger, faster, smarter. Others prefer more natural enhancements, augmented organs grown in clinic vats: bioware. Still others deck themselves out in powerful and wearable computing equipment, and manipulate the Matrix or vehicles as if the optical chips and run-flat tires were parts of their own body.

In the harsh reality of 2070 where profit is the most important mistress, the bigger the metroplex, the deeper the shadows. In the cracks between the giant corporate structures, criminals of all shades find their homes. When the megacorps want a job done but don’t want to dirty their hands, they turn to the only people who can pull it off: shadowrunners, deniable assets. Though only the blackest of governmental or corporate databases will even register a shadowrunner’s involvement with a corporation, the demand for his or her services is high. Hackers slide like whispers through the databases of giant corporations, spiriting away the only thing of real value—information. Street samurai are enforcers for hire whose combat skills and reflexes make them the ultimate urban predators. Riggers manipulate vehicles and drones for a variety of purposes. Magicians, those rare folk who possess the gift of wielding and shaping the magical energies that now permeate the Earth, are sought after to spy on competitors, sling spells against an enemy, commit magical sabotage, and for any other service that their employers can dream up. All these individuals sell their skills to survive, taking on tasks too dangerous for others; many of them illegal, all of them unsavory.

Welcome to the dark side of the future, pal. It’s going to be a hell of a ride.

II: Basic Runner Types

The following terms refer to runners who specialize in various fields.

Faces are charismatic individuals—they may be good looking, smooth talking, quickwitted, or just have a great force of personality. The face usually acts as the front-man at any meet, handles situations where legwork and networking are necessary, and negotiates with Mr. Johnsons, dealers, and infobrokers. A face may be all natural, but more often than not they’re augmented by bioware such as tailored pheromones.

Magicians use their force of will and the power of their beliefs to manipulate magic and control spirits. Magicians who have similar beliefs often gravitate to one another, adopting schools of thought known as traditions. Magicians of all traditions are able to cast spells and summon and bind spirits. Most can also perceive and project into the parallel mystic realm of astral space. Two magical traditions are common: hermetic mages and shamans. Mages (hermetic magicians) are known for using thaumaturgical abilities in a scientific manner. To mages, magic is about knowledge and structure. Shamans are magicians to whom magic is attunement with the forces of nature.

Adepts are the modern-day ninjas and berserkers, using magic to enhance their bodies’ abilities. Adepts tend to be athletically oriented, with good stealth and combat skills.

Hackers are characters who specialize in computers, and accessing and manipulating data via the Matrix—either using augmented reality or going full-bore and using virtual reality to do their dirty work. Most hackers use customized computers called commlinks, often with personally written programs that manipulate the Matrix in ways beyond any sysop’s intention. While illegally logged into the Matrix, hackers can search and sift through information of all kinds, tap phone calls, and disable and enable other systems at will. Most hackers are experts in cybercombat—a battle of skills and programs against other hackers or intrusion countermeasures (IC).

Riggers are a subset of hackers who focus on using and manipulating modern vehicles and drones. Many riggers are adept at controlling multiple drones at once and using them as “eyes and ears.” Others excel at “jumping into” vehicles through full virtual reality, effectively operating as if the machines were extensions of their own bodies. Similarly, security riggers—typically known as spiders—interface with the sim-enhanced security systems built into buildings and facilities. From this “web,” the spider’s reach spans the entire building, allowing him to see through sensors and mentally control security features like locks and hidden weaponry. For riggers looking for work on the sly, good smugglers are always in short supply, and piloting a t-bird across hostile borders or running BTL chips up and down the coast can be profitable shadow-ops. For getting down and dirty with a ride’s mechanical and electronic guts, riggers can take tech-wiz jobs to modify vehicles according to a client’s (probably illegal) desires—a lucrative biz that also requires less travel.

Street samurai are physically enhanced combat monsters. With implanted cyberware, bioware, and combat skills, they strive to be the quickest, meanest, and strongest killing machines on the streets. Many of them cybernetically boost their reflexes to increase their action and reaction speeds, or boost their strength so that they can inflict more damage. Many are also lethal with firearms, and almost all have a smartlink system installed for increased precision in shooting. Some fight for honor, some because they get paid for it, and others because they are insane enough to go up against anything. Street samurai is a catch-all term—some characters may identify themselves as bodyguards, mercenaries, assassins, or some similar label, but in general a character based around physical skills and non-magical augmentation can be called a street samurai—even if some of them don’t like the implication.

These basic runner types are just the tip of the iceberg and are not meant to define a set of character classes. Players can create a dizzying variety of characters using the character creation rules (p. 80)—for example, a detective character who relies on charisma and skill as opposed to cyberware, or a covert operations specialist who has all the gear and cyberware necessary to penetrate electronic defenses. The only limit is your imagination.

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