Ultimate Guide to Shadowrun 5E Archetypes

In Guides, Resources by NeonAnarchist

By DominaVioletta (a.k.a Elodie)

Hi there, omae. If you’re reading this, I’m going to assume you’ve read a bit about the world of Shadowrun and Neon Anarchy, have set up chummer, and now are all ready to make your own character for the game! The Core Rulebook deceptively offers a few pre-generated characters of all sorts of archetypes, in the interests of getting you set up quickly. Simply put: do not trust them. They suck. Here, we’ll teach you how to make a character that doesn’t suck, so you can get your character out of your head and into the Community faster than a wageslave downs soycaf.

Before we start, let me break down how each of the entries in this file works. For each archetype, suggestions for what to prioritize during chargen will be organized as follows:

  • The actual priorities taken, assuming you’re using the Priority system or Sum-to-Ten
  • Recommended qualities
  • Attributes
  • Skills, and
  • Relevant “Extras” for a given archetype (i.e. the kind of spells suggested for a mage, the augmentations recommended for a street samurai, etc.)

For situations in which there’s a wide array of things to allocate points into (like attributes or skills), the relative “goodness” of your options will be color-coded as follows:

Gold: If something is marked gold, prioritize it strongly–it will be essential for the archetype

Light Blue: Things marked light blue are great to have, but not quite as essential for your build.

Blue: Blue options are, all things considered, pretty good for the build–if you can afford them, consider picking them up. But don’t split hairs over them when there are higher priority things to attend to.

Purple: If something’s marked purple, know that it’s technically okay for your character to prioritize getting, but usually not recommended for gameplay purposes in either very specific situations, or as “flavor” to aid in roleplay. By all means, pick them up if you really want them for a certain concept, just know you may not get much “juice” out of them during runs.

Red: Things marked in red are so narrowly situational or underwhelming statistically that they are functionally useless for beginner type characters of a certain archetype to take. If you’re curious about them beyond the information given here, feel free to reach out to #chargen on the Discord to see if a red option could work with the character concept you have. For the purposes of beginner play, though, consider them negligible as you go about creating your character.

The Samurai–Hitting Things and Making Sure they Don’t Hit Back

Subclass 1: The Mundane Samurai (“Street Sam”)

Priorities

  • Metatype: All dependent on the concept you’re going for, but keep in mind that trogs get many bonuses to strength and body (determining your abilities to take and give damage) and elves get a higher maximum than anyone else to agility (making them more likely to hit)
  • Attributes: Since they determine your quickness, fortitude, strength, etc. (all very important in combat)
  • Magic/Res: It’s in the name–mundane
  • Skills: You don’t need too many high-ranking skills to be a good combat monster–your relevant combat skills and the other necessities should be enough
  • Resources: How else were you gonna pay for all that ‘ware?

Attributes

  • Body–good for everyone, as you’ll be taking a lot of physical damage as a front-line combattant
  • Agility–also good for everyone, as it determines your to-hit dicepool for all fighting skills
  • Reaction–absolutely necessary for high-initiative builds. Also, lets you drive well.
  • Strength–if you’re fighting with guns, consider this a purple or red. If you’re fighting up close, absolutely raise this, as it determines the amount of damage you do on a hit
  • Charisma–ehh…unless you specifically double up on facing, your purpose is to win the fight after it begins, not before
  • Logic–Same as for charisma (replace “facing” with “rigging”), unless you plan to be a trivia master by way of skillsofts
  • Willpower–determines your ability to resist some forms of damage, as well as increases the amount of stun damage you can take without dropping. In a world where any weapon can shock you, this is a must

Qualities

    Positive

  • Cyber-Singularity Seeker–For those with cyberlimb fetishes, +2 will is nothing to scoff at. Works especially well for melee
  • Drug Resistant–What’s better than pushing your body to the limit with machinery? Pushing your body to the limit with machinery and drugs
  • Redliner–also for cyberlimb fetishists 
  • Biocompatibility/Prototype Transhuman–To save on essence for ever more sweet, sweet ‘ware
  • Shoot First, Don’t Ask/any other combat-related qualities–need I say more?
  • Special Modifications–make up for your lack of magical punch with your own sort of technical magic. Just make sure you’re modding something you’ll use often
  • Tough as Nails–Convert karma to hit boxes without going through all that hassle of raising body/will 2 whole points

    Negative

  • Poor Self Control (Combat Monster/Thrill Seeker)–not only does it fit the flavor, but Thrill Seeker gives a +1 initiative bonus
  • Superhuman Psychosis–just make sure your etiquette pool is at least 4 dice 😉
  • Addiction–you’re already “enhancing your performance”, why not go all in?
  • Code of Honor–what great warrior doesn’t have one of these? Okay, in the shadows, lots don’t. But it is a lot of karma for a lot of narrative fun

Skills

Pretty Self-Explanatory, considering what you’ll be doing. Various gun skills will more likely than not be your go-to skills for ranged, as much as melee ones will, well, melee. Keep in mind that unarmed does open the door for lots of martial arts options later, if you’re interested. Others to strongly consider are perception, especially for long-range types and hardware, to fix things up if a decker bricks something important.

Extras: Cyberware and Bioware

    Bioware

  • Sleep Regulator–for the extra downtime slot
  • Cerebellum Booster–to raise your initiative add-ons and all those intuition-based skills
  • Muscle toner/replacement–make your inside-meat better at doing damage to others’ outside-meat
  • Adapsin–to reduce the essence loss from bioware
  • Chemical glands–too exhaustive to list here, but having the ability to make and release your own drugs into your system cannot be underestimated
  • Orthoskin–the less invasive (and effective) cousin to dermal plating (see below)
  • Narco–increases the attribute gains from drugs
  • Nephritic Screen–helps you not be addicted to drugs
  • Claws, bone spurs, and the like–invisible to mag scanners and compatible with unarmed builds
  • Platelet Factories–to help resist physical damage
  • Skin Pocket–good for smuggling goodies into places where they ought not to be
  • Reflex Recorder–pop one of these babies in and you get a +1 to the physical/combat skill of your choice. Reflex Recorder Optimization also gives you some extra goodies
  • Pain editor–accessible only with the Restricted Gear quality and not without its downsides, this treatment still lets you ignore all negative modifiers due to damage, and continue fighting with a full stun track. If you wanna go for something less extreme, damage compensators are always there for you
  • Double elastin–take less stun damage when you take stun damage

Cyberware

  • Bone Lacing–adds to your unarmed attack damage and increases your ability to take damage
  • Cybereyes/ears–to increase out-of-combat utility in meatspace
  • Datajack–connected to the matrix 24/7 without the hassle of trodes
  • False face–for covering up your identity
  • Fiberoptic hair–looks awesome
  • Internal router–gives you all the benefits of working wirelessly without the risk of a hacker messing it up
  • Wired Reflexes–a staple. Increases your initiative dice for combat
  • Move-By-Wire System: does that, plus some other great things
  • Skilljack/wires–lets you download skills into your body like Neo from The Matrix, albeit at a few costs
  • Cyberlimbs and assorted upgrades–too much to list here, but just keep in mind that fighting with a metal arm adds damage to melee attacks, and shooting with a gun put in one adds a +2 modifier to said shooting

Subclass 2: The Adept Samurai (“Physical Adept”)

Priorities

  • Metatype: All dependent on the concept you’re going for, but keep in mind that trogs get many bonuses to strength and body (determining your abilities to take and give damage) and elves get a higher maximum than anyone else to agility (making them more likely to hit)
  • Attributes: Since they determine your quickness, fortitude, strength, etc. (all very important in combat)
  • Magic/Res: Thankfully, you don’t need Magic A to be a max-magic adept. Use that leeway to buff up other things
  • Skills: You don’t need too many high-ranking skills to be a good combat monster–your relevant combat skills and the other necessities should be enough
  • Resources: Sorry, omae, but the fact is that progression as an Awakened character often isn’t done by throwing money at the things you want

Attributes

  • Refer to the above on mundane samurai

Qualities

    Positive

  • Mentor Spirit–congratulations, you have a spirit guide! They’ll help you with some things, hinder you in others, and give you a free power. Also opens the door for more narrative fun (note: mentor’s mask can be very helpful with that extra power point, but beware the fact their light show will make it very obvious you’re Awakened)
  • Astral Chameleon–wanna make it really not obvious you’re Awakened? Look into this
  • Death Dealer–do more damage with critical strikes at the cost of needing to take a bit of it onto yourself
  • Many of the qualities listed above for a mundane samurai

(Note: Prototype Transhuman does not allow you to collect the Purity Bonus for having 6 Essence. Believe me, I tried ;))

    Negative

  • Gremlins/Computer Illiterate–since you’ll be wanting to steer clear of ‘ware anyhow, this allows you to play up the old “luddite magic user” trope, even in a cyberpunk world.
  • Many of the qualities listed above for a mundane samurai

Skills

In addition to those skills mentioned for mundane samurai above, assensing is nice (if you pick up the Astral Perception power–runners like knowing when they’re being mage’d, even without a magician on the team), and possibly astral combat if you want to fight magic things as a ghost from very far away (know that fighting spirits closer to you is much easier once you get a weapon focus, as those work on the astral plane, too).

Extras

Adept Powers

  • Improved Reflexes–expensive, but a staple. The magical counterpart to wired reflexes, with all the same benefits
  • Adept Accident–great utility in and out of combat. Need someone to screw up real badly? Just shake your hand or punch them
  • Elemental Strike/Weapon–infuses your melee hits with the power of…something, conferring whatever element’s nastiness onto your target (for instance, lightning does stun damage)
  • Improved Ability (combat skill)–a tad pricey, but also the quickest way to raise your dice pools out of the gate
  • Killing Hands–now, your punches can, well, kill. A staple for martial artists. You can get this for free with the right mentor spirit
  • Missile Mastery–need ranged combat ability but can’t afford a gun? Just throw some rocks!
  • Mystic Armor–increases your armor. ‘Nuff said.
  • Mystic aptitude–need to lift a car but never took good strength? Use magic to become He-Man
  • Attribute Boost–become He-Man, but only in one specific attribute you choose beforehand, and you have to roll to see how good that boost is
  • Improved Physical Attribute–Screw rolling dice or taking drain. Just increase the attribute directly like a mundane does
  • Supernatural Toughness–have another hit box. In both tracks
  • Smashing Blow–become swole when breaking down a door or wall (which, to you, is just a door waiting to be opened)
  • State of Purity–go super saiyan and increase your DV by your Magic when punching people
  • Combat Sense–adds dice to your ability to dodge things
  • Metabolic Control–for the extra downtime slot
  • Quick draw–for gunslingers, this’ll make firing before the enemies can that much easier
  • Adrenaline Boost–go crazy during combat to increase your attributes a bit for the cost of longer-term drain after it ends
  • Nerve Strike–punch people into paralysis, if you’re lucky, or just make them less able to fight back. Still good
  • Critical Strike–increase the damage of your melee attacks in a certain melee skill
  • Enhanced Accuracy–keep more hits on your to-hit combat rolls. Especially good for those less strong in body or muscle

(As you can see, a lot of powers are specific to certain kinds of combat. I’ve listed a lot to do with unarmed because that’s what I know best, but there’s something in there for everyone)

The Face: Sweet Talking You into Better Deals and Out of Trouble

Subclass 1: The Mundane Face 

Priorities

  • Metatype: All dependent on the concept you’re going for, but keep in mind that elves get a whole 2 extra charisma both to start and as their max. They tend to make the best faces as a result. Their high agility also makes them good infiltrators and combattants. Do with that info what you will…
  • Attributes: Make sure you’re survivable in combat and other situations, but also know your job is often to end fights before they start
  • Magic/Res: It’s in the name–mundane
  • Skills: There are quite a few social skills that do very different things you’ll want to have high. Throw in your off-skills for utility, and that’s a lot of skill points
  • Resources: You compensate for your lack of magical glamor with storebought charm. That’s got a high price tag

Attributes

  • Body–good for everyone, as you’ll be taking a lot of physical damage as a front-line combattant
  • Agility–also good for everyone, as it determines your to-hit dicepool for all fighting skills, and, if you wanna sneak around, that too
  • Reaction–unless you plan on being the team driver, you won’t be using this for much other than the initiative
  • Strength–if you’re fighting with guns, consider this a purple or red. If you’re fighting up close, raise this, as it determines the amount of damage you do on a hit. Melee fighting isn’t really many faces’ styles, though (far too much close-up blood), so consider dumping this stat
  • Charisma–likely the reason you’re on the team
  • Logic–Most of your skills aren’t likely to be logic-based, unless you plan to be a trivia master by way of skillsofts. Do consider raising it if you plan to get hooked on lots of psychologically addictive “social enhancers”
  • Intuition–dependent on what you’ll be doing when not-facing, but is all around still good to have for initiative bonuses and for skills like perception
  • Willpower–determines your ability to resist some forms of damage, as well as increases the amount of stun damage you can take without dropping. As you’ll likely be taking a backseat in combat, don’t consider this absolutely essential, but do know it influences your ability to detect when people are bullshitting you

Qualities

    Positive

  • First Impression–get a flat bonus whenever seeing someone the first time. In a world where you’re often bouncing between jobs by design, you do that a lot
  • Drug Resistant–What’s better than pushing your body to the limit with machinery? Pushing your body to the limit with machinery and drugs
  • Honest Face–get better at bullshitting people
  • Alibi–get better at bullshitting people when you’re caught doing a no-no
  • Blandness–with a high etiquette, get even better at blending into the crowd
  • Good Looking and Knows It–rarely take a penalty for smelling like a shoe (goes well with Hobo with a Shotgun), or wearing sweatpants to a cocktail party
  • Social Chameleon–blend in in crowds. You do need the sneaking skill
  • Cynic–prevent others from bullshitting you
  • Watch the suit–make sure you at least look clean after a firefight
  • Too Pretty to Hit–replaces your willpower with your charisma for full defense tests. While those may not come up a lot, it’s still useful
  • Natural leader–extra leadership dice for allies is always nice
  • Magic resistance–will help when others try to Jedi-mind-trick you

Negative

  • Poor Self Control (Attention Seeker/Braggart)–perfect for those narcissistic sociopaths
  • Alpha Junkie–used to having people follow your every word? Consider this
  • Addiction–you’re already “enhancing your performance”, why not go all in? Also gives that partying socialite vibe we all love
  • Did you Just Call me Dumb?–insignificant until it’s really significant. As the social butterfly of the group, you can get creative with insults
  • Creature of Comfort–as long as you don’t mind paying more for lifestyle, this certainly fits the “I have standards” vibes if your face is in high(er) society
  • Social Appearance Anxiety–be the overly perfectionistic fashionista of your dreams

Skills

Everything in the Acting and Influence skill groups, if you can. Prioritize con, etiquette, negotiation, leadership, and intimidation. Impersonation can be fun but is more situational (but can combine well with disguise for grifting), as is performance. Also consider getting specializations in those core skills. For instance, negotiation (bartering) will help get the team better pay with Mr. Johnson, and con (fast talk) will (I hope) encompass more of your interactions with guards than con (seduction). Other than that, get the essentials (perception, a combat skill, etc.) and whatever else fits your concept.

Extras

Again, the kinds of ‘ware you’ll want will depend on your broader character concept, but for a core face:

Bioware

  • Tailored Pheromones–this will increase your charisma by its rating for many interactions and you are going to want it
  • Troll reduction–trogs can get this to cancel out they’re max charisma of 4
  • Sleep regulator–for the extra downtime slot
  • Chemical gland–find a drug that increases charisma. Tell your body to make it
  • Genetic optimization (Charisma)–expensive but there if you want it
  • Any of the vocal stuff, for when you wanna play around with your voice to fuck with folks

    Cyberware

  • False face–for grifting
  • Fiberoptic hair–for grifting and looking cool
  • Voice mask–for identity-hiding
  • A full cyberlimb with max agility will make you great at shooting even if you aren’t a dedicated combattant

Subclass 2: The Adept Face (“Social Adept”)

Priorities

  • Metatype: All dependent on the concept you’re going for, but keep in mind that elves get a whole 2 extra charisma both to start and as their max. They tend to make the best faces as a result. Their high agility also makes them good infiltrators and combattants. Do with that info what you will…
  • Attributes: Make sure you’re survivable in combat and other situations, but also know your job is often to end fights before they start
  • Magic/Res: You only need Priority B magic to be a full adept. Use that to your advantage.
  • Skills: There are quite a few social skills that do very different things you’ll want to have high. Throw in your off-skills for utility, and that’s a lot of skill points
  • Resources: Sorry, omae, but the fact is that progression as an Awakened character often isn’t done by throwing money at the things you want

Attributes

  • Refer to the Attributes section on mundane faces above

Qualities

    Positive

  • Mentor Spirit–have a devil on your shoulder to boost your equally devilish charm…with some kind of drawback (keep in mind that while Mentor’s Mask may seem nice, it’ll make it incredibly obvious to anyone you’re trying to charm that you’re doing so magically, so it’s..not recommended)
  • Many of the qualities mentioned in the section on mundane faces above

Negative

  • Refer to the qualities section on mundane faces

Skills

Refer to the Skills section on mundane faces. As with the adept samurai above, having assensing and the astral perception power is always nice for when there isn’t a magician on the team.

Extras

Again, the kinds of powers you’ll want will depend on your broader character concept, but for a core face:

  • Cool Resolve–+1 dice/rank on all social rolls opposing you with someone else. Negotiating? Bonus. Being interrogated? Bonus. Lying your ass off? Bonus.
  • Commanding Voice–get someone to do something you want for a few moments without question. Within reason
  • Authoritative Tone–same bonus as Cool Resolve, but only for interactions you initiate
  • Enthralling Performance–situational, but good. Makes people magically inclined to like whatever you’re performing
  • Facial sculpt–like false face, but better. Still for grifting/social hiding
  • Improved Ability (social skill)–what it sounds like
  • Indomitable Will–makes you more able to resist scary shit
  • Iron Will–same as above, but for mind magic and mental manipulation
  • Kinesics/Kinesics Mastery–makes you much better at lying for very cheap
  • Memory Displacement–fully forget important info right before being tortured
  • Metabolic Control–for the downtime slot
  • Mimic–fool print scanners and the like of your identity, so long as you’ve touched another person for a few minutes

The Mage: Healing and Zapping People with the Power of BRAIN Since 2011

Subclass 1: The Magician/Aspected Magician

Priorities

  • Metatype: All dependent on the concept you’re going for, but keep in mind that some metatypes are better at resisting drain in certain traditions: elves get a whole 2 extra charisma both to start and as their max. Dwarves can start with 7 willpower and higher body than most, increasing their drain defense 
  • Attributes: You’ll need high drain-resistance stats to be viable as a mage without dropping dead after leasing a fireball. That, and you’ll need a high body to overcome physical drain, on top of whatever else your concept is going for
  • Magic/Res: Your whole schtick–Priority A will give you a magic rating of 6 right off the bat, and plenty of spells to choose from, should you be able to cast them. Aspected magicians, due to the narrowness of their magical abilities, can drop this down slightly
  • Skills: There are around 5 skills you’ll want to max out in and get specializations in in magic alone to be the team’s dedicated mage, not to mention other utility skills. Again, aspected magicians can drop this down slightly.
  • Resources: Sorry, omae, but the fact is that progression as an Awakened character often isn’t done by throwing money at the things you want. Does help with obtaining foci early on, though, if you can afford it

Attributes

  • Body–good for everyone, but especially good for you, as you take physical drain whenever you use your magic above the typical thresholds of your abilities
  • Agility–good for everyone, but not as important unless you plan on attacking people non-magically on the regular
  • Reaction–dodge out of the way of things when the “Geek the Mage” rule is applied to you
  • Strength–see above on agility, but even moreso considering you’re even less likely to be doing a bunch of melee combat. Stay behind cover, Gandalf.
  • Charisma–Entirely depends on your drain resistance due to your tradition
  • Logic–see charisma
  • Intuition–see reaction, but also nice for initiative and skills like perception and assensing. Keep in mind assensing is also hugely useful, and likely one of the reasons you’re on the team
  • Willpower–determines your ability to resist some forms of damage, as well as increases the amount of stun damage you can take without dropping. Especially important for you, as it impacts your drain resistance regardless of your tradition

Qualities

    Positive

  • Mentor Spirit–boost your relevant magic skills at a small cost, with some added narrative flavor, to boot (Mentor’s Mask will decrease the amount of drain you take with each spell cast, but will also make it plainly obvious to everyone that you’re a mage. As such, choose it wisely)
  • Witness My Hate–for particularly edgy casters, this increases the damage of your spells at the cost of damaging you just a bit more
  • Focused Concentration–a staple. Allows you to sustain magical effects that you cast (like, say, armor, or an illusionary projection) without taking the usual -2 penalty when you do other things
  • Astral Chameleon–no wizard survives in a cyberpunk world with a pointy hat and long robes. Well, maybe if you have Distinctive Style, you do. This’ll make sure the more non-physical signs of your magic don’t follow you into the astral plane
  • Drug Tolerant–there are lots of magical drugs out there that are useful to you–you’d be wise not to get hooked on them
  • High Pain Tolerance/Tough As Nails–both will help remediate the effects of drain
  • Quick Healer–be better at recovering physical health from drain after a run
  • Mastery Qualities–get better at specific aspects of your magicing. These can all be found in Forbidden Arcana, but keep in mind they tend to be better to pick up after character creation, as they’re not subject to the double-karma rule once your character is in career mode

Negative

  • Gremlins–you won’t be very reliant on tech anyways, it’s fun for the GM to use, and gives off the “out of touch, luddite wizard” vibes one would expect to see when transporting a high fantasy person into a cyberpunk Seattle. Also applies to Mr. Faraday Himself and Computer Illiterate.
  • Honestly, mages are so multifaceted in what they can do concept and mechanics-wise you honestly don’t have any inherent “magician” negative qualities. Go wild with whatever fits your concept!

Skills

For a pure mage, the skills you’ll want are: spellcasting, counterspelling, summoning, binding, and assensing. Completely ignore alchemy until you are more proficient with the system. Other than those, get specializations in them to fit your needs, and utility skills like perception, pick skills that synergize with the mental attributes you use for drain as per your tradition. Maybe your elven sorcerer following the Path of the Wheel is also a face. Maybe your hermetic mage is great at fixing things. The possibilities are endless.

A Few Notes on Traditions:

  1. Keep in mind that for many of them, these are very real religions and other faith systems your character is using to channel their magic. If you are not a practitioner of these faiths, please do some work to at least characterize them properly during play, and abstain from resorting to often harmful cultural stereotypes. This especially applies to traditions that are explicitly closed to outsiders or specific to certain demographics, such as Kabbalah and Sioux mysticism.
  2. While the possession traditions (Voodoo, Egyptian, Kaballistic, etc.) may seem interesting to play at first, we do not recommend taking a possession tradition as your first mage if you plan on conjuring often. It complicates the process of summoning and using spirits, which is already quite rules-heavy on its own. You can, however, flavor aspects of a tradition you’ve taken however you’d like. For instance, your Hermetic mage could have Egyptian mysticism at the head of their practice. As always, refer to the above.

Extras

As stated before, mages are so multifaceted that you can tailor them to whichever in-game situations you’d like (combat, social, infiltration, etc.). With that in mind, here are a few spells that prove useful no matter what your character’s specialty is:

  • Stunbolt/Ball–gives you in-combat capability that doesn’t require lighting a building on fire. Keep in mind that these are direct
  • Clout/Blast–like stunbolt/ball, but indirect 
  • Lightning Bolt/Ball Lightning–indirect spells that do more lethal damage
  • Heal–the way most shadowrunner-mages help their buddies after they’ve been shot
  • Trid Phantasm–projects visual/auditory illusions wherever you can (feasibly) see, and works on video. Great for distractions
  • Improved Invisibility–turns you or a buddy, well, invisible. Also works on both human and camera eyes. A go-to for infiltration jobs
  • Armor/Deflection–one decreases the chances you’ll take damage from hits, the other prevents you from being shot. Luckily, they stack.
  • Clairvoyance–need line-of-sight on someone but can’t see them from your vantage point? Just make another pair of eyes!

Note: refer to the following to see the differences between and implications of direct and indirect spells: https://www.reddit.com/r/Shadowrun/comments/3ad7g9/direct_vs_indirect_spells/

Consider buying a fetish at chargen and purchasing some/all of your spells as “limited” (there should be a check box when you go to add the spell to your list). If a spell is learned as limited, the spell’s Drain code is always decreased by 2, but it is cast through the fetish, not your body, as per the House Rules. Also keep in mind the fetish has to be on your person in order for it to work, so if you have them confiscated, you are SOL for casting limited spells. Getting a biofiber pocket helps hide them from security, though.

Lastly, here are some notes on specific spirit types and what they can do:

  • Fire Spirits are most capable of dealing lethal damage with, well, their fire attacks
  • Air Spirits are quicker than any other spirit by a wide margin both in the astral and physical planes. Keep this in mind when chasing people
  • Additionally, Air Spirits are the only characters capable of casting the best invisibility spell in the game
  • Earth Spirits can take a ton of damage before dropping. Consider using one for combat situations where you need to protect someone
  • Spirits of Man, with their humanoid forms, are the only spirits capable of using weapons you’ve given them when having them come onto the physical plane
  • Beast Spirits are very useful in dealing with animals, but rarely useful for anything else. Keep this in mind, in a game where most of your targets are other people
  • You can imagine how, in the context of a heavily urbanized world, plant spirits carry little power. This is absolutely true mechanically, as well.

Subclass 2: The Mystic Adept (Mysad)

Okay, I might’ve lied a bit here. The mystic adept is less its own subclass of mage than a particular…spin on the pure mage described above. Unlike the Adept, bound to their powers, and the Magician, bound to his more externalized magic, you get the best of both worlds. Considering how much variety there is in mages, and what they’re capable of doing, there is no good way to advise which powers you could take without knowing your core concept first. If you want to be a face or combat mage, refer to the above lists of adept powers that work with those, or reach out to #chargen for more information. Just keep in mind a few things when making a mystic adept:

  • You must buy any power points you want at character creation with karma, and the only way to gain them post-chargen is with qi foci or via initiation. As a result, if you plan on getting lots of power points at the start, don’t count on having a lot of breathing room to use karma to buy other extras (e.g. skills, nuyen)
  • Mystic adepts get all the same abilities as magicians do, except the ability to astrally project. Keep this in mind when making one, as astral projection is often a hugely useful ability for scouting for the rest of your team

The Rigger: Master of Drones and Wheels

Priorities

  • Metatype: Keep in mind that a bit of extra edge is never bad for your archetype, as you’ll likely be the one determining whether or not your big truck with all your ‘mates crashes
  • Attributes: You’ll need a few high mental stats (your brain is the car), but not much else
  • Magic/Res: unless you’re going for a weird hybrid build type, neither is good for you
  • Skills: There are lots of different skills related to piloting different things, and keeping those things functional for long enough for them to do what you want. Learn them and learn them well.
  • Resources: High-end vehicles, unsurprisingly, cost money. And you’ll want a good few of them to survive on the streets

Attributes:

  • Body–good for everyone, but you’ll be needing it should your car crash or your drone get bricked with you in it
  • Agility–good for everyone, but not as important unless you plan on attacking people in meatspace, which, with an RCC, won’t be your go-to
  • Reaction–only good for the initiative in meatspace, which, again, isn’t your thing. Do keep in mind all the pilot skills operate off this when not jumped into a vehicle, though
  • Strength–Let the troll lift the van. You just focus on driving it before she has to.
  • Charisma–no one pins the guy with his brain in a drone as a real good talker
  • Logic–determines how well you drive your things when jumped into them, as well as your ability to shoot from them, repair them, and fend off attackers
  • Intuition–initiative for combat is hugely important for your more shooty-shooty drones, and navigation will help you drive
  • Willpower–will become relevant when a decker tries to brick your toys

Qualities

    Positive

  • Steely-Eyed Wheelman–makes terrain easier to drive across
  • Dealer Connection–makes fancy toys easier to come across
  • Juryrigger–A staple. Allows you to do a whole lot to slapdash improved tech together from random hardware you find lying around
  • Vehicle Empathy–Incredible for you–a flat +1 die and handling bonus for all piloting tests
  • Golden Screwdriver–May come in handy for quick repairs
  • Daredevil–if you wanna do something crazy behind the wheel, you may as well do it with GM approved-bonuses
  • Drug Resistant–you’ll likely want to be high behind the wheel to increase a few stats. Prepare accordingly
  • Stunt Driver–makes you better at exactly what you think

Negative

  • Addiction–you might as well roleplay all those “performance enhancers”
  • Creature of Comfort–you’ll need the cash for grid access, space for a garage, and a place to repair your smaller hardware. Why not live it up?
  • Emotional Attachment–I said, no drinks in the car
  • Infirm–all those years on your ass don’t do wonders for your meat
  • Poor Self Control (Thrill Seeker)–”I can totally make that jump.”

Skills

    For a bare-bones rigger, you’ll want Pilot skills in: Ground Craft, Air Craft (not planes, drones :p), and possibly Water/Walker Craft (for drones designed to look like people and, well, boats). Hardware lets you repair Matrix Damage, while Mechanic skills let you repair physical damage. Gunnery will let you dish out damage from/on vehicles, while Electronic Warfare will let you do some interesting stuff with your drones on the Matrix. Learn these core skills and learn them well. Aside from that, your usual utilities will also help.

Extras

  • Have a big van because other runners will be expecting a ride and you will need the space. There’s too much to list here (Rigger 5.0 is a treasure trove of info on how you can pimp your ride), but here are a few things beyond the basic gear list that’ll serve you well:
    • Gun ports–for shooting out of for all your normie friends without cannons strapped to their cars
    • Rigger Interface–what it sounds like
    • Extra seating–for parties with extra Trog
    • Valkyrie Module–pop someone in here and they’ll stay stable long enough for you to get them to a “real” doc. Best combined with a…
    • Rigger Cocoon–Allows you to stay inside a metal bubble to keep your meat safe from crashes
    • Armor–people are likely to shoot at your vehicle. Keep them from killing it and you
    • Drone Racks–for storing drones. What else?
    • Weapon Mounts–so you can use that Gunnery skill
    • Sensor Modules–your car will come free with these, but read over each one carefully to see what kind of setup you want
  • ‘Ware to Get:
    • Limbic and Neocortical Neural Amplifier Nanoware–While getting a nanohive at chargen is difficult, these systems add their ratings to your Intuition and Logic skill tests, respectively. You can see why that’d be useful for you.
    • DataJack Plus, R3: lets you get into VR with lightning speed, along with a slew of other benefits
    • Psyche Chemical Gland (Gradual Release)+Narco: Gives you +2 to your Logic and Intuition. Stacks with the above 
    • Cerebral/Cerebellum Booster–increases your Logic/Intuition by its Rating. Stacks with the above
    • Sleep Regulator for the Downtime slot
  • There are lots of drones with lots of purposes, far too many to list here, but know from anecdotal experience that MCT Flyspies are great for scouting ahead, and Anthro drones can serve as good combattants, if modded correctly
  • When picking an RCC, remember that you don’t have much room to wiggle your Matrix stats around. As such, bigger tends to be better
  • Autosofts. There are many of them, and you’re going to want to use a lot of them in order to maximize your drones’ effectiveness, from making them better at sneaking to allowing them greater-than-average cognitive capacity when you leave them alone for a few minutes. Buy and learn them well.
  • For your Lifestyle:
    • A garage will allow you to automatically repair your vehicles as time goes on, and modify them to your liking
    • Special Work Areas for mechanic skills and hardware will help when you need to repair them yourself. On that note, make sure to bring a hardware toolbox and a mechanics one on runs, for spontaneous repair needs

The Decker: Nerd + Supercomputer – Common Sense = Success 

Priorities

  • Metatype: Edge is everything for you, as a lot of your tests in the Matrix will be pretty binary in terms of success/failure
  • Attributes: You’ll need every mental stat save charisma pretty high, as well as a few of the physical ones for certain situations
  • Magic/Res: woo woo and tech do not mix. ever.
  • Skills: Deckers need a lot of skills to be competent at decking, and you’ll want a fair few points left to allocate to things that’ll help the party when you can’t hack
  • Resources: Cyberdecks and cyber/bioware are by far the most expensive things you can get at the start, and you’ll need both

Attributes:

  • Body–good for everyone, but especially helps for when you get dumpshocked or when you take damage in hot-sim (read: all the time)
  • Agility–you can always get a cyberarm later if you wanna shoot things
  • Reaction–only good for the initiative in meatspace, which, again, isn’t your thing. Do keep in mind all the pilot skills operate off this when not jumped into a vehicle, though
  • Strength–All those years of typing away at security systems surprisingly don’t do wonders for your muscles
  • Charisma–real people…s c a r y
  • Logic–literally all your Matrix skills, in one scenario or another, involve this
  • Intuition–see Logic, but know that Intuition statistically matters less often than Logic, if you’re strapped for points (note that when it is relevant, for, say, initiative or Matrix Perception, you’re going to want it high
  • Willpower–helps for whenever you take damage, including in the Matrix (read: a lot of the time)

Qualities

Positive

  • Codeslinger–a staple. Gives you a +2 bonus to any Matrix action of your choice. Hack on the Fly or Brute Force are especially popular
  • Instinctive Hack–for only 2 karma, perceive in the Matrix in a free action rather than a simple one
  • Natural Hardening–will help if you plan on going loud lots
  • Data Anomaly–will help if you plan on going quiet lots
  • Trust Lore Not Data/Data Not Lore–if there really is a gap between your logic and intuition
  • Drug Resistant–there are a good few drugs that boost your mental stats
  • Perfect Time+Overclocker–the first gives you an extra free action every turn. The second allows you to add +1 to an ASDF attribute and switch out that +1 with a free action. Need I say more?
  • Analytical Mind–makes you better at doing, well, analysis of things

Negative

  • Basement Dweller–fits most nerd-centric concepts and doesn’t hurt you too much
  • Weak Immune System/Asthma/Allergy/Albinism/Infirm–you…need to get out more
  • Creature of Comfort–a Middle Lifestyle is the easiest way to get consistent access to good gear and a good enough grid to do your work on anyways
  • Did you Just Call me Dumb?/Well, Actually…–hilarious and often in-character if used correctly
  • Curiosity Killed the Cat–also hilarious, but gives you a small boon too
  • Matrix Troll/Prank Warrior/Nerdrage–if your decker’s a filthy 4channer
  • Emotional Attachment (Deck)–that cost a lot of money!!!

Skills

At the very least, make sure you have all the skills in the Cracking and Electronics groups, preferably having specializations in things you are planning to use often. Next, grab the basics (etiquette, perception, a weapon, etc.) and look for skills that optimize your high Logic and Intuition.

Extras

  • On Cyberdecks:
    • We recommend getting your first one at around the price range of 200k-250k. This will make it so that your tech doesn’t suck, but that you’ll have enough left for augmentations
  • ‘Ware to Get:
    • Limbic and Neocortical Neural Amplifier Nanoware–While getting the nanites at chargen is difficult, these systems add their ratings to your Intuition and Logic skill tests, respectively. You can see why that’d be useful for you.
    • DataJack Plus, R3: lets you get into VR with lightning speed, along with a slew of other benefits
    • Psyche or Light Bulb Chemical Gland (Gradual Release)+Narco: Gives you passive bonuses to your Logic and Intuition. Stacks with the above 
    • Cerebral/Cerebellum Booster–increases your Logic/Intuition by its Rating. Stacks with the above
    • Cyberdeck–so guards can’t just pull it out of your backpack. Also look into getting an Implant Medic system so it can repair itself
    • Cyberarm with improved agility and a gun inside–so you can defend your meatsack in a pinch
    • Nephritic Screen–so you can avoid getting hooked on all those drugs
    • Platelet Factories/Double Elastin–avoid taking as much damage in Matrix combat
    • Cyberears–pop some antennae on them for some easy noise reduction
    • Voice Mask–hacker voice: I’m In
    • Sleep Regulator–for the extra Downtime slot
  • A Final Note on Gear:
    • Shadowrun is gear porn for everyone, but especially for you, when your gear is everything. Read up on all the programs, all the electronics (don’t forget the cyberdeck modules!), and anything else Matrixy. You’ll thank yourself later.

The Technomancer: Ghost in The Machine

Subclass 1: The Hacker-Technomancer

Priorities

  • Metatype: See deckers, but you’ll have some tricks to mitigate failures
  • Attributes: Since your brain is the computer, you better make sure you’ve got a good brain
  • Magic/Res: your whole thing is this
  • Skills: See deckers
  • Resources: Since your brain is your computer, and putting tech in your body gives that computer an aneurysm, you neither need nor want the cash for typical decker things

Qualities

Positive

  • Brilliant Heuristics–an extra downtime slot plus quicker decryption of things
  • Better on the Net (relevant ASDF attribute)–a flat +2 bonus to whatever you’re good at
  • Focused Concentration–sustain complex forms without penalty
  • Otaku to Technomancer–gives you an interesting backstory and -2 to any fading damage
  • Hi-Rez–lets you enter cold sim without losing the +2 bonus, stay in hot sim and be even better at it, and get a buff to Matrix Perception. And you don’t even have to submerge
  • Sprite Affinity–better furnish your army of Alexa Hackers
  • Resonance Streams Technoshaman and Sourcerer (After Chargen)–while they’re expensive and you can only take one, they make you really good at your schtick 
  • See above for decker, with the knowledge that some things (such as ‘ware and the ability to switch around your ASDF attributes) aren’t available to you

Negative

  • Brittle (whatever isn’t your fav ASDF attribute)–for when you really wanna suck at something in particular
  • See above for deckers

Skills

See above for decker skills, but also know that some of the attributes that affect your living persona also allow you to fulfill other party roles (e.g. charisma will help with both Attack and facing; intuition helps with Sleaze, but also many things outside of Matrixspace)

Extras

  • Especially popular Complex Forms include:
    • Editor: lets you bypass all that encryption drek deckers have to deal with
    • Cleaner: so far the only way to reduce your OS
    • Spike: Deal Matrix Damage without raising your OS
    • Resonance Channel: Reduce Noise without taking all those pesky program echoes
    • Infusion of []: wanna become unhittable when you get into combat? Extra firewall. Stealth god? Extra sleaze. You get the picture.
    • Puppeteer: Reboot that spider’s deck without getting admin access
  • A quick guide to sprites and what they’re good for:
    • Machine: what they sound like. They make your tech work good, and your enemies’ tech work bad. Learn diagnostics well, and use it constantly
    • Crack: the one you want to help you Teamwork all your hacking rolls on, and hack for itself when you’re not around
    • Fault: a bomb given semi-sentience. Keep one handy for when you need to go loud or GTFO of a system
    • Courier/Data: good for moving/keeping track of relevant Matrix data. Not apropos for every run, but good to have
  • The two streams you’ll want to think about for this kind of build are sorcerer and technoshaman: one boosts your abilities with your complex forms, the other helps your sprites become more powerful. As you play, consider getting one that fits your style.

Subclass 2: The Cyberadept (“Techno-Samurai”)

As the name implies, this is a hybrid class between technomancer and street samurai. As such, I’ll leave it to you to read the above guides on both archetypes, and decide how you want to knit them together. That being said, there are a few cool tricks that help out the combat-inclined techno:

  • FFF Echo: gain an ever-illusive pain editor without the nuyen or essence cost for that kinda bioware
  • Cyberadept Stream: it’s in the name! Take combat cyberware and still have good(ish) Resonance

Subclass 3: The Machinist (“Techno-Rigger”)

Refer to the above, but for riggers instead of samurai:

  • Mind Over Machine/Man-Machine Resonance Interface Echo: get the bread and butter for a rigger without sacrificing your meat
  • Machinist Stream: get bonuses to compiling the sprites that’ll improve your mechanical work, and control multiple vehicles like it’s nothing

Now get out there and make your runner, chummer!