Meet the Party: Shadowrun Fifth Edition

An elf with a silver tongue and a quicksilver pistol draw. A dwarf with magic at his fingertips and dragonfire in his soul. An ork so heavily augmented he’s barely a metahuman anymore. A human with his brain jacked right into the grid. Each Meet the Party article gives you an entire group of ready-to-play adventurers (maybe even some heroes) for your gaming needs for a variety of systems and settings. Remember, chummers: Watch your back, shoot straight, conserve ammo, and never, ever, cut a deal with a dragon, because it’s time to Meet the Party for Shadowrun 5th Edition from Catalyst Game Labs!

Taking place in the year 2075 in a world where magic has come back and the megacorporations of cyberpunk have risen, the biggest mechanical difference between a game like Shadowrun and the previous entries in the Meet the Party series is that Shadowrun 5E is a “Point Buy” style game. At character creation you are given points (which are different from karma, the game’s version of XP) and you assign them to various attributes and skills. Dark Heresy, of the already-featured games, came closest to being a Point Buy but was still… guided…  by the Aptitude system. In a true Point Buy like Shadowrun there are no proficiencies or aptitudes or limits on what you can take; if you have the points and/or karma for it, you can have it.

As a result of this there are no classes or careers or the like, which can throw people used to those structures for a loop. There are, however, character archetypes that are considered an integral part of the setting. When building a Shadowrun 5E character I find it best to first decide what I want the final product to look like and be capable of, and then start crunching away at the numbers.

An important change that was made in the transition from 4th Edition to 5th Edition was the Priority system, in what seems like an attempt to simplify the confusion of having too many options (a common problem with games that use this kind of system). The Priority system chops up the resources you have at character creation into five categories: Attributes, Skills, Metatype, Resources, and Magic. The ostensibly first thing to be done in character creation is to assign each category a Priority from A to E. The closer to A you grant a given category the more resources that category gets. Attributes, Skills, and Resources are simple: higher attributes, more and higher skills, and more Nuyen (the games currency) to spend on gear the higher the rating. Taking a rating above E for Magic grants you a Magic or Resonance Attribute, with higher priorities  increasing your magic and granting you access to more traditions, spells, and Magic-based skills. Metatype grants you the Shadowrun equivalent of a race and special attribute points. At Priority E you can only choose a Human, with no extra points that could go to Magic, Resonance, or Edge. Send Metatype up the Priority ladder and the other Metatypes (Elf, Dwarf, Ork, Troll) gradually become available, with more points to spend.

So, to get a better understanding of how these characters came to be, since there’s not a class section or specialization page to look at for a fast review, I’m going to ‘explode’ the first character’s section and insert some notes along the way! Additional notes will be added to the other characters as necessary.

Dame Valeria, The Face

Priorities: Attributes A, Skills B, Metatype (Elf) C, Resources D, Magic E

Condition Monitor (Physical/Stun): 9/10

The system’s equivalent of Hit Points, with Physical being obvious and Stun representing mental health. Both are represented by boxes on your character sheet; fill a monitor’s boxes and you’re down.

Overflow: 2

Negative Hit Points. Fill in these boxes and you’re fit for the organ bank.

Armor: 8

Limits: 4 Physical, 5 Mental, 9 Social

You can only do so well. Shadowrun runs on a dice pool system: you add your relevant attribute and relevant skills, roll that many d6s, and count how many hits you get. If you succeed your Limit tells you how many of those hits you get to use for the final calculations for success, such as damage dealt to an enemy.

Body: 2/6

Every Metatype has certain racial limits on the maximum number for attributes. The number to the left of the slash is the current number, the number to the right is the racial maximum. Upgrades to an attribute via cybernetics are represented in parantheses to the left of the slash. For an example, if Valeria had her Body augmented once it would read 2(3)/6. An attribute can only be given a +4 from augmentations, but note that it can exceed the racial maximum with those bonuses.

Agility (AGI): 6/7

Reaction (REA): 5/6

Strength (STR): 2/6

Willpower (WIL): 3/6

Logic (LOG): 3/6

Intuition (INT): 5/6

Charisma (CHA): 8/8

Edge (EDG): 4/6

A very important attribute, Edge represents the special something that lets a Shadowrunner survive. Edge can be spent to make a reroll, increase your dice, let your hits ‘explode’ into extra dice, or ‘burnt’ (permanently decreased) to stay alive when Death comes calling.

Essence (ESS): 5.8

The spiritual fortitude of your character. Essence starts at 6, is part of how you determine your Social limit, and is decreased by cybernetic augmentations. It also ties into Magic/Resonance rating: start losing Essence and your arcane attribute will go down as well, meaning you rarely see a magical ‘runner with any tech installed.

Initiative (INI): 10 +1d6

Positive Qualities: Bilingual, First Impression

Bonus traits! Positive Qualities cost karma (you get 25 at character creation) and grant your character some sort of benefit, either permanent or situational . . .

Negative Qualities: Distinctive Style, National SIN

. . . and Negative Qualities actually give you karma for taking them, compensation for the problems they cause you. Important note: you can only take 25 karma worth of Positives and receive 25 karma from Negatives.

Skills: Negotiation 6, Pistols 5, Con 5, Etiquette 5, Lockpicking 3, Perception 3, Escape Artist 3, Intimidation 3, Leadership 3, Stealth (Group) 3, Athletics (Group) 2

Only outstanding idea here is the Skill Groups. Skill Groups represent a broad understanding of several skills. Only a high skill Priority can net them at character creation with points, and they’re more expensive when it comes to karma, but they can cover some wide gaps in a character’s skill-set when chosen wisely. 

Knowledge Skills: Mr. Johnsons 4, Runner Hangouts 4, Criminal Organizations 4, Fences 4

Knowledge is power! Knowledge and Language points are provided at character creation via your Logic and Intuition.

Languages: English N, Sperethiel N, Japanese 3, Street 3, Corp 3, Or’zet 1

A rating of N means that the character is a native speaker; the higher number rating for non-native languages, the better the knowledge of the tongue.

Contacts: Bartender 4/4, Fixer 5/3, Yakuza Wakagashira 4/4

Everyone needs friends in the shadows. Based on your Charisma rating the Contacts you have are rated two ways: Connections and Loyalty. Connections determines how much sway/resources/power the Contact has, while Loyalty determines how likely the Contact is to take your side or keep you safe. Valeria’s bartender friend has a Connections of 4 and a Loyalty of 4, while her Fixer has a Connections of 5 and a Loyalty of 3, and so on.

Lifestyle: Medium

Gear: Ares Light Fire 75 Pistol, Ruger Super Warhawk Pistol, Actioneer Business Clothes, Hermes Ikon Commlink, Fake SIN (Rating 3), Lockpick Set, 1700 ¥

Cyberware: Tailored Pheromones (Rating 1)

Dame Valeria is the ‘face’ of this group of shadowrunners, the one who does most of the talking and the best choice for negotiating jobs with Mr. Johnson. She also has the contacts and the knowledge skills to keep the ¥ coming in. She’s the sneakiest ‘runner in the group, able to get in and out of some tough spots. Finally, she’s also a solid pistoleer. When negotiations get aggressive, she’s going to be able to hold her own pretty well.

Valeria’s karma went towards her skills, with a noticeable expenditure being her many languages. You can’t be the face if you can’t talk the talk, after all!

Corrigan Ashbeard, The Combat Mage

Priorities: Magic A (Magician), Attributes B, Metatype C (Dwarf), Skills D, Resources E

Condition Monitor (P/S): 10/12

Overflow: 3

Armor: 9

Limits: 4 Physical, 8 Mental, 7 Social, Astral 8

As a Magician, Corrigan is able to astrally project himself, moving through the astral plane. Only those with a strong mind dare to do so, capable of enacting their will on the pure mana there. Astral Limit is equal to whichever is higher, Mental or Social Limit.

Body: 3/8

AGI: 2/6

REA: 3/5

STR: 3/8

WIL: 7/7

LOG: 5/6

INT: 5/6

CHA: 4/6

EDG: 2/6

Magic: 7

ESS: 6

INI: 8 + 1d6 (10 +3d6 in Astral Combat)

Positive Qualities: Exceptional Attribute (Magic), Mentor Spirit (Dragonslayer)

Important note about Exceptional Attribute: it’s the only Quality that raise the maximum score of an attribute, and can’t be taken if the GM does not allow it. This article presumes a generous GM.

Negative Qualities: Spirit Bane (Water), Code of Honor (Warrior’s Code), Dependents (3 Karma)

Some Qualities have different ratings, and cost/give different amounts of karma depending on their rating. These types of qualities have the karma level marked next to them so that the player and GM will know how to handle them.

Tradition: Hermetic

Being a Hermetic Mage means that Corrigan approaches magic from a scholarly viewpoint. It also means that he uses Logic, along with Willpower, to resist Drain (a kind of fatigue that magic users can suffer from casting spells).

Spells: Flamethrower, Fireball, Armor, Ignite, Stunbolt, Manabolt, Analyze Magic, Detect Magic, Detect Enemies (Extended), Heal

Skills: Spellcasting 5, Counterspelling 5, Artificing 3, Banishing 5, Arcana 3, Alchemy 3, Disenchanting 3, Assensing 3, Astral Combat 3, Perception 2, Etiquette 2 (+2), Ritual Spellcasting 2, Negotiation 2

Knowledge Skills: Magic Theory 5, Magic Threats 5, Magic Groups 5, Dragons 5

Languages: English N, German 1

Contacts: Talismonger 6/6

Lifestyle: Low

Gear: Combat Spell Spellcasting Focus (Force 1), Lined Coat, Meta Link Commlink, 360 ¥

Cyberware: None

Every group of ‘runners worth their soy needs a proper mage, and for this group Corrigan Ashbeard is the dwarf in question. Able to fling fire and energy around at will makes him a powerhouse in combat, but he also provides added utility. He’s a living warning system, a magical radar, an emergency armorer, and the only one in the group able to provide healing. His own bank of knowledge provides the group with much-needed info on the magical parts of the Sixth World, and info on the one thing the group hopes to never need: Dragons. He’s not a bad conversationalist either.

Most of Ashbeard’s karma went towards fleshing out his skills, with a single point giving him a few words of German. His Dragonslayer mentor spirit is the one provides him with the +2 to Etiquette, while also giving him an extra 2 dice for combat spells.

‘Boomstick’ Brug, The Merc

Priorities: Resources A, Attributes B, Metatype (Ork) C, Skills D, Magic E

Condition Monitors (P/S): 12/9

Overflow: 10

Armor: 19

Limits: 10 Physical, 4 Mental, 3 Social

Body: 7/9

AGI: 6(8)/6

REA: 5(7)/6

STR: 6(8)/8

WIL: 2/6

LOG: 2/5

INT: 4/6

CHA: 2/5

EDG: 2/6

ESS: 0.95

INI: 11 +3d6

Positive Qualities: Toughness, Will to Live (Rating 3)

Negative Qualities: Uncouth, Moderate Addiction

Skills: Automatics 6, Longarms 5, Unarmed Combat 3, Heavy Weapons 2, Sneaking 2, Running 2, Perception 2

Knowledge Skills:  Black Market Pipelines 4, Smugglers 4, Corporate Security 4

Languages: English N, Or’zet 4

Contacts: Street Doc 2/2

Lifestyle: Medium

Gear: Fake SIN (Rating 4)x2, Armor Jacket, Helmet, Transys Avalon Commlink, Enfield AS-7 Shotgun, Ares Alpha Assault Rifle, Cavalier Arms Crockett EBR Sniper Rifle, 1260 ¥

Cyberware: Muscle Toner (Rating 2), Muscle Augmentation (Rating 2), Orthoskin (Rating 3), Damage Compensator (Rating 4), Synaptic Booster (Rating 2), Aluminum Bone Lace, Platelet Factories, Symbiotes (Rating 2), Cybereyes (Rating 2), Smartlink, Flare Compensation, Vision Enhancement (Rating 2), Thermographic Vision

If you’re flipping to the Street Gear section of the book to learn exactly what all of these cybernetics can do, you might be wondering why few of them are at the highest possible rating, despite Resources A giving Brug more than enough ¥ to reach several of them. That is because there are limits on what gear you can take at character creation: nothing with a rarity above 12, nothing with a device rating above 6.

In all the world there has to be at least one language wherein ‘Boomstick’ Brug translates to ‘living tank’. If not, there’ll be one shortly. Heavily augmented, he shoots straighter, moves faster, and stands up to damage better than even an experienced eye might expect. Even damage that gets through his Armor is going to be reduced in effectiveness by his Platelets and Damage Compensator. He’s not winning any science fairs, but he has practical knowledge skills that can keep him supplied and forewarned. Just don’t expect him to make many friends.

Brug’s karma was split between Skills, bringing some of his neglected Attributes above 1, and giving him a solid understanding of the ‘Ork language’ of Or’zet.

Gunner Slane, The Decker

Priorities: Resources A, Attributes B, Skills C, Metatype (Human) D, Magic E

Condition Monitors (P/S): 9/11

Overflow: 2

Armor: 6

Limits: 3 Physical, 10 Mental, 5 Social

Body: 2/6

AGI: 3(4)/6

REA: 3/6

STR: 1(2)/6

WIL: 5/6

LOG: 7(9)/7

INT: 5/6

CHA: 2/6

EDG: 5/7

ESS: 4.1

INI: 8 + 1d6 (Data Processing + 5 +3d6 Cold Sim)(Data Processing + 5 + 4d6 Hot Sim)

Gunner’s normal Initiaive is used for realspace actions and when he’s using Augmented Reality. Cold Sim and Hot Sim are levels of Virtual Reality, when Gunner is more fully plugged in, making him faster (and, in Hot Sim, granting him extra dice) but getting progressively more deadly if he takes a hit there. Data Processing isn’t one of Gunner’s attributes, but an attribute of his cyberdeck that can be adjusted by the decker at need.

Positive Qualities: Exceptional Attribute (Logic), Natural Hardening

Negative Qualities: Corporate SIN

Skills: Hacking 6, Cybercombat 5, Electronic Warfare 5 , Computer 5, Software 4, Hardware 3, Firearms (Group) 2, Sneaking 2, Influence (Group) 1

Knowledge Skills: Corporate Politics 6, Business 6, Corporate Security 6

Languages: English N, Aztlaner Spanish 2, Mandarin 2, Lakota 2

Contacts: Company Man 3/3

Lifestyle: Middle

Gear: Sony CIY-720 Cyberdeck, Transys Avalon Commlink, Armor Clothing, Ares Crusader II Machine Pistol, 3700 ¥

Cyberware: Cerebral Booster (Rating 2), Muscle Replacement (Rating 1), Datajack, Cybereye (Rating 1), Smartlink

Gunner Slane is a hot hand with a cyberdeck, capable of making the Matrix dance for him. He can make security systems dance for him too, and when the security spiders come running they’re more likely to get their brains melted than not. He’s got top of the line gear to work with, some augmentation to make him even smarter, and a first-hand knowledge of the inside of the corporate ivory towers, profitable intel for any group in the shadows.

Skills, Languages, and a slight boost to Agility are where Gunner decided to dump his karma.

Who They Are

Dame Valeria was born with something that a lot of people would want to have: a SIN, a System Identification Number. According to the corps and the governments she was a real person, a SINner, an honest citizen, with all the rights and privileges that brings.

To hell with that load of drek. The  right to be a wageslave and the privilege of licking the boot heels of the powerful. So Valeria threw her honest citizenship away, took the honorific of ‘Dame’ for a lark, and hit the shadows. After making a few deals and pulling a few triggers she found she liked it; being a face in the shadows granted her a certain level of respectability, and the pay was worth the trouble that came with being a more public breed of ‘runner. She’s never looked back.

Corrigan Ashbeard was well on his way to becoming a wagemage for some megacorp. Sure, he was as SINless as they come, but mages are worth plenty of cred to everyone looking to use them. Corrigan had talent and was smart, and it looked to be a done deal . . . until the Dragonslayer came to him. The mentor spirit exhorted him to cast off the chains the corp wanted for him, to become a literal hero of the age, and Corrigan couldn’t really help himself. For a while he fought the good fight in a more honest way, but traditional heroism doesn’t much pay the bills, and both his studies and his girl were starting to suffer. Should be plenty of dragons (hopefully metaphorical ones) to slay in the shadows.

‘Boomstick’ Brug didn’t choose to run in the shadows because he loved the thrill of it, or because he felt some sort of calling. He’s a ‘runner because it pays, and that’s that. He’s punched and shot his way out of poverty into the good life, and he has every intention of continuing the climb. He’s rude, temperamental, loves his drink a bit too much, and has enough modifications that something always seems a little off about him from a wageslave’s point of view . . . but in the shadows he’s death on two legs, and a reliable ‘runner who makes reliable pay. Just the way ‘Boomstick’ wants it.

Gunner Slane had it made, born to a corporation’s upper ranks. His entire life was planned out for him, and it was going to be a shiny one. But if you think things get cutthroat in the shadows, that’s nothing compared to the blood that gets spilled (sometimes literally) in the gleaming hallways of a megacorp complex. Made the scapegoat by a rival, blamed for a costly loss of data, Gunner was forced to flee for the streets. Having a Corporate SIN is a death sentence in the eyes of some shadowrunners, but Gunner’s skills (and the knowledge and gear he took with him when he ran) can make for a big payday. He’s doing okay so far.

How They Interact

Valeria highly values all of her teammates, knowing very well how important each can be to the group’s survival (and profits). Still, she has her opinions. Corrigan’s codes of honor, enforced by that spirit that follows him around, can be a big problem for some kinds of jobs. Still, the dwarf is the nicest out of the bunch, and Valeria considers him a good friend. Brug’s a menace at the negotiating table, but other than that she trusts him implicitly; he might be a merc, but he hates the corps far too much to ever take a bribe. Gunner is a goldmine of talent and info, and Dame Valeria has made it her personal mission to help him acclimate to his new life; the chance to tease a Corporate SINner is an added bonus.

Corrigan likes Valeria, who made a good impression the first time they met and has been friendly since. She knows the meaning of living a good life and throwing away safety to achieve it, too, something the Dragonslayer appreciates. Ol’ Boomstick is a solid teammate, maybe capable of slaying a real dragon (an infant, maybe), but Corrigan finds the rhyme with ‘thug’ appropriate. That honorless sniper rifle might attract a stunbolt some day. Gunner’s a decent enough man, but Corrigan isn’t entirely sure if he should trust the decker. If given the chance to go back to the megacorporation, would he?

Brug actually considers Valeria a friend, not that he’s very good at showing it most days. Of the entire group, she’s the only one he considers to be a true teammate and a ‘real’ shadowrunner. Ashbeard has the skills to be a good ‘runner, and he hasn’t let the group down yet, but he’s soft. Brug hopes the dwarf grows out of it before he has to beat it out of him. Brug has quietly declared himself Gunner’s guardian ‘angel’. He’ll keep the decker out of the hands of the megacorps whether the breeder likes it or not; a good decker is key to allowing Brug to use the wireless functions of his ‘ware without getting geeked himself.

Gunner is intimidated by most of the group in some way, the horror stories of shadowrunners that he grew up on coloring his perceptions. Still, his brief time in the shadows has started to build his own ideas. Valeria could likely have used her skills to climb onto the corporate ladder and keep on rising, so her choice to deliberately join the SINless both baffles and intrigues him. Although he’s admitted it to nobody, least of all himself, Gunner actually has something of a thing for the elf. Corrigan is actually inspiring, the almost reckless bravery he displays while lobbing fireballs in the shadows giving Gunner hope that one day he too will be used to this new life. Brug is downright terrifying, and Gunner can do little to hide that unease. But when the ork’s aiming his scowls (and his guns) downrange away from Gunner, it’s the safest the decker’s felt since fleeing the megacorp.

The Future

It’s a hard life out there in the shadows. Mr. Johnson might decide to kill you instead of pay you, the law is useless even if you weren’t a criminal, the megacorps will squeeze every drop out of you if they can, and dragons lurk in the rafters pulling strings. Can this group of shadowrunners stay ahead of the curve and make it out with the pay, or are the organ harvesters about to get a bargain? Omae, that’s for you (and your dice) to determine!

Originally posted 5/29/15 on the Mad Adventurers Society!

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