There are plenty of cyberpunk and futuristic TTRPGs out there if you go looking for them. Some of them even include magic, to make a science-fantasy world rather than pure science-fiction.
Few of them are quite so unique as Shadowrun.
What is Shadowrun?
Shadowrun is a dystopian science-fantasy TTRPG set in the near future, wherein the ‘Awakening’ has caused the birth of elves, dwarves, trolls, and orcs into our world. With them came magic (and dragons!), but our current progression of capitalism and technology was already set in stone. These strange new powers were only added into the cyberpunk dystopia, they didn’t prevent it.
Now, a few powerful corporations control the world, with a strange and strict social order emerging among the different species. This in turn has given rise to the existence of well-trained street operatives – some who do the dirty work of corporations, and some who take a stand against them. Because they operate in secret, these operatives are called ‘Shadowrunners’.
It’s a detailed and compelling world.
Unfortunately, Shadowrun is known to be a bit complex to run. The current edition, e6, is probably the simplest (although not the fan favorite, that honor goes to e2 or e3), but even then requires a pretty thorough understanding of abilities, modifiers, and contingencies to run smoothly.
Luckily, there are a few tools out there to help you out!
Shadowrun Dice Rollers/Initiative Trackers
The core dice mechanic of Shadowrun is to roll Xd6 (where X is determined by your weapon or ability scores in some way, higher usually being better), and totaling the number of 5s and 6s you get. This can be time-consuming, since you’ll want to be rolling 12 or 13 dice at minimum for the skills that you specialize in.
To speed things up, you can use an online roller. This one automatically tells you your number of successes, and lets you make multiple rolls at a time (in case you’re doing two actions in rapid successions): http://sigma.acornscity.com/shadowrun/dice.html
If you’re using e5, you might want one that also helps you track initiative, which also uses a unique system. There are plenty of apps and programs to help with this, too. Some of them even come connected to a die roller, like this one: https://shadowrun4.neocities.org/tracker
If you want something portable (and prettier), there are several Shadowrun dice apps that can be downloaded to your phone – including an official one!
Shadowrun doesn’t really have a class system, although it does have recommended roles that you may want to build your character. It also doesn’t have species stats – instead, it opts for a unique system where you have a table of character values (such as ability points, resources, magical affinity, etc.). You can only take one from each column, so if you take the highest stats, you can’t get the highest resources, and so forth.
It can be a little confusing – which is why there are plenty of online tools to help you build your characters (or NPCs, if you’re the GM).
OMAE 3.0 is a program for building characters i
n Shadowrun e5. It’s entirely browser-based, and lets you simply click through the choices (eliminating the ones you can no longer take as you go), type in your descriptions, add your items, and be finished with character creation in no time flat!
You can find a link to it here: https://oma3.vercel.app/
If you’ve decided that you want to use e5 instead of e6 (for the more complex, but more thorough, rules, which seem to be widely preferred among its established community, Chummer is the option for you. It’s a fan-made program, widely used and beloved by the community. Even OMAE doesn’t compare at all to its thoroughness and ease of use, despite the increased complexity of the rules it applies to.
You’ll have to download it, but the files are small and easy to use. It allows you to choose which sourcebooks you include resources from, go back and change your characters after the fact, and is altogether a fantastic tool.
You can find a link to download it here: https://github.com/chummer5a/chummer5a
Community Advice and Resources
There is plenty of content available online for Shadowrun, some official, and some created by dedicated fans who want to share their own home rules and resources. Much of it will be e5, since e6 had a pretty poor reception by fans, but there absolutely is stuff out there if you go looking. The Shadowrun Reddit is a good place to start (provided that you know how to navigate the site), but there are stand-alone sites out there. Here are a few:
- Runner Smurf’s Shadowrun Site: A great place to start for easy-to-use programs, handouts, and setting resources for Shadowrun e6.:
- Shadowrun Sixth World: The official e6 Shadowrun website, where you can find official sheets, links to but books, and various guides.
- Aaron’s Shadowrun Resources Site: A webpage filled with resources for playing e4 Shadowrun
- Orffenspace: A site with various generators, alternate rulesets, and even a run (oneshot) randomizer!
- Blackjack: A collection of maps for use with Shadowrun, archived on the Wayback Machine
- Burnout: A collection of run ideas for Shadowrun, archived on the Wayback Machine
- Google Docs Cheatsheet: A sheet with short descriptions of the various abilities and modifiers for Shadowrun e5, arranged in an easy-to-read format.
Have you ever run Shadowrun, and have something to add to this list? Let us know in the comments below – you can never have too many resources!