SR5:Character Creation:Step 1

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5th Edition Rules
Basics Combat Magic Matrix Driving Character Creation


The sidebar Common Character Concepts and their Roles Explained gives you a snapshot of the character types your most likely to find in the shadows. Disparate characters band together as runner teams; blending their talents, skills, and specialized expertise to complete missions they would not be able to pull off as individuals. Some runner teams come together for a specific job, while others stay together throughout their entire careers, becoming as close-knit as family. This gallery is just a starting point—there are characters in the shadows that don’t conform to any list. The one you create will be uniquely yours.


A spreadsheet, word processing document, or pen and paper will help keep things clear and organized as you go through the character creation process. Organization makes it easier to track the priorities you have selected for your character, along with your Karma expenditures. It will also prove useful in calculating Essence and other elements as well as subtracting costs from your resources. As you go through character creation, note any bonuses you receive from Qualities and augmentations on the character sheet, as these may modify the statistics of the character at the end of the character creation process.

Character creation involves many decisions, from choosing the right skills to purchasing the appropriate gear. It could take as little as an hour to build a character or as long as an evening. It is helpful to have an idea of what you want to play and what you want your character to do before getting together for a home game of Shadowrun.

You may start with an idea of what sort of character you want to play and some basic background concepts. The character may be an ex-soldier from a national government looking to use her combat skills on the streets. Or a former corporate headhunter forced out of the megacorporation by an ambitious rival and now using his negotiating savvy and deal-making skills to survive the shadows. There are second-generation runners, born to the life and learning the skills of the trade from their SINless parents. It’s not unusual for a bounty hunter who collects pelts of paranormal critters or tracks down fugitives to engage in a little shadowrunning to supplement his income. The character may have grown up in a street gang, and he sees shadowrunning as a way to get out of the gutter. Or the character may have just gotten out of jail and be eager to see what she can do with the skills she learned and the connections she made on the inside. You do not need to understand all the nuances of character creation and character statistics to get started. That will come with time. To start, have a concept in mind and dive in. Your character will quickly become unique—and all yours.

Players and the gamemaster should work together to develop a team of characters that are suited to the campaign. The character creation rules as presented in this chapter involve the creation of an experienced shadowrunner. For rules on the other levels of character creation (street level, prime runner), see the Alternate Gameplay Sidebar.

All characters in Shadowrun start with 25 Karma they will use to improve themselves. They’ll get plenty of other resources as they move through the process.


Face: The face runs his fingers over the thrumming strings of other people’s wants and needs, playing them like a maestro. He is master of the con, a polished negotiator, and often an expert leader. Interacting with Mr. Johnson during the meet is his specialty, especially when it comes to bargaining for the greatest profit. The face also excels at legwork, coaxing or squeezing vital information from a variety of sources that could help make sure his job is a success. Though the face usually manages to get what he wants with charm and a smile, he knows how to be more forceful to get people to cough up their secrets. Words are the face’s weapon of choice and Charisma and Willpower are the face’s two important attributes—but he has no problem using an Ares Predator when the situation warrants.

Spellcaster: A manabolt to your chest, a fireball in your face—that’s what the spellcaster brings to the table in combat. And he does so much more. He manipulates and channels mana, an energy field that is the essence of magic. Mana can be manipulated in several different ways, allowing for different types of spellcasters. Magicians follow a more logical and ordered system of magic, while shamans rely more on their instincts and intuition. To make a spellcaster, a player needs to select a priority that grants a Magic attribute rating (see Priority Table, p. 65). Depending on the tradition, Charisma or Intuition can be important attributes for spellcasters, and Willpower is an important attribute for resisting Drain.

Decker: The trickster in the Matrix, the flash of lightning in the corner of your virtual eye—a decker specializes in hacking into computers, commlinks, and datahavens. Her job often involves stealing, altering, and manipulating data as well as taking control of or modifying security systems so her teammates can get in and out of defended facilities. A good decker knows her work may put her right in the middle of heated action, and she knows how to react. Whether she’s firing a weapon, disabling the weapons of others, or sending every electronic device in a place on the attack, she has a whole bunch of options to keep herself involved in unfolding combat. A decker never travels without her cyberdeck (p. 227), the tool of her trade. Logic, Intuition, and Willpower can be important attributes for the decker character.

Technomancer: Some people hack the Matrix with physical tools, but a few have the ability to log on with nothing more than their minds. These people are technomancers. A technomancer can access the Matrix with his mind through an intrinsic connection that’s not fully understood, even in 2075—though plenty of people would pay plenty to figure out how it works. A player who wishes to play a technomancer must select an option on the Priority Table (p. 65) that gives the character a Resonance attribute. Logic, Intuition, and Willpower can be important attributes for the technomancer.

Rigger: Some people drive cars; other people use vehicles as an extension of their body, like an additional set of limbs. A rigger is a professional driver, an ace controller of all sorts of machines. She is highly skilled in the operation, repair, and customization of all sorts of vehicles and/or drones, offering surveillance, transportation, and remote firepower to their team. Reaction is a critical attribute for riggers.

Street Samurai: Some artists work in watercolors, some in oils. The street samurai is an artist of pain. In any given situation, he knows fifteen ways to hurt an opponent, and an additional eight ways to hurt an opponent real bad. He can take significant amounts of damage and stay standing, leveling devastating damage on her opponents. He typically is augmented with significant amounts of cyberware and bioware to make him exceptionally tough and dangerous in physical and armed combat. While he is ferocious and deadly, he tends to have a code—it may be a code comprehensible only to him, but it’s something. Body, Strength, and Agility are important attributes for characters that are street samurai.



James, Rob, and Kyra are putting together new characters for a Shadowrun game. Their gamemaster is Michael. After talking with the players about what they are looking for in a game, Michael has determined that the starting level will be experienced runner (the default level). James has decided he wishes to play a technomancer who grew up on the streets. Rob wants to put together a street samurai, whose background includes service in the military of the United Canadian American States (UCAS). Kyra has chosen to be a SINless mystic adept, combining the abilities of spellslinging with a body enhanced by magic abilities. Kyra has also decided to add some social skills to her repertoire. James, Rob and Kyra have determined the following qualities are important to their characters. Later in the character creation process, they may select other qualities to purchase that will work well with the characters’ attributes and skills.


Technomancer Natural Hardening (Cost: 10 Karma)


Street Samurai SINner [National]: (Bonus: 5 Karma) Exceptional Attribute [Strength]: (Cost: 14 Karma) [Dependent on gamemaster approval]


Mystic Adept Mentor Spirit (Cost: 5 Karma) Focused Concentration [Rating 2] (Cost: 8 Karma)


Shadowrun provides players with two alternate ways of building characters besides the normal experienced players. The first is for street-level characters; characters that have not yet had a chance to establish themselves as runners and are still in the process of earning their street cred. Obviously, these characters will not have the same gear or resources as the experienced shadowrunner. The second option is the prime runner build to create a character who has successfully been running the shadows long enough to have established their reputations as professionals in the eyes of Mr. Johnson. They possess the gear, the connections, and the talent to back up those reputations. The following are the rules for each level of alternate game play:


  • Modify the resources column on the Priority Table as follows:
  • Priority A: 75,000 nuyen
  • Priority B: 50,000 nuyen
  • Priority C: 25,000 nuyen
  • Priority D: 15,000 nuyen
  • Priority E: 6,000 nuyen
  • Karma: Each player receives 13 Karma to customize characters (maximum of 26 Karma).
  • Gear Restrictions: Device Ratings must be rated at 4 or less. Maximum Availability is limited to 10 or less.
  • Nuyen Restrictions: Characters may only convert up to 5 Karma into nuyen (10,000 nuyen).
  • Follow all other rules for Character Creation/Advancement as laid out in this chapter.


  • Modify the resources column on the Priority Table as follows:
  • Priority A: 500,000 nuyen
  • Priority B: 325,000 nuyen
  • Priority C: 210,000 nuyen
  • Priority D: 150,000 nuyen
  • Priority E: 100,000 nuyen
  • Karma: Each player receives 35 Karma to customize characters (maximum of 70 Karma).
  • Gear Restrictions: Device Ratings must be rated at 6 or less. Maximum Availability is 15 or less.
  • Nuyen Restrictions: Characters may convert up to 25 Karma into nuyen (50,000 nuyen).
  • Karma Restrictions: Instead of the normal Charisma x 3 Karma for contacts, increase this amount to Charisma x 6 Karma for contacts.
  • Follow all other rules for Character Creation/Advancement as laid out in this chapter.