SR5:Character Creation:Step 5

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5th Edition Rules
Basics Combat Magic Matrix Driving Character Creation


You now have the basic attributes of your character; the next step is to figure out your skills, the areas where you have particular abilities and gifts. This is covered in the fourth column of the Priority Table. Remember that at this point, players should have only two Priority Levels left that have yet to be assigned, so they should choose one of them for this column.

Skills are broken down into three types: Active, Knowledge, and Language skills. Active skills are what the character can do physically: use firearms, drive a car, tell convincing lies, cast spells, register sprites, etc. Knowledge skills are what the character knows: how to find runner hangouts, the layout of the city, short cuts, the locations of street clinics, how to identify street gangs, etc. Language skills are the languages the character can speak, write, and comprehend.


  • Chemistry
  • Organized Crime
  • Magic Groups
  • [City] Knowledge
  • Dragons
  • Street Gang Identification
  • Parazoology
  • Corporate Politics
  • Vices
  • National Politics
  • Wilderness Survival
  • Magical Theory
  • Magic Threats
  • Black Market Pipelines
  • Smugglers
  • Runner Hangouts
  • Mr. Johnsons
  • Corporate Security
  • Fixers
  • Riggers
  • Spanish
  • Lakota
  • Dakota
  • Diné (Navajo)
  • Russian
  • French
  • Italian
  • German
  • Aztlaner Spanish
  • Sperethiel (elven language)
  • Or’zet (ork language)
  • English
  • Japanese
  • Mandarin

The first number in the skills column is the number of skill points a character has to spend on individual skills. These skill points are generally used to purchase Active skills, though they can be used for Knowledge and Language skills too (see below). If you don’t get exactly the skill ratings you want in this step, remember that skills may also be raised with Karma at the end of character creation. In this step, it only takes one skill priority point to either acquire a new skill or raise a skill rating by 1.

The number in the second column shows how many points characters can use on skill groups. Skill groups contain similar or complimentary skills that a player purchases as a bundle. When a skill group is purchased, the character is considered to have all the individual skills of the skill group at the rating of the group. the character wishes to break up the skill group during game play and raise only one of the skills, he is free to do so, but may not raise those skills as a skill group again until all skills possess the same rating. Skill group points may not be used to purchase individual skills and vice versa. In addition, skill groups cannot be broken up in this step, so individual skill points cannot raise the ratings of skills purchased as a group. (Note that skill groups can be broken up in Step Seven: Spend Your Left Over Karma (p. 98).

In character generation, the highest characters can raise a skill is 6 (7 if they purchase the Aptitude quality). After character generation, the highest rating a skill can hit is 12 (13 with the Aptitude quality).

All skill and skill group points must be spent at the time of character creation. These points cannot be saved or used after the game starts. The player should make sure any individual skills they want to purchase are not duplicated in any skill group they have taken. For example, a player may wish to purchase the Running skill, but if they have already purchased the Athletic skill group, the group includes running—they do not need to purchase the running skill a second time.

Along with skill ranks, players may also want to use their points to purchase specializations. Specializations are parts of a skill in which a character has invested extra time and effort, so they have become extra skilled. For example, if you have the Blades skill, you may specialize in an axe or survival knife. Having a specialization gives you a +2 dice pool bonus to skill tests involving the area of specialization.

At character creation, a specialization costs 1 skill point. No individual skill may have more than one specialization. As a character develops, though, they may gain other areas of expertise (for example, you may complement your axe knowledge with sword expertise) and so add more specializations to the same skills. Along with being purchased in this step, specializations may be purchased using Karma at the end of character creation (see Character Advancement, p. 103). Specializations cannot be purchased for skill groups. Skill groups reflect a general understanding of similar skills rather than a particular expertise that a specialization denotes. Players may choose to buy a specialization for an individual skill within a skill group, but if they do so the skill group is broken from that point forward, meaning that all skills of the group must be raised separately. Additionally, once a specialization is taken for a skill in the skill group, it is impossible to reconstruct that skill group. This cannot happen in Step Five of character creation—you can only break up a skill group by buying a specialization for it in Step Seven (see p. 98 for details).

Survival on the streets depends on two things (at least): being really good at what you do, and having some backup skills for when things go to hell. If you’re going to be a shooter, stock up on the appropriate gun skills, but maybe add some Perception so you can see your targets coming, some Sneaking to keep them from seeing you, and some First Aid in case you wind up catching a bullet. If you’re a magician, you need plenty of Spellcasting, Counterspelling, and maybe Summoning, but Gymnastics might be a nice addition to help you avoid incoming attacks, and Palming may be useful for slipping a keycard from a guard while you’re invisible. And if you’re a face, you need plenty of social skills, but you’ll be asking for trouble if you don’t buy some combat skills to fall back on for those times when words fail you. Whatever your character concept, you should think of your character’s skills as a whole, building some excellent skills while also providing an overall balance to maximize your chances of success. You won’t have all your skills where you want them at first, but that’s why you play the game—as you finish missions and earn more Karma, you’ll have the chance to boost both your skills and your attributes.

For ease of reference, a master list of skill groups and skills are provided in this section. Full descriptions of skills and their specializations are found in the Skills chapter (p. 128).


There are some skills that cannot be used by all characters. Magic and Resonance-based skills are restricted to characters who have a Magic or Resonance attribute rating. Without the appropriate attribute, the character cannot learn or utilize these skills. These restricted skills are listed under the Magic and Resonance headings in the list of Individual Skills on p. 151.

Additionally, aspected magicians can use only one category of Magic skills (Sorcery, Conjuring, or Enchanting), while magicians and mystic adepts are able to use the whole range of skills. Deckers, even though many of their talents are similar to technomancers while in the Matrix, cannot use Resonance-based skills (namely Compiling, Decompiling, and Registering). For specifics on skill restrictions and whether a character can take a specific skill, refer to the Skills chapter (p. 128).


Characters receive free Knowledge and Language skills points equal to (Intuition rating + Logic rating) x 2. These points are spent in the same way as other skill points, meaning that spending 1 point gives 1 rank in a skill.

In addition to the free points, your character receives one language that he knows as a native language at no cost. On a character sheet, this is designated with an “N” as the skill rating. If your character has taken the Bilingual quality, you may have a second native language, which you also receive for free.

Additional Language skills are purchased and have numerical ratings. This rating represents how well the character understands and comprehends that language. As long as the character has at least a rating of 1, the character has a chance to be able to speak and/or write the language and to interpret the gist of what is said or written, even if they don’t catch every nuance. The higher the rating, the more fluent the character is in that language. At character creation, no character may possess a knowledge or a language skill higher than rating 6. Language skills use Intuition as their linked Attribute.

There are four types of Knowledge skills: Academic, Interests, Professional, and Street. Depending on the category, a character rolls either Knowledge skill + Intuition or Knowledge skill + Logic for the appropriate test. These tests indicate what information the character knows on a particular subject, with more net hits indicating that the character is more familiar with and has more knowledge of the subject in question. Academic knowledge is information gained through formal education, whether from a school, tutor, university, or other structured program. Interests include hobbies, experiences, and personal interests of the individual character. Professional knowledge comes from an employer or professional organization. Street knowledge includes everything a runner has picked up from life in the shadows, from drug prices to gang politics to who pays the most for stolen goods (see the Knowledge Category Examples table (p. 89) for more examples). When purchasing knowledge skills, a player should note which category the skill belongs to so they know which attribute (Intuition or Logic) they will need to roll on their Knowledge Tests. Sometimes, Knowledge skills may straddle multiple categories. In these cases, choose the most appropriate category for the knowledge skill based on the character and how they would use it. For example, a Corporations Knowledge skill could fit in Professional, Academic, or Street categories; a neo-anarchist with this skill would likely be focused on how corporate activities affect life on the street, so for this character it would be a Street skill.




James selects Priority Level E for his character’s skills, giving him 18 skill points to assign. At this level, James does not receive any Skill Group points. Thanks to his earlier choice of Row B in the Magic and Resonance column, he already has two skills: Compiling 4 and Registering 4. Looking over the skills list, James decides the following Active Skills would be useful at the listed ranks: Automatics 2, Computer 3, Electronic Warfare 1, Forgery 2, Hacking 5, Hardware 1, Perception 2, Pistols 2.

For Knowledge and Language skills, James receives 16 free points [(Intuition 4 + Logic 4) x 2 = 16]. James selects English for his Native language, and decides that his character has picked up a little Japanese from the streets. He purchases Knowledge Skills covering BTL Dealers, Corporations, Fixers, Local Deckers, Local Technomancers, Matrix Security Measures, Mr. Johnsons, Neo-Anarchists, and Operating Systems. James assigns ratings to these skills based on the points he has available. This is how James’ character looks at this point:


Rob the troll street samurai has chosen to use Priority Level C for his character’s skills. This gives him 28 skill points and 2 skill group points. Rob chooses the Athletics skill group for both his skill group points. Because his character is combat-orientated, Rob chooses buy Automatics 5, Blades 4, Computer 1, First Aid 2, Heavy Weapons 1, Longarms 3, Perception 1, Pilot Ground Craft 2, Pistols 2, Throwing Weapons 2, and Unarmed Combat 5.Based on his Intuition and Logic Attribute ratings, Rob gets 12 free points to buy Knowledge and Language skills.

For his Knowledge skills, Rob takes Bismarck City Knowledge, Street Clinics, UCAS Military Regulations, Fixers, and Runner Hangouts.

Rob decides that his character was stationed near the UCAS/Sioux border when in the UCAS military. While there, he picked up a little Dakota, as well as knowledge on the Sioux Nation. Rob’s character’s native language is English.

After massaging his skill points to fit his concept, Rob’s skills look like this:


Kyra intends to be the face of the group, so she will need to have a mix of combat skills and social skills. Since she chose Row A for her Magic or Resonance column, she already has the Spellcasting and Counterspelling skills at 5. She selects Priority Row C for her skills. Like Rob, Kyra receives 28 skill points and 2 skill group points. Kyra decides to spend her skill group points on the Conjuring skill group. Then she chooses the following skills for her character: Assensing 3, Automatics 4, Computers 1, Con 4, Etiquette 2, Locksmith 2, Negotiation 4, Perception 3, Pilot Ground Craft 2, and Pistols 3. Now that she has selected her skills, she can go back and decide which ones will be augmented by her adept powers. For her Enhanced Accuracy [Skill], she chooses her Automatics skill, and for her Improved Ability [Skill] she chooses Pistols.

Based on her character’s Intuition and Logic scores, Kyra’s character receives 14 skill points for knowledge and language skills [(4 + 3) x 2 = 14]. She chooses to acquire the following skills: Fixers 1, Law Enforcement Tactics 2, Organized Crime 1, Street Drug Dealers 2, Street Gang Identification 3, and Street Gang Politics 3. Kyra’s character has English as her native language, but she also knows a little Sperethiel, a prominent elven language found in Tír Tairngire and Tír na nÓg.