SR5:Character Creation:Step 9

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5th Edition Rules
Basics Combat Magic Matrix Driving Character Creation



Even though the stats are done and the character sheet is filled out, you’re not quite finished. You still need to get the gamemaster approval before play begins. Hopefully, the gamemaster has been actively involved in this process, guiding character creation to help ensure the campaign is both fun and satisfying. If the gamemaster was not involved in the character creation process, players may need to make revisions to their characters that will allow them to get the most out of the of campaign the gamemaster envisions running.

For a successful game, all parties should be willing to be flexible and make adjustments that will work for everyone while playing and enjoying Shadowrun (for more advice on working as a group with the gamemaster, see the Gamemaster Advice chapter, p. 332).

In the final stage you should also flesh out the backstory for the character. Qualities, attribute ratings, and contacts provide a blueprint of who these characters are now. But what are their stories? Why are they shadowrunners? What aliases are they known by? How did they earn their street names? Their scars? What are their real names? Who are their friends? Their enemies? How old are they? If a character possesses a piece of gear that they cannot use right now, what is the story behind that? If they have cyberlimbs, was that by choice or out of necessity? The more interesting the background, the more possibilities for interesting role-playing scenarios that can add flavor and diversity to a game.


Character generation is only the start. Your character will go on some runs, pick up some Karma and nuyen, and then look for ways to get better at what he does. Character advancement rules tell you how to build your runner from a street novice to a big, bad, fire-breathing street legend. (Gamemasters: for information on awarding Karma, see Gamemaster Advice, p. 332).

Karma advancement works similar to the way you spent Karma at the end of character creation to customize the character, improve skills and attributes, and purchase things like bound spirits and registered sprites, but with one fundamental difference. When you create your character, it’s assumed your character has taken the time needed to develop and improve whatever skills he possesses. Once roleplaying starts, though, he’s going to need time to get better at his skills. He cannot, for example, simply rise from a Blades skill of 5 to Blades 6 overnight. He must train, possibly under the instruction of a master, and practice, practice, practice to improve his skill. This training and practice normally takes place during the runner’s downtime.

The time it takes to improve an attribute or skill is meant to reflect the in-world time a character must invest in improving his abilities and is measured in days, weeks, or months. The higher the rating in a skill or attribute, the more difficult and time-consuming it is to advance to the next level. Some qualities, such as Dependents, extend this timeframe. This training time can be interrupted by going out on runs or doing other activities, but the character must resume his interrupted training as quickly as possible. Waiting too long before getting back into training can result in losing the benefits of previous sessions and having to start from the beginning again. Karma for the new or improved rating of an attribute or skill does




The technomancer that James is playing grew up on the streets of Seattle. He was born to SINless parents in 2056. His real name is Andrew Mason, but goes by the street name of “Mega Pulse.” He lost his parents when he was nine years old; they were neo-anarchists who were captured by the Mitsuhama megacorporation when they attempted to sabotage an illegal dumping facility. Andrew never saw his parents again.Fortunately for him, their neo-anarchist cell was closeknit, and the members took Andrew in. When he was ten years old, Mason’s technomancer abilities began to emerge. Mason was smart enough to hide his abilities, and no one outside his close adoptive family suspected he was a technomancer. Calling himself Mega Pulse, he used his technomancer abilities to aid his family and their cause. He hacked into megacorporate nodes and hosts, retrieving information neo-anarchists could use to expose and disrupt their machinations. He helped vandalize corporate Matrix sites and did whatever else he could to undermine the power of the corporations and free metahumanity from corporate oppression and exploitation. Mega Pulse recently hacked a corporate node to generate documents proving he, in the guise of one of his fake SINs, owned an Ares Roadmaster belonging to Ares Macrotechnology. Although he himself cannot drive, Mega Pulse is more than happy to allow the neo-anarchists to use the liberated vehicle to further their cause. And to take it out on a joyride from time to time.Now nineteen, Mega Pulse has turned to shadowrunning. Ostensibly he works mainly for profit, but he’s always on the lookout for some dirt on the megacorporations. He actively seeks out runs against the Big Ten, using every opportunity to access more of their networks, collecting as much information as he can to pass along to his family cell. Along the way, Mega Pulse has discovered he has a flair for shadowrunning and that he enjoys it. He’s still dedicated to the cause, but he also enjoys making a living and hopes to move beyond a low Lifestyle in the near future.

Mega Pulse pities the wageslaves working for the megacorporations, ignorant of the oppression they constantly endure. He is more hostile toward the managers and executives, because he believes they are the ones allowing the corporations to continue acting as they are. Mega Pulse has been wrapped up in this mindset for a long time, so it tends to surface in his normal conversation.


Rob’s character is named Tyson Hughes. His street name is “The Hammer,” due to the fact that he can hit like a sledgehammer. The Hammer was born in Boston to a middle-class family in 2053. His family members were SINners, his father a career military noncom, and when he was born he was issued his national SIN for the UCAS. At age 18, Tyson enlisted in the UCAS army out of pressure from his father, but he quickly realized he was not suited to military life. As one of only a few trolls in the UCAS army, he felt adrift in a sea of humans. Many humans, in turn, despised trogs and felt Tyson should not be in the army. His supervisors saw him and other trolls as front-line cannon fodder. He knew he was drawing risky and dangerous deployments due to the fact that his commanders believed he could easily survive much more punishment than his fellow human soldiers. He was stationed at Bismarck, North Dakota, and assigned border patrol duty along the Sioux Nation border—a very dangerous assignment due to the many skirmishes between the UCAS army and the Sioux Special Forces units, the Wildcats.

Tyson became frustrated and bitter during his four-year tour in Bismarck. Despite his best efforts to emulate his father’s career and keep his record clean, he was routinely passed over for promotion. He did not receive overt explanations, but to him it seemed pretty clear that prejudice would prevent him from ever rising above the rank of private first class. Altercations with soldiers in his unit became common, and in every instance he was cited as the perpetrator; he was frequently written up—unfairly, he thought—for insubordination. Tyson began getting more aggressive with in skirmishes with the Sioux Wildcats and smugglers his unit caught crossing the border. He was written up repeatedly for use of excessive force. Eventually Tyson’s superiors had enough. In mid2074, they gave him a Bad Conduct Discharge. Tyson tried for months to find legitimate work, but being a troll and having a Bad Conduct Discharge on his record made employers wary. At the end of 2074, Tyson decided to make a change, and he moved to Seattle to make a fresh start.

Unfortunately, his Bad Conduct Discharge followed him, and still no legitimate employer was willing to take a chance on giving him a job. By 2075, Tyson realized he had no choice but to turn to the shadows to survive. Despite having a very useful skill set, Tyson found many smugglers in particular did not want to work with him. Smuggling networks span the continent, and local smugglers knew all about Tyson’s reputation for brutality against their chummers along the UCAS/Sioux border; none would work with him. In fact, if he needs to travel, smugglers charge him double the going rates.

Tyson has come to regret his actions against smugglers when he was in the army, and he wants a shot at redemption. He will work to improve his reputation with the local smugglers and prove he has changed.


Kyra’s character is called “Silver” in the streets due to both her silver tongue and her silver hair. Silver is notorious for being able to talk almost anyone into giving her what she wants. When her negotiating skills don’t take care of business, she can resort to either magic or firearms, and her skills with both make her deadly.

Silver was born in 2053 in Puyallup, a district of Seattle. Her given name was Catlin Moore. She was born into Tarislar, an elven enclave made up of exiles from Tír Tairngire, and metahumans who fled from other parts of Seattle during the Night of Rage. Tarislar can be a dangerous place, and in September 2061—commonly known as the Year of the Comet—her father was killed during the panic and violence triggered by an eruption of SURGE in Tarislar’s population. Her mother did what she could to raise Silver on her own, but in early 2064, her mother died from pneumonia. Shortly after that, Silver was recruited into the street gang known as the Ancients. The Ancients helped Silver survive many threats to the sprawl, not the least of which was the second Matrix Crash that occurred later in the year. Silver has been riding with the Ancients ever since she was old enough to handle a bike.

Although her loyalties are still with the Ancients (she still has their tattoos and her bike is still custom painted with their symbol, a bright green “A” in the center of a bright-green circle), she’s looking to do more with her life. Being a mystic adept, she feels she has a lot to offer a runner team. She follows a totem identified as “Sea.” Her manner of casting spells and summoning spirits is steeped in the shamanic tradition. Despite becoming a shadowrunner, Silver will still ride with the Ancients during her downtime, no matter the problems that may cause for her or her chummers.

not need to be paid until the character has fully completed their training period. For the duration of training required per attribute or skill rating, refer to the Training Rate Table. This time can be reduced with the help of an instructor (see Using Instruction, p. 141).

The time it takes to improve attributes cannot be decreased. Building muscle for Body or Strength, or improving cognitive functions, always takes a serious investment of time. Note that you can’t improve Physical or Mental attributes during the same downtime period when you receive implants or augmentations that improve those same attributes. That downtime is used solely for recovery from the augmentation implanting process and for getting used to their body’s new modifications. The character will have to wait to the next downtime to begin training for another improvement. A character may only train to improve one Mental and one Physical attribute, or one attribute and one skill, in a single downtime period.

Skills can be taught for improvement purposes. If the player is able to find an instructor to train him and help him perfect his techniques, the time it takes improve his skill is reduced by 25 percent (round down). If the character chooses to focus on improving only skills during a downtime, the character may choose to learn or improve a number of skills up to their Logic rating divided by 2 (round up). Specializations for skills take 1 month of dedicated training to learn and cannot be learned at the same time as anything else. Skill groups are improved at a rate of [new Rating] x 2 weeks. A character in the process of training to improve a skill group cannot learn or improve any other attributes or skills at the same time. Improving a skill group is considered time consuming and focus intensive.

Edge is a unique quality. Because it reflects the character’s luck, it requires no special amount of time to raise. Edge can be raised anytime the character has the Karma to do so.


The cost to improve an attribute is new Rating x 5 Karma.

The calculations for these improvements have already been made in the Karma Advancement Table. To use the table, first find your current Rating in the Starting Rating column on the left, then move to the right until you are in the column whose header matches your desired new rating. For example, if you are raising an Attribute from 4 to 5, find 4 in the Starting Rating column, and move to the right along the row until you find the desired Rating (column 5, in this case). In this case the entry is 25, which means you need to pay 25 Karma for the attribute rating increase (which is equal to Rating 5 x 5 Karma). If you wanted to go from 4 to 6, you’d move one column further to the right and see that you needed a total of 55 Karma to make this increase.

The maximum number of ratings you can increase a single Attribute by in any given period of downtime during a campaign is 2. If you wish to raise the Attribute any further, you will have to wait for more downtime. The skill table works on a similar principle, though Active Skill ratings costs are computed at new Rating x 2. If you are purchasing a brand new skill, find the desired rating on the table and pay that cumulative amount. For example, if you are purchasing the running skill for the first time, and are buying it up to Rating 3, you will pay 12 Karma. To go from 7 to 8 in a skill, you will pay 16 Karma (rating 8 x 2 Karma). To calculate the cost of jumping more than one level, subtract the number in the column with your current Rating from the number in the column with your desired higher Rating. Knowledge and Language skills work in a similar manner, though their cost is only new Rating x 1. A character may raise the Rating of their Active, Knowledge, or Language skills up by a maximum of 3 rating points per any one downtime.

To raise the skill(s) any further, they have to wait for another period of downtime.

Active Skill Groups cost new Rating x 5 to raise and can only be raised by 1 rating per downtime.


To gain access to a new complex form, a technomancer must spend 4 Karma. Details on learning complex forms can be found in the Resonance Library section (p. 252).


Aspected magicians, magicians, and mystic adepts may purchase new spells, rituals, or preparations to use (see Magic, p. 276). The magic user must spend 5 Karma to learn the spell, ritual, or preparation. For details on how to learn magic, see p. 299.


There are two ways for a character to pick up new qualities. First, they can be assigned by the gamemaster as a result of events or actions in the course of a campaign. Positive qualities may be assigned as reward for good roleplaying, while Negative qualities may be assigned if something traumatic or significant happens or the character does something for which the Negative quality is a reasonable consequence (“reasonable” is defined by the gamemaster). A player may also purchase Positive qualities for his character at any time during game play. The cost for purchasing a Positive quality during game play is the listed Karma cost x 2. Similarly, if a character wishes to get rid of a Negative quality, has met any stipulated requirements, and the gamemaster has given the player permission, the player may do so at a rate of listed Karma x 2.




After a couple of runs, James has earned 20 Karma, and his gamemaster has given him two weeks of downtime. Looking over his character sheet and reviewing his options, James decides that he would like to raise his character’s Reaction, from 2 to 3. According to the table for attributes this advance will cost 15 Karma, which he has It normally takes 3 weeks to raise an attribute to Rating 3, but Mega Pulse has the Dependents quality, which adds fifty percent to any training time, so it will take him 4.5 weeks. He will not be able to raise his Reaction during this two-week downtime period, but he will have time to do so during the next scheduled downtime. Since James can also raise a skill during this same time period and he has 5 Karma left, he chooses to raise his Hardware skill from 1 to 2. This uses 4 Karma. The base training time for his Hardware skill is 2 days (2 x 1 day), but with his Dependents quality, it takes him 3 days. He has 1 Karma remaining; he can do no more training for anything else for this downtime


Rob’s character has 21 Karma to spend (20 earned on runs and the 1 Karma left from character creation he carried over into the game). With the Hammer’s Logic being a 3, Rob knows that he can raise two skills during this two-week downtime. He chooses to raise his Throwing Weapons skill to 3 and his Pistols skill to 3. Doing so costs the Hammer 12 Karma. Raising a skill to Rating 3 takes 3 days. Rob’s is able to train for both skills at once, so he trains for a total of 3 days. His Karma is spent, and he is ready to go on the next run.


Kyra wants to raise two of Silver’s skills (her Logic score allows her to raise two skills at a time). She would like to raise her Spellcasting skill from 5 to 6, which will cost her 12 Karma (new Rating x 2). Fortunately, she has that amount. Kyra knows it will take her 6 weeks to raise her skill to that level, so she decides to find an instructor. She talks to her talismonger, who points her to someone willing to teach her (for nuyen, of course). This reduces the time Kyra’s character needs to train by 25 percent, so it drops from 6 weeks to 4.5 weeks. Kyra also spends 6 Karma raising her Locksmith skill, taking it from a 2 to a 3. This takes Kyra 3 days to accomplish. For the rest of her downtime, she continues to work with her instructor on improving her Spellcasting skill. The next downtime, Kyra will be able to raise another skill while still working on her Spellcasting skill.