From Academic Kids

Cover of Shadowrun Third Edition
Cover of Shadowrun Third Edition

Shadowrun is a cyberpunk-fantasy cross-genre role-playing game, set in the not too distant future, following a great cataclysm that has brought use of magic back to the world, just as it begins to embrace the marvels (and dangers) of technologies such as cyberspace - the everpresent computer networks, genetic engineering, and the merger of man and machine called cyberware. The game has also been adapted to the Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, and in Japan only, the Sega Mega-CD. All three of these adaptations are entirely different games with different story lines, although they all take place within the same Shadowrun universe. They are generally faithful to the pen and paper game, though in varying degrees. All versions show significant Japanese influence. There is also a Shadowrun collectible card game.

Shadowrun was developed and published by FASA from 1989 until early 2001, when FASA closed its doors and the property was sold to WizKids who licenses the RPG rights to the current publisher, Fantasy Productions (also known as FanPro, who were responsible for the German version of the game), and potential computer game rights to Microsoft. WizKids themselves produced an unsuccessful collectible action figure game based on the property called Shadowrun: Duels.

Both the Shadowrun RPG and the Shadowrun CCG have won Origins Awards, as have various expansions to the series.

Shadowrun is currently in its third edition, with a fourth edition in development. News releases from FanPro indicate that the new edition will bring significant changes to the game's system and setting.


Fictitious background


Characters in Shadowrun can be humans, orks, trolls, elves and dwarves, as well as certain diverging subspecies (known as metavariants) like gnomes, giants, minotaurs, have evolved by being given birth by or changed from humans, a phenomenon called Unexplained Genetic Expression, or "UGE". Non-human races are called metahumans.

Additionally, a virus known as HMHVV (Human Meta-Human Vampiric Virus) with many variant strains, has been known to cause further change, frequently resulting in Bandersnatches, Banshees, Dzoo-noo-quas, Goblins, Ghouls, Nosferatus, Vampires, Wendigos, Wild Fomorians and other fierce abominations that are no longer human and sometimes no longer even sentient.


The emergence of magic, the outbreak of the VITAS plagues (Virally Induced Toxic Allergy Syndrome), the Computer Crash of 2029 (caused by a complex and nearly unstoppable computer virus called "The Crash Entity"), the Euro-Wars, in which the western-European countries once fought off an invasion from neo-communist Russia and then a pan-Islamic invasion like that of 800 years ago, and the fevers for independence of AmerIndian tribes, Chinese provinces, etc. left the world governments tumbling and falling. Out came the mega-corporations as the new superpowers. See the timeline.

The corporations

They are immune to domestic law, responsible only to themselves, regulated only by the Corporate Court, an assembly of the ten largest corporations in the world:

  • Ares Macrotech, Detroit-based conglomerate of automobile, steel, arms and space industry companies, led by Damien Knight.
  • Aztechnology, a corporation from Atzlan (former Mexico, recreated in Aztec image) heavily involved in consumer goods, chemistry and magic.
  • Fuchi Industrial Electronics, a computer giant build by the Nakatomis and Yamanas from Japan and Richard Villiers from Boston. Disintegrated during the Corp War of '59 - '60, in which Novatech sprang up as its North American successor, led by Villiers.
  • Mitsuhama Computer Technologies, started as money laundering operation for the Yakuza but soon surpassed their investors' income by a very large margin.
  • Renraku Computer Systems, mainly computer and arms-producing giant from Japan.
  • Saeder-Krupp Schwerindustriegesellschaft, the world's largest corp, a German conglomerate based on the production of steel, heavy-industrial goods, cars (BMW), arms and communication in Europe. Its majority chairholder and chairman is Lofwyr, a Great Dragon, who bought the company stocks from hoarded resources.
  • Shiawase Corporation, an old family business, which survived the turmoils of the early 21st century unscathed, quickly able to expand in energy production, biotech and environmental procedures. As the oldest megacorp who first fought for megacorporate sovereignty (falsely called extraterritoriality): exemption of law on foreign soil. Yet, corporate territory is not foreign soil but corporate soil, just like its employees are corporate citizens. Though dual citizenship in a corporation and a nation is common, Shiawase is now more conservative with its decisions.
  • Yamatetsu Corp, a shipping and infrastructure giant, of Japanese-Philippine origin.
  • Wuxing Inc., a Hong Kong-based company, and Cross Applied Technologies, a Free Quebec-based company joined the exclusive club of AAA-corps (those with a seat at the Corp Court.)

These companies, and many more minor companies, fight each other not only in the boardroom or with tricky deals, but with physical destruction, clandestine operations, hostile extraction or elimination of vital personnel, and other means of sabotage. Because no corporation wants to be held liable for damages, it has to be done by deniable assets: shadowrunners, invisible to the system where every citizen is tagged with a System Identification Number (SIN). They are outcasts, from the streets or disillusioned ex-corp/government/military personnel who threw off the shackles of corp society to achieve freedom. They chose or were forced to work in the shadows cast by the gigantic corporate buildings to support their living. Players of Shadowrun generally assume the role of these shadowrunners.


Despite the Crash which caused much data corruption, technology advanced at a tremendous rate. Cyberware, technical implants, and Bioware, genetically engineered implants which enhance a person's abilities, emerged.

The Matrix

Direct neural interface technology enabled humans and metahumans to directly access computers and the Matrix, the global computer network restructured after the Crash. Access to the Matrix is accomplished by "deckers" who are individuals that have cyberdecks which are roughly equivalent to laptop computers. These interface machines are connected to the brain through a Datajack generally located behind the ear. The "deck" would then be plugged into a port that is connected to the Matrix at large. Since Shadowrun pre-dates the movie The Matrix it seems obvious that the Wachowski brothers were at least influenced by the setting, originally based on ideas by William Gibson.

Game technique

The Shadowrun game mechanics are based entirely on a 6-sided dice system.

The game is skill-based rather than class-based, but archetypes are presented in the main book to give players and gamemasters an idea of what is possible with the system.

All actions in the game, from the use of skills to making attacks in combat, are first given a target number that reflects the difficulty of the action which is then raised or lowered by various modifying factors, such as environmental conditions, the condition of the character, the use of mechanical aids, and so forth. The character then rolls a number of dice equal to their level in the relevant skill, which then the number of dice rolled that meet or exceed the target number determines if the character is successful performing the action and to what degree of success the character has. As an example, a character with a high firearms skill not only has a better chance at hitting a target then someone with a lower ranked skill, they are also more likely to cause more damage to the target as well. Target numbers may exceed 6, in which case any dice that show a 6 have to be re-rolled (a target number of, e.g., 9 is reached by rolling a 6 followed by at least a 3; thus, a target number of 6 and one of 7 are identical). For even higher target numbers, this procedure has to be repeated; thus, an action with a target number of 20 (like attempting to procure military-degree weaponry) will only succeed if 3 successive dice rolls result in sixes, and the forth gives at least a 2.

Some people complain that Shadowrun separates different types of characters too far: Fighters are useless in computing; Deckers (computer experts) are useless in magical encounters; Magicians can't drive well. Each specialty seems so far removed from the others that it appears difficult to write an adventure which involves all the players at the same time.

However, the archetypes are not character classes: the player is allowed to cross boundaries. Restrictions are not imposed by the system itself, but by the player seeking a specialized character. Because character-building resources are limited, the player has to weigh whether he wants his character to specialize in one game aspect (magic, computers, combat, etc.) while neglecting other aspects. Instead, he might choose to broaden his character's skill base while binding ressources necessary to become expert in one field. Overall, Shadowrun's character type system is as flexible as that of GURPS.

The "contacts" system makes it quite easy for players to acquire the use of skills that their characters don't have for a price, and, unlike most other roleplaying games, the use of one skill does not automatically preclude any other.

There have been complaints that cybertechnology in the Shadowrun game system makes very little sense. Because of the strict rules that make cyberware difficult for the character to have, it is far less likely that someone will give their character enhancements like full cyberlimbs rather than alternatives like bioware and magic. This is a problem because cyberware, especially the obvious cyber-limb kind, is a staple of the cyberpunk genre. However, this has become much less of a problem in the recent third edition, where the increase in functionality for cyberlimbs has made them far more appealing to both "trick" characters and more general street samurai. Further, there have been changes to the abilities of cybertech and magic has been toned down. However, due to the limit on cyberware/bioware imposed by the Essence rating, and the open development system, cyberware tends to have an "early power, not much late development" tone, versus a slower-developing but potentially much more powerful magic-oriented character.

Shadowrun's dice system has been cited as a major influence in the development of White Wolf's Storyteller System.

The first edition of the game is notable for an infamous flaw in the ballistic combat system that made even the most powerful firearms all but useless against characters wearing even moderate body armor. With the second edition of the game, the combat system was overhauled so that even with armor, firearms still posed as a potentially deadly threat, especially in the hands of a skilled character.


As the game progresses, good players will be awarded Karma points. These points are usually added to a total called Good Karma, which can be used to boost attributes and skills. Skills that are already well-developed cost more Good Karma than skills which are undeveloped, which helps encourage specialized characters to become more flexible by spending Good Karma on weaker attributes. This advancement-buying system is much more organic than level-based systems (as made ubiquitous by Dungeons & Dragons), though not all roleplayers agree that is necessarily a good thing. Karma also makes characters more powerful in general because every tenth (or twentieth for metahumans) point is added to the Karma Pool instead of Good Karma. The Karma Pool allows players to re-roll dice or "purchase" additional dice in certain situations. Karma can even be used to avoid certain death, but it costs all Good Karma and Karma Pool points.

Theoretical troll

This name was used to identify one of the inherent flaws in a previous edition release of the game Shadowrun. It referred to the fact that a player could select a Troll as a starting character, and through manipulation of rules, could make the equivalent of a walking, indestructable artillary platform, through various methods. Trolls were known for extremely high combat statistics (Body and Strength) which allowed them to abuse the system in ways it wasn't designed for.

Influences and links

Shadowrun was retroactively linked to Earthdawn, and is set in the "Sixth World", where Earthdawn is the "Fourth World" and our modern-day Earth is at the tail end of the Fifth World. Such links are not necessary for play, but they allow crossover potential.

Shadowrun is closely based upon the writings of William Gibson (particularly Neuromancer), although less closely than the Cyberpunk 2020 role-playing game. Gibson himself has stated his dislike of Shadowrun (, although he has not publicly stated any reasons, aside from the presence of fantasy creatures in the game.

Additional Information

Shadowrun for the Super Nintendo

External links

es:Shadowrun fr:Shadowrun he:מירוצללים it:Shadowrun ja:シャドウラン pl:Shadowrun


Academic Kids Menu

  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools