In the game, shadowrunners are deniable, expendable assets used by corporations, governments, and anyone else who has the money to perform black ops and dirty tricks against another entity. The default approach to Shadowrun is that the player characters are these redshirts for hire, though there's a large enough setting to go in different directions. The sheer breadth of character potential has stopped me from testing the system until now; there was just so much choice. I could have recreated a character from By the Numbers, but I wanted to try something new*. Do I try a magical character? A hacker or decker? Mix the two and create a technomancer? Or do I go the combat bunny route with a street samurai or just troll street muscle? Maybe a rigger, a getaway driver who is one with his vehicle, could be interesting.
I thought about a Shinto miko, but I still have to work out why she'd be in the shadows doing dirty deeds at a price that isn't dirt cheap. I set aside two character ideas I had from first edition, a elf decker and a human hermetic mage with healing skills and spells, because I want a character that's current, not a legacy. I also want to keep with just the main rule book, at least for the first character, so Numbers is also out**. With all that in mind, time to get started and go *ahem* by the numbers.
Step One: Choose Concept
Right into the good stuff already. Good thing I've managed to narrow down the choice. Meet The Brat, a former corp kid who is now a runner. Born to a corporate researcher and the shadowrunner who extracted him, The Brat's biggest concern as a teen was dealing with her legacy classmates, especially Akane and Sylvanna. Her father was extracted from Ingersoll & Berkeley to go to Festival Foods, a Renraku subsidiary, though The Brat was not in the Arcology. The change in lifestyle came after her family was targeted and eliminated. Her mother managed to get a warning off before dying. The Brat runs the shadows in part to find out who was responsible for her family's death.
The Brat's role is the corporate infiltrator with gun bunny as an extra. Skills will focus around things she learned in school and her mother's paranoia. Picture The Brat's mother as Sarah Connor from The Sarah Connor Chronicles if that helps. There are a few plot hooks for a GM, such as who had The Brat's family killed and why. As to her street name, she got it after one runner too many said, "Hey, who's the brat?" on seeing her.
Step Two: Choose Metatype
Human, Elf, Dwarf, Ork, or Troll. Of those, I picture The Brat as human. Character generation uses a priority system, with each element given a priority level. No levels can be reused. The Brat isn't magically Awakened, so taking any priority in metatype high than C is of no use; she can only have the special attribute Edge to put points into. That also means the lowest priority can be assigned to magic right now. Thus, metatype gets priority C, magic priority E, making The Brat a mundane human, one with great luck.
This step also includes assigning attribute points. Attributes have their own priority, separate from metatype. It is possible to have a scrawny troll or a beefy elf, though a beefy troll will still make that elf look small. For The Brat, I'll take priority A for attributes. She's young, she's healthy, and she's determined. Each attribute starts at 1, and then can be increased from there. Human average is 3, with the other metatypes capable of being higher or lower. Her totals are below:
Attributes:Step Three: Choose Magic or Resonance
Already done. The Brat is mundane, neither magically capable nor a technomancer. She keeps the priority at E. She still has levels B and D available to her.
Step Four: Purchase Qualities
The Brat has 25 Karma, the game's experience points, to spend on qualities. Positive qualities cost Karma; negative ones return. All or some of the Karma can be kept for a later step, but grabbing a quality now will flesh The Brat out a bit. Lucky looks tempting, but she already has maxed her Edge, and the quality needs GM approval. Will to Live, though, looks ideal. The Brat takes two levels, costing her six Karma and giving her two more boxes in her overflow chart, which will be worked out later. Indomitable increases a limit, again, coming up, by one for each level taken. The Brat takes one level of Indomitable to apply to her Physical limit, costing her eight Karma.
On the negative side, Sinner is also tempting. The Brat could easily have had a Corporate SIN, at least until her parents died. However, she discovered that her SIN had been deactivated with Renraku declaring her among the dead. Social Stress could also work for her. When dealing with anyone with a close family, her emotions start getting in her way as she remembers her own. Definitely a problem when dealing with regular folks. Social Stress returns eight Karma to The Brat. She now has a total of nineteen Karma for later use.
Step Five: Purchase Skills
With two priority levels, B and D, remaining, it's time to get The Brat some skills. There are three types of skills, Active, Knowledge, and Language. Active skills are the physical skills, from shooting to climbing to riding a motorcycle through a monorail car to elude pursuing security forces. Knowledge and Language skills are related, reflecting what the character knows. Knowledge covers science, art, street layouts, best bars, worst dives, and anything else a player can think of. Languages include reading and writing, unless the Uneducated quality was taken in the previous step. Maximum skill level that can be bought now is six, though once play begins, the maximum becomes twelve.
The Brat sets the priority for skills at B, giving her 36 skill points and another 5 for skills groups.
A skill group contains three related skills, giving a player a way to focus on a core set of skills for a character. Page 131 shows what each level means. The Brat will have skills mostly around 3-5, competent to skilled, with exceptions going as high as professional or down to novice as needed. When buying skills, I will have to keep in mind that The Brat grew up in a corporation, so some skills will have to reflect that. Knowledge skills are ideal here.
I'll start with the skill groups. With just five points, they're easy to deal with. The first skill group taken is Close Combat, letting The Brat handle herself in hand-to-hand combat. The second group she takes is Electronics, giving her an idea of how to use computers. She not a hacker/decker, but she at least understands how computers work***. For the 36 skill points, see below. The explanation will follow.
Active SkillsThe Brat's mother hammered a few lessons home. First, people will get alarmed when they see a girl carrying an assault rifle, but joining her school's shooting club to use a firing range with a hunting rifles and a light pistol doesn't cause eyes to bat at all. Gymnastics is more than just poise and tumbling; the skill includes dodging. Artisan and Performance were from classes The Brat enjoyed. Con was something The Brat started learning on her own dealing with teachers and fellow students, though her father could see through her. The Corporate specialty in Etiquette represents her background at Renraku.
Close Combat Group 3
Electronics Group 2
Etiquette 3 (Corporate +2)
Next, the Knowledge skills. Every Shadowrun PC starts with a number of skill points to spend on Knowledge and Language skills equal to twice the sum of Logic and Intuition. The Brat, thus, has fourteen points to spend. She gets her native language for free at level N, for Native, and assigns that to English. The rest of the skill points are spent as follows, with explanations following.
Knowledge SkillsFashion comes from being a teenaged girl in a high school; even if she didn't want to learn, she picked it up just for survival. The Brat also looked into the theories of magic briefly, though not for long. She was aware of corporate policies at Renraku, though she didn't pay that much attention, nor did the company explain beyond the basics in mandatory classes. The Brat can get around Seattle, but she's far more familiar with the school system. She picked up Japanese through classes; Renraku is a Japanese megacorp and there is the expectation that all employees and their dependants will learn the language.
Magical Theory 1
Renraku Policies 2
Seattle Knowledge 2
Seattle Schools 3
Step Six: Spend Resources
The only priority level that remains is D, and thus it goes into Resources. Resources represents what a character was able to build up prior to game play, and doesn't necessarily mean the character had a wad of cash just sitting around. Instead, it can be thought of as favours, stashes set aside, or items begged, borrowed or stolen. However, it gets spent as cash. The Brat starts with 50 000 nuyen to get the gear she needs. Why priority D, beyond being the only one not assigned? The Brat hasn't been in the shadows for that long. She has other limits. No item she buys can have an Availability over 12 or a device rating over 6. The gear is listed in the full character sheet below, and includes a prepaid lifestyle, giving The Brat a place to live, a second fake SIN as a student, and fake licenses for all restricted items on the list. The Brat has no cybernetic implants due to her age; if she weren't on the street, she'd be waiting until graduating secondary school to get a datajack. Her approach is to look like a normal student, so augmentations would look unusual.
After purchasing all the gear, The Brat winds up with 1120 nuyen left over. That amount is held as starting cash, along with the 3d6x60 she gets from her lifestyle. A low lifestyle gets her an apartment, nutrisoy meals, and hot water at least some of the time. It's not the greatest, but it beats living in a box or ducking into abandoned buildings to get out of the rain.
In general, it seems like a value may be either too much or not enough. With The Brat, 50k nuyen didn't seem like much, but she didn't need a vehicle or cyberware, both of which are big-ticket items. If The Brat needed a cyberdeck, 50k wouldn't have been anywhere near enough. Fortunately, lifestyle can be prepaid. Four months of low lifestyle took up a good chunk of the cash available.
Step Seven: Spend Leftover Karma
The Brat still has nineteen Karma left from purchasing qualities. She may keep up to seven Karma, saving it for future use. The Brat also gets to purchase contacts, the people she knows, with free points equal to triple her Charisma, or nine points. The leftover Karma may also be spent on contacts.
First, the free points. The Brat needs to know someone in the shadows, someone her mother introduced her to in case of trouble. However, this was her mother's contact, not The Brat's. Each contact has two ratings, Connection and Loyalty. Connection represents who the contact knows; Loyalty is the level of trust between the PC and the contact. For the first contact, a rigger who runs in the shadows, I set Connection at 3 and Loyalty at 1. It was the rigger who first saddled The Brat with her street name. The second contact is someone The Brat met on a job, a high school student in a corporate setting. The student doesn't have that many connections (rating 2), but is friendlier to The Brat but not quite a friend (rating 3).
With the free points spent, I still want The Brat to have one more contact, someone she can trust on the streets as opposed to her mother's friend. The cost will come out of the leftover Karma, though, which isn't a problem right now. The Brat takes a gang member, to be determined with the GM, as a contact, with Connection 3 and Loyalty 4. That should be enough for now. Other PCs should have a different set of contacts, giving a group of runners a sizable number of people to work with.
The Brat still has twelve Karma left to spend. She picks up Pilot Ground Craft 1 for 1 Karma, then increases it to 2 for another 6 Karma, for a total of 8 spent. She keeps the remaining four Karma for later in play.
Step Eight: Final Calculations
The last mechanical details come up. Initiative, the limits, damage condition monitors, everything that relies on anything already created above. Page 101 has the full list of what needs to be worked out. I'll go down that list and hit the ones that The Brat will need. Initiative, or how quick The Brat reacts in a fight, is based on her Intuition and Reaction plus a d6, for a total of 9+1D6. If she gets cybernetics in the future, that value may change. Her Matrix AR Initiative is calculated the same way. Since she's using a commlink, which is what smartphones evolve into after sixty years, she doesn't get Matrix initiative values for hot- or cold- simsense.
Next on the list are the inherent limits. These limits are the maximum number of successes, or hits, that can be used from dice in a skill test. The body can only go so far. The Physical limit is based on the physical attributes, Mental on the mental, Social on the social. For The Brat, she has a Mental limit of 5, a Physical limit of 5 modified to 6 because of Indomitable, and a Social limit of 6. To compare, the average human would have Mental and Physical limits of 4 each and a Social limit of 5.
The Condition Monitors represent a character's health. Instead of hit points, all PCs get a number of boxes on a physical and on a stun monitor. The number of these boxes only change if the characteristic, Body for physical, Willpower for stun, changes. Combat is lethal, thus the purchasing of armour and the gymnastics skill. The Brat has ten boxes on her physical monitor and eleven on her stun. Any damage above eleven stun becomes physical for The Brat. Any damage above ten physical heads into the Overflow, which is based on Body. The Brat gets an extra two points in Overflow thanks to Will to Live, so her total value is 6.
The last item on the list is reputation. All runners have three elements to their rep, Street Cred, or what they've done, Notoriety, or how ruthless they are, and Public Awareness, or how much the average person has heard of them. Each start at zero at the beginning, but can be modified by qualities taken. Page 368 has the full details on which qualities affect Notoriety, but The Brat has none of them. All three parts of reputation stay at zero for her.
Step Nine: Final Touches
Step Nine ties back into Step One, the concept, and fleshes it out more. So, here is when I add the little details, such as names of not just The Brat but her contacts and how she met the other runners in the group. The GM also gets final approval here. The Brat's real name is Charlotte Lam, daughter of Robert and "Ginny", though she doesn't know her mother's real name. Charlotte is not used on either of The Brat's SINs, to maintain the break between herself and her identities. The main fake SIN is under Natalie Rhodes, a high school student who is working towards an athletic scholarship in the biathlon. The secondary fake SIN is for Tina Roethe, another high school student with average marks.
And that's all for character creation. It is somewhat involved in places, especially gear when not buying cyberware. Having a strong concept helps, though. The full character sheet is below. The Brat should be fully legal for Shadowrun Missions, having been built with just the core book.
Name/Alias: Charlotte Lam/The BratAs always, comments are welcome. Let me know if you do use her in your game.
Nuyen: 3d6x60 + 1120
Total Karma: 4
Street Cred: 0
Public Awareness: 0
Matrix AR Initiative: 9+1D6
Physical 5 (6)
Physical Damage Track: 10 boxes, Overflow 4 (6)
Stun Damage Track: 11 boxes
Close Combat Group 3
Electronics Group 2
Etiquette 3 (Corporate +2)
Pilot Ground Craft 2
Magical Theory 1
Renraku Policies 2
Seattle Knowledge 2
Seattle Schools 3
Indomitable (1 level, Physical)
Will to Live 2
Corporate High School Student (2/3)
Gang Member (3/4)
Lifestyle: Low (4 months prepaid)
Knife (Acc 5, Dmg 4P)
Extendable baton (Acc 5, Dmg 5P)
Yamaha Pulsar (Acc 5, Dmg 7S(e), AP -5, Mode SA, Ammo 4(m))
Colt America L36 (Acc 7(8), Dmg 7P, Mode SA, Ammo 11(c))
w/concealable holster, laser sight, silencer, 3 spare clips
Remington 950 (Acc 7, Dmg 12P, AP -4, Mode SS, Ammo 5(m))
w/imaging scope (w/micro-camera, vision magnification, image link, flare compensation),
Defiance T-250 (Acc 4, Dmg 10P, AP -1, Mode SS/SA, RC 1, Ammo 5(m))
50 rounds regular light pistol
50 rounds regular sniper rifle
10 rounds APDS sniper rifle (total AP -8 when used)
50 rounds regular shotgun
50 rounds flechette shotgun (Dmg 12P, AP +4 when used)
40 taser darts
Electrochromic armour clothing
School uniforms, 3, each a different Seattle school
Renraku Sensei commlink
w/AR gloves, subvocal mike, trid projection, trodes
RFID tags, 100 standard
Bug scanner, rating 4
Mapsoft for Seattle
Fake SIN, rating 4
w/fake licenses for gun ownership, concealed carry, hunting, all at rating 4.
Fake SIN, rating 3
Credsticks, silver, 4
Armorer tool kit
Glasses w/flare compensation, vision enhancement 3
Contacts w/image link, low light vision
Respirator, rating 4
Medkit, rating 4
Doc Wagon basic contract, 1 year
* Plus, some of the gear the characters have isn't in the core rules but in other supplements, some of which aren't out. The characters I created for By the Numbers were done with the fourth edition.
** Numbers has a bit of cybernetics from the 4th edition supplement, Augmentation, namely, her cybernetic breast enhancement. By the same reasoning, Charles is also out due to gear from Arsenal.
*** Even today, with computers being ubiquitous, most people just know enough to start the programs they use daily. A shadowrunner without the Computer skill can still use one, but won't be able to exploit all the options available.