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I'm trying to figure out how much to pay Shadowrunners for a job, and how to balance the NPCs. I couldn't find anything in SR4A (though I could've missed something).

I've only played in a couple of other tabletop SR games, and I honestly can't remember how much other GMs paid for runs.

On the Awakened Worlds MUD (awakenedworlds.net), SR3, a typical job pays out somewhere in the vicinity of 2500-5000 'yen. Tougher jobs involving a lot of wetwork go up to about 12,000. These are normally solo jobs. The MUD is purposely designed to lowball players (I think), because it's much easier to accumulate cash when the runs are automated.

I figured that 4,000 per player was a pretty good payout - more than you usually get on the MUD, but not excessive. I got a couple of complaints when I offered 4K per PC in the runs I hosted at Dreamation, so I'm going to bump up the payouts for next time.

The two canned examples on the official site that are fleshed out (both 3E) pay 50k each and 10k each, respectively.

Is there any rhyme or reason to determining pay for a Shadowrun job? If anyone has a system for it, particularly an official one, please share. =)

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See also: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/17080/… –  RMorrisey Oct 11 '12 at 16:26

7 Answers 7

up vote 11 down vote accepted

You're absolutely right, MUDs/MUSHs tend to low-ball players on cash in an effort to slow growth. In my experience running and playing in Shadowrun I've used two different scales:

  1. For high-power games with lots of cyberware, big guns and tons of excitement a normal run nets out around 10,000-20,000 'yen per player, usually leaving the group with enough cash at the end of the game to make one big purchase or several little ones. Most players found this satisfying as they then felt that you could actually get decent gear after chargen.

  2. For more gang-level gritty games where players didn't start off with a lot of cyberware and couldn't buy every gun they wanted we tended to keep things much lower. 3,000-5,000 'yen per player was about right for a good run, but in order to keep the flavor there were also a lot more sessions when the runs didn't pay at all.

So, while it does depend on the tone you want to set, those are some guidelines that worked well for me in practice.

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So it sounds like it's basically up to the whim of the GM. Thanks for putting concrete numbers in! These sound like good guidelines, so I'll use similar ballpark figures for my runs. –  RMorrisey Apr 19 '11 at 12:00
It really does depend on the kind of game you want to run. Money is as big a tool as Karma rewards for controlling power growth in a Shadowrun game. I tend to err a little high because I enjoy a game with lots of cyberware and other tech toys. –  Rain Apr 19 '11 at 16:01
Great answer, but remember player/character negotiating skill can and should have a fairly large impact on the payout. –  TimothyAWiseman May 7 '12 at 16:29

It's essentially down to how you run the game, if you run it more gangland-style then the pay out should be lower than an all singing all dancing cyberware galore packed adrenaline pumping action ride.

Main factors to consider:

  • The characters lifestyle, if you you run once a month, there should be a payout proportionate to the living costs with a percentage on top of those costs - Take this as your BASE figure

  • The negotiation skill, again factor a %

  • A bonus for a clean run, either by a fixed, percent or ad-hoc amount. This way they can afford some luxuries

  • A penalty for a sloppy run as above except they will have to do without some of their normal living costs maybe?

  • Occasionally spinning in a tough big bank run to really see what they are made of, with the rewards being much greater than your average

  • More travel expenses should always incur a price rise, either a true cost of the expense, or miles traveled basis depending on how nice you want to be

What you need to ask yourself is "Do they deserve x,y,z for completing 1,2,3" on top of your base figure

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The main difficulty is that it very much depends on the style of play you have. This of course is much harder if you don't have a regular group.

The more 'gritty' you run the theme, the lower the payouts.

The more professional the runners act, the higher the payouts. This makes up for the fact that they should be paying more to gather information and make the runs 'clean' and that they won't be swiping things as they work to sell for additional income.

The more the players need to travel, the more costs they (should) incur and payouts should increase.

The more the RP pays attention to the lifestyle and downtime compared to the missions, the more money they will need for non-mission costs, and payouts should increase to enable this.

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I know all of that. I need numbers. What's a good (average) value for a "gritty" game, or for a "professional" game? –  RMorrisey Apr 18 '11 at 7:32

In 3rd edition, the general rule was 1 to two runs a month, with the payout being about the average of the players lifestyle. That allowed them to keep from starving, make bonuses based on clean (or messy) delivery and by doing a few cash (read theft) runs. This also required that every so often you throw a really high paying job (comparatively) to make them sweat...or a real low one that "is just a milk run."

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I read in a novel (Streets of Blood by Carl Sargent, an older one set during 2E or 3E) about a guy paying runners (gang members with some Cyberware) 2000 Yen each (500 up front, 1500 upon completion) for a protection run, in which they were in a firefight, and some died. The payout seemed really interesting to the characters as they lived in the slums of London. So low-key games couldbe paying 2000 Yen a run, and "high-paying dangerous runs" could pay as much as 5000 Yen each I guess.

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I don't think it really matters what the payout is as long as the cash/karma ratio doesn't get too weird, and your players feel like they've had enough of a reward and play continues at a level that they're happy with. If rewards allow magic-heavy players and tech-heavy players to advance at similar rates, you're doing it right.

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I'm not aware of any, but that doesn't mean that there isn't one. That said, I'm pretty sure among tabletop RPGs, D&D4e is the only one that really enforces it. With the extent I'm familiar with Shadowrun, you'd determine payouts according to risk, what the client is willing to pay and what the PCs are willing to accept.

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-1, as this answer completely fails to answer the question. Yes, payouts should vary according to risk, but how much should they vary, how much risk translates into how much nuyen, and what should the baseline run cost be? –  GMJoe Feb 9 '12 at 3:49

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