New to Shadowrun as a GM. Transitioned from Cyberpunk and World of Darkness storytelling. My players are fairly certain that they each get paid approximately 3000-30,000 nuyen for every run they go on. Even if it's a one day job or only takes an hour of standing around. They said if they aren't getting paid at least 3000 they won't even bother.

I find this odd for two reasons: First, some of the characters are very poor, and you'd think they would be willing to work simple high wage missions, but no, they balked at a measly 8400/month income, saying it wasn't worth the risk.

Second, I pointed out if the characters ever wanted to buy something in the price scale of a hypercar (http://www.hispotion.com/top-10-hyper-cars-havent-heard-21071) leer jet, yacht, private business, lab, or satellite, they were never going to reach that point with a static 30,000 income.

In other words, the income table for missions seemed like a bottle neck stuck at the upper middle class to the very bottom of upper class, no matter what the characters did, even if every conditional modifier were applied, they would never be truly rich.

One player actually argued that the sportscar price tables in the book applied to hypercars, such as the mitsubishi Nightsky and Eurocar Westwind, to which i said "No, the Eurocar is more like a Mercedes equivalent." The 300,000 nuyen Nightsky is directly compared to the Rolls Royce Phantom/Phaeton, which actually retails for $330,000, so the parity is there.

Which means if the characters wanted to buy the equivalent of a Lykan Hypersport for $3,400,000, or about 3,000,000 nuyen, it would take 100-1000 "runs" to pay for it, and the equivalent of a Learjet? A private island? fuggetaboutit.

The particulars of the shopping list aren't important, so much as the literal fact that strict adherence to this economic model implies there's a whole swath of goods and services the PCs will never have access to, and at the same time, it seems weirdly rigged to always guarantee them six figure salaries. They will never be poor and they will never be rich.

I feel like I'm missing something, and would rather not default to rule zero to justify dumping that entire section on income, since the players built their characters around these expectations. Incidentally, they don't have such a bottleneck in CP2020 or WoD. You can be begging for dog food with one character and buying skyscrapers with another, in either system. Why is Shadowrun so economically bottle-necked?

We are playing 5th edition.

I prefer to run a game where characters can go from rags to riches, not Macy's to Nordstrom. What gives?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Related: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/97987/… \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Jun 27, 2017 at 1:36
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ You've got some internal conflicts here... you're complaining that they have a minimum fee in the first paragraph, but you're saying you want to run rags-to-riches (which isn't really Shadowrun, BTW) in the last. \$\endgroup\$
    – T.J.L.
    Jun 27, 2017 at 12:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is only tangentially related to the actual question, but I'd add this for consideration. If you want your characters to hit 'the big time,' then the best way to make that happen is for something unexpected to happen. Maybe they were sent to steal a prototype, but also got their hands on the blueprints. Now they can sell those blueprints for a huge pile of cash. [cont...] \$\endgroup\$ Jun 28, 2017 at 13:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ Or, say they are on an unrelated job, and they stumble into the middle of another Shadowrun in process. Wetwork. Someone is about to be killed. And he begs the team to save him, offering a massive reward in exchange, far in excess of what a normal run would be. If Johnson has time to plan...he'll assess how much the run is worth and handle it professionally. If some high-end Corp Exec is about to die, he will fling piles of money at anyone who could possibly save his life. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 28, 2017 at 13:42

3 Answers 3


Your players are right

Yes, that's probably not the answer you wanted to read. But 3,000 nuyen is pretty much the baseline for all shadowruns, even those without any security risk at all, like grabbing someone on the airport and bring to downtown (taxy job) so they can avoid the paparazzi. Even a job as simple as hacking into a security terminal to scan for a list of names has enough risk to be considered a job worth at least 6,000 nuyen.

Following the guidelines on the Core Rulebook (page 375, Run Rewards), we have a base payment of 3,000 nuyen, with the possibility of increasing this value by 100 nuyen per net hit on a Negotiations test.

$$ \mbox{BASE COST} \qquad \mbox{ 3,000¥} $$

Then, depending on the job, this base value is multiplied by the modifiers on the Cash Rewards table (page 376):

Situation Modifiers
Highest opposing Dice Pool + (Dice Pool / 4)
outnumbered three to one in combat + 1
outnumbered two to one in combat by NPCs with Professional Rating 4+ + 1
pack of at least six critters + 1
three different spirits (besides watchers) in a single encounter + 1
accomplished the task with impressive speed and/or subtlety + 1
risked public exposure or a raised profile as a natural part of the run + 1
direct contact with a notably dangerous part or element of Sixth World lore + 1

This means if they face gangers who have a dice pool of 8 dice (this is fairly low for opposition), the payment for the run already tripled and whatever payment of 3,000 nuyen now should be 9,000 nuyen per runner.

If they face a group of Red Samurai and are outmatched two to one (8 samurai vs 4 runners), then the payment should be much higher, as samurai are professional rating NPCs (+1 modifier) and their dice pool is 12+ (+3 modifier), for a total of 15,000 nuyen per runner (not including whatever is the result of the negotiation check).

See how things scale quickly?

I have GM'ed shadowruns where the calculated payment was in the 40,000+ per runner, because it was a multi-part job and nearly all modifiers on the table applied for that specific job. And it was all finished in 3 days of in-game time.

The calculation of this payment is in the GM's hands, though most (if not all) published missions already do this math for you.

Of course, sometimes you will not know how dangerous a job will be until things go south and bullets fly everywhere, so runners will be offered a low payment, but the job proves to be much more difficult than what was agreed earlier. But that is better covered on this question.

Why hire shadowrunners? They are expensive...

When a Mr. Johnson decides to hire runners, he doesn't want anyone for the job, he is looking for professionals ("get the job done"), he is looking for discretion ("no questions asked"), and he knows he has to spend extra cash for people like that. If they wanted anyone who could do the job, he wouldn't look for runners, any ganger could do, any cop looking for an extra cash would do, anyone who usually does for a living, whatever the job requires to do, would do. That is not the case.

Remember, shadowrunners are not wageslaves, they are not on the safe job industry, they are risking their lives. So why would you risk your life if you wouldn't even be able to pay your rent with the payment for it? Why risk a bullet in the head if you couldn't even pay to fix your damaged cyberwares?

The GM controls the cash-flow

Who, how and when the player characters are hired for a job is completely into the GM hands. I have seen shadowruns being done once a month, once a week, once every other month, and as soon as the runners are free for another job, sometimes even doing two jobs at once. But this is all dependant on the GM and what kind of gameplay you guys are looking for.

It all makes sense in the setting, some runners are desperate to earn money and become rich as quickly as possible so they can retire (or spend it all on luxury cars), while others take things slowly, avoid exposure and keep a low profile. Jobs can be difficult to come when your face is all over the matrix shooting bullets against innocents, by the way.

As the GM, you will have to ask your players what pace they want for their jobs, this is not even metagaming, they can discuss that with their fixer(s). If the runners are not available for a job, a fixer will look for someone else who is. There are always a group of runners looking for quick cash, that could be your group, or another.


You are letting your players get the drop on you.

They are being spoiled chummers that only want the low hanging golden fruit. Ain't no such thing in the streets.

And if a bunch of blokes is just too greedy, you can bet Johnson's time will be best spent hiring the next gang of street thugs over there. Let'em starve.

Also, their street rep will take a huge drop once the fixers stop sending Johnsons their way. Fixers gotta collect on their referrals too, you know? Nobody want to be associated with those dead weights that will soon be hung out to dry.

And with a dry spell comes 'em rats. Once word comes out that fancy McCyber is out of cash, some dumb street punks will begin to think they are outta bullets too. So those chipheads will try to get some outta them. And isn't there an endlesss stream of punks out there to try and get lucky.

Now, this is the in-universe response to a character being picky about their job assignments. It will have social repercussions, and reputation is everything in shadowrun.

What you need is to get yourself informed, and then talk to your players about what kind of game you want to run, and what kind of game they want to play.

But before gathering eveyrone to talk:

  1. Look for published adventures for shadowrun. There are hundreds free on the web. Official or not, doesn't matter. It also does not matter much what edition, the economical factors are pretty much the same. Read them, see their threat level and the rewards. You will get a feeling of how much each run should pay. Or for how much the other runners out there would run for.

  2. Compare your runs with those you just read. Adjust the values, and give the Johnson's pockets some negotiating margin. You need to give the face something to work on too.

  3. Now it is the time to sit down and talk about expectations for the game. If everyone is not having fun, then don't play. Let them know that payouts are influenced by two things: reputation and danger level. They have to earn the first one, and they have to do the legwork to really get to know if the Johnson is not screwing them over.

    I won't discusss payout over lyfestyle, as Trey just did a great job on his answer.

As @GMJoe said in his comment, the rulebook has guidelines for how much cred should be handed out in page 375 of the core rules (I don't have the book, but I believe it's 5e. YMMV if they republished it under a different format).

  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for good answers covering in-game and out-of-game aspects. \$\endgroup\$
    – fgysin
    Jun 27, 2017 at 9:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ This answer would be improved by pointing out that there are guidelines for how much players should be paid for a run on page 375 of the core rules. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Jul 4, 2022 at 22:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GMJoe awesome sleuthing. that's why the content here is licensed CC-BY-SA. People should be happy to collaborate and improve teh Q&A, regardless of authorship. That said, feel free to add information to any of my answers, anywhere. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 5, 2022 at 16:37

You didn't specify which edition. For 2nd edition, the following applies: Chapter 8, "Behind the Scenes". Section on Lifestyle, p. 180

\begin{array}{lrll} \text{None/Homeless} & 0¥\text{/month} \\ \text{Squatter} & 500¥\text{/month} \\ \text{Low} & 1,000¥\text{/month} \\ \text{Middle} & 5,000¥\text{/month} \\ \text{High} & 10,000¥\text{/month} \\ \text{Luxury} & 100,000\text{+}\ ¥\text{/month} \end{array}

Remember that the character's reputation (newbie or elite?) influences their pay out. If what you say is true, the players refuse to take a payment that's at least 80% of a middle class lifestyle (most organized crime people, wage slaves, etc.). If they were paid 10,000¥ each, that'd be 1 month living the high class lifestyle (real food vs. soy with flavors) or 2 months living the middle class lifestyle.

Also, check if they're SINless or not. Without a SIN you can't rent a car (much less buy one), buy an airplane, rent an apt., legally buy alcohol, go into a hospital, get a hotel room, buy a gun (legally), go into a legit casino, buy anything that verifies ID, etc.

If they're SINless they should be screwed right then & there. I suggest researching lifestyle. Not having enough nuyen (\$¥\$) to eat, much less get an apartment or hotel room, should be enough motivation.

  • \$\begingroup\$ its 5th edition. SIN is all bark and no bite. The players simply bought SIN and follow along. 2 characters started with it and the third took the low paying job. Still, the demand for "by the book" income is precarious. It means they will never be poor past the first session, and never rich past the 100th session. There isn't even a legitimate way for them to get past 100 million nuyen. There are corporate heads worth what? Hundreds of billions? Trillions of Nuyen? But characters can't get past about 1.2 million? Is that true? I'm reminded of Paranoia the RPG. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tristian
    Jun 27, 2017 at 2:58
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Tristian Most of their work would be for fixers early on, but if they become prime runners with a legendary rep they can start making their own jobs. Like robbing the main vault of a mega corp or stealing and selling a nuclear submarine. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ling
    Jun 27, 2017 at 9:30
  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ I wouldn't bother with shadowrunners ever becoming rich. Risky jobs lead to short lives. \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Jun 27, 2017 at 11:34
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ @Tristian, they bought fake SINs. Every time they use one, there should be a test to see if the forgery holds up. If it fails, they get denied service, the SIN is flagged, and they become useless. There are parts of the sprawl where just walking around prompts SIN validation. \$\endgroup\$
    – T.J.L.
    Jun 27, 2017 at 12:24
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @Tristian What do you mean by "SIN is all bark and no bite?" Your players are walking showing real ID and contact details when Knight Errant or Lone Star ask them questions, and you're saying this doesn't have serious consequences? \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Jul 4, 2022 at 22:57

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .