My wife also wants to try out the Shadowrun game I am joining, but she really prefers using swords over guns. So she was wondering if there is any way (with either skills, items, implants?) that she can do this without being a burden on the party. I figured with all of the tech there is some way to make the range and speed of guns a non-issue.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I would start by looking at the Physical Adept powers. Unless she likes to focus on the Fantasy aspect, then a mage may be more appropriate. \$\endgroup\$
    – user2102
    Feb 3, 2012 at 15:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ She doesn't like playing magic users, so while it is the fantasy setting she prefers, its the swords more than the sorcery aspect. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 3, 2012 at 15:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ i want to answer, but the last time I played shadowrun was 1e and 2e. it seemed then that katana wielding was a first class combat option, but SR4 may well be a different beast. \$\endgroup\$
    – javafueled
    Feb 3, 2012 at 15:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is cyberpunk: style over substance! ;) \$\endgroup\$ Feb 3, 2012 at 15:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ Did you think about dagger, knives etc. and the possibility of throwing them? (And: cutting something's (somebodies?) throat might be advantageous when the sound of a shoot must be avoided.) Thus, a blade might have its advantages. (But I would not do without any fire power in the party!) \$\endgroup\$
    – Stephen
    Feb 3, 2012 at 19:08

3 Answers 3


In general, guns are more powerful than swords, for a couple of reasons:

  • Range
  • A gun can be fired twice in one round
  • A gun can be used to do more damage, make it impossible to dodge, or attack multiple targets, using the burst fire rules
  • Guns can't be parried using close combat skill ranks

Swords have the following advantages:

  • Give enemies a penalty firing in melee
  • Deliver toxins
  • Higher damage potential (based on strength)
  • Higher potential dice pool (using weapon foci and reach), but bonuses are more expensive
  • Much stronger defense against enemy melee combatants
  • Most enemies will have lower Impact armor then Ballistic
  • Swords which are weapon foci can kill things that guns are useless against (e.g. spirits)
  • Swords are awesome

Whether or not a sword character can be viable in Shadowrun depends a lot on the GM's style, the situation, and the strategies of the players. In a sniper battle at ranges of 500+ meters, or a car chase, a sword character is going to be relatively useless. In a close-quarters urban firefight, a sword character can potentially dominate the field.

I would recommend using one of the following play styles:

  • Be a tank. Build durability, and get good at dodging, since you're going to be out front all the time. Soak up hits that would easily kill other members of your team.
  • Be a ninja. Use stealth to get close to enemies before the shooting starts, and use weapons like poisoned throwing stars and grenades to close the gap and be useful in more spread-out fights.
  • Be a sword-mage. Use invisibility and other magic tricks to mitigate the sword's disadvantages, and use the weapon focus to lay waste to other mages, spirits, and paracritters in astral combat

All three play styles allow for some kind of ranged attack (throwing weapons, or spells) to supplement sword-play and ensure that your character gets involved even when it's hard to close the gap.

It's worth mentioning that low-tech ranged weapons, like bows, can also be very effective in Shadowrun for a character with high strength, and don't suffer from some of a sword's obvious disadvantages.

If you're a GM, you should be aware of your party composition, and throw in challenges sometimes that appeal to your party's strengths. If you have a sword character in the party, throw them a couple of sword-wielding goons now and then to beat on.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I would say that I agree with most of this. Though, it's a question of what the situation is. Different guns, at that point, are more effective at different ranges, so it all boils down to what you take with you. I always let my players know that, if you're going to be a sword fighter, at least take one point in some kind of ranged combat, for the times when you'll need it. Thankfully, Agility is the base stat for hitting with both a gun or a melee weapon, so they should still be effective. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 3, 2012 at 19:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ Worth noting that you can go cybersam instead of adept and also be pretty amazing with swords, but without the weapon focus benefits. You can generally get a lot tougher, though. \$\endgroup\$
    – Bobson
    Jul 17, 2014 at 19:34

You definitely can if you spend your BP well--I've seen a character who leaned on a bow & arrows, and some heavily modded punching, clean up in combat :p Shadowrun is a flexible system, and ideally the GM will take her character's strengths and weaknesses into account. Depending on the kind of adventure you're getting into, she might considering having another skill set besides fighting that will make her crucial to the party as well, such as wilderness survival, breaking and entering, or social manipulation.

If she's okay with playing a low-essence character, then there a lot of mods that will allow her to tank or ninja as she pleases. Getting modded for extra initiative passes (and generally pumping your reflexes) is a good place for a low-tech melee character to start; that way you can get in a lot of hits/close distance between you and an opponent/get behind something before other characters have time to react. She might consider taking a look through the Unarmed Combat/Martial arts qualities as well. If memory serves, there are a lot of advantages that even a vanilla metahuman can get through the special moves accompanying various marital arts.

Also, does she object to tech updates on fantasy-style weapons like, say, a monofilament sword? SR has some nice cyberpunk versions of old-fashioned weapons available. Basically, there's a lot of support in the system for characters with extreme, out-there shticks, and chances are that somewhere in SR there's a combination of stats and gear that makes it viable.


Play a Physical Adept with the Missile Parry power, and negociate with the DM to have it include bullets (although at a higher target success test). I did as a DM in the 2E, and it never unbalanced the game, since the higher targets made blocking bullets tougher, but awesome when successfull. Partial successes were seen as partial deflections (in game effects meant the damage went from S to M), and the visuals of an enemy seeing his bullets being delfected bare-handed by a Phys Ad were worth it. Have a high dodge as has been pointed out, and be tough.

I played a Bow-Wielding Japanese Samurai once, filled to the brim with Cyberware, and deadly with the Katana. Let me tell you even the other players didn't dare face him in combat, even the big Orc tank in the group feared him.


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