How prevalent is cyber/bioware use among the general population in Shadowrun?

What percentage (and what "classes") can afford cybernetic/bionic enhancement? What percentage of this percentage (of these "classes) does actually go for it? (The daughter of a billionaire could certainly buy cybernetic muscle enhancements - but would she? Why?) And what kinds of cyber/bioware do they buy?

The more recent the info, the better. (SR3 information is good, SR5 is better.) Also, the more comprehensive the info, the better. Obviously. :)

(Yes, this is the twin question of How prevalent is magic use among the general population? :))

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    \$\begingroup\$ Off the top of my head, I'd probably think the most widespread cyber will be Simsense stuff. That's probably huge, too. \$\endgroup\$ – Nigralbus Aug 22 '13 at 15:14

I never saw something like an official answer, but the novels always gave me the impression that most of the middle class would have a datajack and a decent percentage would have a chipjack. Cosmetic surgery would also be fairly common.

Most of the other enhancements were probably much more rare. The rest were all the type of things that you would shell out for if you had a need (either to make up for some sort of physical defect, or for your occupation), but probably wouldn't get without a real need even if you could afford it.

As you point out, the upperclass can easily buy enhanced muscles, but why? Enhanced muscles means going through a major surgery as well as the monetary outlay, and that would largely enable you to do things that you would rather hire people for.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Also thought of something else : you know what's really handy when you're rich and a likely target for hits ? Subdermal armor plating. \$\endgroup\$ – Nigralbus Aug 23 '13 at 9:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Nigralbus Absolutely true, but I come back to the whole "major surgery" thing, and weight a lot more for life. If I'm rich, I might consider the subdermal armor, but I'd probably prefer to spend the money getting a pair of body gaurds and then throw a vest on under my suit. \$\endgroup\$ – TimothyAWiseman Aug 23 '13 at 16:12

Access to augmentation is restricted by your wallet. If you can't pay for it, move along. Used, second hand and black market old implants make it easier for below average people to get access to augmentation. You still need to find someone with the skills to chop your arm and replace it by the rusty one you "mysteriously found in the dumbster". In the barrens, people would kill just to keep the chrome and resell it.

It’s no longer surprising to see people with obvious cybernetics, biosculpting, nanotats, or genemods on the street, not even the more extravagant varieties. And why should it be, when we also have metahumans, mages, and changelings walking the streets? Augmentation is now par for the course in many job markets, from office execs and media snoops to military types and construction workers.
- p. 17 Augmentation 4th edition

In 5th edition a Professional rating 2 lieutenant ganger has retractable spurs.

Also remember that anyone working for a megacorp will probably have access to really basic cyber provided by the corp for no cost (except a lifetime of service for the corp or you must give them the cyber back and don't think they kept those eyes on ice for you). Training an employee for weeks to gain a possible level of competence is pointless. They will often implant and use skillsoft.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This answer, plus the very human, emotional element of wanting to avoid pain, suffering, surgery, and the need to do your own drudge work mentioned in TimothyAWiseman provide a good window for interpreting the spread of augmentation in the general populace. \$\endgroup\$ – Runeslinger Aug 25 '13 at 1:32

One of the official sources (and this would've been back in 3rd Edition) points out that muggings have decreased because of the chance of people being augmented or magical and turning the tables on their attacker.

I can't say exactly what amount of people would have some amount of magic or cyberware that would make them able to deter a mugger, but here's what we know:

As TimothyAWiseman pointed out in his answer, datajacks are pretty common. This was especially true in 3rd Edition, but their prevalence probably hasn't gone down. In addition, cosmetic modifications are common among those who can afford them, and people may acquire some cyberware or bioware to replace injured tissue (for instance, a cyberlimb after an industrial accident, or a synthacardium following a heart attack), though typically replacement parts would be more oriented toward normal functionality and not cyborg super-soldier sorts of gear, unless the person in question is a member of those rich enough to just get whatever top-end is available.

But there are also other reasons to get augmentations; a lot of people would get enhanced vision (either to compensate for poor vision or just to be able to see with magnification), or even just for kicks, since some of the low-end cyberware isn't that much more expensive than some other consumer goods (and some can theoretically be argued to fall into lifestyle costs) for middle/upper-class; it'd be like the difference between having a cell phone and smart phone but for your body.

In addition, 4th Edition mentions that a lot of people who would originally seem likely candidates for augmentation (security officers) usually just get drugs or the like to augment themselves, rather than actually using chrome or bioware, since they're cheaper and if your guy burns out early you don't have to promote him/pay as much pension.

So in short, we can't really assume a statistic, because it's pretty likely that there's a large population of people with cyberware or bioware in them (more if you include cloned organs in the bioware category), but few of them will have any significant ones. As for people who are Adam Jensen style combat cyborgs, you're looking at a really tiny population with a decent turnover rate.


This is going way back, so it is likely only of value if you're running a 2050-era campaign, but the Pedestrian entry on page 116 of Sprawl Sites (for 1st edition SR) states:

The Pedestrian is the average citizen. He's part of the 99 percent of the population who have no cyberware, rarely see real magic, and have probably seen an actual dragon a grand total of twice in their lives.

Interestingly, the Fan on page 110 has a Chipjack and a Stimjack, while the Club Owner (p. 106), Corporate Wage Slave (p. 108), Dock Worker (p. 109), Plain Clothes Cop (p. 116), and Reporter (p.117) have no cyberwear at all.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd argue that this is no longer true/inconsistent with the setting of 4th and 5th edition. \$\endgroup\$ – user4000 Aug 22 '13 at 21:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ I updated the answer to make it even more clear that this likely only applies to the 2050 setting. \$\endgroup\$ – Erik Schmidt Aug 23 '13 at 0:05

I can't cite anything to substantiate the following claim, but I will go ahead and claim it nevertheless ;)

I think the most popular modifications would be hardly useful for a Runner. Prime examples would be hair replacement for the balding or Silky Skin, giving flawless skin (from SR4 Augumentation, p63).

  • Dietware (remain slim no matter how much you eat, from same book)
  • Clean Metabolism (remove any unpleasant bodily odors, from same book)
  • Flavored sweat, not sure where it was mentioned, but I think I remember it mentioned strawberry as a top seller..
  • ...

In game terms those modifications are without impact, so I'd wager nobody would care to define how much those are used in the general population. Still, I think it's somewhat logical to say that people will pay money to be more beautiful/attractive in 2070+ the same way people do today. My estimate would be roughly a third of the population will have some kind of enhancement(s).


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