All characters have a background, explaining why they are living in the Shadows, why they joined them if they weren't born there.

Yet, I have no real idea how they join the Shadows.

Given a group of characters who just saw their normal, legal lives destroyed. How can they make contact with characters of the Shadows, to build a new life ?

This is a situation I would like to try out as a GM with a group of players. They are not very familiar with Shadowrun, and have none of the habits of experienced runners, thus they would discover the shadows at the same time as their characters (and are also willing to try it this way).

But I realize that the "they meet someone familiar with the Shadows who will finally accept to help them" part is not as easy as I first thought.


2 Answers 2


The easiest and smoothest approach is probably to let the incidents which destroy the character's old lives help build their new ones. Some techniques that might be useful:

  • Establish the old life before you trash it. And don't wreck it all at once - let it break apart step by step, each step leading relentlessly to the next, but giving you a chance to establish each bit of the journey as you go.

    (First an unrelated run catches the characters in the middle, trashing their corporate research project. Then they get blamed for the security lapse. Then a corporate rival frames one of them as a mole that let the raiders in. Then other players are under suspicion by association... let it hang in the air before everything crashes down.)

  • Consider having somebody in the group who was born in the shadows. It's not exactly rare, and it gives you a character who can reasonably know basic information that the players don't.

  • Establish runners as mercenaries, not just antagonists, to the PCs' prior selves. Heck, have one of the party act as Johnson before things start to break apart. (When an incident threatens to wreck their comfy corporate lives, why wouldn't they hire some runners to help their employer out? Then it all goes pear-shaped... but the party will already have contacts who can help. For a fee.)

  • Losing your ID doesn't mean everyone you've ever met instantly forgets you... just that most of them will pretend to. Previous friends and contacts might still do a few favours for old times' sake - or because you still have something on them.

    (After the whole accident/framed/whatever disaster, maybe a close friend is shocked by how quickly his corp dumped the player... and will hire her to find the truth before the same thing happens to him too.)

  • Vultures will scavenge... let the party escape their previous lives without much credit, but with at least one thing of great potential value. (Probably data.) Various runners, fixers and criminal gangs will soon approach the party wanting it. That should give them leverage to negotiate for equipment, training, or shelter while they get started.

If you have access to them, several of the Shadowrun novels deal with this sort of thing - Never Deal With A Dragon is a particularly good example of how a salaryman can slip into the shadows step by step.


If you don't really want to roleplay it, this is what contacts are for. One of the players "knows a guy". Someone they met in a dive bar once said he could hook them up with cram and handed him a card. The dealer will demand a transaction and/or straight up sell you the contact info for a fixer. BAM, done.

But I think the idea of throwing new players into naive characters with no contacts in the shadows is a fantastic idea. It would most certainly force the players to think outside of the box and try and learn as go, just like their characters would be doing. It's a very true form of roleplaying. If you already ran it, I want a report.

What they can't do

If their legal lives were just destroyed and they have no contacts and no solid knowledge of the shadows, then life is going to be rough. Experience is valuable, lessons are expensive. If they have no SIN, and obviously no fake SIN, then they are barred from even the most basic of things like hailing a cab, getting a plane ticket, eating at a restaurant, spending funds, or withdrawing money to a credit stick.

Their legal lives might have had rights and money and friends. If that came crumbling down, the rights are the first to go. Being illegal means the system no longer works for you. Most of their savings would be seized or access restricted. The money they have on hand (or the things they can hock) could be vital. Most of their friends won't risk their cushy life, but some may be true friends.

Alternatively, even if their funds haven't been frozen yet, they don't have much they can buy with it. They can't buy anything illegal. They probably don't know enough to convert their money into funds that are beyond the legal system's grasp. No SIN means they can't even properly try and run from their problem. When they DO find someone that says they can hook them up, that person should almost definitely take them for a ride. Indeed, being the only point of contact for a group of desperate people willing to break the law for a buck can be highly profitable. The sooner they learn that criminals cannot be trusted the better off they will be.

I would steer them towards the barrens. The dumps. The low-class hive of villainy where their lack of a SIN won't summon lonestar, and people will take their money without asking too many questions. Throw a mugging at them. Some sort of bum trying to roll them for their shoes. They could try and simply ask around "hey, I need to hail a cab, and I don't have a SIN, help me out". This will draw out the con-men and set them up for abusive relationships. And the honest friendly helping hand will be indistinguishable from the one holding a knife.

What they can do

They can try to bribe regular people to do menial things. "Hey kid, I'll give you this VR game software if you buy me a burger from that vending machine".

They could also attempt to simply google it. While they might be naieve about how the shadows operate, they should know their characters skills and know that they can simply research these things. Criminal enterprise is an aspect of daily life for a lot of people and they have chat rooms. Data search is a skill for finding this sort of hidden knowledge. If the players want to know "What do I need to go buy a gun?" That's something they could get an answer for, if they had a commlink with a connection to the Internet/Matrix/whatever they call it now a days. And too much plaintext traffic over a cafe's public wifi concerning criminal enterprise will draw the attention of the authorities.

Making the connection

They might be caught and processed by lonestar just for hanging around the wrong part of town without a proper SIN. They'll be given a criminal SIN, and placed in prison/forcedLabor/collared/fined-and-freed. Prison is a great place to make contacts. They might owe organs to a bail-bond agent. Hell, the bail-bond agent might give them their first shadowrun job to pay off the bail.

They might actually find the contact information of someone with a criminal background while searching the matrix. Meeting them, developing trust, and then doing business with that person would be role-play worthy.

They could meet someone in the dirty dumpy section of town. "Hey, I need to buy a fake SIN" could be all it takes to get pointed to that guy in the corner that knows who to talk to.

I would leave it to them to come up with creative ways to overcome the problems that shadowrunners deal with out of hand: transportation, bypassing legality requirements, handling money, knowing who to buy from. I would throw some major conflicts at them through the course of their plans. I would have them suffer from someone abusing their naivety, but through that interaction gain knowledge of how things are done, and who not to trust. And eventually they upgrade from abusive contacts to people they can trust.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Unfortunately, the campaign was canceled after 3 afternoons at it, two players became unavailable for personal reasons. But I don't plan to abandon the idea and will give it an other shot as soon as I have the opportunity. Thanks a lot for your answer, which is very interesting. I'll be sure to give you a feedback if I successfully run this campaign. \$\endgroup\$
    – Levans
    Aug 6, 2014 at 18:56

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