I am having trouble getting into the Shadowrun setting; whenever I try to come up with character ideas or feel into characters there.... my mind goes blank (regardless if I'm a player or a GM).

Normally I would say that a person having that problem dislikes the setting, which is not true here. Also I'm quite experienced in regards to roleplaying. I've been a GM for almost 15 years now (in different systems and settings) and also played as a player for quite a long time.

The strange part is that the single elements of the setting where I have problems....are not something new to me. For example:

  • I'm used to having magic in the group or playing a mage (pathfinder)
  • I'm used to playing nonhuman species (demons, werewolfes,... in wod, drow and dragons in pathfinder)
  • I'm used to high technology levels (dark heresy) .....

the only thing that is "new" in SR is the matrix and I'm not playing a character who has to access it (like a hacker, rigger,... would).

Also this is the first time for me that I have this problem anywhere. Normally when I know the rules and the backgrounds I need at max. 3-5 minutes to come up with a character concept and have a feeling for how the character acts,... and that regardless of the system and setting. In this case: Nothing a completely blank mind.

As that is unusual for me I want to ask there if there are tips for how to get into the setting where something like this happens, and how a problem like that can be avoided in the first place (like I said I know the rules and settings there and even read the novels and played the computer games) and also what could be the reason there?

(I've tried now for 4 months to either get into SR or find out why I have that problem or what could be done to eliminate it to no avail so far).

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Tagging this as Shadowrun - it's always better to ask about your problem here than to try to make it generic to other people's problems. If this is the first time in many games you've had this issue, then it's very relevant. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Aug 11, 2014 at 4:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ ok tnx. I tagged it as general in the beginning as I'm fearing that it is not only with shadowrun (although like mentioned it happened so far really only with shadowrun) \$\endgroup\$
    – Thomas E.
    Aug 11, 2014 at 8:29

3 Answers 3


Read fiction

The "feeling" for most settings is less based on the actual setting and more on the general cultural bakcground that you've been exposed to - fantasy literature for the 'generic D&D' environments, swashbuckling movies for pirate-style settings, etc.

If you want to get a good feeling for Shadowrun, read good novels of the genre - not of Shadowrun as such, but of the 'ecosystem' of settings that differ in every detail but share the feeling. Read Neuromancer, Snow Crash, Altered Carbon, The Windup Girl, etc. Watch Blade Runner, Minority Report, Johny Mnemonic and Ghost in the Shell movie.

In order for the setting to make good sense, you need to feel the relevant tropes, what behaviour and events are appropriate for the setting. It's just like the difference between a high-fantasy environment and a low-fantasy one - the rules may be the same, but the expected results and 'feel' of the setting will be very different.

If the setting doesn't draw you in, play something else

It may just be that this genre just isn't your thing. If the relevant fiction doesn't engage you and make you eager to play such characters, then a different setting may be more appropriate. If you are a fan of something else, then that will be more fun to play, and also your character there will be more fun for others.

  • 6
    \$\begingroup\$ Great reading recommendations - also looking around TVTropes' Cyberpunk Tropes may inspire a character concept or background. \$\endgroup\$
    – G0BLiN
    Aug 10, 2014 at 17:05
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ +1 to this, though I suggest adding some details on how the context of a cyberpunk setting changes the specific elements mentioned in the question. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Aug 11, 2014 at 2:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree with @GMJoe. A metahuman in Shadowrun is very different than a non-human in Pathfinder, for instance. \$\endgroup\$
    – Bobson
    Aug 11, 2014 at 14:34

Conceptually Good, Practically Meh

Sometimes, you come across things you go, "This is XYZ, and I like X, I like Y, and I like Z- it should be perfect for me... but I'm not feeling it." You don't have to like all things, and just like having a flavor of food you don't like, you can't really force yourself to like it. That may be your situation here.

The whole point OF setting is to inspire fun ideas, and if it's not doing that, it's not really the right setting for you.

Steal and Import

Usually when I try a new game, I try to go with a simple concept. I want to see how the game works "vanilla" - no extras, no weird concepts, not even pushing hard with specialized mechanics. For that reason, I usually take the most straightforward character type and a straightforward set of goals.

That doesn't mean the character is boring - if you look at a lot of fiction, movies, comics, etc. you have several protagonists who are a lot of fun, but conceptually simple. Consider if there's a favorite simple hero you have, and transfer some of the idea over to your new setting.


As Peteris said in his answer, reading literature and watching media help get inspiration. In addition to that, Shadowrun is the mixing of two themes: Cyberpunk and fantasy. So any character you can think of in one, add a twist from the second.

For example: A great singer from a nu-grunge band, grown on the mean streets of $YourHomeTown. But he's a ork, from a family of warriors that view his carrier choice as gay. I use the term in all its pejorative, negative, and homophobic over tones. No, I agree with none of them! But the orc family does!

Another example: A wizard, drawn to the magical world from an early age and living in isolation with his master in a tower till something happens that forces them to go into the wild. The tower, of course, is a metaphor for a secret drilling facility in the fox archipelago which has a much more sinister purpose hiding a La-li-lu-le-lo secret project.

The other thing I do for all characters in all games is to detail their failings, weak points, and flaws. If you can, stem those from a mix of both styles. Sometimes, thinking about what the characters cannot do is a great way to come with a good character concept.


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