While thinking about magic, I remembered that you can only cast spells you learnt. And you can only learn spells that you've spent 5 karma on (p.299 of the core book).

I found that you gain karma based on those protocols for a run.

  • Character survived (2)
  • Group complete all objectives (2)
  • Group completed some objectives (1)
  • Overall adventure challenge (Highest opposed Dice Pool / 6 (round down))

Assuming that any "Adventure" that might pose a threat to your life can be considered a run, that just surviving makes some karma, and that life-or-death situation aren't all that common, how can civilians with civilian jobs learn new skills? They don't really get karma. Civilian mages would seem to have a problem too.


2 Answers 2


Karma is just an abstract way of expressing the amount of "experience" your character has gained while doing the things that he/she does in the world.

NPCs also have their own set of life experiences that may or may not have given them advanced knowledge of various aspects of the world.

It's more helpful to think of the NPCs background when trying to think of what their attributes, skills and skill levels are going to be. Joe Schmoe behind the Stuffer Shack counter is not likely to have an Automatics skill of 6 or a Software skill of 7. Otherwise, he'd probably be doing something else. However, if you're dealing with a security guard at a corporate HQ, it's reasonable to assume that they have some combat-related skills, as well as some level of perception skill, etc...

The book DOES offer some guidelines for creating NPCs. You can use the "Grunts" and "Professional Rating" system that is described starting on p. 378 of the Shadowrun 5th Ed. Core Rulebook. The book also provides sample grunts at various professional ratings, as well as guidelines for tweaking the stats of those grunts for use in your games.

The book ALSO provides some rules and guidelines for advancing NPCs in terms of karma. These rules can be found on p. 385 of the same book. This should really be reserved only for very special NPCs that the players will encounter, such as recurring NPCs and powerful "boss" type NPCs.

  • \$\begingroup\$ but that do mean that "not very special" NPC cannot grow... that one healer-shaman dude wont -EVER- be able to fix you when you get GREATER wounds and some crazy bad mojo. unless you arbitrarily just boost his stats at some undertermined point \$\endgroup\$
    – Mouhgouda
    Commented Mar 4, 2015 at 15:14
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I would argue that if you have a "not very special" NPC that you want to keep track of over a long period of time in such detail, then you may want to promote him from "not very special" to "special". ;) \$\endgroup\$
    – Funkytown
    Commented Mar 4, 2015 at 18:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ Fair point. I guess you could extrapolate the Advancing NPCs to go slower for the NPCs without significant importance, too. Thank you :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Mouhgouda
    Commented Mar 6, 2015 at 13:12

Abstraction threshold.

One can readily assume that humanoid characters in RPGs have heartbeats, and need to periodically eliminate bodily wastes, and do/have a billion other activities/traits that are never specified in the rules, simply because the rules are recorded in a document of finite length and encoded complexity, and thus some things simply aren't worth bringing up.

Likewise, while the rules do address interacting with various NPCs, they are not principally concerned with the day-to-day life that wage slave lead up until you used his office doorway as a tactical bottleneck. There are presumably many more ways for a sentient being to gain a point of karma, or to gain whatever nebulous in-world thing that point represents, than the few methods specified in the book. The book doesn't specify them because the book cares about PCs, and those methods are either irrelevant to PCs, or at least occur at a rate that makes them irrelevant on the timescale in which the game takes place.

  • \$\begingroup\$ you might add that pc's would gain karma quicker than wage slaves that is why the normal activities that might give you karma would not be discussed, as the rules are about the players not the NPC's and since players are already rapidly advancing there is no need to go into gaining karma the slow and torturous way \$\endgroup\$
    – AquaAlex
    Commented Jan 20, 2015 at 12:43
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ On a game I was DMing recently the characters were caught and sent to prison, the next sesion started when they were 6 months on prison, so I gave them 6 points of karma (1 per month) to reflect some experience gain, but much slower than going on runs. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 20, 2015 at 12:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AquaAlex Read the last half-sentence of my post, I already covered that point. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 3, 2016 at 22:16

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