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I'm trying to figure out how much to pay Shadowrunners for a job, and how to balance the NPCs. I couldn't find anything in SR4A (though I could've missed something).

I've only played in a couple of other tabletop SR games, and I honestly can't remember how much other GMs paid for runs.

On the Awakened Worlds MUD (awakenedworlds.net), SR3, a typical job pays out somewhere in the vicinity of 2500-5000 'yen. Tougher jobs involving a lot of wetwork go up to about 12,000. These are normally solo jobs. The MUD is purposely designed to lowball players (I think), because it's much easier to accumulate cash when the runs are automated.

I figured that 4,000 per player was a pretty good payout - more than you usually get on the MUD, but not excessive. I got a couple of complaints when I offered 4K per PC in the runs I hosted at Dreamation, so I'm going to bump up the payouts for next time.

The two canned examples on the official site that are fleshed out (both 3E) pay 50k each and 10k each, respectively.

Is there any rhyme or reason to determining pay for a Shadowrun job? If anyone has a system for it, particularly an official one, please share. =)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ See also: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/17080/… \$\endgroup\$
    – RMorrisey
    Oct 11, 2012 at 16:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ It's worth nothing that in SR5, there is a specific formula for suggested payouts in the core book based on opposing dice pools, critters encountered, runners being outnumbered, etc. (It's also worth noting that the published Shadowrun Missions almost always pay less than the amount given by the formula.) \$\endgroup\$
    – RMorrisey
    Feb 27, 2015 at 15:17

9 Answers 9

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You're absolutely right, MUDs/MUSHs tend to low-ball players on cash in an effort to slow growth. In my experience running and playing in Shadowrun I've used two different scales:

  1. For high-power games with lots of cyberware, big guns and tons of excitement a normal run nets out around 10,000-20,000 'yen per player, usually leaving the group with enough cash at the end of the game to make one big purchase or several little ones. Most players found this satisfying as they then felt that you could actually get decent gear after chargen.

  2. For more gang-level gritty games where players didn't start off with a lot of cyberware and couldn't buy every gun they wanted we tended to keep things much lower. 3,000-5,000 'yen per player was about right for a good run, but in order to keep the flavor there were also a lot more sessions when the runs didn't pay at all.

So, while it does depend on the tone you want to set, those are some guidelines that worked well for me in practice.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ So it sounds like it's basically up to the whim of the GM. Thanks for putting concrete numbers in! These sound like good guidelines, so I'll use similar ballpark figures for my runs. \$\endgroup\$
    – RMorrisey
    Apr 19, 2011 at 12:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ It really does depend on the kind of game you want to run. Money is as big a tool as Karma rewards for controlling power growth in a Shadowrun game. I tend to err a little high because I enjoy a game with lots of cyberware and other tech toys. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rain
    Apr 19, 2011 at 16:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ Great answer, but remember player/character negotiating skill can and should have a fairly large impact on the payout. \$\endgroup\$ May 7, 2012 at 16:29
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It's essentially down to how you run the game, if you run it more gangland-style then the pay out should be lower than an all singing all dancing cyberware galore packed adrenaline pumping action ride.

Main factors to consider:

  • The characters lifestyle, if you you run once a month, there should be a payout proportionate to the living costs with a percentage on top of those costs - Take this as your BASE figure

  • The negotiation skill, again factor a %

  • A bonus for a clean run, either by a fixed, percent or ad-hoc amount. This way they can afford some luxuries

  • A penalty for a sloppy run as above except they will have to do without some of their normal living costs maybe?

  • Occasionally spinning in a tough big bank run to really see what they are made of, with the rewards being much greater than your average

  • More travel expenses should always incur a price rise, either a true cost of the expense, or miles traveled basis depending on how nice you want to be

What you need to ask yourself is "Do they deserve x,y,z for completing 1,2,3" on top of your base figure

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In 3rd edition, the general rule was 1 to two runs a month, with the payout being about the average of the players lifestyle. That allowed them to keep from starving, make bonuses based on clean (or messy) delivery and by doing a few cash (read theft) runs. This also required that every so often you throw a really high paying job (comparatively) to make them sweat...or a real low one that "is just a milk run."

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The main difficulty is that it very much depends on the style of play you have. This of course is much harder if you don't have a regular group.

The more 'gritty' you run the theme, the lower the payouts.

The more professional the runners act, the higher the payouts. This makes up for the fact that they should be paying more to gather information and make the runs 'clean' and that they won't be swiping things as they work to sell for additional income.

The more the players need to travel, the more costs they (should) incur and payouts should increase.

The more the RP pays attention to the lifestyle and downtime compared to the missions, the more money they will need for non-mission costs, and payouts should increase to enable this.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I know all of that. I need numbers. What's a good (average) value for a "gritty" game, or for a "professional" game? \$\endgroup\$
    – RMorrisey
    Apr 18, 2011 at 7:32
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The paper booklet Contacts & Adventurers from the SR4 GM-screen (Product number 26002) contains several ready-made run ideas. In some cases, the Johnson doesn't make it to the exchange, these are marked with an *. The planned and backed up payments by the Johnson once everything is done in them are:

  • Assassination 1: 5k base offer, 2k bonus. Can be haggled to 10k+2k bonus for the Team
  • Assassination 2: No value given but "high" is implied. Non-monetary pay is available (including the removal of debts)
  • Blackmail 1: 1k for the team for accepting, 100 Bonus per head for each day left till the deadline in 10 days.
  • Blackmail 2: 20k for the team + any money extorted from the target
  • Bodyguard 1: 500 per head for day 1 + 200 per head for extra days. Can be haggled to 300 per extra day. Can add Connections.
  • Bodyguard 2: 1k per head and day + free medical treatment while under contract
  • Courier 1: 2k for the team. Can be haggled to 2.5k + free services
  • Courier 2: 30k for the team. Can be haggled to 50k for the team.
  • Datasteal 1: 500 for the team + a large favor from a gang. Contacts can be haggled for.
  • Datasteal 2: 40k for the team + 10k bonus for the team. Partial up-front and discount can be haggled for.
  • Distraction 1: 1k to 10k for the team depending on the outcome, though a 0 is also possible.
  • Distraction 2: Information on how to hack the bank account of a Bunraku Palace.
  • Destruction 1: 5k for the team.
  • Destruction 2: 30k for the team.
  • Encryption/Decryption 1: 5k flat upfront for the team.
  • Encryption/Decryption 2: No value named.
  • Extraction 1: 10k upfront for the team + part of the ransom (which is maxed at 10k).
  • Extraction 2: No value named.
  • Counterfeit 1: 3k for the team.
  • Counterfeit 2: standard price for the materials needed + a little more.
  • Investigation 1: NO payment. It's for a friend.
  • Investigation 2: connections with a high-ranking politician + 5k for the team per day + membership access to clubs.
  • Plant 1: No value named.
  • Plant 2: 20k for the team.
  • Retrieval 1: 10k for the team + free subscription. Can be haggled to 12k for the team.
  • Retrieval 2: 20k for the team.
  • Security 1: 5k for the team + Room & Board for the weekend + borrowed weapons & ammo for the weekend + the thanks of an Oyabun's child.
  • Security 2: 100k for the team.
  • Tailchaser 1: 2k + more + handsome hush-money
  • Tailchaser 2: 50k*. Can be partly upfront.
  • War 1: Plunder & looting rights.
  • War 2: 10k for the team. Can be negotiated up considerably.
  • Wild Things 1: 5k for the team.
  • Wild Things 2: 5k per item for the team. Transport, medical care & expendables can be negotiated for.

In general, the payments are usually risk dependant, and how much money the Johnson has to blow: the high offers all are from people in the high echelons and can include hush-money.

Personally, I think the payment of Security 1 is one of the best listed there: what could be better than a child's thanks for protecting their pet?

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I read in a novel (Streets of Blood by Carl Sargent, an older one set during 2E or 3E) about a guy paying runners (gang members with some Cyberware) 2000 Yen each (500 up front, 1500 upon completion) for a protection run, in which they were in a firefight, and some died. The payout seemed really interesting to the characters as they lived in the slums of London. So low-key games couldbe paying 2000 Yen a run, and "high-paying dangerous runs" could pay as much as 5000 Yen each I guess.

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Start with general costs to the mission.

How much prep do the players normally do? If they tend to outsource decking and such, tack on at least half the average amount of nuyen it costs to outsource this help to plan the run to reward their more professional approach. How prepared are they generally? If they tend to buy a lot of things as part of run prep, give them maybe 30-40% of what they pay average for this kind of prepwork.

If the job has them outnumbered 2 to 1, increase pay by 20%. If they are outnumbered 3 to 1 and the average professional level of this armed opposition is within 3 of the average of the runners, increase payout by 40%.

If the mission is purely wetwork, add 50%. If the mission is high-profile and will raise the general awareness of the runners by the nature of the mission, add 30%.

If the run requires more than a week of preparation/travel or takes more than 3 days to complete in execution add 10% per 3 days over the base 3 days. If it is a milk run (gangers could complete mission to johnsons satisfaction), cut 20% off.

The base sum should be 80% of total living expenses each runners Or 3000 per runner, whichever is higher.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the site @raikuma! Thanks for the answer- one thing you might want to do is state your references, especially as he asked for official sources if possible. Is your answer based purely on personal experience, or is there some rules source that you're using to formulate these guidelines? \$\endgroup\$
    – Chuck Dee
    Feb 26, 2015 at 21:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ I devised this payout system for normal level shadowrun play without using any existing tableS or rules. Assassination contracts are high risk and have a high chance of failure. a delivery job or pickup in a dangerous area might constitute a non-modified base run. Out for less than a week, no requirement of killing to complete the run, base odds of encountering a large force is minimal and prepwork is minimal. This is all personal conjecture for balance, not hard and fast rulebook answers. \$\endgroup\$
    – raikuma
    Feb 27, 2015 at 1:17
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For 5th edition, I've seen rewards ranging from 1000 nuyen per runner for a trivial job, to 100,000 nuyen total (still for a fairly easy beginner's job, to my surprise). The 5th edition rules recommend 3000 per runner, but many people feel that's too low. There's one adventure where the runners can earn far more than 100,000 nuyen, and a lot of people complain that's way too much.

Personally, I'd say 5000 per runner or 20k total is probably a good guideline.

Something else to consider: moral dilemmas. Often doing the right thing means getting less or no money, which is sometimes compensated by rewarding more karma. Or they could choose money and end up supporting bad people and doing some really horrible things, and maybe get less karma.

Another thing to consider: deckers, riggers and street samurai need money for gear and augmentation. Magicians and adepts not so much. Everybody can use karma. So being stingy with money hurts deckers, riggers and street samurai more than it hurts mages. High financial rewards benefits them more than mages.

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I don't think it really matters what the payout is as long as the cash/karma ratio doesn't get too weird, and your players feel like they've had enough of a reward and play continues at a level that they're happy with. If rewards allow magic-heavy players and tech-heavy players to advance at similar rates, you're doing it right.

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