Considering that today's (transhumanist) science is actively looking for ways to prolong human life and perhaps to even achieve a kind of immortality in the long run, it seems logical to suppose that with the passing of decades (turbulent as they are), and the aid of supernatural entities and magic, scientific longevity projects have made serious progress in the world of Shadowrun.

My question is:

What degree of immortality has metahumanity achieved in the Shadowrun canon?

How long can the average, advanced citizen (not subject to various extreme risks) expect to live? Is there cheap gene therapy, nanotech cleanup, magical revitalization and so on available for the middle-class masses, be they any subspecies?

If not, what are the major factors that explain, again in the canon, why longevity has not made progress in a world where the adventurous rich can become actual superheroes thanks to bioware, cyberware, and whateverelseware?

I'd primarily be interested in the current canon (SR5 & Anarchy), but if the topic was addressed (only) in earlier editions (and then retconned), that will do as well. :)


3 Answers 3


In SR4 and the canon up to then, there were several ways to become /almost/ immortal:

  • One could become a Cyberzombie by getting a negative essence (and dying) during a bloodmagic ritual under surgery. As such a being, one does not die (again) as long as one is treated with their meds and magic. They become mad and an astral hazing being though, and it is extremly costly - They need DELTA Cyberware and a clinic fit for it after all. It doesn't help that they are corporate property with little of any emotions and humanity atop all that.
  • One could become a Cyborg (Brain-in-a-Jar type), which does detatch one from society and most likely makes one mad after some time - and one needs to be properly upkept by people. Also one has 0.1 essence, the process is extremly costly and upkeep is in the tenthousands. And one is not a human by law anymore. Corp Property again.

So, instead of dying or becoming an item, there are actual ways to prolong your life:

  • There is a genetic treatment class called Age Rejuvenation, which comes in three variations:
    • Life Span Extension and Physical Vigor can be combined to make you a long lived badass Gramps, for even a 'decent' price (of like some hundredthousands)
    • Léonization is exclusive to the other two, but it turns back the time for yourself to 21. It can be repeated over and over again but costs a small fortune.

All these but Cyborg were in the SR4 Augmentation book, the exception (cyborg) was in the Arsenal. The Cyborg was a novelty of SR4, the others have persisted since at least the SR3 era.

For SR5 of these the following have reappeared:

  • Cyberzombie Chrome Flesh, mentioned only, p203 following
  • maybe Cyborg Chrome Flesh, possibly mentioned by 1 word, p196
  • Age Rejuvenation Chrome Flesh, p156
    • including all 3 variants: Léonization, Life Span Extension and Physical Vigor

More implicit in earlier editions and explicit in 5th edition is a Spirit Pact that offers immunity to aging via a little backdoor:

Spirits have immunity to aging Core Rules, p397, and with a Formula Pact Street Grimoire, p.137 one ties the own existance to that of the spirit. Should it be destroyed... both beings cease existing. But until then, the pactee is safe from aging, as long as the spirit pact lasts.

Side Note: In all editions I could find, there is no 'natural age limit' for elves given, yet it is implied that they will die with "several hundred years" while dwarves are given with a guesstimate of "90 to over a hundred" as average expected lifespan. Note that no individual of these species has yet died of old age in SR5!

Less bound to a specific version of Shadowrun is the possibility of full body replacement, which brings the essence down to close to 1 by bying cyberlimbs for all the body parts (torso, 2 legs, 2 arms, skull). As this is eating quite some essence (SR4 & SR5: 6,25 for the whole set), Alphaware to reduce essence costs some is needed, making this quite costly, but as it is 6 surgeries, it can be stretched out somewhat. This bypassing of the above mentioned life prolonging/immortality tricks however has no rule effects on aging. On the other hand, a full body cybernetic replacement could be seen as life prolonging (depending on GM) as there is less body to age and some organs could be replaced or need to work less and thus don't run out that fast. This is however GM-decision-land.

On a totaly different notion: SR has a hand full of truely immortal elfs born in or before the first wave of UGE, so before 2011. Among them is Harlequin. They are rare, this trait is not somehow genetic... and they havn't been used as NPCs since 3rd Edition came around. Only exception is Harlequin, who still sometimes appears in shadowtalk. All NPCs though. And they are not made but have had this quirk from birth.

Elder Dragons (think the named brigade like Lofwyr, Hestaby, Lung, Ryu) are probably even more immortal. The confirmed 3 kills took either another Dragon (Nachtmeister), Extreme military force and falling into the SOX (Feuerschwinge) and whatever Dreck they pulled to geek Dunkelzahn and get the Dunkelzahn Rift open. But they are not Metahumans and not even remotely playable.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ There's also a specific Spirit Pact in Street Grimoire for 5th edition that makes you immune to aging. \$\endgroup\$
    – Elisa
    Commented Oct 21, 2017 at 12:01
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ The "full body" cyborg option doesn't actually work to extend the natural lifespan. A cybertorso is more like a heavily reinforced exoskeleton - it doesn't replace all the organs inside. \$\endgroup\$
    – T.J.L.
    Commented Feb 7, 2018 at 15:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @T.J.L. , please read the text carefully: "This is GM-decision-land" \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Commented Feb 7, 2018 at 16:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Trish The GM can overrule anything. Calling out that something is a GM override doesn't make that thing any more supported by the text. \$\endgroup\$
    – T.J.L.
    Commented Feb 7, 2018 at 16:25
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @T.J.L. I explained my reasoning. Take it or leave it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Commented Feb 7, 2018 at 16:27

(All answers from SR5)

There seem to be two questions there: what progress the world has made on life-extension/immortality, and what is available to the "average" citizen.

Trish pretty much covered the "what progress" part - there's been plenty. I just want to reiterate that the cheapest form of canonical medical life extension costs 300k, for just 10 years. The real deal, Leonization, costs almost 7 times that. Contrast that with a Middle Lifestyle, which costs 5k per month to maintain. So, if your successful corp employee somehow managed to save all their money for 5 years, they could buy another 10 (until they ran out of essence). With most the other 5 years' worth of income, they could add vigor and not become senile or decrepit. That's an impossible amount of money for someone in that income bracket. Even at middle management levels (High lifestyle, 10k/month) that would be half of their income just to stay even with vigor and life extension. In short, only the rich can really afford to stay even with aging in the 6th world, and only the very rich can get ahead of the game. A successful middle-class metahuman might be able to add 10 years once.

But a successful middle-class corp employee is not really the "average" in the sixth world - it's an economically dystopian setting. Wealth inequality in SR is much worse than in real life, and even in the real world divergent access to medical support is a real and noticeable thing. In Shadowrun, medicine is either private and pricey Doc Wagon/Crashcart/etc facilities, an underfunded and sketchy street doc, or the pill aisle at StufferShack. SR Seattle doesn't just have a few homeless camps like real Seattle, it has entire suburbs of extreme poverty (the Barrens, the Orc Underground, etc), in which gangs are most of the law, squatting is normal, and a clerking position at StufferShack is one of the best actual jobs in the area. Those people (and there are a lot of them) aren't going to have access to life extension treatments, even if they weren't so expensive. Add in the diseases that have been shredding the populace for the entire 21st century (VITAS et al), the poor diet of even the middle classes (Middle lifestyle has some real food, but also plenty of flavored soy), the high rate of violence, and the fact that orcs and trolls have significantly lower lifespans, and your median UCAS metahuman almost certainly has a significantly lower life expectancy than your median real-life US resident.

So, the major factors that keep life extension from progressing to the masses? First, the process is expensive, but the adventurous rich superheroes you mentioned already have access to it. If they care at all about the poorer masses, they'd probably be more interested in helping them not die early than live to extended old age. As for the middle-class wage slaves, dangling a carrot right out of reach is how you make the hamster run faster on the wheel. They life of a corporate wage-slave is supposed to be stressful. So if you asked Renraku R&D why they weren't trying to make basic life extension cheaper, the honest answer would probably be "Why would we?".


It depends where you draw the line on defining metahumanity...

First, most of my Shadowrun knowledge is from 3rd Edition and earlier, so apologies if anything I mention has been overturned in later editions. However, one element which has been missed out of the previous answers is HMHVV. This is where there is a definitional question - once a metahuman has been infected with HMHVV, are they still a metahuman? The rules generally consider that they are not, but if they are then this is the easy answer - become a vampire, nosferatu etc.

The definitional question can get more complicated with where research into HMHVV goes. Spoiler alert for the novel The Terminus Experiment by Jonathan E. Bond and Jak Koke, set in 2060:

Warren is apparently telling the truth when he states that he eats normal food (and not people), has no vulnerability to sunlight and has "only" lost his artistic (possibly magical) talent. While one of the main characters considers him to be an inhuman monster, once a "vampire" no longer needs to feed on other metahumans this is not necessarily a valid conclusion. What happened to the research that allowed Warren's transformation is not conclusively settled at the end of the book.


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