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Shadowrun 101: Part 1 – Races

Explore one of the most popular RPGs ever to be made. It’s Shadowrun 101 baby!



I’ll start off by saying I love Shadowrun.  This is a TTRPG with a wonderful world to play in.  It’s full of intrigue, betrayal, and enough social commentary to keep philosophers all over the world busy for the next hundred years.  When friends ask me about it, I describe it as everything great about Cyberpunk and everything great about Dungeons and Dragons thrown in a blender.  It has something for just about everyone.  Want to play in a world with dragons and magic?  Shadowrun has that.  Want to play in a gritty, real world, softboiled style adventure?  Shadowrun has that.  Do you want to “stick it to ‘the man?’”  Boy, do I have a game for you.  How about hours worth of material to sift through to customize your characters with cybernetic body parts and semi-impractical weaponry?  Yep.  Got ya covered.

For as much as I love Shadowrun, it’s also a very intimidating game to start.  It’s not as accessible as Dungeons and Dragons so I don’t really recommend it for new gamers.  There are a lot of rules and minutiae to wrap your head around.  And it starts right away with character creation.  The problem with having a system where you can do anything you want, is that there are too many choices to make.  I couldn’t even possibly walk someone through all the details involved in one article so I plan to break this up into multiple parts and I hope it’s a good guide to get more people into a great game.

Metatypes – Races

Let’s start with talking about the different meta types in Shadowrun.  Meta types are similar to races in Dungeons and Dragons.  The difference is that all types in the game are considered homo sapien.  But on April 30, 2021, about 10% of people turned into fantastical creatures.  In Shadowrun, there are humans, elves, dwarves, orcs, and trolls.  Some of these meta types have sub-categories. For example, a subclass of troll would be a yeti or a centaur.  Most of those are covered in supplemental material but for now, we’ll stick with the first five.  Each one has an advantage to them.


Humans are what you will encounter more often than not in Shadowrun.  Humans tend to be very balanced.  In character creation, the highest number in a particular stat is a 6.  Humans can have a 6 in any stat.  Where humans have a bonus is in edge.  Edge is used to modify dice rolls so they can be very powerful.  Humans can have up to 7 edge.  And with a balanced ability scale, humans are equally good in any archetype.  


Dwarves tend to be more stocky so they have a bonus to body and willpower but a penalty in reaction.  This makes dwarves great mages and deckers.  The penalty to reaction means they might not be as good as front line fighters since they have trouble dodging.  Dwarves also have a natural resistance to toxins and thermographic vision to help them see in the dark.


Elves are like humans in that they don’t have any real weakness but they do have a bonus to agility and can go up to 8 on charisma.  This is great for any archetype but especially for street samurai, and shamans.  They also have low-light vision so elves are better than humans in just about every way.  And they aren’t afraid to tell you so.


Orcs are tough.  They have big bonuses to body and strength.  But they do have a penalty to charisma.  Orcs are great street samurai or adepts.  Just don’t ask them to do most of the talking.  It’s a gritty world out there and Orcs face a lot of prejudice just because of the way they look.  They also have low-light vision so they are great for sneaking around at night.  They also have the ability Built Tough 1 which gives more physical condition boxes keeping them alive longer.


If you want to be big and strong, Trolls are the way to go because they don’t come any bigger or stronger.  They can go up to 9 in both body and strength while also having the same penalty in charisma as the Orc.  They also come with dermal deposits giving them a natural armor, thermographic vision like dwarves so they can see better at night, and they have built tough 2 for more physical damage boxes.  The downside is the entire world sees you as a big dumb oaf and will treat you like drek.  Welcome to the 6th world.

Archetypes – Classes – Next Lesson

I’ve mentioned archetypes a bit already but let’s dive into that just a bit more.  There aren’t any classes like in Dungeons and Dragons with their own set of abilities and bonuses you get as you level up.  Instead, anyone can do anything.  The basic archetypes are: Adept, Combat Mage, Covert-Ops Specialist, Decker, Face, Rigger, Street Samurai, Street Shaman, Technomancer, and Weapons Specialist.

I will get more into archetypes in the next part but I want to leave you with some food for thought about meta types.  While there are penalties assigned to certain meta types, that shouldn’t be a deterrent.  Through the course of the game, players gain karma to be able to raise stats so even though an Orc Face sounds difficult, and it is, it wouldn’t be a deterrent.  Play as an Orc Face.  Certain meta types are better for certain archetypes, that in no way should mean they are only good for that one role.  Shadowrun is all about customization and having the freedom to build characters however you want.  These are just an overview of what they are and I encourage you to have fun building wild cyberpunk characters in a dystopian future.

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