Shadowrun is a cyberpunk game, but the punk aspect doesn’t always come through that well. I’ve been picking up various supplements for R. Talsorian Games’ Cyberpunk 2020, which does a superb job of creating their dark future, and have a few adaptations for Shadowrun.
First off, it’s important to note that there are some things that simply can’t transfer. Cyberpunk 2020 has drastically cheaper cyberware, in order to put it into the hands of gangs; in their universe, almost anyone can get a decent amount of the stuff stuck in them, and it’s not unusual to have whole gangs of thugs riding the edge of cyberpsychosis. There are so many cyberpsychos out there that police departments have specual squads for them. Cybertechnology is accessible enough that it can be cool.
Attempting to import that into Shadowrun would require a massive change to the economy, giving a very alternative setting; I’m just trying to add some flavor to the existing Shadowrun world, without that degree of upset. Gurth’s Plastic Warriors have some excellent conversions from the Cyberpunk 2020 main book and the first three Chromebooks, when you want the numbers.
Shadowrun’s technology base doesn’t need a lot of extra work to be compatible with a lot of the style of CP2020. The important things to introduce are a number of devices of the same tech level as ruthenium polymers. The technology probably involves conductive polymers (already possible in the 1990’s by “doping” otherwise nonconductive polymers) and some sort of LED-like creation that can also be made flexible. These appear as:
The Night City sourcebook introduces some useful concepts for laying out a dark world of the future. Flexible Wearman™ videocloth makes it possible to lay out huge television screens on the sides of LTA’s, so the advertising blimps from Blade Runner can make an appearance in Seattle’s night sky, as well as plying their sensors to provide traffic reports for local radio stations. (Are the people who pilot those blimps bored? You bet. Can your runners bribe them to provide a distraction by going over the right neighborhood when they’re doing a run? You bet. Can the opposition do the same thing to them? Of course!) The huge speakers on the blimps won’t always be operating, since they won’t want to have people cursing the names of the products when they’re trying to sleep, but you can bet that you’ll hear the advertising jingles as you walk down the street at ten at night...
Note that with the arrival of metahumanity, the world has gone 24 hour. Metahumans are a significant fraction of the population, and can function nocturnally, so many places that formerly closed down at night will still operate.
The urban sprawl is full of buildings that have been standing since the middle TwenCen, in varying degrees of renovation. Apartment buildings have often had their rooms subdivided into smaller and smaller areas, and coffin residential hotels (where you rent a coffin and a closet and use communal bathroom facilities) are available for the bottom of the housing market, the first step up from being a squatter.
Low lifestyle areas like this are the first to lose services when there is too much demand— they usually operate under conditions of water and power rationing, and they will black out long before a mallplex’s lights flicker. The better sprawlhavens have cisterns in the basement fed by rain collectors on the roof (through a long stack of filters) and solar panels to help keep up basic power needs on their battery backups for extended blackouts.
The spread of just-in-time manufacturing has created a culture of skilled temporary workers who live in vans and RV’s, travelling around the country where the jobs are. Unlike the Nomads of Cyberpunk 2020, the Nomads of Shadowrun tend to have SINs and passports that allow them to travel around North America. The smaller groups are just a chain of RV’s, while larger ones may carry workshops in buses and big-rig trailers, with precision manufacturing equipment ready to run up the latest designs.
These Nomads tend to gather in fenced lots that have been retrofitted for water, power, and Matrix hookups. Nomads can often churn out one-of-a-kind designs for shadowrunners, for an appropriate bribe...
The new center of civilization for the Low-to-Medium lifestyle folks: the mall. Why live out in an unsafe neighborhood and make the perilous trek to Megalomart when you can get an apartment in a high-rise built directly on top of the mall where you can do all your shopping? The Renraku arcology is just a mallplex with extra pretensions. The residential and business areas of a mallplex usually have strong security on their entrances from the mall.
Mallplexes are often dominated by a particular megacorporation, with the employees all working for various branches of that mega, and all the stores taking in corporate scrip and dealing only in products from the main company.
Some mallplexes will only let you in if you have a certain amount of certified cred on your ’stick or capacity in your private bank account. (This is not an ID verification and costs very little for the mallplex.) If you can’t afford to go in, why should you be allowed to?
The folks living in Middle-to-High lifestyles aren’t going to be anywhere as gauche as a mallplex; for them, life in gated communities is the thing, with individual houses on their plots of land. Suburban enclaves— usually called burbclaves or “beavervilles” (after an old flatvid show called Leave It to Beaver).
Burbclaves are often devoted to a particular corporation, with the stores enclosed in the community’s gates dealing in corporate scrip.
The housekeeping staff usually lives at a nearby mallplex, or is robotic.
Traffic jams and gang activity make commuting a problem. Lots of people would rather take the tube or the bus, where there are security guards and safety in numbers. Public transport is the most common way of getting around at Low lifestyle. Robocabs are popular for folks who need to get directly from point A to point B, and are often used on shopping runs. The cabs work purely on autopilot, have excellent anti-tamper circuitry (including a continuous cellular link with their dispatcher computer), and will refuse to go into areas rated for danger. For cab service to dangerous areas, Combat Cabb™ will come pick you up... as long as you pay ahead of time over the Matrix a fee based on the danger of your pickup site.
Middle lifestyle folks join the commuter rush with their own vehicles. They can go wherever they want whenever they want, and they’ll usually spend on a decent security system for their cars. Tinted windows are useful for more than keeping mages out: they also make carjacking more difficult, since carjackers can’t see exactly where to shoot.
At High lifestyle, people are more likely to take commuter aircraft, either passenger helicopters or LTA buses, landing or docking at the tops of residential high-rises and bringing the suits to their jobs.
The ridiculous commuting nightmare of people living more than an hour away from their jobs peaked in the early 2000’s, and things have been moving toward more centralized living since, in step with the move toward corporate power. The Japanese model of people spending a lifetime at one company, giving it their long-term loyalty, has spread, and many people live most of their lives inside a corporate mallplex, seldom needing to go out. After all, they can do all their regular shopping and entertainment in the mallplex, and if they need anything exotic, it’s much easier to live it via simsense or order it over the Matrix.
The absolute worst food available is at Street lifestyle: rummaging through garbage cans for leftovers that haven’t gone too rotten yet. Vile stuff.
The next step up from rummaging through garbage cans is kibble, made from vat-grown yeast. Kibble is just like the dry food you feed your dog or cat, but it’s made to be vaguely edible to a (meta)human palate. It tends to come in several basic flavors (neutral, bread, chicken, fish, beef— think of ramen packets). It’s the most common meal at Squatter lifestyle, and it’s full of preservatives to keep it from going bad. It’s actually relatively nourishing, and flavor drops for the stuff are available when you want to splurge for a few extra nuyen.
The continuum moving up from Squatter to Low lifestyle involves getting little extras here and there— there are entire cookbooks full of recipes for making kibble more interesting to eat. People surviving on 500¥ a month are usually living on a mixture of kibble and ramen noodles.
By the time you’re at Low lifestyle, the kibble is mostly a thing of the past and meals are varieties of vitamin-enriched soybean called “nutrisoy” that have had their flavor and texture tweaked to resemble a wide variety of other foods, or similarly tweaked Single Cell Organic Proteins (SCOP). Many Elven children grow up unaware that they can’t digest meat because they’ve grown up on soyburgers.
At Middle lifestyle, the nutrisoy is pretty good and there’s a sprinkling of goodies produced in vats. If you have beef as a rare treat, it’s probably never been near a cow since someone sampled one of the beasts a few years ago for a tissue sample. Autochefs with a full set of flavor taps can churn out quite a variety of meals, and it seems pretty good as long as you don’t learn how rich the variety of real food is. Prepak foods, the descendents of TV dinners, are also quite common at this level. There are brands of self-heating prepak meals that use exothermic chemical reactions to heat up their contents when you pull a tab, and many busy corporators carry one in their briefcase for those times when they can’t stop for a real meal.
Vatgrown food is pretty common at High lifestyle; there’s enough of a market for real meat and eggs and veggies that there are plenty of factory farms still in business. You have to hit Luxury lifestyle to be able to afford organically grown vegetables that came out of the ground on a farm, and meat from free-range animals.
Meanwhile, there are lots of farms out there churning out basic soybeans for food and oilplants for fuel; livestock is a much smaller market in the 2050’s. Corporations have bought up most land for growing things and work by factory farming.
Spotlights and strobes at the nightclub not enough for you any more? They’ve got clothing that can display moving images, change color, and even give you that glow-from-below to make you look more sinister with some illumi strips on the lapels.
Body armor is “in” for anyone who has to travel the streets. Looking like you aren’t armored in 2054 is like being fat in 1588 or thin in 1926: it’s a sign of wealth. Either you’re rich enough to afford clothing that doesn’t look armored, or you’re so rich that the people who are a threat to you can’t get past your security.
Naturally, there’s a counter-reaction to whatever’s popular, so the heavily armored look is really popular among teens whose parents are all trying to look like firefights don’t happen on the same planet they live on. Savvy parents are secretly glad that their offspring are actually safer because of their rebellious natures.
Of course, overcoats and umbrellas that are proof against acid rain are a must in most urban areas in the Shadowrun world. Seattle’s air is better than most places, since they get ocean breezes on a regular basis, but inland cities are much more terrifying.
The corporations just love advertising, and you can get everything from Knight-Errant baseball caps to Wearman™ jackets showing a continuous stream of specifications on the latest weapons from Ares Arms at the AresWear company store. Similar situations exist for all the other megacorps. Mock uniforms are available for the kids who want to grow up to be Red Samurai, and such gear always has easily distinguishable markings that make it easy to tell a real Red Samurai from someone in a company suit if you know what to look for— and the professionals definitely know what to look for.
On the street, people need to be ready for action. For trouble, you need armor; if you’re on the make, you need to be able to show your assets. The “layered” look of the 2050’s usually involves a bulky long coat or armor jacket over close-fitting clothing underneath.
The average wage slave tends to wear either a corporate uniform (usually a once-piece jumpsuit— check out Uniwear on p59 of Chromebook 1) or slacks and a cheaper version of the button-up collarless shirts popular in the boardroom.
Boardroom fashions are still dominated by the Western business suits that have changed little since the Twentieth Century. Lapels are narrow, and the most popular styles fit the body very closely, displaying the lean and mean physiques of corporate go-getters to advantage. Many shirts have lost their collars entirely, bidding farewell to ties. Check out Takanaka fashions on p63 of Chromebook 1.
In the world of Luxury lifestyle, fashion knows no bounds... including those of taste. Ornamental technology is common as a means of demonstrating wealth. A Luxury party is liable to have everything from people in the finest of boardroom fashions to Native American leathers, kimonos, saris, or bizarre new creations that flaunt a person’s particular assets. Exposed skin is very popular for showing off those gymnasium physiques and laughing in the face of a world that needs body armor, so slashed sleeves and gauzy, semitransparent materials are common.
The clothing systems in Chromebook 4 are a wonderful addition to the game. For Quality, note that Sub-average clothing has a tendency to wear out easily and subtracts a die from all tests involving being stylish. Good clothing is necessary to fit in at Middle lifestyle. Very Good clothing adds a die to style tests, Designer adds 2 dice, and Superchic adds 3. Consider “Wardrobe and Style” to be the Fashion specialization on any given Etiquette skill.
|Object Resistance Table|
|Wool, silk, cotton, linen||4|
|Rayon, vatgrown silk or leather||6|
|Synthleather, polyester, nylon||7|
|Kevlar, most body armor||8|
|Illumi strips, reacti-mesh||9|
|Polylog™ material, Polychromic™ material, Wearman™ videocloth||10|
Since the Fashion spell is one of the most useful in the game, I thought it would be appropriate to clearly delineate the Object Resistance Table entries of various cloths. Natural fibers that only require minimal processing are easier to work with than leather that’s been through a heavy tanning process.
To convert most of the fashions from Cyberpunk 2020 to Shadowrun, just convert eurobucks to nuyen. This is not how to convert cyberware— the economy is considerably different for that!— but it puts the cool fashions roughly into reach for your characters. (For example, building the Mortimer Greatcoat takes a 125¥ trenchcoat, applies the ×4 modifier for High Fashion and the ×4 modifier for being Designer clothing, and ×2 for making heavy clothing SP16, for a total of 1250¥ for a B4 I2 greatcoat, a little high. The “Executive Suite” tuxedo, as a jacket and pants at SP16 on medium clothing gets a similar treatment and winds up going from 55¥ to 550¥, about half the price.) Your characters can now annoy people with the Wearman™ video jackets and skirts from p58 of Chromebook 1.
For every entire –2 EV penalty, subtract 1 die from the Combat Pool of characters wearing stuff that’s too heavy.
Some fashion houses to name-drop when creating outfits for your characters, purely for the style of it:
And some random high-tech materials for more flavor:
People may not change much, but the technology does, and it has repercussions throughout society.
Nuclear families are very popular in corporate environments, due to the influence of the Japanese megacorps and their traditional views. However, with VITAS and gang violence providing death tolls and acquisition-hungry corporate raiders out there, there are plenty of opportunities for children to end up with single parents.
An even more traditional family model has made a reappearance: the extended family. Extended families are quite popular in sprawlhavens where a breadwinner or two are trying to take care of their grandparents, children, and out-of-work siblings and cousins. The able-bodied usually end up being guilted into doing chores by the less able-bodied seniors, who also supervise children working with TeacherSlates™ in lieu of actually going to school (which the family cannot afford).
Nomad tribes work like a different sort of extended family, with groups of professionals forming extended ties throughout the travelling group. With gangs and corporations each ready to screw the group out of whatever they can get, the habit of watching each other’s backs becomes second nature.
Kids growing up on the street and in squats tend to learn the facts of life from the gangs they join. They are seldom literate, and can grow to adulthood unsuitable for anything other than manual labor. Relatively responsible squatter parents will scrape together the 100¥ to get a cheap TeacherSlate™, a very durable touchscreen with a cheap speaker, a single port for a matrix connection and a solar panel on the back. TeacherSlates™ are corporate-subsidized cheap computers that are designed to impart basic skills to children with talking menus and icons and games that can actually build vaguely useful skills. They can only download software from their manufacturer, unless someone takes the trouble to break in and replace the ROMs. Naturally, the subsidizers can put in a nice track for advertising their products. The ’slates download updates to their lesson plans based on how well the child is doing, and report in the test scores. People who do particularly well on their lessons are sometimes asked by their slates to come to a testing center for skill evaluation.
At Low lifestyle, the ’slates are fairly common for people who can’t afford to send their kids to school. Mallplexes and burbclaves tend to have their own schools. At High lifestyle, artificial-personality expert system tutor programs are available, in addition to schooling, and there are private academies for people at Luxury.
While some places still practice imprisonment, I don’t doubt that some others use behavioral modification cyberware as a cost-cutting measure. Skillsoft technology should make aversion therapy (much like one of the stories in Gibson’s Burning Chrome) possible, with people having a deathly fear of going back to wherever they committed their offense. A decent-sized cortex bomb is, of course, wired to the implant, ready to go off if the implant is disabled or removed.
While “shot while trying to escape” is probably just a checkmark on the paperwork of many police departments, some runners may not have done enough to merit getting randomly killed off if they’re captured by the police. Feel free to make magicians roll for magic loss as new and interesting pieces of cyberware are installed as a substitute for incarceration or execution, if it looks like a character would otherwise rot in jail. After all, it’s much more fun to load them down with a GPS tracking beacon reporting their location to headquarters every 15 minutes and can blow their head off on a remote command than simply make the player come up with a new character!