A Slightly Tweaked Version of Shadowrun 3rd Edition

These are the provisional 3rd edition house rules for the Twilight Brigade Shadowrun campaign. We have our own opinions about a number of matters in Shadowrun, and the differences from the default universe are beginning to accumulate.

Character Creation and Development

Characters can start with equipment whose Availability is no higher than 8. In 2055, starting characters can now have bioware.

Any time random numbers are used in character creation, such as with starting cash, the player may choose take the average value of a roll (3.5 on a d6) instead of rolling.

Attributes can be increased by at most three points over a character’s lifetime.

Karma Pool

Metahumans and humans earn Karma Pool dice at equal rates: every tenth point of earned karma goes into the Karma Pool.

The Karma Pool refreshes every act, a unit somewhat larger than a scene. Any major plot turning point defines a new act. Thus, the entirety of time spent doing legwork would be one act; moving into a more active phase would be a new one.


There are three categories of skill: Broad, Base, and Specialized. Most skills qualify as Base skills; they may be related to other skills, but they do not fit in an overall unification. Broad skills were invented because the differences between a submachine gun and an assault rifle, a rifle and an assault rifle, or a shotgun and a rifle just aren’t great enough to require completely different skills.
Skill Improvement Cost Table
Active Knowledge/Language
New rating is... BroadBaseSpecialization BroadBaseSpecialization
≤ Attribute 3 1.5 0.5 2 1 0.5
≤ 2×Attribute 4 2 1 3 1.5 1
> 2×Attribute 5 2.5 1.5 4 2 1.5

Sixth World Knowledges do not exist. Cybertechnology, Paranormal Animals, Metahumanity, and Magic are all legitimate parts of the academic disciplines of Cybernetic Systems, Zoology, Anthropology, and Thaumaturgy. (The Background Skill of Magic referred to on p.180 of SR3 is a useful knowledge skill for non-magicians who have to be aware of magical dangers; Thaumaturgy is the skill that helps you learn and design spells.)

All melee combat skills default to Quickness, not Strength.

Languages and Etiquettes

Language skills are the same size as Base knowledge skills, as per SR3. There are no Read/Write skills; Languages have specializations in Oral and Written.

Lingos and cultural etiquettes are handled by Cultural Knowledge skills. Cultural Knowledge skills are Base skills whose specialties include Customs and Dialect. A character using their base Etiquette skill or Language skill without the appropriate knowledge skill for the etiquette or dialect involved is at a penalty of +2 to target numbers. If they have the appropriate knowledge at 1, they are only at +1 to target numbers. If the knowledge is at 2, they can function in the society with no penalties. Cultural Knowledge skills function as Complementary Skills to Etiquette and Language tests involving that culture’s customs and lingos, at a penalty of two dice. (A skill of 4 in understanding a particular culture thus grants the possibility of achieving one extra success in Etiquette or Language tests.)


Orks are 1.9 meters tall and 115kg. (SR3 still has them far too slim.) Trolls are 2.4 meters tall and 225 kg. (All the artwork and literature is ignoring the notion of the average trolls being 9’3”. Making them 7’10” fits the available source material much better.) As in SR2, ork/troll genes are dominant over elf/dwarf genes, and elf/dwarf genes are dominant over human genes, but it is still possible for parents to have human children when their recessive chromosomes meet. Ork/troll and elf/dwarf crosses have about a 50% probability of going either way, and the mechanism is not yet understood.

Converting from Shadowrun, Second Edition

The average Trollish height goes from 2.8m (9’3”) to 2.4m (7’10”). Trolls should scale appropriately.

Concentration-level skills should convert over directly. General skills that become Base skills should become the Base-level skills; the karma cost isn’t that different. General skills that become Broad skills should transfer the best SR2 Concentration to an SR3 Base, and the Broad level of the skill should be halved and rounded up. Languages stay at the same level; if you are literate in the language, you get the Written specialization for free.

When converting characters built under the Twilight Brigade SR2 house rules, remember which Etiquette skills you bought with background xp and which you bought with skill points. The experience from all etiquette skills bought with skill points can be shunted into Cultural Knowledge skills or the base Etiquette skills as you choose; that from background skills will transfer directly to Cultural Knowledge skills, though you can easily divert them into Interests related to that culture if you wish.


Barry the Troll Physical Adept is moving from second to third edition. First of all, he scales down linearly from ten feet tall to 8’6”.

His Aikido skill of 6 is a concentration-level skill, and becomes the Base skill of Aikido. His Firearms 3 : Submachineguns 4 becomes Firearms 2 : Submachineguns 4. His English, Japanese, German, Perkins-Athapascan, and Hawai’ian language skills all remain the same.

He amalgamates the XP of his Etiquette (Street) 4, Etiquette (Corporate) 4, Etiquette (Magical) 1, and Etiquette (Matrix) 1 and gets the Base Etiquette skill with Cultural Knowledges of Street Culture, Corporate Culture, Magical Culture, and Matrix Culture. His Etiquette (High Society) and Etiquette (Japanese) were bought with background XP, so he moves them directly over to High Society and Japanese Culture. His City Speak ceases to be a language, and he splits its XP up and puts them into Street Culture and Ork Underground Culture (since that culture is given as having a Lingo and he’s spent plenty of time there).

Skill Usage

The tables on pp96–7 of Shadowrun, Third Edition ignore the possibility that people might have to reliably achieve some of the more difficult target numbers are part of their daily jobs. This table unified the difficulties of various skill tests, and includes a column showing the skill required for a competent person to get one success at such a task regularly.
Difficulty Number Table
Target General Knowledge Language Competency
2 Simple General knowledge Universal concept 1
3 Routine 1
4 Average Detailed knowledge Basic conversation 2
5 Challenging Complex subject 3
6–7 Difficult Intricate knowledge Intricate subject 6
8 Strenuous Obscure knowledge Obscure subject 8
9 Extreme 9
10+ Nearly Impossible 12


There are no limits on defaulting. Probability is cruel enough.

It is contrary to common sense that a person with a 6 skill in a particular field would suddenly get much worse at an associated skill— one they can default to— when they spend Karma to acquire the new skill in its own right. It is also nonsensical that getting very good with a particular weapon makes no difference whatsoever in improving your skill with a whole class of similar weapons as your broaden your experience. To address this, we have the following house rules:

If you have a related skill or attribute that is higher than the skill you are using, you may roll the dice of your skill against the usual target number; any dice you have in excess from the defaulting skill or attribute may be rolled against the target number you would have if defaulting the skill. Defaulting penalties are as follows:
Default Table
Default to:Target # Modifier Dice Pool
Wrong specialization of same skill +1 1/2 specialization dice
Associated skill +2 1/2 base dice
Specialization of associated skill +3 1/2 base dice of associated skill
Attribute +4 No pool dice

If you wish to improve a base skill for which you have a specialization, you need only pay the Karma cost of the difference between the specialization and the base skill.


As in the 2nd edition Grimoire, When wards are attacked, their creators know about it, and will even know which particular building was hit. (If they needed to ward multiple volumes to cover an entire area, they may not figure out which of the set of wards was hit.)
SystemTarget #
Sparse, tiny creatures (mildew on the wall)2
Human-sized animal, sprawling plant (ivy-covered wall)4
Small ecosystem (tailored ivy/lichen symbiosis)6
Integrated ecosystem (tailored ivy/lichen hosting beehive)8
Heavily integrated ecosystem (thick jungle)10

Living things are still astral barriers, but they are not absolute. The target number to pass through a living being depends on how tightly integrated to an ecosystem it is. Large animals tend to be fairly independent.

Hermetic circles are only astral barriers while in use. (This is in fact vanilla SR3, but the rules don't make it explicit.)

Hermetic circles and medicine lodges are limited in Rating by double the Magic Rating of their creator.

Using magic to heal the damage caused by physical Drain is not impossible, but does risk loss of the Magic attribute, precisely as if using stim patches (as per the rule in Awakenings. Use the number of boxes of Drain healed in a 24 hour period in place of the sum of the ratings of the stim patches.

Additional Conjuring specializations are Resistance (which can be learned by anyone and functions as a resisting attribute for spirit powers, as per Awakenings) and Language (which can be learned by anyone capable of astral perception and permits communication with the spirit world, for those times when you don’t share a mortal language with a spirit).

Those fun-loving guys across the river from Harvard are the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Thaumaturgy, MIT&T, not MIT&M. (Check Bostonian geometry about this...)


Enhanced Reflexes
Power PointsBonus
1+2 Reaction, +1d6 Initiative
2+3 Reaction, +1d6 Initiative
3+4 Reaction, +2d6 Initiative
4+5 Reaction, +2d6 Initiative
5+6 Reaction, +2d6 Initiative
6+6 Reaction, +3d6 Initiative

In First Edition, enhanced reflexes went 1/2/4/8. In Second Edition, they went 1/4/6, and we modified this to 1/3/6 to reflect triangle numbers (and implied a 10 if someone really devoted their existence to speed). In Third Edition, they go 2/3/5 to mimic wired reflexes. We’re sticking to the 1/3/6 pattern.

Powers that improve your attributes do not affect the karma cost of improving the attributes themselves. If an Adept ends up upping an attribute and a 0.5 point power is not sufficient to improve the attribute another point, they must pick a particular skill that defaults to that attribute for the improvement to affect.

Enhanced Senses

Enhanced senses can duplicate most cyberware effects. Low-light vision, thermographic vision, ultraviolet vision, amplified hearing (like cybernetic hearing amplification), glare resistance (like cybernetic flare compensation), noise resistance (like hearing dampers), extended frequency hearing (going into ultrasound and infrasound), enhanced smell, enhanced taste, improved balance (like the cybernetic balance augmentation), and spatial recognition (like the cybernetic spatial recognizer) are all 0.25 power points each. 0.5 magic points will give the Adept the equivalent of a cybernetic Select Sound Filter of a Rating equal to their Intelligence (plus any dice from improved Perception). Echolocation, radar, X-ray vision, and tuning in radio waves are not available.