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This page provides explanations of some of the Shadowrun esoteric information that you might have to hunt through three or four books just to find, I’m compiling it as I find it (& if I think it’ll be useful to people). . .

First up, SINs!


“Your System Identification Number is a unique identifier issued to you at birth or any time you change national or corporate citizenship. This identifier (which is not just alpha-numeric) contains basic information, such as your birthdate , birthplace, and other data, encoded within the identifier. If issued at birth, your SIN will be linked to basic biometric data, such as a DNA sample, retinal scan, and finger prints. As you age, additional biometrics such as voice patterns, facial patterns, and hand measurements can be added. Your SIN is registered with your country or corporation of citizenship as well as with the Global SIN Registry. Following the Crash, most governments and corporations began requiring multiple backup databases that can be accessed in case of national emergency,

“Your ID contains all the data necessary to interact with other citizens, government/corporate agencies, and physical or online retailers. Although every issuing country/corp embeds different data on a citizen’s ID, they generally contain your name, age, metatype, a physical description, a current photo, licenses, and are frequently linked to your bank account. Many countries also require IDs to contain your status if you are Awakened or a technomancer along with registries of any cyber- or bioware you have.

“Your SIN is linked to biometric data and proves you are a citizen. Your ID is who you are. Together, they allow you to exist in today’s world.” – Unwired, page 9.

From this, we see that the SIN is essentially a more thoroughly documented, digital, form of the US Social Security Number, complete with biometric data. You also have ID (think a nationalized form of a driver’s license) which provides more day-to-day functionality.

A foreign national in the CAS, therefore, would still have their SIN registered with their country of origin, a digital passport with the appropriate VISA status (which would then double as a “green card”). You never have multiple SINs, but if you have dual-citizenship, your SIN will be registered in the database of both countries / corporations.

The Matrix

Please, please read pages 40 – 46 of Unwired. This gives a nice, clean overview of the Matrix for all players. If you’re playing a luddite who never plans to use the Matrix, ever, then you don’t need it. But, if you’re playing a Shadowrun character, this section helps explain the Matrix very well.

Cheat Sheets

They aren’t necessarily updated for the 20th Anniversary rules, but you should consider downloading these cheat sheets.

Game Inspirations

I’ve been hunting around for things to point people to for ideas of “what Shadowrun is like”, well, here’s what I’ve got so far, mostly in the audio-visual category:

  • Movies
    • Serenity – Small group of mercenaries has to dodge the law and uncover the truth of the government’s secret Machiavellian attempts to chemically control a planet’s population. This is Shadowrun in space, with a Western twist. Same can be said doubly for the series, Firefly.
    • Robocop 2 – Get rid of the campiness and make it dark, rather than silly, this picture of a dystopian Detroit where you aren’t safe to walk down the street (okay, that’s real Detroit, too) and evil, overly powerful corporations are contracted to run the police, only to plot an overthrow of the entire city government, is a model set-up for a shadowrun. Throw in robots, cyborgs and the other over-the-top tech they play with, and you even have some of the cyber elements.
    • Hitman – Though it doesn’t feature wiz-bang cybergear or a dystopian world, the twist of the plot and the way Number 47 interacts with his contacts and plots his counter-attack make him prime runner material. Great inspirations for the social interactions of Shadowrun can be found in this fun little action movie.
  • TV Shows
    • Burn Notice – Though there’s nothing cyberpunk about this show, it’s great for seeing how tight-nit a runner team is, how jobs often work and a little about interactions with (and the value of) contacts.
    • Firefly – Same reason as the Movie, above. Although this gets more into the runner’s life itself as they scramble to find a job that will pay for the latest repair they need.
  • Novels
    • Diamond Age (Neal Stephenson) – Focuses more on the cyber & nanoware of the cyberpunk genre, but definitely a good look into those subjects. I say that when I’m still only about a quarter done with the book.
    • Interface (Neal Stephenson) – Explores malevolent uses of bioware & gets into the whole shadowy organization pulling strings aspect of cyberpunk, probably the least useful of the books I’ve mentioned, but very good.
    • Snow Crash (Neal Stephenson) – I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, this book DEFINES the Matrix of Shadowrun (if more of the pre-crash variety). The prevalence of electronic monitoring, corporate replacement of the state, and the insane VR tricks all scream cyberpunk & Shadowrun. A must read.
    • Neuromancer (William Gibson) – The tech’s a little dated, the plot not 100% solid, but this is a great book for referencing the lingo and setting of Shadowrun. Why? Because the creators of Shadowrun stole the book whole-clothe for inspiration of the setting and culture prevalent in the game. Of course, the author was disgusted with Shadowrun for erasing the line between fantasy & sci-fi, but what’s he know?
    • Never Deal with a Dragon (Robert Charrette) – Set in the 2050’s, this is a Shadowrun universe novel. Kind of hard for it not to be useful
    • Choose Your Enemies Carefully (Robert Charrotte) – Sequal to Never Deal with a Dragon, this book has all kinds of neat info on the setting, magic, metahumans, and the events of the 2050’s.

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