When creating a character, we recommend you ask yourself the following twenty questions to flesh out the details. We have assumed that certain basic considerations – sex race, magical ability and so forth – have already been decided. Such character elements are necessary to the creation process, and should have already been decided while creating your character.
The questions below appear in no particular order, so feel free to begin with any question that triggers an immediate response and work through the rest at your leisure.
- Where is your character from?
This question gives you an instant background for your character. It also sets up a framework by which many other questions may be answered. Be specific. Don’t just give a city or country, give an exact location. For instance, two characters growing up in Seattle could easily be from completely different areas; one may be from the hard-boiled Barrens and the other from the pleasant corporate structure of the Renraku Archology (before the bad times…). Use New Seattle and other available source material to help narrow down specific neighborhoods and locales.
- Does your character have a family?
This is an important question that almost always get left out of game play. A family van be very important in defining a character. Does your family make demands on you or your time? Do you Shadowrun in secret so that they do not know, or are you estranged from them to the point that you never talk? Were you raised to believe one thing but now have rebelled against that code? Are any of your relatives working in alignment or opposition to you, or does your lifestyle put them in danger?
Another consideration is the question of whether your character has ever been married and/or has children? Is your character currently seeing someone? Several someones? Is he or she a Shadowrunner as well? How does your career impact your relationship?
- Does your character have an ethnic background?
The answer to this question often goes hand-in-hand with the questions above. Your character’s ethnicity should have a large impact on cultural upbringing. Were you raised in a foreign country, or were your parent immigrants? Were you raised in a culturally-rich environment, or was your lifestyle largely assimilated? The UCAS has been a melting pot, and your ethnicity likely impacts your personal history and outlook, as well as how others perceive you. Despite the effects of the Awakening, ethnic racism and prejudice still exist in areas, although it may take a backseat to views towards metahumans.
- What does your character look like?
Create a quick description of your character’s physical appearance, including height, weight, color of skin, eyes, hair and build. Are you a taller-than-average dwarf or a troll so short your look like an ork? Are your athletic and in shape, or are your underweight and wiry? Your physical description includes both your character’s natural appearance and any modifications such as cyberware, tattoos, piercings, injuries and so on. What about that green mohawk… or those trademark cyber eyes? Are any of these characteristics disguising? Do you resemble a famous sim star, or scare people with your cold steely gaze?
- What does your character dress like?
Now that you have described your physical body, it is time to dress it. What is your character’s style? Does he have one? Are you at the height of fashion or are synth-cotton sweats and a black “Skuzzy and Gonzos” T0shirt the only things your are ever seen worn? Do you “dress down” for street work, or “snazz up” for social engagements? Your character’s Resources and Lifestyle may certainly affect these options. A Salish-Shidhe tribesman will dress much differently than a Barrens street rat or a character raised in the wealthy Magnolia Bluffs.
- Does your character have any physical quirks?
There are a number of habits or physical disguising features to chose from. His your character known for twirling their hair, or biting their nails when concentrating? Was your nose once broken and never set correctly? Where did you get all those scars? There are any number of physical idiosyncrasies or handicaps that have no direct affect on game applications, such as limps, twitches, stuttering or even missing fingers.
SKILLS, ATTRIBUTES & RESOURCES
- Where did your character learn their Active Skills?
Since these are the skills that a Shadowrunner uses the most, it should be determined how your character learned to deck, wire explosives, shoot, cast spells, and so on. When was your character trained? By whom, and under what circumstances? Is the character still tied to these names and places in any way?
- Where did your character learn their Knowledge Skills?
These skills give depth and history to your character, so its important to ask why your character has such a fine understanding of elven wine, or how they learned psychology. Each classification of skills (Academia, Background, Interests, Sixth World and Street) carries a story on how the character was exposed to such information. Descriptions of whem and were you learned such things, as well as the teachers and circumstances could spawn stories and insights to your character.
- Where did your character get his goodies?
Your character begins the game with a set amount of resources. How these resources became available to your character is part of your history, from each piece of cyberware to every bullet. How did your character earnt he nuyen to get that implant? Did someone owe the character a favor or did someone else pay for it? Maybe the character has an extensive background in the military or security services and is now getting into the shadows. Each piece of gear can have a story liked to it. Perhaps that Ares Predator is the one your father, the mob boss, gave you, or the armored jacket the one your older brother did not wear on the night he was killed by the Red Samurai.
- Where does your character live?
Choosing a lifestyle(s) can also provide background. Are you rich enough to live in the High Lifestyle and yet your still ‘slum’ in the Barrens? Why there? Do you live in a Z-Zone, where each day is an adventure unto itself? How do you get there each day? How do you deal with the gangs and urban predators? Are you the only troll in an elven district? What is your relationship with your neighbors?
- Who are your character’s contacts?
While the gamemaster runs them, you can have a hand in creating them. Each contact you chose should fit into your character’s background. How did you meet? Is the relationship just business, or do you share mutual interests? Do you meet every Friday at the corner pub for drinks? Describe some aspects of their personality as well. Is she s ruthless cop who happens to have a crush on you? Or is he an avid Urban Brawl fan? Level 2 contacts especially deserve attention, as they should play a significant role in your character’s life. Why are you buddies? Were you partners, or was she your mentor?
- Who are your character’s enemies?
Using enemies can flesh out reasons why your Shadowrun, how you came up with your gear or any other backstory you wish to create. Their personalities should also be detailed in the same manner as contacts. Why do they hate you? Is it personal or just business? Were you on opposite ends of a deal gone bad? Was it intentional or simply a huge misunderstanding?
How did your character learn magic?
This is a special question that only the Awakened need to ask themselves. Since magic is individually based and totems ‘choose’ their shamans, it becomes important to define where and how a character learned these abilities, and how they taught to control them. In the case of shamans, you should define what the totem means to your character and how they fit into the totem’s goals and plans.
Even if the character is mundane, your should decide how they feel about magic. Does it spook them out? Are they jealous that they can’t cast wicked fireballs? Do they ave misconceptions or biases on how magic works, perhaps even carrying charms and tokens?
- What are your character’s likes and dislikes?
Everyone has likes and dislikes, and nothing makes a better background for roleplaying hook than to establish a few for your character. These can range in intensity from something that is a minor annoyance to something that crushes your character’s heart or drives your character to rants and violent rampages. These can be either serious or funny. Do you hate Aztechnology because they ship BTLs to your city and your father is an addicted chiphead? Are you such a die-hard Tacoma Timberwolves fan that you’ll skip out on shadowruns in order to catch the game?
- What is your character’s moral code?
A moral code in the shadows? Every character should have a point where they draw the line. Wetwork? Extractions? Does your character per non-lethal tactics or do they love to whack stooges? Is your character amoral, and how did they get that way? What dehumanized them?
This questions also poses topics of personal morality as well; cyberware, sex, pollution, lying, stealing, drinking and the list goes on. These can run the gamut from questions that arise in the daily life (taxes) to more esoteric subjects that may never arise (organlegging).
- Does your character have goals?
Are you determined to run the shadows until the Humanis Policlub no longer exists? Or just until you can afford to purchase that island in the Lesser Antilles Possibly all you want is to make sure that your kid sister can afford to go to a good school that will help her control her magical powers. Goals help define the character’s outlook on life as well as the laying groundwork for future stories. Goals may change for characters, depending on events that occur in the game. Perhaps they are even driven to bitter cynicism or difficult soul-searching as they stray from their original plans.
- What is your character’s personal beliefs?
Are you a radical anarchist? Are you an ultra-conservative who thinks that something needs to be done about the American Nation ‘Problem”? Do you think that the UCAS corporations are better than the Japanacorps? Is Dunkelzahn your hero? Do you believe that magic is the work of a sinister being out to control everyone’s mind? What personal beliefs does your character take to heart, and does she affiliate with any religious sects, policlubs or secret societies because of them?
- Does your character have any personality quirks?
Are you anti-social? Arrogant? Opinionated? Pessimistic? Superstitions? Laid back? Paranoid? Pick a trait or two and invent a story that explains how you got to be that way.
RUNNING THE SHADOWS
- Why does your character run the shadows?
This can be as simple as basic survival instinct or it can be deeper and much more psychological. The shadows are a prison to some and a land of opportunity for others. Are you out to make a reputation? Are you striking back at the megacorps in the name of the people? Or are you just a sick fragger with a taste for adventure, and maybe a death wish?
- How does your character view their role as a shadowrunner?
Running the shadows is one thing, liking it may be a complelty different thing. Does your character enjoy the thrill of the game or is he always fearful that he will be caught? Are you cocky about your success, or do you just take it all in stride? Maybe your character just thinks that the shadows are a necessity in the flawed society of the Sixth World. Possibly your character hates the shadows and the shadowrunners but is stuck in a no-win situation, forced to do whatever is necessary to survive and get back to where they were… back in the “daylight.”