The Railroad Job
Sure, you’ve got your character. You’ve got a couple of sheets of attributes, skills, gear, and other tools that will help that shadowrunner gain fame and fortune. But who is this person? Sure, you’ve probably already chosen a sex and a name, and definitely a metatype, but what about the rest of it?
No shadowrunner forms from thin air, and there’s more to a story if there’s more to the characters in it. Here is a brief questionnaire that can help you “know the score” about your character. Choose a few (or all) and answer them for your character.
• We are shaped by our heritage. Facial features, skin tone, height, build, metatype, even aptitudes are influenced by the genes passed from parent to child. Attitude, too, is taught by parents, informed by their own lives and their cultural heritage. Where does your character come from, what is her lineage, who were her parents, and what did she inherit from them?
• Parents can be proud of their children or regret ever bringing them into the world. Some are loving, and some are indifferent. All of them are only metahuman and have their own opinions of their children. Assuming they could speak, what would each of your character’s parents say about her?
• Many people remember certain historical events for the rest of their lives. For those alive in the first decade of the 21st century, it could be the assassination of John F. Kennedy, or the Tiananmen Square protests, or the fall of the Berlin Wall, or the attacks of 11 September 2001. People remember where they were, and what they were doing when they first heard of these events. Shadowrun history has significant events as well, such as the assassination of President Dunkelzahn, the Crash 2.0, and the emergence of technomancers and artificial intelligences. Pick a few events from recent Shadowrun history and ask where the character was at the time, what does he remember about the event, and what was he doing at the time?
• Very few people choose to become shadowrunners. More likely, they are thrown into the life by a chaotic and uncaring world. Even if she made a conscious decision to enter the shadows, her decision is influenced by the world around her. How did your character get into shadowrunning, and why did she take that path?
• People have control over their own living arrangements. From the child young enough to use crayons and tape all the way up to the elderly shut-in who plasters her walls with family photos and cat pictures, everyone makes their living spaces more personally pleasing. What is your character’s living space like, and what has he added or changed to make it his own?
• Everyone has beliefs, and many have beliefs strong enough to be convictions. Some are religious, some are political, some are social, and some are just about why people are here. What does your character believe in, what are her convictions (if any), and why does she hold them?
• Everyone has aspects of their personality that grate on someone. Even the best of friends annoy one another from time to time. The flaws in a person’s character are as important as the qualities. What do you dislike most about your character’s personality?
• The Sixth World is considered by many to be spinning out of control. If anyone could exert control over it, it would be the “Big Ten” triple-A megacorps. These transnationals exert a lot of influence on everyday life in the 2070s. Which of the Big Ten does your character hold in the highest (or least low) regard, which does he like the least, and why?
• People make acquaintances and friends; we’re hardwired for it. Humans are social animals. This is especially true in the shadows, where often it is not the power you have, but the power you can borrow, and not who you, are but who you know. There’s a story behind each and every one of these relationships. What is the story with your character and her contacts?
• It’s Sunday morning, and your character has no commitments until tomorrow afternoon. What does she do for the day?
• Your character has a specific skill set, a list of Active and Knowledge skills that define what she knows and her areas of expertise. How did she come to learn those skills, and how did she develop them to those levels?
• Everyone has their limits. People can be dark, but most people’s instinct is to draw the line at certain actions and thoughts, and they keep to their own moral convictions. Is there a moral limit that your character enforces on the jobs she takes, and in what shadow work would she refuse to engage?
• If you have an Awakened or technomancer character, consider your character’s tradition and streams. Even within the major established magical traditions and the recently emerged techno- mantic streams, there is room for personalization. Ask yourself what drew her to that particular paradigm, how does it effect the way she views the world and her magic, how does it translate into choice of mentor spirit or paragon, and how does it affect the appearance of the spirits or sprites you conjure or compile?
• While acceptance and bias vary from place to place,augmentations be they bio, cyber, gene, or nanoware are increasingly common and available in the Sixth World. However, personal technological enhancement is rarely cheap, and many implants that runners possess are restricted. How did your character come to have the enhancements she has, how were they paid for, and what motivated the choices she made (if she did make the choices)?
• Life as a shadowrunner is by definition outside the bounds of “normal” life. Shadowrunners do not truly fit into the lives of ordinary people, whether they live in slums or mansions. What does your character think of ordinary life, mainstream culture, and those who abide by it?
• Everyone has nightmares. Sometimes, we forget the dream completely on waking. Sometimes, the nightmare haunts us or even recurs. If your character had a lingering nightmare or a deep-rooted fear, what would it be, and why does he find it so terrifying?
• People tend to attach sentimental value to items in their possession or people they are close to. They make an effort to keep these close by and safe. What is your character’s “sacred object” or “close one,” and how did they come to be so important to him?
• One of metahumanity’s greatest assets is its ability to look toward the future and imagine a better life. Even small children have dreams about what they want to be when they grow up. What did your character want to become when he was a child, and what are his goals now?
• A person’s appearance can say volumes about him. From fashion sense, to the colors he prefers, to the way he walks and speaks. Sometimes, his personality determines his appearance, and, sometimes, the appearance he chooses to present the world effects his personality. What does your character look like, and what inspired his choices?
• Everyone has a name, but a runner’s street name is a representation of his connection to the shadows. Sometimes runners choose their own moniker, but more often it is given to them as a nickname or earned through some (mis)adventure. How did your character come to be known by his street name?