Character Generation Guide

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ShadowHaven is a living community. Creating a character means inserting yourself into a world shared by hundreds of other players. While this provides a vibrant place to dive into the techno-fantasy world of Shadowrun, it also means we have to take special care in curating our rules. Consistency and evenness means that you can be guaranteed that a character will play the same on any table no matter the GM, and it means that our GMs can rest assured that all characters are on even footing and don't have game-breaking flaws.

To you, a new player, this means that character generation is a bit more involved than you might be used to. In addition, Shadowrun itself is somewhat notorious for having a complex character creation process. So as you dive in, try to be patient with the process. And remember, should you ever get stuck or just want someone to talk to, we have a whole team of volunteer CharGen (character generation) staff who would be happy to help you. Join our discord server and just ask. We're a friendly community.

Creating a Shadowrunner

Step 1: Read the rules

The Shadowrun core rulebook has most of the rules you need. If you're going to play Shadowrun, this is where to start learning.

In addition, ShadowHaven has implemented a few custom rules and banned or modified some game elements in order to make community play easier.

  • Contact Rules describes the system we use to manage and share NPC contacts.

It's okay if you don't read through all of these resources completely. Part of the rationale for having a character review process is to let experienced players help newer players create characters which are legal and play well so everyone enjoys the game a bit more.

Step 2: Generate your character

Generating a character in Shadowrun can be complicated, but luckily, the community has two software tools to help. These tools avoid a lot of simple arithmetic and legality mistakes, so we ask that you use one of the two to create your shadowrunner.

  • Chummer is a free, open-source option. Due to its availability, most of the characters on ShadowHaven are created with it. To download, click the Chummer.Nightly.zip file (not the source code). In general, you can just pick the most recent version. You do not have to keep it up to date, but sometimes newer versions have bug fixes or new content added.
  • Herolab is a paid option for Shadowrun and other games. Note that pricing is based on content, so you can buy as you grow.

Getting Started

The best place to start is to follow the guide in the Shadowrun Core Rulebook entitled "Creating a Shadowrunner" starting on page 62. You can follow along with the software.

Gear

When you get to the section Purchasing gear on characters can seem daunting with all the options available, if you are unsure about what you do or don't need to purchase at chargen please refer to Basic Gear Guide (Special thanks to /u/NotB0b). This list doesn't cover job specific gear and is by no means exhaustive but it should provide new players with a good foundation.

Contacts

Contact NPCs are a part of ShadowHaven's living world. When you add contacts to your character (page 98 of the Core Rulebook for an overview or page 386 for the details), you have three choices:

1. Choose a contact from the list of existing public contacts. These already have stats and backstories. Just copy the information from the contact's wiki page into your character generation program.

2. Create your own contact. It's recommended that you have some experience with Shadowrun before putting too much time in here, but if you're committed to doing so, you can follow the [Contact Rules]. Remember that you'll need to create a wiki page for your new contact. This adds the contact to the ShadowHaven world and lets other characters use your creation.

3. Defer it until later. If you're overwhelmed by the options, you can add placeholders to your character sheet. Instead of adding an existing contact or creating your own, just pick a name, a Connection rating, a Loyalty rating, and an Archetype (on ShadowHaven, we only use a few types of contacts to make things a bit simpler). Placeholder contacts can't be used in a game until they are fleshed out.

When choosing contacts, one of them should be a Fixer archetype. A fixer is sort of like an agent for an athlete or actor or a handler for an undercover cop or spy. From an in-game perspective, they're the ones that connect you with jobs. You still use one of the three options above to choose a fixer, just like any other contact.

Step 3: Export a PDF

When you're happy with your character, you'll want to create a PDF file so it's easier to share with our chargen staff and GMs. How you do this depends on your tool:

Chummer

Under File menu, click Print. In the upper left-hand corner of the dialog box that pops up, click the Save as PDF button.

Herolab

Under File menu, click Print Hero. In the dialog box that pops up, select Standard Character Sheet and then Entire Portfolio. Clicking Print Now will bring up your computer's print dialog. Print the sheet to PDF using your particular system's option.

Updating the Wiki

Step 4: Request a wiki account

Wiki accounts are auto-generated by a bot running on our Discord server. Log in and type the following in the #general or #chargen channels:

?make_wiki_account your_username

where your_username is the name of the wiki account that you would like.

If you have any trouble, you can always ask for help from our character generation staff by using the @chargen group. Like this:

@chargen I can't seem to create a wiki account, can you help please?

This will alert the team, and one of the volunteers should be around to help you out soon.

Step 5: Upload to the cloud

You'll need a web-accessible folder to put both your character file and your PDF file. ShadowHaven relies on third-party cloud storage for this.

While there are many places to put files on the web, we ask that you use one of the two below. Both are free. This helps us cut down on the number of tools that our staff has to learn and makes it easier for us to help people when there's trouble.

Google Drive (recommended)

  • Log in: Sign up or log in with your Google account. This should take you to the top-level folder of your Google drive.
  • Create a folder: Create a new folder for this character by clicking on the New button at the top left and selecting Folder.
  • Share your folder: Right-click on your folder and select Share. This should bring up a dialog box. Click the Get Shareable Link button in the upper right-hand corner. Copy this URL for later. If you lose it, you can always find it again by right-clicking the folder and selecting Share again.
  • Upload your files: Double-click on your folder to open it. To upload a file, you should be able to simply drag a file from your computer onto the browser window. If this does not work for you, right-click anywhere in the empty space in the middle (where it says Drop files here) and select Upload Files.

Dropbox

  • Log in: Sign up or log in with your Dropbox account. This should take you to your Home page. Click on the Files link at the top left to navigate to your top-level folder.
  • Create a folder: Create a new folder for this character by clicking on the New Folder button at the top right (not New Shared Folder). Choose a name and leave Only you selected for now. Pressing Create will automatically open your new folder.
  • Share your folder: While in your character folder, click the Share Folder button at the top left. This will pop up a dialog box. Ignore the To: field and just click the Create link button at the bottom right. Your folder is now shared. Click the Copy Link button (again at the bottom right. Save this URL for later. If you lose it, you can always find it again by clicking the Share folder button again and pressing Copy Link.
  • Upload your files: Open your folder. To upload a file, you should be able to simply drag a file from your computer onto the browser window. If this does not work for you, click the Upload files button on the right-hand side of the page.

Which files do I upload?

We need two files: your character file and the PDF you exported in Step 3. Your character file either has a .chum extension (if you created it with Chummer) or a .por extension (if you used Herolab). If you can't find it or forgot where you saved it, open your character (in Chummer or Herolab) and click Save As in the File menu in Chummer or Save Portfolio As in the File menu in Herolab. This will usually show the current location where your character was saved.

Please upload both these two files to your cloud folder.

Step 6: Create a wiki page

ShadowHaven's wiki is the primary mechanism for exchanging information on the characters who populate our living world. It gives GMs a sense of who they are running with and players a closer connection to their fellow runners. It represents an important part of what ShadowHaven is.

As a result, all PCs on the Haven must have a wiki page. We ask that you try to follow the Player Character Template so that it's easier for members of the community to find what they're looking for when reading many different characters' pages. It's alright if you don't have everything filled out right away. Your wiki page can grow as your character develops.

To create your character's page, we recommend following this helpful guide written up by our community members: PC Page Creation Guide.

Pre-Review Checklist

Before you can actually sign up for a game, you'll need to get your character reviewed and approved by a member of the chargen staff. Please remember that these folks are human beings and volunteers. They are doing this to help the community, so please be polite and patient. If you want the review process to go more quickly, the best thing to do is ensure that you've done your part in getting the character ready. The most common reason for delay in a review is that one or more resources (usually a wiki page, a character file, or a PDF) isn't available to the person reviewing. This checklist should help you avoid those delays.

I've created a character in Chummer or Herolab
I've exported a PDF of my character sheet
I have a wiki account
I've created a wiki page for my character
My character has at least a minimal background on their wiki page
I have uploaded both my character sheet (.chum or .por file) and a PDF to either Google Drive or Dropbox.
My cloud folder is shared. (To test it yourself, try opening it an incognito-mode browser window.)
My cloud folder is linked from my character's wiki page.
My reddit username is on my character's wiki page.

All set? Let's put your character up for review.

Running the Shadows

Step 7: Character review

ShadowHaven requires that every character be approved by a member of our chargen staff. This serves two purposes. First, it guarantees GMs and other players that the characters they meet and interact with on a table are all playing by the same rules. Broken or invalid characters means problems for everyone. Second, it gives players a second pair of eyes on their characters. This can be useful for new and old players alike. Nobody likes being surprised by an accidental oversight in their character or a misunderstood mechanic, and character reviews catch most of these before they bite back.

If you're a returning player, you'll need to decide whether you want a Light or Heavy review. If this is your first character submission, you must have a heavy review, even if you are a veteran player elsewhere.

  • Light: This indicates that you understand both the Shadowrun 5e system and the character you are submitting. All you want is a legality check. These are usually faster.
  • Heavy: This indicates that you would like a review for both legality and optimization, going over such things as the concept, dice pools, etc. This is for new players as well as veteran players who either want another players advice or critique. These tend to take a bit longer, but you will receive more hands on time with a chargen minion to help you make the character you really want.

Posting a review thread

To submit a character for review, you'll need to create a post on the ShadowHaven Character Generation subreddit here: ShadowHavenCharGen.

Click Submit a New Link in the upper right-hand side of the page. Copy your character's wiki page URL into the URL box. The title of the post should be the character name followed by either [Light] or [Heavy] depending on the type of review you're requesting. You may leave the image blank (and if you've already uploaded an image to your character wiki, it will be used automatically). Click submit!

After your post goes up, a chargen staff member will volunteer to review it. The status flair on the subreddit will usually be changed from Pending to Claimed, indicated that there's a volunteer working on it.

Handling your review

Please be patient. We all know the anticipation and excitement that comes while waiting for a character to be approved for play. You want to get out there and run the shadows, and we want you there. But remember that chargen volunteers are real people with their own lives. If you want your character approved faster, the best thing you can do is respond promptly to questions asked on your character review post and correct illegalities on your sheet when asked. Remember that this is a two-way street, too. If you have questions, concerns, or just want to try to improve your character further, it's okay to ask your reviewer for help.

The chargen volunteer conducting your character review may ask you to make changes to correct illegalities on your sheet. These must be corrected before your character will be approved. If you have concerns about the impact of them on your character, talk to your reviewer. Often times they can help you fix them in a way that suits your goals.

You may also be given recommendation on how to make your character better. You are not required to make these changes, but our chargen staff is here to help you. Generally, they are trying to help make your character play well on a table. Again, if you have questions or feel that a recommendation isn't quite right for your character, talk to them. There's usually a variety of ways to make something better.

Approval for play

Your character is not approved for play until your reviewer says so. This is important. If you submit the character, receive a review, and make changes, you still need to let your chargen staff member approve it. This is to make sure, for instance, that one illegality isn't traded for another. A second look at a sheet usually takes far less time than the first, as most of the ground has been covered and the reviewer is already familiar with the character. It isn't unusual to go back and forth several times to refine a character.

After you and your reviewer are both satisfied with your character, they will approve your character for play. They will help you roll for starting nuyen either through the reddit bot or the discord bot. (It must be rolled using one of these two publicly-visible methods.)

Step 8: Track your progess

Congratulations! Your character is ready to go!

Move to career mode

Chummer and herolab support two different modes for characters. The first is character generation mode, which you've already used. The second is career mode, which lets you track your character's growth as they run the shadows.

Note: You may want to save a copy of the character sheet that was approved for play. Sometimes this comes in handy later, especially if you decide that you want to resubmit the character.

Chummer

To enable career mode, open your character sheet and click on the Character Info tab. In the upper right-hand corner, check the box labeled Mark character as Created. Save your character. You should see a dialog box pop up asking you to enter the results of your starting nuyen roll. Enter the sum of the dice that you and your chargen minion rolled in Step 7. If you are confused or did not roll your starting nuyen, talk to your chargen minion or any of the chargen staff. They'll help you out.

Herolab

To enable career mode, open your character sheet and click on the Advances tab. Enter the sum of the dice that you and your chargen minion rolled in Step 7. After this, click the lock icon next to Lock Character Creation Details To Select Advances.

Upload your new sheets

It's useful to keep your sheet available and up to date. As you make changes in career mode, adding rewards from runs or purchases your character makes, repeat Step 5 to re-upload the PDF and .por or .chum5 files (skipping the step about creating a new folder—you can reuse your current one).

Step 9: Apply to a game

Make a Roll20 account

Many GMs use the virtual tabletop site Roll 20 to run their games. Ultimately, whether a game uses it or not is up to the GM, but if you apply to a game that uses it, you should either have an account before the game starts or let the GM know that you are unable to use it. Some GMs may choose to make special arrangements so that you can play, but they are by no means required to do so.

To make an account, visit This Page and click on Create an Account.

Applying to Jobs

In the in-character world, shadowrunners are hired hands who make their living by completing quasi-legal jobs. ShadowHaven is an loosely-knit organization of like-minded runners who have banded together to take on jobs they might not otherwise get. These jobs are collected and tracked on the ShadowHaven host. In the out-of-character world, this job board is represented by the ShadowHave subreddit:

When a runner sees a job they want, they offer their name up. The person or organization offering the job selects a team of runners they feel suit the job's requirements and invite them for a meet. Out of character, this all plays out on the ShadowHaven subreddit. When you see an open job (flaired with a green Job - Open tag) that you like and fits your schedule, you sign your character up by responding to the thread. Normally, a GM may ask for information about your character or your character's response when they post the job. When you sign-up for a run, please read the job carefully and make sure to respond to the GM's requests.

At some point before the run starts (some GMs prefer lots of lead-time, others less), the GM will select a team from the runners that signed up and respond to them on the job post, letting them know they have been chosen for the run. Sometimes you get picked, sometimes you don't. This is normal. Not everyone can go on a run, and ultimately it's the GM's call on who should go. There's plenty of work in the shadows, chummer.


Pre-flight Checks

If you're part of the team chosen for a run, great! Before you step into the shadows, there's a couple of things you can do as a courtesy to the GM and your fellow players:

  • Make sure you're in Discord on time. This is common table etiquette. If you are just waking up, make sure you have an alarm. Don't be that guy. Nobody likes that guy.
  • If an emergency comes up that will make you late or miss the game, do try to let either the GM or another player know. The best way is with a ping in discord in the #game-chat channel. There are always times where real life takes you by surprise. If a player on your table doesn't show for a run, be understanding—the next time it might be you. We're all in this together.
  • Make sure you have whatever notepads or resources you want ready before the game starts. If you want to contribute to an After-Action Report (a recap of the job to share the story with other players), take notes!
  • Finally, when you get in to the discord channel, it can't hurt to make sure your microphone is ready and working. Say hi and check.


Roleplaying in and outside games

Once you've submitted your character for review, even before it is approved, you may participate in any of the in-character chat rooms on discord. Roleplaying is also usually encouraged during runs.

ShadowHaven is built around trust and a common goal of having fun with the game. Please read up our Community Expectations and Roleplaying Rules and follow them to the best of your ability to ensure an enjoyable experience for you and your fellow runners. If something goes horribly wrong, let someone know. You can talk to any one of the Moderation staff on Discord or submit a Community Integrity Feedback form.

You're part of this community now. Let's have some fun.