The Races of Shadowrun

Ever since the Awakening humans don’t have to look at small details to be racist about (not that they don’t still do). Instead there are several variants of the Homo Sapiens and some other sentient species on the planet (and from beyond).

Homo Sapient Something

The most prominent new arrivals (at least when it comes to quantity) are the human variants. Because of them “humans” doesn’t really cut it any more as catch all term. Thats why it got extended to metahumanity, or as I call it the Tolkien races. You see, what humans became came directly from the Lord of the Rings novel. Fun Fact about Tolkien, he is one of the most hated persons in History as a lot of superstition metahumans faced and still face came from his books.

The UGE club

Even though metahumans are Homo Sapient, there was a difference in how they came back to the world. UGE stands for Unexplained Genetic Expression and was the diagnosis when newborn babies didn’t look quite human. They were in reality one of the races listed below, but at that point even magic had not appeared yet and people were uncomfortable thinking of their babies as of something out of a fantasy novel. Another world about racism, it all depends on the locations where you are. The elven nations of course do not discriminate against elves. Instead, humans are rather low on the ladder, lower than most other metatypes. In Japan on the other hand, everything besides humans are the lowest of the low, even elves. When I talk about racism I usually use the UCAS/Seattle as basis unless noted otherwise.

Elves probably fared best from all metahumans as many people think of them as attractive. They are also the most similar to humans with only slight details (ears) being different. They are a bit more agile but can’t take as much of a beating (except when cybered of course). Because of their “attractiveness” they were even sought out for certain jobs (PR for example) while all other metahumans had a hard time finding a job at all.

What the public (including elves) don’t know is that there is a “immortal” mutation for elves and several of them survived from the 4th World (which are now among the most powerful beings of the world rivaling great dragons). This explains why elves had such a good start with now 2 elven countries and their own language from the 4th world.

Your stereotypical short guy. Dwarves are short, stocky and yes they do have a resistance against poisons, so they can drink more than people with comparable body mass. The racism against dwarves still stay at a manageable level and they can get worker jobs no problem (here their fantasy image as hard worker actually helps them). They still have to deal with the world even now still not being build for their size.

Goblinization Now!

While Elves and Dwarves entered the world quietly and peacefully as newborns, Orks and Trolls did so with a big bang. Instead of being born one day 25% of all humans mutated, quite painfully, into them. People were of course scared as hell by that and Orks&Trolls were rounded up and quarantined, it could have been a disease after all, if not killed outright.

By now people know better, still that wasn’t a good start for them.


Most “victims” of goblinization turned into Orks. And when you now think of the LotR movies let me assure you, the Shadowrun Orks look a lot more human than in the movie. Their face is still recognizable as human, they just have two very visible tusks and their skin is only slightly tinted instead of being green.

Orks suffered and still suffer a lot of discrimination and it doesn’t help that their average IQ tends to be lower than the one of humans. They are a bit more robust though and thus often (and most of the time only) find work in lower paying jobs not yet replaced by drones. As a bonus for the companies, they do not have to pay as much retirement pay as Orks don’t live that long.
In recent years Orks became quite popular in the underground music business and its target group. That reached its height when the orkish language from the 4th World was rediscovered leading to some people implanting fake tusks to pose as Ork.

The rarest and most inhuman of the metahumans. They are huge (as in 3 meters/9 feet or more), have tusks, horns, huge muscles, armor plates as skin and their arms as even longer than they should be considering their body size. And as if the universe balances such things out, they are also not all that smart. A genius troll would rate as a smart human. All this makes them a prime target for discrimination (as long as you do not stand inside the rather impressive punching range of a troll) and they have a hard time getting a legitimate job at all. Shadowrunners though value them as heavy weapon platform and “meat shield” as a human with very expensive cyberware would only be slightly better than a troll in his natural state.

But there’s more!

The awakening did not just bring back the Tolkien races, it brought back regional variants of them (and humans), too.
Examples include one eyed trolls found around Greece (Cyclops variant) or Shivan humans with four arms in India. I won’t list all of them, especially as they are not playable in 5E yet. If it works like the previous editions they will be in the rules compendium book, this time called “Run faster”. But regional variants is not all.

One thing has to be said about nature, its very thorough. When the awakening hit not only got humans and animals mutated and some of them became able to use magic, but also Viruses.

Born was the Human-Metahuman Vampiric Virus. What this virus does is that it transforms its victim into a different species, depending on the strain of the virus and the victims original race. The one thing people who get infected by this (incurable) virus have in common is that they lose essence (your life force so to speak) and can only survive by taking the life force of others which is symbolically represented by drinking their blood or eating their flesh. This only works with sentient victims, though.

Not surprisingly, the victims of the virus are called ghouls, vampires or equally terror inspiring names. Again I won’t list them all as with regional variants they are not playable yet and likely will be with Run Faster. Ghouls & Vampires are statted as enemy in the core book, though, if you’re interested in looking.

Anything Else?!?

Dracoform is a catch all term for all things dragon. They were the first non-human species recognized as sapient by the UN, probably because dragons are filthy rich. All the legends of their gold filled hoards were true. But dragons quickly learned that a stock portfolio is even better and while there are some traditionalists among them most dragons have adapted to the modern world quite well many of them owning companies behind the scenes or otherwise pulling strings. But as always there are exceptions (I am looking at you Daemon, if you are indeed a dragon). One of them even was elected president of the UCAS (remnants of the USA and Canada).

There are several subtypes of dragons but I don’t think I have to explain what a eastern or western dragon is. There are also feathered serpents (wyvern with feathern) and so far a single sea dragon (think Loch Ness monster). All dragons are, in addition to their impressive physical abilities, very good magicians.

After a long time and some other unknown requirements they can become “Greater”. Great dragons are not only physically a lot bigger than normal ones, their magical abilities also increase by a lot. Great dragons also have a lot more to say in their society.

Not much is really known about spirits. They inhabit the metaplanes and mages can call on them for services. Unlike astral projecting mages, they can manifest in the real world and interact with them. How many spirits exist and how they are created is completely unknown as is the rest of their life cycle. Researchers suspect spirits sustain themselves (or just enjoy it) by human emotion. That doesn’t mean that they drain people of it, they just like to be in an area with the emotion they want. Most of the time a spirit is called by a mage and performs some services for him till sunrise/sunset when it disappears again. A spirit can be bound and forced to do services for a longer time. They do not like that but usually do not hold a grudge unless mistreated or forced to perform something lengthy and boring.

Under some circumstances spirits can free themselves from mages and can freely wander the world without disappearing at sunset. What the spirits does depends on what type it is. Usually they correspond to the classical elements, earth, fire, etc. but there are also spirits of nature and men who seem to like to behave just like humans going so far as to take drugs even though they do not work on them and the spirits not even feeling something. There are also poltergeists who like to cause mischief (a lot more of them exist than people realize, but very often they do not specifically seek out humans and instead are chasing doves for hours) and many more.

On the darker side there are toxic spirits who have been corrupted by pollution, blood spirits brought into the world by human sacrifices, bug spirits who try to take over the world by implanting themselves into humans and shedim who hate all life and usually inhabit dead bodies which they reanimate (take note that the body of a mage who is currently projecting into the astral technically count as dead).

AIs are the newest discovered sapient race. Although the sapient part is highly contested by the megacorps as they would rather see them as property so they can take them apart and see how they work. Only Horizon officially recognizes AIs as persons.

AIs have a bit of a history in the Shadows. During the first Matrix several AIs already existed and their abilities inside the Matrix were nothing less than godlike. Renraku discovered AIs and tried to replicate them which succeeded as they created the AI Deus which took over their arcology and slaughtered thousands of people before being deactivated. It managed to get its followers out, though and got recompiled. Its attempts to upgrade failed though and were the reason (together with the attempt to stop it) why the Matrix crash 2.0 happened in the first place.

But all this is unknown to the normal person. For them AIs appeared only a few years ago when a AI named Pulsar protested the experiments on it by aiming biological weapons at humanity and a other AI talking it out of it. Since then there was a huge PR drive by Horizon to get people to like AIs.

No one managed to explain how AIs come into being. Seemingly random programs spontaneously gain sapience, but no pattern or transformation has been observed yet. Most of the current AIs are also far away from the god AIs of the last Matrix. Most of them are comparable to very, very good Deckers/Technomancer. Some AIs do not even reach human levels of intellect and behave more like animals. Such AIs are called feral or proto AIs and some deckers have them as pets.

Surged / Changlings
Surged are not really a race but rather the victims of a second goblinization. During the 5th world where magic was inactive and everyone was a human people had a lot of time to inbreed. That resulted in many persons having the genes of several different metahuman variants and god knows hat else in them. Most of the time nature has a way of sorting that mess out and you only become a ork or troll. But during the Surge the garbled mess of DNA fragments inside some persons activated and he mutated into some sort of chimera. No surged looks the same as everyone had a different pile of DNA garbage inside them. Also, they do not only have traits from other metatypes but often also from animals (hinting that there might still be undiscovered metahuman races out there, maybe only appearing with higher magic levels). The changes can range from unusual hair colors to being a mixture of 5 different animals with a bit of troll thrown in for good measure.

As expected, heavily surged people are the outcasts of the outcasts. Unless of course they hit the jackpot and just grew some cat ears and a tail while in Japan (they love their cat girls) or grew a elephant head in India and are now worshiped as gods.

Drakes appeared at the same time as the Surge, but their transformation is not the result of garbage DNA. They are intended to be drakes and only needed higher magic levels to express themselves.

Drakes do not look different than their original metarace. What sets them apart is that they can transform themselves into a small dragon and back at will. The type of dragon is fixed and most of the time, western. They are highly sought after by great dragons as slaves. After all, they created them in the 4th world and one some of them figured out how to make them fertile so they just have to pick up the descendants of their servants instead of creating new ones.

When the reappearence of magic, science got a completely now understanding of life and what makes our bodies tick and even the soul was not detectable and measurable. Of course it didn’t take long for people to experiment with it and a result is a cyberzombie.

A cyberzombie is a dead person who’s soul, through technological and magical means can’t leave the body and thus it continues to live. There is a reason why this field of study is called cybernecromancy. Creating a cyberzombie is very expensive, requiring heavy implantation with cyberware with simultaneous ritual spellcasting and it is debatable if the life of a cyberzombie is worth living.

The advantage of cyberzombies are that they use a lot more cyberware than a normal person as they can’t die from too much technology in their body. Thats why most cyberzombies are used as walking tanks in war or in black ops teams.

Even more invasive than the Cyberzombie, a Cyborg is just a brain inside a container which can be plugged into any robot designed to hold it. While Cyberzombies can also be just a brain and some spinal column surrounded by metal, the big difference is that Cyberzombies are still the same person they were in life, in a horrible inhuman way.

Cyborgs on the other hand are not intended to be persons. The brain is just there to give robots human advantages like intuition. The brain in the casing does not remember who he was, or even that it had a live before becoming a Cyborg. Although sometimes they do have flashbacks which impede their functions and can lead to suicide. Thats why the brain of adult persons are bad cyborg material. Cloned brains fresh from the tank do not have this problem, but don’t work really well either, lacking “life experience”. The brains of children are a commonly used compromise. Remember that I said it gets distasteful?

True Drakes
Remember the Drake entry from above? Those are the original. The same rules apply, metahuman who can turn into a small dragon, but this guys were not born that way, they were created by Great Dragons. True drakes tend to be stronger, faster and a lot more magically powerful than normal drakes, but the creation of one is very taxing for a great dragon and so far they are content with enslaving the already existing drakes.

I think everyone here knows what a centaur is. Horse with a human upper body. In Shadowrun they usually roam open plains (the few that exist) in nomadic groups and sell magical ingredients they find for equipment and weapons. Yes, they are not so stupid as to wander nature unarmed. Speaking of finding, centaurs have the innate ability to find whatever they are looking for. Ask one to find something for you and he instinctively goes of into the correct direction. That makes stealing among centaurs a lot less of an issue as even though their possession is gone, they know where it is. And as long as you return it when asked to all is well.
Several centaurs have joined human society and law enforcement seems to like having some of them around. Still, for better or worse, centaurs stick out and they have a lot of troubles entering buildings and vehicles which were not build for them.

Shapeshifters are animals who can take the form of (meta)humans. Several races of shapeshifters have been observed, (Sea) Lion, Bear, Fox, Wolf. But who knows what is out there?

Shapeshifters usually stick to themselves, only coming in contact with metahumanity by curiosity or by being forced into contact. Still, they recognize the need to be prepared for it and usually seek out ways to learn the basics about metahumans including a language. Some rare individuals have joined metahuman society and are found in the shadows.

To all Bigfoot hunters, here is your chance. Except that a genuine recording of a Bigfoot isn’t worth anything any more as their existence is by now a common knowledge. They were the second race recognized as sapient by the UN (still a rare occurrence thanks to politics even with overwhelming evidence). Sasquatches are as how people imagine Bigfoot. Big and furry. But even though they are close to 3 meters and can weight 500 pounds don’t worry, they are very peaceful and usually stick to themselves in hard to access areas. If you meet some of them just don’t expect much of a conversation as they can’t talk at all except for sign language.

The most contact metahumans had with them was when a Sasquatch joined a rock band which instantly became famous. Although I think he had quit by now as he couldn’t stand how fame changed the other band members (sellouts)

It took some time for people to realize that Naga are sapient and many places still do not acknowledge it. That might be because while the other races do at least have some human like features, nagas are intelligent pythons. They can learn to speak metahuman languages and unlike pythons they are venomous (and a quite potent venom it is). They are very rare outside their country Angkor Wat where they have fortified themselves in. Thats because they are hunted in many places of the world as their venom and body parts are quite requested by some people.

Very often Nagas are mages which is lucky for them as otherwise they would have trouble interacting with the environment on a higher level as they do not have hands etc. Some nagas managed to join society though and now hold normal jobs. Just getting into a country where they are recognized as sapient is quite a challenge for them.

The Races of Shadowrun

Run & Gun Cidwin Cidwin