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Learning Without Running

One of the problems with the Shadowrun system is that, like almost all role-playing games (with the
notable exception of Ars Magica), there is no system for characters to learn anything without going
out and risking their lives on adventures. Given the existing rules, you can spend a year being
tutored in martial arts by an expert and gain not a single level of skill. This system attempts to
address this problem.

Naturally, with a system for learning in place, runners are going to want to take advantage of it as
well. Let them. While a mage is holed up in their laboratory for 28 days manufacturing orichalcum,
the street samurai is laid up in the hospital recuperating from the surgery to put in that new piece of
cyberware, and the decker is busily coding away to stay ahead of the merciless State Of The Art, the
other runners can be gaining advantages as well. (Of course, this system also addresses why its
good to take vacations.)

And, of course, employment in the shadows doesnt wait for

Mp Multiplier
the convenience of a groups schedule. A Johnson might turn
up with a new run that can take them out of the country for
three weeks, just when the Physical Adept has lined up some
time with that very expensive sensei, the shaman is being
taught Inner Secrets of Magic by the aged wizard they have
quested so long to find, and the street sam has the Virtual Battle 1-3
Arena reserved for a month of practice against the latest 10
simulated opponents. Some of that money might get refunded,
but if someone else already rearranged their schedule for the
players, theyre likely to be displeased if they suddenly call to
cancel and want their nuyen back. The players could turn down the job, of course, but if theyre off
the market too much, the jobs may dry up. Johnsons dont wait on a runners convenience.
Note that what this system gives characters is experience points. Experience points 30 are not karma
points by any stretch of the imagination. They can only be used to improve skills and 20 to learn spells:
they cannot be used to bond foci, summon Allies, Initiate, or increase your Attributes, 6 and they
never increase your karma pool. 7-9
Who and what can you learn from? 10
Knowsofts: Mp 150
Very few institutions teach general skills past a level of 3. In academia, you usually
Linguasofts: Mp 50
generalize through the lower division, concentrate in the upper division, andMp
Activesofts: specialize
graduate school. Attending school, however, can be difficult for most shadowrunners.
Getting a tutor is one of the most effective ways to pick up a skill. However, you usually
need to pay their lifestyle costs for the time in which theyre tutoring you, and perhaps more.
(After all, you might be distracting them from other, equally profitable projects!) Additional
costs may be required for access to appropriate practice equipment or information.
Tutorsofts exist for many skills. These are skillsofts that allow you to make use of a skill,
then highlight the information you just made use of, calling it to your attention (to enhance
the transfer into your natural memory). In normal-use mode, they simply operate as a
skillsoft. In tutoring mode, the users tend to be distracted as they pause to think about what
they just did (a general +2 to target numbers as they contemplate the knowledge flowing
through their mind). A tutorsoft is just a skillsoft of a given rating with an attached program
of size appropriate to a Special Knowledge Skill of the same rating as the skillsoft itself.
They are very popular for languages. Tutorsofts are generally available for General skills to
level 3, Concentrations to level 6, and Specializations and languages to level 9.

Examples: A active tutorsoft teaching Firearms at level 3 would cost (3 10 Mp

for the skill + 3 4 Mp for the tutoring) 100 = 4200; learning would
require access to the appropriate firearms and a practice range. A knowsoft
teaching the Zoology concentration of Biology at 5 (as a way of learning about
watchcritters, paranormal or not) would run (5 30 Mp for the skill + 5 20
Mp for the tutoring) 150 = 37,500; learning would require trips to the zoo,
watching videos of animals, and wandering in the woods. A Sperethiel tutorial at
rating 7 would run (7 10 Mp for the skill + 7 40 Mp for the tutoring) 50
= 17,500; learning would require reading literature written in Sperethiel, and
watching and listening to videos and music in that language.

Interactive tutorials are available at similar levels for most Technical and Knowledge skills,
require only a reasonable computer to work on for practice, and are somewhat less efficient
at instruction; they generally cost half as much as the equivalent tutorsoft. These only
operate as well as taking a class.

Working on a practice range can help with Combat skills. The higher the skill, the more
expensive the range equipment to give you a challenge. The best ones are much like the
modern battle zone style laser-tag and paintball games. Often, a group of street samurai at
similar skill level will rent out one of these places for a while to practice in together.
Shooting tin cans off a fence may be adequate for getting your Firearms skill to 2, but youll
need a real firing range to get it to 4, and serious urban combat simulation for more.
Practice sims are popular with riggers. They are essentially video games for riggers,
providing a full-immersion experience with a highly realistic simulation of a real vehicle in
a variety of situations varying from routine operation to heavy
combat in bad terrain. A group of riggers can often network a Program
set of computers to participate in a large practice sim. Practice rating
sims are computer programs with multiplier 6 plus 1 for each Price
skill they exercise. (Thus, a program simulating a harrowing per Mp
panzer run while controlling a chase drone, exercising the 1-3
riggers Vector Thrust, Gunnery, Firearms, and Winged Plane 100
skills, would have a design size of 10 times the square of the 4-6
programs rating; a rating 6 version of this sim would cost 6 200
6 10 200 = 72,000.) They require an appropriately sized 7-9
personal computer to run them; the computer must have multiples of the appropriate 500 size or
be networked to similar computers for a group run. The user should have a datajack 10+ or
vehicle control rig. These allow gaining XP as practice, normally, but with1000 an extra two
= Rating 2
points of multiplier they can also come with a virtual instructor of a rating to the quality
of the sim that can bring it up to the quality of a tutorsoft. Alternatively, you can get the full
benefit of a tutorsoft without having to actually be out working in a real vehicle; the
effective rating of the tutorsoft is limited by the rating of the practice sim, however.

Practice sims can be used without cyberware, but this requires a good mockup of a cockpit
hooked up to the computer and a simsense headset. The mockup will usually be the most
expensive piece of the whole setup.

Infotainment is a form of entertainment that happens to contain useful information as part

of the background material. It usually involves fictional characters travelling through
realistic situations, and is mostly a way of improving knowledge skills. It creates much less
stress than other forms of learning, and is the only sort one can use when recovering from
surgery (for a maximum of two blocks a day). Infotainment usually costs a little more than
your usual trid or simsense program, and is seldom available to teach anything at a higher
rating than 3. It generally costs 120150 for an hours worth of infotainment in a given
topic. (Its usually rented at about 5 an hour.) Quality varies from horribly banal
pseudo-documentaries to gripping, well-researched novels.
Working in a research lab can increase Knowledge skills.
Good old library research is always a possibility for knowledge skills.
Working out with others who have similar skills can provide practice-quality experience.
Highly sculpted Matrix environments can provide virtual-reality arenas for practicing skills
to anyone with a datajack. (An ordinary simsense interface simply is not sufficient.) These
generally require mainframes to run on.

How hard do I have to work at

it? Task
Work is mostly a matter of how much time you put into Target
things. Work smarter, not harder is just one of those Number
empty phrases managers use. For purposes of building a Minimum skill
reasonable, not-too-complicated system, Im dividing the for reliable success
day into six four-hour blocks. Simple
In general, you need two blocks for sleep and one for 2
maintenance (showering, meals, chores, exercise, Routine
commuting). You only short yourself these when youre 3
involved in boot camp or alchemical refining or some 2
similar activity, and shorting yourself on any of these for Average
long is courting burnout. 4
Two blocks are generally used for actual work, and one Challenging
more for relaxation (reading books, watching trid, playing 5
games). On weekends, relaxation usually accounts for two to three blocks. Working4 on a given
project for more than two blocks a day is, again, courting burnout, and tends to require vacation
afterward. 6-7
As a convenient abstraction, assume that a person can maintain perfect health and sanity at 10
blocks per week or 40 blocks per month spent working. Working more than this at a single project
qualifies as overwork, as does working in such a way that it cuts into your leisure time.
Efficiency of training Extreme
1 xp 9
Training method
per... 14
8 Nearly Impossible
Boot camp 10+
One-on-one tutoring (human or tutorsoft)
Taking classes, interactive tutorials
Guided research
Unguided research
Practicing at or above reliable skill TN
Performing tasks below reliable skill TN

Note that boot camp-style training works on a related group of skills, rather than a single one.
Reliable skill TN is the the target number corresponding to the users skill level on the chart at the
right. (Thus, a Challenging (5) task will provide 1 xp per 40 blocks of practice for a person with
skill 6, while it would do nothing at all for someone with skill 9.) Guided research requires having
someone to talk to briefly on a regular basis to get pointers on
your research and verifying your conclusions. Unguided Spell Learning Base
research means the character is just reading straight out of a Time
library or a stack of books acquired at a bookstore. Drain Code
This does mean that a decker working on their decking utilities Light
is slowly earning experience for the work they do, as long as 32 blocks
theyre coding up something thats an actual challenge. The Moderate
same goes for enchanters working at enchanting, and so on. 56 blocks
Note that experience gained by doing a particular thing only counts toward that Serious
specialization: a
decker who gets their experience from writing matrix software can only spend 80 theblocks
experience on the
Matrix Software specialization. However, karma earned on adventures when decking Deadlycan be used to
fill out the experience into a Software concentration. Similarly, street samurai 140 blocks
training up their
Firearms need to use more than just a pistol, and enchanters doing nothing but refining orichalcum
arent going to get better at anything but refining.

Learning spells
Learning spells by burning karma on it works as given in the sourcebooks. However, its possible to
take a good deal more time to learn a spell without needing to actually spend karma at it, if you
have the formula. Roll Sorcery + Magic Theory against a target number of twice the Force you want
to learn the spell at, modified by any drain modifiers of the spell. Divide the base time on the chart
to the right by the number of successes. (Yes, this means that to learn a Serious spell at force 6 with
Sorcery + Magic Theory 9, youre spending six weeks, on average.) You may only attempt to learn
a spell at a given Force (and set of force modifiers) from a given formula once. After that, you must
have someone teach it to you while you spend karma, try an easier combination of Force and
modifiers, or get a re-researched formula.

For every 20 blocks of sleep a character misses, lower their Willpower by 1. Each point can only be
regained by spending five days in pure vacation: no chores, no practicing anything. For every 20
blocks of overwork, mark off a fatigue box on their condition monitor. Each box can only be
restored by two days of vacation.
Example: Lightfoot is refining orichalcum in preparation for building himself a Power
Focus: this means 28 days of obsessive work in the enchantment lab. Assuming he gets
6 hours of sleep a night and is working for 4 blocks a day, by the end of the 28 days hes
racked up 80 blocks of overwork from the weekdays and 32 from the weekends, and 14
blocks of missed sleep. When he finishes the lab work, hes on Moderate fatigue (just
short of Serious) and getting close to losing a point of Willpower. Hes going to need
about two weeks of vacation after this before hes ready to shadowrun again.
If his target number for this enchantment was high enough relative to his Enchanting
skill, he wouldve gained (28 days)(4 blocks/day)(40 blocks/xp) = 2 xp in the
Refining concentration of Enchanting.

How do I earn karma without shadowrunning?

Well, obviously there are plenty of wage mages who have managed to bond their foci without going
out and running against corps. In general, karma is about making a difference. If your character does
things that make a difference in the world, they earn karma. (The important thing is making a
difference; whether that difference is good or bad doesnt enter into it.)

Some examples:

Finishing a major project: designing a new spell that isnt similar to anything in published
grimoires, inventing a new kind of decking utility, synthesizing a new and powerful theory
from research results, extending a set of contacts to build a network of spies that will expose
dirty corporate laundry, or building an underground empire of BTL distribution. This should
earn from 1 to 3 karma, depending on just how groundbreaking your creation is.

Example: Talks-With-Cats has been working hard to create a ranged Health

spell that puts people to sleep without actually affecting their Condition Monitor.
When at last he completes the formula and tests the spell, he earns 1 karma.
His teammate Theora has recently completed extensive work on her new decking
utility that creates a virtual machine around a specified target (decker or IC),
trapping them inside. This is a major development for deckers and is worth 2
The Gaeatronics research team has spent a great deal of time questing on the
metaplanes, much cutting-edge theorizing, and burnt tens of thousands of nuyen
on help from elementals. They have finally managed to create a spell to
accelerate radioactive decay, making it possible to dispose of radioactive waste
in decades rather than millennia. They earn 3 karma each for their effort.

Helping others: yes, those people who are helping out in charities are getting something for
it. Going out and personally making a difference for people (not just donating huge amounts
of nuyen) can earn you karma, usually about 1 point for every 20 blocks of time you spent
helping out in the clinic or soup kitchen. This does not count if you arent being badly
underpaid for your efforts.

Example: Barry and Violet are a pair of metahuman Physical Adepts who make
a fair amount of nuyen running the shadows, experts in Aikido and Karate
respectively. While their teammates are off spending vast amounts of money on
their cyberware, elemental summoning materials, libraries, and cyberdecks, they
invest in creating a nice little dojo in the low-class neighborhood they live in and
teaching the street kids to defend themselves and trying to support ambitions of
getting out of the vicious cycle of growing up, joining a gang, dealing drugs and
BTLs, and having kids who do the same thing. This helps a bunch of people and
occasionally gets them into trouble with the local gangs. They each spend twenty
hours a week on the dojo and twenty on improving their skills by studying with
their senseis (a nice nuyen sink) or brushing up on other skills with tutoring
programs. If all else fails, they can get practice experience in their Karate and
Aikido by trying to beat each other up in their respective styles.

How can I pull down the big nuyen for teaching?

Yes, this is a good way for shadowrunners to retire though people may be regularly wanting to
pull you out of retirement or trying to save money on the tutoring by giving you some other form of
incentive, often involving threats. You probably want the Instruction skill. Instruction is a Social
skill. Applicable Concentrations are the different skill categories (Combat, Physical, Technical and
B/R, Magical, Social, Vehicle, Knowledge), and they can be specialized in an individual skill.
Instruction makes it possible to teach up to the square of your skill in students, and makes
individual tutoring easier.

For a student to get the most efficient learning, the student must roll their Int and their teacher must
roll their Instruction against a target number of (6 - (the difference between the skill ratings of the
teacher and the student)), summing the successes. If no successes are achieved, the instruction
quality goes down by one category, so one-on-one tutoring only works at the level of taking a class,
and taking a class descends to the quality of unguided research.

Instruction is one spot away from Leadership on the Skill Web.

Example: Barry is teaching his Street Kid contact some elementary aikido moves; he
has no Instruction skill, and a Charisma of 4. The kid gets to roll his Intelligence of 3
against a target number of 6 Barrys Aikido skill of 5 + the kids Aikido skill of 0 = 1.
Barry gets to roll his Charisma against the same target number, plus 4, since he has no
skill in teaching. Its pretty easy for an expert to teach a single beginner, even if they
havent spent time learning how to teach.
After four months of teaching the kid Aikido for an hour each day after school, Barry
has earned a karma point for his selfless dedication to helping another kid out of the
slums, and the kid has gained a point of Aikido. Barry wisely chooses to invest the
karma point in starting his Instruction skill, with some pointers from Violet (who
actually has the skill). The kid now rolls his Intelligence of 3 against a target number of
2 (since his skill went up), and Barry gets to roll one die against the same target number
(since he has the Instruction skill now) and three more (from his Charisma) against a
target number of 6.
After another four months of this, Barry will get another experience point toward his
Instruction skill, since hes been practicing a skill of 1 at a challenging task. If he sticks
with only one student at this rate, itll take him more than a year to get his Instruction
skill to 2 which is the only way he can handle a larger class size. Maybe he should get
some more students in different time slots...
Expected skill levels for professionals
ki Expecte
ll d
D lifestyle
ic (Annual Tutoring costs
e Professional level salary) (per block)
1 Grade school White belt Dependent
2 High school Belt color varies Low (12,000) 25
3 Associates degree Belt color varies Low (24,000) 50
4 Bachelors degree Belt color varies Low (36,000) 75
Journey Black belt, 1st
5 Masters degree Low (48,000) 100
man dan
Black belt, 2nd Middle
6 PhD Master 125
dan (60,000)
Black belt, 3rd Middle
7 175
dan (80,000)
Black belt, 4th Middle
8 Postdoc 225
dan (100,000)
Cutting-edge Black belt, 5th High
9 300
researcher dan (120,000)
1 Black belt, 6th High
0 dan (400,000)
1 Black belt, 7th High
1 dan (900,000)
1 Black belt, 8th Luxury
World-class expert 5000
2 dan (1.2M)
1 Black belt, 9th Luxury (lotsa
3 dan )
1 Black belt, 10th Luxury (gonzo
4 dan )

World-class experts are almost always specialized in their discipline; in that specialization, there are
likely to only be 1-6 individuals on the planet with that level of skill. Different martial arts schools
use different progressions for their belt colors, but generally start with white and move to black. An
example progression is white, yellow, orange, green, purple, brown, black. Note that some skills are
less salable in an ordinary professional arena, and may need to show up on the black market to
command the kind of salaries given here. (A scientist with skill 12 in their chosen field is well
worth the luxury lifestyle to the corporation employing them, and tends to be a prime target for
extractions. A mercenary with Firearms 12 can probably afford a similar Luxury lifestyle, but
probably as an assassin, while the 10th dan black belt probably heads up a franchise and does
endorsements while participating in exhibitions and tournaments. Naturally, someone with
principles may be forced to sacrifice a great deal of lifestyle, which might make them a bargain for
a runner who can demonstrate principles they would approve of.)

Another interesting thing this brings up is the utility of certain bodmods in Shadowtech. A level 4
Encephalon and a Cerebral Booster 2 can bring someones effective technical, knowledge, or B/R
skill level up by 4, taking a cutting-edge researcher into the world-class expert territory and making
a world-class expert truly terrifying. Reflex recorders will work on many other skills, bringing them
up by one level, which is often what it takes to afford a substantial salary increase. Physical Adepts
buying extra dice with a skill can do similar things.

In general, one block of a tutors time costs 1/40 of their monthly lifestyle cost, though the best
tutors tend to cost even more than this. Classes are mostly a matter of splitting the cost amongst a
group of people and putting in about 25% overhead for training facilities.

If you wish to slow down characters spending vast amounts of karma on skills, apply these training
rates, but also reduce the time in these rules by the instruction/skill system in the Shadowrun
Companion (p51). Alternatively, force characters to spend at most one karma from any particular
run on any skill they used during that run. This will cause gradual improvement in a number of
skills rather than instant improvement in one.
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House Rules - General
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General House Rules

Table of Contents
General House Rules
Training other players in skills.

Training other players in skills.

Training as it is in the books is pretty much useless because of the need of that high Instruction
skill. Therefore, the following modifications are added. As a note, only the *base* ratings of all
skills are used in these calculations. Mods from bioware, cyberware, or adept powers do not count.
The only exception is the Mnemonic Enhancer's bonus to Language skills.
You may train someone in a skill if one of the following is true:
a ri You have the skill at a higher rating than they do.
m teacher skill > student skill
sc Your Instruction Skill plus your rating in the skill is higher than their current skill,
b ri AND Both your instruction skill and your rating in the skill being taught is at least
pti half of their desired skill level.
Fo teachers instruction + skill > students skill
m teachers instruction >= (desired skill rating / 2)
ul AND
a teachers skill >= (desired skill rating / 2)
The skill being taught is an active skill, AND Your instruction skill plus the rating of
your corresponding background skill is at least two greater than the skill being
c ri
taught, AND Both your instruction skill and the background skill being taught are
greater than half the desired skill level, plus one.
Active skill taught
r teachers instruction + bg skill >= (students skill + 2)
ul teachers instruction > ( (desired skill rating / 2) + 1)
teachers bg skill > ( (desired skill rating/2) + 1)

At the end of the process, the trainer must make an Instruction test versus a target number of the
new skill rating (modified as below). This test has a base time of the time it would take to raise the
skill to the desired rating normally. Successes divide this base time. The trainer may default to the
skill being taught at a +2 TN penalty for this test, or default to the corresponding background skill
(if an active skill is being taught) at a +3 TN penalty. Under no circumstances may the time be
reduced below 10% of the base time.
The time required may either be used to learn the skill sooner (e.g. the training time replaces the
usual wait time since the last skill raise), or to reduce the time delay before the next raise of that
Successes may be spent from this test to reduce the cost of raising the skill. Every two successes
spent reduce the cost by 1 karma point, to a minimum of 1 point. Successes spent in this way do not
help reduce the base time.
This table lists the bonuses and penalties applied to this test. Modifiers marked with (c) are
cumulative with one another.
Using skill being taught instead of Instruction skill (c)
Trainer is using background skill to teach active skill (c)
Trainer's Instruction Skill is above desired rating (c)
Trainer's skill is above the desired rating (c)
Trainer's corresponding background skill above desired rating (c)

Example: Jack wants to train Jill in Pistols. Jack has Pistols 6, and Instruction 2. Jill has Pistols
5, and wants Pistols 6. Since Jack's skill is higher than Jill's, he can train her. Jack will roll
his 2 instruction dice against TN 6 (the desired level), with no modifiers. He rolls his 2 dice
vs TN 6, and luckily gets 1 success. Jill will learn the skill in 6 weeks (base time: 1 week
times new rating). Jack could also have rolled his Pistols skill of 6, versus a TN of 8 (+2
penalty for using the skill being taught).
Example: This time, it's Jill's turn to train Jack in Stealth. Jill has an instruction skill of 4, and a
stealth skill of 4. Jack has a Stealth skill of 6 already, and wants to raise it to 7. Jill's skill is
less than Jack's. However, Jill's skill of 4, plus her instruction skill of 4, is greater than Jack's
6 (and each of them is greater than half of Jack's desired skill of 7), so she can train him. She
rolls her 4 Instruction dice against a target number of 7 (New rating of 7). She gets 1
success, karmas, and gets another success, totaling 2. This divides the base time of 7 weeks
down to 24.5 days.
Example: Jack wants to train Jill in Athletics. Now, Jack isn't really an athlete, himself, but he's
an avid fan, and familiar with coaching programs. He has Athletics Background at a 5, and
Instruction (he raised it from before) at a 4. Jill has Athletics at a 5 at present. Jack can train
her because his Instruction Skill of 4 plus his Athletics Background Skill of 5 is greater than
Jill's desired level of 6, plus 2 (4 + 5 > 6 + 2). He'll roll his 4 Instruction dice against a target
number of 7 (Desired level 6, +1 using background skill to teach active skill). He'll get 1
success, karma, and get another success. Jill will get her Athletics 6 in 3 weeks.
Example: Jack wants to learn to be a better fighter. Right now, he has Kung Fu at rating 8, and
wants it at a 9. He seeks out that guy who kicked his ass at the dojo last week. That guy has
rating 10 in the skill, and is incredible. The guy agrees. He has no instruction skill. Still, he
can teach Jack. His target number will be Jack's desired rating of 9, +2 for using the skill
being taught instead of Instruction, -1 because his skill is above the desired rating, for a final
TN of 10. He rolls his Kung Fu skill against this target number, and gets a single success,
karmas twice, and gets 2 more successes. Jack will have to compensate this guy well, but in
just 3 weeks, he will have learned his new Kung Fu skill at rating 9.
Skill List
Action You Wish To Perform Primary Skill Complementary Skill
Getting Equipment Etiquette (A) Applicable Knowskill
Getting Equipment Cheaply Negotiation (A) Gear Value
Designing Spells Spell Design
Learning Spells Sorcery (A) Magic Background
Writing Programs Computer (A)
Searching the Trix for Info Computer (A)
Getting Rumors (Type/Area) Rumors
Knowing Other
Shadowscene Players
Shooting Someone <Weapon Type> (A)
<Weapon Type> B/R <Weapon Type>
Fixing your Gun
(A) Background
Gathering Magical Materials Talismongering <Applicable Knowskill>
Designing a Focus Enchanting (A)
Enchanting a Focus Enchanting (A)

Note: The 'Activity' is NOT THE SKILL. Please look under the 'Primary Skill' column to see what
Skill you should take to perform that activity.
Skills marked with (A) are active skills. All others are knowledge skills. This is not a complete list
of knowledge skills; anything can be a knowledge skill. These are just a partial list of those that are
used inside the game that players might be unfamiliar with.
Secondary Education
Custom Contact: Secondary Education
When taking a Secondary Education Contact, the player is signifying that their character is
attending a specialty college of some kind. You select the school, with the 5000 yen cost signifying
your initial tuition/enrollment. This contact cost may not be lowered with a run. A level 1 Secondary
Education contact can train skills up to 6, a level 2 may train skills up to 9, and a level 3 may train
them up to 12
Once your character has the contact, he may use the school as an instructor for related knowledge
skills. Whether a knowledge skill is related to a specific school is up to the GM. Active skills are
not affected by this system.
When raising a related knowledge skill, the player will pay a cost equal to the desired level squared,
and multiplied by 100 nuyen. He will then receive a trainer with an skill level and instruction skill
level equal to the desired rating, and thereafter follows the rules in '+hr general training' normally.
Schools must be individually approved through the Custom Queue, and will be publicly available to