Mar 042017

Shadowrun: Anarchy is the new, rules-light, narrative-focused, alternate ruleset for the world of Shadowrun (You can read my review Here). It allows GMs and players to get into the action and intrigue of Shadowrun much faster and to stay there much longer without reference to rules and charts and extensive calculations of Shadowrun 5th Ed.

There are rules, however light, and every game with rules deserves a GM Screen. Players unused to narrative-heavy roleplaying may also need a little more on which to cling while they get their sea legs. Shadowrun: Anarchy, the book, also leaves a lot up in the air regarding some rather simple mechanics. For all of these reasons, I created a Narrative Aid for myself and my players to help us navigate the alternate ruleset and the meta-game that plays on top of it.

Download the PDF

Attached is a 4-page document (fan material) that is intended to be printed 2 Pages per Sheet and Print on Both Sides (flip pages on short edge). It could easily be printed on 4 pages to create the quintessential quad-fold GM screen. Below are details that I chose to include or add:

Section 1 (Narration Aid)

  • Contains some definitions and reminders of what could be included in a player’s Narrative.
  • Contains the basic Dice-Rolling Mechanic and how Modifiers, Shadow Amps, and Edge affect it.
  • Contains a list of uses for Plot Points.
    • Renames a few Plot Points for ease of use.
    • Adds Swap it out, which adds temporary flexibility and scene preparation.
  • Ends with a reminder to avoid negating previous Narrations and to add to them instead.

Section 2 (Optional House Rules)

  • Uses Live Dangerously, a Plot Point, to perform certain traditional but extraordinary tricks in Shadowrun, such as Called Shots, Diving for Cover, Overcasting, Oversummoning, End Runs for chase scenes, etc. without adding cumbersome new mechanics. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list of actions and options, but just a sample of cool ways to implement Exploits and Glitches. This also doesn’t replace the Glitch Die one might add simply to make the story more exciting.
  • Introduces Montage Rules, a stylized, narrative-only method of handling Legwork and Investigation. The dice roll simply helps determine effectiveness and the order in which the Narratives are given. This can be a fun way to skip to the action (when appropriate) or to get from one Scene to another. I suggest a further rule of playing 80s synthpop in the background when montaging properly.
  • Introduces Flashback Rules, a stylized, narrative method of handling Flashbacks and Preparation. This is another way to skip to the action, without getting bogged down in the minutia of planning. This gives non-combat characters something more on which to spend Plot Points. It also allows players to fix situations in which a Player forgets something a hardened criminal Character would not forget.

Section 3 (Skill Tests)

  • Contains a list of common Skill Tests for the physical world, the Astral, and the Matrix.
  • Uses Take the Hit, a Plot Point, as a mechanic for Counterspelling combat spells. Essentially, your Sorcery + Willpower will defend for you (or a teammate) instead of your normal spell defense. This maintains Counterspelling as a limited resource but keeps the dice rolls and dice pools in check.
  • Sets Cybercombat Damage at [Logic/2]S, since it is never described in the book. Think of it like cyber-punching and certain programs like cyber weapons that increase this damage.
  • Sets Threading and Complex Form actions as Tasking Skill Tests, as described on pg. 32.
  • Offers options for summoning Lesser Spirits and compiling Simple Sprites (Stats published in a previous Stuffer Shack article). Note that Greater Spirits and Advanced Sprites are summoned/compiled by using Live Dangerously as well as a higher difficulty level.
  • Sets the opposing dice for Banishing Attacks (Willpower + Edge) and Decompiling Attacks (Logic + Edge) since they are never described in the book. Through playtesting, this seems a balanced and scalable dice pool.

Section 4 (Attribute Tests)

  • Contains a list of common Attribute Tests.
  • Added Falling and named the “not dying” test Stabilizing.
  • Added Resisting Physical, Resisting Mental, and Resisting Social Tests. These can be used as opposing dice for certain spells or other effects as well. I use Resisting Physical for direct combat spells or torture, Resisting Mental for illusions and mental control spells, and Resisting Social for Fear or Intimidation.

Section 4 (GM Reference)

  • Contains Opposing Dice pools for different difficulty levels.
  • Added an option for NPCs to use Simple Hits rather than opposing dice for some tests (like NPC vs the environment or NPC vs NPC). This lets the GM avoid rolling against themselves while their players watch (always awkward). Obviously this option should never be used in an NPC vs PC roll.
  • Contains a sample list of suggested Modifiers for many actions.
  • Contains an expanded list of Environmental Effects like Cold, Electricity, and Fire.
  • Offers optional rules (some might say Universal Rules) for Lava.

Download the PDF

Thanks to the Anarchy forum community at for inspiration and vetting of some of these points. Obviously not all of these points will be agreeable to all gaming tables, but I hope this inspires you to make your own and tailor it to your needs. Good Luck!

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Kevin Duncan

Kevin Duncan has been a gamer for three decades now and runs on most forums (including under the name "Gingivitis." Strangely enough, it's hardly ever taken...

  4 Responses to “GM Screen / Narrative Aid for Shadowrun: Anarchy”

  1. For an updated Narration Aid & GM Reference with a more printer-friendly look:

  2. This is great, thank you!

    A question, though, if I may. Under “Scaling Defense for Advanced Skillsets” you propose a house rule (if I remember correctly it’s not in the book) which says:

    “Players may use an Attribute-related Skill in lieu of an Attribute for a Skilled Defense Test”

    However, basic defense is usually A+L, and characters (even the pregens in the book) rarely have (relevant) skills close to, let alone equal or greater, than A, which means there’s apparently no good reason to switch A to a skill.

    Am I misunderstanding something? Could you please clarify how you think this should work and why?

    Thank you.

    • You are correct: The pre-gens and most starting characters have skill levels below or well-below their Agility rating. There is no point in using a Skilled Defense in this case. Also it definitely is a house rule.

      However later in the game, after advancement, Attributes cap at around 6 but Skills cap at 12 (p. 71). This means that, ignoring Amps & Qualities, a character’s defense dice pool will cap at 12 but an opposing character’s offense dice pool will cap at 18. Using Skilled Defense allows a character to close that lethality gap in certain circumstances (i.e. sneaking, running, etc.) in the end game.

      It could also be used for certain character concepts where maxing Agility is not appropriate but being especially stealthy is appropriate. The house rule allows for non-min/max’ed characters to survive and thrive into the end game.

  3. That sounds perfectly reasonable, and it does answer my question. Thank you!

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