The Economics of Shadowrunning

Real shadowrunners are a rare breed in the shadows themselves. For every runner, there has to be a respectably sized support network capable of letting them do their job— a support network composed of people who are not likely to be doing shadowruns themselves, but are still engaged in activities on the wrong side of the law.

Many jobs in the shadows don’t pay as well as running, but they give a lot more security.


The network of smugglers, fences, and fixers moving equipment around the shadows illegally has to be impressive, or the cops would’ve stopped it up a long time ago. Organized crime will be heavily involved. The jobs in procurement range from manual labor (which is probably Low lifestyle rather than Squatter because you want these people to have incentive to keep their mouths shut) to smuggling (which should pay well, since they’re taking the biggest risks). Theft and fencing will also be a regular churn: items with a less-than-1.0 Street Index will usually have been ripped off by gangs and sold for very little, then redistributed at prices lower than legitimate because the fences want the chance to make some more money undercutting legitimate business.

Corrupt Corporate Officials (Sprawl Sites), stock clerks, and warehousemen, hijackers, and Johnsons looking for field testing reports on their new weapons are all part of this process.


It’s difficult to keep up with the SOTA as a regular decker. Utilities are valuable, and getting your brain fried by black IC (or even having to rebuild your deck from a brush with grey IC) is no fun. There will be a substantial fringe in the decking world of programmers working on quasi-legal and completely illegal decking utilities for other deckers to purchase; major league deckers (or a consortium of them) may have a stable of such programmers maintaining their programs for them, always releasing the behind-the-SOTA-but-still-tough version to Hacker House for larger profits. Deckmeisters can be very popular.

A Deckmeister (VR2) set up with a mainframe and programming facility, a microtronics facility, and a group of deckers who spend their time coding up new utilities is an excellent money-making setup. Top-notch programs sell quite well, and major league deckers may work with such a group, bringing back ideas for improving their wares; lesser lights may work as beta testers. Groups like this are responsible for the steadily advancing state of the art in the decking world.

Identity Services

Evading the long arm of the law requires a lot of smoke and mirrors, and networks of false identities and shell companies are as useful for criminals as for megacorps.

Long-term investments in fake ID’s are valuable, but the start-up cost is immense: buying birth certificates, subverting school and hospital records over time, and paying professional identity exercisers to spend using the appropriate credsticks. With appropriately suborned workers in various corporate and government locations, though, it’s possible to get an ID built that will show up on everything but a search of backups— and even that can be dealt with through sufficient nuyen.

The best fake ID’s come with dossiers of the information that the putative person knows, about their home town and people they went to school with and their work history. For those with chipjacks, all this information can be burned onto a skillsoft, complete with job skills for something they don’t even know in their wetware.

Street Docs

Street docs tend to fall into two categories: the first-generation “fallen angels” who went to medical school, maybe even joined the AMA and had a professional practice, and the later-generation docs who owe their training to apprenticeships in the shadows. In a world where the cops can track people by emergency room admissions, there’s a good market for folks who can patch you up without leaving a data trail. Street docs minister to the shadowrunners, the gangers, and the mafiosos, and run the gamut from back-room chop shops with roaches running through the operating area to unlicensed private hospitals of professional quality. Plastic surgeons working the streets are rare, and usually well paid. There’s a big market for new faces in the shadows.

Doc Shaky

Dr. Shaky is a street doc who used to be an excellent cybersurgeon in a megacorporation. The stress of his job led him into alcoholism, and one day his finger slipped when implanting a headware pagerphone into high-level executive and he lobotomized the fellow. Not being completely dim, he continued the operation as if it were routine, and vanished before the fellow had a chance to wake up. (He claims that the exec made senior VP as a result of the lobotomy, though most people think he’s kidding.) Dr. Shaky went home, gathered his valuables and personal possessions, and walked out of his life. He got established in a clinic fairly easily, where he acquired the name Dr. Shaky, and dried out over the course of a few years. When his hands were steady again, he began setting up his practice as a street doc in the back room of the Morning Light Clinic, where he patches up quite a lot of gangers and shadowrunners. He’s a middle-aged Caucasian man with a moustache and the beginnings of a beer gut, and doesn’t look a bit like David Duchovny.

God Complex

God Complex is a plastic surgeon and expert in identity changes.


A “second generation” doctor who can do amazing feats using improvised medical equipment. He makes house calls, and has done an impressive amount of surgery on countertops in bars in the Redmond Barrens with just his little black bag and the available equipment in the bar.

Skilled Labor


A good armorer is an essential contact for a street samurai. Someone who can fix broken guns, customize grips,

Technician, Dwarf Technician

Maglock passkeys aren’t available at your neighborhood Digital Hovel®, Greedy Guys™, or Fry’s Microtronics. Someone needs to assemble these fascinatingly complex little devices, and that’s where your technician comes in.


Not all riggers are top-notch vehicle mechanics who drive their own wares, and not all the experts at vehicle modification are gung-ho lunatics who enjoy driving by the seat of their pants through free-fire zones. A quiet vehicle facility with a couple of mechanics can work as a chop shop and improvement source. Technicians are also useful for work on the electrical systems of vehicles.

Organized Crime

In procuring for themselves, the organized crime groups like the Mafia, Yakuza, Triads, Rings, and Tongs can also procure for others. The flow of unregistered weaponry that outfits the Mafia hit men can also go to supply the soldiers-for-hire that are known as shadowrunners. These folks plan in the long term and have excellent sources for creating false identities: private clinics that report multiple births, private schools that have attendance records. Only people planning in the long term can afford such investment, but it usually means that even grunt soldiers can operate with multiple fake ID’s.


Gangs can seldom afford anything more than basic bikes, guns, and cyberware, but the constant churn of groups joining gangs or forming them in order to seek protection from the dangers of the dangerous neighborhood yields a steady market for the low-grade stuff. Rocket launchers and missiles represent major investments for these people, and they hardly ever have a SIN unless it comes with an attached criminal record.