Law & Order


Shadowrunners are hardened criminals. Dress it up whichever way you like, it's a fact. They have a false identity, carry unlicensed guns, use explosives, drugs, and kill at the drop of a hat. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

But did you ever hear of a shadowrunner getting sent to prison? Going to court? Hiring a lawyer? Getting arrested? Getting questioned or even detained maybe?

Nope. Never happens. I'm not sure why there is this glaring contradiction in the setting, and why so few players and GMs seem to have noticed this. Maybe it's just not “cool” to have to deal with this sort of hassle, or maybe it's regarded as bogging down the action maybe. Is it that getting arrested and imprisoned awaiting trial pretty much breaks a campaign?

Again, I'm not sure. About half way through watching Breaking Bad, I was starting to think to myself – this is going to have to get a little unbelievable soon, or they're going to have to change course to explain why these guys never come to the attention of the police.

Well, a tip of the hat to Breaking Bad – they didn't dodge the issue. Pretty much the next episode after I was chewing this over, sure enough, along came Saul.

"You don't want a criminal lawyer... you want a criminal lawyer," explains Jesse.

An expert in money laundering, all the right connections and a draw full of burn phones. Saul is the answer to their prayers. For a price, of course.

However, many of the issues in a modern thriller are absent from a typical Shadowrun game. Money laundering isn't an issue as everyone deals in certified credit – untraceable digital money. (Well, ok, not everyone, but you get my drift), and fake SINs and licences help deflect investigations by the authorities.

The systems below are how I deal with encounters with the authorities when they come up.


Getting Noticed

Passive Perception

The first thing to clarify really is, when will the runners get noticed by the law, and how can they avoid it.

Firstly there is passive perception.

If you're walking down the centre of Seattle with a machinegun over your shoulder, you are going to get noticed by the authorities. But there are varying factors.

Firstly there is the Security level of the area the runners are in (p. 356, SR5). If we assign a numeric rating to the Security level (ie. AAA is 6, AA is 5, etc.) when trying to notice the runners wandering around, roll twice the rating, about once per hour, or whenever feels appropriate.

Eg. if the runners are in a AAA area, then the roll will be 12 dice (twice the rating of 6), in AA it will be 10 dice, etc.

This is an opposed roll against a teamwork sneaking roll (p. 49, SR5). If in a vehicle then the driver will be the lead for this, else the runners can pick a member of their team.

However, there are penalties. Take the highest penalty only from the list below (or gauge it yourself) and apply this to the lead dice pool's sneaking roll.


-10 Visible Forbidden Weapon/ Item

-10 Casting magic publicly

-8 Covered in blood

-6 Visible Restricted Weapon/ Item

-6 Broadcasting no SIN or Criminal SIN

-6 Driving unlicensed vehicle

-4 High speed driving

-4 Wearing security armor

-4 Visibly Heavily Enhanced

-2 Forbidden Item broadcasting wirelessly


These are just examples, I'm sure you can think of plenty more.


A sneaking roll with no net successes will bring attention from the Police or corporate security, depending on how many successes the security made. For a few successes, this might be getting pulled over to check a SIN or a licence, or being asked some questions about their business. For high successes (eg. 5+), this will probably involve an HTR response (p. 356, SR5) appropriate to the Security level of their current area.

Once the runners have received some attention, then it's down to them how they want to react. They could play it cool (“What seems to be the problem officer?”). Here is where the face can shine, rolling Etiquette as an opposed roll against the cop's Perception + Charisma (p. 141, SR5). Again, the same modifier as for the stealth roll applies.

If the runners get more successes, then they're convincing enough to walk away.

If not, then the offence is just too obvious to ignore (like full body armor). At this point it's time to see whether their SINs and licences can hold up to scrutiny (p. 368, SR5). As a rule of thumb, police will have devices for checking with a rating equal to Security Rating -2, eg. In a AAA area, it would be rating 4 (6 for the area, -2). This is where the decker can shine.

At this stage, officers (in the UCAS anyway) can't start reaching into pockets, bags or car trunks, but a pat down is allowed.

Anyone who is discovered with a fake SIN or licence (or no SIN), or who maybe has trouble concealing restricted or forbidden items (p. 419-20, SR5) will be arrested for an offence.

Restricted items require a valid licence, forbidden items trigger automatic arrest.

If someone's using a real SIN (unlikely but possible, see the SINner background), then the police will automatically determine any outstanding warrants, etc.

Runners could be detained on the street for up to 20 minutes to determine their identity and business.

Facial Recognition

As things stand in 2014, as I write this, the criminals of the world have little to fear from this technology. Sure, it can be used for security checking, like an iris scanner, but for detecting passing criminals, at this stage, although it's been piloted in CCTV systems in a few cities, it's been a long way from successful.

However, in 2075, things may have changed.

How the GM wants to use this in the game is a personal decision. The issue here is that it bypasses SINs, and identifies the person themselves. So if their face is wanted for murder, a fake SIN won't help. If this technology is available to police in 2075 in conjunction with CCTV, then it would be a snap to identify wanted runners in any strongly policed area (Possibly Security Rating 4+, certainly 5+).

This technology isn't included in the setting to my knowledge (else disguise would be an obligatory skill), and it's down to the GM to decide its presence or otherwise.


With fake SINs being prevalent, this will stymie a lot of attempts to actually identify the runners. The only folks who are going to struggle here, are those with the SINner background.

Vagabond on dumpshock had this to say about the collection of forensics in Shadowrun. (

Let me preface this by saying I'm a police officer in real life.

Forensics isn't the "solve-it-all" solution to crime that most people think it is. Usually if it's not a capital crime, especially in larger cities, then they aren't even going to bother with a CSU (Crime Scene Unit- which is what we use).

Yes, if they spend enough time, they may(I stress "may" because this isn't as easy as TV makes it out to be) find some sort of sample like a fiber of fingerprint (as you pointed out, I think the most likely piece of forensic evidence would be bullets and blood), but then they need something to compare it to.

Obviously, the next step for the investigator with a sample, would be to submit it for a database search. If the biometrics (ie. SIN) were on file in the same jurisdiction as the investigator, then life is that much easier – the sample can be obtained within a day or two from a search on their database. Eg. A UCAS police officer submitting a sample to the UCAS national SIN registry. However, if the sample is related to a SIN in a different jurisdiction, eg. A UCAS officer with a sample from an Ares citizen, then the only way to obtain a match would be to apply for a search on the GSINR. I doubt this would be very easy or quick to obtain. It would likely need to go through the Corporate Court system, involving lawyers and red tape, ie. A warrant at the international level. If it were serious enough, eg. A murdered executive, then it would be probably be allowed. However, I don't see this as being a very easy option.

Of course, your opinion may differ.

This is where a Rating 6 SIN could actually be a liability, as the biometrics actually match the runner. This could cause problems if a DNA check is run from say, some blood (which many runners seem to leave spattered across walls).

It is up to the GM to decide in advance of play if a Rating 6 SIN is going to cause problems and communicate this with the runners, eg. Blood at a crime scene being matched to the runners through a search. However, a GM could just as easily rule that part of a Rating 6 SIN is protection from these types of forensics checks.

My position is that a Rating 6 SIN does link the runner, so it would be inadvisable for a runner to obtain one, unless he has something very specific in mind.

Fleeing the Scene

If you've got a rocket launcher in the trunk, and the Police, Inc. try to pull you over, a reasonable option is to step on the gas.

Hard and fast rules for how this will pan out will depend on the area's Security level, and how well-prepared and skilled the runners are. Stats for police and vehicles, and the rules for said chase are all available in the SR5 core.

This is where the rigger can shine.

This said, even if the runners do manage to escape, any SINs which were being broadcast, and noticed by the authorities, would likely now be burned, the same for any licences linked to those SINs. Vehicles would need a new licence, and fresh plates. Expensive, but not the end of the world.

Under Arrest

If the runners are actually arrested, and end up being taken into custody (voluntarily or otherwise), then it's likely that this will be the end for them. Their likely possessions alone (grenades, guns, decks and the like) will damn them more than their actions most likely.

The only options here (unless they've managed to stash their gear), are Bribery and Contacts.

I'd say bribery is only likely for minor infractions. Even the most corrupt and poor officer isn't going to want to be seen allowing perps to walk away with highly illegal items in tow. An opposed Negotiation Roll against the Security rating of the area (12 for AAA, etc.), would be suitable, but with a penalty comparable to the crime (see the penalty list previously).

A bonus of one to the dice pool for every ¥1,000 used in bribery can be allowed.

The most likely 'out' from this situation is going to be a favor from a contact (p. 389, SR5). They'll probably need to be well-connected (5+), and have a healthy dose of loyalty towards the runners in question (at least 3+) before he'll act. Whether they can help get all of the runners out of prison, with or without their gear, will depend on the contact, and their standing locally. And they'll likely still need paying at least their Connection x ¥1000.


Although including these possibilities in your game may seem harsh, they are not intended to imprison a runner team, or burn their SINs on a daily basis, they are primarily intended to curb excess. They offer players guidelines as to what is acceptable within the setting, and what is not.

Although it is a fantasy game when all is said and done, the strength of the setting depends on a certain level of realism (for my group at least). If we're in a situation where runners are able to stroll around Downtown Seattle covered in blood, with a machinegun over their shoulder, then much of the subtlety of the game has been lost. Of course, in the Barrens, this might be perfectly acceptable...








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