College is often the prime years for new adults to try new things and truly discover who they are as individuals, no longer under the direct molding of family or historic friend groups. For James and Andrea, these discoveries would lead to a lifetime of unexpected trajectories.

James studied chemistry, having a knack for synthesizing compounds and predicting reactions. Even early in his collegiate career he was asked to attend tenured professors and post-docs in their advanced research. More than almost anything he loved the challenge of biochemistry—how cellular functions can be controlled and changed through the proper application of specific reagents.

Andrea knew from a young age that she would one day be a doctor, and dedicated herself—with no small encouragement from her parents’ high expectations—to that end. Of particular interest were the mechanisms through which an injured body could heal itself, either regrowing injured cells or adapting to work without them.

They also discovered that, together, they loved selling recreational and performance-enhancing drugs. They didn’t limit themselves to the boring supply of novacoke and cram—though both were in high demand in their highly competitive fields of study—they used their unique access and research knowledge to synthesize new, sometimes more potent, drugs than what could be bought in the campus quad.

Their prices were remarkably reasonable, given the reports of what their wonder serums, pills, or patches could do, but they always had a stipulation that none of the other dealers had: each use had to come with a trip report before they would sell more. Intellectually, they saw the large student body as a ripe testing ground, if even what they were up to was morally reprehensible—testing unregulated and unknown chemicals on an unknowing population.

More often than not James would design or imagine what compounds could have a new effect on the body and Andrea would work toward the targeted delivery and absorption of the chemicals where they would be most useful. They were a powerhouse team, and though the experiences they gave to their buyers weren’t always predictable, they were guaranteed to be unique.

Things were progressing well, both academically and financially, until a raid by the school’s campus police, in a joint effort with the state marshals, shut down more than just the recreational drug business. Stripped of any future prestigious medical training, Andrea opted to join the armed forces at the very bottom rather than face lengthy incarceration for her numerous crimes. She wouldn’t see or hear from James until after the completion of her eight-year mandatory service.

Word of James’ skills had reached the ears of a local subsidiary of a regional pharmaceutical manufacturer that decided to jump on the opportunity to get a rising-star researcher at bedrock prices. Intervening on his behalf, the corporation, through some back-room dealing, was able to inform James that he was going to accept the job offer they presented, without question, or face the ruin of his entire future. Criminally underpaid and underappreciated, he toiled for that corporation for almost a decade before Andrea reached out again, when he began to expand his horizons once more.

Most of her overseas deployments had been as a field medic, though rarely with official designation as such. She had entered service as a Private and left as a Private First Class after eight grueling years of hostile action and almost non-stop field orders. She was only able to get a hold of James through a mutual acquaintance (and customer) from her college days she ran into at a coffee shop shortly after her return. The service hadn’t done her any financial favors, but it had connected her to some very “interesting” individuals related to private security, guerilla operations, and “inter-corporate opportunities.” She had a plan, and wanted James in on it too.

Never one suited for the field, James preferred to stay in his lab, running simulations and dreaming up new opportunities for advancing biological science. He agreed to help her more for the hope that he would work on much more exciting projects than the mundane labor he was saddled with during daylight hours. The additional funds would also be nice, he admitted to himself.

Andrea works for the highest bidder, usually in the role of a team medic or ancillary fire support, while James waits in the wings, a contact who adds to Andrea’s value for a mission, when exotic substances are desired or needed, either for collection or deployment. They don’t work with one another regularly, but their shared history means they can firmly trust the other won’t get them in trouble again; there’s a level of cooperation and openness there that even some established runner teams never achieve.

An aspect of character creation that I feel is often overlooked is the backstory between Shadowrunners and the contacts they accumulate. I wanted to create an interesting history not only for the player-character but also a true and loyal friend with unique skills that could come in handy now and again. Certainly not someone that would prove valuable every run, but providing specific opportunity if the GM wanted to take advantage of it.

Header image taken from Harebrained Scheme’s fantastic game, Shadowrun Returns. Each game in the series got progressively better, and they started off by setting a pretty high bar. I genuinely appreciate what they did to explore and explain the setting and feeling of the Shadowrun universe for new players and old alike, revitalizing the isometric RPG genre. Their games are regularly available on Humble Bundle, and are well, well worth the investment.