Every night the trid has explosive, sexy, exciting shows about Shadowrunners, making them out to be more myth than anything. It seems like the mystique of corporate espionage took over when werewolves and vampires and zombies turned out to be real. It’s all a fiction though, carefully-tailored dramas pushed by the big entertainment corps to sell products, to sell an image.
The top 1% of runners might even have moments of glory and heroism like they show, but that level of fame—or maybe infamy—is out of reach for almost everyone who has dreams of being a professional “deniable asset.” The idea of paying for one seems out of reach for everyone with problems, too.
Luckily for those without the endless pocketbooks of international business divisions, there’s usually someone in the area who can get things done. Maybe it’s the bartender who’s been there forever and seems to know everyone. Maybe the volunteer down at the center who shows the kids how tech works. Maybe the boxing coach who has a soft spot for those having just gone through goblinization. Somehow, there always seems to be someone who knows people.
Most people who come in for help will never know the movers and shakers who make their dreams possible; they only meet the sympathetic face they know and trust. They will likely never know that an ork down at the docks is the one who convinced an abusive spouse to leave town, or that the nerdy kid perpetually exploring AR games is the one who squeaked a child into a prestigious school. They may not be “shadowrunners” in the strict sense, but they perform most of the same functions: they’re paid to do a job, they work outside the normal bounds of society, and they don’t ask any questions.
It’s not that every mission, job, gig, or piece of action is a high-flying, death-defying, impossible mission of bravery and precision. At the local level, the personal level, each job has specific and measurable impacts on people’s lives, on the growth and success of the community. Sometimes, it isn’t a viable career path, either by skill or desire, to ever advance into the “big leagues” of covert ops.
Sometimes the best work is done right at home.
This character/story concept has been pulled from so many sources. Just to name a few, think of Wade Wilson from the start of Deadpool, or Leon from The Professional; the titular Ghost Dog or John Smith from Last Man Standing. Anyone who participated on a small-scale rather than at the large, megacorp level.
While I framed this as a fertile field for character concepts to play out, it could also be useful for character backgrounds; someone who either chose or was forced to abandon their favored turf, and maybe found their way into the big leagues. Perhaps a heavy hitter who has been forced to return to the streets they once prowled. Someone facing their past, or facing their future as they try to grow out of who they were. Honestly, the stories are all but endless.
Header image taken by Masashi Wakui