House rules for an alternate form of currency.
Shadowrun has long had a split reward system involving both Nuyen and Karma. Karma advances your abilities and Nuyen gets you stuff. However, Awakened and Emerged characters need Karma more than money, and tech-based characters (like riggers and deckers) need money more than Karma. When a runner team gets starved of one reward, the character archetypes suffer unevenly (when the double-crossing face double-crosses them and they don’t get paid, they still typically receive Karma). Shadowrun Missions implemented options like “Working for the Man” (more Nuyen) or “Working for the People” (more Karma), but what if your decker doesn’t like the Man? What if your mage doesn’t like the People? Shadowrun: Anarchy overhauls this by dropping Nuyen and using Karma as the universal reward system.
In Shadowrun: Anarchy, Karma represents everything that your character needs to develop: experience, money, power, practice, influence, or whatever. Everyone at the table gets the same utility out of it. I view Karma as a much-needed mechanic to balance the archetypes.
Some Anarchy players have been openly dissatisfied with its universal reward system. The most common complaint is that, when used in role-play, it breaks the suspension of disbelief. It takes you out of the moment if Mr. Johnson says, “If you take this job, my employers will pay you 5 Karma.” This might be similar to a bouncer saying, “If you want to get into this club, you need 2 net hits on a Negotiation Test.”
There are two viable solutions to this: 1) Camouflage the reward system with language and Skill Tests, or 2) Create a second reward system that does not unbalance the archetypes. Here we do both:
CAMOUFLAGE AND SKILL TESTS
This first part is easy: hide the game mechanics in coded language like you do with every other in-game abstraction. When Mr. Johnson says “5 Karma” he means “an amount of Nuyen equivalent to 5 Karma.” Tell your players that 1 Karma is ¥1,000 or ¥2,000. Simple.
Also, no player wants to bribe that bouncer with hard-earned Karma; so don’t spend Karma on transactions like this. Make a Negotiation Test and if you win, you had enough Nuyen to get past the velvet rope. The street sam doesn’t keep track of bullets, so don’t make the face keep track of "bribery units."
GAINING STREET CRED
I have introduced a second reward system called Street Cred into my campaigns. If you think of Karma as a currency for purchasing permanent advancements (Attributes, Skills, Shadow Amps, or Gear), think of Street Cred as a currency for purchasing temporary benefits. Street Cred isn’t just Nuyen; it might also include favors, trade, or reputation. It can be gained in the following ways:
Negotiation: When making a Negotiation Test for a Contract Brief, any net hits received by the player translate directly to Street Cred, to be paid to the team in addition to the fixed Karma payout. Every runner gains 1 Street Cred per net hit - if they don't Wilson the whole run....
Selling Loot: You cannot just take that geeked CorpSec’s HK-227 and add it to your character sheet. That would involve having the weapon’s ownership hacked, stripping tracking devices, and buying the implied unlimited supply of ammo (I would say... about 2 Karma worth of work). For the same reason, you cannot sell that weapon for extra Karma. You can sell Weapons, Armor, or Gear for Street Cred instead. To keep potential banditry/ghoulishness to acceptable levels, you gain only 1-2 Street Cred per lot of “used equipment.” You also need an appropriate Contact to take it off your hands.
Paydata: If you come across a particularly valuable bit of paydata in a Matrix host, it can be sold for 1d6 Street Cred. The same goes for peddling rumors or selling trade secrets. In the right hands, it might be worth 2d6 Street Cred..
SPENDING STREET CRED
Everything that can be bought with Street Cred is consumable or temporary; Street Cred is ephemeral, so its benefits are fleeting. Spending Street Cred could be like slotting a credstick, cashing in a favor, trading a valuable, or spending political capital. It can be spent in the following ways:
Armor and Cyberdeck Repair: Spend Street Cred instead of Karma for these types of one-time repairs.
Temporary Weapons/Gear/Contacts: Need a flamethrower for a night? Need disposable hang gliders for that ridiculous job? Need to find someone who knows about the breeding habits of Amazonian hellhounds? Spending Karma gets that need fulfilled for life. If you spend an equivalent amount of Street Cred instead, the Weapon/Gear/Contact is usable for a single Scene or Contract Brief.
Consumable Gear (New): Think of Consumable Gear as Gear that stores pre-rolled, expendable hits for Skill Tests. Before making a Skill Test, you can declare the use of Consumable Gear. Remove the Consumable Gear from your character sheet and add one hit to the results of your Skill Test. Only one hit may be expended per Skill Test. Once used, Consumable Gear is expended and not available again until re-purchased between Scenes (or as appropriate). Characters may purchase Consumable Gear with Street Cred (each hit costs 1 Street Cred). Some examples include:
Combat Drugs (Athletics or Close Combat), Rare or Powerful Ammo (Firearms), Fetishes or Reagents (Sorcery or Conjuring), Slap Patches or Auto-Injectors (Biotech), Armor Plates (Engineering), Certified Credsticks (Negotiation), Supplies (Survival).
For example, a mage could purchase two Conjuring Reagents for 2 Street Cred from her talismonger contact. The player writes “Conjuring Reagent: x2” on her character sheet. Later she finds that she very much needs a Spirit of Fire, so she spends a Reagent, makes a Conjuring + Willpower Test, rolls 3 hits and adds 1 hit to the result for a total of 4. If it doesn’t work, she can try again with another Reagent next Narration.
<<Note to GMs: It is up to you to say whether Consumable Gear may be used after a Test. You may not want it to replace the utility of Edge.>>
Lifestyle: The GM may implement a Lifestyle cost of 1, 2, or 3 Street Cred every month. This pays for your basic living expenses and your doss. Think of it as Squatter/Street (1), Low/Middle (2), or High/Luxury (3) Lifestyles. Perhaps no mechanical benefits come from this; sometimes the GM may need to take Street Cred out of the economy for balance.
Negative Qualities: Maybe you have an addiction, or a dependent, or an expensive hobby. Work with your GM to find an appropriate periodic cost.
Non-Sponsored Runs: The team can put together a run without a Mr. Johnson. You can read more about them here: Non-Sponsored Runs.