Unisystem Conversion


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Since its release in 1989, Shadowrun (SR) became a favorite with my groups of friends. We played it for several years, creating several characters and running many adventures, both original and published. We stopped playing after 1998, but recently I decided to revive our old campaign. Although the SR system gave us a lot of fun in the past, I can't say I find it ideal. Because of that, I decided to convert it to Unisystem. I used concepts from both Classic and Cinematic versions, and though I have my preferences, it's quite easy to tweak. For example, I use the fixed damage from Cinematic, but I also include the die types from Classic in the descriptions below. These notes are not complete yet, but you can run a game with what's up already.

Enjoy it!


16-Nov-04: 2.21: added Strength; changed Gel round

13-Nov-04: 2.2: Playtest Notes: added Combat,
Device Rating, Reaction; changed Wired Reflexes

09-Nov-04: 2.1: added Skills, Cyberware,
spellcasting option, Ammunition

06-Nov-04: 2.0 version

Previous updates




The SR conversion notes use the Exploding die rule, Drama points, fixed damage and the Classic skill list, but with Cinematic Languages. Certain combat rules, like burst and automatic fire, are also from the Classic version.

When converting from the SR rules I tried to follow a general rule, but I didn't do it with mathematical precision. Here are some guidelines I used:

Target Numbers: I converted them by dividing the TN by 2 (round down). The resulting number was the minimum amount of successes needed to perform the action. Extra successes are counted after this minimum is achieved.

TN Modifiers: Converted directly, like the Smartgun link bonus

Die bonuses/penalties: They were translated as a single bonus/penalty per die, i.e., +3 dice equals +3 modifier.

Device Rating: If the character is trying to circumvent them, treat as Target Numbers above. If she is using another equipment against it, like a MagPasskey against a Maglock, double each device rating, add each one to a D10 roll and compare the results. The one with more successes win.


Characters have 80 points to distribute among Attributes, Qualities, Skills and Metaphysics. How the points are distributed is up to the player, but each category has caps, maximum amounts that can be spent on it. The cap for each category is 25, 20, 35 and 30, respectively. Drawbacks are limited to 10 points. Note that Racial Qualities are bought with Metaphysics points and count towards that category’s cap.


Primary Attributes
These are determined normally, although, in Shadowrun, the average Attribute rating is 3. It’s a tough world, after all. When coverting to Unisystem, Charisma should be turned into the Charisma or the Attractiveness Quality/Drawback. A SR Charisma of 3 equals no levels of Qualities or Drawbacks, with a -/+ level for each point below or above, respectively, that rating. Perception should be equal to Intelligence.

Strength: This Attribute requires special attention. SR Strength progression follows a linear pattern -- and an underdeveloped one at that. Characters seem weaker than they should be. In contrast, the same rating in Unisystem Strength makes the runner much stronger. This discrepancy was ignored up to STR 14. If converting Strength from SR to Unisystem, do not change the rating of it is below or up to that level. Greater ratings should be converted using the table below. Apply this rule only for Awakened creatures, especially the massive ones. For example, an elephant has SR STR 40 and Unisystem STR 12-17, while a Western dragon, with the same SR STR, has Unisystem STR 25.

1 - 15
1 - 15
16 - 17
18 - 20
21 - 23
24 - 26
27 - 29
30 - 31
32 - 33
34 - 35
36 - 37
38 - 39


Secondary Attributes
Life and Endurance Points, and Speed are determined normally. SR uses a Secondary Attribute called Reaction for initiative purposes. To retain this Attribute just calculate it as (Dex+Int)/2, rounding down. Gifted characters have a special Secondary Attribute called Magic, with a flat value of 6.

Essence and Cyberware
These can be handled in four ways. The simplest solution is to use Essence as described in SR: everybody has it initially at level 6. This is the default way for these notes and will be used in all the examples and rules. Gamemasters wishing to retain crosscompatibility with other Unisystem games can use any of the following options. Create a new Secondary Attribute called Cyber with a limit of 6. You can multiply all the cyberware Essence costs by 3; assuming a regular person has 3 in all Attributes, his Essence will be 18 and he will be able to have 6 points of cyberware (you’ll still have the problem that characters with large Essence pools have the potential to become Terminators). Finally, you can change the Essence costs to reflect percentages of 6. If a cyberware has an Essence cost of 2, that translates to 30%.

This new Attribute is calculated in the same way as its SR counterpart: (DEX+INT)/2 (round down). Like DEX in the Cinematic Unisystem, Reaction controls the number of extra actions a character have. Usually, a person can perform an attack and a defense in one Turn. Depending on his Reaction level, she may be able to act more times. Extra actions can be either offensive or defensive. The table below indicates how many actions a character gets:

Extra actions


Initiative is determined by rolling a D10 and adding Reaction. Like in SR, a high enough roll gives the character the possibility of acting more than once. Unlike the original engine, in the Unisystem the maximum number of actions is dictated by the character's Reaction Attribute, no matter how many Initiative passes he may have gotten.

Ex.: Rain has Reaction 3 and one level of WR, for a final initiative of 5 (3+2)+D10+3. He rolls and scores a 10, for a final initiative of 18. Since he had burned a Karma point, he gor a +10 modifier on the roll, for a total of 28. This means he would act at 28, 18 and 8. However, Krang's Reaction of 5 grant him only one extra action, so he acts at 28 and 18 only.

Dice Pools
This SR mechanic is replaced by Unisystem's Drama Points, renamed Karma Points here. They have all the uses listed in Cinematic Unisystem games, except maybe Righteous Fury (but who knows? maybe the character has a valid reason for going all crusading on somebody's ass). New PCs start the game with 10 Karma points. Extra points cost 1 XP each, which can be converted even during play. When all the character's Karma points are spent and he's out of unused XPs, he's luck is gone. He'll have to wait for the end of the session in order to earn more XP. If desired, a gamemaster may retain the SR rule for Karma Pools: every 20th XP (10th for humans) gained becomes a permanent Karma point. So, even if a PC ended the last session without any points andused up all the XP awarded, he will begin the new session with any permanent Karma he has. If you want the old Dice Pool conversion rule, it's here.


There are several Qualities available to characters. Some of them deserve a more specific explanation.

The Gift: This Quality is a prerequisite for any character who wishes to have magical powers. Without it, no character may spend points in the Metaphysics category.

Adept (Type): This 3-point Quality is the Adept version of the Gift Quality. When a character buys it, she must choose which type she is.

Gear: At character creation, the player has the option of "buying" cash to invest in equipment and cyberware. This is a one-time source of money. Once spent, the character will have to find other source of income. The Unisystem Resources Quality can be used to simulate a steady job or independant wealth. The Gear Quality has 20 levels that cost 1 points each. The old Cash Quality is here.



The Shadowrun Companion lists several Qualities and Drawbacks (called Edges & Flaws) that are appropriate to the game and can expand those listed in Unisystem books.


Use the Classic Unisystem skill list together with the Specialization rule. For example, a player has bought Guns (Pistol) 4 for his character. He decides his street samurai likes the Ares Predator better than all other pistols, so he spends a point and gets it as a specialization. Now that character has Guns (Ares Predator) 6 (he still fires other pistols at level 4).

There are three new skills in this conversion:

Etiquette: The social skill that allows you to 'walk the walk' and 'talk the talk' most appropriate to the place you are. It is a Special skill (meaning it costs double) and has several possible specialties. One of them is identical tpo the Streetwise skill. So, if you only want to be savvy in that culture, buy the latter. Corporate (Corpwise), Magical (Magewise) and Matrix (Deckwise) are other possible Regular skills for those that want to spend the extra points in the broader skill.

Knowledge (Type): This skill covers knowledge that, despite being unusual, can still be valuable for the character. It covers SR Knowledge skills of the Street and Sixth World classes, like Criminal Organizations and Dragons. The Science class is covered by the Science (Type) skill and the Background class is assumed to be intrinsic to the appropriate skill.

Hobby (Type): Specific interests of the character that won't probably be useful are the province of this skill. The Interests class of the SR Knowledge skill is its direct counterpart. Since knowledge about Urban Brawl Teams and Elven Wines isn't specially valuable to a character, save for rounding him off, this skill costs half. Every point invested in it counts as double.


The Sixth World belongs to Metahumanity. Besides humans, characters can be either elves, dwarves, orks or trolls. Each race costs Metaphysics points and give certain characteristics like Attribute bonuses and enhanced senses. All metahumans use the same Life and Endurance Point formulas as humans.

Note that I changed the ork and troll races a bit. Instead of giving orks and trolls a +3 and +5 Con bonus respectively, I decided to swap Con for Life Points. So the ork has only +2, but gets 10 extra Life Points. Trolls only have +3, but get 20 extra Life Points. I also halved the value of the Attractiveness Quality/Drawback for calculation purposes of the Racial Point Costs.







Disregard the Unisystem rules for burst and autofire, and use this one based on the SR engine: every bullet in a burst adds 1 point to the base damage and inflicts a -1 modifier on the to-hit roll. Extra successes add extra damage per Cinematic Unisystem rules. The Suppressive Fire rule (WC, p.137) is valid too.


There are several types of Gifted people in the Sixth World. The three most prominent are the Mages, the Shamans and the Adepts. Mages see Magic as a Science and study it accordingly. Shamans see it as an extension of Nature. And Adepts use it to enhance their bodies.

Mages and Shamans have to buy two special Skills: Sorcery, for spellcasting, and Conjuration, for summoning and controlling spirits. Spells are Regular Skills that can be bought with Metaphysics points.

Totems and Foci

Die bonuses from totem spirits converts to +/-1 per die. A Focus provide its Rating in bonuses to the appropriate Task.


To cast a spell, the Mage makes a Will+Sorcery. If the spell is Resisted, the target makes a Simple Attribute Test. Elemental Manipulation spells are treated like Ranged attacks, they use Dex+Sorcery, can be Dodged, armor subtract from their damage and extra successes in the Sorcery Task increase them. Following the Sorcery Task, the Mage/Shaman has to pass the Drain Test. He makes a Simple Will Test with a penalty equal to half the Force of the spell (even if you used Sorcery to cast), rounded up. Every two successes decrease the Drain die by one type. For example, 4 successes would decrease a D8 (4) to D4 (2). Decreasing the die type to less than D4 (2) indicates no Drain damage. Drain damage is measured in Endurance points equal to Drain die times half the Force of the spell. If the Force is greater than the Magic attribute, the Drain damage is applied to Life Points.

Example: Wally the Warlock (Willpower 4, Sorcery 5 and Powerbolt 3) needs to take care of a pursuing Corp Security guard. He concentrates, focusing the mana, and unleashes the Powerbolt at the guard for D8 x 3 (12) damage. He rolls a 6, plus 4 for Willpower and 3 for the spell, for a final result of 13, three successes. Now Wally has to deal with Drain. He makes a Simple Willpower Test with a penalty equal to half the spell’s Force, which comes to -2. However, Powerbolt adds 1 point more to this modifier, for -3 (remember that a +1 modifier to the Drain Power in SR converts to a -1 roll modifier in the Unisystem). Wally rolls a 6 again, plus 8 for his Willpower doubled, minus 3, for a final result of 11, two successes. Since the Drain die is equal to the Drain damage (D8), and Wally’s two successes reduce it by one type, the final Drain die is D6 (3), with a multiplier of 3 (the penalty to the Drain task), or 9 Endurance points. The guard adds his Constitution of 4 doubled to a roll of 4, for a final result of 12, less that Wally’s 13. The guard takes the 12 points (D8 x 3) damage without any benefit of armor.

If you want a system that looks more similar to the SR one, you can state that the mage must attain at least a number of successes equal to half (round down) the resisting attribute. In the example above, Wally's first two successes beat the minimum requirement (the guard's Constitution 4 divided by 2 = 2 successes), so he only had one extra success. Since the guard score two successes, he wouldn't have suffered any damage. If you go this way, it might be interesting to let mage/shamans add the spell's level to the casting roll.


To conjure a spirit, the magician makes a Will+Conjuration Task with a penalty equal to the spirit’s Force. Each success represents one service the spirit agrees to perform. Following the Conjuration Task, the magician has to pass the Drain Test. He makes a Simple Will Test with a penalty equal to the Force of the spirit. The Drain die depends on the Force of the spirit and the magician’s Willpower. If the Force is half or less of the Willpower, the die is a D4 (2); if it’s less than the Willpower (but over half), it’s a D6 (3); greater than Willpower, D8 (4); and if it’s greater than Willpower times 1.5, it’s a D10 (5). Every two successes decrease the Drain die by one type. Drain damage is measured in Endurance points equal to Drain die times the Force of the spirit.


Converting decking is not as difficult as it might seem, provided you go for a more abstract approach. I think Shadowrun overcomplicates this activity, making it hard, if not impossible, to incorporate it in the game. In my opinion, the decker should accompany the group, jack in, either outside or inside the place to be invaded, and then perform his job: unlock doors, shut down cameras, find things etc. This should be conducted like other actions in the game – with skill rolls, not with some kind of elaborate digital dungeon.

System Ratings

A host's Security code and value remain the same. The latterstill represents the system's skill, but in Unisystem it should be double when used. For example, a if a Blue-4 system needs to make a check against an intruding decker, it rolls 8 (4 x 2) + 1D10. The subsystem ratings, on the other hand, when divided by 2 and rounded down, represent the number of successes needed to perform an unautorized command. In a Red-6/10/12/10/9/9 system, a decker needs 5 successes for Access and Index commands, 6 for Control orders, and 4 for File and Slave actions.

Deck Ratings

The Master Persona Control Program works the same, but the Persona programs work slightly different.

Bod: Responsible for the decker's persona integrity, this program's rating x 8 equals the numebr of damage points the icon has.

Evasion: Used in Combat Maneuvers, this program's rating functions as a bonus to the decker's maneuver Task.

Masking: This program, together with the Sleaze utility, make up the decker's Detection Factor. One quarter of its rating (rounded down) is the minimum amount of successes needed by a system to detect and intruder and prevent her from performing actions.

Sensor: The ability to counter Combat Maneuvers, this program's rating functions as a bonus to the die roll when resisting a maneuver.

Example (SR, p.225): Cybersushi (INT 5, Computers 5, Evasion 6, Cloak 4) is on an Orange-8 host under attack from a killer IC and attempts an Evade Detection maneuver. He rolls a D10 and gets a 6 for 7 successes (final result of 26). The gamemaster rolls for the IC and gets a 4 which added to 16 (double the security value) yields 20, or 5 successes. With 2 net successes, Sushi evades the IC for 2 Turns.


A deck's Hardening rating functions as armor value (see Armor below).

Security Tally

Using this conversion rules, most hosts/grids will be scoring successes left and right. Because of that, these rolls should be aborted or modified. In the former proposal, the security tally will increase whenever the decker fails to attain enough successes to perform an action in one of the subsystems. So, if he needed 5 successes to logon to a host and only got 3, the security tally would increase from 0 to 2. For the second proposal, you keep the host's roll, but only count the successes that exceed the decker's. Using the same example, suppose the intruding decker scores 6 successes and logs on the system. The game master rolls for the host and gets 7 successes, increasing the tally to 1. The two approaches can be combined for a system that will increase the tally whenever one of those two things happen.


These programs function as Task bonuses for the appropriate actions.

Intrusion Countermeasures

IC are the host's equivalent to the decker's utilities, they provide Task bonuses for the host's rolls.


A quick conversion of the weapons in the SR game can be made following these instructions:

Damage: The die used for Unisystem damage is dependent on the weapon’s SR Damage level. L becomes D4 (2), M D6 (3), S D8 (4) and D becomes D10 (5). Half of the SR Power, rounded up, becomes the multiplier.

Examples: Colt America L36 changes from 6L to D4 x 3 (6), Browning Max-Power goes from 9M to D6 x 5 (15), Remington 750 changes from 7S to D8 x 4 (16) and a Vigorous Assault Cannon goes from 18D to D10 x 9 (45).

There is also a quick way to convert armor. Disregard the distinction between Ballistic and Impact protection (or just assume it is half of the other) and average the two ratings, rounding down. Now, using the Body Armor Table (WitchCraft p.147) as reference, and assuming a leather jacket is 1 and a Class IV Armor is 7 (disregard the medieval armors), just correlate the SR armor average value with WC Armor Value. Remember that Unisystem allows the character to target specific parts of the body, so an Armor Jacket will only protect your arms, chest and abdomen.

Example: A leather jacket is still D4 (2), an Armor Jacket is [(D6 x 2)+14 (20)] and a Heavy Security armor is [(D8 x 3)+18 (30)].

After my playtest, I arrived at the values listed in the table below. Though these values are appropriate to street-level protection like armor jackets and lined coats, it leaves things like security armors oddly underpowered. I suggest assuming that AV 20 security armors have no encumbrance and are used by low-level corp guards. Serious high threat response teams will be equipped with AV 25-40 armors that have Light encumbrance levels.




APDS: Divides Armor or Barrier Value by 2, but damage that gets through isn't doubled.

Explosive: Double Armor or Barrier Value against this type of round, but any damage that gets through is tripled.

EX Explosive: Same as Explosive, but damage that gets through is quadrupled.

Flechette: Increase the damage die/multiplier by 1 (ex., D6 (3) to D8 (4)) against unramored targets. Armor or Barrirer Value is doubled against flechette.

Gel: Endurance damage that it is not doubled. The target must make a Resisted Strength Test against the number of bullets taken or be knocked down.


Wired Reflexes: Each level increases Reaction by 2 points and grants a +3 modifier to the Initiative roll. The Reaction increase counts when determining maximum number of actions. Fast Reaction Time cannot stack with WR because you are replacing the very thing that grants you that Quality.


In order to keep the game feel, I would suggest using the SR advancement rules.


Back to Unisystem


Well, enjoy it! And if you want, you can drop me a line at fred@planetfred.net or leave a comment at the PatchComm.


Last Update: 16-Nov-04

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