My favourite Shadowrun Fifth Edition supplement is the Run Faster source book. I love it so much, in fact, that I almost believe it should be the "Player's Handbook" of Shadowrun, relegating the Core Rulebook to the game master. I say almost because the division isn't really that clean, but Run Faster is easily an essential general purpose source book, not only because it expands player options but because it makes character creation easier and, maybe, a little more fun.
Note that this post is for Shadowrun 5th Edition, even though at the time of this writing 6th Edition has been out for a few years. I haven't switched to 6th Edition, and I'm just writing for what I play (and more importantly, what people I invite to my games can use.)
Run Faster offers two new methods of building characters. One is just a variation of the standard Core Rulebook method, while the other is drastically different and takes up the bulk of the character generation chapter. This blog post covers the first, and I'll cover the second method in a later post.
The "Sum to Ten" build method is a variation on the standard build process. This method assigns number values to the A to E rows in the old familiar Priority table from page 65 of the Core Rulebook:
You have 10 points to spend, so choose wisely.
You can have 2 A priorities, but you use up 8 (4+4=8) of your points to get them. That means you have 2 more points to spend, so you get either 2 D priorities or 1 C priority, and the rest are E. Alternately, you can take 3 B priorities and 1 D priority (3+3+3+1=10)
Whatever combination you want, you can have, as long as it costs no more than 10 points.
A modified way to select build priorities is nice, but it doesn't appear until page 63. The 60+ pages prior to that are chock full of Shadowrun lore as it applies to your nascent character concept.
There's a section about ethics and codes, covering the ideals of White Hat Hackers, the Omerta code of silence, the path of the Samurai, Bushido, and many more. In the game system, these are all considered negative qualities because they're expressions of the Code of Honor quality from the Core Rulebook (page 79), so you get a reimbursement of Karma for taking a code.
There's a section about potential odd jobs in the Sixth World. This is one of those beautifully written little chapters that can inspire players and game masters alike. It's enough to give you ideas about your character's background, and it's also perfect inspiration for a game master in need of a quick milkrun.
From page 44 on, there's a bunch of information about the major metatypes of Shadowrun. There's a section about dwarves, elves, orks, trolls, humans, changelings, and shapeshifters.
It's not exactly a metatype, but the HMHVV (Human-Metahuman Vampiric Virus) does effect your metatype, and there's a whole chapter about playable vampirism. It'll cost you karma, and there are varying degrees of infection, but you can be Infected and not become an NPC, which makes this book essential for any fan of vampires.
Part of the awakening into the Sixth World was the emergence of metatypes, and the Core Rulebook covers the most common ones. Run Faster, however, adds in all the rest. The assumption is that these additional metatypes are anywhere from pretty rare to ultra-rare, but they do exist, and so a player can choose to play it.
The list of possible niche metatypes includes:
And those are just the ones most familiar to me from D&D mythos. There are yet more to choose from. Some have some pretty severe built-in complications (negative qualities, positive qualities, special abilities, and so on) but if a player wants a metatype badly enough, or just enjoys playing something with special conditions placed upon them, then the Mess of Metahumanity section is a lot of fun.
Despite the title of the book, the topics I've covered in this blog post don't actually make anything faster. If anything, it'll slow your character build down, because you'll be so busy immersing yourself in lore and new player options. But the added options are fun, so maybe the book could be renamed Run Funner.