You should really start here…


SHADOW HACK is simply a hack of the CORTEX PLUS rule system to be used to play the SHADOWRUN roleplaying game. When complete it is freely available from


SHADOWRUN is a table-top roleplaying game set in a fictional near-future universe in which cybernetics, magics, and fantasy creatures co-exist.  The game was first published in 1989 and has remained very popular ever since.  There have been 5 editions of the SHADOWRUN rules with the most recent edition being released in 2013 – The Year of Shadowrun.

Check out the Wikipedia article about SHADOWUN for more information as well as links to many resource pages.


CORTEX PLUS  is a system used for Tabletop roleplaying games (not to be confused with computer RPGs).  The system forms the basis of the Leverage, Smallville, and Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, and Firefly roleplaying systems, all published by Margaret Weiss Productions. Sadly Marvel Heroic roleplaying is no longer published – a surprise as it was only released in 2012, and won an Ennie Award for best roleplaying system.  Anyone can use CORTEX PLUS as a system for their own games – check out the license here.

What is a ‘Hack’?

Well a hack can mean many things, but in this context I’m using to mean the modification of the CORTEX PLUS system so that it can be used to play SHADOWRUN. If you want more information about CORTEX PLUS Hacking, I can highly recommend the Hackers Guide. The SHADOW HACK completely replaces the SHADOWRUN rules system and will hopefully provide enough of a framework to allow you to convert over other aspects of the game as new rules appear.

Design Philosophy

OK. Here’s the deal chummer.

I’ve been playing SHADOWRUN since it was released in 1989.  I love the World, the ideas, the Metaplots, etc.  It’s so rich, it’s almost overwhelming.  But there’s a problem for me.  As I’ve gotten older my preferences when it comes to rules have changed and the problem is that the SHADOWRUN rules, though refined, are still very complex and heavy-weight.  It’s not that I’m confused by them, it’s just that there are so many rules I find myself constantly having to check them during play. I want my game to be fast and eventful. I don’t want to spent 2 hours of my evening playing 12 seconds of game time.

In 2012 I was introduced to Marvel Heroic Roleplaying game and fell in love with it.  It’s simple, fast, elegant and yet has enough meat on it’s bones to allow the players to do almost anything, simply and efficiently. It’s no longer published, however, the CORTEX PLUS system, which MHRP used, still is and actively encourages hacks.

In a recent game of SHADOWRUN I was Gamesmastering, I actively avoided challenging the players with combat because it would have slowed the game to a crawl and lost a lot of the momentum I had built up to that point. All because of the complexity of the combat rules in the game. That was when I decided to combine the brilliant fluff of the SHADOWRUN Universe with the beautiful crunch of CORTEX PLUS. Shadow Hack is result of that decision!

The plan is to come up with something that will maintain the overall spirit of running the shadows, and encourage the kind of fast, imaginative play that one achieves playing CORTEX PLUS.

What this is not…

First and foremost, this is not about rewriting the CORTEX PLUS rules, or exposing all the juicy SHADOWRUN information.  To really use this hack you need to buy both games! As a minimum you need the core rules for SHADOWRUN and the CORTEX PLUS Hackers Guide. Both are available in PDF from sites like Drivethru RPG.

This is not designed to accurately simulate every individual power, weapon, spell, etc from the SHADOWRUN game. The strength of the CORTEX PLUS system, in my opinion, is that it frees you from pages of tables, stats, gear-fetish play. If you want your SHADOWRUN full of weapons tables the stick with the original system! It’s mature, solid and very detailed.  If you’re looking to create a fast paced action adventure and prepared to trust your players (a requirement for any CORTEX PLUS game) then SHADOW HACK might work for you.

What now?

SHADOW HACK is a work in progress and I’ve now idea how long it will take me to complete.  If you want to help out, register and post in the forums!

Otherwise  - Check out the rules…