The following information is an excerpt of Shadowrun’s overall setting history (and is partially modified). You are still recommended to read through the second chapter of the Shadowrun core rulebook entitled “A History Lesson for the Reality Impaired”. Additional information is available on the Shadowrun Wiki website located here. However, the content provided here is what will be relevant to this game set in 22nd century San Francisco.
2000: The Shiawase Decision
In 2000, the Shiawase multinational corporation wins an unprecedented victory in the U.S. Supreme Court in which multinational corporations are awarded extraterritoriality status; effectively granting corporations their own sovereignty. The following year, U.S. Congress struggles to write legislation to prevent corporations from benefitting from this decision. After a subsequent decision by the Supreme Court in 2002, that congressional legislation is shredded. What remains is a legal categorization system to determine which corporate entities benefit from extraterritoriality. Major corporations immediately flock to the United States where such status makes them exempt from public sector taxes and legal persecution.
2006: Japanese Imperial State
Just after Japan emerges from recession in 2005, North Korea declares intent to use nuclear arms and threatens trade expansion in the region. Corporate backers push a not-so-discrete campaign that coerces South Korea to launch a pre-emptive invasion of the north. North Korea responds with a full-scale nuclear assault on Japan in early 2006, but every missile fails to detonate. By the end of 2006, North Korea is overtaken, Japan occupies the Korean territories, and announces a governmental shift to the Japan Imperial State (JIS). Their presence as a superpower expands dramatically with technological advancements in energy production, mining methane gas from the ocean floor and beaming down energy from orbital satellites.
An outbreak in India of Virally Induced Toxic Allergy Syndrome (VITAS) escalates to a pandemic and kills over one-fourth the human population on Earth.
2011: The Awakening
The Awakening refers to a culmination of events over the course of several years that defined a key milestone in human civilization around the world. In preceding years, infants around the world were born with common mutations eventually dubbed Unexplained Genetic Experession (UGE). These ‘mutations’ would eventually become known as human sub-species—races—called elves and dwarves. Pope John Paul IV denounces these mutations as abominations before God.
2011 marks the officially recognized events of the Awakening, however, as the emergence of dragons herald a massive emergence of magic. Phenomena all over the world are felt. Entire landforms are uprooted, destroyed, or replaced. Ley lines re-emerge, ancient forests spring up overnight, and unnatural storms engulf continents. With such dramatic events, 2011 is largely considered the year of the Awakening and the beginning of the Sixth World, despite similar effects continuing for decades to come.
2012: The Great Dragon Dunkelzahn
The great western dragon Dunkelzahn appears in Denver and grants a 12 hour interview explaining the Awakening, magic, and the nature of the world. This interview remains the most famous document in human history.
2014: Daniel Howling Coyote and the Native American Nations (NAN)
After a decade of being removed (again) from their lands and imprisoned in internment camps, Daniel Howling Coyote leads native americans to freedom and vanishes. They return in 2014, forming the Native American Nations (NAN). By 2016, Daniel Howling Coyote declares war on the United States of America to reclaim lands taken from NAN peoples.
Francisco Pavon is elected President of Mexico with assistance from the multinational corporation ORO; a conglomerate formed by three powerful drug cartel kingpins. Mexico is renamed Aztlan. Because of this seeming return to its ancestral roots and its common history of persecution by the United States of America, the NAN extends an invitation to join its ranks; an invitation accepted by Aztlan.
2018: Treaty of Denver
By the end of 2017, the war between the USA and the NAN escalates to a climax with the Great Ghost Dance. This ritual performed by NAN results in several powerful storms and volcanic eruptions, devastating US military, civilian, and (most importantly) corporate assets. The US is forced to enter into negotiations.
Set in Denver, the four major members of the NAN (Sioux, Pueblo, Ute, and Aztlan) negotiate the Treaty of Denver with the United States.
- Denver is partitioned into five sections, one for each major participant in the treaty.
- The Sioux take lands in the northern midwest, absorbing most of Montana and Wyoming.
- The Pueblo and Ute create the Pueblo Corporate Council, a nation structured like a corporation, and take most southwest lands ranging from Colorado to the eastern border of California.
- Most other NAN tribes either integrate into the Sioux or PCC nations, but the treaty also creates the Salish-Shidhe (pronounced Sal-eesh Shee-d’) nation to the northwest, assuming virtually all remaining land out to the coast.
- Aztlan is granted a small portion of the former US southern border, accepting the southern regions of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.
- The United States is left with only its eastern territories, though they retain California and the city-state of Seattle.
2018: Chinese Civil War
After Hong Kong’s secession in 2015 and continued government oppression, the peoples of China revolt. The country is left divided: Manchuria, Xinjiang, Guangxi, and the Canton Confederation.
2019: Cybertech Boom
Advancements in cybertechnology lead to a milestone in 2019, when violenist Leonora Bartoli becomes the first human to have a fully-functional cyberlimb implanted. Cybertech integration into the human body, including the first advancements in Simsense, continues to rise over the next 10 years.
2021-2023: Racial Conflict and VITAS 2
2021 marks the first record of Goblinization, a mutation similar to UGE. The new sub-species are called orks and trolls and, unlike UGE, the mutation occurs in infants and fully-grown human adults. With racial tensions around the world already brimming with hate, the introduction of these new sub-species triggers riots and violence around the world. By 2023, racist organizations are commonplace, ranging in size from gangs to massive multinational corporations. The most famous hate group, the Humanis Policlub, is founded.
The world was then beset by a second outbreak of VITAS, which resulted in the death of 10% of the global human population.
2025: Seattle Contracts Lone Star
After proving an effective alternative to public law enforcement in Corpus Christi, Texas, Lone Star is contracted by Seattle to be its primary law enforcement agency. Lone Star’s largest contract by far, this contract elevated their status to a AA-megacorporation, granting them extraterritoriality and the financial opportunity to spread across North America like wildfire. This also set a famous precedence in public opinion that any government obligation could be overtaken by private entities.
2025: Metahuman Acceptance
After several years of racial oppression, the United States finally grants equal rights to metahumans affected by UGE or Goblinization through a Supreme Court decision.
In 2025, Pope John XXV issues In Imago Dei encyclical: Metahumans have souls and are capable of salvation, magical abilities are not inherently evil, and spirits are a manifestation of nature.
While these authoritative decisions impacted corporate investment into the US and the Catholic church, they did little to curb existing hatred and racism in most countries.
2029: Crash of ’29
The world wide network of technology and cyberware is destroyed by a complex virus. Advancements in human-integrated cyberware prove lethal to those users. A US operation code named Echo Mirage becomes the official US response to combat the virus in an attempt to salvage corporate interests around the world. Echo Mirage eventually succeeds in destroying the virus in 2031, though only 7 of the original team of 32 remain. Out of this event, major advancements in human-integrated cyberware and Simsense are achieved and Black IC is created.
2030-2035: Nation Building
The remnants of Canada and the United States are left in shambles due to the preceding NAN wars, two VITAS outbreaks, and the Crash of ’29. Both nations decide to unite to pool collective resources and authorities. This unity is not well liked by California and the southern territories of the former United States. California threatens to secede over several years to come.
By 2035, the Salish-Shidhe nation had opened its borders to all metahumans (not just native Americans). This had the unwanted but expected result of social disintegration; many communities were formed based on metatype. Among these were the Sinsearach elves, who established a large community to the south of Salish-Shidhe. In 2035, the Ceneste branch of the Sinsearach seceded from both their community and the Salish-Shidhe nation, forming their own independent nation of Tir Tairngire.
After years of complaining and threats to secede, the UCAS loses patience and expels California from its union, withdrawing all its assets as well. California is left vulnerable and is immediately beset by two invasions: Tir Tairngire from the north and Aztlan from the south.
Aztlan Invasion: Aztlan resumes an already commonplace campaign of ethnic cleansing. Virtually unopposed, Aztlan’s northward advance is slowed only by its methodical campaign to ‘ritually sacrifice’ every California citizen. Naturally, the dense population centers of San Diego halt its advance.
The Pueblo Corporate Council, California’s eastern neighbor, offers to prevent any further advancement of Aztlan. PCC forces were well equipped and experienced with combat against Aztlan and didn’t care to see California overrun by them. California gladly accepted the assistance.
Tir Tairngire Invasion: Similarly, Tir Tairngire forces also began a campaign of ethnic cleansing, but offered warning for all non-elves to leave before resorting to violence. Naturally, this just encouraged the formation of guerilla forces and insurgency. With the invasion from the south being handled by the PCC, California was able to throw all of its resources into fighting Tir Tairngire, but not before the invaders claimed a massive foothold with influence as far south as San Francisco. Eventually, the front lines of the war would be pushed back north, resulting in a demilitarized zone from Redding to the former north border of California.
The Aftermath: Having secured its sovereignty, California declared itself a free state (popularly called CalFree). However, it had exhausted most of its resources, needed to rebuild, and was still vulnerable to attack. Furthermore, the Pueblo Corporate Council demanded payment for their previous intervention and, when CalFree couldn’t pay, confiscated most of southern California as collateral. Desperate to avoid further abuse, CalFree began looking for investors and allies (other than PCC, of course).
The first opportunity came from the Japanese Imperial State, whom CalFree welcomed with open arms due to their military might and extensive corporate wealth. This had an unwanted but expected result of Japanese occupation and the subsequent annexing of CalFree as a satellite nation to the Japanese empire. The first order of business was to claim San Francisco as a partition to Japan itself to “protect Japanese lives and corporate assets.” Japan would also nationalize all lands in CalFree, taking them from corporations and forcing corporations to comply with certain imperial edicts and taxes. This had an initial impact of destroying all A and B rated corporations in CalFree, paving the way for Japanese megacorps to take over CalFree’s economy. Despite the tyranny of imperialism, CalFree would start to prosper with heavy corporate investment in years to come.
2051: San Francisco Quake
A major earthquake devastates San Francisco in 2051. Japanese corporations see this as an opportunity to begin development of arcologies, which have become a popular idea in Europe.
2061: The Ring of Fire and General Saito
The Pacific Rim experiences massive earthquakes and cataclysms. Progress made to rebuild San Francisco from the quake of ‘51 is set back several years. Japan is hit hardest, with earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions. The damage is so severe, Japan recalls all military and imperial assets to focus on rebuilding the homeland and protecting it from turmoil and uprisings elsewhere in east Asia.
Japan’s General Saito, who commands over California under Japanese authority, refuses this order and attempts a coup to take control of CalFree. Due to limited resources and withdrawn support from Japan, Saito attempts to nationalize corporate properties to maintain his political control. This backfires, as Ares Macrotechnology decides it won’t accept Saito’s authority. Ares supplies weapons and tactical support through subsidiaries to guerilla forces and covertly organizes an uprising against Saito. The ensuing civil war practically halts all efforts at reconstruction, which extends the war 8 years. In 2069, Saito is finally killed and CalFree finally becomes a stable, independent nation.
2064: Matrix Crash 2.0
The AAA-megacorp Novatech seeks to overcome its debts and remain a AAA company through an IPO in the Boston Stock Exchange. The BSE, anticipating massive global traffic, upgrades its matrix network technology to satisfy the expected demand.
Prior to this, a rogue AI developed by Renraku had escaped after shutting down a Renraku arcology in Seattle in 2055. This AI, called Deus, sought to upgrade itself to matrix godhood and sees the Novatech IPO as a prime opportunity to gain access to megacorp mainframes all around the world.
Privy to Deus’ activities, another Renraku AI, Megaera, enlisted a fading technomancer and the terrorist group, Winternight, to counter Deus’ plans. The Novatech IPO would become the virtual battleground to destroy the matrix so completely that the only viable option would be to rebuild it from scratch.
2065: The NeoNET Matrix
Prior to the crash of ’64, two AA-megacorps Erika and Neuronet were already developing a completely wireless matrix model. Having already produced a working model, they became the leading developers for a new matrix. Still trying to salvage its AAA status and overcome its debts, Novatech approached both companies for a merger. While other AAA companies offered, Novatech was desperate enough to offer AAA status without forcing Erika and Neuronet executives to give up their positions at the top of the company. The resulting merger created NeoNET, which became an overnight success by implementing the matrix used today.
2069: More Disasters
With the death of Saito, CalFree manages to claim its independence and the world celebrates by collapsing the San Pedro shelf with yet another massive earthquake. The quake and its many aftershocks over the course of four months lowers land levels and produces huge sinkholes. Only the most developed corporate communities, having been retrofitted twice already for earthquakes, survive. San Francisco and the bay area isn’t affected much, but the central valley and most coastal regions of southern California (now in the PCC) are permanently flooded.
2070: Witch Hunts
Not that racism has subsided quite yet, but the existence of technomancers becomes common knowledge to corporations following the crash of ’64. Corporations fear their presence could induce another major crash or endanger private assets and a massive corporate witch hunt ensues. Technomancers are captured and imprisoned by corporations, mostly for testing and experimentation purposes, but nevertheless against the will of those taken.
This witch hunt dies down very quickly in 2070 as elusive technomancers and autonomous AI sprites make technomancer existence public knowledge. A matrix-based campaign also reveals the persecution of technomancers by corporations and the subsequent tortures they have endured. Public outcry is sufficient to force corporations to abandon anti-technomancer operations, but only after most governments are coerced to pass laws requiring technomancer registration policies similar to mages. While corporations do not actively pursue technomancers, their extreme distrust of them still has a major presence in society.
2071: CalFree Contracts Lone Star
Despite gaining its freedom, CalFree found itself in a major crisis. Between disaster relief, the war with Saito, and threat of invasion, CalFree needed defenses and a chance to escape its debts. Considering Ares Macrotechnology’s involvement in defeating General Saito, CalFree approached Ares with a deal to solve most of these problems in one shot.
- CalFree would give Ares its own land, freeing Ares from any legal obligation to CalFree or its laws. Effectively, Ares would no longer be subject to CalFree laws or policies while on its own land.
- CalFree would contract Lone Star as its primary military force, but Ares would pay 86% of the commission. This percentage would decrease over the course of 20 years, when CalFree would then be responsible for 100% of Lone Star’s commission in 2091.
While Ares lost a great deal of money in this contract, the long-term benefits were viewed as a rare and lucrative investment opportunity. Not only would they not have to pay CalFree taxes in perpetuity, but Lone Star was also a major client of Ares, so both companies would make exorbitant profits. Lone Star’s reputation in North America would also improve, especially in the wake of losing their Seattle contract.
With Tir Tairngire already amassing at the edge of the northern DMZ, Lone Star wasted no time to utilize the publicity of their latest contract. Better equipped with Ares weaponry, Lone Star was able to seize the DMZ and reinforce CalFree’s northern border to keep Tir Tairngire at bay. While this was considered a pre-emptive measure, it did effectively close that border, which in turn left a negative impact on a small but noisy portion of the corporate community. Nevertheless, Lone Star was immediately welcomed into CalFree by most of its populace with open arms.
2075: The Grand Design
With so much reconstruction taking place, several AAA megacorps decide to begin construction of specialized arcologies in CalFree; most of which are intended for San Francisco and the flooded regions of the central valley. Most popular are the marine arcologies, intended to double as mining operations and to test the viability of human life within enclosed spaces with limited sunlight. While there are a multitude of reasons for this type of development, the most important is to determine if humans could manage extraterrestrial travel as a society.
Also popular are the amphibious arcologies, contructed both above and below water. These are generally much larger as they are intended to make use of the real estate lost in the quakes of ‘69. Considering the shallow depths of the central valley waters, these arcologies focused on making use of the unique submarine ecosystem and CalFree’s good weather to form tourist traps and centers of recreation. In the following decades, as these arcologies approached completion, they found tourism quite limited and resorted to using the arcologies for mid-level laborers, executives, and agriculture.
2078: Money Problems
Shakey relations with the UCAS, which requires a SIN to conduct most legitimate business, results in CalFree’s reliance on UCAS currency to drain resources from national coffers. CalFree began looking for options, even considering adoption of the nuyen in Japan, but this was publicly unpopular and died before it became possible. Ultimately, CalFree submitted to offers from the Pueblo Corporate Council to adopt the p’cu (Pueblo Credit Unit) as its primary currency. Most CalFree residents still call this currency ‘credits’.
Arcology construction in the bay area comes to a halt with a dangerous infestation of magical beasts. First interpreted as a resurgence of the Universal Brotherhood, which attempted to infect humans with insect spirits decades before, it was eventually discovered to be various spirits inhabiting marine animals. Using their hosts, these spirits would infiltrate marine arcology construction sites and move to new hosts as necessary. Registered mages were contracted to expel the creatures, though these efforts failed due to the immense danger of astrally projecting. After several deaths, the arcologies were quarantined and abandoned until a more viable solution could be formed.
2091: Tangible Nightmares
In March of 2091, the infestations of the San Francisco arcologies were found to be the result of astral rifts. These rifts were found to be the source of the quakes of ’69 and remain open in several caves and sinkholes along the San Andreas fault line. While most of these rifts were closed, there are an untold number of remaining rifts still open with clear access to ocean waters. This led to the dramatic decrease of spirit infestation, but the arcologies still under construction remained closed off by quarantine and mana barrier.
2092: CalFree Exorcism
A long and arduous process of cleansing the arcologies of San Francisco and the central valley begins. Mages from Salish-Shidhe, the Pueblo Corporate Council, and Aztechnology are contracted in addition to local mages to exterminate astral life from the arcologies. Corporate pressure eventually leads to contracting combat mages from Tir Tairngire despite political tensions and the likelihood their tactics will cause collateral damage. Nevertheless, under Lone Star’s close observation, they did expedite the process of eliminating most major threats to the arcologies and allowed corporations to resume construction after only 6 years instead of the estimated 9.
Spirits are still a common threat to marine arcologies and coastal areas, but they are often manageable. While most contracted mages were returned home following the arcology cleanup, some remained on retainer as guards against spirit infestation; including some magi from Tir Tairngire.
2096: Redding vs. Lone Star
Over the years, Redding became a hot spot for Lone Star deployment and recreation due to the company’s active presence on the northern CalFree border. In 2096, undisclosed persons file lawsuits against Lone Star personnel for rape and excessive force. After these claims hit CalFree courts and the media, thousands of people in Redding join into what becomes a class action lawsuit. Most claims can’t be substantiated by direct evidence, but those that can are eventually taken up by the Redding District Attorney.
Eventually, sixteen Lone Star Rangers would be imprisoned, several dozen more fined, and Lone Star itself evades litigation through cooperation, self-investigation, and a five-year term discount to CalFree. Lone Star then begins an extensive overhaul of its upper management and creates an Internal Affairs division to observe and regulate officers and personnel. While these changes are widely publicized, the negative effects on public opinion leave CalFree nationals highly skeptical and distrustful of Lone Star.
2100: The Silent Riot
Edward Mouch, senior executive of the Steelmasons workers union, launches an aggressive campaign in 2100 to force all employers on publicly owned land to hire union employees only. His pull with engineers and laborers on the arcology projects give him immense political power running for mayor of San Francisco. Pressure from campaign contributors also forces his campaign to address the rampant illegal gambling operations in the city. Two days before the election, Edward Mouch and over 300 of his employees disappear overnight.
Security footage from a multitude of establishments around the city are found either corrupted, overwritten, or unavailable from blacking out. From those few that were recovered, in addition to some testimony by individuals awake overnight, mobs consisting of hundreds of people armed with clubs and other basic weapons marched through city streets. By Lone Star estimates, at least four such mobs were reported, and break-ins and violent activity were common features at the house of Edward Mouch and his employees.
Damaged property is also reported in certain areas of the city, leaving signs of intense fighting and gunfire. While blood and bullets are collected at those scenes, no bodies are reported. Edward Mouch and his employees remain missing to this day.
There you have it.
This is the relevant history of the Shadowrun setting as it pertains to this campaign. If your character is not a scholar in historical events, then don’t feel compelled to remember all of this. You character would likely know about some things, such as what the Awakening and VITAS are and that there were two major matrix crashes before. Otherwise, it is up to you how much your character remembers of California history.