My Shadowrun Armory post, where I gave my thoughts on every single one of the wide and confusing variety of firearms in Shadowrun fifth edition, quickly proved to be one of my more popular posts on this blog. In the time since I’ve received a lot of requests for more Armory posts, going over other pieces of equipment from the game.
Here, then, are my collected thoughts on every nonstandard, non-firearm or exotic ranged weapon I could find in the books. Bear in mind that these things are not nearly as useful to most people as the stuff in my previous post, because they all require specific and specialized skills that don’t cover nearly as many options as Automatics, Pistols or Longarms do, so if you’re a new player building your first character you might want to steer clear of these. The exception to that rule is if you’re a rigger. Mounting a weapon on a drone or vehicle makes it suddenly start using the Gunnery skill instead of whatever skill it would otherwise be using, and you can take advantage of that to put as much weird stuff on your robot army as you like. Lasers and flamethrowers are special favorites of mine in that department.
So for all you special snowflakes who have to have your absolutely unique weapon, or for all you riggers who want to rain terrifying death upon your enemies, here’s an analysis of all the nonstandard ranged weapons from Shadowrun 5e.
Other Shadowrun Armory Posts
If you’re using Archery, you sort of have to base your entire character around it, because otherwise you’re not going to be able to keep up with the guys who are casually spraying full-auto fire around. If you can get up to 20+ dice on an archery roll you can do some fun stuff with it, but any less than that and it’s not really worthwhile. If you want to give it a shot, though, here’s the tools you have at your disposal. Be sure to get your hands on both Run & Gun (for the special arrowheads) and Hard Targets (so you can choose between traditional and compound bows, overdraw for extra damage, collapse your equipment for easy transport and pick up a few useful gadgets to help offset some of archery’s weaknesses) if you want to stand even half a chance of keeping up with your higher-tech brethren.
As old-school as you can get and still be using a ranged weapon. Bows are only really good if you get a Rating 10 one (which you need 10 Strength for) and start using the special arrowheads from the Run & Gun sourcebook, but if you can manage to pull that off then I think you’ll find that launching a 14P AP -4 explosive-tipped arrow at someone is a pretty good way to ruin their day (for reference, that’s about as much damage and armor penetration as an anti-material rifle). If you want to use a bow and arrow in Shadowrun, you pretty much have to go the Green Arrow route and ignore normal broadheads entirely for the specialized arrowheads, but you can definitely have some fun with those. Just remember that you’re going to have to put a lot of points specifically into Archery, and buy a lot of specialized equipment, to come even close to being as effective as some jackass with an AK-97.
Crossbows are quite cheap for the damage and armor penetration they give you, and don’t have a Strength requirement like bows do. The heavy crossbow especially hits like a machine gun bullet for only a thousand nuyen, which isn’t half bad. Again, you should really be using specialized arrowheads with these to bring the damage and utility up a little, especially with the light and medium variants, and once again you’re going to need higher skills to compensate for the lack of burst or full-auto fire.
Run & Gun
The Run & Gun sourcebook is basically required if you want to use Archery effectively. It brings us a wide array of special arrowheads for damage boosts, electrical shocks and all sorts of other fun stuff, which is essential of course, and also gives us weird little weapons like the Harpoon Gun, as well as its older brother the Aquadyne Shark-XS. This thing is mostly for underwater use, but if you want a hilarious way of (potentially lethally) capturing people, knock yourself out. It’s not something I’d advise using on a regular basis, but it’s got a bit of cool factor going for it.
Ranger Sliver Pistol Crossbow
Run & Gun
If you want to use Archery as your main combat skill, you don’t have many options for concealable weapons–it’s basically this or the slingshot. Use injection bolts or specialized arrowheads and you’ve got a nice little surprise that fits in your pocket. I especially like incendiary and shock heads with this, since the damage that those do doesn’t change based on the damage of the weapon itself. This thing is single-shot only, so make it count.
Ares Giantslayer Slingshot
Run & Gun
Not sure why this uses Archery, really, but it’s not a bad thing to have in your pocket. Sure, it only does two damage, but like I said earlier if you want to have your archer build keep up with full-auto goons you pretty much have to be rolling somewhere in the vicinity of 20 dice, so two damage might be all you really need.
I suggest using the Giantslayer to make called shots to specific parts of the body using the advanced combat rules found later in Run & Gun, particularly the limbs. Cripple targets for your allies to finish off, or to give yourself an easier time of it, or to stop them from chasing you as you flee. Whatever you do with it, it’s so cheap that if you’re maining Archery you really have no excuse not to have one as a last-ditch backup weapon.
Dynamic Tension Bow
This is for adepts mostly, or other people who expect to be changing their Strength stat regularly for some reason. It costs a little more than a Rating 10 bow, so if you’re not an adept with a Strength boost power you probably want to buy a regular one, but this thing is a godsend for archery adepts.
There’s a bit of a typo in this weapon’s Bow statblock in the book. The value under Reach is supposed to be under Damage, and the value under Damage is supposed to be under AP.
The important thing to note about the Trollbow isn’t the troll horn blades attached to it that let you use it as a knife with a little bit of reach. The important thing is that it can go up to rating 12, instead of rating 10 like every other bow out there. It’s less accurate and more expensive, but those are problems that can be overcome with smartlinks (since it’s noted to be a compound bow) and reconsidering how much you really need a decent lifestyle.
The big problem with the Trollbow isn’t the accuracy or cost. The problem is now you have a decision to make: what do you sacrifice in order to get that 12 Strength? Because it’s going to have to be something. If you have to decide between hitting the target and doing damage, always choose hitting the target, and if you have to make a choice between Agility and Strength in your archer build, you should choose Agility if you want to build for maximum efficiency. If you want to build to have fun, however, then by all means, use a Trollbow. It’s a hilarious weapon.
Hey, you know what does everything the Airbow does except better? A heavy crossbow. Sure, a heavy crossbow is 200 nuyen more expensive, but the Airbow has to fire arrows of at least rating six, which cost twelve nuyen per arrow as opposed to the crossbow’s five nuyen per bolt. Also, crossbows can store four bolts in an internal magazine, while the Airbow is one-at-a-time muzzle-loading for three shots, which is when the air tank runs out and you’re screwed.
Don’t bother with this weapon. If you absolutely need a sneakier crossbow, get one with the Easy Breakdown modification from Hard Targets. It’s a fair bit more expensive, but the end result is much more useful.
Arrowheads and Shafts
Run & Gun and Hard Targets
To be an effective archer you really need both of these sourcebooks. Run & Gun has most of the special arrowheads in it, and Hard Targets has things like the quickdraw quiver and seeker shafts, which help mitigate some of archery’s flaws in a world of machine guns.
Unless otherwise stated, the following is from Run & Gun. Here’s what you should know about the different arrowheads you can choose from:
- Barbed: These are flat-out better than normal arrows, if somewhat more cruel. Barbed and monotip are the only kinds of arrowheads that don’t decrease your Accuracy when using them, so if you’re having problems with hitting your physical limit take that into consideration. That said, explosive arrows are flat-out better and only cost five nuyen more, with the only real disadvantages being the aforementioned accuracy penalty and the fact that you probably can’t recover explosive-tipped arrows afterwards.
- Explosive: Beautiful. If you want to be an archer in the Sixth World, you’re going to need these. If you’re worried about the accuracy loss just buy a smartlink for your bow already. Bonus damage and bonus armor penetration to weapons that tend to struggle with both is not something you can afford to ignore.
- Hammerhead: This is your version of gel rounds. They’re cheap and pretty good at what they do, so my advice is to pick up a bunch for when you don’t actually want to put a shaft through someone’s heart. Don’t use them on hard targets, but anything else should be fair game.
- Incendiary: These are what makes the light and pistol crossbows useful. Grab a bunch of them for your Ranger Sliver, but if you’ve got the strength to be using a top-tier bow you should probably ignore these for your main weapon. You can get more damage out of explosive rating 10 shafts.
- As dezzmont on Reddit pointed out to me, I forgot about the fact that incendiary arrowheads can have a blast radius if you choose to detonate them mid-flight. With a high rating bow you can throw one of these things a little over half a kilometer, which means that incendiary arrowheads are the only sniper-range area of effect weapons you can get without shelling out a lot of money for rockets. So ignore what I said in the previous paragraph and pick up a couple of these for your main bow, for when you need to drop an old-school airstrike on someone.
- Screamers: In a world where wireless communications exist, these are less than useful.
- Stick-n-Shock: Same thinking as incendiary heads.
- Static Shafts: These make stick-n-shock heads hilariously effective, but also crazy expensive. If you are a weak-armed archer, you’ll probably want to pick up some of these with stick-n-shock heads to boost your damage to reasonable levels, but otherwise only pick up if you can spare the investment money, because that nuyen adds up fast.
- Monotip Arrows (Hard Targets): In Hard Targets we are finally able to use centuries-old armor penetrating technology in the form of what I choose to believe are advanced bodkin points, despite the description stating otherwise. As much as I like to see these finally in the game, though, you should not waste your money on them. You have to buy these per arrow instead of per arrow head, and at 30 nuyen per rating per arrow this is, absolutely and without question, just another way of pissing nuyen down the drain. Especially when you can buy a rating 10 explosive-tipped arrow for 35 nuyen. Monotip arrows are almost ten times more expensive than something that is more effective, and despite how useful they would otherwise be I cannot recommend getting them for that.
- On the plus side, if you do get them, I imagine they’d be pretty easy to pull out of your targets afterwards.
- Seeker Shafts (Hard Targets): I like these things. Spend a simple action to get between one and three dice that you wouldn’t have otherwise had until you either switch targets or lose visual contact, on top of your usual smartlink bonuses. The extra forty-five nuyen per arrow that this costs means that unless you’re swimming in cash you’re not going to want to use them all the time, but I can definitely see having a dozen or so on hand for special occasions. They’re expensive enough that you’re likely going to want to retrieve them from your targets when possible, but cheap enough that it’s not a huge loss if you don’t. I wouldn’t use them with explosive or incendiary heads (unless you really don’t care about getting them back), but a barbed or shocking seeker could do some damn good work for you.
Like bows, how effective these are really depends on your Strength. If you’re going for a brawler build and can afford to drop a few points into the Throwing skill, knives or shuriken would be a pretty good buy–they’re cheap and have some fun wireless bonuses that you can use to pincushion people if they’re annoying you. Just don’t expect them to do the heavy lifting for you unless you focus your build on them to an unhealthy degree.
I’m going to talk about every kind of grenade here, because they’re all so damn useful. In every shadowrunner’s emergency kit should be a thermal smoke grenade, a pepper punch gas grenade and a high explosive grenade, no exceptions. Put that in your bugout bag, and put another set in your purse or under your coat. I personally like to carry a smoke grenade around wherever I go, because there’s nothing better for making a quick escape.
The trick is to remember that grenades aren’t just for clearing rooms–they’re utility devices. Use frag grenades for cheap traps. Use HE grenades to blow holes in weak walls or windows. Use flashbangs when you don’t want to kill everyone but still need to drop a large group, or just to give the enemy some wound penalties when the real firefight begins. Use gas grenades to send guard posts to sleep, clear out crowds or deny portions of the battlefield to the enemy. Tape a flash-pak to your head and become the disco threat you always wanted to be. If you get ambushed, pop thermal smoke and turn on your ultrasound. Drop a regular smoke grenade in the garbage can to set off the fire alarm. If you own Run & Gun, fill a couple paint grenades with Ultra Glide, drop them out the back of your car and watch your pursuers skid straight off the road.
You can never have too many grenades, or too many types of grenades. Remember that and you will do well in the shadows.
Run & Gun
Cheap, does decent damage, but inaccurate. The BoomerEye surveillance version is what makes the boomerang interesting, to me. The book doesn’t give any other price than that of a basic boomerang, so I assume that the BoomerEye costs the same, which means you get a nice little scouting tool for fifty nuyen. Not a bad deal, all things considered. This is also one of the few throwing weapons that you can get back without having to hustle over to the body you just ventilated, which is a nice bonus.
Run & Gun
Good damage, a little armor piercing, costs a surprising amount of nuyen. These things aren’t going to replace firearms any time soon, but like the harpoon gun there’s some entertainment value in slapping on a captain’s hat and going hunting for HTR troopers.
Run & Gun
This really isn’t as useful as shock or gel rounds when it comes to subduing someone. It’s something for people who can’t afford real weapons. That said, if you’re hunting dangerous paracritters, having something like this around to slow them down might not be a bad idea, especially if it’s something nasty that you already know you won’t be able to drop in one turn. It’s less useful against anything that can shoot you from inside it, but against melee targets like large predators or ghouls anything that buys your team a little more time to fill them with lead is worth a look.
Urban Tribes Tomahawk
Run & Gun
Now this, this is a nice one. The Urban Tribes Tomahawk is the only weapon in the game that adds to your Physical Limit when you’re using it, and it does decent damage and has some armor penetration to boot. If you’re going for a Throwing or Blades build, a tomahawk would be a damn fine thing to invest in. They’re not so cheap that you want to be throwing them at everyone, but one or two shouldn’t break the bank. Also, the picture of it in the book looks rad as hell.
Ares’ laser weapons are useful in very specific circumstances, and hellishly bad the rest of the time. Lasers have universally low damage, but very good armor-piercing, which makes the niche Ares intends for them obvious–anti-armor weapons. Unfortunately, you can get that same armor-piercing for cheaper, and with more damage, by purchasing an anti-material rifle and using APDS rounds.
Laser weapons do have one major thing going for them, though. If you mount them to a drone or vehicle, and hook the laser up to the vehicle’s power supply, you get effectively unlimited ammo with it, which turns Ares’ sci-fi toys from mediocre anti-armor weapons into fantastic pursuit guns for your crew van or main weapon for a particularly expensive drone. Instead of spending thousands buttering up your one contact who can get you milspec ammunition, just grab one of these for your main combat bot and you’re set for the rest of your career.
Don’t bother with the Redline unless you seriously feel the need for some handheld sci-fi blasting. The Lancer and the wonderfully brutal Archon Heavy are more worth your time.
Run & gun
Cheaper and more accurate than its big brother in the Gun H(e)aven supplement, the Blazer is a fine choice for a flamethrower, and really the only one I can recommend since the Incinerator costs ten thousand nuyen and this one is only a little over two thousand. The differences are really not pronounced enough to justify that price difference. If you want a flamethrower–and who doesn’t? –get yourself a Blazer. Use it as a terror weapon, to break up enemy formations and set shit on fire. If you have a couple spare rotodrones or crawlers, slap these on them and you’ve got yourself a fine burn team for any trips into the jungle or bug country you might be taking.
Shiawase Arms Incinerator
Gun H(e)aven 3
More damage, less accuracy, more fuel, and almost five times the cost of the Blazer. Not worth the nuyen, if you can get your hands on a Blazer.
THE WEIRD ONES
Most of these are less than useful because you have to take a weapon skill specifically for that weapon. With each, however, you should keep in mind that if you mount the weapon on a vehicle or drone you’re going to use the Gunnery skill for it, no matter what kind of gun it is. Riggers, pay attention to this shit, because you can get some fantastic gear here working for you a lot easier than anyone else can.
Ares S-III Super Squirt
This is essentially a gun that can only fire capsule rounds, and as such is much less versatile than just getting a gun and some capsule rounds. In its favor is the fact that its ammo comes with DMSO already in the capsule, which means you don’t have to shell out for that particular drug. Depending on what chemical payload you’re putting together that might mean a lot of savings for you.
Personally, I usually stick with capsule rounds.
Fichetti Pain Inducer
This is crowd control, not knockout, so in a serious fight where you need to put the other side down I wouldn’t bother with the Pain Inducer. That said, it is a nice support tool for someone who isn’t necessarily a frontline combatant, letting them suppress the biggest and baddest enemy while the rest of the team cleans up everyone else. Mount it on a drone and you’ve got effectively unlimited ammo, too.
Parashield Dart Pistol/Rifle
These two are the epitome of nonlethal, silent takedowns. Parashield’s air guns are what narcoject was made for, to the point where using any other drug with them should only be done in special circumstances (for example, using bitters on an out-of-control berserker). Clean and elegant weapons, for operators who value that sort of thing.
Ares Screech Sonic Rifle
Run & Gun
I really like this weapon. It’s pretty much the best piece of nonlethal equipment you can get. It ignores armor, is resisted with Willpower instead of Body for easier takedown of heavies, and causes disorientation and nausea even if it doesn’t drop the target completely. Beautiful piece of work. The only real issues with the Sonic Rifle are that it uses peak discharge battery packs, which are expensive and hard to get, and that it itself is also expensive and hard to get. If you can get your hands on one, cherish it, because it will do good work for you.
Run & Gun
This is a drug delivery system. Anyone using it for anything other than that has some issues. Disguise it as a pen and use narcoject injection darts, and you can walk armed pretty much anywhere.
Run & Gun
I’m not sure why these don’t use the Throwing skill, but if you want to spend the points on getting the skill for this very specific weapon they aren’t too bad. Especially the monofilament version. That’s some nasty stuff. A monofilament bola with grenades replacing the weights is straight fucking evil. Use only on people you really don’t like.
FN-AAL Gyrojet Pistol
Run & Gun
This is mostly meant for underwater use, but it’s pretty sweet on land, too. The FN-AAL’s statblock doesn’t explicitly say that it uses a specific Exotic Weapon skill, so you might be able to argue your GM into being able to use Pistols for it, which would be fantastic. It’s expensive and rare, but damn if it isn’t a fine weapon. High damage and high armor piercing make the FN-AAL better than any heavy pistol you can get.
The problem: getting ammunition for this thing is a pain in the ass. It actually looks to me like there’s a typo in the errata where the ammunition gets added in, because it has a completely different damage code than the basic weapon and is harder to find than the pistol itself.
Run & Gun
There are easier ways to sneak a gun through security. Unless you really, really think the extra damage will help, just get a Streetline Special instead. If you’re trying to keep up appearances as a gentleman of wealth and taste and you really want a cane, then between the legit Trafalgar gun cane and the knockoffs I think I actually prefer the knockoff–you’re rarely going to be using it and it’s one shot anyway, so the extra couple points of damage really helps.
Maybe I just don’t have as much class as whoever is carrying these things around, I don’t know.
SA Retiarus Net Gun
Run & Gun
There are better ways of capturing people, but none of them are as cartoonishly entertaining as firing a net gun at someone. I know the net gun is a really stupid weapon, but I can’t help liking it. I have to argue against getting one, because they’re mad expensive and not super useful, but if you think you can get some use out of it by all means do, and let me know how it went. Try the shock nets, they seem like they could do some good work.
Much like the basic net, this is not for use against people who can shoot out of the net at you, but rather for firing at paracritters, ghouls, protesters or other melee combatants.
Tiffani Elegance Shooting Bracers
Run & Gun
Not terrible, but still kind of a toy for rich kids rather than serious runners. If this is the only way you can see to get a weapon past security or if you want a last-ditch of last-ditch holdout, then there are worse options, but it’s still a single-shot pistol that costs more than most assault rifles.
This is the cheapest flamethrower you can buy, and is really quite good for that price. It doesn’t deal as much damage as the Blazer or Incinerator, and is single-shot only, but it still gives you holdout or light pistol damage with flamethrower armor penetration and the ability to set people on fire, all for less than a thousand nuyen and in an easily concealed package. That’s a damn good deal in my book.
Shiawase Arms Simoom
It’s the full-auto capability that makes this one interesting, I think. You really need that ability when it comes to exotic weapons that you’re unlikely to have super high skills with. The extra armor the Simoom provides is also nice. Overall, though, I think I prefer the flame bracers–they’re much cooler, and much cheaper.
This is the drug injection method of choice for people who decided that dart guns are too fancy. The big bonus here is that you can throw a ton of them at the same target in a very short amount of time, which is kind of an expensive option with most of the drugs you’d want to put in them. I honestly can’t recommend using these over a normal dart pistol, especially since they don’t actually use the Throwing skill, instead ending up under Exotic. You’d have to put a lot of points in for something that isn’t hugely useful.
The Armatus does not have as much damage or armor penetration as I would expect for a laser shotgun. The ability to adjust the spread like a shotgun choke is nice, but the Lancer does more damage, is more accurate, has twice the armor penetration and costs less. The Armatus is a prototype, and it shows, which is unfortunate because the concept is pretty damn awesome. As things stand, though, I think I have to caution people that they should probably be waiting for the next generation of this weapon rather than jumping on this one.
Narcoject Gas Gun
Gas grenades are cheaper. That said, grenade launchers tend to be illegal as hell, so if you’re looking for a gas dispersal system for a drone that you want to be somewhat legitimate looking, then the gas gun might be for you. Mount it to a bigger tank of compressed air in the drone’s body (read: ammo bins upgrade) and start cropdusting fools.
Pulsed Energy Projectile weapons are super cool in real life. They’re also super cool in Shadowrun. This weapon is fantastic, and I would suggest that everyone get one, if it weren’t for two things: 1) It’s mad expensive, and 2) It uses peak discharge battery packs, which are difficult to acquire. If you’re a hyper-rich rigger (like, “Why are you even a shadowrunner anymore” rich), by all means mount one of these on your favorite drone, but everyone else is going to take one look at that price tag and realize they can get equipment that’s almost as good for much, much cheaper.
Oh man oh man, I wish this were cheaper so I could recommend it. The Trackstopper is absolutely hilarious, and would be a mainstay of any crowd-control kit if the damn thing didn’t cost 8,500 nuyen.
And there we go. Exotic, Archery and Throwing ranged weapons for Shadowrun Fifth Edition. Hopefully someone finds this helpful when building a character, or when trying to decide what to buy next.