Your commlink does more than just sit in your pocket (or on your head). It interprets the Matrix around you to give you extra information and capability that can be useful in civilian life and vital in the shadows. This is done with augmented reality, or AR. AR overlays information on things in real-life in a way only you can perceive.

Let’s say you’re walking down the street in Downtown Seattle’s shopping district. Your commlink may seem like it’s sitting quietly, but in fact it’s quite busy. It’s regularly communicating with other devices and hosts around you, sharing information about your location and your movement. The other devices and hosts are sending information right back, telling you who else is out there, what stores are having sales, what movies are playing at which theaters, and so on. If you look at your commlink screen, you’d have all that information overlaid on an image of where you are, providing a mini heads-up display. But let’s say you live in the current decade, and you don’t interact with the world around you with just a screen. You may have glasses, or sunglasses, or contacts, or goggles, or cybereyes, or something that puts this information right in your field of vision. Overlaid on the world are icons telling you that shoes like the ones you bought last year are now half off, and there’s a dotted line leading you to the theater showing the sequel to the trid show you thought was wiz, and the people walking down the street are occasionally highlighted by glowing auras—nice blue ones representing your friends, glaring red ones telling you that someone you know and should be avoiding is coming close. You have more than just your natural vision—you’ve got everything in the database you’re carrying with you.

The civilized world adapted quickly to augmented reality, mostly because it’s easier than printing things on paper or making signs. Augmented reality objects, or AROs (pronounced “arrows”), are used to show information and decorate spaces on the cheap. Stores have their logos blazoned in 3D above their door, restaurants offer animated menus complete with tantalizing images of their food, street names hover over every intersection, decorators use AR objects to spruce up interiors, all viewable in AR for anyone who has the capability, which is pretty much everybody. The unintended side effect is that things can look a bit dingy when you turn off your AR display, but that’s the price of progress.

You don’t have to be an expert to make an ARO. If you want to send directions to your place from the party, you can draw a line on an AR map and share it with your friends. If you want to point out a person in a crowd for a buddy, you can make an ARO highlighting that person and send it. You can choose which of your AROs are seen by which people, so you can keep it private or, if you’re feeling impish, put vulgar AROs on RFID tags and scatter them around town for all to see. Of course, other people can filter out the AROs they don’t want to see, and so can you.

Augmented reality isn’t just visual information, either. You can hear audio AROs if you have earbuds or a cyberear. AROs can be tactile if you have a haptic device like AR gloves. Engineers are still working on putting physical scent into AR displays, and we’d rather not talk about AR flavors. On the other hand, if you use AR with a direct neural interface like trodes or an implant, you can use all of your senses to view AR without any extra devices.

Most of what you keep on your commlink are files, this includes music, your SIN (fake or otherwise), licenses (also fake or otherwise), maps, email messages, your contact book, AROs, and so on. These files are visible to people who can see your commlink in the Matrix, so most people keep all of their files in a protected folder.

So where do you store all of the things you want to keep? Pictures from your Aunt Edna’s wedding, credit information, your SIN, every book and movie you’ve bought, all the programs you might want to run—all of it fits on your commlink (or cyberdeck if you prefer). In fact, every device on the Matrix has a massive amount of storage space, unthinkable amounts by early 21st century standards. Your gamemaster might decide that a device is too small or low-grade or a file so massively large that a problem comes up, but such problems are extremely rare. Even if it does, the entire world is wireless, so you shouldn’t have trouble finding an alternate storage location.


Your commlink could be the most important piece of gear you own. It keeps you in contact with the rest of your team, even if you’re scattered across the entire sprawl. You can share information like images, floor plans, and tactical instructions almost instantly, even in the middle of a firefight. It gives you AR displays for your surroundings, not just what other people put there but AROs created by your companions, which come in handy when your shaman tags a mage among the enemy security forces or a spotter drone maps the location of all the guard dogs it can find. A good commlink can also protect your own devices (including your gun) from opposing hackers. Some shadowrunners prefer to go without one, but most agree that the commlink is right up there with ammo in terms of usefulness.


So you’re not the team’s hacker, but you’ve got this commlink on your character sheet. What is it good for, you may ask? A lot of things, but not so many that you need to memorize this entire chapter. Here’s a short list of Matrix rules and actions you can use to get all you can out of your commlink.


You should know which grid you’re using, but unless you’ve bought an upgrade, your grid is dictated by your lifestyle:

  • Low or lower: public grid
  • Middle: local grid
  • High: global grid—pick one of the Big Ten megacorps to be your grid provider.
  • Luxury: you can be on any grid you want, chummer.


Your gamemaster will occasionally ask for one of two Matrix attributes: Data Processing or (if your hacker isn’t doing her job) Firewall. Unless your commlink is a custom job, both of these attributes are equal to your commlink’s rating. Just keep a note by your commlink entry in your character sheet’s gear section.


As a typical Matrix user, there are only a few Matrix actions you might want to take a look at:

  • Change Icon: If you’re tooling around in VR, you’ll need this action from p. 238 to get the look you want.
  • Edit File: If you’re going to do any text, audio, or video editing, or you just like to write reports, you might want to know about the Edit File action, p. 239. You also use this action to protect files on your commlink, which is what seasoned shadowrunners like to call a Good Idea.
  • Full Matrix Defense: If your commlink or any connected devices are under attack, and you’re not sure what to do, just turn on all of your commlink’s active defenses with this action, p. 240.
  • Matrix Search: After communication, googling is the biggest advantage to having the Matrix in your pocket. Start your search on p. 241.
  • Send Message: This action will probably the main use for your commlink. It’s not complicated, but you can read up on it on p. 242.