A downloadable game

Buy Now$15.00 USD or more

Runners in the Shadows is a game Forged in the Dark about a group of daring operatives building a criminal enterprise in a fantastical dystopian vision of near-future Earth. There will be dangerous meets, crazy heists, bloody fights, chases, escapes, deceptions, betrayals, successes, and deaths. It's a bit like Blade Runner meets Ocean's Eleven, but there's ghosts and ninjas.

  • Playing this is like a TV show set on Earth, but featuring a flexible mixture of escapism and realism - providing a relaxing way to appreciate and confront issues present in the real world, without being subject to its many burdens (such as reprisal from our fellow humans who live in this world with us). Think of the gaming group you will form as your safehouse, so to speak - a place to discuss and confront these dark reflections about ourselves and the world we live in. For me, it's a place where we can say something about a life of criminality and vice, and laugh at (or revel in) the "rewards" and pitfalls of hypocrisy, anger, and greed.
  • The Man won, the world is haunted, sure... but What about it is too familiar to our own world? What supernatural things are common there that would we find surprising? There is a rich metaplot to explore if you're into that, but you'll also need to make this fantasy Earth your own. The tone is flexible: switching from "black trenchcoat" to "pink mohawk," and options for everything in-between are covered in the expanded Running the Game & Changing the Game sections.

Play to find out if the fledgling crew can thrive amidst the teeming threats of rival crews, powerful gangs, ruthless agents, corrupt law enforcement, and the sweet allure of the future’s many vices.

Plug in, reload, and breathe deep of the cost of becoming a legend in the shadows.


  • A game based on the same robust set of rules that helped win Blades in the Dark its place among the best games of 2015 and 2016. Runners places a heavy focus on the fiction first: to do it, you have to do itThere are new rules too - not like A LOT, but definitely enough to warrant a standalone game.
  • More than a reskin, full conversions of the Blades crew playbooks to cyberpunk themed playbooks are included: AssassinsCouriers, a Cult, (arcane or emergent), Mercenaries, or Shadows. Plus, an all new crew playbook for those Radicals who hope to be the change they want to see in the world.
  • Includes a detailed setting guide for play in the rapidly growing city of Kingston, Jamaica, which feeds off the datasphere surrounding its recent freedom from British rule in an alternate-history Earth. Artifacts recovered from newly discovered mythical cities such as Aztlan in the Caribbean Sea are drawing great interest here from abroad. With entry to the vortex guarded by many supernatural threats, and local waters threatened by pirates and angry spirits, those willing to go fetch a high price on the high seas. Or maybe you set your story in another sprawl of your choosing: guides and play tools for stories set in Hong Kong and the Enclave of Seattle are both included. 
  • Tons of friends & enemies (and frenemies) to make in this game, plus a complete gallery of factions designed to inspire creative play in high custom or pure vanilla sandbox, totally unique to your player group. Don't want magic? Toss it (that part is modular, so you can do that). You do want dwarves and trolls and all that? Grab the option pack for that, and you're golden.
  • Slick teamwork mechanics to get things moving from whatever angle you can come up with. Maybe you want to assist the Muscle by bricking their opponent's gun for a cyberpunk tag team move? No problem: get involved directly to increase their impact or negate some of the risk. Or maybe you just want to hack someone to grant a small benefit for the Muscle in a fight? Easy: spend 1 edge and narrate yourself in, and boom: your teammate gets to roll an extra die to blast 'em! Better hope they roll well though.. you are involved too.


  • Rules to create your runner using seven futuristic criminal packages of abilities and accompanying fiction that you can mix and match to your heart's content: the FaceHacker, Muscle, Punk, RiggerSnake, & Trigger. Plus three optional, supernatural playbooks. These are mutually-exclusive and quite unique from one another: the AdeptMage, & TechnoThese are also built with their optionality in mind, to support so--called "vanilla" or magic-free cyberpunk stories. Obviously I am biased: but I think you should keep them in, so you have to fill your kitchen sink with even higher-flying stuff.
  • All runners are not created equal.. the rules for permutations let you trade out gear for dice, or take on more rivals to get more cool stuff or whateverDozens of new special items to satiate the GAS (gear acquisition syndrome) in all of you. High-flying drones, killer attack pets, and street drugs: oh my.
  • A complete character story system. Get rich (or die trying) so you can retire to a comfy spot with a side income you can rely upon. Or don't... and end up awash in vice, misery, and poverty. If you do happen to die, maybe keep playing as a Free Spirit. Or I don't know.. get infected instead, so you'll become a biological vampire with heightened magical powers (not the ones of Victorian myth). Or heck, throw your brain into a capsule to become a shell, so you can transcend your silly mortal coil. Cyberpunk story generator: FULLY ENGAGED.
  • Bonuses galore: a veritable cornucopia of gameplay options, as well as advanced permissions & abilities to change and expand the game to suit your tastes. Gun-Fu. Initiation. Forgotten Mentors & Emergent Paragons. Ley Lines & Geomancy. War Machines. Centaurs. Pixies. Aliens!? Pretty much the whole kitchen sink..  
  • A detailed chapter on Kingston, complete with accompanying handouts: a district map, faction trackers, and all the NPCs, schemes, and rumors you need to run an exciting sandbox game. Plus, a tense starting situation involving a murderous crime family & their hit squads, brutal go-gangers, and a squad of former pilots turned mercenary-smugglers. 


Number of players: 3-6. 
Age of players: 13+ (18+ suggested)
Length: 2-5 hours per session. 
Page Count: 379 (full game). The Sheets PDF is also included and features 45 pages of handouts and playbooks you absolutely need to create characters and play. However, the full game is recommended for the best experience - especially GMs planning to run the game. Either way, use the included Extra Materials and Online Keeper linked on this page to facilitate online play, and be sure to get hooked up with the community via the fan Discord (scroll to and expand the Additional Info to see all the Links).


Also included is a one-shot-friendly, brochure-style version of the character sheet (Runners Lite) to get a game started super quickly!


The black & white version of the Sheets is available as a pay-what-you-want item.


The number of pages means this book is estimated to cost at least $40 to print. The costs and availability of the game in print can be accurately reassessed after going final with page count and printing options. All purchasers of the early release of Runners in the Shadows will receive full credit for what they spent on their purchase here, applied towards their future purchase of the "print + PDF bundle" of this game - options are being considered and I look forward to making a more substantial announcement.


Buy Now$15.00 USD or more

In order to download this game you must purchase it at or above the minimum price of $15 USD. You will get access to the following files:

Runners in the Shadows core.pdf 9 MB
Runners Sheets 4 MB

Exclusive content

Support this game at or above a special price point to receive something exclusive.

Community Copy

When someone supports at or above a certain amount they gift a copy to the community (one community copy of the full game is generated per $5 donated which exceeds the base amount).

Claim this reward to get the full game for no charge.

Note: Community copies for prior purchases are counted and issued no more than once a month. Follow here or on Twitter for immediate updates. I also post the tweet to the community Discord under #server-news. Be sure to use your itch.io login (with valid associated email) to claim this. EZPZ lemon squeezy. 

Download demo

Runners Sheets b+w.pdf 2 MB
trifold.pdf 718 kB

Development log

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Encountered a 10 page blank area in my core rulebook, pages 49 - 59 are blank. It looks low I am missing the entire character creation section. Am I missing something? 

Thanks for mentioning this! You shouldn't actually be missing any pages though: scroll past those ten blank pages to find Character Creation as expected (but with wrong pagination). Alternatively, download the game again  (and replace the one you have). 

To explain a bit: The issue you mention was reported privately almost immediately after that 0.998 went out, so I uploaded a hotfix of the PDF almost immediately afterwards, with the pagination fixed (and a weird device specific issue I have to work around from now on as well!) - but to be clear, it was just pagination, not missing pages as it appears.


I cannot find the patched version :/

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wot. check again/clear Cache, then check again? I absolutely double-checked the version available did not include blank pages yesterday before replying. I knew I did it ages ago though..

OH: It does confusingly have the exact same version number! (again, this was not a significant change to the rules, but a repair of an export with Extra blank pages, which caused the page references to break)

Hope this helps

Also sorry about that!


Oh great, as long as I'm not missing anything it's fine! Thanks for the quick reply, I'm loving this system already! 

That IS good news :) can't wait for you to see the finished thing


I gotta say this too. I love the Recovery and Healing mechanics in Runners In The Shadows, it's closer to Scum and Villainy's rather than Blades In The Dark's.

Thank you so much for this Mark.

I highly highly recommend Runners In The Shadows game guys, cool refinement of the Forged In The Dark system and one of the coolest ones.

Deleted 1 year ago

aw well shucks - thanks for your glowing review of that bit zerodan! 

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Is there any update regarding a print version becoming available in the future? I'm all for PDF's but find them harder to use at the table than dead trees. If plans for a print version get dropped, is there a possibility of going print-on-demand, instead? I really would like to get this game, but again, I'm all about having dead-tree editions, if possible. Should print or POD still be on the table, I have no issue dropping some cash now on the PDF.

I know: it's been way too long! Best info I have now is this is about to be top priority, but things got delayed for important business: IE the first annual the online Forged in the Dark convention we are planning to hold in less than a week! And I promised by now-dead-friend that inspired me to finish it that I would indeed print it.. So stay tuned please, I've just been busy working on this goodness


Will there be Community Copies added again in the future?

Deleted 1 year ago

Yes, some became available just a couple hours ago. 

PS My fault for missing last month, I just got sidetracked and the month ran away from me while I was waiting for proofing of this major update to finish. Stay tuned on the blog here to get immediate notifications in the future, and thanks for asking


Thank you so much! I’m so excited!

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Me too! I actually wondered if you'd tell me how you liked it, and if you got into a game? I didnt see you join the Discord, but I appreciate you just the same :>


Is there any Community Copy update for this month? The demo sheets have really intrigued me and I'm very interested in seeing the full PDF but money is a bit tight right now.

Oh, dang: Sorry I missed This! I got you though: I just counted them up again and a bunch came out yesterday and today. Hopefully can get one if you are still strapped or whatever :> cheers

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This is clearly a labor love by Mark. The writings and languages are clear, being a fully stand alone Forged In The Dark  that can often be a hefty tome. Runners in the Shadows is really easy to understand. The playbooks and crewbooks are also easy to understand and suits the setting really well. The explanations on both augmentations and magic are also really well explained.

Great work Mark, thank you so much for making this awesome game. I am eagerly waiting the game's awesome final form haha.  Best regards Mark.


Thank you kindly.

This book would have benefitted greatly from more diagrams to go along with the text. The rules go to great lengths to describe factors of scale, advantage, position, etc, that all factor into a given dice roll. However, due to the way this information is presented, I have a really hard time parsing any of it. I understand this product is the result of a very small-scale operation, but even some visuals made in photoshop or ms paint would have gone a long way.

(4 edits) (+1)

thanks for the feedback. Additional visuals are being prepared. Perhaps I should do some more than Blades did in this case. An illustration of the factors (potency, scale, and quality/tier) seems do-able. What do you wish it showed?

Anything else you thought needed an illustration?

Edit: Also I'm curious if you are a player or GM?

I'm looking to gm a game for my table. I'm realizing now that a lot of the mechanics do come straight out of blades in the dark, which I hadn't read yet, so my comment may have been unduly harsh. Blades suffers from the same problem though, I wish more rpg books had diagrams, flowcharts, and just general maps of how the ideas in a given game flow together.


I detected a little harshness, but I'm nonetheless interested in helping remedy whatever is unclear.  Maybe something like this helps?  Not sure what else about the factors can be communicated with a diagram to be honest. Trying :)