Cyberware in Shadowrun tends to be awfully standardized. Despite hundreds of companies, and thousands of individual physicians and tinkerers, there really aren’t very many items available. That never seemed especially satisfactory somehow – so we broke the stuff down into subsystems and let people design their own cyberware, mixing and matching as needed to produce just the system they wanted. In this case we’re covering Holdouts – certainly the most basic, and yet quite possibly the most versatile, system around. After all, if a gadget doesn’t need to interface with your muscles or anatomy other than through a datajack, all you really need to turn it into cyberware is a basic DNI (Direct Neural Interface) and a place to tuck it away inside your body.

   Holdout Systems are plastic-lined, hollowed-out, spaces in their recipient’s tissues. They can be “installed” virtually anywhere, limited only by the desired size. They are quite difficult to detect – and are commonly used for high-security transport/smuggling. A holdout can also be used to “install” equipment which doesn’t require neuromuscular connections – such as locators, insulin pumps, optronic decks, and transmitters. Items in a holdout can be accessed via DNI, and can even be networked with other cyberware thru it, but otherwise have no direct connection with the user’s tissues. It usually takes two simple actions – plus whatever time it takes to get to the location if it’s beneath armor or some such – to get something out of a holdout. The contents of a holdout do count towards encumbrance.


   Holdout Options include:
  • Sealed – Provides a “+2” on the target number for detecting the holdout and/or it’s contents. The contents can only be accessed via minor surgery. No modification to Essence/NY costs.
  • CyberRelease – Makes getting something out a free action at an additional cost of .1 Essence and 1000 NY.
  • Screened – Installed with a special “lining” designed to defeat instrumental detection. Cyberscanners and such take +3 on their target numbers. No essence cost, +4000 NY.
  • Vented – An open channel to the a body surface, with a cosmetic cover. Usually used to allow sensor probes and such to be extended, although a few systems use it to release – or recharge with – various chemicals. +.05 Essence and 500 NY. Probes can be extended and retracted manually – or they can be wired to extend and retract cybrenetically at a cost of .05 Essence and 1000 NY. 
  • Hardened – Lined with rigid, armored, plastic, instead of soft stuff. This provides excellent protection for whatever’s inside, but reduces the concealment rating by three. No modification to Essence/NY costs.
  • Low Impact – Basically installed in a bony area or natural body cavity. Examples include holdouts in teeth, in the intestinal tract, or in the top of the mouth. -.1 Essence, no change in the NY cost. As a rule, this is limited to rating-one holdouts and/or probe/retractor systems
  • “CyberLimb” – Basically these cover mounting almost any kind of gadget in a cyberlimb. The essence cost of the appropriate level of “holdout” is counted against the amount of ware which the cyberreplacement can accept.
  • Sheath – A specialized version designed to fit a specific device, most commonly a cyberblade. This halves the essence cost of the systems and, if the device is especially designed to fit into a location, allows up to a two “level” variation in the allowable locations. For an example, see the “Oral Spur”.
Holdout Statistical Data:

System Elements


Function At A Glance

Holdout, 1-6


(Rating) x (Rating) x 1000 NY base.


Not compatible with Cyber-Release system. No cost. +2 to concealment.



+1000 NY. See description.


+4000 NY. +3 Versus detection by instruments.



+500 NY. With cybernetic extension and retraction +.05 Essence and 1000 NY.


No cost. -3 concealment.



In a tooth or something.


See above.



See above. The NY cost is not affected.





Possible Locations



.1 KG




.5 KG

Anywhere but head and hands



1.0 KG

Arm Leg or Torso



2.0 KG

Leg or Torso



5.0 KG





Artificial stomach, fake hunchback, or similar.


Sample Holdout Loads;

  • I; Chip, small vial, monofilament whip, minilight, doorkey, minigrenade, slap patch, pacemaker, assorted “fingertip” items, or an emergency micro-beacon.
  • II; Holdout pistol, standard optronic deck, packet of chips or drugs, a small selection of bugs, tracers and similar gear, various “pocket kits”, spare ammo (An incredibly stupid idea, but sometimes necessary), 20- minute air tank, or insulin pump.
  • III; Light pistol, four grenades, packet of paper, credstick verifier (For the would-be cyber-merchant), assortment of fetishes, bundle of synthetic rope.
  • IV; Heavy pistols, large flashlight, survival kit, sequencer, or signal locater.
  • V; Signal amplifier, Portacam, Remote Control Deck and so on.
  • VI; Anything you can talk your GM into.

2 Responses

  1. here is a weird question completely out of the blue: does the size of the person have any impact on essence costs for holdouts? (trolls = less ess for larger holdouts)

    It occurred to me while thinking of cybering some animals. so it might not have much impact on normal meta-humans but maybe things like birds, squirrels, elephants, and whales might get different essence costs for similarly sized holdouts.

  2. The size of the host does have an impact, but – for game purposes – only when the size difference starts getting really large, if the system involved isn’t primarily costing essence due to neural connections, and if it doesn’t have to scale with the creature (like most bodywide systems, such as muscle replacement, dermal armor, and skillwires).

    For a rough guide, if it weighs less than fifty pounds essence costs for fixed-size systems go up 50% if they can be installed at all. If it weights less than 10 pounds, they double (and likely become impossible). If it weighs more than a ton, reduce the cost by 50%. If it weighs more than 10 tons, reduce the cost by 75%. Of course, this very rarely comes up except for control systems, which derive almost all their essence costs from the neural connections. Few people cyber animals all that heavily anyway.

    While it’s not entirely reasonable, for game purposes, the larger and smaller human metatypes all fall within the same size category. They pay the same price for meals, clothing, armor, housing, and general lifestyle, they can all drive the same vehicles, and various pieces of cyberware have the same impact.

    Who knows? Perhaps it’s some sort of mystical effect related to Species or Classification (as in “all Homo species have these costs”, or perhaps “all Primates” or some such). That seems unlikely, but there are some pretty odd effects out there.

    Now, I do tend to let trolls get away with cramming a bit more into their Holdouts, but – conversely – most gear made for Trolls comes with larger casings for easier handling anyway.

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