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Fluff / Triad

The Triad


The Triads are a chinese syndicate group dating back centuries, with global operations and a decentralized structure. They are heavily involved in metahuman trafficking, smuggling writ large, and BTl and Opiate production and sales. They have no central structure or authority save for the fact that larger triads birth smaller ones that go on to branch out further, and so forth. They are heavily, heavily immersed in feng shui, numerology, and general mysticism and tradition. [1],[2],[3]


The Triads as a whole date back 400 years, to the Manchu dynasty of the late 1600s. A sect of shaolin performed a favor for the current emperor of the time, or so the legend goes, in order to help him establish order as he took the throne. He later betrayed them, and only five survived. They swore under a red sky to overthrow his dynasty, and each went their own way to a different area of China to establish a group of thieves and criminals to help with this goal of overthrowing the current emperor and re-establishing the old one. These groups, due to their efforts to help the populace fight back against the perceived tyranny of the new dynasty, grew in power and scope. Throughout chinese history ever since, the Triads (or ‘Hung Mun’ as they were first called) have been in the background, usually helping various rebellions and growing in scope and breadth of operation. They have expanded out with chinese immigrants to other nations, and have grown into the organizations of the modern day [2],[4],[5]


Organizational Structure

Triads are not overarchingly organized as a whole, but each Triad itself will have a unified internal structure, deeply centered around Chinese Numerology.

At the top is the Shan Chu, or Lodge Master. Sometimes in more traditional triads, he or she is the Mountain Master or the Dragon Head. The number associated with this position is 489, which adds to make 21, or ‘easy confidence’ in chinese numerology - and the character for ‘21’ is similar to the top part of the character for ‘Hung’, so it further symbolically means the leader of the society. Shan Chus are the absolute boss of their Triad, and often hold a ‘day job’ as some small business owner in the triad’s turf, in order to retain distance from the criminal activities whilst showing Confucian humility. [1],[3],[6]

Below the Shan Chu are the 438s, who number at least 3. The characters for ‘3’ and 8’ resemble the sides of the character ‘Hung’, and 438 as a whole can be read as ‘prosperity in life through death’. [6]

There are different types of 438, which are as follows:

  • The Fu Shan Chu, or Deputy Lodge Master. This is the position that handles day by day operations and logistics, and is the highest ranked 438. [3]
  • The Tai-lo and I-lo, or Elder and Second Elder Brother. These largely ceremonial positions handle internal discipline and are not commonly seen except in more traditional hong kong triads. [7]
  • The Heung Chu, or Incense Master. This position is nearly exclusively held by a mage, often a powerful one, as they are responsible for ensuring triad traditions are followed, and who handles new initiations, the swearing of oaths, and other magical rituals. Steady rumors circulate that Incense Masters of claim to have studied under Lung. [3],[6]
  • The Sin Fung, or Guardian. Equal in rank to the Incense Master, this position will often act as an assistant to the Incense master but also is in charge of recruitment. [3]
  • Lastly is the Sheung Fa, or Double Flower. Unlike other 438s this may be a title held by multiple people. They are considered the lowest ranked 438, and usually are members of the Triad that have either shown incredible dedication through length of service, or have displayed skill and aptitude that shows them to be promising individuals. Sheung Fa’s are often sent to establish new Triads as they have little extra assigned work in the organization they hold the rank of Sheung Fa in. As a result, it’s not uncommon to see someone of higher rank in a newer triad also be a Sheung Fa of an older more established one. [3]

Below the 438s are the ‘underbosses’, the 415, 426, and 432. As always, there are numerological meanings to these numbers. 4 x 15 + 4 = 108, the number of legendary Sung dynasty triad loyalists. 4 x 26 + 4 = 64, the number of original characters that Chinese is said to be based off of. 4 x 32 + 4 = 132, the number of shaolin monks that legend holds helped the Emperor before being betrayed and becoming the triads. [6]

  • The 426 is the Hung Kwan, or Red Pole. This is the ‘military commander’ of the Triad’s grunt members. The role can be held by any member found to have enough tactical acumen, but often is an adept of some sort. Their primary role is to coordinate lower members and associated ‘vassal’ gangs when force is needed to defend or attack an external force, or when an opportunity is seen by the higher ranks. [3],[7]
  • The 415 is the Pak Tsz Sin, or White Paper Fan. This role handles accounting and bookkeeping, and thus is often in charge of all matrix activities the Triad undertakes. Depending on how matrix-active a given Triad is, this position varies in actual importance, but all Triads have one. [3]
  • The 432 is the Cho Hai, or Grass Sandal. This rank handles the collection and payment of bribes to the Triad, and will be the liaison sent to talk to gangs, other Triads and syndicates on the orders of the higher ups. [3]

The lowest rank of the Triad proper is the 49, or Sze Kau. 49ers usually serve as enforcers, but are varied - some are not violent street thugs but talented elsewhere and keep a lower profile within the Triad. The number 49 comes from 4 x 9 = 36, the number of oaths sworn when a person is inducted into the Triads. [3],[6]

Notable Triads

  • Asia
    • Hong Kong
      • Red Dragon Association [17]
      • Black Chrysanthemums [18]
      • Ten Thousand Lions [18]
      • 289’s (Easy Money Gang), Hong Kong [19]
      • Smoke Circle Society, Hong Kong [19]
    • Mainland China
      • White Lotus Society, Canton Confederation [20]
      • Onyx Turtle Lodge, Henan [21]
    • Japan
      • Snake Head Triad, Neo-Tokyo [22]
  • North America
  • Australia
    • Golden Triangle Society [30]
    • Wading Bird Triad [30]


The triads most commonly engage and have notable presence in the following ‘industries’

  • Matrix Crime: Triads do not generally engage in datasteals, but are highly involved in fake SIN/license creation and dealing, and identity theft, as these sort of activities mesh well with metahuman trafficking [8]
  • Opiates and BTLs: Opiate production and sales forms the traditional heart of Triad drug markets, though they produce a few Bio-Awakened Drugs. Thousands upon thousands upon thousands of acres of poppy farms serve this industry, and the Triads are the number one producer of black market opiates and the drug Bliss in the world. They also are a world leader in BTL production and sales, often via the Matrix but also in large numbers in physical form to support actual drug sales. ‘Kong Chips’ are a particular specialty - low quality, very cheap BTLs made in Hong Kong [8]
  • Counterfeit Brands: Historically, Triads counterfeited money, but with the rise of digital currencies this has turned into a thriving brand knock off industry, be it fashion, weaponry, electronic devices, or digital media. This is another area that Triad matrix operations shine - Triads often have media available within minutes or hours of a general release. [9]
  • Gambling: Triads prefer physical gambling, usually mahjong and other ‘eastern’ games. Their dens tend to be high stakes, very discreet, and very exclusive, being invite-only or requiring large buy-ins. [9]
  • Metahuman Trafficking: Another ‘classic’ Triad operation bolstered by the constant political and economic unrest in the chinese mainland, Triads charge massive upfront fees or force their refugee cargo into servitude at the other end. [9]
  • Prostitution: Tying into trafficking, a common method someone smuggled in by the Triads will pay it off is via working in a triad brothel. The triads don’t try and compete with high class places like the ones the Yakuza operate. Triad brothels are plain, vanilla, and cheap. [9]
  • Protection: Triads, as with any syndicate, work protection rackets in their territory. They often charge higher rates than ‘standard’ (though this varies by ethnicity, but their protection comes with their trademark magical firepower if needed. [9]
  • Smuggling: Triads are expert smugglers, because of their heavy involvement in metahuman trafficking, counterfeiting, drug production and black market weapon production/acquisition [9]


Triads are not strictly sexists or metahuman bigots, but they do have a ‘hierarchy’ of who they prefer to be members. Ethnic Chinese before westerners, with ethnicity being vastly more important than metatype. Men slightly before women - but even female Lodgemasters are not unknown, and for those women who are Awakened or Emerged, there is virtually no discrimination at all. [10],[11],[12]

Awakened people are always favored over mundanes for membership, and there is often a taboo or disdain towards physical augmentation. Ever since Crash 2.0, Emerged individuals are becoming increasingly valued as well. However, this does not mean augmentation is uncommon amongst lower ranking members - as long as the augmentation is subtle, this does not prevent advancement [3],[11],[12]

The process to become a Triad member involves the swearing of 36 Oaths, overseen as a magical ritual by the Incense master. It takes 3 days and 3 nights, and the oaths are magically binding - breaking them means death by any number of means, from lightning bolts to series of accidents that result in death. Each rank has its own set of rituals, stacking atop the others. [13]


Triads possess a unique language cant of code phrases, facial expression and hand signals. Sometimes, even the arrangement of a teapot and cups can be used to communicate with this secret language. [14],[3]

Triads, when first establishing themselves, will often make deals with other syndicates in the area to keep certain markets ‘hands off’ to avoid conflict. This only lasts, of course, until the Triad is strong enough to begin expansions. [15]

While not an actual rank, an important number to be aware of is 25. A person called a 25 is a traitor or police informant, and those that are known as such can expect a harsh, painful, often lethal punishment [6]

Triads have no strong feeling towards Shadowrunners, though they will never be warm to them, and Triad Johnsons tend to be older and will be superstitious and heavily utilize metaphor. Runners hired by the Triads will often have actual triad muscle as backup. Be warned though - if you betray or cross a Triad, there will be heavy use of magic in retaliation. [16]


  • [1] - Underworld Sourcebook Pg 54
  • [2] - Vice Pg 65
  • [3] - Vice Pg 69
  • [4] - Underworld Sourcebook Pg 52
  • [5] - Underworld Sourcebook Pg 53
  • [6] - Vice Pg 67
  • [7] - Underworld Sourcebook Pg 55
  • [8] - Vice Pg 71
  • [9] - Vice Pg 72
  • [10] - Underworld Sourcebook Pg 57
  • [11] - Underworld Sourcebook Pg 58
  • [12] - Vice Pg 68
  • [13] - Underworld Sourcebook Pg 59
  • [14] - Underworld Sourcebook Pg 56
  • [15] - Vice Pg 70
  • [16] - Run Faster Pg 208
  • [17] - Runner Havens Pg 45
  • [18] - Runner Havens Pg 46
  • [19] - Runner Havens Pg 47
  • [20] - Shadows of Asia Pg 27
  • [21] - Shadows of Asia Pg 43
  • [22] - Corporate Enclaves Pg 103
  • [23] - Vice Pg 73
  • [24] - Shadows of North America Pg 51
  • [25] - Vice Pg 74
  • [26] - Shadows of Asia Pg 98
  • [27] - Target UCAS Pg 42
  • [28] - Lockdown Pg 48
  • [29] - Shadows of North America Pg 122
  • [30] - Target Awakened Lands Pg 27

Page last modified on July 27, 2019, at 07:47 AM