Magic is most obviously displayed in Shadowrun by the four subgroups of Homo sapiens besides the predominant Homo sapiens sapiens: elf (Homo sapiens nobilis), dwarf (Homo sapiens pumilionis), ork (Homo sapiens robustus) and troll (Homo sapiens ingentis). Non-humans are known as metahumans, while the five subgroups as a whole (including humans) are known as metahumanity. All metahumans are seen as human beings—at least according to the geneticists. Racists say differently.
In the early 2060s, humans are still the most populous race on the planet. Each of the other races is represented about equally, but they are scattered unevenly across the globe. In some places, humans are an extreme minority, but those tend to be areas where other races have gathered for safety, protection and isolation.
Using humans as the standard, the following are general definitions of the other races. Note that none are truly monolithic and you can find barbaric elves just as easily as erudite trolls.
- Dwarfs are hardier, stronger and more willful—i.e., stubborn— than humans. They also have thermographic vision, which allows them to see radiated infrared (heat) energy simultaneous- ly with the normal light spectrum. They move more slowly than the other races, but they are also more resistant to disease. And yes, they are short.
- Elves are more agile and tend to be more classically charismatic than humans. They also have low-light vision, which enables them to see clearly in near-total darkness.
- Orks are much tougher, stronger and less charismatic; they also seem on average to be less acute, or intelligent, than humans. They too have low-light vision.
- Trolls are big and nasty. They are a lot tougher, slower, stronger, less charismatic, less acute and less willful than humans. They have thermographic vision, long arms that give them an advantage in hand-to-hand combat, and extremely tough skin with bony deposits that makes them more resistant to damage.