Shadowrun: Who Is Harlequin?

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  • Harlequin's Background
  • Harlequin In Shadowrun Returns

Your first encounter with the mysterious Harlequin in Shadowrun is always likely to be a confusing one. He's an elf with a face painted to look like a jester of old times, and his manner is often lighthearted and cryptic, but he's also well-regarded as one of the most powerful beings in the Shadowrun setting.

Looking like the lovechild of Kefka and the Joker, Harlequin sparks much debate whenever he shows up. From his controversial history in the tabletop game to his attention-grabbing appearances in the Shadowrun video games, there are a lot of questions to ask about Harlequin, some of them remaining unanswered to this day.

Harlequin's Background

If you want to put it simply, Harlequin is an immortal elf whose origin lies in the Fourth World – two cycles of magic's resurgence before the one that started in 2012 and the setting for Shadowrun. Thanks to his immortality, Harlequin has accrued an impressive set of skills and is one of the world's strongest combatants, both on the battlefield and on the political stage.

Harlequin's name is actually Har'lea'quinn, but it's pronounced in the same way so people just call him Harlequin. Fittingly, his Shadowlands nickname is the Laughing Man.

In the early years of the Shadowrun tabletop RPG, Harlequin was used as something of a tool for the Game Master. He was an immortal, immovable plot device with all the plot armor that entails. The campaigns involving him would usually explore the deeper storylines that tie the different parts of the Shadowrun universe together.

The plot armor is so thick for Harlequin that he's very often not given stats. If he wants to do something, he simply does it – no dice necessary. Once he was given stats, however, they were on par with the Great Dragons, some of the strongest beings in existence.

He's known for combating the Horrors – antagonistic alien entities who break through into reality whenever the levels of magic rise too high. Despite his capriciousness, it's clear that Harlequin cares for the world and will intervene when necessary to preserve it and defend it from the Horrors.

Harlequin In Shadowrun Returns

You'll encounter Harlequin right at the end of Shadowrun Returns, where he shows up to help you combat the threat of the Insect Spirits being summoned by the Universal Brotherhood. Here, he's rather cryptic about his appearance and drops plenty of hints as to the direction the world is heading and the identity of certain other late-game characters, but it's clear that he's making an effort to help out.

He's a great unit in this game, mixing great magic skills with a katana that does a ton of damage. He's also one of the characters who wield an Aegis gun, making him invaluable in taking on the Insect Spirits.

Once the mission is over, Harlequin leaves once more, only to be sighted on the Shadowlands BBS in later campaigns. He does leave the player character with some words of wisdom, however, which conveys his attitude towards the world of Shadowrun and shadowrunning.

The lesson is this – the game is rigged. The cards are stacked. The dice are loaded. It's the same as it always was. Every cycle. People in power exert power. Little people cower in their homes, think what they're told to think, and buy whatever product will help them forget how horrible their lives are for another day. And that's why we don't *play* their fragging game. We don't swallow their drek sandwich and politely ask for another. It's why we run the shadows. That's where real life is, kiddo. Reality's living in the places no one wants you to see. -Harlequin, Shadowrun Returns

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