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Never Deal With A Dragon
Source cover en Never Deal With A Dragon
Author Robert Charrette
Publication information
Publisher Roc Books
Publication date 1990
ISBN 0-451-45078-7
Language English
2018 rerelease cover of Never Deal With a Dragon

2018 rerelease cover of Never Deal With a Dragon

Never Deal With A Dragon is Shadowrun novel by Robert Charrette. (Secrets of Power). The novel is also available as an audiobook.

In itself, this novel is about a convoluted ploy by Haesslich, a powerful Western Dragon (though not a Great Dragon) and chief of security for United Oil Seattle, to obtain the Renraku Corporation's research into artificial intelligence.

It also kicks off the Secrets of Power trilogy. The book Choose Your Enemies Carefully is its direct sequel.

Publisher blurb[]

Where Man Meets Magic and Machine

The year is 2050. The power of magic and the creatures it brings have returned to the earth, and many of the ancient races have re-emerged. Elves, Orks, Mages and lethal Dragons find a home in a world where technology and human flesh have melded into deadly urban predators. And the multinational mega-corporations hoard the only thing of real value - information.

For Sam Verner, living in the womb of the Renraku conglomerate was easy, until his sister disappeared and the facade of the corporate reality began to disintegrate. Now Sam wants out, but to "extract" himself, he has to slide like a whisper through the deadly shadows the corporations cast, through a world where his first wrong move may be his last... the world of Shadowrun.

Detailed information[]

Detailed plot summary[]

Into the Shadows

The year is 2050.

Sam Verner is a star researcher for Renraku Computer Systems at the corporate headquarters in Tokyo, but when his sister goblinizes into an Ork, he is transferred to the Seattle arcology in disgrace. His life takes another turn for the worse when the commuter flight from the airport is hijacked by shadowrunners (Sally Tsung, Ghost-Who-Walks-Inside, Kham, Dodger). Sam's cooperation with the runners earns him the enmity of another passenger, security specialist Alice Crenshaw. When Sam discovers that the runners were manipulated into releasing a lethal virus inside the arcology, he is able to convince them to undo the damage. They insist he accompany them, however, and though they are successful, Sam is forced to shoot a security guard in self-defense. Though the runners advise against it, Sam decides to stay with Renraku.

Part 1
It Takes More Than a Salary Man

The year is 2051.

Sam has settled somewhat uncomfortably into his life in the Arcology. His attempts at communicating with his sister are still being blocked at every turn, his security clearance has been downgraded, and he receives only menial research assignments. He is the victim of character assassination by the irrationally vindictive Alice Crenshaw. When a meeting with a vindictive senior executive (Hohiro Sato) quenches any hope for a brighter future, he begins looking for other options and is approached by a corporate headhunter named Katherine Roe (actually the shadowrunner Hart, pursuing a separate agenda).

Haesslich (aka. Jarlath Drake), the Western Dragon in charge of security for United Oil, has been diverting corporate assets to create a doppelganger, a creature that can duplicate another person's appearance and personality. Hart, a shadowrunner in Haesslich's employ, replaces one of Renraku's senior research scientists (Konrad Hutten) with the doppelganger under the cover of a shadowrun to extract Sam Verner. Verner is told the opposite: that his extraction is a side benefit of a run to remove an unnamed executive.

Part 2
It's a Different World

Hart, in the guise of Roe, leads her extraction team out of the sprawl and into an ambush by Tir Tairngire border guards. The runners (and Hutten's body) are obliterated and forgotten. Sam, though presumed dead, makes a narrow escape in part due to his latent magical abilities. By remarkable coincidence, Sam encounters some faces familiar from his last brief sojourn in the shadows. He is adopted as a fledgeling shadowrunner by Dodger, who begins to teach Sam the fine art of decking. Together, they identify Roe as the shadowrunner Hart and connect her to the mysterious Jarlath Drake. Drake they connect to Dr. Wilson of Genomics in Quebec (the man who designed and produced the doppelganger). Sam heads to Quebec, leaving Dodger to investigate Drake.

Hart discovers Sam is still alive and takes steps to correct her mistake, interrupting his trip to Quebec. Sam escapes, but is left on foot, injured and lost in the Dakota badlands. He experiences a vision quest in which he confronts and comes to guarded terms with his Totem, Dog. Sam is found and rescued by an agent of Lofwyr. Sam's investigation of Wilson has attracted the Great Dragon's attention. Genomics is an asset of Lofwyr's personal megacorp (Saeder-Krupp), but he had been unaware of Wilson's activities in Haesslich's employ. He intends to use Sam to pursue Wilson's duplicity and Haesslich/Drake's interference.

Part 3
It's Dangerous Out Here

Back in Seattle, using tools supplied by Lofwyr, Sam passes as a Genomics accountant and gains access to Wilson's personal files and research notes. He discovers the nature of the doppelganger project and realizes that Hart must have planted one inside the arcology. Sam turns his attention to Hart's employer, Jarlath Drake, and identifies Drake as the human guise of Haesslich. He recruits help from Sally, Ghost, and Dodger, and sets his sights on the dragon.

Meanwhile, Crenshaw has recruited her own shadowrunners to pursue Sam. In doing so, she discovers Hart's prostitute-courier system for receiving reports from the "Hutten" doppelganger. Crenshaw confronts Hart and the two cut a deal to ambush Sam. Crenshaw uses Hutten as a lure for Sam. Hart hopes to escape with the doppelganger when Crenshaw makes her play for Verner; Crenshaw expects to trap all of them. The event itself goes according to no one's expectations.

Sam does not go after Hutten himself, but sends Sally and some street muscle with a number of mercs supplied by Lofwyr. A newborn AI freezes the Renraku grid, trapping everyone's Matrix support. Crenshaw springs her trap, only to be killed by the doppelganger. The mercs grab the doppelganger and abandon Sally, only to have Sally destroy their prize. Dodger wins clear of the AI and arranges an escape route for Sally.

Sam goes to the United Oil waterfront to confront Haesslich, making himself the bait for an ambush laid by Ghost and his followers. Hart catches up with Sam in time to witness the confrontation. Infuriated by Sam's disruption of his plans, Haesslich attacks him only to be targeted in turn by heavy weapons in the hands of the ambushers. Haesslich's body falls into Puget Sound. With her employer gone, Hart helps Sam escape the United Oil compound.


Main Characters:

  • Samuel Verner, aka Twist: Born in the UCAS, Sam and his sister Janice were orphaned in 2039. Sam accepted a scholarship to Tokyo University and a promising career as a researcher at Renraku corporate headquarters. He is transferred to the arcology in Seattle after his sister goblinizes ork in 2050 (late, at age 17). In Seattle, fate draws him into the shadow community where he is given the name Twist by Dodger. Raised to be suspicious of magic, he is shocked to learn that he possesses magical ability. Learning to accept his power as a Dog shaman is a difficult and gradual process.
  • Dodger: An elven decker with romantic ideals and affectations, and a fondness for hopeless causes. He is equally at home in Portland (Tir Tairngire) or Seattle, with broad connections in both locales (from shadowrunners to fixers on up to a Prince of Tir Tairngire). Apart from being an accomplished decker, he speaks French and Sperethiel.
  • Sally Tsung: mage, shadowrunner. Sally is a complete mercenary, conscious only of her reputation and the bottom line. Nothing for nothing is her defining principle. The only things she cares about are biz and fun. If she's aware of Ghost's regard for her, she is completely inconsiderate of it.
  • Ghost-Who-Walks-Indoors, aka Ghost-Maker: As a street samurai, concepts like honor, integrity, loyalty, and respect are important to Ghost. He's conscious of his native American heritage and traditions, and tries to apply them to the modern world. He is in love with Sally Tsung. Ghost is the chief/patron/idol of an amerind street gang called the Full Moon Society.
  • Katherine Hart, aka Katherine Roe: A professional shadowrunner of considerable reputation, Hart is among other things an accomplished magician. She is a beautiful elven woman with a taste for expensive fashion. Hart's partner is a feathered serpent dracoform named Tessien.
  • Kham: an orc shadowrunner and part of Sally Tsung's crew. He was the grandson of a founder of the Orc Underground in Seattle and was noted for his stubborn bravery.
  • Alice Crenshaw: What the screamsheets call a "company man", Crenshaw is a security troubleshooter for the Renraku Corporation. One of three survivors of the Commuter hijacking (along with Sam Verner and Jiro Tanaka), she was raped by her captors. Because of Verner's cooperation with the shadowrunners, she develops a pathologic suspicion and hatred of him.

In order of appearance:

  • Sam Verner (Twist): Renraku researcher, latent magician
  • Inazo Aneki: president/CEO of Renraku Computer Systems
  • Hohiro Sato: Vice President of Operations for Renraku
  • Janice Verner: Sam's younger sister, goblinized ork
  • Alice Crenshaw*: Renraku security troubleshooter
  • Jiro Tanaka*: Renraku researcher, widower
shadowrunners for the Seretech sabotage mission:
  • Dodger: elf decker
  • Sally Tsung: mage
  • Ghost-Who-Walks-Indoors: amerindian street samurai
  • Kham: ork muscle
  • Cog: fixer with international connections
  • Castillano: fixer, wolf shapeshifter
  • Hanae Norwood*: Sam's girlfriend
  • Katherine Hart (Katherine Roe): elf mage, shadowrunner
  • Doctor Andrew A. Wilson: mage, biophysicist for Genomics Corp.
  • Haesslich (Jarlath Drake)*: Western Dragon, director of security for United Oil
  • Bill Addison: Renraku corp decker, blackmailed by Crenshaw
  • General Tadashi Marushige: Security Director for the Renraku Arcology
  • Jhoon Silla: Marushige's aide
  • Doctor Vanessa Cliber: Director of Special Projects at the arcology
  • Doctor Sherman Huang: President of Renraku America, brains behind the AI Project
  • Doctor Konrad Hutten*: senior researcher on the AI Project
  • Kosuke Asabo: razorguy, bodyguard to Hohiro Sato
  • Harry Masamba: mage, bodyguard to Hohiro Sato
  • Tessien*: feathered serpent, Hart's partner
  • Major Yoshimori Fuhito: United Oil security officer
  • Jenny: decker, working with Hart
shadowrunners used by Hart/Roe for the doppelganger insertion:
  • Kurt Leighton*
  • Chin Lee*: ork
  • Greta Wilmark*: ork
  • Harry Sloan*
  • Black Dog Sullivan*
  • Bran Glendower: elf, paladin in service to Ehran
  • Rory Donally: elf mage, paladin in service to Ehran
  • Grian: elf, Tir Tairngire border guard
  • Nadia Mirin: female companion to Jarlath Drake, president of Natural Vat foods
  • Father Lawrence: ork Catholic priest in Portland, fixer
  • Estios: elf mage, paladin in service to Sean Laverty
  • Professor Sean Laverty: immortal elf mage, Prince of Tir Tairngire
  • Ehran the Scribe: immortal elf mage, Prince of Tir Tairngire
  • Lofwyr (Enterich): Great Western Dragon, Prince of Tir Tairngire, President/CEO and Chairman of the Saeder-Krupp corporation
  • Josh Begay*: amerindian thunderbird rigger
  • Thumper Collins: ork panzer mechanic, Dworshak Reservoir
  • Jacqueline (Karen Montejac): wendigo shaman, agent of Lofwyr
shadowrunners hired by Crenshaw to bring down Verner:
  • Ridley*: former Mitsuhama company man
  • Markowitz
  • Greerson: dwarf mercenary, high reputation
  • Kham: ork muscle boss
  • Sheila: ork muscle
  • Jason Stone: amerindian razorguy, Ghost's lieutenant in the Full Moon Society
  • Indramin: Saeder-Krupp rigger

* character dies in the course of the novel.


Notes and analysis[]

Robert N. Charette is one of the original designers of the Shadowrun role-playing game (with Paul Hume and Tom Dowd). He is also the author of five Shadowrun novels: Never Deal With A Dragon (1990), Choose Your Enemies Carefully (1991), Find Your Own Truth (1991), Never Trust An Elf (1992), and Just Compensation (1996).

There is a reference in the Prologue (p. 34) to an incident involving the death of two shadowrunners. It relates to the short story anthology, Into the Shadows. A suit named James Yoshimura was assassinated at the After Hours Club and two shadowrunners named Smilin' Sam and Johnny Come Lately were killed by Lone Star cops in a firefight outside. Police recovered an Arisaka KZ-977 sniper rifle from the scene, which ballistics matched to the bullet that killed Yoshimura. The dead runners are blamed for the hit. Sally, Ghost, and Kham all agree that they were probably set up.

Additional connections to the anthology are Haesslich's Jarlath Drake persona and cameo appearances by Nadia Mirin. The prologue of Never Deal With A Dragon was originally written as a chapter of the Shadowrun anthology, Into the Shadows, and published in the 1990 FASA printing of that book. Consequently, the events of the prologue and Into the Shadows are concurrent. When Into The Shadows was re-released by ROC as a mass-market paperback in 1992, Charette's story was replaced by the Tom Dowd piece, A Plague of Demons.

In his acknowledgements, Charrette writes, "Thanks also to Nix Smith for the loan of Castillano." The fixer Castillano is used by Nyx Smith in the anthology short story, "Striper", and also appears in his books, Striper Assassin (1993) and Who Hunts The Hunter (1995).

The Wall is a feature of the Renraku Matrix that protects its most sensitive research projects (e.g. the Artificial Intelligence Project). p. 63: "The Wall was a featureless expanse of sputtering static, shades of gray contrasting starkly with the soft blue glow that suffused the Renraku architecture."

The brains behind Renraku's Artificial Intelligence Project in 2051 are Sherman Huang (who is also the nominal President of Renraku America), Vanessa Cliber, and Konrad Hutten (who is killed during the events of this novel). A fourth major contributor unmentioned in the novel is Devon Eurich (Renraku Arcology: Shutdown, p. 71).

Sam's datajack implant was done by Soriyama (p. 193). The shadowrun adventure Mercurial, by Paul Hume, refers to a brilliant, eccentric cybertechnician in Chiba, Japan called Sorayama (Mercurial, p. 53). Apart from the slight difference in spelling, this would seem to be the same person. The name comes from Hajime Sorayama, the artist who painted the picture (Gynoid #10) used on the cover of Mercurial.

Sam witnesses a meeting of the Tir Tairngire Council of Princes on the grounds outside Laverty's estate. Lofwyr, Laverty, and Ehran are specifically identified. "A pair of dwarves and a large, furred humanoid" (p. 202) are probably the dwarf princes Blake Ladner and Garth Stone and the sasquatch prince, "Rex" (Tir Tairngire, p. 38). No ork is mentioned, so Larry Zincan is probably absent. Other elves mentioned may or may not be the remaining Princes. Then again, the Tir Tairngire sourcebook won't be written for another three years (by Nigel Findley in 1993), so it could all be coincidence.

Ehran the Scribe isn't too haughty to recognize wisdom wherever he finds it. He quotes a street proverb to Laverty (p. 206): "Watch your back, conserve ammo, and never cut a deal with a Dragon."

Sam gets vicious headaches from decking, a direct result of his latent magical talents. According to Laverty (p. 208): "Your headaches are prime evidence that you cannot function normally within the hypothetical world of the Matrix. Such a limitation is almost universal in those who have strong magical talent."

Page 209: Sam makes a reference to "negamages". Probably nothing more than aspected magicians or adepts with heavy spell defense.

Page 228: The model name of the Narcoject Pistol (Street Samurai Catalog, p. 62) is the Lethe. In Greek mythology, the Lethe was a river in Hades (the Underworld). Anyone who drank from its water would lose their memory.

Page 287: SINs (System Identification Numbers) are fourteen digits long. Example: 555-405-6778-9024. This isn't consistent between books, by the way. In Dunkelzahn's Secrets (Steve Kenson, 1996), a SIN is only twelve alphanumernic characters. Example: 5T2G-8U6V-PK02.

Most ordinary dracoforms, such as Tessien, are not capable of changing their shape. Certain more powerful dragons, such as Haesslich/Drake, are able to assume human form, but not disguise their auras—they still appear draconic to astral perception (p. 322). Great Dragons like Lofwyr/Enterich, however, are capable of appearing mundane and human to both physical and astral senses (p. 332).

During his repeated forays into the arcology Matrix, Dodger begins to perceive a nascent Artificial Intelligence that has thus far managed to escape the notice of its creators. In actuality, by decking the arcology Dodger himself supplies the random element that sparks the AI's elevation to sentience (Renraku Arcology: Shutdown, p. 71). Because of his role in its creation, the AI (later called Morgan) begins to pay attention to Dodger's activities in the Matrix, both in and outside the Arcology systems.

According to the New Seattle sourcebook (p. 88), Haesslich's corpse was pulled out of Puget Sound and taken back to a United Oil research facility.

'Dodger, Ghost Who Walks, Kham, and Sally Tsung are all "Prime Runner" cards in Shadowrun: The Trading Card Game.

Other Versions[]

In 2010, Catalyst Game Labs re-published the novel Never Deal With A Dragon as an ebook (ePub).


  • Czech: Nikdy si nezačínejte s drakem
  • French: Méfie-toi des dragons... (Fleuve Noir) / Ne traite jamais avec un dragon (Black Book Editions)
  • German: Laß ab von Drachen
  • Hungary: Sose kezdj sárkánnyal
  • Polish: Nigdy nie ufaj smokom
  • Portuguese(Brazil): Não Faça Accordos com o Dragão


  • Mason's: 3 out of 5. Overall, I give it a 3 on Mason's 5-point scale of Shadowrun novels.}}
  • Doug's: B (out of A, B, C, D scale)



External links[]