The reward system in Shadowrun is closely tied to the successful completion of adventures, with the core book suggesting karma rewards are only distributed at the end of an adventure, not at the end of the session. This poses problems for a sandbox style campaign which might not be defined by adventures. So how do you reward karma in a sandbox campaign while keeping pace with monetary rewards so mages and street samurais keep pace?
First lets examine the difference between monetary rewards and karma rewards in Shadowrun. Karma rewards are difficult to get and require at a minimum the survival of an adventure. To further maximize the karma received a player also needs to drive the game. (See the karma rewards for character was brave or smart, character had the right skills at the right time, and pushed the storyline forward.) and impress the group out of character (good roleplaying, player impressed the group with humor or drama).
Meanwhile, obtaining nuyen in Shadowrun is relatively easy. A new character should have the capability to make nuyen, from completing adventures to stealing a car and selling the ill gotten gains. The capability to make nuyen is contained within the Shadowrun world. It is not influenced by out of character performance – a roll-player can make just as much nuyen as a roleplayer. However, a roll player would not make as much karma as a roleplayer (see the reward for good roleplaying).
So do you keep karma rewards in line with nuyen in a sandbox game? First we need to look at Wired Reflexes 1 and the physical adept ability improved reflexes 1. Both provide an additional initiative pass and point of reaction but one costs nuyen and the other costs karma. A physical adept starting the game without wired reflexes or the improved reflexes power has the choice of purchasing both. He can spend the 11,00 nuyen or gain an additional 2 points in his magic attribute to purchase improved reflexes.
It takes on average 40 karma to raise an attribute 2 points and from this we can correlate the value of a karma point in nuyen because of the relationship between wired and improved reflexes. Taking the 1.5 power point cost of Improved Reflexes into account, 30 karma = 11,00 nuyen or 366 nuyen per karma point. So from a mechanical and sandbox viewpoint you should match every 366 nuyen rewarded per charater with 1 karma point. This way your awakened characters will keep pace with your mundanes.
This would be a terrible idea of course but mechanically 1 Karma point is worth 366 nuyen through the correlation between improved and wired reflexes. Instead karma should be handled like most things in a sandbox campaign – a freestyle approach.