Pen and Paper RPG House Rules

Making our favorite games even better

An Abstract from the Journal of Practical Thaumaturgy Volume 17: Mana Theory

Dr. Joseph Mentem Professor of Ritual Spellcasting at Charles University of Prague.

Mana is the energy that allows those entities capable of using it to perform work by an understanding of memetics or neoplatonic thought, controlled concentration, imagination, force of personality, and training alone. A mage has no need of a tool or physical exertion to harness the power of mana to change the world around him.

Mana flows and ebbs from the Metaplanes though it seems to be influenced by activities in our universe as shown by the increase of mana during Haley’s comet. Mana flows through our physical realm of existence and through our astral realm of existence. There is some feedback between physical realm mana and astral realm mana but as it is today it is minor and slow to transfer and it places certain limitations on how mana can be used to effect change in a Realm the mage is not currently inhabiting. An astrally projected spellcaster cannot cast a spell on an entity or target that is wholly in the physical plane because of the feeble flow of mana from one realm to the other. Decades ago it was possible for an astrally projecting mage to ground a spell through an active focus so it would be released into the physical realm but that is no longer the case though we do not know why precisely however it is theorized that it involves an emergent property of the physical/astral barrier when mana saturation reaches a certain point on the scale.

Mana flows through the astral and physical realms and sometimes forms what could be considered through a metaphor as rivers and lakes. These locations have an abundance of mana and are called power sites and the mana rivers are most often called ley lines. Usually if a ley line exists in one Realm the contiguous area in the parallel Realm has one as well with the same going for Power Sites though the degree of flow may differ.

It is known that aspected mana tends to attract like and repel the dissimilar as a rule thus on occasion a new Power Site will emerge in an area and exert a “pull” on a nearby Domain thus encouraging a ley line to flow between them. Geomancers and Geomasons specialize in encouraging this especially for a megacorporation’s new magical research lab. This can sometimes lead to a war in the shadows as various organizations try to create Power Sites or Domains to alter and weaken the other’s mana network.


Domains are Power Sites that when Named and invested with a genius loci become aspected which means that it helps and hinders different types of magic or uses of magic. With this abundance of mana it should be obvious that it can allow magic wielders to attempt more powerful or difficult work than would ordinarily be possible. Most commonly newly created Domains are aspected towards certain traditions of magic, magical societies or individuals of great power or Influence such as Dragons as well as military, political, and corporate leaders. The Domain provides enhanced mana towards those who serve the Individual or to those who share a certain mindset about how magic works and are in line with the genius loci of the domain.  Emergent Domains tend to provide enhancement towards certain magical activities and the genius loci tend to have more personality and variety as every emergent domain is different and usually oriented more towards either the astral realm or the physical realm as well as more vulnerable to changes in Background Count of feeder ley lines than a created domain which tends to be very stable and balanced evenly between the astral and the physical.

For example a minor power site near the university is on land owned by SK and was Named to be aspected to Lofwyr the great dragon. As a consequence those who are either Named Lofwyr or serve him can tap into the greater mana at the site while those opposed would find the power site working against them once the genius loci of the site became aware of them otherwise neutral spellcasters would find themselves unaffected and unable to use the extra mana around them. The genius loci of the site is no surprise in the form of a dracoform. There are rumors of metamagical skills or rituals that allow the renaming of a power site or grant the ability to ‘spoof’ the genius loci into thinking that you are Named by altering the aura of the spellcaster to match the weave of the site and thus gain approval of the genius loci.

Geomancers and Geomasons claim to have the ability to manipulate mana flows as to create domains called Power Sites (analogous to a lake) and Ley Lines (analogous to a river) through manipulation of astral energies in the case of Geomancers and through manipulation of physical energies for Geomasons who often sculpt and modify a physical environment to promote certain aspects onto the mana in the domain. In Europe skilled practitioners are often Freemasons or caretakers of the cathedrals, mosques, and temples while in Asia they are often students of Feng shui. There are specialized “types” of mana described by experts in mana manipulation as being very similar to each other but lending themselves to certain magical activities and derived from different sources as varied as places of worship to tectonic plates. As a consequence of the increased effectiveness of magic to do work at certain locales these power sites tend to be highly prized by magical societies, governments, dragons, and megacorporations.

(The types are known as Song grooves and pools, Dragon Paths and Nests, and are differentiated by the dominance of either astral or physical mana flow compared to a balanced flow between both realms found in what are traditionally called ley lines and power sites. -Editor)

As the pre-eminent scholar of power sites and the ley lines that connect them in Europe the Great Dragon Schwarzkopf has developed the ‘Schwarzkopf Scale of Ambient Mana’ which is most often used when rating a power site and goes from -10 to 10 with 0 being the current world norm. So far no location has been rated above 5 on a permanent basis and above 8 on a temporary basis. However a -10 is found in the void of space representing the extreme sparseness of life, emotion, and mind in outer space. During the year of the comet many regions saw a temporary rise of one or two points and it was a time of power for many mages who achieved effects that they normally would not be capable of doing.

Not all changes in the mana flow of an area are good for the practitioner. Mana can be distorted by powerful emotions or experiences in the astral realm and by environmental damage in the physical. When this happens the mana becomes harder to work with leading to what magicians call Ephemeral Background Count and it is rated based on degree of distortion using the Schwarzkopf Scale to provide an estimate of degree of difficulty in mana manipulation compared to a lack of mana. It is common for there to be bleed-through from one plane to the next in these cases and if there are causes for mana pollution in both realms sometimes that can start a feedback loop leading to more permanent damage to the mana flow in the area known as Persistent Background Count which can lead to regional problems. Certain twisted and deviant traditions can actually reinforce this feedback loop creating near permanent areas and by rumor can use the Background Count as a normal magician would use a power site.  We know some mages are capable of creating domains that match their tradition out of the background count if it is aspected appropriately .

The Filtering Metamagic is known to allow Initiate’s to bypass some of the problems involved in using mana for magic in an area with a Background Count. However despite an area having a similar rating on the Schwarzkopf scale they behave differently as an area with a -2 on the Schwarzkopf scale that has a background count typically has a normal amount of mana it is just polluted to make it harder to use while an area with a lowered mana level simply has less mana to use. Since mana pollution is commonly stronger in one realm than the other knowledge of the state of the local mana in both realms can be really useful in helping a wise mage in spell choice as a physical realm background count without a mana realm background count would naturally lend itself to mana based spells.

If the damage is temporary then the background count is what theorists call ‘ephemeral background count’. A series of traumatic events or a long term and powerful experience can all provide greater difficulty in mana manipulation. What makes this type of mana distortion ephemeral is that as soon as the aggravating element is removed the mana flow returns to normal.

Longer lasting Background Count would be such as the Cermak blast site. In this case the combination of massive defensive magics on the part of the insect spirits, nuclear detonation, and loss of life was enough to disrupt the mana in the area to prevent all but the most skilled Initiate’s from making mana work in the vicinity. This is an example of Persistent Background Count and without the constant presence of Knight Errant and periodic Cleansing Rituals it would be inevitable for a vulnerable shaman to be influenced into becoming an insect shaman should they spend too much time around the Cermak area as it is known to have some sort of astral connection or bridge to the metaplanes of the insect spirits.

Depending on tradition of the mage there are many ways that mana is imprinted on in order to be effected by the mage into having a real world effect. The key to magic involves perception of the nature of something and the ability to rewrite the song of that secret nature. Some call it “Renaming” while others use basket weaving analogies or storytelling metaphors and even religious contexts. But, in effect we all end up reweaving the narrative of whatever it is we are seeking to manipulate with our magic. The pattern of our reweaving varies depending on the spell, ritual, conjuration, or enchantment we are attempting as well as the Name of the target we are attempting to create or alter.


2 responses to “An Abstract from the Journal of Practical Thaumaturgy Volume 17: Mana Theory

  1. Pingback: Shadowrun Overhaul: Primer on Mana | Scion House Rules

  2. Pingback: Shadowrun Overhaul: Background Count Official Rules and Commentary | Scion and Shadowrun House Rules

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: