Focus Addiction, Assensing, and Astral Signature House Rules:
This House rule replaces Focus Addiction as a mechanic.
Focus addiction now makes the magician more of who they are. In other words it makes them more extreme or more like a caricature. A loyal second in command becomes obsessively loyal even when they shouldn’t be. A hardcore environmental activist slowly becomes more and more fed-up with megacorp greed and widespread apathy slipping over time into risk of becoming a toxic magician.
The focus ends up focusing the core personality traits, goals, behavior, and interests to higher levels. A studious academic hermetic magician passionate about discovering new knowledge with a curt, introspective, and introverted personality becomes more inwardly focused, cold to colleagues, hermitlike, and focused with laser like precision on a specific theory or discovery that has drawn their attention. Where before she might have balked at an experiment that caused any harm to a metahuman before bonding to several foci now years later she is willing to go to almost any lengths to achieve that big discovery.
Megacorporations know this and do what they can to encourage the development of certain obsessive traits like loyalty, hard work, and ambition when their prospective employees are young and going to a megacorp school. They actively prevent research into the psychological effects of heavy use of Foci.
Where having too much cybernetics can make a metahuman seem less human and connected with dead or empty spots in their auras; having too much power from foci can make a magician seem overly “alive” and over the top to the point of mania at an extreme usually seen only in old 2D comic book and James Bond villains. It also makes their auras and astral signatures brighter and more vibrant. This makes it easier to pick out details from their aura for skilled assensors and psychometrists.
PC’s that end up getting extra foci can extend or gain negative qualities that would make sense and gain Karma from them. That insomnia is so much worse now that the magician can’t stop thinking about this new project for example.
When a focus provides assistance to the magic (adds to dice pool) that created the Astral Signature it adds its Force to the number of hours the Astral Signature lasts.
It is harder to hide in the astral realm when carrying an arsenal of magical foci and harder to hide your astral nature when being assensed.
This also applies to the astral detritus left behind on objects interacted with by the magician making it much easier for a Psychometrist to use their power to assense the item and any astral signatures on it.
In my games I emphasize that it is normal for Lone Star or Knight Errant to have a magical investigator for most magical crimes involving assault or murder. A runner can hope that the investigator is to swamped to arrive before the signature fades but that often depends on the location of the crime and who it effected.
Thus, mages are very careful about casting spells in high security areas that will involve them not having the time to wipe their astral signatures.
Corps have forensic magicians on call for analysis and access to astral photography.
If you cast a force 6 spell and used a force 4 focus that is a 10 total which is going to take a long time to fade away or wipe guaranteeing that any AA is going to have the time to get a forensic magician or a Quicksilver camera and then they have your signature on file.
Anonymity is a key component of most Shadowrun games and losing that can be a nightmare.
After the third or so magical crime of note with the same signature it is likely the police or corp will put a special investigator to task to find out more.
Particularly heinous crimes or activities that cause a severe loss of face or nuyen may lead to ritual magic and use of the astral signature in the creation of a sympathetic or symbolic link. When a corp or any organization gets hit hard in order to save face they need to leave a message.
In fact corporate security will often cast the spell Astral Message and leave an ominous warning or demand their goods or extracted individuals be returned or else. This can be extremely dangerous as the Astral Message uses a material link and activates it to become an astral link which can then be tracked without the need for ritual sorcery. Don’t leave material links behind like blood!
Thus, you have a fun adventure with the magician having to be the johnson and hope the team he hires can alter or remove all astral evidence or go to jail or worse. Or the magician has to initiate and learn masking and flexible signature posthaste. Ready made plothooks!
Add the Force of any Focus that aids a magician create a magical action to the hours that an astral signature persists.
When a magician has more Force in Foci than their Magic Rating they start to have problems mentally, emotionally and with their auras and astral signatures. For every Force over their Magic Rating they add a die to their opponent’s tests in the following activities:
Unmasked Foci bonded to an individual makes that person easier for others to assense and when ‘observing in detail’ it is harder for the magician to be stealthy or hide.
Unmasked Foci makes it easier for Astral Trackers to find them.
It is easier to remember the magician’s astral signature.
It is easier to gain more detail when using Psychometry on a handled object.
It is easier to craft a Symbolic Link of the magician.
Astral, material, symbolic, and sympathetic links are easier to use against the character since the links are infused with so much more mana than they can safely contain. This mana bleeds out making connecting the link with the magician easier and making astral tracking easier.
It is also possible that long term use of foci at an high level can imbue traits into the foci as part of the magician’s aura becomes part of the foci. (See page 132 in the Street Grimoire for a few examples of Imbued Traits.) So, a rationalist might impart reason into the foci providing a bonus for spells that enhance or perform logic based tasks like analyze device or catalog. Another might imbue a violent nature and provide bonuses to magics that do over the top types of damage like turn to goo or acid stream. It is very common for foci with imbued traits to be passed down to the right magician for the right circumstance by powerful organizations. A focus imbued with Loyalty can be very useful to a parent corporation or secret cabal.
This has lead to serious research about how to “vaccinate” magicians from CFD by forcing them to bond with many foci and then infecting them with nanites. The nanites can’t prevent the foci from providing a pure astral signature back into the astral form of the magician. They have even tried taking foci away and letting cfd run its course and then reintroducing the foci later and forcing a bonding. So far it seems to be working to help fragmented minds to have an healthy merge with greater influence from the host at least that relayed by the foci in the form of imbued traits.
A magician casts a Force 7 spell on a run that is empowered by a Power Focus rated 3 they would leave an astral signature that would last 10 hours.
A magician targeted by ritual magic that had 10 Force in Foci and a Magic Rating of 5 would provide 5 bonus dice to the Leader of the ritual to cast the ritual after applying the Limit. The Limit is based on their abilities and this bonus is provided because of flaws in another. If they used a spotter the spotter would’ve had an additional 5 dice to use for Astral Tracking.