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Category Archives: Magic Overhaul

Shadowrun Overhaul: Background Count Official Rules and Commentary

Magicians can perform magic because of the nature of mana. Mana is fueled by life and rises and falls in different locations and times. We are in the Sixth World and mana is rising overall each year except for the Year of the Comet when it spiked and later dropped. From a game mechanic point of view the increase of mana allows for today’s magicians to be just as effective as magicians in 2050 using a fetish. Mana is very sensitive to metahumanity and psychoactively charged by emotions, violence, and events charged with meaning and psychological significance. Repeated use of magic performed by a Tradition or through the use of geomancy can aspect mana towards supporting that Tradition. Widespread worship, prayer, and meditation can create a spiritual oasis as well. An area can also become a domain and aspected towards a specific magical skill like a master enchanter’s forge who loves what he does used over decades could develop additional layers of aspect for joy, creation, artificing, the enchanter, and the enchanter’s tradition.

Mana is also sensitive to the environment of the mundane world getting warped by pollution or radiation or naturally aligned to certain types of magic by powerful physical variables like the area around volcanoes being aspected towards fire magic and friendly to fire spirits. Feng shui, geomancy, and geomasonry are able to manipulate how the mana flows and what aspect it might have.

From page 30 Street Grimoire:

“A background count is a measurement of a variance from normal of mana levels in the area. Arcane scholars have developed a scale to measure the strength of these areas, ranging from –24 to 24, with 0 considered normal mana levels. A negative value relates to lower-than-normal mana available to be used for magic (meaning mana ebbs and voids). A positive value relates to mana that has been aspected in some fashion, making it harder to control unless your aspect overlaps with it (domains and warps). Regardless if it’s a positive or negative number, we use the absolute value in determining how it affects the Awakened’s use of magic.”

So what this means is that any BC that isn’t 0 that hasn’t been acclimated will impact either in a positive or negative fashion an awakened entity or astral denizens magical abilities. A place with less mana than normal will have a negative rating which means that ALL MAGIC will be penalized. A place with more mana than normal will have a positive rating and could help or hurt an awakened entity or astral denizen depending on many different factors. It is very possible for a positive BC to provide aid for one magical test and harm the next.

“Acclimated individuals are able to ignore background counts, but aligned people take it one step further. They are able to completely mesh with the aspect of a domain, getting a boost from the mana in that area.”

Acclimation is something that an awakened being or astral denizen can develop while spending time in that type of mana environment. Since most Universities in most areas focus on the Hermetic Tradition one could assume that any magician who achieved an undergraduate degree at such an institution would have achieved a certain degree of acclimation to a knowledge and hermetic environment. In the NAN the dominant BC at an University would be knowledge and shamanistic and in China knowledge and Wuxing for other examples. The awakened with a rarer tradition would still not gain the benefits of alignment to the dominant tradition and so would have to work harder than their compatriots privileged with alignment to the background count.

From page 31 Street Grimoire:

“The most powerful mana lines or events that have emotional or magical significance to most of humanity. Examples include the five sacred mountains in Chinese lore including T’ai Shan, where the great dragon Lung lives (Rating 15), The Great Cairn line in Tír na nÓg (Rating 14), The blast sites of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Nazi death camps, or the Native American Re-Education Center at Abilene (Rating 13).”

The problem with this comes in with a later bit in which a greater than -12 or +12 BC causes Stun damage every combat turn. How does the Dragon Lung survive his home? Obviously he has an insane Willpower as a Great Dragon but with this rule he would be pummeled into unconsciousness in a day as the rule specifically says even if it is a domain. No matter how high his rating eventually the dice will fail. So, there must be some technique that Lung is able to do to survive this and that he is able to provide to his spirits, awakened servitors, and others unless he exists utterly alone in his home except for mundanes!

“It can take weeks or months of exposure to become acclimated to the background count before his skills aren’t affected by it. Generally speaking, you should plan on one week of exposure per rating point of the background count.”

I have an house rule I am still polishing up that will help quantify what BC a starting character would be acclimated to prior to play.

From page 32 Street Grimoire:

“A background count impose a negative dice pool penalty equal to its rating for all tests linked in any way to magic (such as spellcasting, summoning, and skill tests that use active adept powers such as Killing Hands or Improved Sense). The exception to this rule are background counts from domains, where a tradition, person, skill group, or skill may be exempt from the penalty as they are used to or aligned with the domain. Dual-natured creatures or purely astral creatures take a negative dice pool penalty to all actions equal to the background count. Again the exception of a domain can apply to specific types of creatures or spirit types. Pre-existing active foci, sustained spells, quickened/anchored spells and rituals are reduced by the background count. If they are reduced to 0 or less, spells fizzle, wards and rituals collapse, foci deactivate. A foci cannot activate while under the influence of the background count. Anchored rituals and quickened spells if they have not expired revive themselves at 1 point of Force per hour, up to their preexisting Force. Preparations triggered while within a background count have their potency immediately reduced by the background count. Adepts may use a Simple Action to turn on or off a passive power in cases where penalties from background counts might exceed bonuses from their powers. Background count makes Assensing, Astral Perception, and Astral Combat more difficult to do. Impose a negative dice pool penalty for tests associated with these skills. When attempting to track an astral entity through an area where the background count is higher than the target’s Force or Magic Rating, the tracker loses the astral link at the point of the background count.”

Many questions should immediately pop out at you upon reading this. Does a spirit summoned by a magician share his alignment or acclimations? Does a preparation or focus gain the benefit of alignment or acclimation from its creator or owner? Does it acclimate on its own or is there something the magician can do or must do? What if the quickened spell was made before the magician was acclimated? Wouldn’t an astral tracker benefit from tracking a target if it enters her domain which lets say she created?

This is a benefit of the Home Ground quality (p. 74, SR5). The quality allows characters to ignore the customary background count of an area, and only count half of the background count tied to temporary events.”

Well, earlier the book says that acclimation can be gained by any magician just by spending some time there. This kind of makes that option of the Home Ground Quality pretty weak if two weeks hanging out in a neighborhood acclimates you. It would make much more sense if Home Ground provided alignment for the magician. After all if you’re taking this quality you have a very strong tie to the area to the point where it is a key part of who the character is and what better way to show that than that over the years or decades you’ve been living in a neighborhood you’ve become so in tune with the astral realm and its mana that you and it naturally align together. Your home is a part of your magic now.

The background count is applied as a positive modifier to the limit tied to the skill or skills for an Awakened character aligned to a domain. For example, a Wiccan shaman trying to conjure a Force 4 spirit within a Hag Bolette ring (Rating 3 aligned to the Wiccan tradition) will have a Conjuring limit of 7 (4 + 3). A background count with an absolute Rating value of 12 or greater is dangerously powerful, regardless if it’s from a domain or void. Anyone magically or astrally active in any way (dual natured, astrally perceiving, casting a spell, active adept power, etc.) takes background count – 12 Stun Damage each combat turn they are exposed to it. They can resist this damage with a Willpower Test.”

Alignment can be an on/off thing like a domain of fire may align with a hermetic casting a flamethrower spell and the catholic priest throwing a censor with incense imbued with a preparation to unleash a fireball but penalize a shaman performing a Rain making ritual.

There are domains so great that an unprepared mage could be knocked unconscious by their sheer power, and there are great flaring bursts of mana called mana warps, which are more powerful than even the most powerful of domains.

This implies that a prepared mage could handle a powerful domain!

So, that covers the rules from Street Grimoire. A little known and lightly covered bit with a BC forming temporary spikes in potency is important as is the rule for alleviating half of the temporary BC because of acclimation.

From Aetherology:

Any area of magic lower than normal is termed as having a negative background count. Places that have higher-than-normal positive background count do not affect a magician’s ability to cast magic unless it’s been psychoactively fixed, which brings me to my second point. The second thing you should understand is mana is very sensitive to man. His emotions and his exploits can disrupt the accessibility of magic. From a rock concert to a violent robbery, from toxic waste to smog, mana becomes psychoactively charged, making it difficult to use if your magic is not aligned. A positive background count that is affected by this charge is called aspected. If it’s based on a physical place with some emotional or psychological significance, the aspected mana is tied to a domain.

This brings up something that is a bit of a contradiction to previous rules in Street Grimoire which state that positive BC must be aspected. With this added bit it makes sense that most any place with higher mana is more sensitive to life, man, and the environment making it very likely to aspect. Also later on it contradicts the information in Street Grimoire about mana warps which in Street Grimoire on page 33 it states are areas with -16 to -20 BC while in Aetherology and in other parts of the Street Grimoire it states that higher levels of mana are called mana warps. Later on in Aetherology it mentions that certain high BC areas are very attractive to awakened animals. One would think that the animals if attracted would not be penalized or harmed by the higher mana and must gain some benefit otherwise why would they be attracted to those areas?


A bit of fluff in previous editions is about how shamans don’t like to spend time in polluted or irradiated areas as spending too much time might be dangerous to them and push or tempt them into toxic shamanism. This could be a danger of acclimation and alignment with a BC is that the psychoactivity of mana is a two way street which is described in the Street Grimoire as various things like dragon lines purifying the environment or domains controlling denizens to pick up litter for examples. The mana can influence your emotions and viewpoints over time. This should be roleplayed and could be a good explanation for a quality gained in character generation or in play.

For example a neighborhood focused on learning, academia, and knowledge that a character has the home ground quality may have become more studious and respectful of knowledge in general because of her home. A Desert Wars magician might have spent years in mana soaked in the Battle aspect and as a consequence become more martial in outlook and more likely to use violence as a tool. Where does the experience and where does the mana aspect start and stop?

I also like the idea of aspected mana having multiple aspects or layers. A Spiritual place may provide the prime aspect for a hidden church in Aztlan and a secondary aspect might be Fear caused by the emotions of the worshipers about getting caught by the Nahuatl and sacrificed. A tertiary and temporary aspect might pop up from a lover’s spat taking place in the church a few hours earlier leaving traces of Anger. In this case the priest would be aligned to the Spiritual aspect and acclimated to the Fear aspect but vulnerable to the Anger until it faded away. Since the priest is aligned to the prime aspect he would gain the increased limit for his magic, acclimated to the secondary aspect so it would have no effect on his magic, and the tertiary aspect since it was temporary and he was acclimated or aligned to the more dominant aspects he would only face half the BC from it rounded down as a penalty.

I am working on a system to allow for a magician to gain at character generation various acclimations to different types of mana that they would have developed based on their character background. It utilizes a variation of the Contact system to work and just like contacts the magician will need to occasionally spend some time and effort in order to get exposure to that aspected mana and maintain their acclimation.

It is also important to realize that 0 is normal. If BC is a bell curve it should be -1 to +1 at least two thirds of the time.

Here are some previous rules and viewpoints I had developed prior to the release of the Street Grimoire with various alternatives and house rules.

BC in 5e

Primer on Mana

An Abstract from the Journal of Practical Thaumaturgy

Shadowrun Overhaul: Astral Reputation replacing Spirit Index

I really dislike the way that the Spirit Index is setup in Street Grimoire. My main problem is that it doesn’t allow for a positive reputation among spirits. There should be a difference between a mage who has just atoned for bad behavior and a mage who is new to the spirit game. It basically just seems to be a mechanic introduced to punish player characters.

Anyway, it seems weird to make up a brand new system of reputation when there is a perfectly good system sitting there for the GM to use towards runners. So, Astral Rep will replace Spirit Index and represents how spirits, awakened critters, faeries, and even magicians might know and respect about each other. Remember what an astral denizen might consider noteworthy is going to be different from how a runner or the public might see things.

Astral Reputation Game Mechanics:

Spirit Cred is equal to the magician’s Grade. It provides a positive or null Social Limit Modifier and Astral Limit Modifier with the awakened, astral denizens, and spirits for social interactions and conjurations. The greater the cred the more the spirit world responds. Man-Of-Many-Names can achieve more from a whisper in the ear of the right spirit than some conjurers can with a half dozen great form spirits.

Astral Notoriety is influenced by some Qualities at character generation such as Spirit Bane, Mentor Spirit, or Spirit Champion by raising or lowering your Astral Notoriety by one. For most characters it starts off at 0. It represents various non-private actions that could be conceivably spread around about the PC that are primarily focused on the negative though it can be positive. It provides a dice pool modifier for social and conjury tests with spirits or astral denizens and especially those who respect or worship spirits. It is compatible with Spirit Cred in that an Initiate may have their Social Limit increased and have a negative dice pool penalty at the same time.

A Positive Notoriety could be earned by always banishing opposing spirits rather than disrupting them or by a habit of providing extra reagents when binding or a reputation for mentoring lost cubs and getting them on their feet. This should be used sparingly.

Notoriety can be bought off via the “Setting things right” methods in Street Grimoire or by burning off a point of Spirit Cred.

How much is bought off by an act of contrition is up to the GM but a point of Street Cred should buy off at least 5 points worth. Be generous but consistent. It might help to categorize spirit apologies by minor, major, and grand and provide a framework like 1 to 3, 3 to 5, and 6+ depending on the type of act.

The listing for Spirit Index on page 206 of the Street Grimoire would all be things that could increase Notoriety. Astral Notoriety can quickly grow and impact a conjurer’s effectiveness.

Categorize each transgression as a minor, major, and grand.

Minor transgressions like disrupting spirits would slowly build up steam and eventually increase Notoriety by 1 with a maximum of 3 for that type of transgression. Basically after disrupting a hundred spirits your reputation isn’t going to be hit any worse by 101 and 110.

Major transgressions usually impact your Notoriety after only one to three actions of that type. They start at 1 and go to 3.

Grand transgressions impact your Notoriety immediately and repeated transgressions keep adding up with no limit.

Decide with your players what constitutes a transgression and apology and what type it might be so they aren’t too surprised by it happening. Maybe make a news sheet about a recent treatise on spirits and how reputation in the spirit world is starting to impact conjury. Maybe a mentor mentions that spirits are starting to organize and punish those who abuse them. In other words introduce it gradually and don’t be a jerk about it.

Spirit Awareness represents how likely a spirit or another mage may have heard of you without having time to research about you. It starts off equal to your Spirit Cred plus your Astral Notoriety and doesn’t go down. In game it goes up whenever your Spirit Cred or Astral Notoriety goes up and whenever there might be an event that astral denizens might care about that you participated in. The key about Spirit Awareness vs Public Awareness is that the Astral Realm cares about far different things than the mundane world. Things that increase Spirit Awareness may be the same things that increase Notoriety or could be influenced because you invented a neat new spell or told a funny joke to a domovoi during downtime hiding in a safehouse in Russia. It is built by actions that impact spirits. Participating in killing an insect spirit hive or successfully sending a Master Shedim back where they came from or creating an ally spirit are all things that increase your Spirit Awareness. Maybe you’re a magical musical composer and spirits really dig your concerts or you made a pact with a free spirit. The main thing to remember with Spirit Awareness is that it is neither positive or negative as it is simply the likelihood of an astral denizen or magician knowing information about you on the spot.

Spirit Awareness table

0 to 6: Who?

6 to 10: Spirits from the metaplane you visited on your initiation ordeal or magicians in your Tradition in your neighborhood may have vaguely heard of you. Shamans with their ears to the spirit world in your area may know a little more.

11 to 20: Most Spirits and most magicians in your Tradition in your neighborhood/suburb/county know something about you without having to do research.

21 to 50: Most astral denizens or magicians living in your city knows your name/pseudonym and rep. They may even know more about you especially if you have the Distinctive Style Quality or less for Blandness. Most outside of your niche have heard your name and maybe something you did.

51 to 100: Almost every astral denizen or trained magician in your circles knows of you and is likely to recognize you or your name or style if given a moment. You are likely to be influential in your area for better or worse. A spirit summoned by an Initiate of St. Sylvester could nod and intone a respectful greeting upon meeting the magician while a Wiccan with a talent for making trouble might get an “Oh, no. Not you!” from the poor spirit.

101+ : You are a legend wherever you go in the astral and among the awakened.

Shadowrun Overhaul: Reagents

This will be just a quick overview of my reagent house rules. More in depth rules will be covered in my Artificing Overhaul rules. I have added a new type of reagent called Flawless that is the step up from Radical. So instead of 30 Radical reagents being used to make Orichalcum it is 3 Flawless reagents.

For new Foci rules see here: New Foci

A big change is that only a single dram of a reagent can be used to aid a magical test or procedure. More than one reagent may be used in a long extended process by having the process be discrete. Each day of Artificing or building part of a Magical Lodge or each hour of Binding is a separate process for example allowing more than one reagent to be used in those cases.

Also, a reagent can be used by an Adept as long as the test is enhanced by their magic. An Adept with Nimble Fingers could benefit from the use of a reagent on a Palming test.

Each reagent has a Quality and a Grade. See Talismonger’s Guide to Harvesting Reagents for information about a reagent’s Quality. Alchemists use their skills to refine lower grade reagents to higher grade reagents following the rules on pages 210 and 211 of the Street Grimoire. The main changes are that there is one more step before making Orichalcum because of the introduction of Flawless reagents. The other is that during the process of refining reagents the Quality of a given batch is equal to the worst reagent. So, 9 Prime Quality Refined reagents mixed with a Sub par Quality Refined reagent would distill into a Sub par Radical reagent.

Quality of Reagents:

The Quality of any reagent that has undergone refining is determined by the lowest quality of any component dram. This makes accurate discovery of the grade of all reagents important during the refining process especially with Orichalcum and Flawless reagents because of their cost and use in Artificing.

Prime: 100% higher base cost and 50% faster to refine than baseline reagents.

A critical glitch is downgraded to just a glitch and a regularly rolled glitch is treated as a normal roll while the reagent is in use with any magical tests. When using a Refined or Radical reagent the magician has the benefit of spending Edge on a single magical test during the duration of the reagent as well as gaining the benefits of being unlikely to glitch.. This is compatible with the magician actually spending a point of their Edge.

Superior:  50% higher base cost and 25% faster to refine than baseline reagents.

Using a Superior reagent reduces the chance of glitching by ignoring a single rolled 1 from any magical test during the duration of the reagent. When using a Refined or Radical reagent the magician has the benefit of using the rule of 6 on a single magical test while the reagent is in effect.

Baseline: No modifer to base cost or refining time.

Sub par: 25% lower base cost and 25% slower to refine than baseline reagents.

All magical tests while the reagent is effective are modified so any 2’s rolled are counted as a 1 for declaring a glitch or critical glitch.

Inferior: 50% lower base cost and 50% slower to refine than baseline reagents.

All magical tests while the reagent is effective are modified so any 2 or 3 rolled are counted as a 1 for declaring a glitch or critical glitch.

Tainted: 75% lower base cost and 75% slower to refine than baseline reagents.

All magical tests while the reagent is effective are modified so any non hit is counted as a 1 for declaring a glitch or critical glitch.

Unusable: No value and impossible to refine with current alchemical techniques. Can’t be used with any magic test.

Grades of Reagents:

A magical test is any test that is utilizing a magical skill as a component or is being enhanced by magic in some way. An Adept with Improved Con could enjoy the benefits of increased social limit for example.

Raw: A raw reagent raises the limit by 2 for a single magical test taking place in an action phase.

Refined: A Refined reagent raises the limit by 2 for all magical tests for an individual in a Combat Turn (6 seconds). Refined reagents are used as a component of Magical Lodges and Binding spirits. Spirits vastly prefer Refined reagents to Raw reagents. A Refined reagent is also used to craft telesma for the purposes of creating minor Foci and other minor enchantments. A Refined reagent is also used to brew potions by master alchemists, create fetishes, and used to make ink for magical scrolls.

Radical: A radical reagent raises the limit by 2 for all magical tests for a minute. Radical reagents are used to craft telesma for major Foci and other major enchantments. Radical reagents can also be used in place of spending Karma by unweaving the concentrated mana from the reagent and channeling it exactly the way a magician unweaves part of themselves to empower a Quickened spell for example.

Flawless: Flawless reagents are used exclusively in Artificing as the reagent is refined to such a point that the mana can’t be unwoven from its physical matter except with extreme caution via the refining process to create Orichalcum. A Flawless reagent is dual natured and solid in both the physical realm and astral realm. They are used to create telesma for Grand Foci and other masterful enchantments.

Orichalcum: Orichalcum is created by using three flawless reagents and can be used by master artificers to create the mightiest of Foci and Enchantments. It is also dual natured and very obvious in the astral unless covered in some way. Any Focus crafted from Orichalcum allows a magician to bond to the Focus with much greater ease than normal. Each dram used to craft the telesma halves the amount of Karma necessary to bond.

More on Orichalcum and Flawless reagents will be covered with my future Enchanting Overhaul post.


Item Retail Price Availability
Raw Grade 20¥ per dram
Refined Grade 450¥ per dram 6 + 1 per dram
Radical Grade 5000¥ per dram 8 +1 per dram
Flawless Grade 55,000¥ per dram 10 + 2 per dram
Orichalcum 175,000¥ per dram 14 +3 per dram
Prime Quality +100% Base Cost +2
Superior Quality +50% Base Cost +1
Subpar Quality -25% Base Cost -3
Inferior Quality -50% Base Cost -5
Enchanter’s Lab 5th Gen 75,000¥ 12
Enchanter’s Lab 4th Gen 40,000¥ 10
Enchanter’s Lab 3rd Gen 25,000¥ 10
Microlab 5th Gen 100,000¥ 12
Microlab 4th Gen 60,000¥ 10
Alchemy Kit 5th Gen 10,000¥ 12
Alchemy Kit 4th Gen 4000¥ 10
Alchemy Kit 3rd Gen 1000¥ 8
Alchemy Kit Enhancements 1000¥ each +1
Minor Foci (F x 900¥) + (F x OR x 250¥) (F x 2)
Major Foci (F x 10,000¥) + (F x OR x 250¥) (F x2) +4
Grand Foci (F x 110,000¥) + (F x OR x 250¥) (F x 3) + 3
Focus Tailoring (Days x 1000¥) + (3 x Reagent) +2
OR is Object Rating of Telesma Doesn’t include cost of Telesma

Shadowrun Overhaul: Ways and new Enhancements

The bonus Power Points provided by Ways is a needlessly complex and confusing system that encourages min/maxing when the purpose of the Ways should be to provide some aid mechanics-wise but mainly to provide roleplaying opportunities. As the Quality has a static cost the benefit should also be static and have the same value across characters in my opinion. The Magician’s Way doesn’t really add anything useful and I think was just carried over from the previous edition via inertia and is basically the equivalent of an “Undecided Way”. Ways should be mainly earned in game barring the really dedicated at character generation as it seems to me that a Way would be something learned after Initiating. Thus, no increased Karma cost when learned in game however the Way must be taught by an Instructor and Initiated Adepts aren’t cheap to hire. In game time it should take about three months of training or a season.

Now, a Way provides 1 Power Point that can be spent on the Powers listed under each Way. For every Grade the Adept gains the Quality provides .25 Power Points that can only be spent on the listed Powers. This bonus can be postponed to purchase more expensive Powers. (This allows for the Quality to provide benefits down the road like the existing rules would allow for increasing the adept’s Magic Rating by 2. A min/maxed character in standard rules with a Magic Rating of 6 could gain 1.5 Power Points at character generation through a Way so my option is a little weaker but allows for more freedom in choice of Powers and equal benefit to all Adepts.)

The Magician’s Way really serves no purpose that I can see. The enhancements for the Way can be folded into the Undecided list and the Way itself should be discarded. Digital Celerity really fits better with the Invisible Way thematically. This gives the Adept who doesn’t purchase a Way some Enhancements they could learn.

New Enhancements:

“Domain of the Spiritual” and “Domain of the Warrior” are reworked and balanced as Enhancements instead of Metamagics as their value even improved as I have done is simply not equal to Centering, Masking, or gaining an additional Power Point. Each Way will get their own new Domain that will instead of acclimating an Adept to a flavor of background count actually aligns the Adept to the BC.

An acclimated Adept takes no penalties from a positive BC of the Domain’s type; while an aligned Adept would gain benefits from the positive BC as they are in tune with the mana in the area. It basically provides the Adept with the same benefits a magician would have from their magical Tradition.

Each way has an unique “Domain” Enhancement that they can learn that applies to their expertise.

The Athlete’s Way provides an Enhancement “Domain of the Game” which grants alignment to BC created at sporting events, gyms, and competitions of any type. The emotions running through the mana are close enough at an Urban Brawl match to a tennis match to a poker match.

The Artist’s Way provides an Enhancement “Domain of the Show” which grants alignment to BC created at artistic, dance, plays, concerts, and performance events of any type. It also provides acclimation of up to 1 + Grade to any BC at any type of showcase for the arts even if there is no performance such as a museum, art collection, library, or art gallery.

The Beast’s Way provides an Enhancement “Domain of the Totem” which grants alignment to BC found in the favored habitat of her totem. “Desert, Forest, Jungle, Mountain, Polar, Urban, or other terrain.” This can be dangerous to the Adept for if the terrain has been polluted or irradiated than the distorted mana flowing through them can start the Adept on the toxic path and play havoc with their emotions making it more difficult over time to relax, sleep, and not be a curmudgeon.

The Burnout’s Way provides an Enhancement “Domain of the Tech Geek” which grants alignment to BC found in places of high technology and scientific advancement. A cyberdoc’s surgery room, a corporate research facility, a garage filled with prototype vehicles, a server farm, or an inventor’s lab all have a similar feel in the astral.

The Spiritual Way provides an Enhancement “Domain of the Spiritual” which grants alignment to BC found in places of worship and sacred locales regardless of Tradition, religion, or philosophy. Any complex with a chapel or holy place makes it easier for the Adept to adapt to different aspects of local mana allowing for acclimation of up to 1 + Grade of BC throughout the location. This could be as small as a small hospital or as large as an entire Arcology as long as the complex is a single “entity”.

The Invisible Way provides an Enhancement “Scouting the Joint” which grants a sped up acclimation period for the adept when studying an area’s mana. The Adept must be able to Assense the Astral Realm. Each day spent studying the target area allows the Adept to acclimate to one point of BC with a maximum over a period of days of up to 1 + their Grade or their Assensing Rating whichever is lower.

The Speaker’s Way provides an Enhancement “Domain of the fae” which grants alignment to the BC found in fae touched areas and those created by magicians of the Path of the Wheel Tradition which is particularly useful in Tir Nan Og. They are also acclimated to up to 1 + Grade of BC aligned to Druidism, Wicca, and other nature based Traditions. It also provides a situational bonus dice equal to their Grade to use with social interactions with the faerie and other fey touched beings like other Adepts of the Speaker’s Way or magicians following an “Elven Path”.

The Warrior’s Way provides an Enhancement “Domain of War” which grants alignment to the BC found in areas where blood has been spilled in combat or about to be. It acclimates the adept to 1 + Grade of BC for the emotions of Hate, Anger, Fear, and Despair.

Shadowrun Overhaul: New Focus Types and Enchanting Equipment

Enchanter’s Equipment:

An Enchanter’s Lab is usually part of an Enchanter’s Magical Lodge and allows a Mage to create Enchantments with ease and style. The original Labs were very basic and for Hermetics were often little better than a chemistry lab but as time has gone on there have been many advances in Enchanting allowing feats impossible or difficult just a decade ago to be achieved today. 4th Generation Enchanting equipment was the norm in 2075 but in the wake of the Dragon Civil War and the loss of so many Talismongers and Enchanters who dealt with Draconic reagents and telesma created an huge lack of supply at the same time that demand increased via new Enchanting abilities. This spurred an aggressive burst of pure research and new manatech allowing yesterday’s apprentices to try and compete with yesterday’s lost masters.

5th Gen Lab provides a bonus situational die to all Enchanting Tests including Drain. Additional bonuses can be gained with the Forge artifact component of a Magical Lodge if the lab is within such a location.

The Lab cuts down the time to refine reagents to a mere 8 hour workday and will often speed up other Enchanting processes as if the calculated Force was 1 less. For example an Enchanting process that normally takes Force days with a Force of 4 would only take 3 days instead.

The key enhancement of the Fifth Generation Laboratory is that Alchemists with the Fixation Metamagic are able to bypass the need to learn the Advanced Alchemy Metamagic and are able to create Magical Compounds, Charms, Potions, Scrolls and other advanced alchemical preparations.

4th Gen Lab is the standard Lab as described in the rules. It takes a 10 hour workday to refine reagents. These have been basically the same for the past decade barring a few minor improvements.

3rd Gen Lab doesn’t usually have any penalties as anything really backward was probably updated but they can make certain Enchanting processes take longer to do especially refining reagents which takes a full 12 hour workday. Most shamans haven’t updated from these as the new 4th and 5th gen Labs really focus more on Hermetics and Wuxing Traditions. Most are twenty to thirty years old.

Microlabs allow the Enchanter to take their lab with them when they travel. They don’t provide a bonus die for all Enchanting Tests. A microlab cannot make a batch greater than one when brewing potions, alcohol, and other magical compounds because of space constraints. A 5th gen microlab gives the same access to Advanced Alchemy and Magical Compounds, Charms, Potions, and Scrolls. Microlabs weren’t produced during the time period of 3rd Generation Enchanting manatechnology.

Alchemy kits: are very portable tools for Alchemists and help with harvesting reagents, preserving, and focusing discovered reagents into a smaller more portable raw form. An Alchemist might take a vial and some rare herbs and powders and take a little blood from a slain paracritter and weave the mana from the corpse into the blood mixing into the vial or use a ritual athame to cut a wand from a lightning damaged tree and have the dozen “raw reagents” channeled into just the wand or takes a bucket of awakened berries and weaves the mana into an handful saving space and providing ease of use as no mage wants to carry a bucket of reagents while on a run. A fifth gen kit increases the Astral Limit by 1 and cuts harvesting time in half as well as concentrating the reagents into portable objects. A 4th gen is standard also concentrates reagents and a 3rd gen doubles the normal time. Includes Tool Cleansers and other items that allow for quality reagent harvesting.

Alchemy Kit Enhancements: Adding extra features like the Ghostbusters Enhancement that lets Talismongers salvage reagents from materialized Spirits or a kit tailored to a specific Tradition which raises Harvesting Test Limits by 1 if the Talismonger is of that Tradition. Think of a good enhancement and there is probably some doodads the alchemist can buy that will enable that aid.

Ties in with this post about Talismongering.

Astral Signatures and Foci:

If a sentient being is slain with any test directly aided by the use of a Focus than an Astral Signature is created that lasts Force hours.

When a Charm Focus is used for over a minute it creates an Astral Signature. The duration of the signature has a limit of the Focus’s Force and grows by 1 per minute of use of the Focus. This astral signature would look similar to an influence spell when assensed astrally. Thus, a Charm with a Force of 4 used for 3 minutes would create a Force 3 Astral Signature. If used for 5 minutes would create a Force 4 Astral Signature.

Any time a Focus contributes to a magical test then it adds its Force to the strength of the Astral Signature. A focus that provides four dice to a manabolt of Force 4 would have a total strength of 8.

Focus Addiction House Rule


There are three major categories of Foci and they are Grand, Major, and Minor. Any Artifacts or other magical creations of Artificing fit into these three categories. So, if you invent something new for your game like using Artificing to create Legendary Critters or Chimera for the purpose of making a physical familiar or more powerful homunculi such as a Golem you can use these categories as a guide.

Grand Foci are Power, Shield, Battle, Charm, Genius, Muse, Stalwart, and Sublime Weapon. Karma to bond equal to F x 8.

Major Foci are Weapon, Combat, Detection, Health, Illusion, Manipulation, Invocation, and Initiate. Karma to bond equal to F x 4.

Minor Foci are Qi, Enchanting (helps with Alchemy and Disenchanting), Metamagic, Spell and Spirit Foci as described on SR5 p 320. Karma to bond equal to F x 2.

Descriptions of New Foci:

A Shield Focus provides equal to its Force a number of dice that can be used to help with passive defense, active defense, Counterspelling, defense against Critter and Spirit Powers, and defense against Alchemical Preparations. It provides half its Force rounded up as a bonus dice for surprise tests as well. Often has design that brings to mind shields, pentacles, pentagrams, defense runes, and the seal of solomon and usually takes the form of badges, amulets, decorative pins, earrings, and belt buckles.

Developed in Tir Tairngire to protect the Princes from rebels this Focus is a popular one for those in positions of power under threat of assassination. Organized crime has very much taken to producing and using this Focus.

A Battle Focus provides a dice pool up to its Force that can be used with any personal Combat Skill Test including using a personal sized weapon and has at least a Skill Rating equal to twice the Force of the Focus. Often has martial designs and takes many different forms like a gauntlet, ring, crown, armband, or torque.

Developed by an open source metamagical project by magicians involved with the Desert Wars to enhance Adepts without using Qi Foci. Afterall a Qi Foci can’t be used by a second adept. This way mercenary companies could boost their adepts without losing the benefits later when the adept dies or retires. The focus refines what is already there and is not a replacement for skill.

A Charm Focus temporarily increases your effective Charisma rating for the purposes of any tests involving Charisma. For instance it would not effect a conjurer’s number of spirits they can bind as that is not a test even though it is limited by Charisma. The maximum Force of this Focus is three at the moment though millions of nuyen are being spent to improve this limit.

Charm Foci take the form of flashy jewelry, earrings, vests, hats, glasses, and even things like a platinum tooth or a tongue piercing. The telesma is always a noticeable and memorable item and has a distinctive style per the negative quality. If it is hidden from view it does nothing to aid the owner.

The invention of the Charm Focus was a factor behind the meteoric rise of Horizon to megacorporate AAA status. Already the Charm Focus has become a very popular sign of status among the extremely wealthy with magical talent especially those involved in politics be it corporate or government. Megastars and wannabe megastars with the bare minimum of magical talent required to bond with a focus from trid stars to news anchors are liquidating their fortunes to get themselves in the long line of buyers.

A Genius Focus temporarily increases your effective Logic rating for the purposes of any tests involving Logic. The maximum Force of this Focus is three. This focus overrides the benefits of Cerebral Boosters so whichever rating is higher is the only one that applies.

Invented by the Great Dragon Schwartzkopf at the Charles University of Prague. The research team compared before and after astral photographs of magicians before they received cultured bioware enhancements. By mimicking how the astral form changes to match the new physical form the team were able to make the physical form match the astral and achieve the same goal. At the moment because Cerebral Boosters are limited to just Rating 3 the researchers haven’t been able to surpass this as they don’t have any material to reverse engineer.

The focus often takes on draconic, air/winds, and lightning imagery whether it is a scarf, torque, or a headband and is normally worn near the head.

A Muse Focus temporarily increases your effective Intuition rating for the purposes of any tests involving Intuition. The maximum Force of this Focus is three. The focus overrides the benefits of Cerebellum Booster so whichever rating is higher is the only one that applies.

Invented by a professor of art history in her garage; Doctor Alkonis was searching for the nature or origin of creativity and may have found it via magical stimulation of the astral form’s cerebellum much like scientists discovered with boosting processing in the cerebellum via cultured bioware.

This focus often seems innocuous and could be a cameo locket necklace of a loved one which inspires or an armband with musical bells that hit the right tone with the right movement to put a dancer or a painter in the right frame of mind to create.

A Stalwart Focus temporarily increases your effective Body and Strength for the purposes of any tests involving those attributes. The maximum Force of this Focus is three. This focus is compatible with other means of enhancements and is of course limited to the +4 Augmentation maximum rule. As this just increases Body for the purposes of tests it doesn’t increase any derived component of body like additional boxes on the physical damage track.

Most often taking the form of gauntlets, belts, feather headdresses, armbands, and helmets this focus can take any form.

A popular focus for the elite Sioux special forces the “Wildcats” and even apocalyptic cults from Norway. Rumors say both groups ended up inventing this in parallel. Few are found outside of the two organizations though they are a sign of high status among the trolls of the Black Forest Kingdom.

A Sublime Weapon Focus provides its Force as a dice pool bonus with melee attack tests using the weapon. It also enhances Accuracy and AP by its Force/2 rounded up. There are currently three types of Sublime Weapon Foci. Whatever the type this focus when active is very noticeable in the physical and astral realms as it is wreathed in an aura appropriate for the type of focus.

An Elemental Weapon Focus adds to the Weapon an Elemental Effect (SR5 p 170).

There are two main types of Elemental Effects which are penetrative and impact. A Water or Blast effect may knockdown a target easier and cause additional stun damage. A penetrative effect increases physical damage by various methods like having a flaming sword or an electric trident.

Impact elemental effects like Water and Blast are put on blunt weapons and add twice their Force to the DV for the purpose of the Knock down called shot and add their Force to determine Knockdown on a normal attack in addition to having an Elemental Effect. The weapon adds its Force to the DV if the target is knocked down.

Penetrative elemental effects like Fire and Acid are put on slashing or piercing weapons. If the modified damage value of an attack causing physical damage is greater than AP modified armor rating then add the Force to the DV minus the appropriate specialized protection. (Ignore this if the DV is less than the specialized protection)

Depending on the elemental type the weapon may have secondary effects when penetrating armor or even just when hitting armor as in the case of Acid. The Artificer must know a spell of that Elemental type to create the Focus.

A Bane Weapon Focus adds to the Weapon a Slay/Slaughter Effect in addition to the standard Sublime Weapon bonuses. When used against the species or type targeted by the Bane Focus directly in combat add twice the Force of the Bane to the weapon’s DV.

Additionally add the Bane’s Force as additional situational bonus dice for any opposed Tests targeting the Bane category when the Focus is active. A Bane focus in the hands of an expert in Intimidation can be especially terrifying to the target.

The Artificer must know the specific Slay or Slaughter spell targeting a type for death.

Rumors are common with this type of rare focus. It is known that many megacorps and governments have Insect Spirit Bane Foci for their elite best of the best HTR teams and that developing this manatechnology was a major goal of Ares.

There is a tale about an artificer who crafted many of these Bane’s against Shedim after discovering a payload of naturally occurring orichalcum in his backyard. He had discovered his child had been possessed by a Master Shedim and wanted to make sure people had weapons to defend themselves. At least half a dozen artifacts were made before the Shedim found out and the artificer disappeared. These were mailed to different parts of the world with crafting instructions.

People who are initially neutral emotionally toward the Bane type tend to over time grow more and more inimical toward their Bane. For those already negatively charged against the Bane’s type the process towards antipathy is much quicker. The character wielding a Bane facing focus addiction can easily become irrational and quickly develop a Prejudice against the Bane type and receive no karma for the negative quality.

A Toxic Greater Weapon Focus adds to the Weapon an attack that corrupts the body and astral form of anyone who isn’t aligned with Toxic energies. The Artificer must be a toxic magician to craft this focus. Anyone who binds to this Focus will inevitably have their essence altered until their magic becomes as Toxic as the Focus. Taking a physical wound from a Toxic focus will require a Test resisting anaphylactic shock if it is a Pollutant or resist Radiation per rules on page 105 of the Street Grimoire.

A Combat, Detection, Health, Illusion, and Manipulation Focus grants bonus dice equal to its Force for any Tests involving its Category of Spells. Spellcasting, Ritual Spellcasting, and Counterspelling and also assists Conjuring Tests involving the type of Spirit related to that category of magic that their Tradition can summon. It can also sustain a spell of its type up to the Force of the Focus.

An Initiate Focus adds its Force to the mage’s Grade for the determining of effects for any Metamagics that she might know.

An Invocation Focus acts by increasing the character’s effective Magic Rating with most types of Conjuring tests and when using the Invocation Ritual to buff their Spirits to Great Form. For Banishing it raises the Limit by the Force of the Focus instead of adding dice.


Add +1 Availability and 20% to the prices of Magical Compounds in published materials because of the heightened demand and low supply following the devastation to the Talismonger industry during the Dragon Civil War. Loss of all draconic reagents and telesma plus the loss of hundreds of top tier Enchanters, Talismongers, and Talisleggers who used or dealt with draconic reagents has had a staggering effect on the enchanting economy.

Item Retail Price Availability
Raw Grade 20¥ per dram
Refined Grade 450¥ per dram 6 + 1 per dram
Radical Grade 5000¥ per dram 8 +1 per dram
Flawless Grade 55,000¥ per dram 10 + 2 per dram
Orichalcum 175,000¥ per dram 14 +3 per dram
Prime Quality +100% Base Cost +2
Superior Quality +50% Base Cost +1
Subpar Quality -25% Base Cost -3
Inferior Quality -50% Base Cost -5
Enchanter’s Lab 5th Gen 75,000¥ 12
Enchanter’s Lab 4th Gen 40,000¥ 10
Enchanter’s Lab 3rd Gen 25,000¥ 10
Microlab 5th Gen 100,000¥ 12
Microlab 4th Gen 60,000¥ 10
Alchemy Kit 5th Gen 10,000¥ 12
Alchemy Kit 4th Gen 4000¥ 10
Alchemy Kit 3rd Gen 1000¥ 8
Alchemy Kit Enhancements 1000¥ each +1
Minor Foci (F x 900¥) + (F x OR x 250¥) (F x 2)
Major Foci (F x 10,000¥) + (F x OR x 250¥) (F x2) +4
Grand Foci (F x 110,000¥) + (F x OR x 250¥) (F x 3) + 3
Focus Tailoring (Days x 1000¥) + (3 x Reagent) +2
OR is Object Rating of Telesma Doesn’t include cost of Telesma

For example:

A minor Force 4 Focus with a telesma of a gold wedding ring with a sapphire setting an OR of 5 and a value of 1,400¥ might retail for 10,000¥ at a Talismonger’s shop.

From Sendaz on the dumpshock Forum:

“For the more bashful shapeshifter (one raised among humans perhaps?) tired of the ‘where’s my pants’ game, might we suggest the Wear & Wolf Line from Talbot & Chaney Fashions Ltd which features a new line of shapeshifter friendly apparel.

Using sustainably sourced shapechanger fur specially enchanted and woven into tasteful Apparel Foci designed to be bonded to it’s owner, these pieces transform along with the busy shapeshifter on the go (often taking the form of a collar or otherwise woven among their fur/feather/etc in their primal form…).

These outfits have no intrinsic armor value beyond normal clothing themselves (Armor 1-2 tops at GM discretion) and start at Force 3 rating so as to avoid embarrassing wardrobe malfunctions in some of the wilder areas like Chicago and similar.

Rumours abound of a projected ‘War Wolf’ Line, utilizing shifter bone and shells(presumably from a weretortoise or similar) to increase the armor potential of the range, however this still remains on the drawing boards at present as well as being very controversial due to sourcing issues.”

Shadowrun Overhaul: Astral Combat House Rule and two new Qualities

Astral Combat:

Eliminate the Active Skill Astral Combat.

From a game mechanic min/maxing meta point of view the only character likely to purchase Astral Combat at an high level would be an Adept wanting to fight non-materialized spirits. Even in that case a smart spirit would take advantage of the astral environment to stay out of range of a dual natured enemy limited to just close combat. The adept would be a 2d character fighting a 3d enemy.

A magician would be better off using any Karma spent on Astral Combat on specialized spells that target astral beings from an effectiveness and efficiency perspective.

If Mystic Adepts could Astrally Project and you were making an astral combat warrior than there might be some usefulness to the skill as the mystic adept could combine ranged and close combat in the astral then but since they can’t without a house rule even that option falls flat. Otherwise the 42 Karma spent to make a solid professional Astral Combat skill could be spent on 8 spells or raising your Magic rating or Spellcasting and the character would see a much larger return on their investment.

So, why have the skill if it is just a point sink, not very effective compared to Spellcasting or Banishing, and is very rarely used even in magic heavy campaigns? You get the occasional character getting a 1 in it just for emergencies. Even then with a 1 you’re not likely to be effective in astral combat so you might as well use that Karma somewhere that provides consistent benefit in as many arenas as possible.

In the end a magically talented character is more powerful and more versatile in the Astral Realm by NOT learning Astral Combat. This kind of defeats the purpose.


An astrally projecting Mage with a weapon focus can just use her Weapon Skill or use her Unarmed Skill when attacking with her astral body just as if she was attacking an astral form with her meat body. Absolutely no need for the skill. If a PC has sunk points into the Skill give her one or both Qualities below or add the karma cost to a close combat skill. The character can even use appropriate Martial Arts Techniques against Astral opponents. Rumors of a Martial Art devoted to Astral Combat have surfaced in Hong Kong involving a variant of Wu Shu which takes advantage of the possibilities in the astral realm and uses maneuvers that would only be possible while in astral form.

A sapient creature native to the Gaiasphere may attack a materialized Spirit and substitute Charisma for Strength during a melee attack for damage purposes and bypass the Spirit’s Immunity to Normal Weapons. The creature may also be able to defend against a materialized spirit by using the Steeling the Will Interrupt Action. These actions should be powered by the story and fueled by powerful emotion and not something that a typical being would be able to tap into at will or very often. Hate, Fear, Rage or even Love of another could empower even the most physically feeble of defenders to harm the mightiest of spirits. This also brings some hope for a team should the mage get geeked as spirits are pretty much unstoppable by mundanes in many situations. I could imagine a water elemental drowning a Face and getting a little surprise. A PC can tap into this rage or will by spending a point of Edge and taking the appropriate Interrupt Action if there isn’t adequate story reasons or if they don’t have the necessary Qualities.

Spirit Brawler:

Positive Quality: 10 Karma (Can be learned after character creation without doubling Karma cost with an Instructor who has this Quality and takes a month of intensive training)

This Quality was originally codified by charismatic welterweight boxing champion Lee Ray McDaniel after an event in 2018 when a shadow boogeyman spirit tormenting his daughter caused her to scream in terror waking him up and he rushed into her room and lashed out with all his fear and rage into the materialized spirit with a single right hook that ‘knocked it out’ in one hit.

Decades later a squad of Red Samurai honored an elderly Lee Ray upon his induction to the Boxing and MMA Hall of Fame with a masterwork Daisho crafted by the Imperial Swordsmith saying that the reason they were able to survive the Manila Bug swarm of ’58 and save thousands of lives was because of his techniques that he freely taught to respectful members at his dad’s gym in between fights during his entire career.

A spirit brawler can in melee combat add his Charisma to his Strength to increase the DV of his attack against a spirit in the physical world or any astral being that is Materialized. The attack also counteracts the power Immunity to Normal Weapons for materialized astral forms. A dual natured spirit brawler can do the same against astral targets when in close combat.

Against an astral target a projecting spirit brawler still knows the right way to channel their rage and strike an astral form in close combat to do the most damage and thus have their DV and appropriate Limit/Accuracy raised by 1 when in astral melee combat.

A spirit brawler is experienced with combat with spirits and has improved defenses to prove it. Their limit is increased by 1 when actively defending against any attack by an astral form or a materialized spirit.

Steeling the Will: 

Positive Quality: 5 Karma (Can be learned after character creation without doubling Karma cost with an Instructor who has this Quality and takes a month to learn)

A newly commonly available ability by many soldiers in special or elite forces that deal with dangerous spirits on a regular basis. This Quality allows the use of a new Interrupt Action “Steeling the Will” at will. Developed separately by the Sioux and by the Wuxing Megacorporation in the sixties it has since been made available to be trained in by most of the world’s armed forces.

Interrupt Action

(-5 Initiative)

A trained and prepared defender with the Quality of the same name can at will take a brief moment to focus their minds and gain additional “Armor” equal to their Willpower for the rest of the Combat Turn when resisting physical attacks or damage from a physical medium that are caused by Materialized Spirits. This Interrupt Action can be spontaneously used by the untrained who are mentally very disciplined through meditation or introspection or it can be the product of a cold rage such as could be felt by a parent defending a child from a malicious spirit.

Shadowrun Overhaul: House Rule for Artifact Assensing

Artifact Assensing House Rule:

As a response to dragons and dragon sympathizers assensing the auras of Artifacts with Telesmas that incorporate draconic reagents they developed a technique to protect themselves.

This is a process that attempts to create a generic template of an aura to mask over the creator’s aura during the crafting of a focus. The reason for Talismongers doing this ties directly into the dangers that talismongers found themselves in during the Dragon Civil War with dragons and their sympathizers analyzing foci with telesma made from dragons. Doing this doesn’t add any additional time to creating foci.

The rules as they stand in SR5: “Make an Opposed Test of Artificing + Magic [Astral] vs. twice the Force of the focus. You can use the net hits to learn about the aura of the artificer who crafted it (see Assensing Table, p. 313). This can be attempted once a day per focus.”

The rules for assensing an artifact make no sense at all. This would mean that it would be easier to assense the creator of a cheap trinket of a focus than a mighty artifact. This is counterintuitive to me and besides Force seems like an odd thing to have as a limit for this anyway. I can see why they might have chosen Artificing but Assensing makes a lot more sense given that is what you are doing. I chose Artificing as the limit as not knowing much about foci and how to make them would be a big disadvantage.

Game Mechanics:

When crafting a focus using a 5th generation Enchanting Lab the Artificer can protect themselves from potential harm by placing a generic and shifting signature into the Focus making it difficult to assense. Artificers with Flexible Signature and/or Masking are even better at hiding their signature inside the focus.

Artifact Assensing Test: Assensing + Intuition [Artificing] (Force hours) v Artificer’s Arcana + Magic + Grade (Flexible Signature) + Grade (Masking) [Artificing]

Use the net hits just like you would for a normal assensing total.

May make one attempt a day. This is not an extended test and each attempt stands alone.

Shadowrun Overhaul: Focus Addiction House Rule

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!

Game Mechanics:

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.

For example:

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.

Shadowrun Overhaul: Introduction to Initiation

After reading the Street Grimoire I had some ideas on really overhauling the initiation process. I am abandoning the term of metamagic to eliminate confusion with the core ruleset and at most it would simply be a term for magical abilities learned post-initiation that require initiation to learn.

Thaumaturgical Arts are unchanged from the core rules for Metamagics with the only rule change being their categorical name. Thaumaturgical Techniques are refinements on Thaumaturgical Arts or simply a new ability or talent that isn’t as demanding to learn as an Art.

Mystery Techniques require access to the Mystery to be able to be taught or learned and are special abilities gained by those who unravel the mysteries of their Mystery.

Path Techniques require access to a Way to be able to be taught or learned and are special abilities gained by those who follow the Way down the magical path by living, breathing, and experiencing all the Way has to offer.


All Thaumaturgical, Path, and Mystery Techniques cost 10 Karma to learn.

All Mystery and Path Enhancements cost 2 Karma to learn. Those that grant a Profession Knowledge gain a new Knowledge equal to their Magic Rating when the Enhancement is learned.

Minor Magics such as Parlor Tricks, Wisp Commands, Ceremonies, Charms, Trinkets, and Elixers cost 1 Karma each.


Upon initiation the Awakened PC can learn a Thaumaturgical Art or gain access to a Mystery or Way. Adepts can only learn one Way as a rule with the two exceptions with the first being the Way of the Fallen Burnout which allows the Adept to have both the new Way and their old Way. The second is when the Adept becomes warped and takes on a villainous Way.

Thaumaturgical Arts:

Centering, Fixation, Spellshaping, Shielding, Absorption, Quickening, Anchoring, New Power Point, Adept Centering, Masking, and Flexible Signature.

Thaumaturgical Techniques:

Advanced Alchemy, Penetrating, Efficiency (Efficient Ritual), Reflection, Hijack Spell, Appropriation, Amplify Ritual (Great Ritual), Flux, Astral Impersonation, Filtering, and Ceremonial Rites.


Each Mystery has at least one Mystery Technique that can be learned once the Mystery has been opened up by the Initiate Magician or Mystic Adept. Mysteries often have special Rituals, Spells, Enchantments, minor magics, a Social Enhancement, a Profession Enhancement, and a Magic Enhancement.


Each Way has a key or core Path Technique that can be learned once the Way has been opened up by the Initiate Adept or Mystic Adept. That Technique provides bonus Power Points that can only be spent on certain Powers appropriate to that Way. The allocation is of .5 Power Points per 2 points of their Magic Rating. Ways often have special Rituals, a Social Enhancement, a Profession Enhancement, a Synergistic Enhancement, and an Ability Enhancement.

List of Commonly Known Mysteries:

Mystery of Bones, Mystery of the Third Eye, Mystery of Dreams, Mystery of the Great Mother, Mystery of Daemons, Mystery of Cities, Mystery of Poseidon, Mystery of Blood, Mystery of the Green Thumb, Mystery of the Sky Father, Mystery of the Moon and Stars, and Mystery of Mythmaking.

List of Adept Ways:

Way of the Two Masks, Way of the Flashy Gadget, Way of the Immaculate Creation, Way of the Fierce Competitor, Way of the Untamed Beast, Way of the Fallen Burnout, Way of the Invisible Hand, Way of the Hidden Secrets, Way of the Silver Tongue, Way of the Holy Word, Way of the Deadly Blade, Way of the Analytical Mind, Way of the Black Arrow, Way of the Twisted Path, Way of the Poisoned Mother, Way of the Bleeding Mouth, Way of the Fiery Fist, Way of the Lightning Strike, Way of the Iron Titan, and Way of the Intercepting Wave.

Future Posts will illuminate each Mystery, Way and Art/Technique.


Shadowrun Overhaul: Magical Dueling

There are several ways that the ancient tradition of dueling as re-entered society as we go deeper into the Sixth World. Dueling pervades all strata of society and takes many forms from taking credit for an idea to get promoted over your rival at the office to a little amateur urban brawl action so your bike chummers think you’re chill to outright blazing guns and headless enemies. One of the most common forms of dueling is through proxies in which the rich and powerful pit their chosen against each other sometimes with challenges and sometimes in gladiator style combat.

The first is the basic duel in which the magicians choose a melee weapon and can use magic but nothing prepared beforehand and can only wear obvious armor if agreed to before the duel starts. This is more common for Adepts but the occasional magician or mystical adept has dueled in this way. The problem with this form of dueling is that it tends to be injurious to both duelists and possibly even deadly. Even with each duelist having a second to protect bystanders and their charges from errant magic it is just too easy for things to go wrong.

The second involves combat in the Astral realm which is evolving very rapidly as it becomes more popular. Hidden Arenas in Domains linked to the Battle metaplace have spread like wildfire in the past two years with the arrival of tempo and the rising popularity of spirit vs spirit combat. It is rumored that a cabal of free spirits has inordinate influence on the dueling scene one of whom takes the form of an older african male with wild and crazy hair.

With the introduction of the first martial art form created for Awakened Orks and by Awakened Orks: Hez Errit’grumrutra has changed the landscape for magical duels. Masters of this new martial art have dominated the metahuman combat leagues while sparking interest in Astral Combat official competitions and the magical society Egran’den Er’rek Wejoto has profited greatly despite suffering from half a dozen deadly attacks on its Jrikrek or school building by unknown but powerful magical assailants. The Egran’den are made up of an unique blend of ex-military or mercenary Orks with extensive Awakened combat experience and street shamans with a bent towards social justice. Many of the new outer circle members are former gang toughs who are being rehabilitated with tough love from the military crowd and a little wise gentleness from the street shamans.

The third involves direct magic to magic battle extreme. There are two methods by which this duel takes place. The first involves the duelists channeling their power and essence into a centerpoint until it gels into a form and a duelists dominates it. The second option involves a Ritual which is cast by a neutral third party that has evolved into the popular collegiate game Astral Total War.

The Arcane Duel

 Traditionally the two duelists face off with their seconds watching for treachery and their thirds creating mana barriers up to prevent accidental harm to bystanders. Each bows towards each other and stand within 10 meters of each other. Now both cast the Arcane Duel spell targeting the area between them. The Force of the spell acts as a limit to most Tests between the Duelists and the spellcaster can pick whatever Force they want but they have to handle the Drain from the spell which is quite demanding so they risk gaining penalties from before the actual duel for higher potentials. The spellcasters decide whether the duel shall use Sorcery, Conjury, or Enchanting.

The two duelists continue to pour power and weave threads into the center of the dueling area which slowly takes on an appearance based on the personalities of the duelists, the Skills involved in the duel, whatever mentor spirits they might have, and their Tradition.

In battles between master conjurers the audience can watch two pseudo-elementals slug it out for their amusement while another might involve a single elemental that both conjurers are trying to control. A duel between two Chinese sorcerers may play out visually as a game of go played by two elaborately designed Shen. It was once common amongst Hermetics familiar with the Old Matrix sculpting for their duels to take on the clear lines and geometric shapes of the Old Matrix protocols but that has become rarer in the modern day.

There is a moment when the spell gels and combat can begin usually sometime after the combined total of the two spell’s Force x 3 Seconds but can happen earlier or later depending on how difficult it is for the spell to find an appropriate venue. The better duelist at Assensing tends to win first action which is a big advantage as from then on the duel goes back and forth between the duelists until the victory conditions are met.

The duelists trade blows or moves back and forth until victory is achieved. For the vindictive they prefer to deal several light to medium blows to weaken the mage before hitting them hard so as to “Scorch” their opponent and possibly cause permanent damage to a magical faculty or mental facility.

Victory conditions can be the collapse of the opponent or first blood or first to five damage boxes dealt.

Weapon Foci bonded to a duelist provide an increase in DV by the rating of the Focus. Power or Spell/Spirit/Enchanting Foci add to the Attack or Defense Totals by choice of the duelist at the beginning of combat. For a duelist with two Foci one could be applied to Attack while another to Defense or both to Attack or both to Defense.


Initiative: Intuition + Assensing Opposed Test (only rolled once at the beginning of the duel; after that it goes back and forth)

Attack: Logic + (Spellcasting/Summoning/Alchemy) + (Power Focus or appropriate Focus such as a Spell Focus for a Sorcery duel) [Force]

Defense: Intuition + (Counterspelling/Banishing/Disenchanting) (Power Focus or appropriate Focus) [Force]

Damage Value: Charisma + Net Hits on Attack + Weapon Focus Rating + (Ritual Spellcasting/Binding/Artificing)

Resistance: Willpower + Arcana

Boxes of damage: Magic Rating x 2 (If damages overflows and is greater than Willpower then the mage is knocked unconscious (Stun Damage) and her astral form is disrupted which can cause permanent psychological or magical problems and is called Scorching your opponent.)

Edge: The Special Attribute of Edge is replaced by the Mage’s Grade. A non-initiate has a Grade of 0 and thus would act as if they had no Edge throughout the duel. “Edge” spent on the duel has no impact on the Edge Special Attribute.

-Don’t forget Wound penalties from before and during the duel.

-Reagents can’t be spent during the duel itself to alter Limits.

Arcane Duel Technique:

This arcane technique costs no karma to learn and can be taught in an hour or two with a good instructor. The Arcane Duel doesn’t conform to the standard categorizations of spells and rituals as it involves parts of all five spell categories and some of the steps of a ritual. Both duelists must have this Quality for the Duel to work. Some of the principles of Attunement are used as well as the anchoring technique of Ritual Spellcasting. Rumor has it that this technique involves elements of ancient and foreign magics.

Both duelists must be within 10 meters of each other. Both duelists expend Reagents equal to the Force of they choose for themselves at the same time which creates a temporary magical lodge just for the purposes of this duel in a sphere surrounding the two duelists. The initial prep time can usually takes about a minute. Each attack takes a full minute after which the other duelist begins their attack which lasts a full minute.

Drain is handled normally for your tradition as if casting a spell with a Drain Code of Force and Centering can be used.