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D&D 5e House Rules: Shields


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Featured Image from i33 the earliest known martial art treatise from the middle ages. The image shows each with an arming sword and a boss held buckler.

There are lots of different shields in history and they are used a lot more like a weapon than depicted in movies and television where shields just passively sit on your arm like a piece of armor rather than an active participant in the battle.

Rather than making a whole lot of distinctions between bucklers, bucklers with sharp points on them, rotellas, targes, targas, rotellas, tower shields, kite shields, and Viking shields I’m just going to make a few categories for them to fall into.

One thing to consider is that the difference between a small buckler and a tower shield is greater than the difference between a dagger and a greatsword. It seems a bit strange to have them be treated as effectively the same.

For roleplaying purposes, there are two major splits with shields. Those held in a boss grip and those held with a strap. Below is a buckler or what I categorize as a “Dueling Shield” from a site called Steel Master. Underneath that is a reproduction of a boss held Viking Shield by the merchant Armstreet and a plate from Capo Ferro with fighters holding strapped shields of a type I categorize as “war shields”.

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Those held with a strap can allow you to hold something in your hand like a torch or a backup weapon to throw at an enemy before melee starts. It was a standard thing to hold onto anything from a spear or a javelin or a throwing axe in your shield hand so you could transfer it to your main hand before your enemy reached you.

The strap based shields are good on horseback allowing you to hold the reins in your shield hand. The negatives are that it is harder to be active and to use the shield like a weapon though you can hold the straps in your hand like a boss shield to get more control unfortunately that takes away from the advantage of being able to have something in your hand.

Boss shields are held in a grip at the center of the shield. Most shields until the late middle ages are of this design from small bucklers to large Viking shields. Shields of this design could get quite large in history.

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This is another large shield I categorize as a “Body Shield” which is wielded with two hands shown in Talhoffer below:

talhoffer-hook_shield

As you can see there are a lot of different types of shields and they are used in different ways but they are a weapon not a piece of armor and knowing a bit more about them can allow you to be more entertaining in battle descriptions and even add a bit of fluff to your roleplaying. Is your shield round or teardrop shaped? Is it a rectangular buckler and does it have a spike or dagger sticking out to add damage? Is it concave or convex?

Another thing is to consider the materials the shield is made of. Viking shields usually had a metal center or boss attached to wood and bound with leather. Some shields have metal edges. Some shields are made entirely of metal. If so when they get hit they can make quite a sound…which can be a great explanation for why the knight botched their stealth roll by clinging their shield like a bell against something metal. Wood shields were often used to trap blades in them as the blade would get stuck and then disarmed which can be a tool for a DM to use to explain terrible rolls or for a player to use when the DM says the Barbarian is making wild swings so they can use their action to interpose the shield to purposefully disarm the “Buffel” relying on strength rather than proficiency.

For game flavor, you can even impose repairs during the night or stops in towns to replace shields. Good use of the mending cantrip for roleplaying so the Paladin can grudgingly appreciate the value of the meddling wizard.

Game Mechanics:

I had a lot of feedback about my original rules being overcomplicated so I’ve endeavored to fix that. I have split shields into three general categories called Dueling Shield, War Shield, and Body Shield with a game mechanic section and a bit on the social use of carrying a shield of that type in daily life. I’ve entered in a few suggestions on how to apply certain feats to the new rules and a new mechanic for shield warriors working together.

Handling proficiency with shields I recommend that rogues, barbarians, and bards have dueling shield proficiency since dueling shields particularly spiked bucklers were famously used by thieves and street bandits to the point where they often became illegal in some city-states. Fighters and Paladins should have all three types of shields. As a general rule think of bucklers as ubiquitous in almost every city in the Old World from India to Egypt to London for centuries by almost every combat trained nobleman or wannabe street tough. For flavor, at the end of this post, I have an optional rule to regard a “parrying dagger” as if it was mechanically identical to a spiked buckler as they are basically interchangeable. Most historical fencing tournaments today allow you the choice of parrying dagger or buckler and they are used in much the same fashion with different masters suggest different methods of using both depending on the century and locale. This lets you roleplay as a quite standard fighter of the renaissance with a sidesword and dagger without losing the AC and benefits from Dueling Fighting style.

War and Body Shields are martial tools used in war primarily with a bit of guard duty thrown in for the War Shields. Body Shields are a war or ceremonial item that normal people aren’t going to want to carry around unless they want to impress or they want to kill and not be killed.

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Shields as Weapons:

Shields can be used to attack for 1d4 blunt damage or if spiked or otherwise weaponized may do 1d4 piercing damage instead. If used as an off-hand weapon the warrior can use a bonus action to make an attack. If you want to allow Two-Weapon Fighting to apply that can open up some interesting options though it does make the shield the dominant off-hand “weapon”. This is the case in history in almost all places and all times outside of Japan and in Northern Italy during the Renaissance when the sidesword/rapier and dagger became popular for civilian and dueling uses.

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Shield Wall:

Warriors with the Protection fighting style can when using a War Shield or Body Shield provide to any adjacent warrior within five feet who also has a War or Body Shield to allow those adjacent warriors to use the Protection fighting style themselves should they not already have the fighting style as long as the target of the enemy is an adjacent warrior to them with a War or Body Shield.

This means that a trained fighter in a column can greatly fortify their comrades in arms. This can provide an in-game mechanic for how Greek phalanxes or Roman legions defeated enemies who on paper far surpassed them. Later on, Pike Squares would devastate cavalries in a similar united fashion.

Optional Feat Changes:

Shield Master increases the d4 for damage to d6. Keep in mind that with different types of shields the bonuses this feat provides will differ depending on the type of shield.

A Sentinel who is part of a Shield Wall formation may give the benefits of Sentinel to the warriors immediately adjacent to them who meet the same requirements as sharing the Protection fighting style.

This combined with Protection fighting style can make even a low-level group of fighters incredibly dangerous when fighting together. An elite fighter backed with two moderately proficient shield mates presents a new type of problem with this rule demanding new tactical approaches especially in an enclosed environment like a long hallway or a bridge or an Underdark tunnel.

Dueling Shield:

A boss held dueling buckler is small, quick, and active in battle. It is mostly used to trap swords, deflect attacks, bind weapons, to hide the movements of your other hand, close down lines of attack, protect the sword hand, and as a weapon to strike the throat, smash the face, and smack your opponent’s sword hand out of line to make it easier for your sword to strike or even disarm your opponent. Some versions have spikes and even stranger adaptions that were probably not martially savvy but intimidating or stylish.

These are the shields that civilians use because of convenience and ease of transport. You put a strap on the shield and hang it over your sword hilt so it doesn’t take up much space and it doesn’t interfere with your daily life. Some versions have a connection so you can hook it to your belt directly which is also very convenient. The buckler is a daily part of life carried by peoples all over the world from Ireland to India for thousands of years and no one is going to bat an eye at someone carrying one when doing their shopping at the market or watching an opera.

A Dueling Shield is 2 to 6 pounds on average depending on the material and is usually between about 10 inches to 18 inches in diameter. A dueling shield provides a + 1 to AC. If the warrior is proficient with Shields they can use a bonus action move the shield to cover the center line. This action grants a bonus to AC equal to half your Proficiency bonus from attacks coming from that specific opponent. Later you can spend another bonus action to move the shield to cover the line of attacks from a different opponent.

Has the “light” weapon property.

War Shield:

This is a martial weapon for war, defense, or threat of war. Most people aren’t going to want to carry with their hand a boss held Viking shield all day and even a strap shield on your arm can get exhausting after a few hours. Depending on size and shape you might have your shield strapped to your back, on the side of a wagon or boat, or carried by a squire or auxiliary. In daily life, you are most likely to see Medium Sized Shields carried by town guards, bodyguards, mercenaries, hunters going after large dangerous game, people in ceremonies, and soldiers.

A War Shield is 5 to 12 pounds depending on the material and two to three feet in diameter with many shapes and sizes. A War Shield provides +2 to AC. As a reaction, the warrior can “duck under cover” and counts as half cover against ranged attacks until the start of your next turn.

Body Shield:

This is a martial weapon designed to be used in war while in a formation. It is heavy and bulky making it dangerous to run with and for most non-warriors, it will quickly cause exhaustion just carrying it let alone using it. It is slow and bulky making it a liability to a warrior by themselves or when flanked compared to a War Shield which is more nimble.

Socially, someone walking around with a Body Shield outside of a war zone or as part of their duty would be looked at askance and have Disadvantage on social tests not involving Intimidation. Carrying a body shield around to buy a chicken at the market would be the equivalent of going to Target with a SWAT Riot Shield in your hand. If you’re not a police officer or a Hollywood extra on a movie shoot you’re likely to scare people or make people very uncomfortable unless you can spin why you have it out into a good story. You’re also likely to bump people or knock over things in crowded spaces carrying a shield larger than some people.

A Body Shield is more than 10 pounds depending on material with many being over 20 pounds and at least four feet in length on one dimension. A Body Shield provides +3 to AC. Because of its size and bulk carrying a Body Shield halves movement speed. It is also quite heavy which can affect encumbrance as well further slowing down a weak character and also has the “heavy” weapon property. 

When carrying a Body Shield in front of them a warrior benefits from half-cover against ranged attacks. As a reaction, the warrior can “duck under cover” and counts as three-quarter cover against ranged attacks until the start of your next turn.

Because holding a Body Shield blocks vision unless it is made of a material like Glassteel and opaque to sight it gives you disadvantage on Perception and Investigation checks.

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Optional Rule: Parrying Dagger

Since Parrying Daggers are basically dueling shields with spikes as far as game mechanics you can use a Parrying Dagger instead of a Dueling Shield with no change other than roleplaying or mechanically for fighting styles via Dueling or Two-Weapon Fighting depending on how you rule that. You can’t throw a Parrying Dagger effectively but you can be very effective dealing piercing damage or blunt damage with a hammer strike with the pommel or a punch with a quillon or with the Nagel, ring, or sail. A large parrying dagger is 19 inches long and a large buckler or dueling shield is about 18 inches long so even the size is basically the same. An advantage of seeing a parrying dagger as mechanically a shield is that you can then easily use a rapier or sidesword and parrying dagger together without issues and with the same effectiveness as with a dueling shield.

The above image is a Parrying Dagger made by Marco Danelli.

For more information about real combat check out the freely provided treatises of the historical masters at Wiktenauer.

If you’re interested in HEMA or Historical European Martial Arts please check out my other blog: A Novice’s Guide to HEMA.

D&D House Rules:

Origin of the Abyss

Combat Overhaul

Shields

Character Creation Backgrounds

Crafting, Magic Items, and Economics

Familiarity, Proficiency, and Expertise

Character Focus

Tactics of Mistake

Counterattacking

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D&D 5e House Rules: Half-Elf Variants


My phone and tablet broke so I haven’t been able to update this and I’ve been too tired to get on my pc for those few moments it isn’t in use. I am scrapping much of the core ideas involved with this for some new ideas. I will be back. 
When growing up most Half-Elves learn how to diffuse social problems around them and come to grips with their mixed race heritage and the problems it can cause. Another path is to simply acknowledge the difference and rather than dive into the social sea and master it these Half-Elven pursue mastery  in whatever drives their passion. From their human parent they gain drive and ambition with a focus on the short term and attention to detail with a long term view from their elven parent allowing them to excel far beyond their peers. This pursuit of excellence provides some social protection or at least gets the Half-Elf out of the mainstream and thus out of the attentions of those who might cause harm social or otherwise.
Most Half-Elven Savants come from backgrounds involving libraries, temples devoted to gods of knowledge, universities, and master craftsmen or artists. Exposure to books or people with a love in what they do touches and influences both sides of their nature turning them from studying the people around them and their differences as most Half-Elves do and towards finding that kind of love of knowledge or passion in their own lives. As a consequence they learn to disarm or avoid difficult social situations with their intelligence and excellence.
Some Half Elven Savants fall in love with languages and often end up as a diplomats or go betweens as a result of their learning rather than their charisma and social skills.
There is a small drawback for these Half-Elven which is a tendency to slip into Reverie and day dream when pondering particularly complex ideas, solving subtle puzzles or riddles, creating masterpieces of art or war, or researching a topic pushing the bounds of current knowledge. This can be inconvenient when time is an issue. It is a drawback of their elven blood and their tendency to ignore time constraints and a drawback of their human blood and their tendency for vibrant and powerful imaginations and dreams.
Half Elf Savant Traits
Your half-elf character shares some qualities with its parents and some that are unique to them whether they are Savants or other variants.
Age: Half-Elves mature at the same rate as humans do but age slower because of their elven blood sometimes approaching their second century.
Alignment: Savants tend to be of a less chaotic bent and more influenced by the human traditions if raised amongst humans or mastery of an art or form if raised amongst elves. This greater discipline and patience can be advantageous when dealing with finicky and eccentric sages, artists, and master craftsmen. They might chafe and resent rules or demands but cast that aside as unimportant while in pursuit of their passion or goals. As a result Savants are more reliable and predictable than their more common cousins.
Size: Half-Elves tend to inherit their height from their human parentage while tending to inherit the lean and wiry frame of their elven parentage. This is just a tendency though and half elves have a great range in how they express their unique ancestry both in their physicality and in their minds. Your size is medium.
Speed: Your base walking speed is 30 feet.
Darkvision: Thanks to your elven blood you gain the ability to see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light and in darkness as if it was dim light. Color can’t be discerned in darkness only shades of gray.
Fey Ancestry: Thanks to your elven blood you gain advantage on saving throws against being charmed and magically induced sleep. The powerful dreams of the savant weaken their resistance to sleep magic.
Life Long Learning: Starting at first level the Half-Elven Savant gains proficiency and expertise in one skill or tool or starts with 5 extra languages. Whenever the Savant has an Ability Score Improvement they also gain proficiency in a new skill or tool or they can gain 3 more languages. At 11th level they can gain Expertise in a second skill or tool.
Languages: You can speak, read, and write Common, Elvish, and one extra language of your choice.
Reverie: When undergoing a task with a skill or tool they have Expertise in with a Difficulty Class of Hard (20) or greater the Savant must make a Wisdom (10 + DC greater than 20) saving throw to avoid spending twice as long on the task as strictly necessary.  A task with a DC of (25) would require a Wisdom saving throw of (15) for example. During this time the Savant can be irritable upon interruption or less perceptive to outside and extraneous details as a flaw should the player decide to roleplay this. Savants tend to enjoy dreaming and can sometimes solve difficult problems while sleeping allowing a 1d4 to be added to a task roll if the Savant takes a short rest and a nap before attempting it or after a long rest if the Savant consciously decides to focus on a problem before bed. Savants tend to sleep deeply as a consequence and are difficult to awaken and have disadvantage on any tasks rolled on their turn immediately after awakening or for being woken up.

Hiatus, Good reads, and D&D 5e


I haven’t had the time lately to keep up with posting on Shadowrun especially on Magic or go through and modify my house rules to take into account the new Magic book. I do have a whole section of a notebook with half finished or rough draft house rules to post plus some scribbles saved in evernote so if I can get some days off without any special events we will see.

Besides life and work I have been distracted with D&D fifth edition and I do have some house rules in rough draft form that I will post sometime soon. No fiction lately sorry. I have just finished the excellent Magician’s Land the third book in Lev Grossman’s Magicians Trilogy which I highly recommend. For Harry Potter fans definitely check it out and http://hpmor.com/ for Eli’s famous fanfic of Harry Potter who has a scientific background before going to Hogwarts. You can easily lose sleep because of these stories!

 

D&D House Rules:

Combat Overhaul

Shields

Character Creation Backgrounds

Crafting, Magic Items, and Economics

Familiarity vs Proficiency

Character Focus

Tactics of Mistake

Counterattacking

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.

Initiation:

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.

Mysteries:

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.

Ways:

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.

 

Shadowrun Overhaul: Shielding Metamagical Qualities


Shielding Metamagical Qualities:

After character creation and the Initiate learning the Shielding Metamagic she can develop new techniques that improve her ability to Shield herself from magic or develop new enhancements to her Shielding. These Qualities can be taken together and combined for additional effect.

Mass Shielding:

This Quality costs 10 Karma after character creation. The Initiate can protect an area with her Counterspelling equal to her Magic Rating + Grade in meters or a number of individuals within LOS equal to twice her Magic Rating + her Grade. This is a popular Quality amongst military and mercenary magicians.

Absorption:

This Quality costs 10 Karma after character creation. The Initiate gains the ability to absorb magical energy directed at her and channel it into her sorcery. Whenever the magician uses her Shielding/Counterspelling she may add the net hits from that Test up to and equal to her Grade as a dice pool bonus for her Spellcasting and Drain Tests on a single spell cast within that Combat Turn or the next Combat Turn.

State of the Art Shielding:

This Quality costs 10 Karma after character creation. It allows the Initiate to apply her Grade in dice as a defense against any type of magical effect from any source.

Reflection:

This Quality costs 10 Karma after character creation. This Quality allows the magician to use her Counterspelling ability to redirect a Spell back at the original caster. The magician must be aware of the spell, be within LOS of the caster or target or be a target of the spell or within the area of the spell’s effect, and have an Arcana equal or greater than the Force of the spell in order for her to be able to comprehend the spell, unravel control of the spell, and send it back to its original caster. Attempting to Reflect a spell is an Interrupt action at -10.

The first step is to check if the magician succeeds on a Counterspelling + Grade [Magic] v Spellcasting + Magic [Force] Opposed Test (Add +3 Dice to the Counterspelling if the spell was cast recklessly). If she fails she still blunts the attack by subtracting her net hits from the Spellcaster’s net hits and goes on to take a defense test as normal. If she succeeds then the spell is sent back to the caster. The Force of the returning Spell is equal to the Grade of the Initiate with any net hits on the Reflecting Test acting as net hits for the spell. The targets completely evade the original spell and the reflected spell goes off as if it was a normal spell of whatever type the original caster cast. Area effect spells go off but do not harm any of the individuals protected by the Initiate with her Counterspelling which is a number equal to her Magic Rating.

Hermes Portal and Ars Magica


Here are pdf’s of the articles I contributed to for Hermes Portal an ezine for Ars Magica by Atlas Games.

 

Portal_US_11 Portal_US_10 Portal_US_9 Portal_US_15

 

If you’re interested in more check out Hermes Portal which has 1 through 15 issues downloadable for free.

Check out my blogroll on the right and check out Sub Rosa which is continuing the tradition of high quality Ars Magica articles.

Shadowrun Overhaul: Metamagics in Fifth Edition


With a soft cap in 5th edition on achieving high grades of Initiation because of the Grade being limited by the Initiate’s Magic Rating and because I think Metamagics should do more than just one thing I have added quite a few new and old metamagics with idea of looking at what the metamagic does directly and what it might offer access to for the Initiate’s Magical Skills to do that a regular practitioner wouldn’t be able to do. Also, I am expanding on Metamagical Qualities that are learned in gameplay that offer neat expanded abilities or enhanced abilities within the purview of a metamagic.

Adept Centering: (SR5 p 325)

Centering: (SR5 p 325)

Fixation: (SR5 p 325)

Flexible Signature: (SR5 p 325 and p 326) {Astral Impersonation Quality and rituals detecting astral traces}

Masking: (SR5 p 326) {Astral Impersonation Quality and Rituals that involve manipulating Awakened Astral Forms}

Power Point: (SR5 p 326)

Quickening: (SR5 p 326)

Spell Shaping: (SR5 p 326)

Shielding: (SR5 p326) {Absorption and Reflecting Qualities}

 

New Metamagics:

Possessing: {Requires Attunement}

This Metamagic is rare and banned by most governments and corporations. It grants access to powerful new rituals and qualities which can allow the Initiate to possess or help others possess prepared Constructs or Vessels, animals, and unwilling mundane targets. With the metamagic alone however the Initiate can only possess dual natured beings that are unconscious or willing. The most common way the possessor dominates a victim is by defeating them in astral combat using stun damage which disrupts the astral body and knocks the victim unconscious.  The victim doesn’t begin recovery of the stun damage until the possessor dismounts from the body.

The Initiate can possess a body equal to their Grade in hours but must be careful as that time counts as Astrally Projecting time for the Initiate. An Astrally Projecting magician can’t be possessed this way as they aren’t dual natured when projected or protruded unless they should be knocked unconscious while projecting.

The possessor only has access to the puppet’s physical abilities and innate magical capabilities. The victim will usually not remember anything about any activities done while possessed though they might have dreams about it. If the Initiate casts magic while possessing a target their drain is automatically physical and any mana based magic that targets the possessor effects the Initiate normally however physical damage only blemishes the host.

Research has shown that heavy use of this metamagic can be mentally destabilizing and lead to heightened ratings of the Dark Tetrad traits of Sadism, Pyschopathy, Narcissicism and Machaivellianism. There are rumors of Initiates who master this metamagic capable of transcending death and permanently inhabiting bodies though that might be equating magicians with shedim or the children of the shedim but probably involves dangerous spirit pacts or other metamagics.

Ceremonial Magic:

Ceremonial Magic allows the Initiate to use already attuned Sympathetic Links and Symbolic Links as a substitute for Material links when performing Ritual Sorcery and offers access to learning or creating many new and more powerful Rituals that work with Conjuration or Enchanting. If the leader of a ritual has this Metamagic and spends an hour training any participants in the ceremonial practices of a specific Ritual then the -2 Dice Penalty for participants having a  different Tradition is eliminated for the Teamwork Test. (For more info on Sympathetic and Symbolic Links check page 29 of Street Magic and the Attunement Metamagic.)

Attunement:

Attunement is a Metamagic that allows the Initiate to create or enhance astral connections between items, people, and locations. Sympathetic and Symbolic Links are attuned for Ritual Sorcery as a replacement for Material Links (without Ceremonial Metamagic the Initiate would be unable to personally use the Links for Ritual Sorcery purposes.) With Attunement many new and powerful Rituals become possible as well as the purchase of new Qualities. Adepts can learn some of these Qualities which involve connecting deeply with a type of animal or item or even a location (see Home Ground).

Exotic Metamagic:

Gives the Initiate access to a new unusual power including those of spirits and critters.  There has to be good reason for the magic and a source for the magic such as an hermetic mage writing their phd thesis on some new type of magic he has invented or a Dragon teaching his Drakes Dragonspeech. The GM and the player should sit down and make up the rules on how it works. It also makes for more interesting bad guys who have unique abilities not seen before. As a general rule for Critter Powers is a number of uses per day equal to the Initiate’s Magic Rating with the GM deciding if instead the number of uses should be based on Grade per day if the Critter power looks imbalancing. As a general rule for moderately powered abilities the Force is equal to the Initiate’s Magic rating and for very powerful critter powers equal to the Initiate’s Grade.

Examples: Shapeshifting, Dragonspeech for Drakes, Movement, and Walk Through Earth.

Blood Magic: 

This metamagic focuses on sacrifice, blood, life, essence, and death. Twisted magicians use this for blood rites, animal and human sacrifice, and tap into forbidden sources of magic to increase their power. Other less tainted magicians use Blood Magic to empower their own spells with parts of their own self which allows them to surpass their limitations though it is a dark road they take which leads most who walk it to the Tainted and Corrupted Paths. Blood magic by itself opens up a few magics and qualities but really begins to shine when combined with attunement and ceremonial magic in particular. With Quickening the Initiate can sacrifice a sapient life form and take its permanent Edge rating as Karma to be spent on quickening the spell. The Blood Mage who masters Invoking can summon Great Form Blood Spirits into the world. With Divining the Blood Mage can read the future in the bowels of animals and sentients as they bleed to death to give a few examples of how blood magic complements other metamagics. The most feared of the Twisted magicians master Blood Magic and Nethermancy and are capable of feats beyond the pale of most magician’s imaginations.

Self sacrificing grants 10 reagents worth of magic to a spell cast as the Blood Mage self injures themselves as a combined complex action. This does one box worth of damage that must heal naturally or the Blood Mage loses a Karma point for every sacrificed box healed with magic.

 

Divining: {Requires Attunement and Geomancy}

With Divining the Initiate learns how to access even more information through their ability to Assense mana, astral forms, and astral/emotional residue. It opens up many new spells, rituals, preparations, constructs, and qualities that involve reading past events, predicting future events, seeing far off events, or detecting specific items or signatures such as the Dowsing Quality, Psychometry Spell, Hunch Preparation, Enhanced Danger Sense/Combat Sense Adept Powers, The Third Eye Quality which lets the Diviner add to their Assensing Dice Pool their Grade, Magical Forensics Rituals, access to a superior remote viewing ritual and clairaudience/clairvoyance spells, uncontrolled visions, with Dream magic the Diviner can get glimpses, omens, and clues about events or futures through the veil of dreams, and create constructs involving divination like I Ching, runes, tarot cards and such.

Invoking: {Requires Ceremonial Magic}

This metamagic provides advanced conjuring techniques and access to new Conjuration Rituals. The most popular uses of this art is for the Ally Conjuration Ritual, Summoning and Binding Great Form Spirits Rituals, Calling the Wild Hunt or the faerie Rituals, and summoning spirits from the deep metaplanes like the shedim or insect spirits as well as helping said spirits handle evanescence and metamorphosis.

Geomancy: {Requires Attunement}

Geomancers see and manipulate the flow of mana around them. With the Arcana Skill and its new specialization Geomasonry; the Geomancer can alter mana flows by altering a landscape or designing various shapes or buildings that channel the mana. Things such as building artificial lakes, cathedrals, Wuxing skyscrapers, roads, pyramids, walls, and bridges which work with the Geomancer’s magic in manipulating mana flows and causing or preventing Sha and Shen events, mana storms, and other phenomena. Common uses of Geomancy involve the Create Domain Ritual, Harden Regional Mana Ritual, the Sensing Quality, Home Ground Quality, Filter Matrix Spell, Cleansing Ritual, Patronage Quality, Steward of the Land Ritual, Constructs which influence or cleanse mana, and the Dam the River Ritual. The Geomancer automatically detects when Assensing the Background Count of the region and the amount of Ambient Mana and degree of Aspected Mana at their locale if their Grade is equal or higher than their rating.

Shaping: [Attunement]

Shapers are master artisans and craftsmen who can create magical constructs called Objets d’art. Objets d’art can be so powerful to astral perceivers as to enthrall them and can even alter mana flows and aspect based on the theme of the art. While someone is influenced by an Objet d’art the artisan can add the rating of the piece as extra dice to any mundane or magical test involving influencing that individual as long as that influence goes with the theme of the Objet. The rating of the Objet’s aspected mana is equal to their Grade plus any net hits on an Intuition + Artisan [Lodge] Test. The range of the Aspected Mana is equal to the artisan’s Magic rating in meters though the range drops precipitously if recently moved. Shapers also can add their Grade to the rating of any Telesma or Lynchpin Art they craft for Artificing purposes.

Bardic Metamagic: {Requires Attunement}

Bards are able to use their Performance + Charisma + Grade [Magic] to cast a slow form of sorcery called Spellbinding that takes minutes x Force rather than a Complex action to cast. The bard slowly weaves mana into her performance and becomes the focus of the audience. Those who are actively unwilling to focus on the performance are able to do so with no roll. Once paying attention the target audience is distracted from paying attention to anything else and suffers a -4 penalty to Perception tests during the performance. The effect can mimic any Manipulation [Mental] or Illusion [Mana] spell and can only effect an individual or group who are actively paying attention or enthralled by the bard.  The bard handles drain just like a sorcerer would if they cast whatever spell the bard chose. The Performance has to match the desired goal of the spell such as a thrash metal ban controlling a mob to be violent with each other or a play about greed or lust encouraging that emotion or action inspired by that emotion. Adepts can learn this metamagic and in fact be amazing at it.

Nethermancy: {GM decision on Requirements though it should include Attunement, Dreaming, Masking, and Fate’s Edge}

The rarest of the known metamagics Nethermancy is an art covered in rumor and supposition. It deals with Essence, metaplanes particularly the deep metaplanes, aberrant and wild spirits, veils, pathways, and the boundary of life and death. It opens up many new magics including the highly secretive and powerful cybermantic rituals and constructs used in creating cyberzombies and the advanced magics used to handle faerie ways in Tir Nan Og.

Exorcism:

Metamagic that enhances Banishing by severing the bond of a spirit to this plane which painfully wrenches the spirit out of the Gaiasphere and back to its home metaplane or metaplace. Once Exorcized the spirit can’t return to the Gaisphere for 28 days per hit on the Exorcizing test. There are rituals, preparations, and constructs that the Exorcist can learn that can more permanently banish or destroy spirits especially should they have the spirit’s true name. The exorcist can add their Grade to Banishment Tests and can banish possessing spirits. There are rumors of an Ares Ceremonial Magic Ritual that has a chance of reversing an unfinished Metamorphosis into an Invae. The Sylvestrine Order has mastered several spells, rituals, and constructs that aid in dealing with the Shedim.

Dreaming: {Requires Attunement}

Dreamers can enter the dreams of other people for short periods of time with Dream spells that can find out information without being noticed like Mind Probe (Dream) or Mind Link (Dream) which lets you pass on information to a dreaming person to be recalled at a later time. For longer dream walking Rituals are required. Certain constructs can protect against Dream Magic.

Fate’s Edge: {Requires Attunement}

This somewhat rare metamagic allows manipulation of Edge, blessings, curses, and karma. New spells, rituals, constructs (luck charms), and preparations are opened up upon learning this art that are either more powerful than the versions known to vanilla magicians or allow the Initiate to do things that are seemingly impossible. This art is most often practiced by the gypsy clans, a sect within the Order of St. Sylvester that focuses on apotropaic blessings, magical societies that have extensive truck with free spirits as this metamagic allows rituals that can transfer karma, wiccans/hedge witches, and houngans.

Astral Protrusion: {Requires Astral Perception Adept Power}

This metamagic allows an Adept or Mystic Adept to manipulate their astral form and have it leave the physical body. To learn this metamagic the Adept or Mystic Adept must purchase Astral Perception as an Adept Power as a requirement. This Metamagic was developed by the Great Dragon Professor Schwartzkopf’s research team at the Charles University of Prague that has been focusing on a Grand Unifying Theory of Magic for decades and lead to the discovery by MIT&M in 2075 on how Adepts and Mystic Adepts can learn the Power of Astral Projection.

With this metamagic the Initiate can Astrally Protrude for free for the Initiate’s Grade in minutes a day and after that the character has a limit of her Magic Rating in minutes a day before her astral form starts to degrade which can lead to death or psychosis. This time doesn’t recover until the character gets a full 8 hours of rest. The Initiate’s astral form is connected to their physical body by a different colored cords or threads with at least one being silver which represents the character’s awakened gift. This astral thread can be attacked with Astral Combat or by a dual natured strike from the physical realm but since the thread has a natural sense of self preservation it gets a chance to defend itself normally though the character cannot use an interrupt defensive action. The speed of the astral form is limited to 100 meters a Combat Turn.

The Initiate uses their Physical Realm Initiative instead of the normal Astral Realm Initiative typical of a magician astrally projecting as they are so tied to the limitations and capabilities of their physical bodies that it transfers over to their astral bodies.The Adept Power Astral Projection requires this metamagic.

This metamagic also opens up more functionality with other Adept Powers in the Astral Realm.

If the Adept had Improved Strength +2 than that would also augment their Astral Form giving a +2 to their Charisma Rating to find out their Astral Strength. Traceless Walk transfers usefulness to the Astral Realm with the Adept leaving little or no traces of astral passage or trail and being undetectable to some forms of Astral Security by exerting control over her astral presence and the reaction of the astral realm’s mana to her form. Some Improved Senses work in the Astral Realm giving the Adept such as increasing visual acuity or transferring usefulness like heightened sense of smell allowing the Initiate to pick up a “smell or odor” when a particular type of spirit was in the area for example.

The Initiate can learn Astral Combat Martial Art Maneuvers and use them with their astral form.

For example the maneuver Ghost Lightning Strike allows the Adept to take advantage of the blinding speed of her astral form and strike a distant opponent with a close combat attack as long as they are within Magic Rating x 2 Meters. This strike can use Killing Hands or a Weapon Focus and the target must be an astral form or dual natured form to have any effect. This strike uses the Astral Combat Skill.

(This maneuver has the visual appearance of the Lord Marshall from the Chronicles of Riddick movie)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPqtCfbLQug

Shadowrun Overhaul: New Metamagical Quality: Astral Impersonation


Astral Impersonation:

This is a positive Quality that costs 10 Karma after character creation and requires the Metamagic Masking and/or Flexible Signature and the ability of Astral Projection or the Adept Metamagic Astral Protrusion. With this Quality the Initiate can alter her astral form (with Masking) and/or astral signature (with Flexible Signature) to match that of another being that they have Assensed with 4 net hits or have an Material Link or an Artifact made by the target. With Ceremonial Metamagic and a Magical Lodge the Initiate can use a Sympathetic or Symbolic Link after an Assensing + Intuition [Magical Lodge] Test with 4 net hits. An Initiate with this Quality automatically succeeds in impersonation with Spirits if she knows the Spirit’s Formula or True Name.

The Initiate performs an Impersonation + Charisma  [Astral] Test with the number of hits providing the base threshold to see through the disguise of their Astral Form when the Initiate opposes an Assensing Test with their Magic + Grade.

For forging Astral Signatures add Arcana + Grade to the threshold of detecting a forged astral signature. Thus, the Forensic Magician would make an Assensing Test on a forged signature using this formula: Assensing + Magic + Grade [Astral] 3* + (Arcana/3) + Grade Test. They would see the false signature with 3* net hits and would need to match the forger’s Arcana bonus added to their Grade to see through the forged signature.

Depending on how familiar the entity is that the Initiate is trying to pretend to become there are penalties to the above total that need to be applied. A GM may rule that the Adept Power Voice Control can provide bonus dice per level to the Impersonation Test above.

Different Gender: -1 Die

Different Tradition: -1 Die

Different Species: -1 to -3 Dice. A vampire was once human so would get a -1 while a Blackberry cat would get a -2 as it is still a mammal and a Dragon would get a -3 as they are radically different than metahumanity.

Different Plane of existence: -4 to -10 Dice. A spirit close to metahumanity like a Guidance spirit might get a -4 while a Shedim would get a -10.

 

By Impersonating the Astral Form of another astral being the Initiate can bypass magical security as if they were the creator and even spoof commands to astral servitors like Watchers or Spirits that they can visibly interact with.

By Impersonating the Astral Signature of another astral being the Initiate can remove the actions of themselves or another and forge their astral signature to look like something completely different such as a spirit for example.

Shadowrun Overhaul: New Metamagic: Astral Protrusion


Astral Protrusion:

This metamagic allows an Adept or Mystic Adept to manipulate their astral form and have it leave the physical body. To learn this metamagic the Adept or Mystic Adept must purchase Astral Perception as an Adept Power as a requirement. This Metamagic was developed by the Great Dragon Professor Schwartzkopf’s research team at the Charles University of Prague that has been focusing on a Grand Unifying Theory of Magic for decades and lead to the discovery by MIT&M in 2075 on how Adepts and Mystic Adepts can learn the Power of Astral Projection.

With this metamagic the Initiate can Astrally Protrude for free for the Initiate’s Grade in minutes a day and after that the character has a limit of her Magic Rating in minutes a day before her astral form starts to degrade which can lead to death or psychosis. This time doesn’t recover until the character gets a full 8 hours of rest. The Initiate’s astral form is connected to their physical body by a different colored cords or threads with at least one being silver which represents the character’s awakened gift. This astral thread can be attacked with Astral Combat or by a dual natured strike from the physical realm but since the thread has a natural sense of self preservation it gets a chance to defend itself normally though the character cannot use an interrupt defensive action. The speed of the astral form is limited to 100 meters a Combat Turn.

The Initiate uses their Physical Realm Initiative instead of the normal Astral Realm Initiative typical of a magician astrally projecting as they are so tied to the limitations and capabilities of their physical bodies that it transfers over to their astral bodies.The Adept Power Astral Projection requires this metamagic.

This metamagic also opens up more functionality with other Adept Powers in the Astral Realm.

If the Adept had Improved Strength +2 than that would also augment their Astral Form giving a +2 to their Charisma Rating to find out their Astral Strength. Traceless Walk transfers usefulness to the Astral Realm with the Adept leaving little or no traces of astral passage or trail and being undetectable to some forms of Astral Security by exerting control over her astral presence and the reaction of the astral realm’s mana to her form. Some Improved Senses work in the Astral Realm giving the Adept such as increasing visual acuity or transferring usefulness like heightened sense of smell allowing the Initiate to pick up a “smell or odor” when a particular type of spirit was in the area for example.

The Initiate can learn Astral Martial Art Maneuvers and use them with their astral form.

For example the maneuver Ghost Lightning Strike allows the Adept to take advantage of the blinding speed of her astral form and strike a distant opponent with a close combat attack as long as they are within Magic Rating x 2 Meters. This strike can use Killing Hands or a Weapon Focus and the target must be an astral form or dual natured form to have any effect. This strike uses the Astral Combat Skill.

(This maneuver has the visual appearance of the Lord Marshall from the Chronicles of Riddick movie)