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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?

“ACCLIMATED
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.

“ALIGNMENT
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?

Musings:

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: Primer on Mana


Posting onto Magicknet on 6/1/2075

Everything you needed to know about mana but were too bored to ask.

By Goldeneye

One of the most confusing things to beginner magicians is mana. Mana is what enables us to perform magic whether it is casting a spell or summoning a spirit. Mana flows everywhere there is life and thus extends from kilometers deep into the earth’s crust and around 80 kilometers up. This is called the Gaiasphere. The Gaiasphere contains two coupled realms: the physical and the astral. Mana flows through both realms with limited back and forth transfer of mana from the two realms because there is a barrier between the realms which prevents an astral being from casting a spell at a physical being and vice versa.

When a magician astrally perceives she becomes a dual natured being in which she is both in the physical realm and in the astral realm which means that she can use magic on targets in either realm but she can also be targeted by enemies in either realm. When a magician astrally projects she leaves her meat body behind and becomes an astral being who exists in the astral realm. This is one of the best ways to explore, reconnoiter, and spy.

Adepts are for the most part immune to fluctuations in mana as they and their abilities are centered on themselves. However there are a few Adept Powers that have some degree of variation in use and require drain resistance and in those cases the amount and flavor of mana can make a difference. There are rumors of Adepts finding advantage in staying for at least a lunar month in an high mana area and adapting and storing that higher mana density within their essence. This may be the origin of legends of fighting monks and clerics of many faiths who hole up in holy locales the majority of the time.

Mana can vary by region and by locale. Background Count is the normal amount of mana in a region usually on par with a metro area or a county in the UCAS. The amount or density of mana is measured by academic hermetic mages using the Schwartzkopf Scale of Ambient Mana Density which is shortened by normal people to Ambient Mana and is averaged at 0 with a minus rating showing less than normal and a positive rating showing more than normal. As you might guess having more mana makes magic a bit easier and having less makes it harder.

Mana can also be distorted in a locale or region. The amount of mana turbulence is measured by hermetic mages using the Schwartzkopf Scale of Aspected Mana Vicissitude which begins at 0 (no distortion) and rises as the mana is distorted or flavored by disturbances in the physical realm, experiences in the astral realm, metaplaces and even metaplanes. Personally I shorten that mouthful to Aspected Mana when talking outside of academia to non-hermetics.

Now most of the old textbooks on mana seem to ignore that there is a difference between the amount of mana in an area and the degree of “flavor” to that mana. They just used the term Background Count for any old area whether it was an house or an entire temple complex rather than the modern usage for the density of mana in a large area like a city or county. So, be careful about being confused by this.

A way to look at the decoupling of Ambient Mana and Aspected Mana is to imagine a mighty river of liquid representing say the ley line from Alexandria to Saqqara. Now, if it was unaspected at all we could say the river was made of water. If it was aspected towards your tradition we could say it was flavored with arabica coffee and if it was a toxic domain it would be poisoned. Now if it was only slightly aspected the coffee would taste watered down and the poison would be slow acting but if it was strongly aspected the coffee would be beautiful or the poisoned river could be as slow as molasses as nasty sludge.

In my studies of history I am convinced that there were successful Magicians and Adepts in the Fifth World. Even though the rivers were instead creeks and maybe dried out periodically there would have been surges on occasion and Domains. I imagine that ancient Tibetan temples were the Shao-lin practiced might have had a fair amount of mana and a very strong Aspect. Stonehenge, the Pyramids, Nazca and Chartres Cathedral and the druid grove that preceded it would’ve been places of power and with a strong enough aspect and a strong enough magician miracles could’ve happened.

An important thing to realize is that because of the barrier between the physical and the astral realms there isn’t always a balance on the amount of mana in each realm. With Dragon Paths and Ley lines a magician might find it is easier to cast Physical spells or Mana spells in an area because of the difference in mana density. When mana is balanced between the realms and flows along or collects at a locale they are simply called mana lines and mana nodes.

Sometimes mana levels surge and increase temporarily in a region which is called Sha and sometimes mana levels ebb and decrease temporarily which is called Shen. Sha and Shen normally also include an increase in mana turbulence or Aspect but don’t have to do so.

This brings up mana voids and warps. Space is exceedingly dangerous to the Awakened because of the severely low amount of mana. There are a few places on earth where the mana has been stripped from an area usually by combative geomantic magic from my experience. A way to look at casting spells in a mana void is to imagine yourself as a balloon filled with air out in space. Once you do magic or astrally perceive you are basically putting a needle to your balloon and since there is a differential in pressure you pop! All your mana within yourself wants to fill up that vacuum by leaving yourself which if you aren’t careful can easily kill you.

With mana warps you get too much of a good thing. The greater the density of mana the more likely it is going to Aspect somehow either connecting with a metaplace or metaplane or being targeted by every magical group or powerful spirit, critter, or dragon or just spontaneously creating a Domain which I wll go into more details later. Now with this extreme amount of mana and extreme amount of distortion the very fabric of the realms’ mana warps. To reuse the balloon analogy in this case it is like being underwater. The mana around you is denser then the mana within you so when you do magic or perceive astrally you are popping your balloon which just makes the mana want to flood into you and since it is powerful and turbulent it can make it all but impossible to cast magic and in extreme cases kill you on the spot simply for astrally perceiving.

Mana can be distorted in the astral realm by powerful emotions or experiences and in the physical realm by environmental damage or loss of life. This can cause temporary or ephemeral aspecting along with turbulent mana making it more difficult to take magical actions contrary to the nature of the aspect or distortion.

This often leads to Domains which are regions which have a Genius Loci spirit with aspected mana. Some magicians use Ritual Sorcery and Geomancy to convert ephemeral aspecting to persistent aspect by using the Create Domain Ritual while others use Constructs applying Geomasonic principles. In those cases it is common for the Aspect to include the individual, Tradition, or Magical Group. The advantage of having a place that improves your magic and counters that of your enemies is priceless.

One of the most important techniques that any magician can learn is to filter their mana. This can remove mana turbulence and make it far easier to cast spells in some environments. For initiates the metamagic of Cleansing allows Spells, Rituals, and Preparations that can remove Aspects and eliminate or in some cases cause mana pollution and distortions.

For talismongering it is very useful to pay attention to mana as areas with strong aspects or mana density have higher than the usual amounts of reagents.

Hopefully, this quick breakdown of mana helps novice Magicians become more aware and understanding of the nature of the mana that we manipulate every day. Key terms I discussed are below with a further in depth definition to help answer any questions.

Here is an academic paper on Mana: An Abstract from the Journal of Practical Thaumaturgy Volume 17: Mana Theory.

 

Game Mechanics:

Official Rules:

Background counts impose a negative dice pool penalty equal to their rating for all tests that are linked to or utilize magic in any way (i.e., spellcasting, summoning, assensing, any test made while astrally projecting, and any active skill that benefits from active adept powers such as killing hands, critical strike, great leap, or improved skills, etc). Dualnatured creatures and spirits suffer this penalty to all actions. 

Aspected background counts grant a boost to any limit that utilizes magic in any way (see above) to any metahuman, spirit, or dual-natured creature that matches the aspected domain. This includes spellcasting Force limits, so spellcasters need to be careful as it can be hard to control the additional surge of mana. Any magically active being that does not match the aspected domain should treat this as a normal background count and suffer penalties. 

Background counts above 12 are called either a flux (for aspected domains) or a void (for magically dead zones), and are very dangerous. Any being that is magically or astrally active in any way (dual natured, astrally perceiving, casting a spell, has an active adept power, has an active foci, etc.) takes background count – 12 unresisted Stun Damage each turn that they are active and exposed to the flux or void.

 

The main differences between my rules and the semi-official rules above are that Background Count is split into two main branches: Ambient Mana and Aspected Mana. Ambient Mana is how much or little mana is an area. Aspected Mana is the flavor or orientation of the mana in the area. Ambient Mana can be further split into Physical Realm and Astral Realm (Parageology points this out with Dragon Paths) as the evenflow of mana is prevented by the barrier between the realms so there can be imbalances there. Physical Realm spells would be effected by the Ambient Mana of the Physical Realm while Astral Realm spells (or Mana Spells) would be effected by the Ambient Mana of the Astral Realm. Aspected Mana has been flavored by the environment, actions, thoughts, experiences, or living beings in the area. If reinforced for long enough or after the Create Domain Metamagical Ritual this Aspected Mana will become a Domain and the mana will actively support actions and individuals in line with the philosophy of the domain and resist those who are contrary to it.

Allies/ally actions to a domain get extra dice rolled after the Limit is applied while concordant entities/actions get net hits that are applied to the total after the Limit is applied. Everyone in the domain gets the same effect from the Ambient Mana of the locale which is applied to Limits on their magical actions. For mana warps and ebbs the character has a chance to handle it by resisting Drain.

Example: 

An hermetic mage by the name of Tomas Firebringer rules his Domain which is tied to the metaplace of Knowledge. At his sanctum sanctorum or magical lodge the Domain has a +3 Ambient Mana Rating which drops off to +2 for the rest of his home and +1 to cover his yard and the three mana lines that form the nexus leaving his home to connect to other places of power. The Aspected Mana Rating for the entire Domain is +2. The Background Count of the metro Tomas lives in is 0.

A team of runners with a street shaman raid his Sanctum thinking that he was gone but he was in deep meditation. The street shaman would have -2 dice penalty on all magical tests from the Aspected Mana and +3 to his Limit from the Ambient Mana since they are in Tomas’s sanctum. Should the shaman do any magical activity that would destroy or harm Knowledge in any way such as casting flamethrower in a room full of books then he would have two net hits subtracted from his total after the Limit/Force had been applied. The Magus would have +3 to his Limit from the Ambient Mana and +2 net hits to all his magical activities unless they should directly cause damage to Knowledge as that would be contrary to his philosophy and that of the metaplace his Domain is connected to. Should the battle continue to the lawn then Tomas would have +1 to his magical Limits and +2 net hits on magical activities while the Street Shaman would have +1 to his magical Limit and -2 dice on magical activities that didn’t directly oppose Knowledge.

 

The Schwartzkopf Scale of Ambient Mana provides an awakened character or critter, a spirit, and anything that is dual natured a bonus or penalty to their Limit on all magical actions equal to the rating of the mana they are physically or astrally located at. The normal range on earth is from -7 to +7. A dual natured or otherwise physical being like a ghoul is going to be effected by the Physical Realm Ambient Mana on all their actions except any ‘Mana Spells’ they might cast while a Spirit would be effected by the Astral Realm Mana for most any action unless they Materialize into the Physical Realm.Other than on a narrow band of a mana line and at places of power for the most part awakened beings are effected by the background count of the area (metro or country county) which is usually 0 on the bell curve with the occasional 1 or -1 and the rare 2 or -2 in places like Crater Lake or hidden jungle cities in Amazonia or within 30 miles of the Pyramids. On certain days the background count of an entire area can increase such as the nights of December 24th and October 31st or solstices/equinoxes.

The Schwartzkopf Scale of Aspected Mana Vicissitude is a scale that represents the amount of agency the mana in the locale has to support or deny support to magical activities and beings. The normal range on earth is from 0 to 5. Most areas of Aspected Mana are quite small and could be a closet, or a chapel or a basement. Should a Domain

Mana Turbulence: For contrary actions the awakened being subtracts dice from any magical actions equal to the Aspect Rating. For antithetical actions subtract net hits from any magical actions.

Domains: Areas that have been solidly converted to an orientation, flavor, or perspective of magic and thus aid those who match the Aspect of the Mana in the region of the Domain. Ally actions gain bonus dice equal to the Aspect Rating. Concordant Actions gain net hits equal to the Aspect Rating. Concordant Spirits have an “Acting Force” equal to their original Force plus the Aspect Rating but don’t gain any other bonuses from Concordant Actions. Range 1 to 5 and uses the Aspect Rating. If the Domain Rating is equal or higher than an antithetical Spirit’s Force it is automatically disrupted. For a spirit with an higher Force simply subtract the Domain Rating from its Force to find its “Acting Force” when within the Domain. The regions a Domain covers is usually any mana line/dragon path/ley line/song groove that flows in the area and where they connect. The strength of a Domain radiates outward from the line or place of power and drops precipitously the farther you go until it merges with the area’s background count.

Dragon Paths/Nests, Ley lines/nodes, and Song grooves/pools:  They have two ambient mana ratings; one for physical realm mana and the other for astral realm mana. If the mana is Aspected or Turbulent it would have a third trait of ‘Aspect’. Mana lines/Nodes would only have two traits as their physical and astral realm mana levels are equal.

Example: Mount Shasta has one of the strongest Dragon Nest’s in North America at the top where Hestaby has a lair. It is rated under normal circumstances at Physical 5, Mana 3, and Domain 3 (Air). So, when one of her shamans (an ally) casts a flight spell from the top of the mountain to go to the bottom quickly (concordant action) they would have their limit increased by 5,  and have+3 Net Hits added to their roll.

Mana Voids and Mana Warps:  If the Absolute Rating of the Ambient Mana Scale is over an Awakened Being’s Magic + Grade +5 and they take any magical action or action that is enhanced by magic then the awakened or dual natured character must resist a Drain Value with (Force=Ambient Mana Rating)  as if it was a spell at the beginning of every Combat Turn adding an Initiate’s Grade to the roll (Adepts and most critters/spirits use Intuition + Willpower + Grade). The Ambient Mana also has an effect on handling the normal Drain a character might experience using their magical gifts in that Combat Turn and it is important to remember if the mana in the area is Aspected against the magician then it acts as a penalty to dealing with this Drain as it does with all magical actions.

Filtering: A complex Action that lasts a number of Combat Turns equal to the Magician’s Arcana and counters penalties for lack of mana or mana turbulence equal to the magician’s Assensing Rating. If the mana turbulence or the absolute value of the Ambient Mana is greater than their Assensing Rating than they can’t handle the complexity of the mana in the area and fail to filter the mana in their area. Each time a filtering action is made in an area with low mana the next filtering attempt suffers a -1 penalty to Arcana and Assensing.

 

Definitions:

Geomancy: A metamagic that allows the manipulation of mana through the use of metamagical Ritual Sorcery.

Geomasonry: A metamagic that allows the manipulation of mana through the use of Artificing to create Constructs which shape and alter mana flows and can prevent or lessen Sha and Shen events. Wuxing Towers is probably the greatest modern example while Stonehenge and the Pyramids would be the greatest ancient examples of Geomasonry.

Mana Lines: A path of varying length containing an above normal amount of mana that might or might not connect with other lines or form nodes. Ratings range from 1 to 7 using the Schwartzkopf Scale and the amount of mana is evenly balanced between the two realms.

Mana Nodes: A locale or power site containing an above normal amount of mana that might or might not connect with other lines or form nodes. Ratings range from 1 to 7 using the Schwartzkopf Scale and the amount of mana is evenly balanced between the two realms. Nodes tend to be stronger than the lines that feed into them.

Sha and Shen: Sometimes mana levels surge and increase temporarily in a region which is called Sha and sometimes mana levels ebb and decrease temporarily which is called Shen. Sha and Shen normally also include an increase in mana turbulence or Aspect but don’t have to do so.

Mana Voids: Places that have excessively low amounts of mana in them. Space is dangerous because of the lack of mana which is caused by the lack of life. Lack of mana can make it dangerous to astrally perceive or perform any magic ability.

Mana Warps: Places that have excessively large amounts of mana in them that are also extremely turbulent in nature which can make it dangerous to astrally perceive or perform any magic ability.

Domains: A region with aspected mana that is protected by a Genius Loci. Domains can be created by casting a metamagical ritual or can spontaneously arise. Domains are often connected to a metaplace or metaplane making it easier to summon spirits of that type and use magic appropriate to the Aspect of the Domain. Mana in a Domain can also oppose or resist certain types of spirits and magical actions depending on the nature of the Aspect.

Aspected Mana: Mana that is flavored or distorted and only aids certain individuals, groups, types of magic, categories of magic,  traditions, spirits, or species. There are also types of Aspected Mana that aid certain types of actions depending on the source of the Aspect. A locale with mana aspected towards Fear would provide enhancement towards magic that caused Fear while an area aspected towards Fire would provide enhancement towards fire magic, fire aligned critters, and spirits. Usually Aspected Mana has something antithetical to it that it provides a penalty towards such as a water aspected locale penalizing fire magic and spirits.

Turbulent Mana: Mana that is in a state of flux and hard to use and drain is stronger. Can be temporary or persistent. Annoys spirits greatly and in some cases can disrupt them. Astral pollution or turbulence interferes with ‘mana’ based spells like stun bolt or influence while Physical realm pollution or turbulence interferes with physical spells like a lightning ball or physical mask. This increase in difficulty represents how mana pollution or turbulence disrupts the mage’s fine control and equations from an hermetic perspective or by disrupting the intuitions of a shaman by having an unpredictable flow of mana. Turbulent Mana can happen in a Domain which can make antithetical magic really difficult to perform.

Schwartzkopf Scale of Ambient Mana Density: This scale was designed by the great Dragon Schwartzkopf and his team of researchers at the Charles University of Prague in order to measure the amount of mana in a given region, locale, or mana line or power site. The scale is normalized by the worldwide median average mana level in 2075 at a 0 rating with a minus rating showing lower than normal mana and a positive rating showing a greater than normal amount of mana. It is known that the higher the mana density the easier it is to perform magic and the lower the mana density the harder. At the extremes of the Scale such as found in space or powerful magical locales during Sha events it can be hazardous to magicians and other dual natured awakened entities to astrally perceive or perform magic. A good way to look at it is using Boyle’s gas law. If the amount of mana differential between that contained within the magician and that of the surrounding environment becomes too great then harm can happen to the magician should they become dual natured which connects the magician’s mana to the ambient mana around her. If the ambient mana is too low then astrally perceiving or casting a spell is like taking a needle to a water balloon surrounded by air (which is lower density than the water) and watching the water explode out. If the ambient mana is too high compared to the magician’s mana then when the connection is made the water rushes in like a submarine punctured by a rock. This uncontrolled flow of mana in rare cases can kill those without sufficient talent or skill.

Schwartzkopf Scale of Aspected Mana Vicissitude: This scale was designed by the great Dragon Schwartzkopf and his team of researchers at the Charles University of Prague in order to measure the degree of distortion or change in mana within a Domain. This distortion is measured using an analogous system starting at 0 with higher numbers representing greater mana distortion or aspect. This can be caused by anything from a murder which causes an Ephemeral Domain which can sometimes last just a few hours to the holy aura found at a place of worship to a place of natural power like a volcano or river. Mana Vicissitude in a Domain makes magic use easier for those who are aligned with its Aspect and harder for those who oppose it. There are ceremonial rituals that can create a domain and are usually designed to make an Aspect that aligns the mana in the area towards that magician’s tradition or magical group. A Domain can be created by environmental disaster in which case the Domain is Toxic and the mana is connected to the Physical Realm or an invasion of Insect Spirits in which case the Domain is aligned towards insect magic with the mana connecting and colored or flavored with the Hive metaplane’s mana.

Background Count: This is the normal amount of mana (or density) in a region usually about the size of an American county or traditional City State. There are often many fluctuations or deviations from this at different locales within the region depending on the actions of geomancers, plate tectonics, mana lines, and other causes but for the most part the region has a norm. Worldwide the median average mana density is a 0 on the Schwartzkopf Ambient Mana Scale which spiked up to a 1 during the Year of the Comet and was a -1 prior to the comet and a -2 in 2050. The change in the world’s Background Count effected some magical principles in particular interactions between the Astral Plane and the Physical Plane involving grounding spells. This change wasn’t local but global so even though there are regions today with a Background Count lower than the norm in 2050 a magician can’t ground spells from the Astral to the Physical at those locales or during a Shen event.

Dragon Paths/Nests: Mana lines and Power Sites that have an excess of physical realm mana compared to the locale’s astral realm mana. This has shown to be advantageous to Magicians casting spells that target the Physical Realm but it has also shown to be extremely dangerous to incautious or lower skilled Magicians. Most Dragon locales are in places of great beauty, rarity, clashing elements, exemplar of an element, or obvious physical power such as volcanoes, cliffs, fault lines, lakes, rivers, mountain tops, subterranean caves, coral reefs, heart of the jungle, hidden groves, straits, geysers, hot springs, or places full of non-sapient life and places of great physical tragedy such as a crater from a meteorite, a locale that survived a drastic and sudden flood or flash fire, or an environmental disaster such as an oil spill, toxic waste dump, or radioactive fallout. Dragon Paths and Nests are likely to spontaneously create a Domain upon particular powerful Sha events or after a powerful Magicians, Spirits, or Critters live in the area or after sudden drastic change in the physical environment. Dragon Paths can link to Metaplanes appropriate to the nature of the physical environment such as a river connecting to the Water Metaplane, a volcano connecting to the Fire Metaplane, a coral reef connecting to the Beasts Metaplane, a crystal cave connecting to the Earth Metaplane, a millennia old oak tree connecting to the Wood Metaplane, and a Mountaintop Eyrie for Griphons for Air. Dragon Nests connected to a Metaplane provide extra bonuses to magical actions relating to the Metaplane. Genius Loci tend to be dracoforms though it is not uncommon for the dominant local paranormal animal to influence a Dragon Nest Domain with a Genius Loci representing them. When Dragon locales move or shift it can have effects on the land around it. Living things tend to be healthier in Dragon Regions.

Song Grooves/Pools: Mana lines and Power Sites that have an excess of astral realm mana often from metaplanes and even deep metaplanes compared to their physical realm mana. They are designed for travel and navigation in the physical and astral realms but don’t have the same kind of flex to them that other Mana locales have. This can lead to mana storms, greater mana turbulence in general, and more common Shen and Sha events. They tend to have no influence over the land or the people. There are rumors of Shedim hijacking a Song Pool’s Domain in South America in order to open an Astral Rift to bring in more Shedim from their home metaplane. The rumors say that slavers working for the cartels were hired to bring cargo containers full of SINless people to the site. Tales also suggest that such a thing happened in Chicago.

Ley Lines/Nodes: Mana lines and Power Sites that follow man made and fey features that have an excess of astral realm mana compared to the locales’s physical realm mana. With Geomancy which is a metamagic that allows advanced Initiates to cast advanced metamagical rituals and Geomasonry which opens up the ability to create magical constructs using Artificing they have successfully created modern Ley Lines and Nodes. Very quickly Ley locales tend to become Aspected and form Domains once they flow through areas where sentient creatures congregate and emote powerfully. The original creators of Ley locales can also Aspect or flavor the mana towards different ideas, traditions, and magical groups. The astral realm mana can be influenced by connections to Metaplaces of Battle, Charisma, Destiny, Fear, Knowledge, and Magic in addition to the influence of the geomantic features and the living experiences of the minds in the region of the ley lines and nodes. Ley Regions can also connect with the metaplane of Man and Hy Brasil and other metaplanes of the Faerie. People tend to be happier in Ley Regions.

Genius Loci: Spirits that are formed in some Domains that represent, reflect, defend, and are connected intimately to the Domain. It is a type of spirit with its own personality influenced by its environment and history. A genius loci at a Sylvestrine Cathedral might take the form and personality of an angel while most Dragon Nests have dracoform style spirits. Many also take forms that seem connected to mentor spirits, passions, old pagan gods and christian or buddhist saints. It is rumored that Zebulon is a genius loci spirit. Recently Ares has released that some Hives (which usually have Domains) now have a new type of Insect Spirit that seems to be a Genius Loci Insect Spirit. The Force of the genius loci is usually equal to the amount of Ambient Mana plus the degree of Aspected Mana as represented by the Schwartzkopf Scales. The Force is dependent on those ratings at the specific location of the genius loci so since most Domains have an interior region with the most mana the Spirit is strongest at the heart of the Domain. Killing or Banishing a genius loci can severely disrupt mana flow in an area leading to a Sha or Shen event or even semi-permanent changes in mana lines and Aspects. The effect on Dragon Nests or Paths with Domains can cause physical realm disruptions like a Volcano going off or an earthquake or tsunami or sudden storms. Any Domain connected to a foreign deep metaplane such as the Hive metaplane for example can have unpredictable effects upon the death of the genius loci from Aspected Mana flowing into the region from the metaplane to Aspected Mana flowing out of the region into the metaplane or out and tainting the rest of the mana network in the area.

 Ephemeral Aspect: Temporary distortion of mana towards an Aspect. Aftera powerful experience there can be temporary aspecting of an area’s mana which usually lasts a number of hours equal to the degree of aspecting using Schwartzkopf’s Aspect Scale. In some cases it can last days or weeks especially if the event is reinforced by continuing action. If persistant enough the mana can at some point spontaneously form a Domain.

Aspect Neutralization: Aspects can sometimes be dealt with by removing the cause of the mana pollution which could be as easy as cleaning up the toxins in the soil and planting a garden or by finding an abusive parent and freeing the children from their terror. Sometimes in a matter of hours the degree of mana Aspecting can start to disperse. This can cause problems with Genius Loci who are just fine with the status quo usually. Another way of Neutralizing an Aspect is by taking actions that would dominate the area by basically “covering up” the Aspect with a new and stronger one. Some magicians call this “Hijacking the Aspect.”

Filtering: A complex action that allows a Magician to lessen or eliminate mana turbulence for a temporary period making it easier for her to use magic in the area.

Cleansing: A metamagic that allows a Magician to remove with an Ephemeral Aspect or weaken mana turbulence within an area using Ritual Sorcery or Preparations or Constructs. The filter matrix metamagical spell allows for filtering out aspected mana along with mana turbulence for a temporary fix.

Constructs: The magician uses the Artificing skill to create magical items that influence and manipulate mana.

Antithetical Entity: An awakened being or spirit that is directly opposed by a Domain or Aspect.

Antithetical Action: A magical action that is directly counter to the philosophy of a Domain or Aspect.

Contrary Entity: An awakened being or spirit that isn’t an ally of the Domain.

Contrary Action: A magical action that is from a contrary being that isn’t directly opposing the Domain or Aspect.

Ally Entity: An awakened being or spirit that is an ally of the Domain.

Ally Action: A magical action that is cast by an Ally Entity.

Concordant Entity: An awakened being or spirit that is closely connected to the Genius Loci and/or a metaplane linked to the Domain.

Concordant Action: A magical action directly connected to the metaplane or Aspect of the Domain that is cast by an Ally or Concordant Entity.