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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

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Shadowrun Overhaul: Astral Combat House Rule and two new Qualities


Astral Combat:

Eliminate the Active Skill Astral Combat.

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

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

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

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

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

Instead…

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

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

Spirit Brawler:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steeling the Will: 

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

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

Interrupt Action

(-5 Initiative)

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

Shadowrun Overhaul: 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.

 

Reading the Street Grimoire


It is good so far. Some glaring typos especially one about castrating you that isn’t capitalized and looks like a leftover partial sentence.

I really didn’t expect this to be released so soon so obviously I am going to overhaul my magic overhaul to work with what I like in the book. That might take awhile.

Still working on an awakened martial art, astral maneuvers, a new martial art each for orks, trolls, and dwarves, and a martial art form for the heavily augmented that takes advantage of the unique capabilities someone with an arm of metal could do, and more to make astral combat more interesting and give more options to players.

Street Grimoire released on pdf today.


I am looking forward to reading this:

Street Grimoire

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: Astral Total War


Today on Magicknet!

Astral Total War college semifinals: MIT&M’s blue doubles team faces UW’s purple doubles team live in the meat world and the astral at Three Crones in Boston at 7 PM East Coast Time tonight! {Buy Meat Tickets} {Buy Astral Tickets} {Watch on high definition Trideo}

How the Fashion spell can make a smelly loser into a winner with the ladies. {Buy Article} {Buy Spell Formula}

Ryan Two Tusks takes on Kamol “The Smasher” in Mixed Martial Adept Arts for the Ork heavyweight Championship next week. {Watch Live} {Buy Tickets}

Can too much magic lead to a radical change of personality? -By Martina Novoliska {Read Opinion Piece}

How to deal with the inherent difficulty of applying micro effects in a wide area. -Essay by Thomas Bonesage {Read Journal}

 

Astral Total War:

Astral Total War is a relatively new and very popular game that has spread like wildfire and has been very quickly codified and organized into various teams on every campus with a major magical program in North America, Japan, Australia, and Northern Europe. The standard freeform or professional game involves five players called pentacle games and a Ritual team that acts as judges, casts the ritual, and prevents outside interference. University play focuses almost entirely on doubles games with many Universities putting out several collegiate teams which compete against each other within the same conferences that they compete in with sports and matrix games.

The Ritual begins by the lead Sorcerer beginning the ritual and using the Attunement Metamagic to link via mana threads to each player and to an item usually a large cup or award at the center that acts as an anchor for the ritual. The players arrange themselves around the cup. The Force of the Ritual is decided with higher Force Rituals giving an advantage to stronger magicians and lower Force Rituals giving an advantage to weaker magicians as the Force of the Ritual acts as a Limit for each player for their magical actions. Once the Force has been decided then the Ritual leader begins the spell and each player begins to astrally craft his or her defenses, offensive forces, and sculpt their terrain which is visible from the Astral but each player is blocked by a Mana Barrier that prevents their observation of what their opponents are doing. From above in the astral a pentacle game looks like a pizza with five pieces with the people playing with miniatures.

The ritual is fully ready when Force x hours are spent with the setup. The moment that happens the Judge orders the mana barriers dropped and combat begins. There are various rules for winning range from having the most astral territory to who has the most Wizard’s Towers to control of the heart or area around the Cup in the center of the players. Some games have a built in time limit while others go until there is only one magician standing. Each player has a Wizard’s Tower which is key to their connection to the Ritual which if an enemy takes makes it impossible for the player to create or craft any new servitors and makes it harder to handle drain on any spells cast into the game.

The audience can watch in the physical realm since part of the ritual is a variation of the Trid Entertainment Illusion which makes an exact co-locational duplicate of the Astral Realm in the play area within the physical realm for those who can’t astrally perceive and for viewers on their commlinks or home trid player. The audience can zoom in and watch a single battle between champions called Tactical View or enjoy a fanned out Strategic view showing a Phalanx of melee troops fighting cavalry units. In pentacle games viewers will have alerts on their commlinks about surprise attacks or treacherous dealings going on. It can be hard to keep up with all the action. In doubles play it tends to be less chaotic then your typical pentacle game.

The kind of troops, defenses, creatures, and spells the Wizard can cast in his Tower depend on his skill set.

 

Ritual: Astral Total War: (Material Link, Spells, Anchored, Leader must have the Attunement Metamagic)

The Ritual Leader casts the Ritual which includes for the initial part a mana barrier in the form of a five fingered starfish for a standard individuals game (pentacle game), quarters for a standard double duel partner’s game, or a single barrier for personal duels and once the ritual is complete the Trid Entertainment spell which reflects the goings on in the Astral Realm so those without Astral Perception can watch the game. The Ritual Leader also has a Material Link for each player and for the cup which binds the players together.

The game concludes based on whatever the rules of the event say is a winning requirement. Standard collegiate rules are that the winner of a pentacle game is a player with three Wizard’s Towers. For a doubles partner game it is when you have both Wizard’s Towers of your opponent.

Rules of the Game:

The force of the Ritual is chosen. High School play is capped at Force 3 to prevent the chance of players passing out from Drain. Collegiate Student play is capped at Force 6. Professional games tend to sit at Force 8 or 9 when the players are all Initiates especially duels between Professors.

Each hour prior to the game is time that the mage uses his magickal skills to the fullest spending time shaping terrain, building units, spy networks, defenses, traps, creating champions, and the infrastructure to support them. The game copies many factors from popular Matrix games like Civilization 23 Orichalcum Edition and Age of the Fourth World: Total Conquest.

Once the prep is done then game play begins with most games lasting one to three hours. Many games involve treachery and social skills especially Leadership for partners games. Often the most powerful magician in University play ends up falling first to more subtle players in pentacle games as they tend to lack the diversity of skills and knowledges the sneakier players tend to master. In doubles play it is extremely common for teams to pair up as a powerful magician and a jack of all trades or a powerful magician and a face.

 

 

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.

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.