Magic in Shadowrun: History
On December 22, 2012, as predicted by the Mayan Calendar – the old world ended. Ryumyo the Great Dragon appeared over Mount Fuji, scared the ever-loving shit out of the Japanese people (and everyone else for that matter). Landed on Mount Fuji, roared once and vanished. He hasn't been seen since then, but many other dragons now have taken the scene across the world.
First rule of the Shadows: Don't. fuck. with dragons.
A few years later, the Daniel Howling Coyote led his people in the Great Ghost Dance that rocked North America, and forced the settlement that created the Native American Nations. Magic is now a degree program you can study in college, and mages are very much-sought after by any major organization.
Earth is still here. But the rebirth of Magic - the Awakening - changed everything.
In the many years since what is considered the 'official' day magic returned, scholars studying long-disregarded lore now believe that the magic in Shadowrun Earth has been cyclic. When magic begins to 'rise', it allows dormant genes for Metahumanity to manifest, magical materials begin to show their characteristics, ley-lines and nodes to begin filling with power. Spells, incantations and spirits once more return to the command of those with will and ability.
Then, after a thousand or so years of 'high', magic energy levels will gradually diminish. Nodes drain away, talismans and totems no longer respond, the metahuman races fade away into the background of humanity – though their genes continue on. Dragons and other magical beings who cannot function below a certain level of magic return to sleep.
The cycles are purely theoretical, but it is believed that an entire high-low cycle can take between two and three thousand years. And that Dec 22, 2012 was when magical levels of our world first inched over the line to allow the return of dragons and the first spells to those who had kept the traditions of old.
Although Elves and Dwarves are generally considered to have first appeared on the scene in the late 10's, there are records of 'strange genetic mutants' now known to be Metahumans having appeared prior. The transformation of many into Orks and Trolls in 2021 (Goblinization Day) marked another threshold, but a few appeared prior.
If true, this theory means that the last thirty years are only the start of what Magic is going to show us.
Schools of Magic:
There are two primary schools of magic, with distinct ideologies and viewpoints. Neither is right or wrong. It's more the difference between a scientist and an artist describing the color 'green'. Both are correct, but mutually exclusive viewpoints.
In the Hermatic tradition, it is the knowledge and will of the mage that commands the flow of magic and shapes spells to his or her desired means. It is through this force of will Hermatic Mages can astrally project their consciousness to see what is taking place on the spirit plane.
Precision, knowledge and will: with it you command the forces of magic and elementals to heel.
In the Shamanic tradition, the caster requests the aid of magic and spirits through his totem and other symbols. To an extent, the Shaman shapes him self to better access the flow of magic or to call on spirits. Those that practice Shamanism consider it to be more respectful to magic.
This is not to say Shaman are all nice people – plenty of very bad Shaman exist that do lots of horrible things all the time. Including street shaman (Rat Shaman are extremely common).
What it means is that to some extent, Shaman are shaped by their magic and totem. Where a Hermatic Mage commands, you call.
Physical adepts fall into neither group. They access magic through mental and physical discipline in a given philosophical path. Over long study, they learn to use magic to fuel physical feats. You are Bruce Lee on crack.
An aspected mage is a Hermatic or Shamanic magic-user who can only access a certain type or school of magic. They're much more limited then a full mage, but also much more common.
Shaman Adepts can only cast the spells of their totem, and summon a single kind of Spirit. Depending on the totem and situation, they may still be able to Astrally project.
Hermatic Adepts are limited to one of the following - Sorcery, Conjuring, Enchanting or Astral and can only do those tasks. Sorcerer Adepts can only spell cast - they can't conjure, enchant or astrally project. Elemental aspects are also possible, but you are limited to that single elemental school.
Magical Characters Notes:
To give you a sense of scale in 2050. If magic were working right now as I type this, we'd have about 250,000 full magicians and a million Adepts in the entire world. For comparison purposes, we would have half as many magical users as there are doctors.
Here is a short list of the many, many things a Magic-user can do if so inclined.
- Full Magicians/Shamans can get nearly any sort of magical work below.
- Sorcery Adepts will be very popular for spellcasting jobs, which can include work in engineering, healing, entertainment, fashion, you name it.
- Conjuring Adepts require a little more creativity then their Sorcery brethren, but can be very handy. A Hermetic Conjuring Adept can summon elementals for security work. Shamanic Adepts with conjuring powers would likewise summon Nature spirits - very popular to hire for their Guard work for sensitive tasks. In their capacity as banishers, they could end up in more defensive capacity – guards on high-risk treks through magically poisoned or highly active areas. Glow City in the Barrens, the dead zone in Europe or anywhere in Australia and Africa.
- Enchanting Adepts can make huge amounts of money refining alchemical or magical materials, or creating spell foci. The job is rather tedious, but it makes them excellent talismongers and magical Fixers. The alchemical materials gets used to reduce the first bonding cost of items they enchant to 1 karma, supplied by the person who commissions the item.
- Fire Adepts and Shamanic Adepts who have access to combat spells are popular in mining, demolitions, and firefighting work. Things always need being blown up.
- Air Adepts and Shamanic Adepts who have access to detection spells are very popular in investigatory work and counter-espionage. There are almost certainly going to be accredited truthsayers who will go to business meetings and cast Detect Lie for pay. Truthsayers base their professional reputation depends on never lying about what they discover, and people can bring multiple ones to the same meeting. Inspection boards will have inspectors with spells to detect termites inside houses, strain on bridges, and similar such things that are difficult to ascertain without extensive analysis.
- Water Adepts and Shamanic Adepts who have access to illusion spells would be most popular in the entertainment industry, espionage and other professions, but could also find work as anesthesiologists. (Rather than risking the effects of chemical anesthesia, why not just cause someone to feel no pain or even no sensation? All you have to do is have a magical Adept sitting there sustaining the spell for the whole operation.)
- Earth Adepts and Shamanic Adepts who have access to manipulation spells could end up in demolitions, firefighting, sabotage and mining like Fire Adepts, but they'd also be very popular in the engineering disciplines, where they could churn out a prototype far faster than it could be manufactured.
- Astral Adepts often find work in investigation and espionage as well, but due to the fact that they're just an elemental adept who can't cast spells or summon spirits, they're not as valuable. Still, having someone who can just assense is worth money.
- Physical Adepts end up everywhere. Athletics, police forces, corporate security, bodyguards, you name it.
Magical types tend toward the cities where they can find work, but you can see a small town where the sheriff is a Fire Adept who can sling stun bolts into criminals. Or where the fire department is mostly one Earth Adept who has spells for putting out fires, holding up buildings that are about to collapse, and similar rescue work.
Most healing mages tend to have a lot of spells with the exclusive and expendable fetish modifiers boosting their Force. Healing fetishes are expensive, but healing mages are very rare and in exceedingly high demand.
There's a large trade in the appropriate sort of spell foci to equip mages. It's very common to have foci enchanted especially for a particular mage, with enough alchemical material (such as orichalcum) that it reduces the bonding cost to something extremely minimal. There's also a brisk trade in the secondhand stuff where you can't get the cheap first bonding cost.
What do you do when you can't use magic?
Magic tends to be a very all-consuming task that eats a lot of karma and experience you earn, but there are times advertising you're a wizard is a Bad Idea. You also want to remember your character is human and may have other professions or goals besides “I'm a Mage!”
First, people are racist, paranoid dick-tards and flinging fireballs around is a bad way to make friends when you're off your normal turf.
Secondly, when you're Astrally projecting or casting anything flashy, you are announcing your presence to anything Astrally active or aware in the area. And those things might be nastier then you.
Your character might be a pompous, overconfident ass who has a hammer called "Magic" and wants to use it on everything. That's totally fine, but if you whine at the ST when magic doesn't work because you ended up in space and have nothing you can do - remember warnings were provided.
If you eventually get knocked down a notch and want to think about the occasional non-magical solution, here's some ideas to consider.
- Think about non-magical tools that can supplement or substitute for your spells in a pinch. For Example: A healing mage could also have some mundane skills, some medical gel, bandages, drugs.
- Think also about non-magical tools and gadgets that you can use for things you can't Poof up. Use the resources around you to remove possible weaknesses. For Example: A conjuring adept might want to have a gun and personal armor to protect himself, for when his conjurations fail, interrupted or he just doesn't have time.
- Have a plan for staying under the radar of the Authorities. Mages are a rare breed, and ones who decline the very fat corp paycheck are rarer. Don't dress like Gandalf when you aren't on a Shadowrun or are trying to be stealthy.
- Have a “GTFO” plan for when you fizzle, or Drain starts to really murder you.