The Renaissance Project

   Here we have part I of the background for the current Shadowrun campaign, now available since the players have managed to obtain a fair portion of the good professor’s personal notes.  Suffice to say for the moment that some parts of his ideas worked out, others didn’t, and at least one of his assumptions was catastrophically wrong. Hopefully they will eventually locate his personal journals and research notes, as well as the material that was available at the ritual site.

   The theory is simple enough:

   The percentage of magically-active children has been rising steadily as the level of magic rises. Evidently, some people simply have weaker talents than others. Those who’s initial talents are too weak for the current magic level do not manifest.

   Conversely – in coming millennia – a few of the most powerful talents may be able to continue using magic long after the magic level dips below the threshold for widespread manifestation.

   An miraculously talented child might even be born able to use magic in the depths of the low-magic period, as a few reports from history might be taken to indicate.

   It is known that many infants seem to be magically active, at least on the unconscious level: the ease with which they induce powerful emotional – that is to say, astral – bonds with the people around them is a sufficient demonstration. However, as they grow, most of then lose what little innocent astral awareness they once possessed – perhaps a consequence of their increasing sense of “self”.

   It seems likely that quite a few “mundane” individuals might simply have very modest latent talents, and quite a few latents could be boosted into operation, in a high magic zone.

   Any magically-active individual – that is to say, anyone who can sense and channel some magic, no matter in how limited a fashion – can increase their power through Initiation. Mundanes cannot – although whether this is due to an inability to sense magic, an inability to channel it, or to both, is unknown.

   So: to give magic to mundanes, what you need to do is:

  1. Create and sustain an artificial high-magic zone to work in. This can be sustained if absolutely necessary, but it will be far preferable to set up an extended zone of such an environment and make it self-sustaining. This will, of course, drain magic from the surrounding area and attract magical attention unless it’s throughly protected, so some special defenses will be necessary to ensure privacy. In fact, given the dynamics of the arrangement, it may be necessary to set up some secondary feeding-spells, since a spell designed to amplify the power it is feeding on may be prone to runaway until it overloads and destroys itself.
  2. Create an Astral Overlay Zone and/or an Astral Gate within it, and make those effects self-sustaining as well. This will allow anyone to sense and experience magic. An Astral Master or Free Spirit with the Gateway power might be able to substitute, but it would be best to involve either or both simply to supplement the basic effects. If the Astral Gate can be extended into the Metaplanes, – either through the basic spell or through the combined efforts of such a spell and an Astral Master and/or a Free Spirit, it will guarantee that any necessary part of the spectrum of magical energies will be available.
  3. Attempt to set up astral contact links. Spontaneous astral links are common enough, even for mundanes, which is why ritual magic can exploit the unconscious links between a person and his or her blood, hair, or possessions. With access to astral space to observe the effects, close contact, and simple feedback, even mundanes should be able to strengthen such links. If necessary, it should be possibly to simply treat small amounts of blood with drugs or magic to strip it of the “type” protein-markers and use small transfusions to create mutual astral links. Since magical energies can be transferred over such links, this should be even more effective in a high-magic zone.
  4. Ensure that all potential students have plenty of “karma” to work with. Some may spontaneously show weak powers at this point, which will be a partial vindication of the theory. Those who do not can be guided and encouraged by mental contact with a practicing magician. A witch or psychic specialist would probably be best for this role; such individuals can sustain their energy-channeling over lengthy periods, providing a greater opportunity for the students to study the effects they produce. Such an individual can also help guide them through Initiation.
  5. Any subjects who still show no trace of magical manipulation abilities – although it is hard to see how they will be able to avoid interacting with the astral plane when projecting themselves onto it courtesy of the Astral Gate – can be temporarily imbued with magic through any of the relevant metamagical techniques, spirits, and spells, and – if necessary – be amplified by an allied spirit. Some of the Voodoo techniques may be useful here.
  6. Guide everyone – again, probably a job for a skilled mental specialist – through initiation. While those who are still unable to manipulate magical energy will be unable to expend their Karma in such a fashion – and hence will lose little except time – it is to be hoped that some small percentage of those so treated will emerge as functioning, if low-powered and untrained, magic-wielders.

   Obviously enough, the experiment will require the design of a variety of unique spells, the cooperation of a number of different magical specialists, and considerable research into the planes and into metamagic – but I believe it to be well worth the attempt.

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3 Responses

  1. I have serious doubts that this would work as planned. The process assumes that skilled gained in a simulated environment has direct application to the real one.

  2. Well, in Shadowrun, skill really hasn’t got much to do with it. In the system: if you can tap into any amount of magical energy, you can use it to upgrade the amount you can access through initiation (and channel it instinctively through defaulting to attributes and dice pools). If you can’t tap into any, you’re completely blocked, no matter what your skills are like. That’s why, under the normal rules, a practicing mage may be a grandmaster of every magical skill, know a hundred spells, and have a truckload of spirits and enhancing devices at his command – but if his magic rating gets reduced to “0″ somehow, all of that becomes irrelevant. Said mage has just become a mundane, and will never again be able to use magic in any form.

    Now, if he got his magic rating blasted down to “1″, he’d be greatly inhibited until he built it back up again – but he could rebuild to his previous power level or beyond without a problem other than getting enough karma.

    The professor’s theory presumes that the difference resembles that between having a congenitally paralyzed limb (the default state), between having one that’s more-or-less functional (active mages, with magic ratings from one to whatever), and having had an amputation (people who’s magic rating has been blasted down to 0 ).

    His process is basically equivalent to taking that paralyzed-by-default limb, exercising it artificially, putting in electrodes that stimulate the nerves, and trying to teach the brain to use it. If there’s still no response, on to installing artificial nerves, muscle transplants, and – eventually – an artificial connection to the brain if the block is between the brain and the nerves in the arm.

    Unfortunately, what he failed to account for, was that in some – in fact in many or most – cases his subjects brains had had a very good reason for shutting down their access to magic in early childhood.

  3. Basically, the trick is not gaining skills, but in attuning yourself to power sources and flows that you were incapable of even perceiving beforehand. And the environment isn’t really artificial or even intrisically un-natural, just rather ahead of its time.

    What actually happened (as will be revealed in the log I am putting together), is that the dear Professor learned that when you look into the Abyss, the Abyss looks back at *you*.

    And then eats you.

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