Penumbra: Designing and Learning Spells

   Given the number of magicians in the Shadowrun game at the moment, designing and learning spells is likely to become a major element – and the rules for it need some amending. Characters are always wanting to tinker with things they shouldn’t, and the basic rules don’t cover all the possibilities. Ergo, here is a (very) condensed summary of the basic steps and some of the new modifiers and options for this particular campaign.

Spell Design:

  • Base Time Required: 40 Hours per box of drain inflicted.
  • Base Roll: (Magical Theory + [Lodge or Library Rating]/2 + Bonuses [Spirits, Aides, Etc])
  • Base Target Number = 2x(Force) + 2 + (Drain Target Number Modifiers) + (Number of bonus dice the formula provides to those attempting to learn it). Maximum = 3x Magic Theory
  • The force usually limits the maximum number of successes which may be applied and determines how hard a spell is to resist.

   Select spell Type from among Combat, Detection, Health, Illusion, or Manipulation.

Determine the basic target number:

  • If it affects something with a relevant game value, that is the target number. Such values include the attributes of entities (most often willpower, body, or intelligence for illusions], the force of magical effects, and the power of effects or toxins.
  • If it affects an inanimate object, 3 for natural objects, 5 for low-tech manufactures, 8 for high-tech manufactures, and 10 for highly-processed objects. This may be subject to adjustments for size and armor. (In general +2 for bulky, +4 for cars and such, +6 for small houses, +8 for ships, and +10 for hills and mountains. Add an additional +2/4/6 for light/moderate/heavy armoring. Appropriate area-effect spells may bypass these modifiers).
  • If it heals, harms via health magic, drains attributes, or manipulates the inner workings of the body, use (10-Essence).
  • If not otherwise specified, use 4 for general applications (elemental manipulations, non-directional senses, general body processes, simple telekinesis, physical illusions), 6 for applications involving fine control (targeting senses, barriers, specific body processes), and 8 for applications involving extremely fine control.
  • Spells which directly modify a target, rather than inflicting levels of damage, usually require net successes equal to (one half the rating of the resisting attribute) to take effect. Examples include paralysis, transformation, and most other all-or-nothing spells.

Determine the Base Drain Level:

  • Combat Spells
    • Equal to the base level of damage inflicted.
  • Detection Spells
    • Detect Life or Magic (L), Inanimate Objects (M), Electronic Functions or Energy Fields (S), +1 level for detailed analysis.
    • Senses: Modify an existing sense (M), enhance an existing sense or add a simple new one (S), greatly enhance an existing sense, add a radically new sense, or share sensory input (D).
  • Health Spells
    • Equal to the level of the affliction, damage, or toxin to be healed or inflicted +2.
    • Manipulates body processes in a minor fashion (hair growth, etc, M), intermediate fashion (metabolic rate, etc, S), or major fashion (attributes, D).
    • To offset these high drains, most health spells apply the Touch and Voluntary Target drain level modifiers. Note that healing spells do not need the “Permanent” modifier: the bodies own natural processes will sustain the effect after a bit.
  • Illusion Spells
    • Single Sense (L), Multi-Sense (M), Detailed or Complex (+1), Extremely Complex (E.G: exchange the identity of friends and foes, +2).
    • Physical illusions create external input, mental ones manipulate internal input.
  • Manipulation Spells
    • Degree of Change: Trivial (L), Minor (M), Major (S), and Massive (D).
    • Equal to damage level inflicted for elemental attacks.
    • -1 level if affecting the environment, rather than actually transforming a target.

   Spell Duration: Instant spells take effect, and are then over and done with, although their effects remain. Lingering spells persist for one turn after being cast or dropped plus one turn per success devoted to this effect. Sustained spells can be kept going as long as you pay attention to them. Self-Sustaining spells have a version of the Quickening Metamagic built into them, and can be rendered self-sustaining by paying some karma when they’re cast. Permanent spells must be sustained for some time (although there is no need to buy the “sustained” modifier), but then become permanent. In general, spells that restore things to the way they “ought to be”, physically (rather than magically) re-arrange structures,

   By default, a spell has line-of-sight range and a base drain of (Force/2)(Drain Level). Both can be modified.

  • Drain Power Modifiers: Complex (+2 Karma to Learn, -1), Detection (-1), Difficult (-2 dice to cast, -1), Illusion (-1), Limited Range (-2), Lingering (+2), Physical Effect (required if affecting something other than minds, spirits, and magic, such as a cybered attribute, +1), Powerful (+1-3 dice to cast, +1-3), Moderately Restricted Target (-1), Multiple (may be cast against multiple targets simply by splitting the dice pool, +1), Secondary (includes a secondary spell; use the highest Power Modifier and Drain Level of the two and add +1 to each), Self-Sustaining (+1), Stun Damage Only (-1), Sustained (+1), Symptoms Only (-2).
  • Drain Level Modifiers: Affects Initiative (+1), Elemental Effects (+1, +2 if Variable), Easy (-2 on target numbers, +1), Permanent (subsumes Sustained, +1), Personal Immunity (+1), Radius in Meters (MR; +1, 10x MR +2, 100x MR +4, Shapeable Area; +1, x(Force) for Detection), Touch Range (-1), Very Restricted Target (-1, -2 if Specific Target), Very Difficult (-4 Dice to Cast, -1, may be combined with Difficult to make it Extremely Difficult), Voluntary Target Required (-1)
  • Personal Spells” normally include all three of Touch Range, Very Restricted Target, and Voluntary Target Required. If the drain would be staged up beyond normal limits, each +1 level equates to +2 power.
  • Both the Drain Power and Level can be modified by miscellaneous factors. In general, Bonus Game Effects make things more difficult, while Drawbacks make things easier. There is no hard-and-fast rule for either, since it’s impossible to say what people will come up with. Some classic examples – albeit not rules – include
    • Power Modifiers: Provides general +1 to Target Numbers (typical of distracting spells, +1), having some simple discretionary effect (+1), saving lots of time (+2), being unable to stage up damage beyond a limit (-1), and Mental Interaction (applies if the spell has to get minor information from the target’s mind to work, +1)
    • Level Modifiers: Forcing a particular check at 1x/2x successes (+1/+2), creating a general target number modifier at 1x/2x successes (+1/+2), providing (Successes/2) or (Successes) bonus dice for something (+1/+2), offering complex discretionary effects (+1-2), does not distract the user when maintained (+1 for once, +2 for twice), additional drain when dropped (+1), cannot stage up damage (-1), requires various other skills for effective use (-1-2), unimportant game effect (-1), karma cost (-1), unreliable effects (-1), beneficial spell that inflicts shock and pain (-1), drain causes physical damage regardless of force (-2), and deep mind interaction (+1).

   Spell Limitations: These may be applied to reduce the karma cost of learning a spell (to a minimum of one), to reduce the force for the purposes of drain, or to offset the cost of applying special options. No more than -6 points worth of limitations may be applied to any single spell, and no more than -3 may be applied to any particular purpose.

  • Spells may be Exclusive (-2), Require a Fetish (-1), Become Fatigued (the spell becomes unavailable for 1d6 hours once cast, -2), be Difficult (-2 skill when casting, -1), be Poorly Learned (+1/2/3 to the spell target numbers for -1/-2/-3), have +1/2/3 Drain Power (-1/-2/-3), or cost 2/4/6 extra karma to learn (-1/-2/-3, this also increases the base time required by a similar number of days).
  • Special Options include getting extra dice when casting it OR resisting drain (1/2/3 extra dice for 1/2/3), reducing the target number by one (2), and reducing the drain target number modifier for casting multiple spells at the same time by -2/-3/-4 (1/2/3).

   If there are any typos, or items so obscure as to be incomprehensible, please leave a comment.


One Response

  1. […] to decide what each spell needs to cost. I have omitted miscellaneous game effects so far. I used Penumbra: Designing and Learning Spells, cut, and paste […]

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