Enhancement Metamagics: The A, B, C’s of being a superhero
Here’s the last section on the available Metamagics in Shadowrun Penumbra – in this case the ones for Enhancement (better known as the “Adept”, “Physad”, or “Physical Adept”) abilities. Given that this makes some 155 base metamagical techniques, and a total of a thousand or so possible upgrades, I presume that no one will exhaust their initiatory possibilities anytime soon.
Adjustment allows the user to subtract his or her initiate grade from the effective background count. While the basic effect is identical to the Astral Access ability, as is the ability to create an internal power reservoir for use in low-magic conditions, further upgrades for Enhancement users include gaining a +4 Magic Rating upgrade under specific (and fairly rare) conditions (during an eclipse, when hooked to a major electrical power plant, etc) and providing yourself with a specialized immunity to your own powers.
Backdrop is related to the “Search”, “Concealment”, and “Accident” spirit powers; it allows the user to locate handy – and private – situations. At the base level, the user can easily (roll Magic, TN 4) locate the nearest available place that is genuinely suitable for briefly hiding in (or changing identities) and/or securely (if temporarily) storing small amounts of personal gear. Upgrades allow the user to (1) locate a good private locker, spot to store a trunk, or similar secure place – or a difficult-to-find apartment (subtract the users successes from those of any searchers), (2) to maintain such security for a small family or group, (3) to ensure that the neighbors never “notice” anything or ask inconvenient questions, (4) to extend such magical security to a modest building, set of secret rooms, or similar location, (5) to find an easy place to conceal vehicles (as well as good parking places where you never get tickets), and (6) to conceal an entire secret base. Other upgrades allow the user to always be able to locate the nearest safe exit, or the nearest group of good hostages, features of the local landscape that can be used as improvised weapons of overkill (power lines, pipes full of bizarre substances, easily-started vehicles, and so on), to invariably stumble across criminal activity while “on patrol” (or to find opportunities therefor), or any of a wide variety of other cliches. At very high magic ratings (and numbers of successes) the user’s power may be sufficient to essentially arrange such things, rather than simply locating them.
Cliche allows the user to tap into power of popular cultural images – the massed unconscious magic of people across the world. That’s individually trivial, but with billions of people out there it can become a force to be reckoned with. Once per session, the user may announce what cliche he or she is attempting to invoke (the shootout at high noon, the final vengeful blow, landing the plane safely, the one-in-a-million shot that just-might-work, or whatever) and – if the game master approves of the cliche – add his or her magic rating to the base skill or attribute being rolled. Upgrades can allow additional uses-per-session, allow the user to break up his bonus dice rather than using them all at once, and allow the user to make a (magic rating) roll for impersonal cliches – such as the old “convenient truckload of soft stuff to land on” routine, or “fortunately no one was killed” (rolling the dice as extra body for the bystanders in the area), or even “property damage was fairly minimal”. Unfortunately, the target numbers for such attempts are set by the game master.
Disguiseis related to the MysteriumWitchcraft ability – but rather than erasing traces of the user’s existence it simply muddles witnesses. At it’s base level the user can easily get away withsilly or relatively useless disguises (add MR/2 to the number of successes an observer must make to recognize the user past a flimsy disguise, such as a partial mask across the eyes, glasses and a tie, or some similar “disguise”). Upgrades can allow the user to easily maintain up to (MR/2) identities, to provide excellent alibis (oh, yes, he was home that day! I clearly remember…), to appear as an “unidentified man (or woman)” in eyewitness reports, to be able to actually fool people into believing they’re someone else withthose flimsy disguises (instead of simply being unrecognized), to avoid having people ask obvious questions (so, where do you get all that money from anyway? How did you get here? How come you’re never around when Captain Amazing turns up?), to avoid leaving identifiable DNA and other physical traces, to arrange some easy way to get in touch with the user which – somehow – is never traced, and to have these benefits apply to (1) computer searches and comparisons being supervised by human beings, and even to (2) autonomous computer searches and operations.
Foreshadowing causes events to focus on the character. At the base level the character will simply tend to “randomly” run across major events, hints and clues, and unsolicited appearances by things that will be important later on. Further upgrades increase this “personal time” effect: at (1) the user may somehow squeeze a full paragraph worth of monologue into a free action once per turn, apparently imprinting his or her message directly into the minds of observers and the records of mechanical observers in a mere instant. At (2) the user will find that he or she almost always arrives in the “nick of time” if this is even remotely practical – whether that means cutting through traffic at 90 MPH if time is short or being stalled somehow when there’s more than enough. At (3) the user may move up to (Quickness) meters and attempt to grab or push something as a free action once per turn – such as running to the side of a building and grabbing someone who has started to fall while they’re still within reach or interposing themselves between an attacker and his target to take the blow. At (4) the user gets to act in one extra phase per turn (of his or her choice, albeit always after his or her first normal action) if outnumbered, and two if heavily outnumbered. At (5) this increases to two and three respectively (occasional users restrict this to a power acting on it’s own, a modifier best known as “the poltergeist effect”). At (6) the user will become a central figure in local intrigues, plots, and schemes, whether he or she likes it or now.
Heroic Life is quite similar to the free spirit power of Hidden Life, but – at least at lower levels – requires considerably more preparation. At the base level, the user must have a clone body prepared somewhere where it can release itself after it wakes up – but the transference costs one point of Essence. A single upgrade allows the user to be automatically released upon revival, allowing the use of a donor counterpart under some other groups control. Further upgrades allow the user to reduce the essence cost (to 1/2 point at (1) and then to 1/4’th point at (2) – although that appears to be the limit), to (1) survive pretty much ANY disaster or injury as long as no one finds his or her body, (2) to be allowed a Magic Rating Check (TN set by the GM, opposed by the rolls of any searchers) to ensure that no one finds the body, or to “barely survive” virtually anything – although this will still take him or her out of action for the usual period. Unfortunately, the user is subject to death by drama: if he or she dies by heroic sacrifice, in any extremely “appropriate” fashion, or in battle against enemies who have undertaken appropriate astral quests to discover some secret vulnerability, Heroic Life may fail to operate – or at least be delayed in effect by several years.
Supporting Castlinks people ever-more-strongly to the user. At the base level the user will attract (Charisma) stereotypical new contacts – plucky reporters, hard-working detectives, loyal servants, old family friends, and so on – at the price of occasional old friends, random dependents, and adhesive youngsters occasionally turning up in need of help (if this does not fit less heroic characters, random investigations and other personal troubles can be substituted). Upgrades increase this effect: at (1) the user will acquire either a small gang of thugs, (Charisma) higher-level contacts or support staff (police lieutenants, scientists who can try to analyze things for you, physicians who don’t ask questions, notable underworld figures), at the price of being saddled withan annoying individual (or succession thereof) who are obsessed withhim or her and are determined to investigate or expose the character at all costs. At (2) the character will gain (Charisma/2) staffers – people who are aware of both the characters real and street identities (if they’re different) and actively work for him or her – relaying information over radio links, monitoring how close the police are getting, working on his or her gear, and so on. (Who pays them and supports these efforts need never be explained). Unfortunately, this comes at the price of acquiring your very own stable of opponents – villains, groups that put out troublesome bounties on your head, or whatever – who will do their best to make trouble for you. At (3) the character gains a fan club, and will find people who know him or her, and are perfectly willing to do small favors for him or her, practically everywhere. Unfortunately, this also means that the character will acquire a Nemesis or Arch-Enemy, who can also be encountered virtually anywhere. At (4) completely random people will just take an interest in the user, fishing him out of the gutter, patching up wounds for free, and so on. Sadly, this also means that the character will acquire a bothersome sidekick – and if you abandon said sidekick, you’re obviously too unsympathetic for random people to take an interest in. Other upgrades include Recognized Everywhere, the Harem AnimeEffect, and the Random Opponents Fall In Love With You shtick – none of which should really need explaining.
Unbreakableallows the user to define things which he or she will not do. Ever. No matter what forces, level of mental control, or force may be applied. It simply is no longer physically possible for him to reveal that secret, kill an innocent, be forced to build a weapon of mass destruction, or whatever-it-is. Even his or her powers and abilities will automatically cooperate; if you launch your annihilating attack against a giant robot that contains someone in a do-not-harm category, it may be blown to bits, but they’ll be unharmed. If you were tricked into firing it at such a target, they’ll be completely unharmed even if it goes right through them – which may be a nasty shock to the fellow using them as a human shield. Each level of Unbreakable allows the user to define one complex, or three minor, unbendable decisions. These can be voluntarily altered, but only after much soul-searching and undergoing initiation again.
Advanced Enhancement Abilities:
Adaption allows the user to modify his or her magical abilities given one week per magic point so redirected. Further upgrades can reduce this time (3 Days, 1 Day, 8 Hours, and 1 Hour at a minimum). Other upgrades allow the user to adapt “on the fly” to problems like being underwater (making a magic roll to reduce environmental penalties), to remain comfortable in any normally-survivable environment, to (1) modify his or her linguistic skills to match the surrounding culture, (2) modify etiquette skills similarly, and (3) adapt to common cultural weapons.
Containment allows the user to entrap a spirit inside himself. This normally leads to occasional side effects and reduced aging. Upgrades include the ability to become dual-natured, to use one or another of the spirit’s powers, to entrap spirits which are stronger than you are, and (1) the ability to contain other magical energies, (2) to release them in a controlled fashion, and to (3) attempt to absorb magical attacks.
Empathic Healing allows the user to slowly take on other peoples wounds. Unlike most methods of healing, this will work after other forms of magical healing have been applied. Upgrades can allow the user to (1) slowly shift his or her own wounds to a willing recipient, (2) to do it fairly quickly, (3) to do it very quickly, (4) to give them to an unwilling victim. Other upgrades can be used to speed up taking on wounds, to allow the user to affect more than one target at the same time, and to allow the user to provide life support on the cellular level.
Focus Use allows enhancement-users to use power foci. Unfortunately, at its base level, the abilities brought out by power foci are fixed – and the user must buy them next, so that the foci can bring out more. Upgrades allow the user to buy other powers, allow differing foci to bring out different powers rather than activating a specified list of upgrades, and allow the user to imprint particular powers on power foci, transforming them into ace power foci.
Heroism is quite simple: the more the user becomes known as a noble hero, widely respected and looked up to, the stronger he or she becomes. In practice, the user may gain up to +3 Magic Rating when so admired per level of Heroism (although the current upper limit of MR 30 continues to apply and some of those points tend to spend themselves on things that seem to “fit the hero”). More unusual upgrades for Heroism include Always in the News (which causes your legend to feed on itself), An Inspiration to Others (which causes “excess” points of MR [anything over 30] to manifest themselves through other people who support your goals), and Champion of the People (which lets other people spend points from their karma pools on your behalf: note that, whether or not NPC’s are supposed to have one, for this purpose it should be assumed that they do, just like the PC’s – if usually only one or two points).
Imbuement allows the user to bond an item like a focus, thus reducing the target numbers for using it. Named upgrades include Cargo (the user may consider items within his or her personal aura a part of himself – hiding them from astral scans, allowing them to share his defenses, allowing them to be brought into astral space with him or her, and so on) and then Persistence (this allows items to remain affected by the user’s powers for a brief time after being separated from him or her, thus allowing – for example – astral ranged attacks). Other upgrades can reduce the karma cost, improve the target number reduction, allow the user to repair the item through force of will (sharing his own healing with it), allow the user to bond himself to more than (Initiate Level) items at a time, or increase the objects innate attributes and defenses.
Inspiration allows the user to draw information from astral space; once per session per level the player may ask the game master to supply some Sherlock-Holmes-style deduction, decide to make a missed perception check, gain some useful fact, be reminded of something relevant which has forgotten or overlooked, or be asked a leading question. Upgrades may provide additional uses of this ability, (1) provide the user, and (2) his companions with an extra two points in their karma pool for use in each session, allow the user to spend good karma on knowledge skills without having to have any source for the information, allow the user to add “roll his magic rating as a knowledge skill” to the list of available effects, or allow a use of this ability to substitute for a point from the user’s karma pool.
Given that I tend to run mystery-based games, I don’t really recommend relying on this much: it will tend to make things boring.
Metabolic Control allows, at it’s basic level, the kinds of tricks found in Yoga, or available through a Biocontrol Program of a rating equal to the user’s MR and with two specific functions included. Upgrades may add additional specific functions (+2 per upgrade), the ability to enter deep hibernation (in which state the user can survive total airlessness, freezing, and lack of food or water indefinitely), the ability to accelerate healing (including stun damage and regenerative powers, to one half, one-third, or even one-quarter of the base time), to survive normally-mortal injuries for hours (missing heart, etc), the ability to (1) neutralize poisons and counter diseases, (2) secrete designer enzymes, (3) to secrete designer antibodies, (4) to secrete designer biochemicals, (5) to modify the genes being passed to your offspring, (6) to modify your own genes, (7) to grow your own cultured bioware, and (8+) to reduce the effective bio index of doing so.
Mindlink lets the user imbue a creature with a bit of his or her essence, creating a permanent communications link; the creatures involved can communicate and share sensory information at an indefinite range. Upgrades can allow those involved to (1) share memories, (2) communicate extremely rapidly, (3) share skills (albeit at a -4 penalty), (4) share skills at a -2 penalty, (5) share skills at a -1 penalty, and (6) share skills at no penalty. The ability to share 20/40/50/60/70/75/80% of the user’s basic supernatural enhancement/and any one other skill/and any three other skills abilities (metamagics cannot be shared) with one other with a specified/group of/all linked creatures constitutes another array of upgrades, as does establishing firmer control over animals or granting them full sapience.
Stunts allows the user to use his or her powers in really bizarre ways. Not just the use-your-firebolt-power-to-weld-a-door-shut (or cook some eggs, or heat a freezing room or such) that the regular Superheroics skill covers, but in those once-in-a-blue-moon irrational ways that you see in comic books – using your fireblast that never shows any sign of action-reaction at any other time as a rocket to blast yourself higher or cushion a fall, selectively tuning it to burn poison out of someone’s system without otherwise injuring them, using it as a catalyst to cause a specific chemical reaction, or whatever. If a hard-and-fast rule is needed, a Stunt provides +3 MR for a single round once per session which the user may “spend” on any enhancement power that he or she likes as long as he or she can think of SOME way – however unlikely – in which the effect purchased is related to the user’s existing powers. Purchasing stunts more than once provides one additional use per day, other upgrades can be purchased to allow the use of two stunts at a time or to provide an additional +1 round of duration for your stunts per upgrade invested.
Touch of Life allows the user to tap into the life force of the earth as whole. The user can heal damage with a touch and a few turns of concentration, sustain his own life in the face of gross damage (add +20 physical damage boxes), and gains a bonus karma pool equal to his or her initiate grade when opposing threats to the earth. Upgrades include the ability to (1) vastly accelerate growth and the spread of life in an environment, (2) to cause lifeforms to rapidly adapt to their environment, (3) to direct such rapid evolution, (4) to create new forms of plant and bacterial life, (5) to create new forms of animal life, and (6) to raise the dead. Other possible upgrades include the ability to temporarily infuse nonliving matter, to (1) strengthen and enhance life forms by touch, (2) to extend the duration of such enhancements, (3) to permanently modify existing organisms (similar to adding bioware), (4) to induce genetic modifications in existing organisms (making such enhancements hereditary), and (5+) to learn to reduce the biological impact of such alterations. Yes, there is a reason why this metamagic is only available to level twelve initiates.
Transference allows the user to transfer his or her powers to someone else with a touch as long as he or she continues to touch the intended target and concentrate on them. Upgrades can allow the user to split his or her powers between multiple targets, allow the transfer to persist after he or she ceases to touch the subject(s), reduce the need for concentration, pass on minor powers to his or her offspring, allow the initial transfer to be at a short range, or simply make the transfer last for a few minutes. Further upgrades can allow the user to (2) maintain the transfer with no concentration at all, to (3) pass on his or her powers permanently (they will remain even if the donor dies), or even to (4) make them an independent effect, that can continue to be passed on.