Shadowrun and Earthdawn: Magic

   Inevitably, there are comparisons between Earthdawn Magic and Shadowrun Magic.

   Lets think about that for a moment.

   Modern civilization supports at least ten times as many people as the fourth age did at it’s height.

   Ancient civilizations supported about 1% of the population as specialists.

   Modern civilization supports at least 10% of the population as specialists.

   Ancient civilizations had few ways to preserve and transmit information. Work was endlessly duplicated and many discoveries were lost, or took decades or centuries to transmit to other scholars – rather than becoming available in days or weeks (and obsolete within a year).

   Today, you can find more information on a topic in a few days of searching than a classical scholar could hope to gather in a lifetime.

   In Shadowrun you can – fairly readily – enhance your intelligence and load all that information directly into your mind, bypassing decades of study and education.

   In four thousand years of development, Earthdawn never developed a unified theory of magic. In fact, they were still hobbled by competing and incompatible schools of spells (rather than by traditions that could be translated between), by disciplines which limited what abilities adepts could develop, by incompatible spell design schools, by difficulty in healing, and by other factors.

   They did have access to a few things that modern magic – at least modern magic limited to the current official Shadowrun books – hasn’t yet managed. Earthdawn had natural supplies of True Air, Water, Earth, Fire, and Orichalcum (although they couldn’t make it) and a far higher magic level to work with. They could raise the dead (albeit with great difficulty), warp space and time, make their spells last for some time without sustaining them, knew how to use personal blood magic to boost their powers, and could affect truly massive areas with high-circle spells. They could use Naming to create magical items. They could weave Threads to power items and enhance their abilities – and they had a few long-term effects like the Ritual of Thorns.

   Some of that may have to wait until the magic level goes up.

   On the other hand… Ten times the people. Ten times the specialists. A hundred times the information flow. Heightened intelligence. Instant education. Easy access to the sum of human knowledge about a problem.

   Healing is easier. Spell design is easier. Spirits are better understood, and can be conjured more readily. In the newer books, there are explorations of the metaplanes, raids in the insect spirits in their own realms, and a hundred magical research projects.

   More progress in any given year than the fourth age saw in a hundred years.

   After fifty years, Shadowrun Magical Theory is ALREADY better developed than that of Earthdawn was after four thousand years.

   When the Horrors finally do make it to earth, metahumanity may just hand them their astral asses.

One Response

  1. Interestingly, Shaman seem to have as much a hand in things as Mages – one of the earliest and greatest magical theorists were Akiko Kano and Aurthur White Eagle. It is possible, that while less interested in theory, Shaman actually may be more inclined to carry our practical experiments, investigation, and will take more risks to do so.

    To be a Shaman normally requires a certain contact and connection with *something* friendly to humanity and yet distant from it. Since they usually have a lot of meditiation and thought, I suppose they probably do come up with some pretty odd ideas from unexpected viewpoints. That might also be a useful aid.

    Shaman might be held back a bit because they usually don’t like to be somebody else’s employee, and fiddling around in a lab just ain’t their thing. This gives them fewer resources and fewer paid reserach buddies, but of course lets them research anything them want.

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