Shadowrun Penumbra Experiments

   Here we have a list of experiments that Mr Moore is planning to try in the current Shadowrun game. I’ll add an appendum on the results after he gets a chance to try them all out.

   Many of these experiments, though not particularly risky, are unlikely to have any positive value. Nonetheless, even one success would greatly increase the knowledge available to us poor meta-humans as well as potentially open up new areas of research.

Experiment #1: Cybernetics Self Transplant

  • Setup: Cybernetics are bonded to the user through their essence. Essentially, the lost essence flows into the machine, and makes it a part of the user’s (un)natural astral existence. This is shown by the fact that people can regenerate Essence very slowly, but only after cyberware is removed, and that it leaves an Essence hole which can be filled with other cyberware.
  • Hypothesis: If you remove cyberware from someone, and then replace it with at least some components of the same cyberware, you can reduce the Essence impact, because you are transplanting your own Essence.
  • Expected Results: None. Detailed astral analysis could give very interesting insights.

Experiment # 2: Cybernetics Transplants

  • Setup: As Experiment #1.
  • Hypothesis: Transplanting cyberware from one person to another, before the accumulated Essence dissipates, could reduce the Essence cost.
  • Expected Results: None. Detailed astral analysis could give very interesting insights.

Experiment #3: Radical Cybernetics

  • Setup: Cybernetics are normally very mundane. However, innately magical materials (radicals et all) could modify this.
  • Hypothesis: Cybernetics made partially of radicals would interesting properties for self-enchantment. Depending on the exact cyber-part, they also could provide protection against Astral attacks.
  • Expected Results: High. Radicals are in such short supply that they have not been used for much to date, and experimentation in this area should continue to yield results. This may or may not accomplish anything useful.

Experiment #4: Magical Pattern Implantation

  • Setup: Magical patterns and symbols are used by both Mages and Shamans (though with different styles, levels of complexity, and nature) to create or enchant spell effects. It may be possible to “build-in” enchantments for less Karma through designing tattoo-like magical patterns made out of magical materials, implanted into subjects’ dermal tissue.
  • Hypothesis: Magical patterns will create a specific effect the user can learn to control, as if it were a cybernetic implant, except magical.
  • Expected Results: Low. If it has any effect, it probably won’t be nearly as much as we want. If it works at all, it will probably be a good method for enhancing the power of lesser talents by giving pre-set patterns to channel their magic through.

Experiment #5: Essence Regeneration

  • Setup: Essence can regenerate at a very slow rate. However, the existence of Essence-draining creatures supports the idea that quicker Essence regeneration is possibly, likely though taking it from lesser living creatures. Prepare for the mass cow-massacre.
  • Hypothesis: Vampires seem to get this ability in order to survive their unstable spiritual state, which rapidly drains. It may not be possible to duplicate without similarly destabilizing the subject, but is probably possible with initiate abilities. It will probably be safer and easier to slowly absorb energy from all around to regenerate it at a faster rate.
  • Expected results: High. The principles seem practical and achievable, although it does require a couple valid assumptions.

Experiment #6: Essence Burn

  • Setup: Essence is very similar to Force for spirits, except that Essence is perhaps even more powerful and more flexible. it doesn’t give a bunch of freebies, but it much harder to affect. Nonetheless, spirits can burn Force (or usually, have it burned off by others). It has minor magical effects on others. Therefore, people can probably burn Essence for some useful effect. The existence of Vampires and so forth confirms that it should be possible.
  • Hypothesis: Burning Essence can be done and will bring potent but short-lived power boosts, which can be channeled into pre-set effects, such as spells.
  • Expected results: High. The theory may not be practical, but it seems possible and is simply the extension and combination of known existing phenomenon.

Experiment #7: Mundane Spell Sustaining

  • Setup: Spells usually have to be sustained by the individual creating, but it is possible to hand-off spells with the right techniques. What’s not clear is if you could train a mundane to do the same. This could greatly expand potential human achievement, as well as create a lot more Shadowrunners on the cheap. Though they probably wouldn’t be as good as usual player-characters, they’d be pretty useful and flexible.
  • Hypothesis: Although mundane individuals can’t easily sense magical activity, excellent training can sometimes improve on nature. They may not be able to create active magical effects, but they could potentially sustain them, acting as a focus. This will require intense mental training and close work with a magically active spellcaster.
  • Expected Results: Low. Although theoretically possibly, it’s not at all clear that mundane individuals will ever be able to control magical phenomenon.

Experiment #8: Powered Battle Armor

  • Setup: Although it’s never really been done, the basic components of powered armor are available. Artificial cybernetic muscles, strong armor technologies, and the electronic capacilities to link numerous systems together.
  • Hypothesis: Powered armor can be built, although even light suits will run into the half-million range. It won’t be as efficient as cybernetics, but will give solid security-grade armor, much built-in functionality, and Strength and Quickness bonuses.
  • Proposed Powered Armor Design
    • Light Experimental Suit Prototype
    • Base Components: Light Security Armor, Muscle Replacement 4, Battery Pack.
    • Effect: Combined, these should give an effective bonus, although less efficient than implanted muscles.
  • Expected Results: High. The largest issue is that the armor will eat up battery life very quickly, and integrating all the systems could be quite difficult. It may be necessary for users to have datajacks to integrate suit controls and muscles.
  • It will probably be useful for site defense or well-supplied military operations, not running around. The cost is unlikely to go down much beyond the base components. Shadowrun manufacturing is almost as cheap and quick as manufacturing can get; some components simply require a very tight tolerances and very intricate work.

Experiment #9: Quick-Break Capsules

  • Setup: Auto-injectors are handy, but they usually only hold one drug at a time, and require some Essence. However, DMSO offers a quite handy delivery alternative mechanism. The development of quick-break capsules another way of delivering drugs swiftly.
  • Hypothesis: A DMSO/drug mixture, placed within small capsule and strapped near an artery offer a useful alternative, and makes it easier to reload or alter the contents, or get multiple ones. A capsule holder could even link to internal computer or medical systems.
  • Expected Results: High. The technology is easily available and should integrate nicely.

Baba Yaga The Exaltation

   Some time ago we wanted to do some anime-style roleplaying – but the prospective game master was new to running games, only had a short campaign in mind, and wanted a quick and easy character generation system. We wound up using Baba Yaga, which – while originally designed for a slightly-fantastic WWII setting – worked very nicely.

   A bit later on, we wanted to do a few things in the world of Exalted. Whether for good or ill, no one wanted to roll large numbers of dice, assemble charm combinations, or wade through long lists of charms. It was the setting – not the system – that everyone found interesting. We used Baba Yaga that time too; the characters were much easier to make, easier to play – and a bit less overwhelmingly powerful under the Baba Yaga rules. They couldn’t simply ignore mortal attackers, build massive dice pools, set up ultimate-destruction combos, or automatically overwhelm mortal magi. They were still far more powerful than normal humans however – and, thanks to Baba Yaga’s freeform magic system – were far more versatile than they were under the usual Exalted rules.

   Overall, that was a good deal of fun, even if we did boggle the now somewhat-more-experienced game master a few times.

   Just in case anyone should want to copy the experiment, here’s what you’d need:

Anime for Baba Yaga:

  • Characters get a +1 bonus on any die roll if they dramatically describe what they’re doing and/or give it a portentous name (“Annihilating Godsfire Palm!”). They should try to develop distinctive styles, since the GM gets to apply a -1 penalty if they get boring or out-of-character.
  • Characters may cast one self-enhancement spell as a part of any other action when it’s their turn. They must still roll reaction to use defensive effects off-action.
  • All major characters are marked by their power. They may have strange sigils on their skin, really odd hair, smell inhuman, or speak oddly. They can cover up with a cloak, but otherwise it’s nearly impossible to change how they dress or look for long. Similarly, they don’t age or scar.
  • Active spellcasting produces auras of light and similar dramatic side effects and makes the user’s power-markings more obvious (usually starting to glow brilliantly). The more powerful and externally-directed the spell, the greater the side effects.
  • All major characters have at least two blatant flaws – “greedy and impulsive”, “stupid and oblivious”, “obsessed and hardhearted”, “arrogant and blatantly evil”, “naive and obsessed with dramatic entrances”, or “instinct-driven with a tendency to go berserk”. In any case, they must make a point of playing up their flaws several times each game session or take an XP penalty.

Exalted Baba Yaga:

The Celestial Exalted

  • Are the most common character type in this setting.
  • Are designed as Superheroes.
  • Are always considered to be in at least a High magic zone EXCEPT in the underworld, which is always an Enclave level zone for them.
  • Solars
    • May buy upgraded Attributes for only 2/3’rds (16 XP) the normal cost and may upgrade their attributes by +2 instead of a mere +1.
    • May boost their personal magic level to Legendary for a round by spending 2 XP. This covers the drain, but if they fail their spellcasting check the magic will go out of control.
    • Are incredibly conspicuous and obvious heros.
  • Lunars
    • May buy Knacks, Talents, and Powers for only 2/3’rds the normal cost.
    • Gain +6 CP to spend on Armor, Natural Weapons, or Regeneration.
    • Are territorial, hierarchal, somewhat animalistic, and inclined to duels, blood debts, and barbarian/pack behavior.
  • Sidereals
    • May buy Perks for only 2/3’rds the normal cost.
    • Gain +6 CP to spend on Unarmed Combat, extra HTH damage, Faith, and Destiny or Divination magic.
    • Suffer a -2 Social penalty (Who are you?).
  • Alchemicals
    • Are designed as Superheroes.
    • Carry a personal High magic zone with them.
    • May trade out the Knacks, Talents, Powers, and Magic Skills they’ve purchased given a few days to do so.
    • Have +1 innate Armor, need not eat, drink or breathe, and are immune to poisons.
    • Suffer a -2 Social penalty.
    • Cannot enter purely spiritual realms or astrally project since their souls are anchored in their Soulgems.
  • Abyssals
    • Are designed as Superheroes.
    • Are always considered to be in at least a High magic zone anywhere except Faerie and the Upper Astral, where they are considered to be in an Enclave level magic zone.
    • May buy Skills are a cost of only 1/1/2/3/4 points for level 1/2/3/4/5.
    • If slain, an Abyssal is gone for good.
    • Suffer a -1 penalty on all die rolls in Creation unless the area is somehow aligned with death. They gain a +1 bonus in such areas.
  • Dragonbloods
    • Are designed as Pulp Heroes.
    • Are always considered to be in at least an Enclave level magic zone.
    • Gain +6 CP to spend on Perks – most commonly contacts, influence, and magical weapons and armor.
    • The player may design three dragonbloods and play them as a team. If one dies, replace him or her normally.
  • Spirits And Fey
    • Are designed as Pulp Heroes, but gain +1 level when in the Wyld or the realms of Faerie. They use the standard Baba Yaga rules otherwise.
    • NPC spirits may be of any level, right up to Cosmic Being for Celestines and such.
  • Deathlords
    • Are designed as Magelords.
    • Are restricted to the underworld and corrupted areas.Slain (good luck!) Deathlords are treated as slain Fey.


   While the Exalted are divided into castes, each with a special power, since Baba Yaga is a freeform point-buy system, characters are free to develop whatever skills, odd innate powers, or branches of magic they want to. On the other hand, they may buy their caste abilities for only two-thirds the normal cost.

  • Solar Caste Abilities:
    • Dawn: Enhanced intimidation.
    • Zenith: Projecting solar flame.
    • Twilight: Innate armor.
    • Night: Enhanced stealth, damping magical displays.
    • Eclipse: Oathbinding, Perk: “Diplomatic Immunity”.
  • Lunar Caste Abilities:
    • Full Moon: Enhanced movement and athletics.
    • Changing Moon: Illusory disguise ability.
    • Waxing Moon (normally lost): Enhanced social skills.
    • Half Moon (normally lost): Enhanced senses.
    • Waning Moon (normally lost): Enhanced stealth.
    • No Moon: Drain resistance.
    • Casteless: No special abilities.
  • Sidereal Caste Abilities:
    • Journeys: Enhances the groups movement speeds
    • Serenity: Enhances the groups Art skills.
    • Battles: Provides Armor-1 for the group.
    • Secrets: Protects the group from mind control and thought reading.
    • Endings: Provides the group with a +1 to damage.
  • Alchemical Caste Abilities:
    • Orichalcum: Enhanced damage with their attacks.
    • Moonsilver: Enhanced Reaction.
    • Jade: Personal Armor.
    • Starmetal: Luck bonuses on rolls.
    • Soulsteel: Fear aura makes them harder to hit.
  • Abyssal Caste Abilities:
    • Dusk: Aura of fear penalizes attackers and causes some to flee in terror.
    • Midnight: Zombie creation, necromantic blasts that only work on non-magical beings.
    • Daybreak: Innate armor.
    • Day: Enhanced stealth, damping magical displays.
    • Moonshadow: Oathbinding.
  • Dragonblooded Caste Abilities:
    • Earth: Innate armor.
    • Fire: Flame damage in HTH, fire immunity.
    • Air: Enhanced leaping, takes no damage from falls.
    • Water: Move and breathe freely in water.
    • Wood: Enhanced Athletics and Evasion, low-level innate armor.
  • Fey Caste Abilities
    • The Fey Castes are replaced by the Baba Yaga Fey types
  • Mortals and Wraiths
    • Are designed as Elite Normals, using the standard Baba Yaga rules.
    • Unlike in normal Baba Yaga, disrupted human spirits are permanently destroyed if they fail their recovery checks.
    • Exceptional Mortals – Wyld-warped barbarians, warlords, and thaumaturgists – may be designed as Pulp Heroes.

Manses and Hearthstones

   Hearthstones are simply Lesser Artifacts with a special restriction: you must maintain control of a structure of some kind to keep them working. This reduces their base cost by 1 point per level, but precludes modifiers for other special components.

General Notes

   While Solars may be sought by the Wyld Hunt, Lunars may need to drink creatures hearts blood to shape-shift, Sidereals may be entangled in heavenly bureaucracies and intrigue, Alchemicals may know nothing of creation, the Abyssals may be bound in service to dark masters, and the Dragonblooded may be loaded with family obligations, this is not required: those are elective disadvantages. If the game master wants to enforce them on everyone, they aren’t worth points. If the game master leaves them up to the players, they are worth points for those who choose to take them.