Shadowrun: Practical Thaumaturgy

   OK, this was supposed to be up yesterday. Unfortunately, I’ve been quite busy and most of the original material from last time there was a player-character Thaumaturgist (about fifteen years ago I think) turned out to be unrecoverable and for an older edition of the game anyway – so here’s the preliminary version of the rewrite.

   Thaumaturgy is relatively straightforward: the user simply lets magical energy flow through him from astral space while making no attempt to shape it. This offers a few basic options:

  • A thaumaturgist may channel spells and magical from astral sources into the physical world. This includes both spirit powers and spells cast by astral magicians. Obviously enough, this is most useful when a spirit on long-term service is available. It keeps the spirit safely astral – which they like – and makes their powers freely available to the thaumaturgist. A thaumaturgist can safely and easily channel the powers of a spirit with a force of up to their magic rating as a complex action. Above that, they must either take extra actions (Force/Magic Rating, rounded up, in total) or risk damage (5L for minor or subtle powers, 5M for notable or dramatic ones, 5S for damaging effects, which are inherently more dangerous). Sadly, as an internal, and primarily spiritual, effect, no armor, protective spell, program, piece of bioware, or form of invulnerability will help reduce such damage.
  • A thaumaturgist may allow unshaped magical energy to flow into the physical world. This is blatantly obvious to most awakened creatures, produces powerful psychic impressions on the area and the items within it, and can cause minor magical disturbances – astral static and occasional minor magical effects – within the area affected. In general, this covers a radius of (the user’s magic rating in meters), imposes a +2 modifiers on sensory checks for dual-natured or astrally-sensing creatures, and produces level one astral static. The game master is free to add special effects, such as odd glows, things changing colors, phantom voices, and other bits of random magic.
  • A thaumatugist may attempt to channel magical energy from any source he or she touches back into astral space, draining whatever-it-is. Dice from the thaumaturgy skill may be allotted to suppress the force of spirits, foci, and spells, or the magic rating of an individual, with a target number of five.
  • A thaumaturgist may set up links with truly powerful spirits, and channel their energies into the physical world. Unfortunately, they tend to charge dearly in terms of Karma for the privilege. They can also be hard to reach; the higher the Thaumaturgists skill, the more diverse a group of spirits he or she can contact. Greater access to the Metaplanes via initiation provides access to more powerful – and sometimes more exotic – spirits.

   Ergo, the game master may split up the available spells and spirit powers by requiring various minimum levels of the thaumaturgy skill and initiation to access the really exotic effects. A few may simply be unavailable, or require forming pacts with really difficult, dangerous, or demanding spirits.

   A basic thaumaturgy spell has several factors. It normally has a base karma cost of {[(2 * Dice) + Power] + Augmentations Cost }* Frequency Modifier – Special Requirements Costs. The entire cost is, however, subject to adjustment by the spirit; the spirits are, after all, competing for business, and usually offer a price break on larger packages, packages which help keep the user alive (and ready to buy more spells), and for first-time buyers.

  • Dice: This is how many extra dice the spirit provides for the casting check. The user can also throw in dice from his or her thaumaturgy pool (equal to his or her thaumaturgy skill).
  • Power: The power at which the spell will be cast. Note that the basic casting time for a pact-based effect is one action (to tap the link) plus a number of additional actions equal to (the spells power/
  • Augmentations: These are basically built-in Metamagics, and normally cost +6 Karma Each. Note that Spirits don’t generally want to be bothered maintaining spells for thaumaturgists; a thaumaturgist that wants a spell to keep running should either buy the Circuiting Metamagic directly, pay the extra to have it built into the spell, or maintain the spell themselves – although this is a considerable strain that temporarily ties up one point of their magic rating per four force in the spell and inflicts the usual penalties.
  • Frequency: Hourly (x10), Daily (x1), 3x Weekly (x.75), Weekly (x.66), 3x Monthly (x.6), (Monthly (x.5), Yearly (x.25). Note that utility spells – such as healing, barriers, telekinesis, and so on – are usually subject to an additional x2 cost modifier. That’s because spirits want to get Karma with as little trouble as possible – and most people use utility magic a LOT more often than combat magic. There are always a few who do the reverse, but they usually don’t live long enough to be too much of a bother.
  • Signature: Thaumaturgic effects are basically just sorcery and spirit powers being channeled through someone else, hence they have magical signatures. Unlike most magical signatures, however, the signatures of a spell cast at force 12+ tend to imprint themselves strongly on the environment, weakly on the consciousness of mundane characters in the vicinity, and even on the thaumaturgist. Ergo, the scent of ozone that comes with the Spirit # 1’s Storm Mastery package may be apparent to anyone near the casting and detectable on the thaumaturgist at any time.
  • Minimum Level of Initiation Required: Optional per setting, but no direct cost.
  • Minimum Thaumaturgy Skill Required: Optional per setting, but no direct cost.
  • Special Requirements: These may include access to specific metaplanes, behavioral restrictions, advertising the spirits services to other mages, oaths of service, insanity and many similar items. In general, each such requirement reduces the cost of the spell in question.

   I’ll try to get a few spell packages up next.