Saturday, August 6, 2011

Shadowrun Project: Magic System Pt. 1- Spells

I thought long and hard about converting Shadowrun magic spells. I decided that I'm just going to use the D&D Cyclopedia catalog of spells. Lazy? Maybe. Don't care.

Okay, so here's how it works... this system is partially inspired by Kevin Crawford's recent offerings on mages in SWN, as well as some things that have been rattling around in my head.

Magicians start the game with a number of spells equal to three plus their Intelligence modifier. These spells can be taken from the Magic-User or Cleric list of 1st level spells. You can also toss in the Druid spell list, if'n you like your D&D Cyclopedic.

Preparing Spells

Magicians can hold in their mind a number of spells determined by the Magic-User table from D&D. They get bonus spells equal to their Wisdom modifier for each spell level they are capable of casting, so a 3rd level Shaman with Wisdom 15 can hold three first level spells and two second level spells. Magicians need an hour each morning to get their spells prepared; mages study their books and tomes (or data slabs or laptops or whatever) while Shamans commune with the spirit world (smoke hallucinogenic substances) or whatever.

Casting and Drain

Once their spells are prepared, Magicians can cast them whenever they need to; there is no limit to the number of spells they can cast per day. However, every time a Magician character casts a spell, he must make a saving throw against Mental Effect. The Magician may add his Wisdom bonus and his level in Magic/Sorcery to the saving throw. If the Magician doesn't have Magic/Sorcery, he suffers a -2 penalty to the save. In addition, the save suffers a -2 penalty if the spell is level 4-6 and -4 if the spell is level 7-9.
If the Magician succeeds, all is well. If he fails the save, however, he incurs Drain. The Magician suffers point of System Strain and is Fatigued for one hour. A Fatigued Magician suffers -2 on attack rolls, saving throws, and skill checks. A Fatigued Magician who fails another spell save falls unconscious for 1d4 combat rounds. A Magician whose System Strain is maxed out cannot use any magical abilities at all.


A Magician who is truly desperate may overcast a spell, casting it as though he were a higher experience level for purposes of damage, duration, area, or other effect. The Magician decides what level to cast as , and the spell goes off as if he were a Magician of that experience level. However, overcasting takes it's toll. A Magician who overcasts must immediately make a Mental Effect save as normal, but he suffers a penalty equal to the difference between his actual experience level and the level at which he cast the spell. If he fails, he suffers the usual point of System Strain, plus a number of points equal to the difference between his level and the level at which he cast the spell. However, even if he succeeds on the save, he takes half the amount of Strain, rounded up.

Example:Johnny Jupiter is a 6th level Mage. When he gets jumped by a Go-Gang, he needs a big ass fireball. He opts to cast fireball as though he were 10th level. The fireball goes off and does 10d6, behaving exactly as if Johnny were 10th level. Johnny makes his usual Mental Effect save, but he suffers an additional -4 penalty, the difference between his actual level (6) and the level he used to overcast (10). If Johnny blows the spell, he's going to take 5 System Strain (1 for the usual penalty of failing a spell save, plus the difference between his level and the level at which he overcast) Even if Johnny makes it, he's still going to take half that amount. (Three System Strain in this case. I guess you soft hearted GMs could round down to 2 if you really wanted to...)

For those of you who aren't familiar with System Strain, it is a mechanic from SWN. All you need to know for the purpose of this game is that characters can tolerate a maximum number of System Strain points equal to their unaugmented Constitution score. A character who is maxed out on System Strain cannot use any magical abilities at all, nor may they benefit from any spell that causes System Strain in the target. (Magical healing is the most common of these) It is impossible for a character to exceed his System Strain tolerance. System Strain fades at the rate of one point per day. Really nice GMs might allow an extra Strain to be recovered if the character spends the day doing nothing but resting. (No research, Matrix surfing, etc... just rest.)

Learning New Spells

Magicians learn new spells in different ways. The spell levels that a Magician may learn spells from is the same as the D&D Magic-User table, so a Magician can't handle 2nd level magic until he reaches the 3rd level of experience. Mages must learn new spells from the tutelage of other Mages who are more learned, or he can try to learn them himself if he gets ahold of a tome or memory device that contains a spell formula.Nice GMs may allow a Mage to learn one or two spells for free when they gain an experience level, provided they are able to return to their mentor or a local Hermetic Circle for a few weeks of study. A not-so-nice GM might do away with these freebie spells, with Mages exacting a price in terms of favors/quests, magical talismans, exchange of spells, or plain ol' Nuyen for their tutelage.
Shamans learn spells from communing with the spirits. As above, a nice GM might give the Shaman a free spell or two every time they gain an experience level. Aside from that, Shamans have to summon a spirit, who will likely exact some sort of price. A Shaman might also bind a spirit and force it to teach him a new spell before he will release it, though this tactic shouldn't be employed too often, less the Shaman make a lot of local spirits angry. A the maximum level of spell a spirit can teach is equal to its Hit Die. (Detailed information on summoning and spirits is forthcoming) The GM is also within his rights to say that a certain type of spirit must be summoned to teach a particular type of spell. A Lake spirit is probably not a good candidate to teach you fireball, for instance...

Mages and Shamans might have access to the same spells, but they cannot learn spells from one another. A Mage's cure light wounds is an elaborate arcane formula executed by the Mage's will, while a Shaman's cure light wounds is the invocation of a merciful dove spirit, or perhaps just a channeling of pure spiritual energy. Of course, their wounded Dwarf mercenary buddy doesn't really give a crap about the particulars, just so long as somebody patches him up quick.

Spell Particulars
There are a lot of D&D spells that don't work so good for the Shadowrun world. I will eventually need to sit down and review the individual spells for any edits (or outright deletions) that need to happen, but here are a few general guidelines for the differences between D&D spells and Shadowrun:

Magical Healing: Just as biopsionics cause System Strain in SWN, so does it also cause Strain in my Shadowrun conversion. A character who is the recipient of magical healing receives one point of System Strain per level of the spell that was cast on him. (Cure light wounds, for instance, inflicts but a single point of Strain since it is a first level spell.)

Reversible Spells: These are separate spells. They must be learned separately and prepared as though they were an entirely different spell.

Summoning Spells: Spells that summon elementals or spirits, such as Conjure Elemental or Aerial Servant are not available. Summoning is something that Magicians can do inherently and will be covered in a later post.

Raise Spells: Not allowed. The dead stay dead. For that matter, Speak With Dead doesn't exist, either. Animate Dead woks normally, of course.

Alignment Spells: Also not allowed. I hate alignment and I'm not using it in my SR project, so these spells are history.


More magic system stuff I still have to do: Spirits and the summoning/banishing thereof, Astral Perception/Projection/Combat, Magic Items (and the creation thereof), Magical Research, Hermetic Circles, Shamanic Lodge,s Shamanic Totems.

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