Magic in Shadowrun, Sixth World

By Jason Hardy, Shadowrun Line Developer

Gen Con, as people insist on reminding me, is four weeks away, and that’s where the Shadowrun, Sixth World core rulebook will first be released into the wild. To build up to that, we’re going to spend the next few weeks talking about different aspects of the that book, including combat, Matrix, and the ever-present challenge of presenting the deep, enthralling world of Shadowrun to new users and experts alike. First up, let’s talk about magic!

Revising the magic system presents one significant obstacle from the get-go: I really like Shadowrun’s magic system (speaking specifically about spellcasting right now). I think it does what it is supposed to do admirably, in that it gives spellcasters the chance to do big things, do small things, and think about what it’s going to cost them. Want to throw a big fireball into a corp boardroom? You can do that, but be ready to have some cart away your unconscious body afterward.

So if the system works, what needs to change? This was one of the first things I thought about when the very first gears of SR6 were turning. I pondered one recurring request for magic that came up fairly regularly, and that was for spells that players and gamemasters can generate on their own. That can be difficult to do in you want to keep balance right (though there is no such thing as perfect balance in RPG rules—but that’s a topic for another time), but it helps if the system is designed from the get-go to allow that.

So that’s what SR6 spellcasting is–it’s designed from the ground up to (eventually) allow spellcasters to make their own spells. It treats spells in a modular way, so that each spell is a combination of modules, at that combination tells you how much its basic drain will be. For example, the modules that go into Fireball are Combat + Affect living things + Fire + Area effect + Ranged.

Now, this is a bit of a tease, because you won’t be able to design spells right out of the gate in SR6. Doing that would have required putting all the modules and the instructions for combining them in the core rulebook, and we simply didn’t have the space for that. So given that, what are the ramifications for people who will be using the core book? Here’s a few:

  • Force is not declared before casting. With everything being modular, some of the main things you’d use Force for—namely, increasing the area of effect and increasing combat damage—are built into separate modules. Plus, with limits being removed across the board in SR6, it made sense to change the way the rules work in Magic, too. I’d seen many new players struggle with knowing just what Force to use for a spell, so changing this is a way of making it a little easier. You can ramp up the power if you want to, but you can also charge ahead and cast the basic spell without having to worry about it too much.
  • Elemental effects can come in more often. The modular system allows for a great range of elemental effects, and it also allows them to come into play in a variety of circumstances. Cooling Heal, Warming Heal, and Elemental Armor Are particular examples of this.
  • Drain should feel consistent. Since all drain calculations are based on the same modules, it should feel consistent across the line of spells.

Of course, spellcasting is only one area of magic. Adept powers, alchemy, conjuring, reagents, ritual spellcasting, and astral traveling/combat are in there, too. In those areas, a large amount of the changes that were made were to take advantage of the expanded Edge system, as discussed in the Shadowrun, Sixth World Developer Overview post. Various aspects of magic needed to be adjusted and tweaked to fit into the Edge paradigm, which should mean less calculating of modifiers so that you can get to the cool parts of a role-playing game. Spirits, unlike spells, still have Force, since it’s a handy way to measure the power of the individual entities, but Force does not act as a limit on Conjuring dice rolls. Enchanting needed a decent amount of tweaking, since many of its elements were based on the Force of the spell, which no longer exists, so other measures, including base drain value, were used instead. Reagents was one of those areas where good feedback during the development process led to rules that worked well with the larger system.

I hope that provides a taste of what we were thinking when working on SR6 magic, as well as whetting your appetite for that spell creation system you should see next year!

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New Shadowrun Beginner Box Dossier and Release Info!

Do you have the Shadowrun, Sixth World Beginner Box Set? Do you want a preview at how characters in that ruleset will look? Do you just want free Shadowrun stuff? There’s no wrong reason to download the character dossier for Emu, the human rigger! It’s now available! 

And it’s a great time to share Beginner Box material with you, because the box itself is nearing release. The official street date is July 10–two weeks from now—but you might want to pay attention to your friendly local game store, because some copies might show up in advance of that. So if you want your first look at the next edition of one of gaming’s greatest settings, keep your eyes open!

Of course, the Beginner Box is the first step of the journey to the release of the full Shadowrun, Sixth World core rulebook, which will go on sale August 1 at Gen Con. We’ll be counting down until that week with more blog posts and information about that book, including the following:

July 3: Magic in SR6

July 10: Combat in SR6

July 17: Matrix in SR6

July 24: How to describe 30 years of Shadowrun history

July 31: Gen Con preview!

We look forward to sharing more about this edition of Shadowrun, and we’re especially excited to get people playing!

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Recap: Shadowrun at Origins 2019

Convention weeks are exhausting, but also a good reminder why we love them. Origins and Gen Con are often the first time I get to see physical copies of Shadowrun stuff, and it’s always exciting to open boxes—it’s Christmas in June!

I had already seen a physical copy of the Shadowrun, Sixth World Beginner Box, but this show gave me my first chance to hold the Neo-Anarchist Streetpedia, No Future, and our dice and Edge tokens set. Our art and design people rocked it—they are all beautiful! But in particular I want to share the cover of No Future, with its AR slipcover and gritty reality main cover. Echo Chernik is one of our favorite artists for a reason, and she made a gorgeous, striking image.

The star of the show, of course, was the Beginner Box. The response was tremendous, and we sold more of them than any Shadowrun RPG item at Origins in the past ten years (and possibly longer, but ten years is as far as my personal memory goes). Having lots of boxes to sell means I get to experiment with different stacking styles—this was my beginning-of-day-four stack. It was much smaller at day’s end!

Shadowrun art was everywhere at the show. Our booth featured a large banner with the cover art from the Shadowrun, Sixth World core rulebook.

A staircase leading to the convention hall featured a rogues’ gallery of Sixth World characters, set on a stunning city backdrop.

And the gaming room was easy to find, thanks to this long banner calling attention to it.

And that gaming room was busy! Our demo agents, as always, went above and beyond to give as many gamers as possible a great gaming experience, and more than 1,100 players sat at the tables in the room. We love the enthusiasm for Shadowrun we see at Origins, and we love our demo agents. (And if you’re interested in joining one of the best teams in gaming, send an inquiry to the Catalyst Demo Team Facebook page. We’re looking for a few good people for Gen Con!)

And, of course, this is only part of the overall experience. Talking to friends, teaching people how to play different games, learning new games, rolling lots of dice, seeing how many dice I can fit into our new dice bags, and making unending strings of jokes that are pretty much just funny to me—that’s what a con’s about! And all you great Shadowrun people helped make this one especially memorable!

Now back to working on that character dossier we promise you for Emu the rigger!

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Shadowrun, Sixth World to Debut at Origins Game Fair

Origins Game Fair is about to launch, and with it comes the worldwide premiere of Shadowrun, Sixth World!

Kicking off on Thursday, June 13 and running through Sunday, June 16, Origins is your first chance to get your hands on the new Shadowrun, Sixth World beginner box set. Those at the convention also have the first opportunity to try out the new rules.

Available for sale at the Catalyst Game Labs Booth (701, 707, 807) at Origins will be:

  • Shadowrun, Sixth World Beginner Box (Street Date: July 10)
  • Neo-Anarchist Streetpedia (Street Date: June 12)
  • No Future (Street Date: July 10)
  • Mekeda Red (Available now)
  • Prime Runner miniatures (Advance sale; street date TBD)
  • Shadowrun Dice & Edge Tokens (Advance sale; street date TBD)

To celebrate the launch of Sixth World, anyone ordering the above products through the Catalyst Game Labs store in print format will receive the PDF version for free (except, of course, the dice and edge tokens). This promotion will begin with the release of the Neo-Anarchist Streetpedia today (PDF only // Book & PDF).

In addition, any visitors to the Catalyst Game Labs booth will receive an all-new Shadowrun, Sixth World poster, while those playing in Shadowrun games at Origins will walk away with new custom dice or edge tokens. (Both offers good while supplies last.) And we will also be running plenty of Shadowrun, BattleTech, Dragonfire, and more!

Demonstration games of Shadowrun, Sixth World will be available at the Catalyst booth. In the Gaming Hall, the Shadowrun Missions line will continue the Neo-Tokyo storyline started in Season Nine, the final Missions written for Fifth Edition.

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