SR5 development—Magic: A stitch here, a hem there

Shadowrun 5 Logo with Text


When we were planning the changes we were going to make in Shadowrun, Fifth Edition and we were thinking about what we wanted to do to magic, we decided that it did not need changes as extensive as the Matrix (see this post and this other post for info about those changes). The system essentially worked, and it was consistent with rules in the rest of the game, so a major overhaul did not seem to be in order. That’s not to say everything was perfect. There were some balancing issues we wanted to address (including adepts, which we discussed here), some flavor we wanted to put in, some new things to add. What kind of things, you ask? Well, things like this:

  • Adjusting Drain Values: In Shadowrun, Fourth Edition Drain Values tended to favor mana-based stun spells, which meant spellcasters could bring down enemies with Stun damage without having to resist a ton of Drain. That made these spells too powerful. Drain Values were revised and rebalanced across the board.
  • Restraining spirits: Spirits can be powerful weapons–sometimes too powerful. There is a particular problem in the area of Edge. Spirits tend to be around for the short term, which means that if a conjurer wants to, he can have them blow through their Edge in short order, without them showing the same restraint that characters do in deciding when to employ those extra dice. Since the conjurer can keep summoning new spirits, they often had access to a lot of Edge, which was not balanced. The fix was that spirits cannot use Edge when they are bound or carrying out services. If a magician wants a spirit to have access to Edge on one of its tasks, he has to use his own, not the spirit’s.
  • Enhancing Alchemy: Moving from a specialization of Enchanting in SR4 to its own skill in SR5, Alchemy received a strong boost. It can now be used to create reagents, which have expanded functions (such as helping increase your limits in certain tests) and to design preparations, which hold spells for later release.
  • Adjusting tradition flavor: One way to distinguish traditions from each other in SR5 is to look at how they interact with spirits. The core book has details on how conjurers of the hermetic and shamanic traditions view spirits and how that affects their interactions, along with other details about each tradition.
  • Simplifying spell damage: We streamlined the damage and the Resistance Tests from Indirect and Direct Combat spells, making the process of casting them a little smoother.
  • Rebalancing foci: Foci are too cool to go anywhere, but they needed to be a little cheaper (especially since their price made them so lucrative to manufacture). Their price has dropped, and some risks were added to the manufacturing process to make it a little more of a challenge to leap into.

All these changes, along with other little tweaks and changes in flavor, should preserve the essential character of Shadowrun magic while balancing it better with the rest of the game–but not so much that people will stop geeking the mage first.

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