Spirits present a bewildering set of possibilities for game masters to cope with.
Nature spirits represent the powers associated with a particular place. From a shamanic perspective, whenever a place seems to do something for or to you, that is the spirit of the place in action. Spirits of places where you never know what might spring out at you have the Fear power. Treacherous locations where things can go wrong easily often bring the Accident power to their spirits. In the water, drowning is a constant danger, so Engulf is a power that belongs to all spirits of the Waters. Any place that is mazy enough or uniform enough to lend itself to getting lost offers the Confusion and Alienation powers, as the spirit can either keep its victim from seeking out others, or from others discovering them. Movement is available in domains where the terrain can help or hinder movement— City and Road spirits can do amazing things with crowds, traffic jams and stoplights. (City Spirits cannot provide the Movement power when the streets are clear, but they can do a superb job of slowing someone down or having a crowd magically part before a person.) All Nature Spirits save Storm spirits can Guard against each others’ powers, and Search is a common power for any spirit that can have things lost in its domain. Concealment is available in places where the terrain can work to your advantage. Swamp spirits are the only ones to normally possess Binding, but a Forest or Prairie spirit might as well in appropriate terrain.
Spirits are natives of the astral level of the world, and usually perceive the universe from that perspective. If they Materialize, they are effectively dual beings; only when Materialized can they read the content of printed items. Part of the skill of conjuring is learning to speak the language of spirits, which is mostly a matter of aura modulation and works a great deal like a limited form of telepathic communication; magicians do not need to speak aloud to issue orders to their spirits. Nature spirits can generally speak languages that the average resident of their domain knows and uses, and are even literate where literacy is common, though in the wilds they often communicate in the pure tongue of spirits. Elementals are usually literate in the primary language of their summoner.
Materialized spirits are effectively physically present for all purposes of mechanical detection; spirits that have merely manifested to visibility or audibility are effectively mana illusions for purposes of detection.
Spirits can always do (Strength)M Stun damage by slugging someone, using their Reaction as a combat skill and as much Combat Pool as they desire. Other attacks are as noted.
In astral space, spirits add 20+1d6 to their Initiative; when materialized, they add 10+1d6. Materializing requires 20 phases (forfeiting the +10 for being purely astral, and taking 10 for performing the action).
Spirits regenerate Physical damage at one box per minute. They regenerate Stun damage as physical beings do. (This contradicts the Grimoire, which has Ally spirits spellcasting for free at a Force up to their own.)
Spirits taken to Deadly Stun (by any means) or to Deadly Physical (by spells or mundane weapons) are disrupted, and will be back in under a month (see the Grimoire for details). Physical damage from astral combat, Killing Hands, or banishing will truly destroy a spirit, unless it is a Free Spirit with the Hidden Life power.
Spirits duking it out roll Force vs. Force, with extra successes for a winner reducing the Force of a loser. Elementals of opposed elements lose two Force points per success. (This last is in contradiction to the Grimoire; I have trouble believing that three force 2 fire elementals can take out one force 6 water elemental.)
When spirit powers are opposed, they take effect at a Force equal to the difference in Forces between the two spirits. If multiple spirits are involved on each side, take the Force of the strongest, add half the Force of the next strongest, and so on; in no circumstance can an effect greater than twice the Force of the largest spirit be achieved. GM’s may halt the series after two spirits if the math is becoming annoying.
|Complex Action||Conjure nature spirit; bring bound elemental out of metaplanes|
|Simple Action||Instruct spirit; switch from astral to materialized form or back|
Note that the Accident power is only as dangerous as the terrain, and it does require an opposed roll of Quickness or Intelligence against the Force of the spirit. It will not necessarily do more than make someone accidentally shut off their engine by shifting into the wrong gear, or trip over a rock.
Alienation adds twice the spirit’s Force to the target number to notice someone, for anyone in the spirit’s domain. They will be recorded by cameras, but people will not notice their images if they are in the spirit’s domain (assuming the spirit is not in Great Form). The victim must make an appopriate test against a target number equal to the Force of the spirit to attract someone’s attention or get out of the way before it’s time to start making dodge tests. Alienation does not prevent people from seeing the target while using astral perception.
Like Alienation, Concealment is also not useful against those who are astrally perceiving. A non-Great Form City spirit cannot Conceal people on the street from observers in a Hearth domain.
Engulf requires a spirit to use its Quickness as a melee attack skill against the target’s melee skill; they can both use Combat Pool. Great Form elementals can Engulf as many targets in a radius equal to their Force in meters as they want. They must divide their Combat Pool between the targets, but they still use their Quickness as the attack skill.
The Fear power requires a number of successes equal to the Professional Rating of a target to make them run in fear. Smaller numbers of successes may cause parties that are not determined to decide against a course of action.
Flame Aura adds power to melee attacks and forces attackers to resist damage when attacking; Flame Projection does (F)L damage and uses Reaction (plus combat pool) to attack. When sustaining the attack, it costs (F)S Stun to the spirit to start it up, but it covers a number of square meters equal to the spirit’s Force, and the damage is staged up by the Force rolled against a Target Number of 2.
Guard is the generic power for one spirit opposing another, and will work to block Confusion, Binding, and so on as well as Accident. Since Spell Defense doesn’t apply to spirit powers, there needs to be some way to stop them...
The given examples in the Shadowrun book are quite common as appearances of various spirits, but the variety is endless. Spirits of Man often manifest as something you would not bat an eyelash at in the city— the piles of garbage are common enough due to urban sanitation problems, but helpful yuppies are perfectly common in Bellevue. Hearth spirits often seem like an extra roommate or pet.
Elementals are usually capable of manipulations involving their own element. Air spirits can filter out smoke and gases from breathable air, keeping an amount from spreading or flushing out a room quickly. Water spirits can perform similar stunts with water, in addition to pumping a number of cubic meters per turn equal to the square of their Force. (This power does not work if the domain is so toxic that non-toxic shamans cannot conjure nature spirits from the domain. Standard elementals cannot purify a stream polluted by constant runoff, though they can help to neutralize an isolated spill.) Earth spirits can manifest using local earth and walk off with a number of cubic meters equal to their force divided by three, greatly aiding in excavation. Fire spirits are of immense value in halting conflagrations, as they can absorb energy from a raging blaze, quenching an area of diameter equal to their Force in meters. They all have excellent insight into their own elements: an air or water elemental can answer complicated questions about circulation when given a physical model or actual place to look at, and earth elementals have an innate sense for the stresses on structures.
Elementals can? cannot? perform the Aid Study service for other Hermetics than their summoner, though as a Remote Service it must be designated when the elemental is first summoned. They cannot Aid Study for shamans, houngans, or other non-Hermetic mages.
The standard Hermetic method of dealing with elementals is to conjure them and bind them to a series of services, pitting the might of a magician against the will of the spirit. Mages who ground spells through their spirits, force them to sustain spells for days on end (reducing their spirits' forces permanently), and otherwise send them on “suicide missions” get a bad reputation in the spirit world. (There is much debate over the mechanism of this— some maintain that the knowledge that the spirits carry leaks into a general pool when they cease to exist, while others believe that elementals have an independent existence on their home metaplane and socialize in some interesting way.) The elementals working for these mages can become quite perverse and unruly, and quite ill disposed toward their summoners when they go free. Mages who use services and conjurations to “heal” their spirits (Grimoire p65) have less of a problem with this.
A few enterprising Hermetic mages, concerned over the ethical implications of possibly enslaving spirits, have researched a different way of acquiring elemental services, which they have dubbed “contacting and contracting”.
Spirit contact resembles an ordinary summoning, but requires far fewer materials: the objective of a contact is to open a dialogue, rather than trapping and binding. Contacting an elemental much less in the way of materials, since it leaves a gateway open for the elemental to leave at any time and leaves no structure available for binding. A contact ritual requires 250¥ of materials per point of Force of the spirit, can use the same circle as a standard conjuration ritual (though special, contact-only circles can be created, still at the same size as an appropriate conjuration circle), and requires the same amount of time and Drain as a full conjuration. As long as a single success is scored, a spirit will arrive; if the mage passes out from Drain, the spirit is much less likely to go after them. Record the number of successes; this improves the bargaining position later.
Once a spirit has been contacted, the bargaining begins to establish a contract. Any spirit that answered the call of such a spell has an interest in the mortal world, and there are things that a magician can do to pay them for their services. Some are sybarites, interested in items from the mortal world that they would deem luxuries: fire elementals might enjoy burning particular aromatic woods from halfway around the world, air elementals could desire the delicate scents rare hothouse flowers in the middle of winter, water elementals exotic tinctures and alchemical distillates, earth elementals fine gems or soil from distant locales. (These can vary with the flavor of the mage: a Hermetic with a strong Cabalistic tradition who calls upon his elementals as servants of the four archangels of the elements may be asked for draughts of water from Lourdes or some holy well, a flower to be planted on a particular piece of sanctified ground, or incense blessed by a particular bishop.) Others may have an agenda: a fellow elemental freed from a wizard’s control or to have its Force restored through a specialized reconjuration (Grimoire p65), a Free Spirit turned loose from slavery by their True Name, or a disharmony in the balance of the elements rectified. (One of the most important principles of Hermetic magic is “as above, so below”, and the metaplanes are affected by matters on the earth. Breaking up a gang war may in some way please a water elemental, since fire is most strongly associated with violence; freeing a political prisoner or artist from jail could please an air or earth elemental.)
Elementals bound by contract rather than force are generally better disposed toward the mage, and far more friendly when they go free.
Any natural location can have its spirit invoked. Toxic domains and complete mana voids are the only places where a shaman cannot conjure the spirit of that place. This leads to the creation of a number of new spirits below.
All nature spirits can Materialize (called Manifestation in SR2) in addition to Manifesting. They have to Materialize in order to use powers specified ...
Nature spirit domains are an interesting source of categorization and endless debate among magicians. Some homes may be Hearth domain through the driveway and back yard, while other, larger ones may have a Field domain surrounding their Hearth domain. The Hearth spirits of houseboats often exhibit powers normally seen only in spirits of the Waters, and the Hearth spirit of the Tokyo Shoe (a Godzilla-themed bar in Seattle) has Flame Projection!
The domain boundaries of City spirits are not necessarily the boundary markers for a particular city; they are where the attitude of the residents changes. A spirit from the Barrens would not be able to enter Bellevue, even if it could travel over large portions of the rest of the sprawl. A burbclave in the middle of an urban wasteland may have its own City spirit if the residents of the community feel an insulation from the surrounding world.
Borrowing from a campaign in Cambridge, England, we have added the Road spirit to the game. Road spirits apply to particular roads that are distinctive enough to have their own identity— most freeways, as well as main drags in a town, will have their distinctive identities. A road primarily traversed by irritated commuters will have tend to have an irascible spirit. They normally appear as a glow of distant headlines or engine noise; when required to Materialize, they often assume the forms of vehicles. A track through the forest or fields navigable only by a 4×4 will have the spirit appropriate to its surrounding domain; if the road is widened into a freeway, the Road domain also becomes accessible. Road domains are always part of some other domain as well, whether of Man or the Land; the usual rules apply for shamans considering themselves to be in a particular domain. A highway travelling over a mountain peak can be in Road, Mountain, and Wind domains simultaneously.
There are also Cavern spirits, which apply to natural locations underground. (Places dug out by human beings are usually a Hearth or perhaps even City domain.)
Shamans can always conjure spirits, even on days with cloudless skies, so we introduce Wind spirits for these times.
It is rumored that a toxic shaman flying over Tenochtitlán can summon toxic Air spirits there, but thus far the rumor is unsubstantiated. Some shamans have found it impossible to summon nature spirits there on bad smog days.
Spirits of the Waters are present even in most man-made lakes, reservoirs, and canals; any place water is relatively deep, dark, and mysterious is associated with the mystical nature of water, and develops its own spirit. Only the most tightly controlled artificial bodies of water— such as swimming pools— are in the domain of Man.
The Followers of the Path of Brigid in Tír na nÓg know the secrets of summoning the spirits of the Great Fiery Firmament, and Phoenix alone of the totems teaches them to her followers. Other shamans, however, could learn these secrets as well, though extracting the information from someone from Tír na nÓg could be risky, and being known to possess such techniques could make them a target.
Latent fire spirits can only be summoned from objects warmer than human blood temperature due to a natural activity, such as being in the sunshine or warmed by a fire. Turning on an electric heater will not do the trick. Latent fire spirits look like shimmering heat haze; manifest fire spirits are much like fire elementals. Naturally, they cannot leave the domain they are summoned from unless conjured in Great Form.
Many nature spirits have long-term influence over their own domains. Field spirits can enhance or reduce the fertility of a crop or herd within their domain, but under ordinary circumstances this requires a shaman to conjure the spirit and set it to this duty daily.
A powerful Initiate can perform a specialized summoning of a Great Form spirit in order to form a long-term (months to years, or even more in extreme cases) contract with the spirit of a place. Such a quest is more a matter of supplication than command: the spirits of nature have their own agenda, and require strong persuasion in order to change the natural balance of a place. Field spirits are not the only ones that can be influenced in this manner: spirits of the sky can start or end a drought, and spirits of a forest could make it a friendly place to walk or a dark, forbidding maze of underbrush. Often, the spirits will only fulfill a request if a requirement is met: a drought will only be ended when the people living in the area take extreme measures to reduce polluting emissions, or a forest will not shield refugees until it can be shown that they will honor the land.
Watchers can only do Stun damage in astral combat; they cannot harm wards or foci.
The watcher search power can also be used for search for good parties and restaurants; the conjuror merely needs to specify the type and density of auras for a watcher to look for (“many people eating happily”).
Free Spirits do not get Karma Pool dice from donated karma. However, it is possible to donate Karma Pool dice to a Free Spirit; they regard this as much more valuable than ordinary mortal karma.
A variant of the Wealth power, Cornucopia, exists; it permits Free Spirits to produce lavish table settings of perishable food once a day, for a number of people equal to the square of their Force Rating, or a number of smaller meals to the same sum.
A materialized Free Spirit using the Aura Masking power can easily appear to be a dual being or astrally perceiving mortal; in order to appear completely mundane, they must forfeit most of their own astral senses.
Free Spirits raising their own Force usually keep some karma handy for immediately raising their Spirit Energy after raising their Force, so as not to be weakened by dumping their entire Spirit Energy to increase their basic Force. Spirit Energy may not be raised higher than a spirit’s Force.
A determined magician can work to explicitly set a spirit free; if they immediately have karma to offer the spirit as it orients itself, it may be well-disposed toward the magician.
It is possible for any sentient to enter into an agreement with a “tutelary spirit”, a Free Spirit that will provide mystical insight and guidance to the character. Tutelary spirits require at least one karma a month to function, and the act of entering into an agreement with them allows a character to donate karma at a guaranteed one-for-one ratio, no more, no less. Some Free Spirits with the Astral Gateway power may provide direction to those they find worthy by providing them the chance to befriend a tutelary spirit.
Tutelary spirits are not Allies. They will only risk their existences for a character if that character has impressed them a great deal, probably by risking their own life for the spirit. If they possess the Sorcery power, they seldom have directly useful spells. They are most commonly found as mentors and companions for shamanic physical adepts, though even a mundane can enter into a mystic contract with a tutelary spirit.
Magical theorists believe that this manner of contract is a way for free spirits to gain entry to the physical world from the metaplanes.
|Powers: Engulf, Manifestation, Movement, Attack (F)S hand-to-hand with +1 Reach, use Force as skill|
|Powers: Engulf, Manifestation, Movement, Attack (F)S Stun hand-to-hand, use Force as skill|
|Powers: Engulf, Flame Aura, Flame Projection, Guard, Manifestation, Movement, Attack (F)M up to Force × 2 m, use Reaction as skill|
|Powers: Engulf, Manifestation, Movement, Noxious Breath, Psychokinesis|
|Spirits of Man||F+1||(F+2)×3||F–2||F||F||F||(F)A||F+1|
|Hearth||Powers: Accident, Alienation, Concealment, Confusion, Guard, Search|
|Domain: Homes, residences, occupied buildings|
|City||Powers: Accident, Alienation, Concealment, Confusion, Fear, Guard, Search|
|Domain: Streets, plazas, alleys, open areas, and abandoned buildings of a city|
|Field||Powers: Accident, Concealment, Guard, Search, Enhance/Reduce Crop/Herd Yield/Fertility|
|Domain: Cultivated, working fields and growing areas|
|Road||Powers: Accident, Alienation, Concealment, Confusion, Movement, Guard, Search|
|Domain: Highways, freeways, major thoroughfares|
|Spirits of the Land||F+4||(F–2)×2||F+4||F||F||F||(F)A||F–2|
|Mountain||Powers: Accident, Concealment, Guard, Movement, Search|
|Domain: Rugged mountain terrain|
|Prairie||Powers: Accident, Alienation, Concealment, Guard, Movement, Search|
|Domain: Open land, uncultivated fields, tundra|
|Forest||Powers: Accident, Concealment, Confusion, Fear, Guard|
|Domain: Forests, as well as decent-sized parks|
|Desert||Powers: Concealment, Guard, Movement, Search|
|Domain: Open desert|
|Cavern||Powers: Accident, Alienation, Confusion, Fear, Movement, Guard, Search|
|Domain: Underground (other than excavated)|
|Spirits of the Sky||F–2||(F+3)×4||F–3||F||F||F||(F)A||F+2|
|Mist||Powers: Accident, Concealment, Confusion, Guard, Movement|
|Domain: Mist, fog, rain|
|Storm||Powers: Concealment, Confusion, Electrical Projection, Fear|
|Domain: Thunderstorms, hurricanes, tornadoes, violent storms|
|Wind||Powers: Guard, Movement, Search|
|Domain: Clear air|
|Spirits of the Waters||F+2||F×2||F||F||F||F||(F)A||F–1|
|Sea||Powers: Accident, Alienation, Concealment, Confusion, Engulf, Fear, Guard, Movement, Search|
|Domain: The open sea|
|Lake||Powers: Accident, Engulf, Fear, Guard, Movement, Search|
|Domain: Open lake water|
|River||Powers: Accident, Concealment, Engulf, Fear, Guard, Movement, Search|
|Domain: Rivers, large streams, river deltas (when not swampy), inlets and outlets|
|Swamp||Powers: Accident, Binding, Concealment, Confusion, Engulf, Fear, Guard, Movement, Search|
|Domain: Swamps, marshes|
|Latent Fire Spirit||F+2||(F+2)×5||F–2||F||F||F||(F)A||F|
|Powers: Accident, Engulf, Flame Aura, Flame Projection, Guard, Movement, Psychokinesis|
|Domain: Within/beside hot objects and/or places|
|Manifest Fire Spirit||F+4||(F+3)×5||F+4||F||F||F||(F)A||F+2|
|Powers: Accident, Engulf, Enhanced Movement, Flame Aura, Flame Projection, Guard, Movement, Noxious Breath, Psychokinesis|
|Domain: Volcanoes, raging fires, forest fires, and so on|