Monday, December 2, 2013

Fireside Chat: Mages

I wrote two blog posts on the magic rules in Shadowrun 5th Edition, specifically Spellcasting, and Conjuring. I wanted to take a moment and write one more post about an interesting opinion I read online while building my canned characters for my first session.

"Being an aspected mage actually penalizes for taking power limitations at priority C.  (At priority B, aspected magicians are equal to magicians at least in terms of the karma value of their bonuses.)  At priority D, obviously there isn't a comparison.  The obvious conclusion however is that nobody should ever play an aspected magician except at priority D, unless you are going to be a conjurer, and even that is debatable.  (Of course, then there is the question of why you would ever want to be a magician instead of a mystic adept, since Mystic Adept > Magician > Aspect)."

Courtesy of Ricochet here

Now, let's look at this a bit closer. At priority A, there's no Aspected Magician, so you have to choose Magician, or Mystic Adept. I cannot fathom why you would take priority A for Magic. By taking A in Magic you are selling yourself short. So much of the game focuses on Attributes, and Skills, I cannot fathom why you would waste A on Magic. Especially when B is nearly as good, and leaves your top spot open for Attributes.

Priority B is where I like to start with every Magician I've built. I look at it like this: If I'm building a human Character, then Mystical Adept, Magician, or Aspected Magician all make sense. Remember, if you're going to take Magician, you might as well take Mystical Adept. You don't have to buy the power points, but having the choice doesn't cost anything, and can leave interesting growth options open to you down the road. If I'm building a non-human character and I'm not going to have a large number of extra points to add to my Edge, and Magic, then I prefer the Aspected Magician at this level, as the one higher point in Magic can help offset the lack of special attribute points from the metatype. That being said, a full Magician at priority B can be solid with a non-human metatype, you need to balance the metatype choice, and the rest of your priority choices though.

Priority C is the first level where I'd actually consider taking an Adept. You have a reasonably high Magic, and you've left Priority A, and B, free for attributes, skills, or metatype. Though again, I'd caution against taking Priority A as anything other than attributes. For Magician, Mystic Adept, or Aspected Magician I have to agree with Ricochet. The skill group for the Aspected Magician simply isn't enough of a benefit to make me not want to take the full Magician or Mystic Adept. Magic 3 is still solid, especially if you're playing a human, or other metatype with a few special attribute points to bolster your magic rating.

Priority D, this is an interesting one. You're left with Adept, or Aspected Magician. You get no spells, or skills, for free. Why would you bother taking Priority D for Magic? Honestly, I would only take Adpet at this Priority. Given that all Adepts have to buy power points with Karma you might as well take Attributes, Skills, and Metatype/Resources as A, B, and C, and use the special attribute points to up the magic attribute, and the skill and attribute points to build a solid foundation for a character. I can't advise taking Aspected Magician at D, as there's simply too many demands on your skill picks, and karma, to make a mage work at such a low priority.

This is one of the only failings of a priority based build system. You end up with character builds that simply aren't as good, or aren't even viable. In the end, you're going to see a lot of Human Mystic Adpets. If this was intentional by the designers, or not, this is definitely the way I see things going.

Attributes: A
Magic: B (Mystic Adept)
Skills: C
Metatype: D (Human (3))
Resources: E

That's your cookie-cutter mage build, in my opinion.

I'm curious though, does anyone have an idea for a character that doesn't seem possible? I'd like a challenge. If you can think of a character concept post in the comments, and tell me what the character concept is, and what you'd pick for Metatype, Attributes, Skills, Resources, and Magic. I'll pick a few I like and see if I can actually build them.


  1. The problem building mages, in my experience, revolves around Race. If I want to be a troll I will be seriously lacking everywhere, even an elf makes this process much harder.

    1. I agree, though I don't see it as a big drawback. In 3rd, and 4th Editions there was no reason to take a human. Metatypes were simply better. Now, in 5th, if you want to be a non-Human you're going to pay the price. Granted, non-Human mages are still viable, you just end up either unskilled, or poor.

  2. Priority A in magic makes sense if you are building an Elven Shaman and intend to make use of the charisma bonuses to give yourself an added boost to soaking drain. The character concept is a neo-druid from Tir Na Nog on a pilgrimage through Seattle, helping the poor. Magic:A, Attributes:B, Skills:C, Metatype:D, Resources:E. Wise-warrior Mentor spirit(the all-father). Code of honor quality. Influence skill group. With the bonus to combat spells and high resistance to drain you can rely on spells completely for combat if your careful with the force you choose. You'll have to drop karma into extra resources and be careful with your purchases. It's not for everyone, but in my opinion it's viable.

    1. That's a really interesting idea, I'd be curious though, would you run into issues with Skills at C? Also, with Metatype at D, that leaves you with an Edge of 1. That's an issue with me, but you might be able to work around it.

  3. Edge at one is tough and is usually the first thing I raise after creation. Skills at C isn't bad, you just can't be everything to everyone. The two free skills at 5 for magic A make the difference. For me, they go straight to Spellcasting and Summoning.

    And for the record Mystic Adept > Mage is not a given in my opinion. With 4 levels in the quality "focused concentration" Mages can do most of the stuff an adept can do (focused concentration lvl.4 + increased reflexes = Improved Reflexes lvl.2) and more with spells(focused concentration lvl.4 + levitation = flying). It has it's advantages and disadvantages(flexibility over raw power), but if you go that route you'll always want to spend your karma on magic points at initiation or learning new spells over adept powers. Either way is good in my opinion it's just that I don't see being a mystic adept as a given if I never intend on buying any power points.

    1. I see your point here, I've not spent a lot of time playing as a mage so part of the post is more theory, and carry over from SR3. The errata also makes this less of a cut and dry choice. I might come back to this now that the errata is out.