Review – Street Grimoire (for Shadowrun)

20 September, 2014

Shadowrun: Street Grimoire is all about magic in the Sixth World, from both from a roleplaying and mechanic side.  It is a useful book, almost required if you intend to highlight the magical side of a Shadowrun campaign, but it could be more tightly organized and better edited, a few parts being confusing to read.  That being said, it does have a lot of useful material allowing for magic to be used in much more interesting ways and it should spark a host of ideas for any Shadowrun GM even though it lacks any explicit GM direction in the book.

Shadowrun: Street Grimoire is the second major sourcebook for the 5th edition of Shadowrun providing more information for GMs and the players on the role and dangers of magic in the Shadowrun world.

The book begins with one of the ubiquitous fiction sections, then an (in game world) discussion on what it is like being one of the rare group of people who can manipulate magic in the Shadowrun future.  It is a very general overview and touches on how magic colors education, tradition and (of course) dealing with the corporations and in the shadows.  While just an overview, still a useful introduction to how magic fits into society in the 2070s.

Next it moves into magic in the world, which discusses a bit of how magic works on a theoretical level but mostly in about the strange magical phenomenon that are out there, ley lines, mana storms and other such strange things that can just ruin a magically active character’s day.  Then magical traditions are expanded upon giving more cultural options from all around the world, and the appropriate rules for playing them, but sadly the psionic tradition (one of my favorites from earlier editions) was not included.

Magical societies are explored from with sample societies from corporate to religious, local to secret societies, this gives a good look at the wide range of such groups in the Sixth World and most include a paragraph about how they interact with the shadows.  Dark Magic follows with the best of the worst: blood magic, toxic magic, alien and insect spirits.  The dark paths get their own magical themes and powers, which are suitably disturbing, but there is not much of a framework for how to use them beyond some very basic discussion of the sorts that are attracted to such magic.  But what do insect shaman look for in a lair?  How would they recruit?  Is toxic magic infectious?  Some more advice on how to use these dark tradition to build interesting scenarios and antagonists would have been very helpful.

Players and GMs alike will enough the options presented by the Expanded Grimoire with more than one hundred new spells, including the fifth edition version of such favorites as Fashion and Turn to Goo, new elemental effect of water and (for toxic magic) pollution and radiation are presented as well.  But, no rules or even guidelines are presented for creating new spells, which is a bit of a shame.  Shadow Rituals gives new ways to use ritual magic including lots of new wards, ways to interact with ley lines and more including some neat tricks allowing links to animals and forensic magic.  Secrets of the Initiates expands the skills that can be learned and used by initiates and provides and expands the roles and profession that magic can be used for including forensic magic, exorcism, advanced alchemy while adepts get focused ways to apply their paths.

Physical Magic is all about the adepts, including mystical adepts, and includes a wide variety of new adept powers as well as the ability to focus in particular types of adept powers by use of the Ways (way of the artist, the invisible way and so on).  The Immaterial Touch delves into the spirit world in more detail, covering ally and free spirits, new spirit types and even new mentor spirits (though only four of those).  Lastly, rules for one’s reputation in the spirit world are provided, providing penalties to those who routinely abuse spirits.

The last two sections of the book are for the alchemists and talismongers: Turning Lead into Nuyen provides new ways to use alchemy and advanced alchemical preparations.  While The Life of a Talismonger provides a primer for the business aspects of being a talismonger including enhanced rules on harvesting reagents and focus design.

Then the book ends, no index, no collection of tables.  Which is a drag, though it does have a decent table of contents in the front, a gathered list of where to find the new qualities scattered through the book (at a minimum) would have been helpful.

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