Review – Shadowrun: Street Wyrd

3 May, 2021

Shadowrun: Street Wyrd is the long awaited Core Magic Book for the new edition of Shadowrun, and it is going to be a required book for Shadowrun games masters as it provides so many new resources in spells, adept powers, metamagic, magical groups and so much more. And players will be happy with new ways to improve their characters.

Shadowrun: Street Wyrd, is the Core Magic Book for Shadowrun, Sixth World Edition, expanding the available options for magic in all of its wonderful forms.

It begins with an introduction, as expected. One of the ubiquitous fiction sections follows which is the view of a single sequence of events from the perspective of four awakened and one mundane character, interesting reading.

Starting with State of the Arts, which looks at the perception of magic in the game world. The Unified Magic Theory which had dominated the perception of magic is starting to break apart and new forms of magic are emerging but not without push back from the existing structure. Magic from outside, from other planes, is breaking into the Sixth World and bringing with it new dangers, new spirits, new opportunities.

The Tome of Now is a collection of new spells for 6WE (and a few reprints from the core book to fill in various sequences) including favorites from earlier editions such as slay. This is a good addition to the range of spells but the best part is Grimmy the Grimiore a rogue “helper” program that pops in an presents four interesting spells including the delightful Loki’s Musical Number which can turn any heist into a scene from a musical!

Next is Elements of Magic which, after a short in-game world introduction, presents a spell design system and then shows how it applies to some of the existing spells (nice to show your work, as it were) and then some new spells using the system. Someone may find a way to break the math but it is very clear that spell design should be a collaboration between player and games master, which is also how it should be.

Entering into A Congress of Spirits with a warning of the changes to the spirit worlds. Then four new spirit types are introduced (plant, guardian, guidance and task, presented in that order) before moving to rules for free spirits, which have always been an interesting wrinkle in the Shadowrun cosmology, and their powers and ways to control or fight them. Rule for summoning ally spirits, expensive to do but they provide an amazing amount of power, and binding other spirits. All of this plays into the Astral Reputation mechanic which tracks how well, or how poorly, a summoner treats their summoned spirits, it is a needed mechanic to prevent certain types of abuse as summoners are potentially very powerful in the system. Lastly, there are new spirit powers and a little additional information on great form spirits.

From spirits to flesh, as the following section, Force and Grace, provides more information on adepts who use magic to make themselves better. It begins within world discussion about adepts and the ways that the corporations engineer perceptions of what adapts are to control their place in society. Then it moves on to the different types of adepts, defined as “ways”, such as: warrior, for combat specialists, speaker, for social types, and so on with burnout, who mixes cyberware and magic, being the most interesting to my mind. Each of the ways has some special twist on how they focus their magic. There is, of course, a set of new adept powers including using adept magic to improve mental abilities, which had been avoided in previous editions, and old favorites like the elemental powers are updated. Lastly, it includes new initiate powers for adapts which allow for some interesting character options.

Alchemy get its section, sort of, in Imbuing Magic, which talks about a new style of alchemy (verboten to be used by player characters but its products are commercially available) and intrudes a wide variety of new triggers. The new alchemical items can be used by anyone, but only made by the corporations, they have fun names for the effects and magic for the masses in an interesting idea. Two things stood out to me, first, these new preparations take up fourteen pages of the book and they are all versions of existing spell effects, the descriptions are fun but that is a lot of pages. Second, it is a real insult to player character alchemists whose ability to be a functional option took a big hit in the Sixth World edition and here is a whole bunch of neat, shiny alchemical things which . . . they are not allowed to make. Problematical and iffy game design at best.

Seeing and Believing look at and expands the magical traditions available, beyond the basic hermetic and shamanic division, ancient religions, Abrahamic religious, karmic traditions, animist tradition, modern traditions, and more, each with its own set of suggested qualities to help model that tradition. At the end are new magic themed positive and negative qualities.

Rungs of Power is an expanded look at initiation and metamagic, mostly metamagic, after a brief in-game discussion of initiation, it goes into new metamagic options, nineteen of them in fact, ranging widely from divination to improved ritual magic. What caught my eyes was the new defensive (“apotropiac”) metamagics, referenced in Collapsing Now and now have full rules, that reflection metamagic is going to ruin someone’s day. It ends with some clarification on what are material and sympathetic links and how they can be used.

Continuing the initiation theme, we move into Conclaves and Covens, which looks at how initiatory magical groups work. It starts with an introduction to the types of groups and very nicely weaves the rules and mechanics though the in-game material. The rules for how to use magical groups for player characters is a model of clarity and simplicity, easy enough to grasp and for a GM to use. It also looks at a handful of groups in detail, and to serve as models for GM or player created groups, and a bunch more just as thumbnails for inspiration. Excellent chapter, skilful blend of source material and game mechanics.

Toil and Trouble ventures into some of the dark sides of magic, blood magic and insect shamans. Blood magic has two sides (“a life side and a death side’) but only one, unsurprisingly the life side, is safe to one’s soul. Death magic is a route to quick power but at the cost of addiction to the magic and corruption of one’s spirit (that soon becomes visible to anyone who can see the blood mage’s aura). Invae, the name the insect spirits use for themselves, are slowly becoming more multi dimensional (no pun intended), not exclusively the enemy as some are seeking ways to ally with metahumanity. But they remain alien and while there are shared interests, the distrust and inability to communicate run deep, however it does allow for more interesting and nuanced plots involving the invae. The chapter end with new blood magic spells, metamagic and a foci, and expanded rules for insect spirits in the new edition. While not quite as smooth as the previous chapter, this one also nicely integrates rules and in-world perspective.

An appendix restates how mana ebbs and flows function. Sadly, no index follows.

A vital book for magic use in the Sixth World Edition of Shadowrun, all games masters should acquire one and players who like awakened characters will probably want to pick one up to. (Though enchanters are nearly completely neglected.)

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