Shadowrun 4A Custom Spells from Tomorrow’s Notebook

When I made a character who wanted to be an arcane researcher, one thing was obvious: custom spells. However, Shadowrun is not D&D 5e or Pathfinder, and third-party content is neither supported nor really created, leaving the mages with a rather limited spell list, most of them geared towards shadowrunning.

As I like making life hard for myself, I made a character who doesn’t want to be a shadowrunner.

If you don’t want to read about the mechanics of spell design, the spells are at the end of the post.

Tomorrow is a hermetic mystic adept, an aspected Manipulation magician with a Raven mentor. Due to her negative quality, she’s dealing almost exclusively in manipulation spells (she literally has one die for other types of spells), and she’s not reveling in murder. Instead, she favors transmutation, chemistry, botany, and being a smart birdie.

Thankfully, earlier editions of Shadowrun (including the 20th Anniversary one, which we’re playing) cover the spell research rules. Annoyingly, the rules are impossible to apply to the reality of the game. I mean it; Arcana + Logic extended test requiring 16 hits with interval 3 months? The campaign would be over before one spell would be finished.

We reduced all intervals to a week; it still takes a couple of weeks to research the spells, and then you still need to learn it normally and pay 5 karma, so it’s far, far away from being exploitative. Jakub has also ruled that having a magical library / lodge adds dice equal to the rating to the spell research dice pool, so Tomorrow’s taking full advantage of her befriended old hermetic mage and his library to help her in her research.

What to do with so many spell formulas if you can’t afford the karma to learn them all? Well, Tomorrow has a legal business, selling spell formulas on a digital marketplace. The store takes a cut, the taxes take another, but it’s still a nice passive income. Spell research is not in itself a magical activity (anybody with the Arcana skill can do it), which means no need for a magician’s license. I’ll add the rules for the store later, we’re still tweaking them with Jakub, trying to make it profitable but not too profitable.

Tomorrow’s Custom Spells

Artificial Intelligence (Manipulation)

Type: M. Range: T. Duration: S. DV: (F/2)

Artificial Intelligence improves the caster’s brain functions, putting them in a state of hyper-focus while simultaneously improving the memory. The Force of the spell must equal or exceed the (augmented) value of the caster’s Logic. For each hit on the Spellcasting test, the caster’s Logic is raised by 1. As long as the spell is sustained, the caster gains the benefits of the Eidetic Sense Memory adept power: the ability to memorize all types of sensory input. Besides perfect photographic visual memory, the caster can memorize sounds, textures, tastes, and smells—and any combination thereof. The caster can also photo-read, greatly increasing their reading speed. Even after the spell ends, the memorized information can be recalled with an easy Memory [1] test.

Note: This is the first spell I made, and I admit it’s a way of getting an attribute buff without access to Health spells. But then, it works as self-mental-manipulation quite well, and suits the character perfectly.

Lunch Break (Manipulation)

Type: M • Range: LOS • Duration: S • DV: (F/2)

The spell temporarily suppresses the connection between a conjurer and spirits, bound and summoned, making it impossible to give them commands and use their services. The target can resist the effect of the spell with Willpower + Counterspelling. The spell doesn’t reduce the number of services owed, like Banishing does, it just makes the conjurer unable to use them as long as the spell is in effect. If the spirits are performing any services at the time this spell is cast, those services are considered completed, and the spirits can go for their well-earned lunch break. The spell doesn’t end the services paid for with karma (like extended services of bound spirits) but makes them unavailable for the duration of the spell.

Note: Our party has only Tomorrow as magical support, and she’s barely a mage – with zero combat spells, one point of Magic for spellcasting (five for adept powers), zero dice on Banishing, and only one summoned air elemental to aid her. Any encounters with other magicians and/or spirits could end very badly for us. That’s why Lunch Break was created: a spell that targets a summoner, not the spirits, taking care of all commanded (bound of unbound) spirits at a price of one complex action. True, it might fail, and even if it succeeds, it buys only a couple of combat turns – but if you’ve ever played Shadowrun, you know well that a couple of combat turns is usually how long the fight lasts. I also like how it doesn’t hurt the spirits – and if the spirits are only held on the last service, it sends them away immediately. What not to love?

Lightstroke (Manipulation)

Type: P. Range: T. Duration: S. DV: (F/2)+1

Lightstroke is a variation of the Elemental Aura spell. It creates a rippling aura of elemental light around the target. The aura does not affect the target, but increases the DV of any melee attacks by the caster’s hits. Attacks are treated as magical, elemental light, and are resisted with half Impact armor. Any successful physical melee attack against the subject also means that the attacker must resist similar damage from the aura. The aura’s Damage Value equals the spell’s Force. 

The spell can also be cast on a non-living target, coating the item in a thin layer of magical light. The caster must achieve enough hits to beat the item’s Object Resistance threshold. The non-living targets can also be used as weapons, whether thrown, wielded or fired, increasing the DV as usual but not giving the person using them other benefits.

The target casts light in the (Force) meters radius which is treated as sunlight for the purposes of sunlight allergy. The prolonged eye-contact with the item covered in the spell suffers Glare modifier (-1) for one Combat Turn, unless they’re equipped with flare compensation. Light damage might cause some highly flammable materials (like gasoline) to catch fire.

Note: Lightstroke is another attempt at getting the party somewhat better against enemies with Immunity to Normal Weapons, with an added layer of protection against enemies with Allergy to Sunlight (there’s a lot of ghouls where we live). Also, I like the visual of casting the spell on a grenade and then throwing it at a vampire.

Survival Instinct (Manipulation)

Type: M. Range: LOS. Duration: I. DV: (F/2)

The spell triggers in the target the primal urge to survive. The target of this spell is forced to interrupt their current action and go on Full Defense as their next available action. The number of net hits scored determines the number of Combat Turns the target is forced to remain at Full Defense. The spell does not force the target to remain in the area or the combat, just focus all their energy on dodging, weaving, ducking, and blocking incoming attacks.

Note: A very limited mind control spell – more of a panic button, really. What makes it interesting is the instantaneous duration. If the spell succeeds (and it will – it’s resisted with Willpower and I’m yet to find an enemy who’ll have more dice on pure Willpower than a mage has on Spellcasting), it just works: the target doesn’t get to repeat the resistance roll as the spell is not sustained (so no sustaining penalty for the spellcaster). Yes, it will only work for a couple of turns – but a couple of turns when the enemy hard-hitter uses up his complex actions on full defence, are a couple of turns when they’re not unloading a ton of lead in your direction. Or don’t cast spells. Or don’t command spirits. Also works on annoying escort quests when your VIP really wants to go fight and get themselves killed.

Take-Out (Manipulation)

Type: P. Range: T. Duration: P. DV (F/2)+1

This spell produces sustenance out of thin air. The number of successes equals the number of adult metahumans the food will serve. Created food is plain but filling, enough to feed and hydrate a person through a regular day. Extra successes can be used to improve the quality of the food instead of quantity.

Note: This is not my spell – this is 3E Create Food spell reworked for 4E. For some reason, between third and fourth edition somebody decided that screw the lore, magic can’t create things. Well, Tomorrow is a snackish person, and so is her Raven mentor. We’re making food out of mana and nobody can stop us.

Breath of Fresh Air (Manipulation)

Type: P. Range: LOS(A). Duration: S. DV (F/2)+1

The spell creates an area of clean, constantly regenerating fresh air, making the otherwise-occupied oxygen easy to breathe (breaking carbon dioxide or extracting it from water). It allows subjects inside the area to breathe normally underground or underwater. The power of inhalation and contact toxins or diseases in the area is reduced by the caster’s hits as continuously created air pushes the contamination outside the area. At caster’s discretion, the air may carry a pleasant light scent.

Note: This spell works wonders together with Shape Earth spell, allowing you to burrow through the ground – just make a bubble of air around the party and use Shape Earth to move the soil around you as you go. Shadowrun has no penalty for long-term spell sustaining, allowing your caster to travel underground for hours with no risk of suffocation. (Yes, you can be safe from suffocation using a single spirit’s Guard power but there’s a quality-of-life difference between breathing freely and just not dying of suffocation. The spell also allows your apartment to smell of rich mahogany.

Glitterbomb (Manipulation)

Type: P. Range: LOS (A). Duration: I. DV: (F/2)+3

A cloud of sparkly, golden particles covers everyone and everything in the area, causing creatures to become blinded and visibly outlining invisible things for the duration of the spell. Every hit imposes a –1 die pool visibility modifier on targets within the area due to blindness (maximum –6). All objects and people within the area are covered by the dust, which cannot be removed and continues to sparkle until it fades. Because the spell is not sustained, the glitter loses its sparkle quickly; reduce the visibility modifier by 1 per Combat Turn.

Note: Obviously inspired by D&D glitterbomb spell, this one applies a hefty visibility penalty. Note it’s an environmental manipulation, meaning there’s no resistance test. And it’s not sustained, so fire-and-forget method can be applied. Perfect to drop at your enemies and blind them, then shoot at them before they notice what’s happening. Physical nature of the spell means the glitter covers sensors as well, influencing drones. The invisibility-finder option has a limited use, of course, but once you start encountering enemies in ruthenium-covered armors, you’ll be happy to stop applying the -4 penalty to your attack rolls. Also, magic glitter everywhere.

Sleep (Manipulation)

Type: M. Range: Touch. Duration: P. DV: (F/2)

This spell causes the target to fall into a deep, pleasant and restful sleep for 8 hours. The target wakes up when the spell ends, if something wakes them up, or if they take any damage. The spell only affects characters or creatures that need sleep. It doesn’t affect targets that are active (ie. fighting, running, swimming) or under the effect of stim patches or other means for staving-off sleep. The target of the spell receives a number of additional dice on their Healing Test equal to the caster’s net hits.

Note: Yes, one of the party members has insomnia. Tomorrow’s being a good friend. Sue me. But also, it’s a good low-level aid-recovery spell (we’ll be working as DocWagon paramedics in the next part of the campaign) that can also be used against guards or extraction targets. It’s touch range to keep the drain low – it could be designed as LOS but that could lend itself to quite a lot of exploitation. The way it stands, it requires some thought and planning to use offensively, which is something I prefer. In Tomorrow’s case, modus operandi is to Shapechange into a cat and go snuggle against a guard, casting the Sleep spell as they reach to pet her (if they don’t want to pet the kitty – well, that’s what the Influence spell was made for). The duration of eight hours and the benign nature of the spell make it almost unnoticeable; by the time the target wakes up, any traces of magic are already long gone, and all they can remember is a nice moment of petting a stray cat. Hope no boss noticed them sleeping through their shift, right? But hell, that was a good nap.

Slippery Mind (Manipulation)

Type: M. Range: Touch. Duration: S. DV: (F/2)-2

The spell makes the target more resistant to mental manipulation and magical detection. Each hit on the spellcasting test adds +1 to all Opposed Tests against active Detection spells and mental Manipulation spells. Each hit on the test also gives a -1 penalty on the use of the Search power against the target.

Note: This is, again, somewhat of a 3E to 4E conversion, mashed with Cloak adept power, and the sheer annoyance at Detection spells. Tomorrow’s a B&E adept and while Masking and Extended Masking metamagics help her a lot against detection spells, it’s always best to have options than can be applied to other party members. Combined with good Counterspelling pool, Slippery Mind can give the street sam a fighting chance against mental manipulation spells too.

Shelter (Manipulation)

Type: M. Range: LOS (A, caster-only). Duration: S. DV: (F/2)

Shelter is a variation of the Mana Barrier spell: a barrier of magical energy with a Force equal to the hits scored. It can only be raised around the caster, and it can’t be moved once placed. The barrier looks like a bank of black fog imposing a visibility modifier against targets on the other side of the barrier equal to its Force.

Note: Mana barriers have high drain. Shadow and Mist spells have high drain. But once you put a ton of limitations and mash it all together, you can have a dome of black smoke raised around you. It stops spells, it applies the visibility penalty (by default, on both sides! But remember that when making a mana barrier you can choose who’s not affected by it, making the barrier transparent to your team). It can be used as a spirit/dual-natured critter trap (get close, cast the spell, move out of it, leaving the critter trapped inside, with its vision impaired by both the smoke and the mana barrier), it can be used for vanishing tricks and diversions, it can give you a moment of respite on the battlefield – remember that visibility modifiers also apply to magic! Low drain lets you cast this spell at F6-8 without killing yourself.

Disinfectant (Manipulation)

Type: P. Range: LOS(A). Duration: S. DV (F/2)+2

This area-effect spell creates an area of constant antimicrobial disinfection, killing bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites on surfaces to prevent the spread of illness. Unlike Sterilize spell, it can be sustained and quickened, and it does not affect other types of biomaterial (like DNA or tissue samples), making it more useful for medical and scientific purposes.

Note: Sterilize is a great spell – it’s geared towards shadowrunning, though, not medical use. During our campaign I’ve noticed that it would be much more useful to have a spell that actively cleans the area while being sustained instead of just ‘destroy evidence’ function of Sterilize. Hence, Disinfectant – your weapon of choice when you live in Aurora Warrens and some moron has just brought VITAS to your apartment building. Cast it around yourself and walk around sterilizing the whole building; quicken it to the water supply; cast it in the clinic without destroying the biosamples you’re testing.

Decompose (Manipulation)

Type: P. Range: T. Duration: I. DV (F/2)+1

The spell causes inanimate organic matter such as leather, wood, meat, paper, and the like to decay rapidly and disintegrate. To cast the spell, the caster needs to overcome the target’s Object Resistance.

Note that the Decompose spell is effective against loa zombies, which are actually animated corpses. Against such zombies, the spell deals a (Force + net hits) P damage resisted with Body (+ counterspelling). Because ghouls, vampires, banshees and other such undead are altered living creatures rather than dead beings, the Decompose spell does not affect them.

Note: Again, a spell from 3E. It used to be called Rot but there is already a spell under that name in 4E, doing something completely different (a really nasty Health spell). I’m aware that’s the most shadowrunny use of this spell will be decomposing bodies and removing evidence; however, Tomorrow made it as a part of her Master’s Degree thesis on the effect of transformative manipulation magic on organic tissue. She’s a nerd.

Civilian (Illusion. Realistic, Multi-sense)

Type: M. Range: LOS. Duration: S. DV: (F/2)

The spell makes the target look non-threatening and not worth the time and effort to attack. Treat the number of spellcaster’s hits as the threshold for Willpower test for anybody attempting to attack the target. If the attacker fails the test, they wasted the action and can’t attempt further attacks against the target this turn. The spell doesn’t deter attacks that aren’t aimed directly at the target. If the target takes an openly hostile action, the spell fails.

Note: A mix of mental manipulation and illusion, Civilian is a kind of a ‘Sanctuary’ spell. A good thing to cast at your escort VIP, your extraction target, or yourself – especially if you’re a delicate flower of a Body 3 elven mysad with no combat spells who can wreck havoc on the battlefield without taking an ‘openly hostile action’ even once. After all, telepathically commanding your elementals to kill them all when buffing the party members is not an openly hostile action. Doesn’t save you from suppressive fire or a fireball but can make you immune to a sniper for a couple of turns. Being a mana spell, it has no effect on drones and auto-turrets, of course.

Beast Tongue (Divination. Active, Psychic)

Type: M. Range: T. Duration: S. DV (F/2)+1

Beast Tongue establishes a mental connection between the subject and the target non-sapient animal (both normal and paranormal). Each hit on the spellcasting test adds one die to the character’s dice pool for tests involving the handling of animals, as well as attempts to frighten or intimidate animals. 

The subject can communicate with the animal using a telepathic link. The spell doesn’t ensure animal’s cooperation and depending on the situation, an Animal Handling test might be required. Telepathic link allows both parties to emote, share mental images, and communicate within the boundaries of the animal’s Logic.

Note: An obvious next step for a spellcaster who spends quite a lot of her time Shapechanged and Masked to look like a perfectly mundane animal, usually a raven. There’s no chance I can explain it any better than Jakub who threw a meme at me a minute after I mentioned I’ll be making this spell, so…


Will there be more? Yes, definitely. We’re on a hiatus right now, having finished the first part of the campaign – over the four months of in-game downtime, Tomorrow had the time to make only so many spells. I’m pushing her towards removing the Apsected Magician negative quality but before I pay the 20 karma required, I need enough narrative meat to explain it. Expect most of the future spells to be anything but Manipulation.

Any thoughts?

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