Shadowrun spells we'd like to see

This page lists a number of useful or just plain nifty Shadowrun spells that have come up in the course of the campaign I'm in. They're sorted by category, then by order I remembered them.

Manipulation spells

Lightsaber (Elemental: Light)

Duration: Sustained Target: 4 Drain: +2(DL+1)

This spell creates a light beam of finite length from the caster's hand, which can be used as a physical or astral weapon for as long as the spell is maintained. It does Force+3(DL) damage in both planes. Since the blade has no mass, a special combat skill (Lightsaber) is required to wield it effectively; this skill defaults to Quickness and nothing else.

When fighting in the physical plane, the blade automatically cuts through anything that was not specifically designed to block a laser torch. This means attack rolls ignore all normal armor, and dermal armor does not add to Body for purposes of damage resistance tests. The defender still gets to roll to dodge and to soak damage. Normal inanimate objects, however, don't get any defense at all.

In the astral plane, treat the spell as a weapon focus at Force+3. Astral barriers and defensive magic (such as the Armor and Barrier spells) work normally. Also, the blade can always be blocked by another lightsaber.

You decide the color and length of the blade when you cast the spell. Double-ended blades or other custom shapes (yes, you can have a light-scimitar) require modifying the spell formula. It's a good idea to spell-lock this one...or bind it to an anchoring focus, if you know how.

Venom (Elemental: Water)

Duration: Instant Target: 4 Drain: +1(DL)

The caster generates a poisonous liquid on any part of their skin. It will not harm them, but anyone else it comes in contact with takes damage, per the usual rules for damaging spells. To work the poison must touch bare skin; it is completely blocked by impermeable armor (but not by ordinary porous clothing!)

You are allowed to generate the poison inside your mouth and spit it at an enemy; make an Unarmed Combat test to hit. Touching an enemy in melee with a poison-coated hand also requires an Unarmed Combat test. Dirty tricks are encouraged.

Ball Lightning (Elemental: Lightning)

Duration: Sustained Target: 4 Drain: (S)

A glowing ball of fire appears in the air and moves as the caster wishes, within line of sight; maximum speed of 20 meters per combat turn. The ball can be any size from a lemon to a basketball. Objects it touches are shocked or burned. When the spell ends, the ball vanishes, optionally producing a loud bang and/or throwing off a shower of sparks.

The caster has a great deal of control over the damage done by this spell. It can be completely harmless, in which case the Drain is only (M) -- it is effectively an illusion. It can shock anyone it touches for Force(M) stun damage; this is the Drain Code listed above. It can cause Force(M) physical burns instead, at a Drain of +1(S). Finally, at +1(D), not only does it cause burns, but when the spell ends an explosion occurs, doing Force(S) blast damage (use the grenade rules).

All this is independent of the spell's visual effects; it can appear to explode without doing any damage, or feel shocking to touch without inflicting stun damage.

N.B. The 3rd ed. main rulebook lists a spell with the same name, but it's just an "area effect version of Lightning Bolt." Yr hmbl crspndt feels that that ain't ball lightning, and suggests you rename their spell "Lightning Storm" or something like that.

Bobble (Transformation)

Duration: Instant Target: 6 Drain: +3(D)

The caster creates a sphere, known as a bobble, at any location within line of sight. It may be up to Force meters in diameter. The bobble exists for a duration of the caster's choosing, up to (Force × successes) years. Inside the bobble, no time elapses.

A bobble may be moved as if it were a solid sphere of the same mass as whatever is trapped inside. It is perfectly reflective, perfectly elastic, and cannot be damaged or penetrated from outside by any known method, in both the physical and astral planes. Neither is there any known way to change the duration of a bobble's existence.

When the spell is cast, the surface of the bobble to be created cannot cut through any physical or astral object, and the volume it encloses cannot contain an existing bobble. If these constraints are violated, the spell will attempt to move the problematic objects. If an acceptable configuration cannot be found, the spell automatically fails, and the caster takes Drain anyway.

There has been considerable speculation as to why this spell doesn't have to be sustained. The explanation that seems most credible is that it executes in the reference frame of the bobble's interior, and really is instantaneous from that point of view. On the other hand, if that's true, why do bobbles ever open again? Research is ongoing.

(Consider carefully before you let anyone in your game, PC or NPC, have this spell. Believe it or not, this version is less munchkin than the original.)

Cryostat (Telekinetic)

Duration: Sustained Target: HCR (see table) Drain: +2(S)

This spell drains heat from an object of mass up to Force × 20 kilograms, bringing it to a temperature of 200/(Force × successes) Kelvin. The object must already be at or below the freezing point of water for this spell to have any effect. The object remains cold after the spell ends, but can then be reheated normally.

The caster can use another object as a heat sink, transferring heat there instead of dumping the energy into the metaplanes. Reduce the target number by half the HCR of the sink, to a minimum of 3. The sink will get hotter; to find out how much, divide the HCR of the target by the HCR of the sink, and multiply the result by the temperature difference induced in the target.

Electromagnetic spells

This set of spells was developed by a magical group with an obsession with dubious late-nineteenth-century science. They call themselves the Sons of Nikola Tesla, which should tell you everything you need to know about their style.

Their spells draw from a new elemental sphere, Electromagnetism. Interestingly, despite what Fifth World science would predict, these spells cannot be used to duplicate effects from the elemental sphere of Light. For instance, Ether Wave cannot generate infrared or higher frequencies. The Sons keep experimenting, though.

Several of these spells hold out the possibility of creating a perpetual motion machine. Of course the Sons tried it. They were fascinated to discover their lab accumulating an astral background count, and sat down to take careful measurements of the effect. They had just about concluded that the background count would never stop increasing until they turned the machine off, when a free anbaric elemental manifested and destroyed the building. The survivors have not been eager to try it again.

Static Field (Elemental)

Duration: Sustained Target: 4 Drain: +2(S)

This spell creates a static electromagnetic field, shaped and centered as the caster wishes. At Force 1, the intensity of the electric component can be up to twenty volts; the magnetic component, up to 200 gauss. These values double for each additional Force increment. The total affected volume can be up to the Force in cubic meters.

The relationship between electric and magnetic components of the field is always exactly as Maxwell's laws would predict. However, the spell does not create charge, even if there would have to be a charge under normal circumstances.

Quickened instances of this spell are in some demand as substitutes for large, power-hungry, expensive electromagnets in various technological devices, such as MRI scanners. However, more ... interesting ... uses are quite easy to imagine. Even a small magnetic field can seize up a car engine, for instance.

Dynamic Field (Elemental)

Duration: Sustained Target: 4 Drain: +2(S)

This is just like Static Field, except the field strength may vary over time as the caster wishes. Oddly, the changing field does not generate radio waves of any kind, even if it ought to ("because only Ether Wave does that" is the best, although still rather dubious, explanation to date). Max intensities are half of Static Field's, force for force; max volume is the same.

Dynamic fields can induce electric current in anything conductive. Chunks of metal simply get hot; this is how an induction furnace works. Electronics can be ruined, and magnetic storage media erased (if they fail an Object Resistance Test).

A more carefully designed field can pick up magnetically susceptible objects (again, anything conductive, more or less) and move them. This is the principle behind the rail gun.

Ether Wave

Duration: Sustained Target: 4 Drain: +2(M)

The caster produces radio waves. The caster's successes, up to Force, determine the power flux, therefore the range. See the flux tables in the Vehicles section of SR3. The spell has not yet been refined enough to generate a transmission which is comprehensible by an old-fashioned analog radio, never mind modern digital protocols. Users of any such device will hear only static. It is possible to use this spell to communicate with someone using Ether Sight; see below.

The spell works just fine if what you want to do is jam somebody else's transmissions. The caster's ECM rating is the Force of the spell, their flux rating is the number of successes.

You can also use this spell to cook food. Who needs a microwave oven?

Electromagnetic Pulse (Elemental)

Duration: Instantaneous Target: 4 Drain: +2(S)

This spell creates a powerful electromagnetic pulse, centered on a location of the caster's choice (within line of sight). The only direct effect is to induce huge transient currents in any conductive object within range, comparable to lightning; at the center of the effect, 10 kiloAmperes × successes, up to Force, for about a hundred microseconds.

Further effects are unpredictable and depend strongly on what the object is. Read up on lightning damage for sample effects.

Anything can be protected from an electromagnetic pulse by shielding it with a Faraday cage. This is simply a conductive shell surrounding the object to be protected. All electronics in 2060 are shielded to some extent; however, this shielding is geared to prevent radio-frequency crosstalk, and is not terribly effective against EMP. Buildings constructed after 2000 usually have Faraday cages built into their structure for protection against lightning. These will block most of the pulse.

The pulse expands at the speed of light in all directions. The strength of the induced currents fall off as square of the distance from the center of the spell. Once they have been reduced to zero, the only effect is a burst of radio static; however, this will be heard for kilometers.

Note that just about any high-technology device contains at least some conductive material, including cyberware.

Geomagnetic Sense (Detection)

Duration: Sustained Target: 4 Drain: (S)

The subject of the spell can sense the Earth's magnetic field. They automatically know which way is magnetic north (which is not true north, but the difference only matters in navigating over long distances). Successes, up to Force, grant extra dice for navigation by dead reckoning or orienteering. This ability does not help with celestial or satellite-aided navigation.

Strong local magnetic fields will swamp this sense, causing the user to be disoriented.

Ether Sight (Detection)

Duration: Sustained Target: 4 Drain: (D)

This spell gives the subject the ability to see all electromagnetic fields in the area. What they look like depends on how the subject thinks of them; some people have reported field lines drawn in the air, others gradients of colors that have no names.

Radio waves are visible (usually as ripples in the air) but not infrared, ultraviolet, or higher frequencies. The subject can still see normally, although the additional data may be confusing to the inexperienced.

Make a perception roll at (6 - successes) to comprehend a radio message generated by Ether Wave. Radio transmissions generated by conventional transmitters are not intelligible.

Saint Elmo's Fire (Physical Illusion)

Duration: Sustained Target: 4 Drain: +1(M)

Glowing blue and purple flames, streamers, or sparks appear about the target of the spell. This is an electrical discharge, causing the air to ionize and fluoresce; technological sensors will detect it as such. The exact shape, color, and behavior are random, but the caster can control them to some extent.

The spell does not do any damage to anything. At the caster's discretion, any creature in direct contact with Saint Elmo's fire may experience a mild tingling sensation.

Charge Accumulator (Telekinetic)

Duration: Sustained Target: 4 Drain: +1(L)

The target of the spell accumulates static electricity easily, as if they were walking on a carpet on a dry day. (The target need not be capable of walking.) For game mechanic purposes, the first time in each combat round that something touches the target, both it and the target get shocked. The charge never gets high enough to be damaging, but can certainly be distracting.

Cathode Ray (Combat)

Duration: Instant Target: 4 Drain: +1(DL)

This spell fires a beam of high-energy electrons at the target. It clears air out of the way first, so the beam does not lose intensity within line-of-sight. Most nonconductive objects struck by the beam will burn or melt. Metal is tougher but may still melt; there is a sustained short-range version of this spell used for welding. Worse, anything on the other side of a metal plate from the electron beam will get zapped with X-rays. (For game purposes, metallic armor is useless against this attack.) All damage done by this spell to living targets is radiation burns, which heal slowly and poorly. Anyone who suffers Serious damage from this spell will have permanent scars.

Dirac's Ocean (Transformation)

Duration: Sustained Target: 4 Drain: -1(S)

A circular gray slick, with radius equal to the spell Force in meters, appears on any convenient surface. Anything touching it is drawn in. Treat this as equivalent to the Engulf power of an elemental spirit with Force equal to Force of the spell, except that the only damage done is normal suffocation (not even suffocation+crush, as with water elementals).

The name refers to a hypothesis stated by Paul Dirac, explaining why electrons cannot have negative energies; all negative energy states are already occupied by an "ocean" of electrons. These do not normally interact with the universe, but an electron can be knocked out of the ocean into positive states, leaving a hole which we see as a positron. A modified version of this, due to Feynman, is still the best known explanation for particle-antiparticle pair creation and annihilation.

(It is not clear what this has to do with the spell effect. We asked the inventor, but he would only say "If it was close enough for Anno Hideaki, it's close enough for me.")

Health spells

Sleepless in Seattle

Duration: Permanent Target: 4 Drain: +1(M)

The subject of the spell needs no sleep for the next (Force × successes) hours. This does not compensate for Stun damage, nor does it help physical fatigue; it only blocks the normal circadian cycle.

It is dangerous to apply this spell to anyone for extended periods of time, since it prevents dreaming. After about four days most people will experience hallucinations, growing in severity as they continue to avoid sleep. The GM should interrupt players at inconvenient times with things that aren't there; the Hallucinogens Table from the back of Murphy's Rules is a decent place to start. The situation is worse for Awakened characters. After about a week they start losing touch with the astral plane; treat this as background count affecting only the character, one level per day beyond a week with no sleep. (Yes, this can get to mana-warp levels.)

Call Me in the Morning

Duration: Permanent Target: 4 Drain: +1(M)

The (voluntary) subject falls asleep, to wake up later recovered from any and all acute, immediate psychological problems. Chronic conditions (depression, long-term stress, full blown insanity) are not helped, although it can be a good first step in a therapy program. It's just the ticket for traumatized accident survivors, or the guy next cubicle who's snapped and started raving about the little green men.

If the subject is forcibly awakened before they would have, the spell does no good at all. In fact, they wake up out of a vicious nightmare having some relation to the cause of the original problem, so they are likely to be worse off. Fortunately, it is quite difficult to awaken someone under this spell. (If they are allowed to wake up normally, they do not remember having dreamed at all; EEG monitoring does record normal periods of REM sleep.)

You cannot cast this spell on yourself; you start falling asleep and lose concentration before it becomes permanent. One experimenter has reported getting around this with an anchoring focus, but we think he should lay off on the twenty-hour shifts rather than going to such trouble to compensate for them.

Suspended Animation

Duration: Permanent Target: 4 Drain: +1(S)

This is an improved version of "Hibernate" from the main rulebook. The (voluntary) subject falls into a deep coma for up to (Force × successes) days; the caster may choose the exact duration, but it can't be less than a full day. They may be awakened before the spell lapses by a succesful Dispelling Test.

In the coma, almost all bodily processes are halted. If someone looks astrally, the situation is obvious. Otherwise, only a careful medical examination will reveal that the subject is not dead. They are completely vulnerable to anything someone else decides to do to them. Physical injuries and illnesses do not heal.

On the plus side, no prior illness or injury to the subject will kill them for the duration of the coma. Unless the spell was forcibly broken before its time, they wake up completely rested and recovered from previous Stun damage. Also, they do not need food, water, or even air.

If someone casts this spell on themselves, they take Drain for it after they wake up. Roll for it at casting time, however.

Illusion spells

Virtual Chalkboard

Duration: Sustained Target: 3 Drain: (L)

The caster can draw in mid-air with the tips of their fingers. Each line of the drawing may be whatever color the caster wishes. To mundanes, the lines appear somewhat fuzzy; the Awakened see razor sharp edges. The drawing lasts until the spell is dropped; the caster can also erase part or all of the drawing at any time.

If the caster has any of the Mathematics, Physics, Magical Theory, or Art (Drawing) skills at higher than 3, they may draw diagrams in more than three dimensions. To everyone else, only a three-dimensional slice is visible, but the caster may move and rotate the diagram to expose other pieces. Some people have been known to do this without realizing it, to the utter confusion of observers.

At the caster's option, the illusion is physical (+1 Drain Power).

The spell does not improve the caster's drawing abilities.

Cripple Mr. Onion

Duration: Sustained Target: 4 Drain: (M)

This spell makes the caster seem more believable and trustworthy. Successes on the Sorcery Test (up to Force) add to the target number for anyone attempting to disbelieve anything he says. They also give him extra dice to resist Compel Truth or any other method of preventing him from lying.

The inventor thought "Poker Face" was too boring for a name.


Duration: Sustained Target: Willpower(R) Drain: (M)

The target of this spell experiences synaesthesia. This term describes a broad range of "sensory crosstalk" syndromes, ranging from the blatant (hearing color, seeing tastes) to the subtle (spoken words have intrinsic colors). The caster can choose the form of synaesthesia experienced by the subject, but this is not entirely reliable. Different or additional effects occur at the GM's discretion.

This spell is normally used for experimental or entertainment purposes, but at higher Force can be quite effective in combat.

Proprioception Deficit

Duration: Sustained Target: Willpower(R) Drain: (M)

This spell blocks the proprioceptive sense, which is the largely unconscious awareness of the position of one's body. Most people are unable to make slow coordinated movements while under the influence; rapid motion involves less feedback from the body to the brain and is therefore less disturbed. A baseball pitcher hit with this spell while throwing a pitch will have little trouble completing it, but he is unlikely to be able to set up for the next one.

For game mechanic purposes, take the caster's net successes as the penalty to make any complex movement, including walking. Some real-life sufferers from proprioception deficit cannot so much as sit up in bed; assume the spell never gets quite that severe.

New kinds of spirits

Anbaric Elemental

These are elementals just like the more conventional ones any hermetic knows, except they come from the elemental metaplane of Electromagnetism. The material source for summoning an anbaric elemental is a massive electrical discharge; you can either wait for a thunderstorm or get your hands on a mad-scientist-sized Tesla coil. They appear as humanoid shapes with electricity crackling over their bodies, or as unusually large ball lightning. Their "Flame Aura" is really an aura of electric discharges, but it has the same game effects.

Stats:FF+3 (x3)F-2FFFF(A)F+2
Initiative:F + 20 + 1D6 (Astral) / F + 12 + 1D6 (Physical)
Powers:Engulf, Flame Aura, Guard, Materialization, Innate Spell (Lightning Bolt), Innate Spell (Electromagnetic Pulse)
Weaknesses:Vulnerability (Earth)

Road Spirits

These are Spirits of Man, and have the usual stats for that category of shamanic spirit. The domain of a road spirit is a specific road or complex of roads, which has significance in itself. For instance, the freeway complexes of Los Angeles have road spirits, as do each of the major "interstate" highways built by the former United States of America.

Road spirits normally manifest as vehicles that would not be out of place on their road, although manifestations as Jersey barriers or construction paraphernalia have also been reported. They have been reported associated with railway lines, mule tracks, and other manmade trails as well as conventional roads.

Powers: Accident, Confusion, Guard, Materialization, Movement, Search

Metamagical Techniques


As you might suspect, this technique allows an initiate to enter someone else's dreams. The dream appears as a metaplane in its own right. The difficulty of the quest depends on the magician's goal (see table for examples). Unless the dreamer willingly lets the questor in, add his or her (Willpower/2 + Initiate Grade) to the quest rating.

A dreamwalker may enter the dreams of anyone who is in his or her line of sight immediately upon passing the Dweller on the Threshold. If they have a ritual link to someone, they may also perform a preliminary astral quest to find that person's dreams and enter them (Quest Rating equal to the difficulty of targeting ritual magic). If the target of the link is not asleep at the time, they discover this only when they succeed at the preliminary quest. Finally, a dreamwalker may wander through the lands of dream looking for something, without a specific dreamer in mind; the Quest Rating, the trip, and the results are completely up to the GM.

The inventor of this technique was trying to devise a plain old spell to enter dreams, perhaps an improvement to the well-known "send dream" illusion. He is still working out the practical and philosophical implications of its being metamagic instead.

Soul Retrieval

Shamanic healers hold that incurable diseases are caused by the patient's soul having already begun upon the road to death, either willingly (believing their life to be ended) or having been tricked by evil spirits. A cure can therefore be effected by finding the missing soul and returning it to its body.

Soul retrieval only works on conditions for which there are no other magical or technological cures. The shaman performs an astral quest to recover the missing soul. This does not by itself cure the patient; it merely renders the illness susceptible to treatment by healing magic, even though it would normally not be. Those spells must be cast immediately, by the same person who recovered the soul (they may be assisted by ritual sorcery, however).

A shaman performing a soul retrieval must be a close friend or relative of the patient. Otherwise, they do not know the patient's soul well enough to find it. (It is rumored that certain tribal shamans are capable of retrieving the souls of any member of their tribe; however, the tribes in question are usually small enough that the shaman is a close friend or relative of everyone.)

Only shamans can learn this technique, and only after they have already learned the way to the land of the dead (see "Ancestor Spirits" in Magic in the Shadows).

A suggested game mechanic is to make the difficulty of the astral quest equal to the Power of the disease in question.


Saruman, your staff is broken.

A sorcerer who knows this technique may make a simple statement of fact which will come true immediately. "Under the hood," they are casting an impromptu spell to perform whatever action will make the statement true.

The performative statement can be no more complex than the above quote. It cannot accomplish a direct attack on any living thing: "Joe Bloggs, you are dead" is unacceptable. (On the other hand, "Joe Bloggs, you have been dead for three years" would be okay applied to a zombie or similar.) It must also be a plausible sentence, not contrived and not lame.

Once the above hurdles have been met to everyone's satisfaction, resolve the action as if the sorcerer had cast a spell with the precise effect of making the statement true. Spell Defense, resistance tests, etc. are applied normally. The base target number for the Sorcery Test is two more than it would be for a normal spell, since the caster is making it up on the fly. The GM selects the Drain Code, which should be comparable to normal spells with similar effects.

Walk with (Totem)

Only physical adepts can learn this technique. They must spend a period of time practicing the Way of the totem they want to walk with; treat this as an ordeal -- make a test using the character's Magic against a difficulty of 6, base time of one month, must be role-played. During this time apply the totem disadvantages that a shaman would experience, but not the advantages. At the climax of the ordeal the adept will encounter the totem spirit, and must prove him or herself worthy to follow it.

Once the adept has been accepted by a totem, at any time they may step onto that totem's Way, receiving the relevant advantages and disadvantages both. (The GM should adjust the modifiers to fit the adept's abilities.) Once on the Way, they cannot step off again until sunrise or sunset; adepts who are in too much of a hurry to step off, or never use the ability, may find the totem spirit ignoring them.

Also, if the adept has Astral Perception, he or she may go on an astral quest (difficulty 3) to speak to the totem. Conversely, the totem spirit may show up in dreams or in the physical plane (wearing an appropriate body) to tell the adept something it thinks they ought to know. Totems often have advice, and can predict the future when it's relevant to them.

Adepts can learn to walk with more than one totem, but it gets progressively harder (increase the difficulty by one for each additional totem) and under no circumstances may any of the totems be enemies. You can't be friends with Rat and Dog at the same time.

Spirit Blade

Again, only physical adepts can learn this technique, and they must have Astral Perception. Any melee weapon in their hands may be used in the astral plane. The technique does not provide any of the other advantages of a weapon focus.

Uncanny Timing

This technique is open to all, but doesn't suit hermetics very well. It's not really a technique; the initiate doesn't ever use it. They just ... happen to turn up where they need to be, when they need to get there, whether they want to or not, forever afterward. You can't ever stop having Uncanny Timing.