Shadowrun: Throw Back
The Awakened World
THEORIES ON THE NATURE OF MAGIC —From the Manual of Practical Thauma turgy, 32nd edition
On the Three Realms Magicians are aware of three “realms” of existence. The first is the physical realm, our natural physical world, and all of its corresponding physical laws. On one “side” of us, we have the astral realm. The astral realm occupies the same “space” as the physical plane, but has different “physical” (“astral?”) laws. It is always there, right next door, just a step sideways. It thrives on life, and so emotion, thought, and spirit are emphasized on the astral. Without life, there is no astral space; and so without a thriving gaiasphere to support it, the astral plane does not extend into space. On the other side (and curving around, as it were, to meet the astral plane on its far edge) we have the metaplanar realm. The metaplanes are not one place but many, and their true nature and purpose are beyond the ken of ordinary magicians. Each realm is separated by a barrier, a wall of sorts that stops us from randomly wandering from one realm into another. Magicians have learned to extend their senses onto the astral realm, to astrally perceive what goes on there. Full magicians can actually leave their physical bodies and project their spirits onto the astral plane. Psychic travel to the metaplanes is also possible, but is a much more complicated affair. On Mana Mana, the essence of magic, saturates all three realms. It is everywhere, connecting everything—one big mana field linking all life together. Some compare mana to a flowing river—an analogy useful to describe the ley, dragon, and chi power lines. It is more accurate to describe it like the waves of an ocean, circulating in currents throughout the three realms. In the physical realm, we know that mana flows in cycles—sometimes the ambient mana is rich and magic is possible (like now), but sometimes the level is poor and magic becomes difficult if not impossible (as it was before the Awakening). According to research, myth, and the accounts of some great dragons, we currently live in the sixth cycle of magic—the Sixth World. On the physical plane, mana cannot be seen, tasted, or touched, but the Awakened can sense it and manipulate it. The mana here seems inherently tied to the mana on the astral plane, flowing in the same eddies and currents. Mana casts reflections of living things, called auras, from the physical plane onto the astral. Auras are intangible on the astral plane—astral entities pass right through them—but those who can assense them can gather information from them. Anything magical in nature also casts a reflection on the astral; spells—the manipulation of mana—on the physical plane have a visible aura on the astral plane. Non-living things have no aura. Certain creatures and items (especially active foci) that are infused with magic lend a certain resonance to the mana flow that allows them to exist in both the physical and astral planes at the same time. These are called dual beings. Much as mana reflects auras into the astral, the reflection of dual beings into the astral is strong enough to create an astral form for these beings. Dual beings exist on both sides of the barrier simultaneously, and their astral and physical forms are connected. Awakened entities who astrally perceive are also striking this chord of resonance and creating astral forms; they too are dual beings. Spells are never dualnatured, because they are created through mana, and mana permeates both planes. Because the astral plane is fueled by life force, it is lit with a glow that emanates from the gaiasphere itself. Things that exist on the physical can be seen and heard from the astral, though any non-living objects appear as gray, faded semblances of their physical appearance. The auras of living things are vibrant and colorful. Anything that exists on the astral plane has an astral form—projecting full magicians, spirits, dual beings, and so on. Astral forms are solid and substantial on the astral plane and are more colorful and brighter than auras. Astral forms cannot pass through each other. The earth itself, as a source of life, has an astral form. On the Manipulation of Mana Magical skills are defined as the manipulation of mana. Sorcery is the manipulation of mana to create effects known as spells; Conjuring manipulates mana to call forth, create, or affect spirits. Sorcery involves the intuitive manipulation of the mana field by a magician, who shapes it in certain ways for certain effects. A good metaphor for this is to equate the mana field with the airwaves, making the use of Sorcery the transmission of certain radio signals that create different effects. To cast a spell, a magician channels mana through herself and transmits it on a specific frequency. The act of channeling is fatiguing to a magician, and causes drain. The signal that the magician creates is based on a spell formula that the magician has learned, determining its form and effect. The target of the spell is the radio signal receiver, and the signal is sent on the target’s frequency. When the signal is received, it channels mana through the target to create a specified effect (thus Direct Combat spells bypass armor, because they affect the target from within). All of this occurs on the same plane—physical or astral—as the magician and the target. Area-effect spells work roughly the same way, except that instead of transmitting a signal to one target, the caster sends the signal out on multiple frequencies corresponding with the targets within the area of effect. If there are targets within the area that the caster cannot see, they will not be affected, because the caster cannot synchronize with them to transmit the spell signal on a frequency they will receive. The metaphor continues with counterspelling, which equates to “jamming” the mana field, disrupting all frequencies within an area of effect so that a spell is jammed and thus disrupted.
Next Chapter: The Matrix