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Religion in ShadowRun (2 of 4)

Version 2.0 for SR3

PART 2 Priestly Archetypes | Religious Groups | Geasa | New Metamagic | Rites and Rituals

PART 1 Introduction | Religion in 2050's | The Church | Legalese

PART 3 New Spirits | Ghosts | Celestial Spirits | Heaven'n'Hell | Game Ideas

Priestly Archetypes

Previous suggestions for Priests include the rules from Shadownet and the Awakenings suggestions that they have shamanic type advantages, powers and limitations.

I prefer to think of religious magiks having their own distinct tradition. Here i present a range of powers and ideas that can be used to build priestly archetypes. They can be integrated directly into other traditions but in general i have designed them more for role than roll playing, as i GM games that involve little dice rolling outside combat. Here would be a good point to say that Priests are potentially powerful characters but are difficult characters to play in normal campaigns because of their numerous limitations on when and how they can use their magic. Good role-playing is the only way to get this archetype to work. This character works in my campaign because it is designed that way, ie players can avoid fatal situations always, if only they use their heads (and i don't mean by butting people :).

Where i do provide stats feel free to modify them, and of course make them up where i don't.

The Priest

Aspected Power
Despite the plethora of traditions, the magic of shadowrun does obey some broad rules and one of these is that in a world full of magic, all magical actions do affect the way magic works. And, in general, the more different a way of doing magic is from your own, both technically and emotionally, the harder it will be to interpret and affect. Background counts for example from a concentration camp will make magic harder for most mages, however a true worshipper of Baal might draw power from such a site of distilled emotional pain. The converse is true as well, a chapel where numerous marriages and christenings have taken place will create a positive background for a Priest (see "Apected Power" p85 MitS). The exceptions are places where technological accidents have occurred, Chernobyl for example. A measure of peoples panic, fear etc will still be present but the overall background will be anti-all-magic, a kind of technological anti-aura, mana-dead spots and mana warps. (Top!)

Briefly put priests are an initiatory tradition that uses new metamagical powers derived from their faith to manipulate mana. A priest must assign magic as priority A (more metahumans rules) during character creation. They must also, of course, chose a religion, or religious sect to which they belong and in turn are supported by. All priests start out as 0 level initiates, and all priestly powers are actually metamagical powers . They can astrally perceive but can only project into their the celestial metaplanes. All priests start with some geas on their magic depending on their religion and the equivalent of the Oath ordeal, tying them to the tenets of their religion. They can summon new kinds of spirits. They can perform religious rituals and rites. And lastly they can invoke divine intervention. (Top!)

Religion Skill (name of religion)

(Religion) governs the invocation of religious magical abilities. Anyone may have this skill, and indeed all mundane priests and many worshippers do have this skill, but only initiated priests (magically active) can use it to channel mana from their deity.

Priests must also have the Conjuring skill if they wish to summon religious spirits.

Religious Groups and Initiation

A priest's church, the whole organisation, acts as an initiatory group. In reality the magically active priests in each area will know each other and participate, in co-operation with mundane priests, in an initiation. A priest must initiate with other priests from their own church and must take an ordeal each time (Priests may take as many geas as they want). Such initiations are often but not always linked to a priests promotion within the church, starting with their first initiation during the transition from novice to priest when access is first granted to the meta-powers and the geas of the church are taken on. Note, a priest may lose geas during later initiations (for instance to remove their reliance on priestly fetishes) but there must be a very good role-playing reasons (for example the priest must minister in an area where they are unavailable).

The GM must help the player design the stats of the religion's organisation (or sect or splintergroup etc)  that the priest belongs to. In general most large religions will have the following stats-

  • They have a guaranteed link to their deity (astral contact). This is because of the sheer size of the "group" where the combined beliefs and actions of all the groups' members (mundane and magical) are counted. In the midst of this morass the actions of a single priest don't add up to much, except in the personal sense.
  • They have many strictures including-Attendance, Belief, Exclusive membership (religion), Exclusive ritual (for example only with other Christians, whatever sect), Fraternity, Karma, Obedience and Oath. (Heavy stuff huh :)
  • On the up side most will have luxury resources available if necessary, unlimited rating libraries and continual availability of high ranking initiates etc although these will be found only at the central church.
  • The local parish and priest will almost certainly get an income (low), perhaps supplemented with a 2nd hand shop etc but also may have to run a soup kitchen and or infirmary etc.
  • Their purpose is primarily to spread the religion and serve parishioners but secondly act as initiatory groups.
The GM should keep a tally of both transgressions against and acts agreeing to the scriptures (and strictures) of the priests religion just as if it were a Magic Group. The transgressions count against initiatory success until they are appropriately atoned for while the positive actions go towards possible advancement within the church.


Priestly Geasa

Many geas will be specific to a particular religion, these include restrictions on certain foods (Judaism, Buddhism), dress code (Islam) or hairstyle and respect for animals (Hindu, Sikh)

There are however some universal geas-

  • the observance of sacred times of day, week or year with appropriate ceremonies or prayers etc
  • the use of religious items (acting as fetishes) appropriate to the power being used
  • using some form of prayer to invoke powers, spirits etc
If any of these geas is ignored then the GM must apply an appropriate penalty ranging from increased target number (eg for missing mass) to failure of priestly powers for 24 hours OR until the priest can atone in some way (eg for using powers without the proper materials) to direct Divine retribution (for committing adultery while stoned, on Easter Sunday, in a cathedral, just to take a completely random example :). Atonement again may range from saying Hail Mary's to a pilgrimage to Mecca etc.

During initiations a priest may chose to remove the above geas as mentioned above, and at the same time take on new geas as an ordeal. The new geas however cannot be removed in later initiations.


Metamagical Powers

Priests have the normal range of metamagic, with specific limitations, as well as access to some new powers. Firstly these powers must be invoked to work. Invocation involves a saying a prayer or a psalm etc and takes a complex action. Success tests for each power are based on the characters Religion skill or concentration and within the stated limitations work as per the usual rules. It is worth noting that priests can astrally perceive and project directly to the metaplane of their deity and other metaplanes but not astrally project on the etheric plane.

Advanced Assensing Many of the priest's powers will only work for good and against evil (as defined by her religion) or vice versa. This power gives the priest an extra dimension to the assensing ability. It provides the priest information from astral perception as to the 'moral' nature of a person, place or object relative to the precepts of her religion (good vs bad to put it simply). Many things of course will appear to be relatively neutral, in and of themselves, and the character must then use role-playing to decide how they should act.

Shielding once invoked can be used normally against all spells and prayers except those from someone higher ranking (initiate wise) in their own religion.

Masking, most religions hold honesty and truth in high regard so this power, which lies about your real nature, can only be used in very few situations at the GM's discretion. Of course Satanists can use this power freely and in fact are encouraged to do so :) Note that in this case masking can be used to make an evil act appear good or vice versa (see Advanced Assensing above).

Anchoring, since priests lack spells as such this power is used quite differently. Priests can use this power to anchor their powers (prayers) to a place or object. The object must be "pure" (see Consecration below) and at least inscribed with a religious symbol if not actually enchanted as a religious object. A number of karma must be spent equal to the desired force of the effect (number of dice to be used in any tests). This can be reduced by the number of successes on a Religion test with a TN equal to the desired force (God provides the rest of the karma i guess :) The priest may then assign a number of dice up to their religion skill to that object which can then be used for one of the priests powers, i.e. Shielding, Masking, Dispelling or Warding.

Dispelling, can be used as normal against all spells and prayers except those from someone higher ranking (initiate wise) in their own religion. (Top!)

Communion, is a new power that allows the priest to talk to spirits. It is sort of an innate summoning power and is tied up with the priest's beliefs and Religion skill. This includes the ability to detect and talk to the spirits of dead metahumans as well as religious spirits. A prayer of communion will force any religiously summoned spirit to talk to the priest (using free actions) who then has a chance to question it. The reaction of the spirit will depend on who/what summoned it relative to the priest. Such reactions can range from subservience to hostility.

Talking with spirits of dead metahumans (or even animals) is different. Firstly no persons spirit is happy at being communed with because they know they are dead, and indeed may remember their deaths, but that is where their knowledge ends so they don't know anything of their afterlife (if any). How much of their life they remember depends upon the priests success test (see Spirits), what they do remember however will be at an emotional remove. It is up to the priest to convince the ghost to help him, easy in the case of devout fellow worshipper but hard if the spirit is a hardcore agnostic. (Top!)

Consecration (SN) Priests create holy items, paraphernalia and sanctuaries by using this power. These powers are only granted as the priest initiates, the grade at which he gains access to each ability is given in brackets after the powers name below. The different forms of sanctuaries are -

  • Expendable Materials such as holy water, incense, grains for mandalas etc. (Grade 0)
  • Reusable materials such as holy symbols, priestly vestments, altars etc. (Grade1)
  • Holy wards (Grade 2)
  • Hallowed ground (Grade 3)
  • Purification (Grade 4)
  • Expendable Materials and Reusable Materials (SN) (Grade 0 and 1 respectively)
  • To use anything in the same way as an expendable fetish or ritual materials are used the material has to be consecrated using the same enchanting procedure, substituting the enchanting skill with the consecration power (see p21 in the Grimoire II.)

    Consecrating reusable materials is necessary to create the priestly equivalent to foci. The same procedure as described under Artificing (Grimoire II p23) is used with the difference, that it is not necessary for priests to design a focus formula and substituting the enchanting skill with the consecration power.

    These items are needed (religious geas) by all priests to use any of the priestly powers. This has the effect of tying the priest to the church as low level initiates cannot make their own to start with but has the bonus that they do provide extra dice for tests involving powers just as do the magicians fetishes. It is only after later initiations that a priest may learn how to make these items (see below for more). For information on their use see Rites and Rituals below.

  • Holy Warding (SN) (Grade 2)
  • This is similar to a ward. A priest doesn't have to project astrally to set up a ward though. Also holy wards may be set up to specifically protect against certain kinds of entities. For example many religions are commonly thought to provide protection against the undead and ghosts. Wards can be erected that protect against vampires, zombies, wendigos etc depending on the priest's religion. These wards only stop the entities they were designed for, but can be affected from astral space as normal by other magicians. Another property of priestly wards is that they also expel any entity that is within the ward to while it is being set up. (see for example exorcism below in Rites and Rituals)
  • Hallowed Ground (SN) (Grade 3)
  • This feature enables a priest to set up a level of beneficial background count useable by all priests of his faith, the background count also works against all other magic. To consecrate an area the priest uses his religion skill against a basic target number of 4. The basic area is magic x grade meters in radius. The target number increases by 1 for every additional 10 meters radius or fraction thereof and decreases by 2 for every additional priest participating in the consecration ritual. If several priests work together the priest with the highest grade makes the success test and determines the area of effect. The ritual takes one hour per 20 square meters or fraction thereof, extra successes divide this time. Materials for consecration cost 100 nuyen per 5 square meters or can be made as per expendable fetishes for 10 nuyen for the same. Any area once consecrated remains so forever until purified or otherwise desecrated.
  • Purification (SN) (Grade 4)
  • The purification ritual is a reverse of the above ritual. The procedure is exactly the same. Purification must be performed before an area can be consecrated if there is any other consecration, background count, medicine lodge, hermetic circle or other magical background at the site.

    Desecration, is not actually a priestly power it is sort of a mundane version of purification that best fits in about here. Just as priests can purify an area to remove any (religious) background count, any mundane with enough emotion and or knowledge can actually remove or even reverse a religious background count. For example just as the folklore surrounding a religion gives it power over, for example, the undead, the same is true in reverse. A vampire who has been warded out of his home by a zealous priest could go to that priests church and Desecrate it. This process, although non-magical in nature, has repercussions for background count just as do other highly emotional acts. Such a process might involve the vampire defecating on the altar and nailing small mammals to the cross and pews. Rulewise desecration is like a non-magical version of Consecration (Purification), the desecrator must first overcome any positive count then attempt to induce a negative count. It is purely a GM decision for how much effect this has, the key ingredients are very strong "negative" emotions and/or knowledge of the religion (and therefore what would be most harmful to it).

    A priest of course effectively uses this power when removing (purifying) the background count of another religion. (Top!)

    Rites and Rituals

    In addition to these powers priests can perform all of the rites and rituals associated with a religion ranging from everyday absolutions, christenings, marriages, funerals etc to more exotic practises such as exorcisms and the laying on of hands. Additionally most of the above powers and summoning can be performed as rituals rather than complex actions. This can be to reduce the drain or the target number or to increase the effect or safety of a procedure or to allow other priests to help. Basically apply the ritual sorcery rules to the above powers.

    Most religious practises have over the centuries acquired numerous symbolic trappings. Priests wear specific clothes that denote denomination and rank, religious symbols and sacred items and wave incense sticks and sprinkle holy water etc. In the awakened world priests attach so much significance to these things that their magic often won't work without them being present. In game terms this translates to a geas and a very complex one at that. Each ritual in a priests arsenal requires at least a minimum of the correct paraphernalia such as bible, rosary beads and a cross. Further, these items must be correctly enchanted as fetishes as per the rules in the Grimoire II. They also provide dice as fetishes do (either one or two only even in multiple fetishes are used). They cost money and must initially be bought from the church, although the church will refund money for any fetishes that were used in approved procedures.

     The GM should make up a set of requirements and magical explanation for each ritual the priest wants to perform. They can just be generic, involving the paying of money to the church but could become crucial if the priest is in the field. An exorcism may for example involve the construction of a ghost ward to expel and keep out the possessing spirit. (Top!)


     Just as the folklore surrounding a religion gives it power over, for example, the undead, the same is true in reverse. A vampire who has been warded out of his home by a zealous priest could go to that priests church and Desecrate it. This process is non-magical in nature but has repercussions for background count just as do other emotional acts. Such a process might involve the vampire defecating on the alter and nailing small mammals to the cross and pews. Rulewise desecration is like a non-magical version of Consecration and it is purely a GM decision for how much effect it has.



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    Created: 14 February 1998 | Last Updated: November 19, 2000
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