Arcane backgrounds

Different types of Awakened characters

RAW Sprawlrunners offers three types of Arcane Background - hermetic mage, shaman, and qi adept (like physical adepts in Shadowrun).

For my game, I am reshuffling them into the following four Arcane Backgrounds:

  • Physical / qi adept - the classic Shadowrun physad. Doesn’t have an arcane power skill. Rules are the same as Sprawlrunners RAW.
  • Spellcaster (Intuitive) - magic users like shamans, whose approach to magic works on an artistic, instinctive, or naturalistic level. Arcane power skill is Sorcery (Spirit).
  • Spellcaster (Logical) - magic users like hermetic mages, whose approach to magic is more scientific, rigorous, or based on theoretical study. Arcane power skill is Sorcery (Smarts).
  • Summoner - an Awakened person who can summon spirits. Arcane power skill is Conjuring (Spirit).

For avoidance of doubt: the only difference between Spellcaster (Intuitive) and (Logical) is the role-playing aspect and the choice of linked attribute for the skill. Everything else is the same – power list, drain rules, etc.

These Arcane Backgrounds can be taken individually, or combined to produce the classic Shadowrun archetypes:

  • Mystic adept: Physical adept plus any one other.
  • Full mage: one of the Spellcaster arcane backgrounds, plus Summoner.

No other combinations are permitted.


Most of the powers listed in SWADE are available equally to both kinds of spellcaster arcane backgrounds. The arcane background comes with three starting powers at chargen; these powers are broadly equivalent to spells in Shadowrun. Almost all the Powers in SWADE are applicable here, but note that Summon Ally and Banish move to the Summoner Arcane Background (see below).

You can gain more powers after chargen by using advances to purchase the “More Powers” edge. Each time you take this, you get two new powers.

See Spellcasting for full details.


The Summoner arcane background only has three powers associated with it, two from core SWADE and one new one:

  • Summon Ally (greatform): used to summon spirits. Can be taken multiple times. Each version of it is specific to one greatform spirit.
  • Banish: used to banish other people’s summoned spirits. In a change from SWADE core rules, this is available at Seasoned rank and above.
  • New minor forms: unlocks more spirit minor forms the mage can summon. Each time this power is taken, two more minor forms can be chosen.

PCs can select four powers at chargen for free, as part of the arcane background.

For more information, see Summoning.

Astral space

Full mages get a free Astral Projection power. All other Awakened characters can purchase Astral Perception, either for 1 Power Point (for physical adepts) or for 1 power (everyone else.)

Activities on the Astral plane, including assensing and astral combat, are governed by the new Astral (Smarts) skill.

See Astral Space for more details.