RAW Sprawlrunners offers three types of Arcane Background - hermetic mage, shaman, and qi adept (same as physical adepts in Shadowrun). This reflects an approach similar to Shadowrun 1e/2e, where hermetic mages and shamans had very different rule mechanics, but other magical traditions were rather less fleshed out.
I wish to adopt an approach closer to Shadowrun from 4e onwards; what is often called “unified magic theory.” Bring the rules for different magical traditions into closer alignment, then use that as a springboard to make it easier to add new magic traditions. My ultimate goal is to allow players the freedom to define their own traditions, and how their characters interpret them.
For my game, I am using two Arcane Backgrounds for PCs:
Mages start play with three free Powers, and get more via the New Powers Edge, as usual.
There are two variants of this skill, linked to different attributes, reflecting that different magic users have different ways to interact with mana:
For avoidance of doubt: the only difference between Magic (Spirit) and (Smarts) is the role-playing aspect and the choice of linked attribute for the skill. Everything else is the same – available power list, drain rules, etc.
Any character with AB(mage) gets a free Astral Projection power. Adept characters can purchase Astral Perception for 1 Chi Point. Activities on the Astral plane, including assensing and astral combat while projecting, are governed by the new Astral (Smarts) skill.
See Astral Space for more details.
I have not yet fleshed out rules for mystic adepts - characters who combine physad abilities with limited magic abilities. I think this is best modelled by giving physads some ability to learn Powers, similar to the Power racial trait (see SWADE pg 19.) Let me know if you want to play such a character in my campaign and we’ll figure it out.
I have some ideas for how to handle magical traditions that are used for various types of NPCs, although these are not yet fully fleshed out: