Mundane Magic

> It might be worth mentioning the sorts of things it’s reasonable to expect nonmagical corpsec grunts to know about magic, since the reality is that many sec-teams don’t even include a magician. Most of these teams (at least the ones working for the big corps) are trained in basic magical threat response, things like staying out of line of sight, limiting visibility, not clumping together to make themselves sitting ducks, and identifying the opposing magician(s) so they can take them out first. Some are even trained to spot the signs of spellcasting and recognize the “shiver” of an astral form passing through your aura. Teams well versed in magical theory are rare, but it’s reasonable to expect that the bushleague stuff isn’t going to catch them by surprise.
> DangerSensei
(sm, 16)

In the world of Shadowrun, magic is restricted to magicians, that rare but growing percentage of individuals who possess the Talent. Non-magicians, the so-called mundanes, simply do not have access to any magical skills or abilities at all. Or do they?

A note: Outset boxes are direct quotes, and use the Shadowrun Reference Standard.

Magical Skills

Anyone may study Magical Skills for the inherent knowledge, but only a magician may use these skills to manipulate magical energy.
(sr1, 59)(sr2, 71) is possible for a theoretical thaumaturgist to attempt some practical applications of magic, but he's not likely to be very good at it ... even mundanes can also make use of magical skill defaults–even if they cannot use the applicable skill to perform magic, they can make various non-magical tests. For example, a mundane who learns a free spirit's true name can default to Willpower to make a Conjuring Test and attempt to control the spirit (though he is far better off spending the time and Karma learning Conjuring if he really wants to succeed!)
(awk, 93)

Magical skills can be differentiated between
active use, that is, using the skill to perform magic, and mundane use, using the skill for non-magical purposes.
(awk, 94)

While adepts and mundanes can learn magical Background Skills, they cannot manipulate mana and cannot use Active Magic Skills.
(sr3, 160)

In First and Second Edition, any character could potentially learn magical skills...they were simply extremely limited in how they could use them. This changed in Third Edition, where it was clarified that the Active Magical Skills of Sorcery, Centering, Conjuring, Divining, and Enchanting could only be learned and used by the Awakened (characters with a Magic attribute of 1 or greater.) Mundanes could, however, still learn the various knowledge skills associated with magic, such as Conjuring Background, Magic Background, Parageology, Parapsychology, Parazoology, Spell Design and Talismongering. There's also nothing to stop a character from learning the prediction and performance skills associated with Centering or Divination; or the Dowsing and Astrology skills associated with Geomancy, but the character cannot use these to perform magic.

In Fourth Edition, the Magical Active Skills (Astral Combat, Assensing, Banishing, Binding, Counterspelling, Enchanting, Ritual Spellcasting, Spellcasting, and Summoning) cannot be learned unless a character has an appropriate Quality and a Magic Attribute of 1. However, mundanes can still learn the Arcana Magic Active Skill to design formulae and Knowledge Skills such as Astral Research, Magic Background, Magic Theory, Parazoology, Spirits, and the like.

Aura Reading/Assensing

Mundanes in a shallow can even try to learn the basics of the Aura Reading skill, but shallows generally don't last long enough for mundanes to pick up the skill, and it's only useful to them in a shallow or similar condition.
(tal, 100)

Aura Reading used to be a bit of an odd fellow as Magical Skills go. In Second and Third Edition it was a complementary skill for assensing...which requires astral perception, which should limit it to the Awakened. However, under the rare circumstance that mundanes spent sufficient time in an astral shallow or some other condition that allows astral perception (such as the Astral Gateway power, below), they could learn the Aura Reading skill, which could prove useful if said character was actually spending that much time on the astral, or if they developed an interest in mana-sensitive film photography.

In Fourth Edition, the Aura Reading Skill has become the Assensing Skill and is restricted to those magicians with the ability to astrally perceive.

Conjuring and Free Spirits

The Conjuring Skill includes knowledge of the rituals used to control and ward against spirits, and mundanes sometimes learn this skill as a means of defending themselves against spirit powers. Anyone, mundane or magician, who possesses the Conjuring Skill can use that Skill Level to resist the effects of a spirit's powers (in place of an appropriate Attribute.) Mundane characters may also use Conjuring to summon and bind free spirits, provided the character knows the spirit's true name.
(awk, 94)

The Conjuring Skill governs the calling and banishing of spirits. Only characters with a Magic Attribute of 1 or greater can have this skill.
(sr3, 87)

First and Second Edition allowed mundanes to learn Conjuring; treating it as the inapplicable theory and knowledge behind the skill rather than any actual ability. In Third and Fourth editions, this academic aspect of Conjuring is covered by knowledge skills such as Conjuring Background, Magic Background, and Spirits.

Anyone who knows the true name of a free spirit can enslave it through use of Conjuring Skill. ... Even a non-magician can try this stunt if he knows Conjuring.
(gm1, 92)(gm2, 77)

Conjuring Skill can enslave a Free Spirit if the conjuror knows the Spirit's true name. Anyone who knows Conjuring can pull this off, whether they can conjure Spirits or not.
(gm1, 93)(gm2, 78)

Particularly single-minded (some say obsessive) magicians and mundanes have been known to learn Conjuring for a specific spirit and spend years seeking its true name in order to use their Specialization.
(awk, 95)

A magician (or even a mundane) in possession of a ghost's chain can attempt to bind it as if it were a free spirit.
(mits, 122)

The powerful magic of the spirit's formula allows anyone-including mundanes-to summon a free spirit and, with a proper ritual, to bind it.
(sm, 108)

The power of a free spirit's true name is such that anyone, even a mundane, can use the power of that true name to attempt to summon and bind the free spirit. In First and Second edition, mundanes could even learn Conjuring and use that skill to increase their chances of binding the spirit. In Third edition, however, the mundane has only the power of the free spirit's True Name (or chain in the case of a ghost) to bind it with, limiting their success to the weakest of free spirits...or the greatest of luck.

The process in Fourth edition differs somewhat: the summoner-mundane or otherwise-can summon the spirit immediately and without effort provided they have a copy of the spirit formula by concentrating on the spirit it represents. After this, the spirit must perform a ritual to bind the spirit; the number of tasks the spirit is compelled to perform is equal to the success of said ritual. Magicians with the Binding Magical Active Skill have an edge in these sort of tests, which generally restricts mundanes to the weaker spirits or exceptional luck. The ritual may be performed repeatedly to keep the free spirit in service (and prevent it from directly attacking the summoner).

A character with Conjuring Skill can try a simple ritual to improve this ratio, even if the character cannot use the skill for other purposes. ... Mundanes and adepts can only increase their own Karma-transfer ratios using their Conjuring Skill under these circumstances...
(gm1, 91)(gm2, 77)

Free spirits require karma to grow in strength and power, which they elicit from others in the form of bargains: the spirit completes a service, the mortal pays them karma. All of those who seek such bargains are not equal, though: magicians transfer karma much more easily and for less than adepts, and adepts are far better conduits for karma than mere mundanes. To lessen these harsh fees, characters with Conjuring can perform a simple ritual to improve the ratio. In First and Second edition, a mundane could learn Conjuring and perform this ritual themselves; but in Third edition they had to rely on a magician to perform the ritual for them...if they underwent it at all.

In Fourth edition, feeding Karma to a spirit requires either a Spirit Pact with said spirit, or a copy of the spirit formula.

Sorcery and Astral Combat

Mundanes have no use for the Sorcery Skill, because it is based entirely on the manipulation of energies that they cannot access. While it is theoretically possible for a mundane to learn the Sorcery Skill, it would be extremely difficult to do so without any way to practice what he or she learns.
(awk, 96)

The few mundanes who bother to learn Sorcery often choose to learn ritual magic.
(awk, 96)

The Sorcery Skill governs the control of magical energy, usually in the form of spells. Only characters with a Magic Attribute of 1 or greater can have this skill.
(sr3, 87)

Astral Combat

Even characters who cannot normally cast spells may use Sorcery in Astral Combat. It is for this purpose that physical adepts and others who might face Astral Combat often study Sorcery.
As a further option, a character can use Conjuring Skill in Astral Combat with Spirits, and he can use Enchanting Skill in combat with focuses.
(gm1, 65)

A mundane character who knows Sorcery and who somehow finds himself on the astral plane (for example, through an astral gate created by a free spirit) could use Sorcery to engage in astral combat. Quite frankly, most people have better things to do that spend their time and Karma than wait and train for such an unlikely combination of events.
(awk, 96)

In First and Second edition, Sorcery could be learned by mundanes who wanted an edge in astral they planned on accessing the Astral Plane is another story. In Third and Fourth editions, mundanes cannot learn Sorcery at all.

In Fourth edition, Sorcery's use in astral combat has been replaced by the Astral Combat Skill, which mundanes cannot learn.

Magic Background and Theory

Even a mundane who cannot wield any kind of active magic can gain a complete understanding of the principles and theories behind magic, though few possess the dedication to do so without at least some Talent. Those mundanes who persevere in their pursuit of magical knowledge often make excellent theorists.
(awk, 94)

Characters with no Magic Attribute frequently take Background Skills in Conjuring and Sorcery ... Knowledge Skills follow the standard specializations of the corresponding Active Skills. For example, a character with a Background Skill in Conjuring can specialize in Banishing.
(sr2, 90)

In every edition of the game, magicians and mundanes alike are given the opportunity to learn the actual theory of magic. To go beyond the mere application into the history and internal logic of traditions, and the design of formulae for focus and spell. While this historical and theoretical knowledge was assumed to be inherent in Conjuring, Enchanting, Magical Theory, and Sorcery in First and Second editions, in Third Edition this knowledge was mainly encapsulated in Magic Background, Spell Design, and Talismongering skills, although other skills are available. Furthermore, each magician in Third edition retains effective Background skills for their magical skills if they burn out.

In Fourth Edition, there is a differentiation between purely academic knowledge (which form the familiar Knowledge Skills such as Magic Background) and the active use of such knowledge to design formulae, previously encapsulated in the Talismongering and Spell Design skills, which now fall under the Arcana Magic Active Skill.


Note that mundanes as well as Awakened can learn Arcana. Though they can't put their formulations into practice, non-magical characters can design formulae just as well as magicians-in fact, some of the best spell formulators in the Sixth World are mundanes or burnouts with no magical ability.
(sm, 24)

In Fourth Edition, all aspects of magical formula design fall under the Arcana Magical Active Skill. This includes the devising of spell formulae, focus formulae, ally spirit formulae, and rendering the True Names of Free Spirits into Spirit Formulae.Designing a spirit formula is trickier for a mundane than a magician, because the three requisite methods of doing so require either astral perception or the undertaking of an astral quest - both abilities typically reserved for magician characters. Arcana is also used in the preparation and execution of the ritual to bind a free spirit, which can be carried out by a mundane character (see Conjuring and Free Spirits, above).

Spell Design

Designing a spell formula uses Magical Theory Skill. Anyone with Magical Theory can do it, even a mundane. Theoretical occultists, experts with high ratings in Magical Theory but no Magic Attribute, are rare, but do exist, much as pure theoreticians exist in the physical sciences.
(gm1, 55)(gm2, 114)

They can create a working spell formula, but not being magically active themselves, can do nothing with it.
(gm2, 114)

This Academic Knowledge Skill covers the theories and applications of spell formulas and is used to design spells.
(mits, 30)

Any Awakened or mundane character who possesses the Spell Design Knowledge Skill, or who can default to the Sorcery or Magic Background Skills ... can design a spell formula. Though theoretical occultists with high ratings in Spell Design but no Magic Attribute are rare, they do exist, much like pure theoreticians in the physical sciences. They can create a working spell formula but cannot personally test their theories.
(mits, 48)

Though theoretical occultists skilled in Arcana with no magical ability are rare, they do exist, much like pure theoreticians in the physical sciences. The can create a working spell formula but cannot personally test their theories.
(sm, 158)

Mundanes must create the formula according to a particular tradition's outlook; for this reason, using a magical lodge appropriate to that tradition will also benefit their efforts.
(sm, 158)

Spells, no matter what tradition, are part artwork and part esoteric mathematics. Mundanes in any First and Second edition used the Magic Background/Theory skill to design a spell. Third Edition, however, introduced a skill especially made for designing spells, the Spell Design skill. Mundane researchers typically use Hermetic methods of spell design, requiring access to Hermetic libraries, but some may use shamanic practices. Theoretical occultists in Third edition may wish to pick up skills like Chemistry, Math, and Physics to comprehend (or create!) formulae in line with the Pythagorean or Concordance Alchemists hermetic schools.

In Fourth edition, mundanes and magicians alike use the Arcana Magical Active Skill to design spells. Like magicians, the mundane benefits from being in a mana lodge whose tradition matches the tradition of the spell they are designing.


Anyone, even a mundane, can use Talismongering Skill...
(gm1, 40)

Talismongering is concerned with the elements of enchanting that do not produce anything magical.
(gm1, 41)(gm2, 20)

A character need not be magically active in order to engage in talismongering. Many respected talismongers are mundanes whose goods prove plenty effective. Talismongering requires knowledge of plant lore, a little mineralogy, and the centuries-old formulae used to make charms, powders, incense, lucky pieces, and similar ...
(gm2, 20) (mits, 40)

The Talismongering Concentration does not require magical ability and can be learned equally well by mundanes and magicians alike (indeed, many successful talismongers possess no magical gifts.)
(awk, 95)

The Background Knowledge Skill for Enchanting is Talismongering...Talismongering is used for the analysis, gathering and manufacture of magical materials.
(mits, 30)

It has long been an axiom in Shadowrun that a talismonger (a merchant or tradesman specializing in the production, selling, and/or acquisition of magical goods) need not be magically active. Armed with the right tools a mundane in any edition with the right skill can perform a number of useful tasks, such as:

Focus Design also used for focus design.
(mits, 30)

Mundane characters with Talismongering Skill may also design focus formulas, though they cannot make foci.
(mits, 42)

The theoretical knowledge necessary to design a focus formula has, in First, Second, and Third editions, been the province of Talismongering...whether as a concentration of Enchanting or not. Theoretical occultists in Third edition may wish to pick up skills like Chemistry, Math, and Physics to comprehend (or create!) formulae in line with the Pythagorean or Concordance Alchemists hermetic schools.

In Fourth edition, the design of focus formulae falls under the Arcana Magical Active Skill (see above).

Given an appropriate area of unspoilt wilderness, a talismonger may gather the raw animal, herbal, mineral, and metal reagents and materials. Without access to totem bonuses or spirits, mundane talismongers in First, Second, and Third editions used the Talismonger Skill and complementary skills such as Herb Lore, Geology, Metallurgy, and Mining to more efficiently gather the raw materials.

In Fourth edition, locating a reagent (raw, naturally refined, or naturally radical) requires a Survival + Intuition Test; actually gathering the reagent is an Intuition test with the appropriate skill: Zoology, Botany, Metallurgy, or Geology (for animal, herbal, metal, and mineral respectively).

In First, Second, and Third edition, a mundane with the Talismongering Skill with the proper tools could refine raw materials into refined materials. This ability falls under the Enchanting Magical Active Skill in Fourth edition, and so cannot be performed by mundanes.

Mining Orichalcum
Although rumored in previous editions, Third Edition was the first edition in which characters could find and mine natural orichalcum. By itself, natural orichalcum is too impure for use in Enchanting, but it can be refined using similiar methods to refining materials. Thus, in Third Edition, a mundane could mine natural orichalcum but not refine it. Further, characters with the Parageology Knowledge skill may differentiate between natural and synthetic orichalcum.

Natural orichalcum has not been mentioned in Fourth Edition to date.

Crafting Fetishes and Ritual Materials
Mundane talismongers in First, Second, and Third editions could turn a supply of refined materials into fetishes for spells or materials for ritual magic, such as elemental summonings or ritual spellcasting, using the Talismongering Skill.

In Fourth Edition, the creation of fetishes and ritual materials falls under the Enchanting Skill, which cannot be taken by Mundanes.


A character with Enchanting Skill can analyze any magical material or item. He need not be magically active to do this, but being able to assense the item does help. ... The cumbersome analysis technique is generally used by mundanes or adepts who cannot assense.
(gm1, 43)(gm2, 22)

Any character with the Talismongering or Enchanting Skill can analyze any magical material or item. ... Because magicians can get this information simply by assenssing the material ... the following analysis technique is generally used by mundane talismongers.
(mits, 47)

Bereft of the Sight, talismongers in First, Second, or Third Edition could use the Talismongering skill (or the Talismongering concentration of the Enchanting skill in First and Second Edition) to analyze a material or object in an attempt to determine if it is magical or mundane, and further to identify it as a focus, fetish, radical, etc.

In Fourth Edition, no mention has been made of mundane analysis of magical goods.

Other Methods

Mundanes deal with the effects of magic every day, both when dealing with their fellow metahumans and the Sixth World in general. But most can go their entire lives without any direct magical influence on their lives. Mundanes who dabble in magic tend to encounter more than their fair share of occult phenomenon, indeed, some seek it out.

Astral Rifts and Astral Shallows
First introduced in Third edition and maintained in Fourth, Astral Rigts and Astral Shallows are naturally-occurring phenomena that allow anyone, mundanes or Awakened a degree of access to the Astral Plane (or even the metaplanes). Astral Rifts allow (and in some cases, force) anyone, even mundanes, to astrally project. In such a place a mundane can roam for a time on the astral, or come across an astral rift to the metaplanes and carry out an Astral Quest as initiates do. However, if the rift should close while a mundane travels in the astral or the metaplanes, the mundane immediately dies. In an astral shallow, every creature is effectively dual-natured. Mundane characters can perceive and interact with the astral landscape. In Third edition, mundanes could even develop the Aura Reading Skill if the shallow persists long enough.

In Third edition anyone, magician or mundane, can bond with a one of the charms (a limited form of one-shot focus) created by witches.

Edges and Flaws, Positive and Negative Qualities
Edges and Flaws were introduced in Second and Third edition, and include Magical Flaws like Bad Karma. While some, like Magical Talent, are confined strictly to Awakened characters, others are available to all characters, even mundanes.

In Fourth edition, Edges and Flaws have been replaced with Positive and Negative Qualities, and like their precusors include those that might be advantageous to mundanes concerned with magic, including Guts, Magic Resistance, and Murky Link. By the same token, mundane characters might have associated penalties such as Spirit Bane.

Loaned Spirit Services
In every edition, it is possible for a magician who has summoned a spirit to loan the services of said spirit to another character, even a mundane. There are limitations to this service, natch: the summoner remains control of the spirit, and those of the spirit's powers which are only applicable to characters who can learn or use spells (such as Aid Sorcery, Aid Study, Spell Sustaining, etc.) do not allow the mundane to learn or use spells; nor in Third Edition could a spirit possess a mundane who was not astrally active. Powers of particular interest include Astral Gateway and Endowment, which provide access to the Astral and temporary use of one of the spirit's magical powers respectively.

Magical Compounds and Other Unique Enchantments

> A Lot of dons have more than a "distrust" of magic, they fear it like death itself. Most of the oldsters surround themselves with charms and amulets to protect themselves from "the evil eye" and would rather French kiss a rabid pit-bull terrier than let a magician within three clicks of their precious souls.
> Uncle Al

> Charms and amulets. Fetishes, you mean?
> Tone

> Not even. Sops to small-minded superstition, without the faintest touch of the Power.
> Maxine (und.37)

For the most part, fetishes and foci are valueless to mundanes. There are certain types of unique enchantments that mundanes can make use of, however. Magical compounds were first introduced in Second edition, and updated in Third and Fourth edition, and are potions, powders, unguents and the like which give the user some temporary magical bonus or ability, such as a critter power, for a limited period of time after which the user experiences a supernatural handicap for the same duration.

Besides magical compounds, some unique enchantments appear to work for both magicians and mundanes, such as the Four Coins of Luck or the Token Dunkelzahn bequeathed to Craig Sanchez. For more on these, browse through the Artifact Index.


Serviteurs are mundane followers of the voudoun religion who allow themselves to be mounted by a loa called by a houngan. ... To be eligible for such possession, a character must undergo a ritual performed by a houngan to initiate him or her into the society of voudoun, not unlike the rituals magicians undergo to become initiates. ... Because all serviteurs are mundanes, the rituals will almost always involve some type of asceticism, deed, meditation or oath. ... Whatever its form, the ritual creates the magical link necessary for the houngan to call up a loa to mount the serviteur. ... Becoming a serviteur is considered a serious commitment in voudoun, and so player characters should not enter into it lightly. A houngan should take care to make sure of the would-be serviteur's sincerity before conferring such status upon that character. It is impossible to become a serviteur under false pretenses, for one simple reason: even if the houngan can be fooled, the loa cannot.
(awk, 126) (mits, 104)

First presented in Second edition and continued in Third edition, the serviteurs are mundane followers of the various voodoo religions who, due to the ritual they have undergone (and the Karma they spend) and their faith, can be possessed by a loa spirit summoned by a houngan or mambo. While not particularly appealing to some, the power of the possession experience is usually worth it.

In Fourth Edition, serviteurs are prepared as vessels to make it easier for spirits to possess or inhabit them.

Spirit Combat
When combating spirits, mundanes are faced with limited options. Generally, straight-up melee combat works well enough, but only if the mundane is strong-willed, since Willpower is more important than skill or how technically advanced your weapon of choice is. Weak-willed mundanes might choose weapons with elemental effects, such as lasers, water cannons and flamethrowers. Those solutions work fine for First and Second edition, but mundanes who want to try their hand at armed or unarmed combat against a spirit in Third edition might want to invest in a martial art and pick up the Focus Strength and Focus Will maneuvers. Some spirits possess inherent weaknesses to some mundane materials (such as Insect Spirits and insecticides), which can provide mundanes with the edge they need to combat them effectively.

Perhaps the most infamous spirit combat to date was Operation: Extermination, where Ares Macrotechnology utilized heavy firepower and the magic-devouring FAB Strain III-Delta to cleanse Chicago of many of the flesh-form insect spirits still within the Containment Zone.

Spirit Pacts and Hidden Life
Magical Threats from any edition may strike a deal with a free spirit, normally a Shadow spirit, in a symbiotic relationship known as a Pact, which benefits both members. However, in Third edition came the Aleph Society and the Shared Potency metamagic, more than one individual can enter into a Pact with a given shadow spirit. Indeed, in the case of the Aleph Society, burned-out mages who enter into this Pact regain the use of their magical abilities. Free spirits with the Hidden Life power may hide their life force inside a metahuman vessel...such metahumans gain a measure of power from the close association with the free spirit, but the mental stress of the association may cause Mental Flaws.

In Fourth Edition, the nature of Spirit Pacts have changed, and are now governed by the Spirit Pact Quality, which are only available to Awakened characters.

While the concept of passive astral security in the form of Awakened ivy had existed in first edition, it wasn't until Second edition that technology began having much of an influence on magic, with the advent of Flourescing Astral Bactera (FAB) and the genetically-engineered leech constructs of the Renraku Arcology. The most controversial development of Second edition was, notably, the FAB net gun, which has not been included in either Third or Fourth Edition. Third edition added a new element in the form of Mana-Sensitive Film, which allows mundanes to take photographs of the Astral.

The Dark Side

Enhanced strength, resistance to pain, some resistance to physical damage. A successfully merged host is a powerful creature. It is not hard to see why some people covet such power and are willing to take great risks to attain it.
(ub, 34)

Many of them bear unexplained scars and wounds. We suspect that these members are convinced that be volunteering themselves as sacrifices to fuel another member's magic, they are in effect exhibiting their own magical abilities.
(thr2, 42)

Sometimes, the desire for magic becomes all-consuming in a mundane...and their are magical forces which echo that all-consuming need. At the most extreme ends of those mundanes who learn about magic are those who sacrifice themselves for power: becoming infected with HMHVV or a variant, willingly being possessed by an insect spirit (or other malevolent spirit), or even giving some of their blood and life force to a blood magician for one of their rituals.

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