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How prevalent is magic use among the general population in Shadowrun?

What percentage (and what "classes") are most likely to use magic? What percentage of this percentage (of these "classes) does actually go for it? And what kinds of magic do they strive to master?

The more recent the info, the better. (SR3 information is good, SR5 is better.) Also, the more comprehensive the info, the better. Obviously. :)

(Yes, this is the twin question of How prevalent is cyber/bioware use among the general population? :))

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3 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

I'm going to make some arbitrary assumptions based on certain things before I start working on my answer just to clear things up:

I think that it's not unreasonable to say that 50% of mages who are professional, fully-trained mages, have taken at least one initiation. In addition, 70% of initiated mages have probably joined a group.

If we assume that the groups listed in Street Magic make up about 10% of the mages that have initiated that belong to groups, we have 1203 mages forming 3.5% of the population of mages who are "professional" full-time wage mages or the like. This gives an estimate of 34,000 mages, which doesn't necessarily include latent magicians or magicians who are not "dedicated" mages (i.e. people with a Magic rating of 1 or 2, burnouts, and possibly a decent chunk of adepts), so you've got a fair amount of people there that either have some powers but don't really function in society as mages, and those who have very little magical power and aren't likely to fling a spell or summon a spirit, which would be the majority of people who are capable of theoretically using magic.

This number seems a lot more realistic to me, when we consider that Lone Star, for instance, has a magical investigation group in Seattle, which is almost certainly more than six people. In addition, stuff like tempo has started to blur the line between Awakened and not, and the openness of arcana to non-mages means that the magical is potentially much more prevalent than its users.

As far as the people most likely to use magic; other than some metavariants they're mostly pretty evenly spread throughout society, being a great equalizer-the punk in the ghetto is just as likely to have mojo as a corporate head, though we can expect magic users to climb up economic classifications on account of their power compared to someone without magic.

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SR4 answer : 0.1% of population has the potential, at least a latent one, to use magic. Of these people, 0.1% really use it. (page reference when I'll get my hand on the core book)

BUT SR4 numbers are extremely fallacious. For magic users, that would make, for Seattle and its 6 millions inhabitants, only six mages. Quite incompatible with the official setting where every corp location has its own magician.

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+1 for the official answer and its likely fallacious nature. Even if magic-users tend to concentrate in big cities (where their powers are more valued / used) one out of every million seems very low. –  sergut Aug 22 '13 at 15:59
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In a bit, if I get the time, I'll post my estimates, which are based on magical group attendance. –  Kyle Willey Aug 22 '13 at 19:43
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The original numbers were guesstimated at between 1/100 and 1/1000, but as far as I know there were no source materials that definitively stated the frequency of magical aptitude. If you calculated the frequency of something magically interesting happening as a result of Halley's Comet (according to the rules), it was a fraction of one percent. Some source materials did specify the 0.1% number for practicing magicians, but also stated that identification of magically apt individuals was poor.

(One can also without much trouble find blatantly contradictory stuff such as rules making it easy for any shadowrunner to get certain stats, and then stating that a person of legendary skill of such-and-so archetype had stats well below that (and then making regular grunts in another adventure that were only modestly inferior, statistically, to said legend).)

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