I've been running a Shadowrun game for a while now, and I'm tired of the overcomplicated rules.

I'm plannning to move the game to the FATE System, but have some... questions about how to convert some parts of Shadowrun system to FATE:

  • Magic: How to represent the Drain in FATE? And spirits?
  • Cyberware: In the FATE Core rulebook, each piece of cyberware seems to cost a stunt... Seems pretty expensive, and totally kill the street sam concept. How can I do?

Are there any FATE-based games where I can steal some ideas to fix those issues?


3 Answers 3



There are several ways the draining effects of magic can be represented in the system.

I'm currently playing a shaman in an Aether Sea campaign, and I think a thing or two can be taken from its magic system: if you don't roll well enough, you have to take Stress equal to the difference between the opposition of the spell and your total roll result. That would mean that so long as Drain isn't huge, it should recover after the end of the scene (instead of counting turns or the like). Overdraining would of course inflict Consequences.

Another alternative that produces a similar feel would be creating an additional stress track, and getting it filled under similar circumstances, but that seems like a step towards complicating rules that you want to get away from.

Spirit Conjuration

You might want to look into how Jadepunk handles Ally-type Assets. I think they provide a reasonable compromise between simplicity and customisation of Stunts representing ability to summon a helper (in this case, a spirit). Generally, the Asset system may be of use for building other shticks that are appropriate for Shadowrun.


You should charge Stunts for cyberware when it produces strong effects - effects that are approximately worth giving up one Refresh for (even if the Stunt is bought out of the allowance of the three free Stunts rather than by literally selling Refresh). Otherwise, use an Aspect. Any cyberware that is more conveniently handled as an occasional bonus (whether invoked or on which an Advantage is Created) or as an excuse to declare a Story Detail should be handled by an Aspect.

A Word on Stunts in General

Cyber-samurai aren't the only ones who might need a lot of Stunts if they have a lot of cool abilities. Casters may need some too if they can provide unusually helpful buffs or big damaging spells. So you may want to look at the System Toolkit for ideas on how to give players more Stunts - whether by increasing the number of Stunts given at the beginning, doubling Stunts purchased per Refresh, both, or some approach of your own. Finally, there's a radical option found in Tiānxià that allows buying certain Stunts with Skill Points (bottom of page 77).

  • \$\begingroup\$ The Dresden FATE game may be worth mentioning for Magic/Drain... IIRC, Shadowrun magic isn't terribly far off from the Dresdenverse style. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 11, 2019 at 16:49

I have a partial answer for you so here it goes: Back in 2010, I worked to port Cyberpunk to Fate (no Core at that time) and built a game mechanic I called Upgrades to represent cyberware and other similar augmentations.

Basically, an upgrade is an aspect coupled with an always-on effect that activates whenever its trigger conditions are met. That effect is beneficial most of the time, but it comes at a cost. Each character has a Humanity stress track, and there's a risk of it getting hit every time an upgrade is triggered. If a character gets taken out on the humanity stress track, they lose their sense of right and wrong.

When they lost it in my playtests, I usually took over their character, had them do something they would find abhorrent/inhuman and handed it back. Later, I adopted the idea of also changing one of their permanent aspects to reflect cyberpsychosis setting in. (No, it was never "You lost your humanity and you die")

A character can get as many upgrades as they want. Their inherent risk balances out their benefits, and overloading on upgrades tends to make a character quite volatile.

Although my work was for a no-magic setting, I think you can easily use a very similar mechanic for magic as well. Since magic and cybernetics are at odds with each other in SR, maybe you can split a fixed number of boxes between the 'humanity' and 'drain' stress tracks, so if one of them works well for a character, the other causes trouble.


First of all, sorry for mistakes made, English is not my native language. I am currently trying to make this happen as well, the hardest thing for me is trying to develop a gear system that handles customization in a meaningful way without becoming "degenerate crunchyness" in fate standards. Specially introducing free gear stunts related to resources.

For cyberware I use mostly the system introduced in system toolkit with few modifications. Should translate it from Spanish to English before sharing. But as to magic I developed a system based on channeling (from system toolkit), every magician invest an aspect to represent your magical tradition, and refresh to create a trait called magic, 1:1 if fully aspected magician, 1:2 for the first refresh if specialized. You also have a skill called magic.

When you want to cast a spell you decide on the shifts of the spell up to a maximum of magic x2, the spell happens at that amount of shifts and your target generally has to resist at that value. Then roll magic to overcome drain against a difficulty equal to the shifts declared, you need to absorb damage with the mental stress track (consequences both mental and physical) equal to the difference if less than the value. Critical success generate a boost for magic uses. Not enough power for you? I allow to use points in the magic skill to overcast, declare that you are using X points for upgrading the limit in shifts declared by the same value, you will not use those to resist the drain. Same principle can be used for summoning and counterspelling.

As for spells I have used both a free no spell list approach and a learned spells approach.

  1. Magic can improvise any effect, divide how can you apply the shifts between: one shifts equals one point of damage (resistance mitigates this), one shift for each zone besides the first, two shifts for making a zone area effect, one shift for each round duration (or +2 difficulty of contested actions if sustained traditionally). When making aspects you get one invocation if the spell succeeds plus one free invocation for each three beyond that. If want to model a barrier I use the "aspects as opposition". If I want to model armor I use the amounts of shift dedicated to the strength of the effect (that is, minus duration, area, etc), divided by half. This free form feels very powerful and it's important to tie to an aspect, to have a feelings of what you can do.

  2. Learned spells, use the guidelines from before to create fixed spells, you need to pay for the effects in shifts but generally you can power some of the effects up, like more shifts for more damage, or fixed damage in shifts but invest freely in area. If you feel like it you can always assign some two shifts benefits to learned spells, like a free Zone of area, weapon:2, two turn duration, +2 to drain check, etc. Starting spells? What you feel is right. The cost of learning new spells? One skill point for a spell, or four spells for one stunt (wild guess). When using this system, I usually allow for improvising spells by invocation of your tradition aspect without applying the bonus. I you think that is risky you can also reduce the limit of shifts declared to just your magic instead of magic x2. Finally, I am experimenting with channeling actions, a form of create advantage where you roll magic (or a set skill like lore for wizards or rapport for shamans) against difficult 2 (harder difficult if there are obstacles) to produce invocations of your tradition aspect, but it is a powerful option for magicians.

PD: When using shifts for area, extra range, duration etc, don't add them to the resistance difficulty. Use logic to determine what should make it harder or easier to resist.


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