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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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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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    \$\begingroup\$ 34,000 mages out of... what population size? Maybe I'm not reading your answer clearly. \$\endgroup\$ – russellpierce Sep 5 '14 at 23:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ The exact population size in Shadowrun is not always exactly clear. shadowrun.wikia.com/wiki/File:ChartWorldPop2.gif has an example of a fan-made extrapolation, but again we see a number of canon sources that sort of dance about the subject. If we add up all the listed places in the Sixth World Almanac, we have an estimate of 3,098,645,281 people between all the large world population areas like India, the UCAS/CAS/other North American places, Germany, etc. \$\endgroup\$ – Kyle Willey Sep 6 '14 at 15:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ Or, long story short, 10% of ~.1% of .1% are professional mages. I'm a little surprised it worked out that way. That doesn't necessarily cover every Awakened individual, but it matches what people have said elsewhere. It's actually probably significantly less, because SWA doesn't cover every last place. \$\endgroup\$ – Kyle Willey Sep 6 '14 at 15:35
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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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    \$\begingroup\$ +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. \$\endgroup\$ – sergut Aug 22 '13 at 15:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ In a bit, if I get the time, I'll post my estimates, which are based on magical group attendance. \$\endgroup\$ – Kyle Willey Aug 22 '13 at 19:43
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Technically, About 1% of the population

But the truth is, as is usually the case in the Sixth World, more complicated than that.

We have some new information since this question was asked and answered, so I thought I would revisit it.

As of the Release of the 5E Sourcebook Forbidden Arcana we have a new, up to date section on the demographics of magic users, starting on Page 102.

Magical Talent is found in about one percent of the population, as is often reported, but that’s something of an illusionary number as about half of those people don’t know they have any Talent, or it’s so minor (I can turn blue into a lighter shade of blue!) as to be effectively useless.

Page 105 of the same book has a chart that lays things out pretty clearly. What I'm posting here is not an exact match for the book. Errata correcting it to what I'm posting exists, but I cannot find the original link at the moment.

For every 10,000 people...

  • There are 10 full mages, including 1 Mystic Adept
  • There are 40 Aspected Magicians/Adepts
  • There are 100 "Sparks" who are technically magical.

Of those 40 Aspected Magicians

  • There are 12 Physical Adepts
  • There are 8 Conjurers
  • There are 8 Sorcerers
  • There are 4 Apprentices
  • There are 4 Enchanters
  • There are 4 Explorers

Of those 100 Sparks

  • There are 20 who are Aware

"Sparks" are defined as

[those who] have so little magic that they’re not worth consideration

And an "Aware" is

The aware have astral perception as their lone magical ability, a truly minor ability that nonetheless sets them higher than the truly mundane.

Page 49

Of note...

this ratio is skewed by demand; more mages are found in cities than in rural areas, as corporations actively recruit them with high pay and prestige.

Page 103

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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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