I am trying to figure out whether adepts using their magical powers leave an astral signature.

So far, since checking the core rulebook and Streetmagic, I have found a few forum discussions on the topic and the statement that it is only ambiguously defined in the core rulebook from before SR4A. I read an interpretation that the signature is only on themselves, as most of their magic is focused inwards. There were different positions on whether that holds true for magic that influences others such as Killing Hands and how to determine the duration until the signatures wane.

I am trying to find rules or official statements concerning:

  • Do adept powers leave astral signatures at all?
  • In case they do, what are signatures left on (the adept themselves, locations, touched objects, victims)?
  • Is this different for different powers e.g. Improved Ability vs Killing Hands, i.e. skills that are in use at all times vs skills that have specific targets?
  • What is the rule to determine how long the astral signatures last?

I have found plenty house-rules, I am solely interested in finding out whether there are official rules that I missed.


3 Answers 3


There are no 'official' rules that you have missed. With Shadowrun, there are a few interpreted rules that one has to get themselves. But, for your RAW question, no. There are no official rules to answer these questions nicely. So, if that's all you're looking for, you're out of luck, I'm afraid.

If you want what is preferred, however, you'll have to infer a few things. Adepts still have an aura and will project that aura anytime their powers are active. In fact, they can't even conceal it unless they have the right Metamagic (you'll have to look this up, I don't remember if it's even available to adepts). When they turn on something like Killing Hands or Magical Armor, it's still a passive thing. They are not weaving mana and magic to make it happen. They are simply turning on a latent power that they can use.

It's not until they actually try to manipulate mana to their will that they would leave an astral signature. Any power that they need to use their Magic as a roll (such as improving skills or attributes) would constitute a reason to leave an astral signature. And, at that point, all the same rules for searching for that power and what it is apply the same for Assenssing. The 'where' question is situational. It depends on what the adept is doing with their powers, but most of the time the power will 'linger' in the air, so to speak.

I'm sorry that there's no RAW answer to your question. In fact, a lot of Shadowrun 'rules' that people hold as RAW are actually RAI and most people just accept them as fact.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree entirely with this answer, is more or less what I was trying to explain when I say that I use the Force of the power being used as a measure of astral signature \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 10, 2014 at 7:17

adept powers that are inate or don't require activation don't leave a trail because they are internal abilities. where as an ability like killing hands where it is activated would leave a signature behind that could be tracked. like in the sr for 5th edition it mentions in the astral signature section that an activated critter power leaves a trail while permanent ones don't. so adept powers are similar to those critter powers. so if it is always on it does not leave a trail. if it is activated it leaves a signature.


I would say yes, the adept powers leave astral trail and I would use the power point cost as the "Force" of the magic, so powers that cost 0.25 per level leave a thin trail (with 4 levels you would emulate Force 1), and powers with higher costs leave a stronger trail.

Didnt have my SR4 copy near, but I think this could be a good start if anythings comes up officially.

Would check SR4 manual and improve my answer as soon as I can.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, well, either I am blind or it actually isn't clearly defined in the core rulebook or Streetmagic (which I have both checked). The proposed rule would mean that the physical presence of an adept with improved reflexes at some place would make a longer lasting astral trail than said adept using e.g. killing hands on a victim which at least in my SR world doesn't make much sense. If anything, I am tending to "magic attribute of the adept" as force level. \$\endgroup\$
    – Murch
    Commented Apr 9, 2014 at 11:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ You can state that only if the power is used leaves a magic trail, so if you make the adept check for initiative or makes an attack with killing hands, the astral plane is impronted with the magic. The usage of the magic attribute or the power points expended on the power is up to you, I would use the power point because reflects better the higher usage of magic of different powers, or you could use both (magic attribute+power points/2) so higher magic adepts leave stronger signals \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 10, 2014 at 6:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think there might be a misunderstanding here: I am looking for RAW, errata, or official statements on the topic. – I have found house rules aplenty already. \$\endgroup\$
    – Murch
    Commented Apr 10, 2014 at 11:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sorry, but as I didnt find any official rule about and the lack of response I thought that you might find my ideas useful. I like to answer Cyberpunk 2020 and Shadowrun posts because the excessive D&D stuff the other games tend to go low on attention. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 10, 2014 at 17:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for your time, sorry if that sounded harsh. I just didn't want you to think that you should spend more time on coming up with house-rules. I am having much of the same problem: Most games I play are hardly featured here. ;) \$\endgroup\$
    – Murch
    Commented Apr 10, 2014 at 17:11

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