So my friends and I picked up an intro game in Shadowrun e5 and I played a street shaman. We were a bit stuck on the rules to casting spells. I'm reading some of the rules now and I'm stuck on where to go:

Ok so I have a spell manabolt [Damage P, Damage = to net hits, resisted by Willpower, no other damage resistance test allowed, Drain F -2].

My Mental Limit is 5, My magic is 5, and I have Sorcery skill of 9.

In a scenario where I am casting against a living target as a complex action, I first determine the spell force which can not be higher than magic x2, correct? So 12. Let's choose 6.

I then roll a dice pool of my magic (5) + sorcery (9) for a total of 14 die.

This is where I get lost; I'm told to take the lesser of my hits (I'm not sure what this is. Is this my 5 & 6 rolls from my 14 I just rolled? Or is this after a target counterspells and/or takes off die from a willpower roll?), the spell's force, and your mental limit. This will tell me my actual number of hits.

I'm just lost at this point. let's say I rolled a 4. So out of my numbers, I have 4, 5, and 6. The lesser number is 4 so this is my actual number of hits. I'm confused again by the spell force number because if I were to choose 12, and roll 10 hits, I'd still be knocked down to my mental limit of 5. I just don't get how this functions. Can someone take it from here and explain how this all works for me? Much appreciated.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I haven't got 5E, so this may have changed, but note that [Magic*2] is the HARD cap of spell force. In 4E, you also have the soft cap of [Magic], beyond which you expose yourself to drain as Physical damage instead of Stun. So yeah, if I read you right, there's little incentive to try for Force above your Mental limit... \$\endgroup\$
    – Nigralbus
    Apr 18, 2014 at 9:24
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @Nigralbus It's slightly different for 5th edition. It's when your number of hits scored is above your Magic, that drain becomes physical. So it depends on your Spellcasting and Magic whether it's physical or stun, and on the force and how well you resist it, how much drain you get. \$\endgroup\$
    – mcv
    Apr 18, 2014 at 12:19

3 Answers 3


I'm following the spellcasting instructions in page 281 of 5e.

  • 1 Choose Spell : Manabolt
  • 2 Choose target : Ganger (Willpower 3)
  • 3 Choose Force : (limit magic*2 = 10) 6
  • 4 Cast Spell: Spellcasting + Magic [Force]

Sorcery is a skill group that includes spellcasting, so this roll becomes 9 + 5 [6]. The interpretation is roll 9+5 = 14 dice and count up all the fives and 6s that show up, these are called hits. If the number of hits larger than 6 (the Force), it is limited to 6.

For example if you rolled: 1 1 1 2 2 3 3 5 5 5 5 6 6 6 = 7 hits.
Maximum number of hits is limited by the force of the spell, so 6 in this case.

Manabolt is a Direct Mana spell, so it is resisted by willpower (or counterspelling) The ganger rolls 3 dice and gets: 3 4 5 = 1 hit

  • Determine Effect

Manabolt causes Physical damage The spellcasting hits (6) - the resistance hits (1) = 5 net hits causing 5 boxes of physical damage to the ganger.

  • Resist Drain

Manabolt has a drain of Force(6) - 3 = 3 in this case. Shamans use Charisma + Willpower to resist drain. Note that the number of spellcasting hits (6) exceeds your magic rating (5), so this is physical drain. You need to roll 3 hits (fives or sixes) on your Charisma + Willpower number of dice or take physical damage.

  • Determine Ongoing Effects

Manabolt is instantaneous, there are no ongoing effects.

  • \$\begingroup\$ @Finalfencer Do you might marking this as the correct answer, if it was the one that worked for you? \$\endgroup\$
    – Codeacula
    May 2, 2014 at 13:24

I started writing an answer a few days ago, but didn't finish it because I had to look up some details. It's a very good question, because it's not immediately obvious from the rules how it all fits together. Writing down this answer helped me a lot to get things straight.

Roll Spellcasting + Magic [Force] to cast the spell

If your Spellcasting (or Sorcery, the skill group Spellcasting belongs to) is 9 and your Magic is 5, you roll 9+5 = 14 dice. Roll them. All 5s and 6s are hits. Count your hits. At least one hit means that the spell is basically successful, but for spells targeting people (like Manabolt), the target gets to resist.

[Force] means that the Force of the spell acts as a limit to the number of hits you can get. If you roll more hits than the Force you chose for the spell, the excess does not count. I don't think Mental Limit matters here. Where did you see that that would matter? Force replaces it as the limit for this roll. Note that the Force also determines Drain, and the number of hits you roll determines what kind of drain it is. More on that below.

For now, let's pretend you rolled 4 hits for your Manabolt. It's lower than the Force you chose (6), so they all count. Had you chosen a Force of 3, only 3 hits would count, but let's go with 4 for now.

Resist with Will + Counterspelling

Because of your 4 hits, the target will get 4 points of damage, but first, he has the chance to resist. He rolls his Willpower + counterspelling dice, if any. Suppose his Willpower is 3 and nobody is counterspelling. He rolls 1 success, you've got 3 net hits left. The target crosses off 3 points of damage.

But what if someone is counterspelling? Then you get to add Counterspelling dice to this defense roll. More on that below.

Physical versus Mana spells, Direct vs Indirect spells

Manabolt is a Direct Mana spell. What does that mean exactly? A Direct spell is a combat spell where the magic of the spell affects your target directly; they generally only do damage equal to your hits, and are resisted with Will (for Mana spells) or Body (for Physical spells). Manabolt and Powerbolt are classic examples. An Indirect Spell creates a physical effect that affects your target indirectly. Fireball is a classic example. It does a lot more potential damage (net hits + Force, comparable to a gun with DV equal to Force), but first the target gets to avoid being hit with Reaction + Intuition (like against a gun), and then they can resist the damage with Body + armor (just like with a gun).

So indirect spells are a lot like guns where Force == DV and Spellcasting == your combat skill. Direct spells affect the target directly, and he doesn't get a roll to resist the damage; resisting the damage and the spell are one and the same thing, you get only a single roll: Will (for mana spells) or Body (for physical spells).

But Direct and Indirect spells both benefit from Counterspelling.


As a free action, a magician can declare she's ready to counter spells targeting her or her buddies for that turn. If she hasn't declared it when the spell comes, she can still do so as an interrupt action that reduces her initiative by 5. The magician can protect a number of people up to her Magic rating. This gives her a dice pool equal to her Counterspelling skill which can be used to add to the defense of one or more attacks.

When the attack spell comes, the magician decides how many dice from that pool are used to defend against that attack. The target of the spell gets to add those spells to his defense roll (Will or Body for direct spells, Reaction + Intuition for indirect spells).

In the case of area spells (Manaball, Powerball, Fireball), the magician spends the dice from the counterspell pool once, but each target adds those dice to his defense.

Back to your Manabolt. You had 4 hits, right? Suppose the target's mage buddy gives him 3 counterspelling dice. The target then rolls Will + Counterspelling = 3 + 3 = 6 dice. Let's say he gets 2 successes. Substract there from your original 4 hits, and he gets 2 damage instead of the 1 he got without Counterspelling. The target crosses off 2 squares of damage.

Resist Drain depends on your tradition

If you're a Hermetic Mage, you resist drain with Logic + Willpower, if you're a Shaman, you use Charisma + Willpower. The drain you need to resist depends on the spell and the force used. Manabolt has a drain of F - 3, so with a Force of 6, you have to resist 3 points of drain. Note that you always have to resist at least 2 points of drain, even if you chose a lower Force.

So roll Charisma + Willpower (since you're a shaman), and substract the number of successes from the drain. Cross off that many boxes of damage. But is it physical or stun damage? That depends on whether your original number of hits was higher than your Magic rating. You rolled 4 hits, and your Magic is 5, so it's stun. But if you'd rolled very well, you could have gotten 6 hits, and it would have been physical. You could prevent that by selecting force equal to your Magic rating. With a Force of 5, there's no way you could have gotten more hits than your Magic rating, so it would always have been stun damage. That is, unless you spent a point of Edge to Push the limit; then the limit disappears, and you get a bunch of extra dice to roll, so that's a great recipe to accidentally get physical drain damage.

So how do you use Force really?

Force is an important tuning dial for your magic. Here's a few things you can do with it:

  • Set it equal to Magic to prevent physical drain
  • Set it low to make drain easier to resist when you don't need tons of successes
  • Set it really high to increase the damage of indirect spells
  • Set it really high to increase the radius of your area spells

Of course in those last two cases, you risk a lot of drain. And because of the high limit, that drain could be physical, though it's possible to set a lower limit on your roll by using Reagents (p.316).

  • \$\begingroup\$ Don't indirect spells also have AP=-force ? \$\endgroup\$
    – pan-mroku
    Aug 31, 2018 at 18:51

quoting p. 281

You must declare the Force at which to cast the spell. The Force acts as a limit on the spell. Higher Force spells are more powerful, but cause more Drain. You can cast a spell at a Force up to twice your Magic rating. If the number of hits (not net hits) you get after applying the limit exceeds your Magic rating, the spell’s Drain is Physical instead of Stun damage.

Force is the limit, no mental or other limits referred to here.


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