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Tabletop RPGs Like Shadowrun About Techno-Magical Exorcists

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Tabletop RPGs Like Shadowrun About Techno-Magical Exorcists

There are fantasy RPGs where magic takes the place of technology, and urban fantasy RPGs where magic and science exist side-by-side, but what about tabletop roleplaying games where mysticism and machinery blend together and “ghost in the machine” isn’t a philosophical metaphor? Tabletop gamers interested in games like these should check out Shadowrun, Mage: The Awakening, and other post-modern paranormal RPG systems that abound with techno-magical exorcists and spiritual beings haunting the internet.

In many fantasy novels and fantasy tabletop RPGs, there’s an unwritten assumption that magic and scientific technology can’t mix due to working off of exclusive philosophical principles – science making use of fixed natural laws, while magic has a more dream-like, mercurial feel to it. And yet, even in the most medieval of fantasy settings, magic and technology mingle all the time; what is a magic sword, after all, but technology enhanced by sorcerous arts?

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Yet there are also many interesting atypical urban fantasy RPGs, novels, and movies built around the notion that technology and magic can be mixed together, leading to the creation of both marvelous wonders and terrible forces of destruction. This theme of blending magic and technology to create something greater than the sum of its parts shows up frequently in the tabletop roleplaying game systems below, featuring spell-casting computers, supernatural memes, and exorcists who can banish the forces of darkness with the right app on their smartphone.

Sigil & Shadow is a paranormal horror RPG available on the Osprey Publishing website, built off a simplified version of the percentile die system used for games like RuneQuest and Call Of Cthulhu. Participants of this game role-play as ordinary humans or supernatural creatures confronting the dark occult mysteries of a contemporary world where demons can take the form of viral internet memes, spirits can possess smartphones, and pop-culture icons revered by millions can ascend to godhood.

Mage: The Awakening, a sister RPG to Vampire: the Requiem and other “monster – centered” titles in the Chronicles of Darkness game line, is about “Awakened” people who can see and manipulate the living symbols of magic underlying even the seemingly mundane world. A player’s Mage PC will often use freeform, improvised magic to investigate the occult mysteries around them and fend off the Abyssal forces of Paradox, while also joining different factions of Mages for security and special knowledge. One of the main factions in Mage: The Awakening, the Free Council, tries to transcend the archaic rites and hierarchies of traditional mage life by embracing democracy, counterculture, and modern technology, incorporating gadgets such as computers, phones, and Tesla Coils into their magical workings.

The Laundry RPG is a Cubicle 7 tabletop adaptation of of The Laundry Files novels by Charles Stross, a book series that blends the cosmic horror setting of H.P. Lovecraft with 1960s British spy fiction and the farcical workplace politics of an IT department. Built off the same percentile dice rules as the Call Of Cthulhu RPG, The Laundry RPG takes place in a world where magic is a branch of applied mathematics, and Alan Turing was secretly assassinated after figuring out how to design computer programs capable of casting spells; this RPG adaptations’s gameplay consists of spies, office workers, occultists, and “computational demonologists” fighting otherworldly horrors and cults with techno-magical tools, then trying to justify their operational expenses to a board of supernaturally terrifying Auditors.

Related: Tabletop RPGs Fans Of Supernatural Will Love

As a hybrid of dungeon-crawling fantasy and 1980s-style cyberpunk, the setting of the Shadowrun tabletop RPG has always been a fascinating portrait of a world transformed by the proliferation of magic and advanced technology. Players, as mercenary “Runners” in a world ruled by powerful corporation, can play cyborg elves, orcish drone operators, human mages, and dwarf “deckers” while meddling in the scheme of sinister pollution spirits and draconic CEOs. Generally, magic-using player characters in Shadowrun who acquire “Wetware” and “Cyberware” enhancements incrementally lose their connection to magical energy; that being said, there is one character class, the Technomancer, who can commune with and create digital spirits to magically hack into databases and control technology around them.

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Source: Osprey Publishing, Cubicle 7

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