Mystic Adepts (MA) and Power Points (PP)
Shadowrun 5 significantly changed the rules for Mystic Adepts. They do not split their Magic rating over Mage versus Adept anymore, instead they lose a few magical abilities and are limited in how they can get Power Points. This allows for some very strong builds and makes them quite balanced generally.
However, there is a rub.
Mystic Adepts pay a significant, mostly considered balanced, price for Power Points at chargen. But they cannot get Power Points through this method after chargen, they can only get them as Metamagic. This means that a Mystic Adept who does not buy all the PP they can get in chargen, is crippled forever. And if they buy all the PP they can get in chargen, they are the only archetype that cannot buy 25 karma in Positive Qualities in chargen. It gets worse for Street Level, where they cannot even get the full 6 PP.
In other words, the rules currently force Mystic Adept players to get 6 Magic and buy 6 PP, which means they are more limited in their PQ ability in chargen. Where a Mage or Adept can recover from not starting at 6 Magic, a Mystic Adept forever has a hole that karma alone cannot properly fix. And even for people who consider 5 karma per Power Point balanced, this is considered a problem by some.
There’s several houserules that make it quite easy for a Mystic Adept to get their PP in other ways, but often these are at basic costs, such as “just buy them whenever you want”. Those rules will not be included here because of a simple reason: “Everything has a price.” Being able to postpone the karma expense without extra cost, will simply force Mystic Adepts to use that option fully instead. So rather than giving them a free benefit without consequence, the following rules are alternative options with a price.
As noted before, one of the primary concerns with the current MA PP system is their lack of ability to get 25 karma in Positive Qualities in chargen. These Qualities can be bought later for double the cost, but the GM may decide to make it more complicated at that point, or disallow a PQ after chargen. There’s also things that cannot be bought after chargen, namely contact points. In short, since the karma could be spent on things that cost double after, can’t be bought after, or are the same price after, a price is hard to pinpoint.
Rule: Power Points can be bought up to a specific maximum, 10 karma each
Under this rule, PP still cost 5 karma in chargen, but Mystic Adepts can afterwards buy extra Power Points if their Magic is high enough. So their bought PP may not exceed their Magic. Their Initiation PP do not count for this limit. This means they are not forced to maximize their Magic in chargen, nor do they need to buy all the PP they can get in chargen.
There are 3 options for the maximum. The first is 6, just like in normal chargen. The second is exactly like in chargen, so a MA with Exceptional Magic and 7+ Magic will be able to have up to 7 bought PP. The third option is unlimited, so if a MA raises their Initiation Grade and Magic, that means they can get more PP as well.
This rule treats PP as Positive Qualities that aren’t. So they do not count for your PQ limit of 25 karma in chargen, but they cost double after chargen. This forces a player to make the choice between more options in chargen versus not paying the extra cost.
Rule: Power Points can be bought up to a specific maximum, at a rising cost
During chargen PP cost <Rating+1> in karma, after they cost <Rating+3> in karma. A character cannot have more bought PP (again does not include Metamagic PP) than their current Magic Rating.
Rather than going the simple 5 karma in chargen and 10 karma after route, this rule makes Power Points rise in cost. Since Power Points obtained as Metamagics become prohibitively more expensive, it makes sense to make bought PP also cost a variable amount.
6 PP in chargen cost 27 karma under this rule, which is 3 less than currently. 7 (for Exceptional Magic) are 35, which is the same. PP before the 7th are cheaper after chargen than under the 10 karma rule, and starting with the eight they are more expensive.
An upside to this rule is that a single PP less gives a lot more karmic breathing space. For example, 5 PP cost 20 instead of 25 karma, which means a Street Level character can actually afford a few small karma expenses while getting 5 PP, and can still get up to 6 later.
Rule: Spell Slots can be traded in for Power Points at a 2:1 ratio
Each Mystic Adept Priority gets several free spells, namely 5/7/10. These Spell Slots can be used for Spells, Alchemical Formulae (basically Alchemy Spells) and Rituals. Under this rule they can also be used for PP, but at double the cost.
Spells, Rituals and Alchemical Formulae all cost 5 karma, the same as a PP in chargen. There’s also small monetary costs and training time involved after chargen, but those aren’t much of a problem. So the PP bought like this are the equivalent of 10 karma (and a bit of inconvenience) each, in other words basically doubled.
There’s several upsides to this rule. First of all, a build that doesn’t need that many spells is now not forced to take Spells they don’t care for. Where the previous rules still make you pay extra karma in the end, this rule gives an option between extra costs or having less spells instead. This is a nice boost to more-Adept MA builds. Second, it makes nice sense fluff-wise: The inherent magical ability of a character manifests as PP instead of free spells.
There’s also downsides. Builds that need the spells are essentially discriminated against with this option, since for them the price is more significant. Characters with a lower Magic Priority will also be more limited in how many spells they can sacrifice. This rule also still discriminates against players who do not maximize their Magic in chargen, permanently locking them out of some of their PP ability.
Rule: Mystic Adepts get 1 Spell Slot less and 1 free Power Point
One downside of the unlimited 2:1 Spell Slots is that it discriminates against Priorities with less free Spell Slots. It also can lead to builds that have nearly-no Spells, at which point it seems strange to still call them Mystic Adepts. A GM who dislikes those problems can instead reduce the free Spell Slots of all MA Priorities with 1 and give them 1 free PP. This still forces them to maximize their Magic and spend 25 karma on PP, but they can now actually buy 25 karma in Positive Qualities, and in Street Level they can actually get all their PP.
It’s a small boost to Mystic Adepts without an extra price, but not an unlimited one. While many of the problems still remain with this houserule, it’s of a rather elegant nature without extreme consequences.
Rule: Mystic Adepts only lose Power Points if their Magic drops below their bought amount
Under the normal rules, essence loss means both Physical Adepts and Mystic Adepts lose 1 Magic + 1 PP every time they drop below an entire Essence point. This makes sense for PA, who get 1 free PP per Magic point they have. But MA may not actually have a full allotment of PP so it seems strange for them to lose PP when their PP do not equal their Magic. Especially since during chargen they would not face this complication, since they’d simply buy the PP after the essence loss.
As a simple fix to this strange situation, under this rule if a MA’s bought PP do not exceed their Magic rating after essence loss, they will not lose any PP. Upside is that it makes more sense, downside is that it discriminates against other builds. Players would be rewarded for not getting their full allotment in PP since they can use the karma for other means.