The Movement power is what allows some spirits to move at incredible speed, as well as either buff or restrain others by either multiplying or dividing it with the Spirit’s Magic (which equals Force).
In SR4 this power had only two restrictions listed: Inside terrain it controlled, and based on Body (B>M = halved effect, B>2*M = no effect). SR5 has more detail to it, going back to SR3’s description and talking more explicitly about terrain/domain the Spirit controls, as well as containing a separate rule for vehicles.
This unfortunately runs into two complications. First of all, what IS terrain a spirit controls? Clearly it’s not just ‘their natural habitat’, since otherwise an Air Spirit could easily target any plane they see, while a Plant spirit would rule surpreme in the jungle. Don’t even get me started on what kind of terrain would be a Guardian spirit’s natural habitat…
The second is that the power’s description went back to its SR3 version. Unfortunately, some mechanics have changed since SR3… Some even midway SR5’s development, such as Vehicles… Rather than having a significant Acceleration and Speed directly translating to m/CT, Acceleration is now a tricky number solely for Vehicle Chases (which a previous houserule already covered) and Speed simply is a limit as well as translating to how fast you can go.
I mean nobody woudl believe it’s intended that a good test on a good car could easily make it go 2^18 as fast. That’s 50 million km/hour… If we look at SR3’s Speed system the original intent seems more clear: Say you got a vehicle with an Acceleration of 10, and Speed actually is your actual speed rather than a single-digit number, then those 6 hits would translate to making the vehicle go 100 m/CT faster/slower instead, which likely (especially with deceleration rules) could actually cause it to crash due to the sudden changes.
I’ll be discussing three core Movement houserules here, two of which I have already applied in my own campaign. An important note: This has actually impacted my campaign’s balance and I’ve been thinking of ways to nerf it down for a while, which will be included as corollaries. It wasn’t that bad (sorta) with one Speedster, but with four magicians all outshining the Rigger’s speed… Not to mention it kinda ruins ambushes and all that.
Ahem. Before we go into the houserules, there’s something VERY important you should know first, a small detail of the rules that many probably missed.
Your actions and movement are declared at the START of your Action Phase. That is, you FIRST declare what all you’ll do, THEN you start executing it. (Page 158, 159, 163.) You can stop or change direction, but you cannot increase your movement after finding out some of the results of your actions. Logically the same would apply to your offensive actions, even if not explicitly stated.
So say you decide to run around a corner. If there’s an enemy waiting around it, you can’t go ‘oh then I’ll just run past him’. You can break or dive back, but not go further than originally declared. You also cannot attack him if you didn’t keep the option in mind. That’s why I make my fast players declare what their intent will be in somewhat-vague terms, for example ‘cut the first enemy that dares to get in my way in two’. That way the runner still can go around a corner and attack, assuming there is in fact an enemy within reach.
This might seem like nitpicking but when it comes to combatants easily moving 100 meters in a single Combat Turn, it becomes VERY important. You can’t walk 20m, see what enemies are where and THEN make a detailed plan for the rest of your Action Phase: Decide at the start and run into danger! You can run up a staircase but only if you knew it was there and declared the intent.
A sidenote: This also means that you got to keep a few possible outcomes in mind as player. As GM I wouldn’t give you a lot of hassle if you used an If-statement in your Action Declarations, but you got to keep in mind the highest declared movement will count for your movement allotment of the Combat Turn. Just make sure you make clear to your players what the limitations will be before they run into nasty complications, as part of the social contract.
Rule: Spirits can only use Movement on others inside Aspected Areas
There are basically three ways for an area to get Aspected in the advantage of a Tradition: The Personal Domains of some Free Spirits, frequent use by that tradition and magical lodges, in order from large to small (multiple acres, ?, very-small-region). Which means that for nearly every situation the Spirit will not be able to use Movement on others, only on themselves, fitting with the ‘only in terrain they control’ restriction being an actual restriction.
If they have the home advantage though, from defending their magician’s turf or their own… Ohboy… And that’s exactly what this houserule is about: Making it about the home-advantage. You get the enemy to fight in an area aspected in your favor, they’ll be in massive trouble against your Spirits unless they cleanse the area… Only being able to run 6 meters per Combat Turn as a 9-Agility character can REALLY hurt in combat, especially once AoE effects are put into play!
Rule: Movement against vebicles uses (M+W)d6*Accel*10/Body
Leaving aside the whole ‘Speed-changes’, which obviously no longer is intended like that with the new Speed mechanic, there’s another problem I personally have with Movement against Vehicles. Right now they have to hit a threshold, which can be MASSIVE for high-Body vehicles (9 for a Roadmaster!), but the threshold itself is merely to decide if it works! You hit a threshold 6, you suddenly count as 6 hits instead of 0. That’s plain weird. It’d make more sense if your effect was divided by Body.
Now keeping the Acceleration is an easy call since it seems logical that the better a vehicle accelerates/decelerates, the more easily a Spirit can manage to change its speed. The biggest problem is what multiplier to use. SR5 mostly uses Acceleration 1~3, where 3 is the max that matters for a Vehicle Chase, only the occasional vehicle goes above it. So a significant multiplier seems required.
A Force 6 Spirit would average 4 hits, so on a 2-Accel Body-8 Jackrabbit we’d be at 4*2/8 = 1 as base modifier. To compare, in SR3 Accel-rates were roughly from 3 to 12 and the SR5 rule employs a Body/2 for the threshold. So let’s roughly quadruple to convert back to SR3’s concepts, double to fit with B/2 and round up to x10. Now 4 hits would translate to 40 m/CT. With the modified Speed system from my previous houserules, this could actually lead to a lot of discomfort for your enemies or even a crash test.
Rule: Channeled/Possession Spirits can use Movement
A Spirit can only use Movement on itself outside terrain/domains it controls. When a Spirit possesses someone or is channeled by a magician, they form a special kind of combination which impacts Physical attributes and their resistance to mental spells. So it makes sense to also let them use their powers (such as Elemental Aura and Movement) inside these bodies, with all the downsides in the case of Elemental Aura. (Congratulations, you’re on fire, how well-protected is your gear? You’re electrifying? Enjoy the fried commlink.)
There is a big balance risk with Movement though. Even a 3-Agility character Channeling a Force 6 Spirit will suddenly have 6 Agility and 72/144 as their Movement rates… A 5-Agility with a Force 8 would hit 9*8*4 = 288 m/CT running rate, that’s ~345 km/h. Compare that to a Rigger whose 4-Speed Drones, even under my Speed table if you don’t make them lose Speed categories (which I should consider only doing for walkers, and for any drone moving indoors), can only move 150 km/h, and you realize that indeed this houserule risks favoring Movement players too much. Of course there’s downsides (spooking cars, Metamagic or Tradition sacrifice, drawing unwanted attention, cannot mask this only Manascape it, etc.) but there’s still space for a few fixes to this.
(Incidentally, I already employ slight Accel/Decel-rules and ‘Gridguide hates you and demands you wear a tracker on the highway so you don’t spook their cars’, but there’s still space for more because it’s fun but not enough.)
Rule: Movement’s buff is divided by TerrainDifficulty
Note that this does not just matter for Channeling and Possession. Great Form Spirits with 6+ net hits on the ritual can Endow a power, meaning you can now let your Spirit pass Movement on to multiple teammembers… Anyway:
On page 201 you’ll find terrain modifiers for vehicle stunts. Now we could demand Gymnastic tests for magical-boosted movement speeds, but that’s a bit tricky for long movement and rather detracts from the game. So instead we’d nerf it differently: You want to channel a spirit and run through side-streets? The buff you get is divided by 2 for the Vehicle Terrain Modifier, so a Force 6 only triples your speed instead. Want to hit the back-alleys with a Force 8? You only double instead of eightfold due to/ 4. Rounding is of course on the final movement speed, not the multiplier.
(No, these are not insane examples. Now it might be because I employ a karma<->nuyen rule but I actually do have people working towards being able to Channel Force 10 Spirits and already using Force-9 ones…)
An important note here is that the same Vehicle table includes terrain modifiers for flying. Irrelevant for metahumans themselves, but Spirits CAN fly, even if they normally don’t. Still facing some restrictions even if they take into the air is quite nice and means drones are still quite useful: A Roto-Drone managing 200 km/h (+1 Speed Category with risks, no Speed Category reduction for being a drone) would still be able to outfly a Spirit using Movement, IF directly controlled by its Rigger or solely doing normal low-altitude flying (threshold-2 is doable for 9 dice, 15% failing odds and that simply means failing and a second attempt normally).
An alternative houserule would use percentages rather than division, and of course the vehicle table is for vehicles so the descriptions would need to be altered. What is the pedestrian equivalent of sidestreets?
Two sidenotes to make. First, Harlequinn channeling would easily go faster than the speed of sound but others would have a hard time coming close. Even if you go with ‘Increase Agility stacks with Possession’ like I do, you essentially need a Force 16 Spirit in a 5->17 Agility character or a Force 14 in an 8->19 to barely reach 1 mach.
Sidenote two: You need ~30 m/second, so ~90 m/CT, to be able to run on water. If we count running on water with Magic as /2 for difficulty, you’d need 180 meters/CT before division. Divide by 4 for running, and 6 for a normal Force 6 Spirit and you’d need 8 Agility which is doable.
Want to walk on water without running penalties or eventual running-exhaustion? You’d need 360, say Force 9 Spirit for 10 Agility, 4 of which from the Spirit so quite doable with a bit of magic. A Force 8 would require 11~12 Agility.