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The following is based on two versions published by FASA in their free 1989 and 1990 Shadowrun catalog updates. There were some differences between the two. Material not included in the 1990 transcription has been struck out, while the 1990 additions have been underlined. The text is officially credited to Tom Dowd, but has also been attributed to Jordan Weisman.

Humans and the Cycle of Magic[]

Speech given by Keynote speaker, Ehran “The Scribe” at the YET (Young Elven Technologists) fund-raising dinner.

The Humans are confused.

This is their normal state of being. Their lives are so short, they never have time to think things through. I know this is a gross over-simplification, that there have been many brilliant Human scholars throughout the ages. Even the Da Vincis and the Einsteins, while brilliant enough to see a glimpse of the larger pattern, and imaginative enough to visualize a complex and interconnected world, still did not have the time to analyze their own thoughts. In my conversations with Da Vinci, I saw the glint of perception in his eyes, but he never could express or believe what he had visualized. It takes years, sometimes hundreds of years, to get the correct perspective on ideas, even your own ideas. Humans just do not have the luxury of that time. They are also limited by their devout belief in not believing. Since the earliest recorded Human history, they have had stories of magic, great unexplained ancient civilizations, and other mysteries. The Humans chose not to believe these and thus, when the mother returned the magic to us, they became disoriented and confused, their normal state of being.

In all fairness, I must admit that most of humanity was not very advanced when the great mother took the magic away the last time, so it must be hard for them to deal with its return. What I am about to tell you must remain an Elven secret. I know that the Humans will eventually discover it, but it should be delayed as long as possible.

All things that the great mother gives us, she also takes away. Nature, as the Humans call it, moves in cycles: the rising and setting of the sun, the seasons of the year, the flowing of the tide, it is always a cycle. Magic also runs in a cycle, it comes and goes from the Earth, as does the warmth of the summer sun. Its cycle is measured not in hours, as the sun’s is, but in thousands of years.

From a scientific viewpoint, magic, when charted, is a semi-regular wave form moving through the history of the earth. There are slight fluctuations throughout the wave, and the wave itself is not completely uniform.

The point in the cycle at which the world becomes magically alive or magic falls dormant is called the Threshold Level. Every magical race and, in some cases, each individual within a race, has its own specific magical trigger point for metamorphosis to occur, thus the transformation of the world takes place over a period of time. Traditionally, the Threshold Level has been set as the date of the Awakening of the first Great Dragon on the upswing, and the hibernation of the last Great Dragon on the downswing. The average time between Threshold Levels is approximately 5,200 years.

As the last age of magic came to a close, Atlantis was readying itself for disaster. The isle of Atlantis was protected from the forces of nature by the magic of its inhabitants, and thus it could not exist after the magic dropped below the Threshold Level. The Atlantean culture was a racial Human/Elven hybrid that had achieved both scientific and magical wonders, but in its later years, it turned against itself by fighting nature to maintain the island. As the end came near, a migration of technology and culture spread from the isle to the rest of the world. This is the reason mankind’s ancient calendars all start within 100 years of each other. The Hebrew, Egyptian, Chinese, and most importantly, Mayan calendars all show the direct influence of Atlantean culture.

The Mayan calendar is the most amazing, as it contains a complete description of the magic cycles, including this current crossing of the Threshold. The Mayan calendar was created in the year 3372 ʙᴄ (using the Christian calendar), just at the end of the last cycle. The Mayans described the cycles as “worlds,” and stated that only certain life forms made the transition from one world to the next. The calendar, written over 5,000 years ago, predicted the exact day the Threshold Level would be passed. If we Converting the Mayan dates to the current Christian calendar, it correctly states that the Threshold would be passed on December 24, 2011. On that day, the first Great Dragon was seen in Japan. The precision is amazing. When I advised the Pharaoh in creating the Egyptian calendar, I thought I had been as precise as possible, yet my calendar missed the Threshold date by over two years.

Atlantis sank on August 12th, 3113 ʙᴄ, thus marking the end of the Fourth World and the beginning of the Fifth. The Sixth World began on December 12, 2011 ᴀᴅ has begun, and will end, according to the Mayan calendar, on April 4th, 7137 ᴀᴅ.

We have the intervening time to enjoy what the Great Mother gives us and to use responsibly the double-edged sword of technology that our Human cousins have created. We must use both the energy of nature and the power of technology to try to fix the damage done by our short-lived relatives.


According to the detailed Wikipedia article on the Mesoamerican Long Count a "World" lasts 1,872,000 days.

According to Ehran the Scribe's dates in the above speech, a high-mana World is 1,871,970 days, and a low-mana World is 1,871,270 days.

While the real life explanation for the discrepancy is likely that the game's creators had incomplete sources and/or made incorrect calculations based on the resources available in 1989, an in-universe explanation could be that Ehran's dates are correct, and the Wikipedia article's details are incorrect.

Based on the above numbers, one can calculate (see sources) the following start dates for each age:

World Mayan based dates Ehran based dates Notes
JDN Gregorian JDN Gregorian
-6903717 1-Mar-23615 ʙᴄ -6901830   1-May-23610 ʙᴄ
-5031717 12-Jul-18490 ʙᴄ -5030560 11-Sep-18487 ʙᴄ
2nd "The Age of Dragons"
-3159717 20-Nov-13365 ʙᴄ -3158590 22-Dec-13362 ʙᴄ
-1287717 1-Apr- 8239 ʙᴄ -1287320 3-May- 8238 ʙᴄ
4th Earthdawn
584283 11-Aug- 3114 ʙᴄ 584650 12-Aug- 3113 ʙᴄ
2456283 21-Dec- 2012 ᴀᴅ 2455920 24-Dec- 2011 ᴀᴅ
6th Shadowrun
4328283 3-May- 7138 ᴀᴅ 4327890   5-Apr- 7137 ᴀᴅ
6200283 12-Sep-12263 ᴀᴅ 6199160 15-Aug-12260 ᴀᴅ
8th Battlerun
8072283 21-Jan-17389 ᴀᴅ 8071130 25-Nov-17385 ᴀᴅ

Real world dates[]

Current estimated dates for events of interest to a cycle of magic timeline:

  • c. 5600 ʙᴄ – Black Sea deluge hypothesis that the stories of a "Great Flood" (Noah, etc.) were inspired by cataclysmic creation of the Black Sea, when an earthquake allowed the Mediterranean Sea to flood the land around what once was a large lake below the current water level.
  • c. 3000–2800 ʙᴄ – Burckle Crater in the Indian Ocean.
  • c. 1880–1535 ʙᴄ – Avellino eruption of Mount Vesuvius
  • c. 1628–1600 ʙᴄ – Minoan eruption of Thera destroying the city of Akrotiri (Atlantis) on Santorini.
    • c. 1627 ʙᴄ – Beginning of global cooling, possibly caused by the volcanic eruptions.
  • c. 1200–1150 ʙᴄ – Late Bronze Age collapse
  • c. 426 – 347 ʙᴄ – Plato alive
  • 79 ᴀᴅ – Plinian eruption of Mount Vesuvius destroys Pompey.