In my efforts to make fantasy setting powers in Savage Worlds more Fast, Furious and Fun as defined by me (and my group of players) I’ve been working an alternate to the default battery powered system in the core rules and the flat penalty based system in the settings books Solomon Kane and Hellfrost. See my issues with these systems here.
I have something that right now looks good on paper to me and running through it in my mind it comes off as FFF at least as befits our playstyle. We’ll know better once the dice hits the table if it pulls it off in practice. It may just be completely unwieldy or suck or just not be fun for the players in which case it’ll be back to the drawing board. :)
Now I do acknowledge that the below system has some caster specific dicking but typically it’s only when the caster uses powers that make him overpowered compared to mere mortal fighters and falls under the whole “balance risk with reward.”. Which I think works better than the “dick the caster just for casting any and every spell.” philosophy. Or to put it in more acceptable terms perhaps, “make life hard for the caster”. And frankly the inertia to keep screwing casters over is hard to fight, ingrained as it is from over two decades of playing games that it was one of the rules. :)
Edit: 9/20/2010 – NOTE: the below has been tightened and made more legible, it’s just not been released yet as I believe in its current incarnation it includes too much copyrighted material since I ended up tweaking each power for balance and FFF factor and noting the changes in the document.
Alpha Changes in SW Power System
Design Goal –
- Implement an alternate form of magic ability for a custom setting using the Savage World rules that allows a caster to always be a caster and not forced to be a Trickster or to (badly) use a weapon they have little skill in because for one reason or another their class abilities have been taken away from them.
- Make playing a caster more enjoyable with less resource management and allow the caster the ability to play their class with the same basic impunity that other classes/builds enjoy. In other words make a caster Fast, Furious and Fun as much as other classes.
- Keep the class in balance with other classes.
- Do away with the trope that casters are frail glass cannons and must be penalized for choosing to play a caster.
- Retain some of the flavor that being a caster is difficult, a little more complex than swinging a sword and requires the player to balance risk with reward.
The Changes –
Items in Red are still in need of considerable thought to avoid dicking the casters to the point where I would be complaining about my own system…
Basic Offense – AB now includes Bolt as part of taking the Arcane Background. Defending oneself and loved ones is a basic right and responsibility of the arcane caster and one of the first things they learn. In the case where a character may have an aversion to harming others (see Pacifist Hindrance) they may replace Bolt with another power for free at character creation.
By Birth – At character generation the player will choose the trapping that describes the power source of their abilities- arcane energies, the power of their faith, they were born a sixth child of a sixth child, whatever the GM and player can reach an agreement on. They will also choose the typical method that their castings take, gestures, spoken words, song, music, runes, whatever. There should be a reasonably readily available way to prevent the caster from using their powers on a temporary basis regardless of method of delivery of casting. [Idea is if you can take weapons away from melee fighters and tie them up and render them ineffective there needs to be something as effective in dealing with a caster.]
Arcane Skill – Each caster will have access to the Arcane Skill regardless of trapping chosen which is used to both target with and successfully activate a power and in some cases may be used to determine scope of effect. To activate a power make a Arcane roll to get a base number. Now add any appropriate modifiers to get a activation number. If the final result is 4 or greater then the power was successfully cast. If the spell is targeted or has a variable effect based on success then take that same base number and add any modifiers. Typically if that number is a 4 or higher then the power successfully affected the target. Because of the varying modifiers it is possible to activate a power and still not affect a target. See also Casting Modifiers.
Example: Leoss wants to throw a small Fireball [Power:Blast] at a group of beastmen archers shooting from the top of a tower in the distance. He rolls one arcane skill check and gets a 7. The casting modifier for the power is -2 per the power description which yields a 5 which equals a success, the fireball launches. The beastmen are at medium range which is a -2 and are partially obscurred for another -2. 7-4 is a 3 which is a failure and the fireball explodes harmlessly against the stone surface of the tower.
Powers do not have a power point cost per se. See Active Powers.
Some powers will be modified for scope of effect to better balance them in relation to each other and other styles of play. Some powers will be unavailable in this setting. See individual power descriptions.
Casting Modifiers –
Powers may have negative casting modifiers assigned to them which makes them harder to effectively use. This is assigned to indicated the relative difficulty in order to successfully activate the power. See individual powers.
Much like a melee fighter wanting to sweep or a ranger wanting to take Aim if the caster wishes to use a power that goes beyond affecting a single target there will be something to balance that out and that is currently a negative casting modifier. See also Slow Buildup and Spell Inertia
Example: If a power targets multiple creatures then it might incur a penalty of -2 per additional target. If a power affects an area of effect larger than a single square then it might suffer a -2/-4/-6 penalty based on the size of the area, small, medium, large/cone or in some cases a -1 per additional square beyond the first.
Spell Inertia –
For each active power that a caster has in progress they will incur an additional -1 penalty to the activation roll of any new additional active power. This can be reduced through Slow Buildup.
Slow Buildup –
For each round that a caster wishes to spend to cast a spell they will reduce the casting modifier by -2 and the spell can be released during the following round They may move normally during this casting, may intersperse normal conversation during their power casting trapping but otherwise may not perform most other actions or the casting is disrupted and all buildup time is lost. See also Spell Disruption and Blacklash
The maximum the casting modifier can be reduced is equal to half their arcane skill.
Example: Leoss wants to cast Large Fireball (Power:Blast). This has a casting modifier of -6. Leoss has a Arcane ability of d8. By spending 2 rounds to channel the casting he can reduce the casting modifier by 4 (d8/2) down to -2 and release the spell on the third round rolling to activate/target it as normal with only a -2 penalty from difficulty. If Leoss had a d4 in Arcane ability he could have only reduced the penalty by 2 (d4/2) down to a -4.
Spell Disruption –
If the caster suffers a wound, fatigue or is shaken while in the process of a buildup they must make an Arcane check at -2 to retain control of the spell or it dissipates and must be restarted and the caster may potentially suffer backlash. See also Backlash
In the event that a spell is cast and suffers a final casting roll of less than 0 due specifically to a negative casting modifier or from Spell Disruption the caster must make a Vigor check or be Shaken, this can cause a wound if the caster is already Shaken. A critical failure also inflicts one level of non-lethal fatigue.
Active Powers –
A caster may keep a number of powers that have Duration: Active, hereafter referred to as an Active Power, active or running at a given time equal to 1/2 of their arcane ability. A current active power may be ended at any time by the caster without cost.
At the end of every Scene or 5 minutes whichever is shorter that a caster has invoked active powers they must make a Vigor check with a penalty of -1 for each active power cast. A roll of 1 on the Vigor die or a failure indicates that the caster suffers a level of Fatigue that requires 5 minutes of complete rest to recover or one hour of low energy activity and all active castings fail. A success indicates that the castings remain active. A raise will remove one level of Fatigue as the energies coursing through the mage’s body revitalizes him.
Example: Leoss and two of his allies are trying to sneak into the castle of Lord Vorgun under a shield of invisibility. Leoss has cast Invisibility on himself and the other two. Every 5 minutes he must make a Vigor check at -3 or suffer a level of Fatigue and he and his allies may suddenly find themselves in unexpected trouble.
Curtain Call –
At the end of every Scene or 5 minutes whichever is shorter that a caster has invoked active powers they must make a Vigor check with a penalty of -1 for each active power successfully cast. A roll of 1 on the Vigor die or a failure indicates that the caster suffers a level of Fatigue that requires 10 minutes of complete rest to recover or one hour of low energy activity and all active castings fail. A success indicates that the castings remain active. A raise will remove one level of Fatigue as the energies coursing through the mage’s body revitalizes him.
Prime Target –
Each time that the caster is the target of an attack and suffers one or more wounds from that attack he must make an Arcane skill check with a penalty equal to all current Active Powers. On a failure all active castings are disrupted. See also Spell Disruption and Backlash.
Example: Leoss has managed to keep himself and two friends invisible as they maneuver through the castle of Lord Vorgun in their quest to steal his lordship’s butter dish. He’s keeping three active spells going to do so. Unfortunately Leoss hears a click from under his foot followed by a searing pain as a heavy spring slams a spear into his chest dealing one wound to him. He must now make an Arcane skill check at -4 (-3 for the active spells and -1 for the Wound) or they all suddenly become visible in the hallway.
Power effects typically do not stack any longer as a general rule from the same or different sources of the same effect even if the original core power allowed it. The core armour power provides an existing example where the Power: Armour does not stack with material armours, only the highest value is used. This type of behaviour will be extended as needed across all powers pending review of any necessary exceptions that might be needed.
New Edges -
These are a first pass at new edges to compliment the changes above.
Power Focus – Novice, Arcane Skill d8, Vigor d6 – The caster has trained his body to better channel the powers that flow through him to power his spells. Reduce multiple active power penalties by 1.
Improved Power Focus – Seasoned, Power Focus Training. Reduce multiple active power penalties by 2.
Control Focus - Novice,Arcane Skill d8, Smarts d6 – The caster has trained his mind to retain control of the spell frameworks in the face of distraction. Reduce Spell Disruption penalty to -1 when the caster suffers wounds,shaken or fatigue while in the middle of a spell casting.
Improved Control Focus – Seasoned,Control Focus Training. Reduce Spell disruption penalty to 0 when the caster suffers wounds, shaken, fatigue while in the middle of spell casting.
Casting Focus - Novice – Arcane Skill d8 – The caster has studied diligently at his arts and has emerged better able to deal with the fine details of casting. Reduce Casting Modifier by 1.
Improved Casting Focus – Seasoned, Casting Focus. Reduce Casting Modifier by 2.