Dynamic Magic?

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Dynamic Magic?

#1 Postby Twiceborn » Sun Oct 12, 2008 10:02 pm

One thing I'm not fond of in a lot of settings is the Savage Worlds default magic system. Does anyone have a relatively simple system for having dynamic magic? This is a magic where a magician can do a wide variety of spells. Preferably one that doesn't relegate non-magicians to secondary roles?


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#2 Postby Snate56 » Sun Oct 12, 2008 11:15 pm

A wide variety? Well, most of these spells are designed for use in combat one way or another. I like to use a cantrip type system where the wizard has essentially a bunch of useless spells; something to add flavor to the background.
You could come up with a bunch of useful utility spells but players are too darned resourceful and will swiftly come up with ways to use them in combat.

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#3 Postby Artking3 » Mon Oct 13, 2008 1:17 am

What do you find lacking in the system that you need more dynamism and more variety spells? I might offer a few suggestions if I know what you're looking for. Is it because you think a mage needs a New Power edge for every spell? You can give a mage unlimited spells by giving out spell tomes.

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#4 Postby Twiceborn » Mon Oct 13, 2008 8:40 pm

I basically want something similar to Ars Magica or Mage: The Awakening, where you don't use Edges to learn spells. I've been playing with a few ideas, and was curious if others had any ideas.

In those systems, you learn broad categories and make rolls dependent on skill to cast spells in those categories.

Way I'm considering right now is having a skill for each 'spell category' ala Mage or Ars, and rolling for difficulty to duplicate any spell in that category. Instead of power points, they make a spirit total and have to make a certain value or gain fatigue. Something like that. I'm still just dartboarding ideas.

Was curious if anyone had developed a similar system.

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#5 Postby Daosus » Mon Oct 13, 2008 11:05 pm

Well, another way to do it is to have one spellcasting skill and buy edges to access the various disciplines. That doesn't get you past the big problem you'll face, though, which is that SW magic is all about combat, while the games you wish to emulate focus very heavily on magic and mages. It's kind of assumed in those games that the mage is going to overshadow other characters, whereas you're trying to avoid that in SW. One thing that I've found is that the Boost/Lower Trait spell is incredibly versatile and can replicate a huge number of other spells. Perhaps you could work on elaborating that spell to fit what you're trying to do, and then adjust the trappings? I know it seems weak, but it must be, if you want to avoid overshadowing the other characters. A magic system where you can do "anything, anytime" will surely do that.

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#6 Postby Twiceborn » Tue Oct 14, 2008 12:58 am

Anything within its field, really. I don't necessarily agree that it must be imbalanced, if handled right. Heck, the Blessed in Deadlands Reloaded are a start, they can cast any magic they want within their spell list without learning them.

I'll play around with it.

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#7 Postby Control » Tue Oct 14, 2008 12:06 pm

There are some house rules for arcane background alternatives that don't use points or have free form spell casting. But I have not seen any thing that breaks the current system down into multiple specialties.

The easiest thing I can think of is to look at each power and see what specialties it would fit. Bolt could for example be both a lightning and fire power as well as others depending on trappings. Then each specialist edge could give access to a group of similar spells instead of just one. And you don't necessarily need to create a bunch of new spells. So boost lower trait as Doasus suggested could be broken into separate specialties for each attribute and skill you choose to allow.

I would recommend still using a single arcane background skill for all spell casting so you don't break the skill system.

I'd try to be more specific but I'm not familiar with Ars Magica or Mage. When you've got some thing you are happy with I'd love to see it.
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#8 Postby Clint » Tue Oct 14, 2008 12:40 pm

Twiceborn wrote:Anything within its field, really. I don't necessarily agree that it must be imbalanced, if handled right. Heck, the Blessed in Deadlands Reloaded are a start, they can cast any magic they want within their spell list without learning them.

That "within their spell list" part though is a big component of that. Blessed don't get any direct damage powers at all as part of what keeps them balanced. Then there are all the other factors that keep it balanced such as the Crisis of Faith (would that necessarily fit; possibly, but it might take a bit of hammering) and Sins (not nearly as likely to work).

Thing is, with every limitation removed, another commeasurate one would have to be added to maintain balance, and the Blessed were a bear to balance to begin with. It'd be easy to tip the whole thing over.

Now, I'm not saying the basic idea isn't possible; just that I don't think the Blessed are perhaps a good place to start. If this is the only magic in the setting, then it's possible there are completely different ideas that might work.

For instance, a modified version of Super Sorcery from NE might work. Perhaps the base AB gives 2 levels of S-S, and each time the Power Points Edge is taken they gain 1 more level.
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#9 Postby Bhikku » Tue Oct 14, 2008 9:54 pm

I've run into this dilemma before. Most dynamic magic systems will identify the medium being manipulated as the character's area of expertise - such as "fire," and the character can do whatever he wants with fire within certain limits of power and skill.

Ars Magica took the interesting approach of breaking magic into Arts and Realms - selecting not only what the mage can manipulate, but how the mage can manipulate, and then playing mix & match to create dynamic spells.

I think that Savage Worlds actually contains the seeds of an unusual magic system in that it provides the Arts and leaves the Realms up to the players in the form of trappings. The default in play seems to be that when a power is selected, its trappings are determined from the outset. But in a game where a more dynamic magic is the normal or exclusive form, you might consider allowing the players to grab new trappings at will. A few guidelines will be necessary for this, i think.

Mainly, although trappings may permit some tweaks to the rules (such as a fire-based attack having a chance to set the target on fire, or a cold-based attack leaving an area of slippery, icy terrain for a few rounds), it's not a good idea to let players extemporize whole new sets of trappings with new rules on the fly - not during an action sequence, anyway, such as a fight. If the player uses a new, not-previously-defined trapping in the middle of combat, that may be good narrative fun and can maybe be encouraged with a benny, but the spell should function just as in the book, no special modifications. Afterward, during downtime or between sessions, the player and GM can work out what advantages and disadvantages that trapping would have if it's ever used again.

If players feel there's an inconsistency here, just blame it on the fact that they're manipulating the very fabric of reality itself, and such things are bound to happen from time to time.

For limiting the power of magic, two options seem equally appropriate. One is the "penalty instead of resource" approach used in Solomon Kane (i recommend buying the Player's Guide pdf to get the full rules, related Edges, and so forth). The backlash table found therein may also be highly appropriate to keep your mages considering whether they really need to rely on magic for every little thing. The alternative is a "threshold instead of resource" approach such as S John Ross's "Unlimited Mana" system found at http://www.io.com/~sjohn/unlimited-mana.htm

The effect of this system to is to let mages continue casting spells rather than having to rest and recharge their power points - but doing so causes more and more 'arcane weirdness,' and risks inviting real disaster. Since this system was originally designed for GURPS, some scaling of the figures may be necessary. (For example, rather than modifying the Calamity roll by 1/5 of the excess Power Points, 1:1 is probably fine; free recovery from a very lucky Calamity roll should also be 1d6, not 1d6 x5.) Rolling a single d20 rather than 3d6 is probably perfectly within the realm of reason as well, though it may warp the odds just a little bit. Doubtless anyone here can kludge the basic idea into something suitably Savage.

That's just a few ideas for dynamic magic. I hope they prove useful, or at least help get the wheels spinning.
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#10 Postby Red Mercy » Sun Nov 23, 2008 4:00 am

Well, I guess I'm about a month late on this discussion, but after playing a few games of Mage: the Awakening, my interest in this sort of spellcasting was kindled and I got to wondering if this question had ever been addressed with SW, so I did a search. Anyway, I got to thinking that perhaps one could use the system of rotes vs. spontaneous casting. A caster could do whatever they could think of (within reason), but it would be somewhat difficult to do, perhaps forcing an arcane skill roll modified by the difficulty of the attempted spell, failure resulting in a wound or something. One could, on the other hand, use and edge to purchase a spell, or rote, effectively allowing the caster to use that spell without risk of injury, insanity, being covered in bees, etc.

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#11 Postby Tavis » Sun Nov 23, 2008 8:09 am

One thing the wizard in my group has been doing to define his 'non-combat' magic is to use magic as a trapping for other skills.

Doing an Agility trick? - that's a spray of sparks from the end of his fingers that the enemy will hopefully duck to avoid.
Smarts Trick - Creating Phantom noises, or an illusion to confuse the foe.
Intimidate - Do you take me for some conjurer of cheap tricks!!
Tracking - Aha, my spell has caused the tracks of our quarry to glow - they'll be easy to follow now!
Notice - Reach out with your feelings Luke ...
Persuasion - These are not the droids you're looking for ...
Gambling - more for cheating here, but using Telekinietic powers to affect the dice and so on.
Stealth - a cloaking veil for the caster alone.

They're all magical powers, if you want them to be.

And other 'non roll' things
Why use a flint and steel when you can 'buy' them money wise, but after that say the mage can generate enough of a spark from their fingers to light that torch/lantern?

Savage worlds is all about the trappings - make the trappings for your skills magical and you have a character that does everything with magic. The more flashy, powerful and/or combat oriented spells need to be bought with edges, the rest is up to your imagination.
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#12 Postby Daosus » Sun Nov 23, 2008 11:15 am

Tavis, that is a fantastic idea! I really love the examples that make it real!

*scurries off to design another character*

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#13 Postby Tavis » Sun Nov 23, 2008 1:14 pm

Why Thankyou!
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#14 Postby Gavinwulf » Sun Nov 23, 2008 1:52 pm

Clint Black

Improvised Magic Rules for Savage Worlds

These rules were designed to simulate Arcane abilities where the user is only limited by their power and creativity. They could also function for characters whose powers are limited only by a theme or trappings or simply as a basis for creating new Powers.

All Powers start with an Effect with a base Power Point cost. From there the cost can be increased or decreased based of choices of Modifications, Range, Duration, and Casting Time. Reductions in PP cost can never decrease the cost of a Power to less than 1 PP. Unless otherwise stated, the base Duration for all Powers is Instant, the base Range is Touch, and the base Casting Time is 1 Action.

Effect: (OPP: Opposed Roll applies if target wishes) (Base cost: 1PP)

3d6 Damage: OPP for any Duration beyond Instant

Increase or decrease a single Trait one die type (two with a raise): OPP

Decrease a Derived Stat by 2 (Shaken with a Raise): OPP

Increase a Derived Stat by 2: (Target gains a related Edge with a Raise). Replace Edge with Monstrous Ability (+1 PP)

Summon a character or creature with 3 points in Attributes and 8 points for Skills

Negate one Wound or Fatigue Level applied within the last hour (two with a Raise)
-This Effect starts with a Duration of 3 (1/rnd). For +2 PP, the Duration is Permanent.

Negate or impose a –4 Situational modifier (-6 with a Raise) for a target or against a target (+1PP): OPP
-This Effect can have a multitude of functions. Examples: Negating a modifier for a target (Darkvision that negates Lighting penalties). Imposing a modifier for a target (Blindness that causes Lighting penalties). Negating a modifier against a target (Glittering dust that counters a target’s Invisibility). Imposing a modifier against a target (Basic invisibility).

Reduce damage to 2d6 Damage (-1)
Uses Small Burst Template (+1)
Uses Medium Burst Template (+2)
Uses Large Burst Template (+4)
Caster chooses who in Template is affected (+1)
Per each +2 points to increase a summoned creatures Attributes (+1)
Per each +4 points to increase a summoned creatures Skills (+1)
Per 2 net Monstrous Abilities or Edges of summoned creature (+1)
Per Weakness or 2 points of Hindrances of summoned creature (-1)
Negate Wounds or Fatigue over an hour old (x3)
Negate non-permanent Crippling Injury (x6)
Multiply Power (+1)
-Allows one Power to be activated multiple times in one action. The character pays the base cost for each use. He rolls one Power Skill die for each activation separately, but only gets one Wild Die on the roll.

3 rounds (1/round) (+1)
1 minute (1/minute) (+2)
1 hour (1/hour) (+3)

Smarts (Damage Powers have a Medium Range of 2x Smarts and a Long Range of 4x Smarts) (+1)
2x Smarts (Damage Powers have a Medium Range of 4x Smarts and a Long Range of 8x Smarts) (+2)
Line of Sight (Damage Powers suffer no penalties to hit for Range) (+3)

Casting Time
Full Action (No other actions at all, including Free Actions or movement) (-1)
1 minute (-2)
1 hour (-4)

Do these help?

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#15 Postby Red Mercy » Sun Nov 23, 2008 4:51 pm

That's actually a really handy list, Gavinwulf. Especially since I tend to try to make up a lot of my own stuff. I think the only problem with using improvised magic in SW is how one balances out arcane characters, since the need for the New Power edge is gone.

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#16 Postby Tuesday » Sun Nov 23, 2008 6:06 pm

Tavis: I quite like that!

It gives him a lot more options than a normal character with those skills, but a normal character doesn't have his *skills* stopped by Arcane Resistance or show up to Detect Magic, which seems like a reasonably fair balancing factor to me.

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#17 Postby Red Mercy » Sun Nov 23, 2008 10:02 pm

yeah, I actually remember using something similar for a sorceror I made once. I figured he'd have points in intimidate because he could do stuff like weave lighting between his hands, make his eyes flash, etc. I never stopped to consider that sort of reasoning could apply to other skills as well.

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#18 Postby Adam Baulderstone » Mon Nov 24, 2008 1:06 am

I like the way you think, Tavis. I made a character along similar lines for a player who was going to be sitting in for a couple of sessions. She wanted to play a schemeing wizard with mind magic. Looking through the Arcane Backgrounds and Powers, nothing really grabbed me, so I looked throught the Edges. The character was starting at Seasoned, so I had a lot to play with.

I went with Very Attractive, Persuasive, Charismatic and Snake Oil Salesman (from Deadlands:Reloaded). His powers were entirely in his abilty to charm people and use Persuasion based Tests of Will. She had a lot of un playing him, and it was a useful exercise for me in applying the idea trappings to Edges.

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#19 Postby Emiricol » Mon Nov 24, 2008 10:16 am

There's a couple of Ars Magica conversions floating around. I think SavageHeroes.com has one, and SharkBytes has one or maybe even two.
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#20 Postby dumok » Tue Nov 25, 2008 4:43 pm

One suggestion I can Make is to Look for a Homebrew called "Grim Rules" It's magic System is Pretty dynamic where you have skills in different type of Magics and you make a roll with the difficulty being what you want the spell to do. It gets pretty specific...and It might be easy to convert

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