Magic Items

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CAM
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Magic Items

#1 Postby CAM » Sun Mar 29, 2009 8:02 am

If I was to run a generic fantasy game, what recommendations would be needed to portray magic items?

I was thinking of simply having characters choose the AB: Weird Science background and call it 'AB:Enchantment', with Gizmos being portrayed accordingly and renamed as 'Enchanted Items'.

Items would be powered by Mana (Power Points) and work like Gizmos in the standard rules, without any technological trappings. I'd probably make it a Spirit roll to 'awaken' the magic within an item, although Enchaters could use their Weird Science skill instead (also renamed 'Enchantment').

The Enchanter Edge would be a Background Edge, but perhaps also could be chosen by characters of other arcane edges when they achieve Veteran Rank or above. I was thinking of also doing a variant for AB: Alchemy in much the same vein

Was does everyone think? Does this have merits, or is it too simple to just translate the Weird Science rules, or would another approach be the way to go?

Any suggestions greatly appreciated

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#2 Postby Jordan Peacock » Sun Mar 29, 2009 9:02 am

I've borrowed a similar concept to Weird Science gizmos for any magic items in my campaigns so far that have powers of their own - typically with a points pool *just enough* for one use of the item until it manages to recharge at the usual rate (1 PP per hour) for another use. However, I've also ruled that if a spellcaster is using such an item, he can burn his own Power Points to use the item again.

If the item requires a spellcaster skill to use, this pretty much ends up with the item destined for use in a spellcaster's hands - though there's still a certain tactical advantage for some items if they could be carried by other members of the party. (The spellcaster, after all, unless he's low on Power Points, is likely to be spending combat time casting his own spells; the item in his hands would merely expand his spellcasting repertoire slightly - whereas if ANOTHER person could be using it, the party's "firepower" might be increased, albeit briefly.)

I'm of a divided mind about the proper role of magic items in campaigns. Generally, I think it's best to be stingy when determining the power of magic items, or else they can come to dominate a campaign. An item with a +1 bonus is much more of a big deal than it would be in certain other systems, for instance.

I prefer having "expendible" magic items - items which have one use, a limited number of uses, or which have a high chance of breakage/exhaustion (though the latter is kind of moot if the PCs have lots of bennies). E.g., magic potions, healing salves, scrolls. Because of their limited uses, if one is overpowered, at least it's not going to stay in the game for very long. (For potions in my home games, I've made an "Alchemy" AB which is heavily inspired by the "Gourmancy" AB from Wonderland No More.)

If I were going to have magical swords of power, etc., I've toyed with the idea of making some sort of system akin to how in Pirates of the Spanish Main, PCs could spend Edges on their ship. That way, a magic item could increase with power along with its wielder, and there would be less of that strange fantasy-game mechanic of tossing aside a mere +1 magic sword when a +2 sword comes along, and so on.

However, implementing such a system could exacerbate the phenomenon of PCs being defined by their magic items: If a PC were to lose his magic item, would that mean that those invested Edges are lost? Or does he get a "refund"? Also, unless I do a really good job of coming up with some unique "magic item Edges," there wouldn't be much reason to invest an Advance in your magic item when you could just as easily be spending it on your own character. (After all, an item can be lost, or temporarily taken away, or rendered useless by anti-magic defenses, etc.)

I had also entertained the idea of having some sort of deal where magic item Edges would be *more powerful* than comparative Edges bought for a character (something to the tune of x1.5 the benefit of an equivalent Edge for a PC, though that might be hard to measure). This would be meant to offset the disadvantages of investing one's power into an item that could potentially be taken away from the character (inspired a bit by certain points-based superhero gaming systems where characters get a discount if their powers are invested into a power item of some sort). However, that could have the side effect of making things even more imbalanced in regards to those PCs who have potent magic items, and those who don't.

(I'm especially conscious of this because I've run games for PC groups that didn't equitably divide magic items and comparable "loot." That is, one player would basically appoint himself in charge of distributing loot, justify giving all the potent stuff to himself, and most of the other players were just too POLITE to argue much about it.)

So, the short of it is ... I'm curious to see what other responses you get. :) I'm not quite settled on the matter of how to properly handle magic items.
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#3 Postby CAM » Sun Mar 29, 2009 9:24 am

Definately some food for thought so far

I was thinking of perhaps having Charmed items and Enchanted items. Basically Charmed items could be one-use (or a limited number of uses) whereas Enchanted items could be permanent in nature.

I am also considering making the item's powers automatic rather than having a skill roll to activate - although Enchanters could additionally make a roll, with any successes counted as a raise

To further complicate things, I dislike Power Point Tallies as presented in the core SW rules, and prefer to go by the casting modifier approach to performing magic as in the Solomon Kane rules

My problem is how would this translate into an Enchantment rules approach which has been based from Weird Science?

All ideas welcome

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#4 Postby Jordan Peacock » Sun Mar 29, 2009 3:21 pm

CAM wrote:My problem is how would this translate into an Enchantment rules approach which has been based from Weird Science?


Do you mean, "rules so that PCs can make their own Enchanted items," or just, "mechanics for magic items in general"? Play balance issues are different as soon as it's something that PCs are supposed to be allowed to do. When all magic items are made by ancient civilizations, through methods long-lost to history, then you don't have to worry nearly so much about "play balance" issues. (That is, if the PCs get to choose to make their own magic items, you need to make sure it's a fair deal; if magic items are only available at the GM's whim, then it's just up to the GM to figure out how often they appear, and how potent they are.)

Simplicity is king for magic items, though - unless you plan on handing players "player handouts" for magic items they discover. And even then, if the handouts get too complex, as I've learned, THE PLAYERS WILL (probably) NOT READ THEM ... or have a greater chance of "creatively misremembering them." In Savage Worlds, I figure that if a magic item's rules can't fit onto the front and back of an index card, in 10-pt print, then it's too complicated.
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#5 Postby CAM » Sun Mar 29, 2009 9:06 pm

Thanks for the tips - I agree that the beauty of SW is it's simplicity, so I'm all for a simple approach to setting rules

Upon reflection I think I will likely keep Power Points tallies with magic items, even if I don't use it for the PCs. This way there is a difference between magic item use and a PC casting spells, which is what I want anyway.

This also means that the Weird Science rules can be used almost 'as is', with a few names changes and trapping tweaks.

I like the idea of Charm-making being 'one-off use' magic items, and this could be made with the Enchant skill.

I've also had another look at the Fantasy Toolkit and found that there is an 'Enchant Power' Edge, and that this needs to be individually chosen each time during levelling up when wanting to craft permanent magic items.

I think this will work well for balance, perhaps a variant of this could be that one Pick per Power Point level of magic is enchanted into the item. More powerful items would have to have to wait for the next 'level up' process, and the Picks would need to be accrued specifically for that task.

The idea that Picks are used will certainly limit PCs from casually making permaent magic items, and the more potent items will be regarded moore with awe due to the long process and skill that goes into such an item.

I was also thinking of giving items a number of Power Points equal to their Enchant roll result +2. This is solely just to add variety to the object, its not fun if every item has 10 Power Points, you never need to conserve it's power.

This is just a generic concept idea, it would be tweaked up for High Fantasy and tweaked down for Sword n Sorcery settings.

I think the main thing that struck me was the versality of the core Savage Worlds game engine itself - for example, Weird Science tweaked slightly can give you 'Enchantment', I suppose there are heaps of other examples when trappings and concept changes to pre-existing rules can offer you something new without having to re-invent the wheel.

CAM
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#6 Postby CAM » Sun Mar 29, 2009 9:09 pm

Please ignore any typos in my above reply - I submitted it before I previewed it!
:)


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