Sunday, 5 July 2015

Savage Vancian Magic


Vancian magic (aka "fire and forget") seems to be one of those things that some people love and others hate. Although freeform magic is still probably my favorite approach in general, I was introduced to the Dragonlance novels at a young age, and Raistlin made a lasting impression on me.

More recently I've been interested in converting 3.x material to Savage Worlds, particularly the excellent War of the Burning Sky adventure path. I originally came up with a simple “Fast, Furious and Fun” solution for handling spellcasters (see the Arcane Backgrounds in Savage War of the Burning Sky), and used trappings to cover their spells (such as those in my Savage Spellbook supplement), but as the campaign progressed and the PCs advanced (and the wizard's player wanted to use the same sort of spells that had been available in our former D&D 3.5 campaign) my solution felt increasingly like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. It just didn't capture the feel, the flavor, of the magic system. So after running a couple of dozens gaming sessions I went back to the drawing board and tried again, and this is the result.

It's perfectly possible to play a superhero game in Savage Worlds using just the core rules, but I find it much easier with the Super Powers Companion, which offers an alternative power system specifically geared towards supers settings. Savage Vancian Magic does exactly the same thing for D&D/Pathfinder settings. Neither the Super Powers Companion nor Savage Vancian Magic are required, but they are both designed to make the GM's job easier when running certain types of campaign.

You can download it from here: Savage Vancian Magic

The goal
"I love Savage Worlds. Half of the guys in my group love Savage Worlds. But part of what keeps the other half from jumping on board, at least for a fantasy campaign, is the lack of a Vancian magic system"
"But when it comes to fantasy, Vancian magic is hard coded into many gamers’ DNA. That’s certainly the case in my group – they like Savage Worlds well enough, but the lack of a Vancian magic system is a major stumbling block. They like being able to learn a large number of spells, and cherrypick from them each session. The Fantasy Companion doesn’t address that need, which is a shame since its addition could have won over some of the holdouts."
"SW is bad at settings with tons of weak magic spells. The average magic user in Savage Worlds has half a dozen quite powerful spells, most of them geared towards combat. If you want a game where the magic user has a lot of weak utility spells, and part of your fun is to find creative ways to use and exploit them, Savage Worlds is not the game for you."
The goal of Savage Vancian Magic is to capture the flavor of the 3.x magic system in a way that still feels like Savage Worlds. It is specifically aimed at people who want to play Savage Worlds, but also want 3.x–style spellcasters. Despite its name, this supplement covers both Vancian (i.e., “prepared”) and non–Vancian (i.e., “spontaneous”) spellcasters.

If you hate the 3.x magic system, you probably won't find Savage Vancian Magic useful – except perhaps as proof of concept, to demonstrate the versatility of Savage Worlds, and prove to the naysayers that even their sacred cow can be Savaged.

If you hate long spell lists then you definitely won't like this, but should instead take a look at my Savage Abilities supplement, which takes the opposite approach - it trims all the fat, reducing the power list to just five different powers. Those five powers can then be customised with modifiers and trappings to design a huge range of custom spell effects.

It should also be noted that this magic system differs from the magic in Jack Vance's work, as it’s inspired by the 3.x approach rather than Vance’s novels, however the commonly used term for both is still "Vancian magic".