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Arcane Abilities
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77IM
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Joined: 23 Jun 2009
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 07, 2009 11:52 am    Post subject: Arcane Abilities Reply with quote

(A sub-system I have been working on. Feedback very welcome!)

NOTE: Scroll down for latest revision! Many Edges have been modified and renamed, and the "Arcane Ability Backgrounds" have been combined with regular Arcane Backgrounds.
Or, read the latest PDF: http://www.wjs3.com/rpg/sw/Arcane%20Abilities.pdf


Arcane Abilities are special Edges for characters with some arcane ability -- but not the sort that you need to activate or which consume power points. Instead, Arcane Abilities are “always on” like other Edges. But, unlike Edges, Arcane Abilities have trappings, much like Arcane Powers. The Arcane Ability Edges tell you how the game mechanics work, but it is the trappings which explain the details of their appearance and operation. Examples of characters who might have Arcane Abilities:
  • A cyborg might have enhanced strength, reflexes, armor, and sensory equipment, adding new gear as they advance.
  • A vampire might have darkvision, regeneration, and wall-crawling.
  • The heroic wielder of an artifact weapon might have extra damage, arcane resistance, enhanced Charisma, and other mystical benefits.
  • Genetically engineered super-soldiers might have enhanced agility, immunity to poison, and the ability to detect foes by scent.
  • A character with a demonic ancestry could develop fire immunity, sharp claws, and wings for flying.

What differentiates characters with the same Arcane Abilities are the trappings. Just like with Arcane Powers, trappings explain what the Arcane Ability looks like to people in the game world, but doesn't change the way the Arcane Ability basically works. For example, a character with Damaging Skin could be a mutant with porcupine quills, a half-elemental with fiery skin, or a cyborg capable of sending electrical charge through his metallic skin.

You can combine Arcane Abilities with an Arcane Background to supply “active” powers. For example, a character who is a genetically engineered warrior that spits acid might have Arcane Ability Background (Genetically Engineered) and Arcane Background (Super Power) with an acidic bolt power. If you want to play a dragon you could take Arcane Ability Background (Monster) to get things like claws, armor, size, strength, and flight, and Arcane Background (Magic) to get a fiery burst and fear and some other draconic magic powers.


Background Edge
Other Arcane Ability Backgrounds may be available based upon your setting.

ARCANE ABILITY BACKGROUND
Requirements: Novice; varies per specific Background.
You possess super-human abilities and characteristics. Select one of the specific backgrounds below. Each has its own benefits, drawbacks, and requirements.

Artifact Bearer
Requirements: Spirit d6+
You have a mystical artifact of some sort, which grants you super-human powers. As your bond with the item grows, you gain new Arcane Ability Edges. You gain one of the following Edges for free, depending on the type of artifact: Augmented Weapon for a weapon, Augmented Armor for armor, Enhanced Resistance for a talisman, or Enhanced Skill for another sort of artifact.

Cyborg
Requirements: Vigor d6+
You are part man, part machine. The integration of robotic parts into your body takes its toll, however. You suffer a -2 penalty to Charisma, and if your total number of Arcane Ability Edges exceeds your Spirit, you suffer a -2 penalty to all Spirit checks. You gain one free Arcane Ability Edge.

Genetically Engineered
Requirements: None
You have been genetically engineered to have traits beyond those of ordinary people. The basic effect is improved health. You get a +2 bonus on Vigor checks to resist Fatigue, poison, disease, and similar hazards.

Monster/Alien
Requirements: Monstrous or alien race (depends on your setting)
Your race has natural monstrous abilities that you can develop as Arcane Ability Edges. However, this brings with it a supernatural weakness. Select one trapping (such as fire, light, silver, unarmed attacks, etc.); anyone hitting you with that trapping gets a +4 bonus to damage. The GM must approve your trapping to make sure it is broad enough, but not too broad. You gain one free Arcane Ability Edge.

Arcane Ability Edges
By default, any Arcane Ability Background allows you to gain any Arcane Ability, but some settings may restrict the which backgrounds can select which abilities.

AQUATIC
Requirements: Novice, Arcane Ability Background
Trappings: Gills, sea god's blessing, embedded oxygen tank.
Your Swimming pace is equal to your Swimming skill, not half. You can breathe underwater. You don't suffer any skill penalties for being underwater.

AUGMENTED ARMOR
Requirements: Novice, Arcane Ability Background
Trappings: Force field, mystic protection.
Select a particular type of armor, such as leather armor or plate armor (you may choose your personal armor if you want). Your armor bonus with this armor increases by +1.
Special: You may take this Edge multiple times. Each time, you may apply a +1 bonus to a new type of armor, or increase one of your existing bonuses by 1.

AUGMENTED WEAPON
Requirements: Novice, Arcane Ability Background
Trappings: Energy field, weapon software, combat awareness.
Select a particular type of weapon, such as a longsword or M16 (you may choose your natural weapon if you want). Your damage with this sort of weapon increases by +1.
Special: You may take this Edge multiple times. Each time, you may apply a +1 bonus to a new type of weapon, or increase one of your existing bonuses by 1.

BURROWING
Requirements: Novice, Arcane Ability Background
Trappings: Digging claws, sonic tunneling, drill arms.
You can burrow through solid earth at a pace of 4". You can move through stone and concrete, but at half speed.
Special: You may take this Edge multiple times. Each time, your burrowing pace increases by 4".

DAMAGING SKIN
Requirements: Novice, Arcane Ability Background
Trappings: Quills, electrified shell, elemental skin.
Anyone who touches you (with an unarmed attack, or by grappling) suffers 2d4 damage. You can also deal this amount of damage with an unarmed attack or grapple if you wish. You can suppress or reactivate your damaging skin as an action.
Special: You may take this Edge multiple times. Each time increases the damage dice by one size, to a max of 2d12.

ENHANCED AGILITY
Requirements: Novice, Arcane Ability Background
Trappings: Cybernetic nervous system, improved balance, blood of a fey creature.
Your Agility increases by 1 die size. Beyond a d12, each increase gives you a +1 bonus.
Special: You may take this Edge multiple times. The effects stack.

ENHANCED CHARISMA
Requirements: Novice, Arcane Ability Background
Trappings: Plastic surgery, pheromones, blessed by the love goddess.
Your get a +2 bonus to Charisma.
Special: You may take this Edge multiple times. Each additional time increases your Charisma bonus by 1.

ENHANCED REFLEXES
Requirements: Novice, Arcane Ability Background
Trappings: Wired reflexes, superior nervous system, time sense.
You get a +1 to Agility checks to dodge, and enemies who attack you with ranged weapons suffer a -1 penalty.
Special: You may take this Edge multiple times. Each time increase the bonus and penalty by 1.

ENHANCED RESISTANCE
Requirements: Novice, Arcane Ability Background
Trappings: Psychic shielding, ward against magic.
You get a +1 bonus to any check to resist a hostile arcane power, and a +1 bonus to Toughness against such powers.
Special: You may take this Edge multiple times. Each time increases the bonuses by 1.

ENHANCED SKILL
Requirements: Novice, Arcane Ability Background
Trappings: Skill software, enchantment, physiological advantage.
Select a particular skill. You get a +2 bonus to that skill.
Because of their complex nature, you can't apply this bonus to attack rolls or checks to activate arcane powers. So while you could select a +2 bonus to Fighting, you wouldn't get the bonus to your attack rolls. Such bonuses are halved when applied to passive TNs, so a +2 bonus to Fighting grants +1 to Parry.
Special: You may take this Edge multiple times. Each time, you may apply a +2 bonus to a new skill, or increase one of your existing bonuses by 1.

ENHANCED SPEED
Requirements: Novice, Arcane Ability Background
Trappings: Cybernetic legs, animal feet.
Your Pace increases by 2", and your running die increases to d10.
Special: You may take this Edge multiple times. Each time increases your Pace by another 2".

ENHANCED STRENGTH
Requirements: Novice, Arcane Ability Background
Trappings: Cybernetic limbs, animal muscles, divine might.
Your Strength increases by 1 die size. Beyond a d12, each increase gives you a +1 bonus.
Special: You may take this Edge multiple times. The effects stack.

FLIGHT
Requirements: Novice, Arcane Ability Background
Trappings: Wings, rocket-feet, mystic levitation.
You can fly with a pace of 4". Your Climb rating is 1/2 your flying pace.
Special: You may take this Edge multiple times. Each time, your flying pace increases by 4".

IMMUNITY
Requirements: Novice, Arcane Ability Background
Trappings: Advanced immune system, elemental heritage.
Select one trapping, such as fire, cold, vacuum, pressure, poison, disease, electricity, acid, light, darkness, illusion, time, entropy, nanotechnology, computer hacking, or whatever is appropriate to your setting and is approved by your GM. You are immune to damage, Fatigue, and other effects from that particular trapping. You can't select cutting, piercing, or bludgeoning damage, nor can you select anything so broad as to encompass an entire Arcane Background (for example, psychic or magic or miracles). The GM must review your selection to ensure that it is neither too broad nor too narrow.
Special: You may take this Edge multiple times. Each time, you select another trapping to be immune to.

LOW-LIGHT VISION
Requirements: Novice, Arcane Ability Background
Trappings: Cat eyes, elf eyes, cyber-eyes.
You negate penalties for dim and dark lighting.
Special: You may take this Edge a second time, to negate penalties even for pitch blackness.

NATURAL WEAPON
Requirements: Novice, Arcane Ability Background
Trappings: Claws, bite, retractable razor blades, hidden bone spurs.
You have a natural melee weapon that deals Str+d4 damage, and are always considered armed.
Special: You may take this Edge multiple times. Each time increases the damage dice by one size, to a maximum of d12.

PERSONAL ARMOR
Requirements: Novice, Arcane Ability Background
Trappings: Tough scales, sub-dermal plating, magical protection.
You have a +2 armor bonus. This doesn't stack with normal armor.
Special: You may take this Edge multiple times. Each time increases the bonus by +1.

REGENERATION
Requirements: Novice, Arcane Ability Background
Trappings: Nano-repair module, half-troll, starfish DNA.
You may make a natural healing check once per day. You can make the check during combat, but it consumes your entire round (you can't move or take any other actions but healing). You can use the natural healing even when incapacitated, but your wound modifiers apply as usual.
Special: You may take this Edge multiple times. Each time grants you an additional natural healing check per day

SCENT
Requirements: Novice, Arcane Ability Background
Trappings: Wolf nose, olfactory analysis system.
You can recognize creatures and materials by scent as easily as a sighted person can recognize them visually. You have a +2 bonus to Notice or Track someone by scent. Your scent has a range of 4".
Special: You may take this Edge multiple times. Each time increases the bonus by +1 and the range by 1".

SIZE DECREASE
Requirements: Novice, Arcane Ability Background
Trappings: Half-pixie, mouse DNA.
Your size decreases by 1. Each point of negative size subtracts from your Toughness, to a maximum of -2, and also applies as a penalty for creatures to Notice you if you are hiding (no maximum penalty).
Special: You may take this Edge multiple times. Each time decreases your size by 1. At size -2, you gain the Tiny ability.

SIZE INCREASE
Requirements: Novice, Arcane Ability Background
Trappings: Half-giant, bear DNA.
You gain +1 size. Each point of size gives you +1 to Toughness and doubles your carrying capacity.
Special: You may take this Edge multiple times. Each time increases your size by 1. When you reach size 4, you gain the Large drawback, and at size 8, you gain the Huge drawback.

WALL CRAWLING
Requirements: Novice, Arcane Ability Background
Trappings: Spider legs, suction-cup fingers.
You can climb any climbable surface with a Pace equal to your Climbing skill.
Special: You may take this Edge a second time, to climb any solid surface, even slick surfaces and overhangs that would normally be impossible to climb.


Design Notes
My basic goal was to create a system that could handle things like cybernetics, genetic engineering, and being part monster. I feel like using Arcane Background is kind of a hack because it requires an action to use your powers. No self-respecting cyborg is going to spend a round activating his armor, and it would seem weird for a mutant with a heightened reaction time to need to pause for a sec to activate his swift reactions. Sure, we can think of reasons why that might make sense, but I don't think it's the norm (it's certainly not how I think about these sorts of characters).

The Arcane Abilities system is meant to be fairly straightforward, to resemble the existing Edge and Power rules, and to be balanced against existing Edges and racial traits. If you are looking for something more elaborate, consider the super-powers system from Necessary Evil.

This is my second attempt at the system. It just uses Edges for the Arcane Abilities instead of a special Enhancement system.


Last edited by 77IM on Fri Feb 12, 2010 2:31 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Merlin_Sylver
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 07, 2009 3:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This looks pretty good...

I'll run a game or two using these rules and get back with you.
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Aramus Daimorgul
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 24, 2009 3:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is awesome, nice work. This really tackles the "always on" concept well.

A couple of simplifications:
Rather than have enhanced skill, strength agility etc. Why not have simply enhanced trait.

Rather than giving immunity to X why not have it simply be resistance to X. Resistance could provide a Toughness/Vigor bonus to resist the damage and effects of the source. Then each additional edge gives them even more resistance bonus. Potentially you could even combine Enhanced resistance - something like +4 for a specific resistance and +2 per additional edge and a broad one would be +2 with +1 per additional edge.

Decrease size should give a penalty to hit them, then it would be worth taking (similar to NE)

Enhanced speed is too close to fleet of foot. How about you can run as a free action and have +2" running pace. Then, +2" running pace per edge thereafter. I would also include the vehicle fast target to hit penalty -1 to hit them per 10" pace they "can" move that round.

I think augmented armor and weapons are better as activated abilities such as smite and armor powers. Natural Armor and Weapon are perfect though.

Another common "always on" power could be danger sense representing psychic sense, premonitions, combat analysis systems and the like. It could give a bonus to notice rolls to determine danger, always an active guard and could provide others a penalty to hit you.
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HawaiianBrian
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 24, 2009 7:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I dig this. Big time.

It seems really good for a supers game, because it presents the powers as scalable. The ability to expand your chosen powers, I think, is critical to a supers game. I tried to do something like that with a "graduated powers" system but this seems to do it more elegantly. Kudos.
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77IM
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 24, 2009 9:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the kind words!

Aramus, those are some good suggestions. I will think about them some more, particularly the Immunity one (it's a very tricky thing to balance because it is based on how often the selected trapping comes up). Also the augmented armor and weapons are kind of a hack to support the Artifact background -- maybe I should combine them with the natural weapons/personal armor somehow.

Some specific responses:
- Size Decrease does make you harder to hit, you get the Tiny ability at size -2.
- Enhanced skill works differently than Enhanced Str & Agility, because it's so "cheap" to increase skills normally, so the Enhanced version is a flat bonus (like what other Edges give). And I deliberately restricted the Enhanced Traits to Str and Agility because in general I can't think of very good trappings to explain enhancements to the other Attributes, and Str and Agility are the most "iconic" enhanced Attributes anyway.
- Enhanced Speed is deliberately just like Fleet-Footed. And Danger Sense is already an Edge. It makes me wonder if I should just combine them (and a few others, like Enhanced Reflexes) into a single "Arcane Edge" Edge that lets you pick some other Edge and just say it's one of your Arcane Abilities with an appropriate trapping. So you could take Ambidexterity and say it's a prehensile tail, or take Sweep and call it a sonic shockwave, or whatever. Hmmm...

-- 77IM
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Merlin_Sylver
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 25, 2009 9:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Okay, I ran a game using these basic rules, but had to add quite a few more edges to the mix. In leiu of full rules, I'll just give the list and basic explanation.

Ranged Attack - Power bolts, 'pumpkin' bombs, etc. The basic power deals 2d6 damage, with each instance of the edge either doubling the range or increasing damage by 1 die. As an add-on to this, another edge was introduced to initait a blast effect centered on the initial target of the bolt.

Enhanced Smarts - Cybernetic Brain, Mutated Brain, Obsessive learner. Works like your other enhanced attributes.

Enhanced Spirit - Totemic tatoos, son of a god, fae soul. Works like your other enhanced attributes.

Enhanced Vigor - 'Super Soldier' serum, obsessive exercise & diet (like Batman). Works like your other enhanced attributes.

Super Running - Blur of colors, burning footsteps. Each instance of this edge doubled Pace & Running, but only while running (thus, this adds no extra paces to tactical movement, but allows for very fast sprinting).
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Aramus Daimorgul
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 28, 2009 2:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Merlin_Sylver wrote:

Ranged Attack - Power bolts, 'pumpkin' bombs, etc. The basic power deals 2d6 damage, with each instance of the edge either doubling the range or increasing damage by 1 die. As an add-on to this, another edge was introduced to initait a blast effect centered on the initial target of the bolt.

I think this works best as an activated power. However using this system, it really is not a bad way to go if you do not use any of the powers in the swex.
Merlin_Sylver wrote:
Enhanced Smarts - Cybernetic Brain, Mutated Brain, Obsessive learner. Works like your other enhanced attributes.

Enhanced Spirit - Totemic tatoos, son of a god, fae soul. Works like your other enhanced attributes.

Enhanced Vigor - 'Super Soldier' serum, obsessive exercise & diet (like Batman). Works like your other enhanced attributes.

I really like these.
Merlin_Sylver wrote:
Super Running - Blur of colors, burning footsteps. Each instance of this edge doubled Pace & Running, but only while running (thus, this adds no extra paces to tactical movement, but allows for very fast sprinting).

Very nice concept. I like removing the MAP penalty while running too. Perhaps removing the MAP and adding an additional running die for each time super running is selected.

77IM wrote:
I will think about them some more, particularly the Immunity one (it's a very tricky thing to balance because it is based on how often the selected trapping comes up).

You could include the aquatic edge in some sort of a "safe environment" edge. Then, some of your immunities could be included in it too.

77IM wrote:
Also the augmented armor and weapons are kind of a hack to support the Artifact background -- maybe I should combine them with the natural weapons/personal armor somehow.

I like that idea. The artifacts could be activated powers and that arcane background could have some regular powers and power points.

77IM wrote:
- Size Decrease does make you harder to hit, you get the Tiny ability at size -2.

Ah yes it does, it still is not worth taking though. Perhaps small could give -1 and then the normal -2 for tiny is already there.

77IM wrote:
- Enhanced skill works differently than Enhanced Str & Agility, because it's so "cheap" to increase skills normally, so the Enhanced version is a flat bonus (like what other Edges give). And I deliberately restricted the Enhanced Traits to Str and Agility because in general I can't think of very good trappings to explain enhancements to the other Attributes, and Str and Agility are the most "iconic" enhanced Attributes anyway.

I think fighting and several other skills are just as good as some of the attributes. A unified enhanced trait ability that increased the die type by 1 would be fine... I think.

77IM wrote:
It makes me wonder if I should just combine them (and a few others, like Enhanced Reflexes) into a single "Arcane Edge" Edge that lets you pick some other Edge and just say it's one of your Arcane Abilities with an appropriate trapping. So you could take Ambidexterity and say it's a prehensile tail, or take Sweep and call it a sonic shockwave, or whatever. Hmmm...

I like the idea. You could even remove the requirements for the edge when bought in this way.
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Lord Lance
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 30, 2009 9:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Maybe the question is: why, as player, should I take some kind of Magic ABs, spending PPs and rolling spellcasting for activation, when I can take these new Arcane Ability and get some funky superabilities that stay active forever, without activation rolls, fumbles etc. ?
Ok, you start "slower", often with just 1 ability, but after a little time you could have a nice range of abilities just like a mage, while the mage is strugglin' with buying new PPs, raising his Smart (or Spirit) to raise the correlated skill etc.
Find a good balance is really difficult I think.
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77IM
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 30, 2009 5:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lord Lance -- Balance is definitely tricky. I guess the main thing about powers is that they are much more flexible in how they are applied and you can get both variety and power. For example, it takes multiple Edges to get the equivalent of a single deflection or fly casting; and the powers can be used on other people instead, if you want.

If there are any specific Edges that obsolete any specific Powers I would like to hear them.



Merlin_Sylver -- Nice work! I am curious which existing Edges people liked and whether there were any existing Edges that they specifically did not like.

I like the Super Running idea. It is similar to something Aramus suggested. I'm not too keen on Ranged Attack as that is an activated ability and as such overlaps with powers too much. I'd rather just tell that player to take an appropriate AB, that way they can get whatever powers they want (teleportation, invisibility, etc.). However, if we are considering Enhanced Edge, maybe Enhanced Edge (Arcane Background) would work...?

I'm still grappling with the Enhanced Attributes because they can be used to circumvent the "1 attribute per rank" restriction. I'm thinking of saying something like this:

ENHANCED ATTRIBUTE
Requirements: Novice, Arcane Ability Background
Trappings: Cybernetic limbs, genetically enhanced intelligence, racial heritage, belt of giant's strength
One of your Attributes is higher than normal. It increases by 1 die size; beyond a d12, each increase gives you a +1 bonus. HOWEVER, this increase does NOT count when purchasing new Skills or Edges! Use your normal, unadjusted Attribute die (without the increase from this Edge) when calculating Skill costs or qualifying for Edges.
Special: You may take this Edge multiple times. Each time, you may increase any Attribute 1 die size (even an Attribute you have already increased in this fashion -- the effects stack). You may take this Edge multiple times per Rank if you want, and the increases don't count against normal Attribute increases you gain through advancement.

How does that sound? Too complicated? The idea is to allow a high Attribute die without a trickle-through effect to the rest of the system (otherwise it becomes a "must-have" Edge).

-- 77IM
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HawaiianBrian
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 30, 2009 6:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Maybe Enhanced Attribute could come with a disadvantage... Like it allows you to sacrifice a die from another attribute to boost that one, or it can only be used when activated by a benny and lasts only one scene, or comes packaged with a Hindrance...
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 11, 2009 4:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Taking another look at them, I think all the Background Edges should require a d6 or higher in an attribute. Also, they should come with a drawback or weakness, like Cyborg and Monster/Alien have, simply because having an "always on" power is pretty... well, powerful. Characters should have to pay more to get that extra ability. Especially if it "comes" with a free arcane edge.

Also, I'd suggest the following background Edges:

Blessed
Requirements: ?
Somewhere along the line, you have been enchanted, perhaps by the gods or by exposure to magic.

Psychic
Requirements: Smarts d8+
You are one of those rare individuals who was born with mental powers beyond the norm.
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 12, 2009 7:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I hadn't conisidered using an AB for the ranged attack...

As for what edges my players found most intriguing?

One player was doing the super tank thing, took Natural Armor and Regeneration with some Enhanced Strength. Another was playing a speedster (had to come up with Super Running for him), and he also loved the Wall Crawling.

Honestly, the powers you've presented aren't a far cry from NE's powers list, the difference is in how they are executed. My players responded well to the use of 'powers edges', with scalable effects. The 'tank' kept agonizing with each advance as to whether to increase his strength again, or to increase his level of regeneration.

I'm actually planning on running another game using these rules in a couple of months, as soon as the Deadlands story arc I'm working on sees itself through.
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77IM
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 19, 2010 3:53 pm    Post subject: Arcane Abilities: Revised Reply with quote

Arcane Abilities are for special abilities of an arcane nature, but which are "always on" -- they don't consume power points or need to be activated. You can think of them as "permanent powers" but they work more like "Edges with trappings." Each Arcane Ability is an Edge, which tells you what effect it has on your character, but the trappings of the Edge determine the details of how it works, just like with a power. For example, a character with Damaging Skin could be a mutant with porcupine quills, a half-elemental with fiery skin, or a cyborg capable of sending electrical charge through his metallic skin.

And just like powers, you need an Arcane Background in order to gain Arcane Ability Edges. Any Arcane Background will do, but just like selecting powers, your selection of Arcane Abilities may be limited based upon what is appropriate to the setting. These rules present some new Arcane Backgrounds that provide starting Arcane Abilities instead of Starting Powers.

Examples of characters who might have Arcane Abilities:
  • A cyborg might have enhanced strength, reflexes, armor, and sensory equipment, adding new gear as they advance.
  • A vampire might have darkvision, regeneration, and wall-crawling.
  • The heroic wielder of an artifact weapon might have extra damage, arcane resistance, enhanced Charisma, and other mystical benefits.
  • Genetically engineered super-soldiers might have enhanced agility, immunity to poison, and the ability to detect foes by scent.
  • A character with a demonic ancestry could develop fire immunity, sharp claws, and wings for flying.



Arcane Backgrounds
Other Arcane Backgrounds may be available based upon your setting. Those found in the core rules are marked "(core)" and follow all the normal rules, except as outlined below.

Alien
Arcane Skill: In place of an arcane skill, use Smarts. (+1)
Starting Power Points: 5 (+1)
Starting Powers: None
Starting Arcane Abilities: 1 (+1)
You are an extraterrestrial, or one of your parents was. You have bizarre physiology and possibly mental powers as well. Some alien species take the Alternate Form Hindrance (below).

Artifact Bearer
Arcane Skill: Any appropriate skill (see text). (+1)
Starting Power Points: 5 (+1)
Starting Powers: 1 (+1)
Starting Arcane Abilities: Enhanced Weapon for a weapon, Enhanced Armor for armor, Resistance for a talisman, or Enhanced Skill for another sort of artifact. (+1)
You have a mystical artifact of some sort, which grants you super-human powers. As your bond with the item grows, you gain new Arcane Abilities and possibly even Arcane Powers. These powers don't use an independent arcane skill; they use whatever skill is most appropriate. A sword that shoots fire (a bolt power) would use Shooting, for example. A cloak that creates a region of darkness might use Stealth, while a staff that creates a region of mist might use Knowledge (Weather), even though both effects are based on the obscure power. The GM must approve all Skill/power combos to make sure that the trappings make sense for the Skill involved.
Overpowered: If you roll a 1 on the skill die to activate the power, regardless of the Wild Die, you are overpowered by the artifact's energies. You take 2d6 non-lethal damage. This bypasses all of your armor and magical protection and is rolled against your base Toughness.

Cybernetics
Arcane Skill: Systems Control (Smarts) (+0)
Starting Power Points: 10 (+2)
Starting Powers: None
Starting Arcane Abilities: 2 (+2)
You are part man, part machine. The integration of robotic parts into your body takes its toll, however. If your total number of Powers plus Arcane Abilities exceeds your Spirit, you suffer a -2 penalty to all Spirit checks. (If you have Enhanced Spirit, only your normal Spirit counts towards this limit.) (-0.5)
Glitch: If you activate an arcane power, and roll a 1 on your Systems Control die (regardless of your Wild Die), you suffer a temporary malfunction. You can't use any powers until you succeed at a Repair check. This check is an action, unless you succeed with a raise, in which case it becomes a free action. Your Arcane Abilities continue to function during this time. (-0.5)

Faith (core)
Starting Arcane Abilities: None
The blessings of the gods may be represented as Arcane Abilities. If the character is unable to use powers due to committing a sin, they also lose access to their Arcane Ability Edges.

Genetic Engineering
Arcane Skill: In place of an arcane skill, use Vigor. (+1)
Starting Power Points: 5 (+1)
Starting Powers: None
Starting Arcane Abilities: 1 (+1)
You have been genetically engineered to have traits beyond those of ordinary people. These traits may evolve and mutate over time, or you may use cutting-edge gene-therapy to further enhance yourself.

Magic (core)
Starting Arcane Abilities: None
A practitioner of the mystic arts may gain Arcane Abilities to represent permanent enchantments that they have cast on themselves.

Monster
Arcane Skill: In place of an arcane skill, use Spirit for mystical powers and Vigor for physical powers. (+1)
Starting Power Points: 5 (+1)
Starting Powers: None
Starting Arcane Abilities: 1 (+1)
Your race has natural monstrous abilities that you can develop as Arcane Ability Edges. Furthermore, you can ignore the rank requirements of Arcane Ability Edges (except for the Enhanced Edge Edge). (+1) However, this brings with it a supernatural weakness. You gain a minor Vulnerability Hindrance (below). (-1) Many monsters have an unusual appearance that qualifies them for the Ugly or Outsider Hindrances, depending on your setting and the type of monster you are.

Psionics (core)
Starting Arcane Abilities: None
Some psionicists train their bodies and minds in techniques that operate continuously and subconsciously. Such a technique could be learned as an Arcane Ability Edge. A psionicist can suppress their Arcane Abilities as a free action, but reactivating each one is an action. The Arcane Abilities automatically deactivate if the psionicist loses consciousness.

Super Powers (core)
Starting Arcane Abilities: None
Super-powered characters commonly select Arcane Ability Edges. A character's Arcane Abilities must have trappings which match their powers in some fashion.

Weird Science (core)
Starting Arcane Abilities: None
A Weird Scientist can build Arcane Abilities into their devices by taking a suitable Arcane Ability Edge. Each device MUST have a power in it -- you can't make a device that is entirely Arcane Ability Edges. If the device malfunctions due to rolling a 1 when activating the power, the Arcane Ability stops working until the device is repaired. You can put multiple Arcane Ability Edges into a single device provided it has at least one power.

Other Ways To Gain Arcane Abilities

Arcane Abilities As Racial Edges
One good use for Arcane Abilities is an easy way to create racial Edges for races with unusual physiology or which don't gain all their abilities until a later date. For example, you could have a Demon race which is fire-resistant, can see in the dark, and has claws, using the normal race-creation rules (from the core book, or the expanded version in Fantasy Companion). You could then say that your Demon race's racial Edges are Flight (bat-wings trapping), Big, Damaging Skin (spikes or fire trapping), and Extra Limb (prehensile tail trapping; can only be taken once). This way, you don't need to create an overpowered race or one laden with too many racial drawbacks. Use racial traits for the "bare minimum" that a starting member of the race has, and allow the purchase of Arcane Ability Edges for characters that are more advanced.

Arcane Abilities As Regular Edges
From time to time, it may make sense for a character to take an Arcane Ability Edge without having any Arcane Background. This is at the discretion of the GM, and should be justified based on in-game supernatural causes. For example, an aging warrior may take a sip from the Fountain of Youth, and the GM may allow him to take Enhanced Ability (Vigor) to represent his improved health. Or a character who survives a harrowing magical encounter could earn the Resistance Edge. In such cases, it's usually fair to require the character to spend an advance to gain the Edge as usual, but it depends on the sort of campaign you are running (the character might get the Edge for free as an adventure reward, instead of earning gold and magic items).

Arcane Abilities As Gear
For some Arcane Backgrounds, particularly Cybernetics and Genetic Engineering, it makes sense that the PCs might have to pay cash money for their Arcane Abilities. In this case, the character must pay the money, undergo the procedure, and spend an advance on the appropriate Edge in order to benefit. These can be done in any order (Edge first, then pay money; or money first, then gain Edge) but until the character has done both, they get no benefit! The exact cost of such an Edge is very highly dependent on the setting, although $500 per rank of the Edge seems like a good starting point (it will be more or less depending on how much money the PCs are expected to make). Any Arcane Ability Edges taken at character creation should be free, just assume that the PC has paid for the item in their past.

New Hindrances

ALTERNATE FORM (Major)
You are a shapeshifter of some sort, and your arcane powers and Arcane Ability Edges don't function when in your human form. Transforming to or from your alternate form requires an action that can't be combined with other actions (except free actions). You must select 1 major Hindrance or 2 minor Hindrances which only apply to your alternate form; you don't get Hindrance points for these. (If your alternate form is strange-looking, Hindrances such as Ugly or Outsider may be good choices.) Only characters with Arcane Ability Edges can take Alternate Form.

NO HANDS (Major)
Either you've lost both arms in an accident, or your species just doesn't have any hands! (If your species has tentacles or something else that works just like a hand, this Hindrance does not apply.) You can't wield weapons, and any activity requiring fine manipulation (like writing or picking a lock or picking things up) is at a -4 penalty, if the GM allows it at all. This drawback is so severe, that you are entitled to a free Edge of your choice to compensate for it.

VULNERABILITY (Minor or Major)
You have a supernatural weakness. Select one trapping (such as fire, light, silver, unarmed attacks, etc.) to be vulnerable to. The GM must approve your trapping to make sure it is broad enough, but not too broad. Physical damage types (such as bludgeoning, piercing, slashing, and ballistic) are probably too broad, and an entire arcane background (such as magic, psionics, or faith) is definitely too broad, unless such a trapping is very rare in your setting.

As a minor vulnerability, you suffer -4 to Toughness against that trapping. As a major vulnerability, you also suffer 1d6 damage each round that you are exposed to the trapping (take the damage at the end of your action). This is suitable for trappings that are more frequently environmental elements than attacks, such as a vampire's weakness to sunlight. Protection such as arcane powers and mundane armor function against your trapping, but the Immunity Edge does NOT help at all (for example, if you are Immune to heat but vulnerable to fire, you get +4 Toughness against heat but -4 Toughness against fire, even though the fire is hot).


Arcane Ability Edges
By default, any Arcane Ability Background allows you to gain any Arcane Ability, but some settings may restrict the which backgrounds can select which abilities.

ADAPTED
Requirements: Novice, Arcane Background
Trappings: Gills, high-temperature armor, embedded oxygen tank.
Select a particular environment, such as underwater, in a vacuum, at high temperatures, etc. You can move, breathe, and see normally in that environment, and don't suffer any penalties or damage due to the environment. In the case of underwater adaptation, your swim pace equals your Swimming die rather than half. This Edge doesn't render you immune to damage from other sources; for that, see the Immunity Edge.
Special: You may take this Edge multiple times. Each additional time, select a new environment to be adapted to.

BIG
Requirements: Novice, Arcane Background
Trappings: Half-giant, bear DNA.
You gain +1 size. Each point of size gives you +1 to Toughness and doubles your carrying capacity.
Special: You may take this Edge multiple times. Each time increases your size by 1. When you reach size 4, you gain the Large drawback, and at size 8, you gain the Huge drawback.

BURROWING
Requirements: Novice, Arcane Background
Trappings: Digging claws, sonic tunneling, drill arms.
You can burrow through solid earth at a pace of 4". You can move through stone and concrete, but at half speed.
Special: You may take this Edge multiple times. Each time, your burrowing pace increases by 4".

DAMAGING SKIN
Requirements: Novice, Arcane Background
Trappings: Quills, electrified shell, elemental skin.
Anyone who touches you (with an unarmed attack, or by grappling) suffers 2d4 damage. You can also deal this amount of damage with an unarmed attack or grapple if you wish. You can suppress or reactivate your damaging skin as an action.
Special: You may take this Edge multiple times. Each time increases the damage dice by one size, to a max of 2d12.

ENHANCED ARMOR
Requirements: Novice, Arcane Background
Trappings: Force field, mystic protection.
Select a particular type of armor, such as leather armor or plate armor. Your armor bonus with this armor increases by +1.
Special: You may take this Edge multiple times. Each time, you may apply a +1 bonus to a new type of armor, or increase one of your existing bonuses by 1.

ENHANCED ATTRIBUTE
Requirements: Novice, Arcane Background
Trappings: Agility: Cybernetic nervous system, improved balance, blood of a fey creature. Smarts: Alien ancestry, genetically enhanced intelligence. Spirit: Divine ancestry, mood-altering chemicals. Strength: Cybernetic limbs, animal muscles, divine might. Vigor: Nano-repair modules, giant ancestry, ate some ambrosia.
Select an Attribute. It increases by 1 die size, like a use of the boost power. Beyond a d12, each increase gives you a +1 bonus.
Special: Your enhanced Attribute die DOES NOT COUNT when purchasing Skills or Edges! Use your normal (unenhanced) Attribute die to determine the price of Skills or the requirements of Edges during advancement.
Special: You may take this Edge multiple times. Each time, you may select a different Attribute. If you select an Attribute you have already enhanced, the effects stack.

ENHANCED EDGE
Requirements: Novice (special -- see text), Arcane Background
Trappings: Magical technique, implanted muscle memory.
Select one Edge for which you qualify. You gain that Edge, but with the trappings of an Arcane Ability. For example, you could learn the Sweep Edge and say that it is due to your having multiple arms capable of hitting multiple foes, or the Marksman Edge and say that it is due to a cybernetic targeting system, etc. Aside from the trappings, the Edge follows all the normal rules. You must meet the normal requirements for the Edge, and it can't be an Arcane Ability Edge. It can be a Background Edge with the GM's permission (if it makes sense for your character to develop that ability).
Special: You may take this Edge multiple times. Each additional time you may select an additional Edge.

ENHANCED SKILL
Requirements: Novice, Arcane Background
Trappings: Skill software, enchantment, physiological advantage.
Select a particular skill. You get a +2 bonus to that skill.
Special: Because of their complex nature, you can't apply this bonus to attack rolls or checks to activate arcane powers. So while you could select a +2 bonus to Fighting, you wouldn't get the bonus to your attack rolls. Such bonuses are halved when applied to passive TNs, so a +2 bonus to Fighting grants +1 to Parry.
Special: You may take this Edge multiple times. Each time, you may apply a +2 bonus to a new skill, or increase one of your existing bonuses by 1.

ENHANCED WEAPON
Requirements: Novice, Arcane Background
Trappings: Energy field, weapon software, combat awareness.
Select a particular type of weapon, such as a longsword or M16 (you may choose your natural weapon if you want). Your damage with this sort of weapon increases by +1.
Special: You may take this Edge multiple times. Each time, you may apply a +1 bonus to a new type of weapon, or increase one of your existing bonuses by 1.

EXTRA LIMB
Requirements: Seasoned, Arcane Background
Trappings: Prehensile tail, cyber-claw, alien tentacle.
You have an additional limb, which functions as an arm (for extra legs, use Swiftness or Top Speed). This gains you a +1 bonus on Grappling checks. You can use it to perform additional actions (including an additional attack) at the usual -2 penalty for multiple actions. Your extra limb does not suffer any "off-hand" penalty.
Special: If you have the Two-Fisted Edge, it reduces multiple-attack penalties by 2 as usual, but there's no "Three-Fisted" or "Four-Fisted" Edges to reduce the penalty further.
Special: You may take this Edge multiple times. Each time, you gain another arm, and your bonus on Grappling checks increases by 1.

FLIGHT
Requirements: Veteran, Arcane Background
Trappings: Wings, rocket-feet, mystic levitation.
You can fly with a pace of 4". Your Climb rating is 1/2 your flying pace.
Special: You may take this Edge multiple times. Each time, your flying pace increases by 4".

IMMUNITY
Requirements: Veteran, Arcane Background
Trappings: Advanced immune system, elemental heritage.
Select one trapping, such as fire, cold, vacuum, pressure, poison, disease, electricity, acid, light, darkness, illusion, time, entropy, nanotechnology, computer hacking, or whatever is appropriate to your setting and is approved by your GM. You get a +4 bonus to any check to resist the effects of that trapping, and to Toughness against that trapping, and all damage from that trapping is non-lethal (the trapping can't kill you, but can knock you out). You can't select cutting, piercing, or bludgeoning damage, nor can you select anything so broad as to encompass an entire Arcane Background (for example, psychic or magic or miracles). The GM must review your selection to ensure that it is neither too broad nor too narrow.
Special: You may take this Edge multiple times. Each time, you select another trapping to be immune to. You can select a trapping you are already immune to, in which case the resistance bonus increases by +2.

LOW-LIGHT VISION
Requirements: Novice, Arcane Background
Trappings: Cat eyes, elf eyes, cyber-eyes.
You negate penalties for dim and dark lighting.
Special: You may take this Edge a second time, to negate penalties even for pitch blackness.

NATURAL ARMOR
Requirements: Novice, Arcane Background
Trappings: Tough scales, sub-dermal plating, magical protection.
You have a +2 armor bonus. This doesn't stack with normal armor.
Special: You may take this Edge multiple times. Each time, your natural armor bonus increases by 1.

NATURAL WEAPON
Requirements: Novice, Arcane Background
Trappings: Claws, bite, retractable razor blades, hidden bone spurs.
You have a natural melee weapon that deals Str+d4, Str+d6, or Str+d8 damage (your choice), and are always considered armed. This damage is limited by your Strength die size as usual.
Special: You may take this Edge multiple times. Each time increases the damage dice by one size, to a maximum of d12.

REACH
Requirements: Seasoned, Arcane Background
Trappings: Stretching, prehensile tail, telescoping arms and legs.
Your reach increases by 1" with all melee weapons, and you can grab and manipulate things 1" away.
Special: You may take this Edge multiple times. Each time increases your reach by 1".

REGENERATION
Requirements: Seasoned, Arcane Background
Trappings: Nano-repair module, half-troll, starfish DNA.
You may make a natural healing check once per day. You can make the check during combat, but it consumes your entire round (you can't move or take any other actions but healing). You can use the natural healing even when incapacitated, but your wound modifiers apply as usual.
Special: You may take this Edge multiple times. Each time grants you an additional natural healing check per day

RESISTANCE
Requirements: Novice, Arcane Background
Trappings: Psychic shielding, ward against magic.
You get a +1 bonus to any check to resist a hostile arcane power, and a +1 bonus to Toughness against such powers.
Special: You may take this Edge multiple times. Each time increases the bonuses by 1.

SCENT
Requirements: Novice, Arcane Background
Trappings: Wolf nose, olfactory analysis system.
You can recognize creatures and materials by scent as easily as a sighted person can recognize them visually. You have a +2 bonus to Notice or Track someone by scent. Your scent has a range of 4".
Special: You may take this Edge multiple times. Each time increases the bonus by +1 and the range by 1".

SMALL
Requirements: Novice, Arcane Background
Trappings: Half-pixie, mouse DNA.
Your size decreases by 2. This decreases your Toughness by 2, but also gives you the Tiny ability, which gives foes (except other Tiny foes) a -2 penalty to all attacks against you. You also get a +2 bonus to all Stealth checks due to your low profile.
Special: You may not be affected by both Big and Small at the same time.

SWIFTNESS
Requirements: Novice, Arcane Background
Trappings: Cybernetic legs, animal feet.
Your Pace increases by 2", and your running die increases to d10.
Special: You may take this Edge multiple times. Each time increases your Pace by another 2".

TOP SPEED
Requirements: Novice, Arcane Background
Trappings: Rocket boots, time-warp, horse legs like a centaur.
You roll an additional die when running. So if your normal running die is +1d6, it is instead +2d6. If your running die is +1d10, it becomes +2d10, etc.
Special: You may take this Edge multiple times. Each time lets you roll an additional die while running (so +2d6 becomes +3d6, then +4d6, etc.).

WALL CRAWLING
Requirements: Novice, Arcane Background
Trappings: Spider legs, suction-cup fingers.
You can move along any climbable surface with a pace equal to your full Climbing skill. You still need to make Climbing checks on difficult surfaces, but the penalties are halved.
Special: You may take this Edge a second time, automatically climb any solid surface, even on slick surfaces and overhangs, with no check required.


Summary
Adapted - N, AB - You function normally in a particular environment
Big - N, AB - Size +1
Burrowing - N, AB - Move through earth at speed of 4"
Damaging Skin - N, AB - Anyone who touches you takes damage
Enhanced Armor - N, AB - Armor +1 with a single type of armor
Enhanced Attribute - N, AB - Increase an Attribute 1 step
Enhanced Edge - N (special), AB - Gain some other Edge, but with a Trapping
Enhanced Skill - N, AB - One particular Skill gets +2
Enhanced Weapon - N, AB - Damage +1 with a single type of weapon
Extra Limb - S, AB - Grappling +1 and you can take an extra arm-related action (at the usual penalty)
Flight - V, AB - Fly at a speed of 4"
Immunity - V, AB - One Trapping deals non-lethal damage to you, +4 resistance/Toughness against it
Low-Light Vision - N, AB - Negate darkness penalties
Natural Armor - N, AB - Armor +2
Natural Weapon - N, AB - Unarmed attack deals up to Str+d8 damage
Reach - S, AB - Melee reach increases by 1"
Regeneration - S, AB - Natural healing check once per day, even during combat
Resistance - N, AB -Resistance/Toughness +1 against any arcane power
Scent - N, AB - Recognize others by scent, Tracking by scent at +2
Small - N, AB - Size -2, Tiny ability
Swiftness - N, AB - Pace +2, running die becomes 1d10
Top Speed - N, AB - Running die doubles (to 2d6 or 2d10)
Wall Crawling - N, AB - Climb automatically at a speed equal to your Climbing skill



Design Notes
My basic goal was to create a system that could handle things like cybernetics, genetic engineering, and being part monster. I feel like using Arcane Background is kind of a hack because it requires an action to use your powers. No self-respecting cyborg is going to spend a round activating his armor, and it would seem weird for a mutant with a heightened reaction time to need to pause for a sec to activate his swift reactions. Sure, we can think of reasons why that might make sense, but I don't think it's the norm (it's certainly not how I think about these sorts of characters).

The Arcane Abilities system is meant to be fairly straightforward, to resemble the existing Edge and Power rules, and to be balanced against existing Edges and racial traits. If you are looking for something more elaborate, consider the super-powers system from Necessary Evil.

This is my third attempt at the system. It combines the Arcane Ability Background with normal Arcane Backgrounds. I've also incorporated many suggestions from the forums (thanks, forumites!).



EDIT: Improved Natural Weapons, split Monster/Alien into two distinct backgrounds, created Alternate Form and Vulnerability Hindrances, some minor wording changes to other Edges.
EDIT: Added No Hands Hindrance.
EDIT: Added Reach; removed Alluring and Lightning Reflexes since you can get the same effect using Enhanced Edge and with fewer balance concerns.
EDIT: Added Summary table, revamped Wall Crawling
EDIT: Added Extra Limb; sections on Racial Edges and Gear
EDIT: Revamped Wall Crawling yet again


Last edited by 77IM on Wed Jan 27, 2010 3:42 pm; edited 7 times in total
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77IM
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 22, 2010 11:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

BUMP -- any feedback?

I just made a few changes to the above post (added some cool Hindrances and cleaned up some of the other rules) and I am pretty happy with it. But I'm still very interested in what other people think, especially if you see something wonky, unbalanced, or difficult during play.

Thanks,

-- 77IM
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JarJarMessiah
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 22, 2010 1:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have yet to check out the revised rules, but I am considering this for my nephew's baby dragon and my son's panther/shpinx hybrid.
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OSIAdept
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 22, 2010 2:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

interesting i might use this for my modern horror conspiracy
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77IM
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 22, 2010 3:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Awesome -- baby dragons and such are exactly the sort of weird creature characters I am hoping to support with these rules. I have added a "No Hands" Hindrance for creatures that are not humanoid.

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skylion
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 22, 2010 4:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Looks like your getting into GURPS character builder territory; this isn't a bad thing.

In just a looksee, your work might fall somewhere between the Savage Worlds Core Rules, and the Supers Companion.

Have you given thought to how all three (core rules, yours, supers) might work together? Or is this a more less replacement for the Supers rules? It replicates them in a variety of ways.
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77IM
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 22, 2010 4:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's an alternative to the Supers Rules. It's not really a "replacement" because they do different things. I wouldn't recommend running a game of Necessary Evil using just Arcane Abilities, for example.

- Arcane Abilities is meant to be relatively balanced with the core rules, whereas the Supers rules are not.
- Arcane Abilities uses subsystems (Edges and ABs) that are already present in the core rules, wherease the Supers rules use new a point-based system.
- Arcane Abilities is meant to be multi-genre. Like, you could do something like Rippertech using these rules (although it wouldn't be exactly the same). The Supers rules would definitely work for other genres but it may take a tad more work.

-- 77IM
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skylion
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 22, 2010 5:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That is what I originally thought, but in kit bashing your work in my own mind, I was seeing how much it would dovetail into the Supers rule. It does do so; a good deal of overlap especially for many of the traits/skills booster Edges.

At one point, in working with you stuff, I would be thinking "Why aren't I doing this using NE or the Supers Companion".

The reason would be that once you say supers.....it's supers. And the comparisons to comic books and CGI heavy movies come into mind right after. And some things just aren't comic book inspired.

However, your work is pretty darn jazzy. And as I said earlier, it reminds me of building characters in GURPS; yours is much less complicated.

As far as Rippers is concerned....it could work very well. I see the steampunk bits being lit up on all boilers using your rules. Almost to the point of anime inspired steampunk. (Runepunk especially) Again, not a bad thing at all.

I'm putting together a rocketpunk game in the near future. Think I'll toss this at my players, see how much lather I can work up.
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