Return to That Godforsaken Country
This is a brief outline of how arcane powers work in Savage Worlds / Deadlands Reloaded, as some details of how they work are not always clear. Note, however, that the powers for Blessed work somewhat differently. For a list of powers please see the Powers by Arcane Background page.
The first thing to bear in mind is that Savage Worlds powers are not exactly like D&D spells, as they are more general. When a character selects a power (either at character creation or as an advance) a “Trapping” must also be selected. The trappings for powers include both the appearance of the power and how it is activated. In addition, the trapping should refer to what kind of damage is done — acid, fire, force, electrical, cold, or another option. Only one form of damage may be selected. The Deadlands Players Guide provides an outline of trappings for each of the powers, but players will need to flesh out the details.
When a character uses a power, (s)he must spend the necessary power points while announcing which power (s)he is using. Then, the appropriate die is rolled; most of the time this will be the die for the Arcane Background (such as Hexslinging for a Huckster or Weird Science for a Weird Scientist), but at times a different skill will be used. On a success the power acts normally; on a failure the power points are lost to no effect, and on a 1 on the skill die there will normally be a backlash. Note that due to the Wild Die it is also possible for a power to work correctly and also cause a backlash.
As an example, let us consider the frequently used Bolt power. It can be used by Hucksters, Weird Scientists, and Martial Artists.
The Bolt power is capable of projecting 1, 2, or 3 bolts of…something. The cost is one power point per bolt; each bolt does 2d6 of damage. The bolts can be increased to 3d6 by doubling the power point cost.
The description of the Trappings in the Deadlands Players Guide lists the trapping for Hucksters as follows: “The huckster hurls a playing card from his sleeve with devastating force. Called soul blast.” This description is optional; a Huckster choosing the power could add a trapping of presenting a card, manipulating a deck of cards, or whatever else. In addition, the form the damage takes should be selected. So the Huckster might have a trapping of presenting a card and shooting out bolts of fire, which could ignite objects carried by the target. Or the trapping could have the Huckster hurl a card and cause force damage to the target.
A Weird Scientist can also use this power, but it would work differently. The Deadlands Players Guide states the trapping for Weird Scientists as “A ray gun, lightning cannon.” The Weird Scientist can state that the trapping is a gun, for example, and decide whether it shoots lightning, acid, fire, or whatever. In this case, the Weird Scientist would use Shooting rather than the Weird Science skill when using the power, since the trapping is a gun. If the trapping was some sort of other device, for example an electrical box activated by a switch, the skill would be Weird Science, and the damage would be electrical.
A Martial Artist can use the power; in this case the trapping is listed as “Pebbles or other small projectiles are hurled at tremendous speed. Called stones fly from the hand.” If the player can think of a different trapping (besides the kinetic trapping of projectiles) then it would be a possibility; otherwise the character’s trapping can be a throw or a kick In the case of a Martial Artist, of course, the skill die used would be a separate skill for the Bolt power.