Return to That Godforsaken Country
There are five Arcane Backgrounds in Deadlands Reloaded; this article will just provide a brief outline of how they work.
Blessed: Blessed are the DLR equivalent of clerics. They have some kind of connection to a much higher power (the exact nature of the higher power is fairly vague; Blessed can belong to just about any religion that is available in the setting.) Blessed have a skill called “Faith,” which is used for all their spellcasting attempts. Faith is linked to Spirit. Blessed do not use power points, nor do they have to learn powers. Instead, a Blessed can use any of the powers available to Blessed (these are listed in the Deadlands Players Guide, but they include not only Healing, Greater Healing, and “buff” powers, but also some powers which can be used offensively.) However, the Faith roll made to activate the power has a -2 per spell rank, so a Novice-ranked power has a -2 on the Faith roll, while a Legendary-ranked power has a -10 on the Faith roll. A failure on the Faith roll results in a point of Fatigue to the Blessed, and a 1 on the Faith die (regardless of the Wild Die) reduces the Faith die by one level. As a consequence, Blessed usually need to be sure they have Fate Chips available before attempting to use a power. As an additional note, while a Blessed is touched by a higher power, there is no requirement that they be priests, preachers, nuns, etc., although certainly those possibilities are popular. All Blessed, however, must avoid what their deity refers to as “Sin” or suffer deleterious effects.
Huckster: The Huckster is the Deadlands version of a wizard, although they normally need to be more subtle in the use of their powers than high fantasy wizards (due to the likelihood of torches and pitchforks.) Hucksters generally use a gambling persona; the Complete Book of Games by Hoyle is actually a coded book of magic. Hucksters do use power points (although they recover their power points much more slowly than in SW core rules.) Hucksters begin with 10 power points and knowing 3 powers. Any time a Huckster rolls a 1 on the Magic skill roll (s)he suffers “backlash” and is Shaken. If the Huckster runs out of power points, however, there is an option for using a gambling method for immediate points (by creating a poker hand from the Action Deck) to use a power. If the hand isn’t good enough, or if the Huckster uses a Joker in the hand, however, there is a random backlash determined by the Marshal. Note: Due to this capability it is recommended that anyone playing a huckster have his/her own separate deck of playing cards, including both jokers. This deck is reshuffled every time it is used.
Indian Shaman: The Shaman is a priest-type character, but unlike the Blessed the Shaman uses power points and has a limited set of powers. The Shaman begins with 15 power points and knowing two powers; the Shaman’s power points recharge more rapidly than normal as long as (s)he is in a natural environment. The Shaman must determine whether or not to begin with the Hindrance “Old Ways Oath,” which restricts what (s)he can use in terms of equipment but allows the Shaman to perform rituals (which are normally required and can take up a significant amount of the Shaman’s time) less frequently. The Shaman uses a skill called Tribal Medicine to activate powers; should (s)he roll a 1 on the Tribal Medicine die (s)he gains a point of Fatigue.
Weird Scientist: The Weird Scientist has arcane powers tied to devices and infernal machines that (s)he invents. The Weird Scientist begins with only one power, but it has 20 power points. In addition, each new power the Scientist gains has its own pool of 20 power points (or more if the character has taken the “more power points” Edge.) There is a price, however. Any time the character takes a new power (s)he gains a random derangement, although there is an Edge which can ameliorate that cost. Also, any time the Scientist rolls a 1 on the Weird Science roll the device fails spectacularly, causing 1d6 damage in a medium burst template, so it’s easy for allies to be caught in the explosion.
Martial Artists: This is the most complex of the Arcane Backgrounds. The Martial Artist must take the Edge Martial Arts (used for combat) and the Edge AB: Chi Mastery, which is used for the actual arcane parts. The Martial Artist begins with 20 power points and 2 powers. Each of these powers also has a skill associated with it (using the same name as the power) tied to Spirit (so it also behooves the Martial Artist to push his/her Spirit to a high level.) On the bright side, the Martial Artist doesn’t have the disadvantages the other AB’s have for poor rolls; for them a failure is just a failure.
Each of the Arcane Backgrounds additionally has several Edges which only its practitioners can take; in many cases these Edges can be used to reduce the harmful effects of failures. There are too many of them to be listed here. For additional details of how the powers themselves work, and particularly the importance of "Trappings," please see the Arcane Powers article.