I've been thinking about how to handle pseudo-Vancian magic as it appears in D&D-based settings like Forgotten Realms. I want any magic house rules I come up with to maintain the spirit of Savage Worlds, so easy handling and bookkeeping is important. The important part I want to keep about Vancian magic is the thrill of discovering a cool new spell in a dusty tome, and the New Power Edge just doesn't do that.
Having just readSavage Worlds: Three Don’ts
What I've been pondering is making spells a purely in-game element that are acquired by character actions, such as transcribing them from an allied mage's spellbook, research, buying them, or (the most important) finding them in a long-lost spellbook buried in a treasure trove or clutched in the dead(?) fingers of an entombed wizard. Each spell would have a Power Point cost, a more SW-like duration, and a minimum Rank requirement, though this last might trend slightly low relative to D&D spell levels because of the disadvantage (relative to SW's Powers system) of having to search them out in the first place. A Spellcasting skill roll would be used just as with vanilla SW Arcane characters.
To make it work, I was thinking of having the Arcane Background grant access not to the New Power Edge, but instead to a New School Edge with a choice of one of the eight Schools of magic first introduced in AD&D 2nd edition. (For the non-D&D players that's Abjuration, Evocation, Divination, Conjuration, Illusion, Transmutation, Enchantment, and Necromancy.) To learn and cast a given spell would require having access to the spell's School of magic. The Arcane Background Edge would give spellcasters access to three such Schools to start, and more would require spending an advance on the New School Edge.
I'd like some feedback on that idea. I'm not wedded to that particular School-based setup, but I do think an Edge or set of them is necessary to keep D&D-style spellcasters working well in a SW system alongside non-spellcasters. Am I going astray? Is there a better way of representing a world full of many diverse spells without an explosion of Powers, most of which a given mage could never get with their limited number of Edges? I want to keep the awesomeness of Savage Worlds' rules, but I don't want to entirely re-write the parts of the Forgotten Realms that have been shaped by Vancian magic assumptions.
I'm considering a couple of tweaks on top of that base, though I think these will happily co-exist with a variety of magic schemes, including vanilla SW Powers.
Using Levi's Overloaded! as a way to manage Power Points
Instead of having a total that goes down, spellcasters keep track of how many points they've cast. They can go over their 10 Power Points (or however many) limit whenever they want, but each spell cast that adds points while the mage is over the threshold triggers a Vigour roll to avoid Fatigue. The effect is that a spellcaster can go all-out if they want, but only with a significant risk of temporarily wrecking or maybe even killing themselves. The usual per-hour Point regeneration would instead bring the accumulated total down away from the danger zone.
Extending spell durations an order of magnitude or two
For example, a spell with a duration of 1 (being 1 round) would last 1 minute or even 1 hour. Buffs could be applied before combat and last long enough to matter; the 2nd order of magnitude change would mean the town priest could bless the heroes before they go to slay the dragon, and it would actually last long enough to matter.[1. I got this part of the suggestion from someone else's post about extending spell durations, but for the life of me I can't find the post to link to it now. Anyone know who I'm stealing from?
Update: I found the source of my inspiration. It's Chris Kucsera's short-but-sweet Hedge Wizards, Wise Women and Adepts: An Alternate Magic System for Savage Worlds, downloaded from Savage Heroes. After re-reading it, I'm thinking of adapting Chris' item-creation rules for my purposes too.] However! The catch is that casting time wouldn't be just an Action, and would be increased by the same order of magnitude. (Or so. A spell that lasts for hours might take ten minutes to cast rather than an hour. Details are for later.) Blessing a party would be an extended ritual, not just a perk tossed off in 6 seconds.
I'm detailing this backwards, since that's really not very D&D-style. To bring this back into line, the above can be mitigated by mages by casting spells with their original casting time (usually one Action). Spells cast like this would have the normal-magnitude spell duration. So, a well-prepared mage might get an entire dungeon's worth of fighting out of one Armour spell and save herself a lot of Power Points, but a mage who found the need for Armour only after coming under attack would be able to maintain it for a very short period of time. Of course Fireballs and the like aren't amenable to longer casting times and are rarely, if ever, useful when there is time for leisurely casting, so spells of Instant duration have round-magnitude casting times.
I really like this modification because it rewards deliberate mages and encourages the use of utility spells without making mages useless when caught unprepared.