Levels of Magic
In most treasure hunting-themed movies, TV shows and books, there are three different levels of magic that can come into play; these can be described as No Magic, Low Magic, and High Magic. Presented below are suggestions for how each level can be implemented using the Savage Worlds RPG.
Just like it sounds, magic plays no role in this type of setting. Characters may not have arcane backgrounds, nor any Edges related to them. Good examples of this type of setting include the films in the National Treasure franchise. In such games, it is the monetary value or cultural importance of treasures alone that prompt people to go in search of them.
- Powers permitted: None
- Edges allowed: None
Magic is a factor in these games, but it is of a discreet nature rather than a vulgar one; that is, they provide benefits without having visible magical effects. Refer to the table below for a list that sorts powers and Edges into those two categories. At the GM's discretion, relics can still provide access to vulgar powers. For example, while the Healing power cannot be used in a campaign with Low Magic, it becomes available to someone who manages to acquire the Holy Grail. The Indiana Jones movies are a good example of this level of magic.
- Powers permitted: Arcane protection, Boost/lower Trait, Deflection, Detect/conceal arcana, Dispel, Protection
- Edges allowed: Arcane Background (Magic and Miracles), Arcane Resistance (and Improved), all Power Edges except Wizard
Almost anything goes in these settings, as long as the GM deems it to be thematically appropriate. The movies in the Mummy franchise are a good example of this, where the heroes and their foes both have access to all sorts of spectacular magical effects. Indeed, the GM may even wish to develop new powers based on legends and lore.
- Powers permitted: All others
- Edges allowed: Also Wizard and all Weird Edges
Learning High Magic Powers
At the GM's discretion, characters in a low-magic setting could gain access to high-magic powers by finding grimoires, scrolls and other magical writings. Some examples of this are detailed here.
- Banish—An old book details the Roman Catholic ritual of exorcism.
- Beast Friend—A character could mystically learn the language of the birds.
- Divination—Scrolls tell how to commune with the spirits of the dead.
- Healing—A holy relic, such as a sacred cup, could provide this power.
- Puppet—A voodoo ritual makes it possible to gain control of a victim's spirit.
- Smite—The wielder can invoke the power in a mystic weapon.
- Warrior's Gift—A sacred mask provides some kind of benefit.
Creatures and Foes
The level of magic also helps determine what types of foes are present in adventures and campaigns, as detailed below.
- No Magic settings have only natural creatures and ordinary people—that is, ones who have only no magical or supernatural abilities. The Savage Worlds rulebook provides plenty of option, such as alligators and crocodiles, wolves, sharks, snakes and swarms. There are still religious institutions and perhaps even secret occult societies in these settings, but members don't wield any powers.
- Low Magic settings also include NPCs with access to magic, such as the Holy Person and Occultist archetypes, with limits as mentioned above. At the GM's discretion, ghosts (SWADE page 183) might also be present.
- High Magic settings open lots more possibilities, especially vampires, werewolves, zombies, and other creatures that appear in the folklore of the “real world.” Chapter 6 of the core rulebook provides plenty of suggestions for unusual powers that these enemies might possess. As always, the GM can always decide to make adjustments based on the desires of the players and the needs of the campaign.