One of my PC's wants to be a mage type character. I would be all for this, except that we are playing the Fallout Pen and Paper game, which doesn't really have any magic related techniques or attacks. How could I implement "Magic" into the game, while still sticking the the setting? Or are there already magic aspects in the game that I just missed?
Given the fallout setting, where there's no 'psionics' or magic as such (at least as far as anything appearing the games so far). Broadly speaking you've got a few options:
- Introduce psionics or magic into the game (this isn't part of the fallout canon).
- Go with mutation (this does appear in the canon setting).
- Tell the player no
I think that the first port of call is to speak with the player and ask them why they want to play a mage. Find out what it is about playing mages that they enjoy. If it's the ability to throw around bolts of energy (fireball, magic missile etc) then some form of mutation might work well, or having them be a scientist/tinkerer type who likes to mess with energy weapons. If it's the versatility and the ability to do all sorts of utility stuff then some sort of broadly-skilled and equipped survivalist or scout. If it's the feeling of being something of a 'mystic' type then there are tons of options that fall short of begin a mage/psychic - off the top of my head:
- Brotherhood of Steel (or similar group) lorekeeper - knows lots of secret knowledge and has access to some nice tech gadgets.
- Mystic/witch doctor/shaman from a tribe - they don't need to have overt magic but might be able to put together some clever 'potions' from local herbs or be able to enter trances that give them some insight or the like.
- Mutant with unexplainable powers.
The key with using ideas like the ones above in something like fallout canon is going to be preserving the feel that it probably isn't magic whilst still keeping it somewhat mystical. If that's enough to keep your player happy then you're probably on to a winner. If not then you may well be better looking for another setting unless, of course, you and your players are happy to play fast and loose with the setting.
There are two parts to this question. The first is flavour and the second is mechanical competencies.
If I was in your shoes, I would tell your player that he can pretend to be a mage so long as he uses technology to do it.
Fallout's universe doesn't include magic. At all. There are things that appear to be magic and are treated like magic, but at the end of the day it is Science! (of the glorious 1950s vintage) that underpins everything.
You can have fun with magic by either accepting that magic is achieved by clever science with great presentation (See Galen from the Babylon 5 universe) or by allowing magic into your universe.
You'll have to come to that decision with your group. One word of warning, don't simply bow to one players demands just to get him in the game, that can cause more tension than you expect. Make sure everybody is on board with the idea.
When it comes to mechanical competencies you need to find out what he wants to do. Mage means different things to different people. If he wants to go out throwing fireballs around you have a different situation than if he wants to know everything there is to know about the arcane.
How much you want to focus on magic will also determine how many mechanical competencies there are too. If it's just for one character you may not want a detailed system of spells like D&D or a full creative casting system like Mage, Ars Magica or The Dresden Files.
Fallout PnP has the Trait system, which you could use to give him one or two tricks. Giving him an energy weapon powered by health would allow him to play the Fireball mage for instance.
To get a toolbox mage (ie. somebody who has the right tool at all times, even if it isn't as perfectly suited as a properly trained and equipped person) you could allow the following skill.
You can access some kind of force and put it to work for you. When you would roll another skill, you may roll this skill without any bonuses instead. Any use of this skill is always accompanied by a large and obvious display of glowing lights (or similar). If you fail, you instantly suffer 3*LCK HP of damage. Initial value: 10 + 2*LCK
As SevenSidedDie says, the common approach for psuedo-magic in a non-magical world is psychic powers, sometimes referred to as psionics (fun fact: psionics was originally coined as a term built from "psychic" and "electronics", implying that psychic powers could be harnessed like machines, studied and made reliable).
I don't know the Fallout game at all, but for inspiration on psychic powers in a post-apocalyptic world, you need look no further than Gamma World. I'm not up to date about the rules (last edition I played was the fourth. Seventh? Really?) but the setting is among my all-time favorites, with wild-and-weird mutations (sentient humans, animals and even plants) roaming the desolated highways of post-nuclear America.
I would probably pick any version but the 7th as a basis for ideas for psychic mutations. The 7th, built as it is on D&D4e, probably has them tied to 4e's annoying mechanics.
Why not technomagic? A mix between traditional magic and technology as either using technology to mimic the effects of magic or as using magic to enhance technology. The former is easy and I won't go into it: the more advanced technology, the closer to magic and so on. The second gives you plenty of options to role play around it. Can mages talk to machines and make them do things? Can the mages use magic to improve what a device can do? For example, maybe they can do the de-blur a low res camera to get a crystal clear image. Can they be technomancers, doing divination from technological sources? The posibilites are infinite.
No actual example here (though I'm sure some game has already implemented this), but you could also go for the nanotech equals and provides "magic" solution. Read up on current nanotechnology (simply google it, or start here, at tor.com or here, at io9 (when their servers come back after the storm?), for example), extrapolate from what you've read, decide which constraints to discard for the sake of fun, work your version into your campaign, and there you go, you have magic. :)