I have a long running fantasy campaign with Savage Worlds and I wonder if the Arcane Background (Magic) is too powerful. The wizard can quickly overwhelm the fighter types with the ease that they hit with range attacks and the amount of damage they dish out. Is this a correct perception and, if it is, what can I do about it?

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is pretty subjective and may get close votes. You can probably help head this off by focusing the question more - not "are wizards too powerful fight" but concentrating on specific items. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Feb 8 '11 at 16:44

From my experience (two Savage Worlds campaigns, Empire of Ashes and Legends of Steel), the wizard was the massive heavy artillery without a lot of weak points. The main issue was how easy it was to arrange your Edges so you were never losing Power Points (I forget how our wizard players worked it, but as long as they got a good roll they didn't lose the points). This means the wizard can boost-multi-bolt with impunity.

The way I'd fix it is to just make sure they can't have a huge number of Power Points and that they always spend them when casting, no "keep them on a raise" shenanigans. Then it should be fine – they can do loads of damage, for a few rounds a day.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes - I think you are correct, it is the Wizard Edge that is broken. May be it should only be one raise that counts. I have also be thinking of limiting, Novices to only one bolt, Seasoned two two bolts etc. \$\endgroup\$ – David Allan Finch Mar 15 '11 at 9:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ Several people have explained in other answers why the core rules are not broken, not even the Wizard edge. mxyzplk has mentioned below that the wizards in his party in his game had several edges that gave them at least +4 to Spellcasting: not only this makes the roll an automatic success, it makes raises extremely likely. This breaks the game for the wizards' gain, but it is not a flaw in the Core Rules. \$\endgroup\$ – sergut Jun 25 '13 at 9:58

I'm skeptical about the answer from mxyzplk. The Wizard edge allows you to spend one fewer PP per raise on your spellcasting roll. Even with a d10 in spellcasting, you're not going to score multiple raises very often. Most damage-dealing spells cost 3 or more PP, so even with a raise they're going to burn through their PP fairly quickly.

In general, when any Arcane Background character decides to throw points around, they can do a lot, but then they're pretty underpowered until the points recharge.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Probs for: d4,d6,d8,d10,d12: >=4 62.38% 75.01% 81.20% 84.97% 87.50%; >=8 19.26% 25.79% 24.58% 39.71% 49.80%; >= 12 4.29% 5.49% 10.34% 11.53% 10.89%. So a Wizard with a d4 will get a raise 20% of the time and two raises 4.3% of the time. A d10 Wizard will do this 40% and two 12%. Which is about what I see at my table. \$\endgroup\$ – David Allan Finch Jun 6 '11 at 9:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ In my case, the player took the Wizard edge, and then some stuff the GM had, not sure of source (we just had SWXE, he was allowing Fantasy and Mars and some other sources) - some racial edge that gave him +2 to spellcasting rolls, and a Forbidden Knowledge edge that gave him another +2. I think you can see where this is going. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Jun 6 '11 at 13:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk: eeekh \$\endgroup\$ – David Allan Finch Jun 6 '11 at 14:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ As soon as you move out of the Core Rules it is pretty easy to break something. Plus two different edges that give a +2 to the same skill seem to me like a recipe for disaster (or perennial success if you are the lucky character). I cannot think of any of my friends allowing that as GM. ;-) \$\endgroup\$ – sergut Jun 17 '13 at 13:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ There's a reason flat skill bonuses are very rare throughout SW. +4 is a guaranteed success! \$\endgroup\$ – Ryre Jun 19 '13 at 17:38

I do not think any Arcane Background is too powerful in the Core Rules, not even Magic combined with the Wizard edge. It is true that Wizards are capable to dealing the heaviest blows (like those 3d6 Bolts, or 4d6 with a raise!), but they have big weaknesses that balance out their DMR (damage per round) power:

  • Their power points run out quite quickly, even for Wizards with Spellcasting d12. Once they run out of magic, they are mostly a liability. This can happen if they fight many extras, or several fights with no time to recharge power points (1 per hour!).
  • Wizards/sorcerers usually have terrible parry and toughness, which means that even lousy extras can cause them wounds or even take them out of the game with a simple arrow. True, they can use powers to increase their parry/toughness, but that takes precious time and power points and does not last very long.
  • If they cast a 1 on their Spellcasting die (regardless of the wild die) that is a bennie lost (or become shaken!). Three times as likely if they cast bolts in threes to deal with extras. ;-)

If they were really too powerful all gaming groups would consist just of wizards, and I have never seen it happening. ;-) They strike the hardest blows but they are fragile like glass and brief like a match fire. They are not too powerful.

However, if you go out of the Core Rules and allow edges that grant a bonus to Spellcasting... that may easily break the game.

For high-fantasy games, you can use Shaintar's rules changes. Its take at magic is slightly different to the Core Rules. Among other things, the Wizard Edge is not available to novice characters, and a critical failure (snake-eyes) on Spellcasting can cause a wound.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The probability of getting a 1 and becoming shaken when conjuring 3 Bolts is 33% for Spellcasting d8, 27% for d10, and 23% for d12. Not negligible. \$\endgroup\$ – sergut Jun 25 '13 at 10:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ True but in reality what happens is a player only does this if they have what they view is spare beanies to make a re roll. And hence it never happens unless the situation is desperate. \$\endgroup\$ – David Allan Finch Jun 25 '13 at 10:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ The point still stands: using magic costs bennies (unlike, say, shooting arrows). \$\endgroup\$ – sergut Jun 25 '13 at 12:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ Shooting arrows (or any missile weapon) have 1's hit bystanders. Which is the almost the same (ok not as bad). ROF 3 weapons have the same problem. The point is that with the Wizard Edge you get to keep your MP on a raise. There is no other Edge that this happens. \$\endgroup\$ – David Allan Finch Jun 25 '13 at 13:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ True, but that does not make wizards overpowered (which was your original question) because most powers cost several power points and because of all the other weaknesses of wizards pointed above, including the danger of self-harm. On the one hand, a wizard using only one small bolt per turn is not much better than a weak archer and does not "overwhelm the fighter types" that deal 2d8, 2d10 or more per attack; on the other hand, a wizard using several small bolts per turn, big bolts, confusions, blasts, etc, will run out of power points quickly (and risk shaking themselves). \$\endgroup\$ – sergut Jun 26 '13 at 9:23

Yes they are :) I should declare my interest in that I am not a wizard and am playing in the game where Dave is running it. The problem is that wizardy types typically do not run out of power during the normal course of play - in that there are not enough encounters per day to drain them. Yes you can make it so that there are enough encounters, but that doesn't necessarily fit the campaign style. We are seeing wizards killing many multiples of bad guys to the non-wizards, whether from bolt attacks or AoE spells.

That said, it doesn't not necessarily detract from the enjoyment of the game, as it isn't only about blowing up the opposition. There are other ways to have fun, and that is what I have more focused on.


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