Legion of Liberty Design Note: Arcane Backgrounds

Once we had the initial concept of superheroes in the American Revolution, the next major mechanical question was how to model the superpowers. Savage Worlds offers at least three obvious alternatives for superpowers between Deluxe and Adventure editions – Arcane Background: Superpowers from Deluxe, Arcane Background: Gifted from Adventure, and the Superpowers Companion. Of the three, the Superpowers Companion rules are completely different from the other two, and our take on that ruleset was that it didn’t really suit a lower-powered, historical superhero game. Many of the powers had technological or sorcerous trappings that didn’t fit the concept, and the basic structure assumes the heroes have all their powers on day one, versus the setting concept of young superhumans growing into their abilities during the revolution.

  With the Superpowers Companion put aside, that left the two Arcane Backgrounds. The major difference between the two is the skill used to invoke the character’s power. In Gifted, a single skill, Focus, is used for all powers; in Superpowers, each power has an individual skill. For the young heroes of the Legion, the idea that each could have wildly varying skill in various powers seemed to fit better. Further, distributing skill points among several superpower skills serves to slow the progression of the character’s abilities, keeping them more on par with musket-wielding foes.

  Once we set the basic framework of the Arcane Background, we added some benefits for superhuman ancestry – extra skill and ability points to reflect the overall superiority of superhumans. These extras allowed for superhumans to start with, for example, higher Strength than would normally be possible for a Novice character without compromising every other attribute. Removing the maximums on attributes also provided the characters with the chance to grow into truly stupendous heroes if they chose to invest in specific attributes.

​  Two other decisions affected the structure of the superhumans, both Setting Rules from the core book. Born a Hero allowed Novices to take powers and Edges not normally available at their rank, setting them apart from the Extras around them. No Power Points both sped up the game by eliminating power point bookkeeping and also minimized “power stacking” where superhumans could buff up several abilities at once. No Power Points also mitigated the effect of allowing Novices to take extremely high level powers – the penalty for actually using the powers would be so punishing that the power would only work occasionally unless the player invested heavily in skills and Edges to provide bonuses.


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