Using Powers

My take on No-Power-Points spell casting in SWADE

This is a draft for discussion and consideration only; it is not currently canon for my campaign. It may or may not be playable as-is. It probaby hasn't been playtested.

Core concepts


The act of using magic involves drawing power from somewhere and channeling it through the practitioner’s body. This is tiring and can be very dangerous. Drain is what happens when the practitioner pushes themselves too far.

Drain is usually Fatigue damage, but it can be a Wound in very bad cases.

Drain is resisted just like Soak, costing one Bennie per resistance attempt. Instead of Vigor, the character uses the attribute associated with their arcane or Magic skill - Spirit or Smarts.

Drain cannot be healed by magical or mundane means; only the passage of time and Natural Healing rolls. However, powers or abilities that allow a character to ignore wound or fatigue penalties do function normally against Drain damage.

Two new derived stats

New concept: Power Limit

  • Starts at: (½ arcane skill die type) - 2
  • Goes up when you increase your arcane skill
    • As with Parry and Toughness, also goes up +1 every other increase past d12. So an arcane skill of d12+2 gives 7, d12+4 (should you somehow get it that high!) gives 8, and so on.
  • Goes up by 1 at each rank
  • Goes up with Edge

New concept: Mod Limit

  • Starts at 1
  • Goes up with Edges

Two different diceroll types for power usage

When using a Power, the arcane skill roll is defined as Controlled Magic or Wild Magic.

  • Controlled Magic is what happens when:
    • the total PP of the power + all modifiers is equal to or less than the power limit, and
    • the total number of modifiers is equal to or less than mod limit
  • Otherwise, the Power usage is Wild Magic.

Controlled magic works like this:

  • Standard roll of standard arcane skill, no modifiers
  • Crit fail[^1] results in mild backlash - sustained spells dropped, practitioner is Shaken, the Power might also go wild in some way (GM fiat)
  • During any Power usage where the practitioner’s arcane skill die aces, after the effect of the Power is resolved, they must take (or resist) one point of Fatigue Drain.
    • If they use a Bennie to reroll the Power usage, and the die does not ace on the roll they choose to keep, they do not take Drain.

Wild Magic works like this:

  • Roll of arcane skill with a -2 modifier 1
  • Backlash happens a roll of a 1 on arcane skill die. Bad backlash:
    • All sustained spells dropped
    • Practitioner is Stunned
  • During any Wild Magic Power usage where the practitioner’s arcane skill die aces, after the effect of the Power is resolved, they must take (or resist) one point of Woumd Drain.
    • If they use a Bennie to reroll the Power usage, and the die does not ace on the roll they choose to keep, they do not take Drain.
  • (Probably) the maximum power you can use in wild magic is 2x your Power Limit; any more than that will just kill you dead on the spot.

Other notes and mechanics

Healing Fatigue / Wounds from Drain

Fatigue and Wounds taken from use of powers is magical damage dealt to your entire body at the subcellular level; it cannot be treated with the Healing skill or the healing or relief powers. THe character can only recover with time. As normal, Fatigue recovers after an hour of rest, and Wounds heal with natural healing rolls.

Sustaining Powers

Powers with durations measured in rounds can be cast in two ways, chosen when you use the power: either normal, or sustained.

  • If normal, the roll is normal, but the power terminates at the end of the normal duration. Practitioner needs to re-cast to do it again.
  • If sustained, the power keeps going as long as they like, but they are at a cumulative -1 on all future arcane rolls per sustained power.

Careful Casting (maybe)

A variation on controlled casting for when time is not a factor; designed to allow practitioners free-er use of powers during non-combat scenes without risking knocking themselves out. (This replaces the concept of “Power Preparation” from the core SWADE NoPP rules.)

  • Takes ~minutes
  • Allows a free Soak roll against the drain 2
  • Cannot be used for wild magic casting

Possible Edges

  • Initiate: can take once at each of Seasoned, Veteran, Heroic. Adds +1 Power Limit 3 and +1 Mod Limit. Requirements on arcane skill and stat.
    • Maybe: can continue to take at every other Advance at Legendary, similar to More Power Points.
  • Sustaining focus: allow “free” sustaining of a power, choose to use at time of casting, can only be used for one power at once
  • Wild Magic Masochist: allow soak attempts on the Wound for using limit break casting, but this still needs Bennies in the usual way. 4
  • Wild Magic Mastery: can attempt to use powers at 2x to 3x their Power Limit; take a -4 penalty on the arcane skill roll and take backlash on a roll of a 1 or a 2.
  • Flexible Caster: use a Power modifier to change any Power’s trapping on the fly (Maybe Veteran rank)
  • Arcane Mastery: (Only if using Epic Power Modifiers, see eg. Savage Pathfinder): Adds +1 to the Mod Limit, and allows the use of Epic Power Modifiers for those powers that have them. (Veteran or Heroic rank)
  • Maybe an edge to unlock Careful Casting


  • Blood Magic: each Wound inflicted on someone with a melee weapon gives some number of PP (5?) that can be added to the power limit for one Power usage. Blood mages often have a ritual weapon that can “store” these PP.
  • Toxic Shaman: shaman gets a boost to their power limit when in their toxic domain. Could apply to “home ground” for other kinds of practitioners too.
  • Astral Shallows: reduce everyone’s Power Limit.
  • Astral Surges: increase everyone’s Power Limit.


  1. This may need tweaking, but -2 feels about right. ↩︎

  2. Maybe at a +1 or +2 modifier, too? ↩︎

  3. This should maybe be +2 power limit per Initiate Edge. ↩︎

  4. This is underpowered and needs revising. ↩︎