Physical Adept draft rules ideas
How physical adepts differ from practitioners
Practitioners – hermetic mages, shamans, etc – use their own aura as a bridge that briefly connects the physical and astral planes. The mana immediately jumps through the bridge like a bolt of electricity arcing to ground. The practitioner uses their aura like a funnel, shaping and forming the mana flow. When it emerges into the physical world, the raw power of the mana has become whatever effect the practitioner desired. A “spell”, then, is the astral shape the practitioner must create with their aura to channel the mana in just the right way.
This is as dangerous and difficult as it sounds.
Physical adepts are not practitioners. Their powers do not require the dangerous channelling of mana through your very soul. Instead, they draw on mana in the astral plane and use it to change their aura there. A person’s living body and their aura are link conjoined shadows; when one changes, the other must change with it. These changes take the form of superhuman enhancements to speed, strength, and their skills.
Physical adepts are not just martial artists
After the Awakening, the earliest studied instances of physical adept abilities were martial artists and yoga masters with the correct awakened genotype. There was something in the way they moved and trained that made it easier for them to use their new abilities. From there the term “physical adept” was coined, and stuck. At this time, many people talked of physad abilities in terms rooted in Asian mysticism – qi and prana, for example. The theorists searched for a hard link between these ancient practices and the modern expression of magic.
But as thaumaturgists' studies continued they quickly discovered that physical adepts abilities could be used just as well by people from many different backgrounds. At first, it was people with advanced physical training in other fields – athletes, dancers, musicians. The theories evolved into the idea that something about repeated physical training and acute awareness of one’s own body was inherently similar to how a physical adept could use their magical powers. People with the discipline and focus to learn these skills found themselves easily able to tap into their magical abilities.
Still later, it became obvious that even that some adept’s powers can apply outside the purely physical realm. Adepts have been found with powers in areas as diverse as social manipulation and con artistry (often called the Glamour), cooking, driving vehicles, logical and problem-solving skills, and more. The term “physical adept” sticks around, however, even though it’s something of a misnomer in these cases.
Design notesI find the Orientalism that is often associated with physical adepts distasteful and unnecessary. This is my attempt to strip it completely out of my setting and instead to craft something where the overlap between martial arts and physical adepts is an in-universe coincidence rather than an expression of shallow Western tropes.
- A physical adept knows one or more techniques (listed below). Each technique has a list of associated Powers that come when the technique is learned, and also unlocks further abilities that can the taken later through Advances.
- Adepts can mix Powers across their learned techniques freely.
- Activating a technique Power is a limited free action. Dropping an active Power is a free action. Adepts do not need to roll an arcane skill.
- Technique Powers have no concept of duration. Most of them last as long as the adept chooses to sustain them.
- For most powers, activation can be the success level (ie. as if the activation roll was a success) or the raise level. Using Powers at the raise level makes the adept susceptible to drain – see below.
- An adept can safely keep a number of powers active at the same time set by their rank:
- Novice - 1 power
- Seasoned - 2 powers
- Veteran - 3 powers
- Heroic - 4 powers
- Legendary - 5 powers
- An adept can choose to active more powers than this limit, but then they become susceptible to drain (see below.)
Adept drain: at the end of any scene – combat or otherwise – when the adept has used a Raise power or used more simultaneous powers than their rank allows, they take one box of Fatigue damage from drain. The damage is always capped at one box regardless of how many Powers they used. This damage can be Soaked in the same way as Wounds – spend a Bennie to take a Vigor roll; success negates the fatigue.
Bullet activation: Some gunslinger powers require the gunslinger to briefly touch the bullet just before firing. This must be done as part of the limited free action to activate the power.
On a semi-automatic or automatic weapon, the adept can only activate one bullet this way – by sliding the chamber open. For this reason, most adepts prefer revolvers, break-action weapons, or bolt-action rifles that allow easier access to the cartridges.
The effect fades in a few seconds, so the adept must fire the round in the same turn to get the benefit of the effects.
Arcane Background (Physical Adept)
Requires: Novice; see Techniques below for technique-specific pre-requisites.
Allows character to be a physical adept. The character starts knowing one technique family, chosen from the list in the next section. They get all the Novice powers associated with that technique.
The physad learns a new technique family. They immediately gain the Novice-level powers from that technique. They can learn other Powers from the technique via the New Powers Edge (see below.)
New Powers (Physical Adept)
The physical adept learns two new Powers from any of the technique families they know. They can mix and take one power from each of two techniques if they want.
Augmentation trapping Edges
In addition to the technique-specific powers below, there are various Edges that are marked as “augmentation trapping only” that only physads or cyberware users can take. See Edges for more information and a list. The Edge’s normal prerequisites remain in place, and these are passive, always-on abilities. They do not need to be activated like Powers are.
Unless otherwise noted, all Powers below carry the Self limitation. Adepts cannot use Power modifiers.
Gunslinger (req Shooting d8+, Novice): Boost Trait (Agility, Shooting), Farsight.
Seasoned: Bullet Guidance (see below), Wickensian (see below).
Veteran: Ammo Whammy (see below.)
Melee Monster (req Fighting d8+): Boost Trait (Agility, Strength, Fighting), Killing Hands I.
Seasoned: Protection, Smite, Killing Hands II.
Veteran: Havoc (MBT centered on but excluding self).
The Glamour (req Spirit d8+): Boost Trait (Persuasion, Intimidation, Stealth), Speak Language.
Seasoned: Empathy, Slumber (Touch range).
Major League (req Atlhetics d8+): Boost Trait (Athletics, Agility, Strength), Speed.
Seasoned: Deflection, Wall Walker, Traceless Walk (see below).
Veteran: Too Fast To Hit (see below).
New Powers for Physical Adepts
Bullet Guidance: (bullet activation required) The adept can nudge the path of the bullet in flight, even slightly curving it to avoid obstacles. They can cancel 2 points of penalty to their Shooting roll, regardless of where the penalty came from. There is no Raise version of this Power. (TODO: SHOULD THERE BE?)
Wickensian: A gunslinger adept using a pistol can use the higher of their Shooting and Fighting skills to determine their Parry stat. There is no Raise version of this power.
Fan the Hammer: The adept fires all six chambers in one burst; resolve as a single Shooting roll at RoF 3. There is no Raise version of this power.
When activating the Power as a limited free action, the adept touches any or all of the bullets in their firearm. Each bullet receives any one of the enchantments below, at the adept’s choice. The buff lasts until the bullet is fired or the adepts drops the Ammy Whammy power. Each bullet can only receive one enchantment, but the adept can freely choose to put different enchantment on different bullets.
Changing the enchantment on one or more bullets requires the admin to drop and then re-activate the Ammo Whammy power.
Any use of Ammo Whammy always counts as a Raise activation.
- BULLET WITH YOUR NAME ON IT: Add +2 to the Shooting roll.
- EXPLOSIVE: The shot causes it’s normal damage in a Small Blast Template.
- FLARE: Firing this “flare” shot into the night sky removes Illumination penalties in the immediate area for one minute. If fired indoors, roll a d6: On a 2–6, the bullet ignites flammable materials it strikes.
- MANA BULLET: The shot is half in this world and half in the Astral Plane, giving it AP 6.
- KENTUCKY WINDAGE: Doubles the shot’s Range.
- LOADED FOR DRAGON: The shot is a Heavy Weapon and increases the gun’s base damage one die type. A pistol that does 2d6 does 2d8 with this deadly round.
- SEATTLE SURPRISE: This shot surges with power of some sort—fire, electricity, cold, etc. It’s especially useful against creatures with an Environmental Weakness!
All of these Edges are only available to physical adepts who know the Melee technique.
Where the rules below say to “add a bonus die type” to melee weapon damage, these all stack with each other. The first bonus makes damage Str+d4, the second Str+d6, and so on.
Killing Hands I (Seasoned) – unarmed melee attacks gain one step of bonus die. This counts as magical damage for the purposes of creature vulnerabilities. NB: Trapping for ‘Claws’ racial ability.
Killing Hands II (Veteran, Killing Hands I) – unarmed melee attacks gain a second step of bonus die (on top of Killing Hands I) and have AP2. NB: Trapping for ‘Claws’ racial ability
Power Shout: A mighty yell focuses the warrior’s power. When a character makes a single Wild Attack it deals +4 damage instead of the usual +2 damage
Traceless Walk: The adept moves with supernatural grace, capable of running over the most treacherous of surfaces at full speed. They leave no footprints of other sign of their passage, even on sand, snow, etc.
The character’s entire movement may count as Jump distance which ignores any Difficult Ground. Each inch leapt upwards counts as 2" of their Pace.
Too Fast To Hit: When the character uses the Defend manoeuvre (which takes their entire turn, as usual), they take the usual +4 Parry bonus but they may also roll Evasion (Agility at -2) against any attacks that hit them until the end of the round.
The rules on this page draw on and adapt multiple Savage Worlds supplements and books, most notably:
- The Fantasy Companion for the concept of mystic adepts
- Deadlands for the Ammo Whammy power
- Legends of Ghost Mountain for the “light step” and “improved light step” powers.
As ever, I also owe thanks to the residents of the Sprawlrunners discord & my table for feedback on my drafts! In particular, I’d like to thank ManuFS, Lucas!, and Cras.