Digital Hero - Hero Games Webzine
Digital Hero - Hero Games Webzine
A Power Pool-Based Magic System for Fantasy Hero
(Part 3 of 3)

by Keith Curtis and Paul Clark
Playtesting by Kevin Wells, Susan Dwyer, and Barbara Leavitt.

Editor's Note
These options, like everything in Digital Hero, are strictly optional rules. Please make sure your gamemaster wants to use these variations before you use them in a game.

Magic Items

Occasionally, a spellcaster may want to enchant an item to perform a spell without expenditure of his personal energy or spellcasting ability. If these items were bought strictly by the rules for point expenditure, it would be prohibitively expensive. Therefore the following system should be adopted.

Types of Magic Items

There are two main classes of magic items. Ones that are used a finite number of times and discarded, and ones that have continuous effects. Examples of the former would be potions, dusts, oils and salves. Examples of the latter would be enchanted arms and armor, cloaks of protections, magic boots, etc. Items which hold charges of spells would be considered permanent, since they can usually be recharged with effort.

It is suggested that permanent items be bought with character points, indicating a major expenditure of time and energy on the part of the enchanter, whereas temporary items should merely cost time and money. This encourages Enchanters to make the former, and gives reason for the GM to keep the supply of permanent magic low.

People who specialize in making the former type of item shall henceforth be referred to as Alchemists, whereas the latter are Enchanters. There is a little bit of crossover perhaps, but magic is not a precise science!


Alchemy is the science-like magic of creating natural substances that produce spell-like effects. They generally have a limited number of charges and can be used by anybody, regardless of their training or inherent nature. Alchemy assumes a life-long study of the natural world. (Natural in this case would also include what we would call “supernatural”, since we don’t live in a world with elves, dragons, unicorns and pixies). Basically, the alchemist is one who finds a way to duplicate an ability or property found in nature and transfer it temporarily to something else. Therefore, the ability to talk to plants might be conferred with the use of dryad hair. The ability to grow to tremendous height might be transferred by use of powdered giant bones. Dragon teeth might give the ability to breathe fire, and so on.

GMs should make ingredients for alchemical creations as rare or expensive as they like, since this is the best control over how common they will be in the campaign.

Requirements for an Alchemist Character

An alchemist requires a power pool, just like a spellcaster. Unlike a spellcaster, his magic is not aspected by color. He also needs to buy the professional skill: Alchemist. This skill cannot be based on a characteristic. (You not only need to know what goes into a potion, but it requires skill to mix the ingredients properly). Knowledge skills of sources for Alchemical ingredients would be very helpful as well.

    Example: Greydon of Roundcastle has paid 7 points for a PS: Alchemist skill of 15-. He know that his potion of fire-proofing will require salamander skin. However, since he has not bought any skill resembling KS: Salamanders or KS: Creatures of the elemental planes or even KS: Supernatural creatures habitats, he will have little luck in finding the ingredients. Until he has spent more time learning where to get all of the stuff to put into his creations, he will have to rely on hiring adventurers to get stuff for him.

Besides a boatload of Knowledge skills and a power pool similar to a mage’s, the Alchemist must find or research formulas for his creations. These must be purchased just like a spellcaster’s spells. Unfortunately, the Alchemist does not get a free number of formulas when starting. He must pay one Hero Point per formula known.

Alchemy Pool
The alchemy pool is similar to a spellcaster’s, but not identical. It breaks down thusly:

    needs alchemical formula books (-.5)
    requires knowledge of appropriate school (-.25)
    requires time to prepare ingredients, (-.2)
    10 Active pts./day
    Formulae require minimum -3 in limitations (-.5)

Potions are designed as power pool slots with the following characteristics:

  1. They are bought as charges. These charegs are non-recoverable, but since an alchemist can get more charges by making more potions, and there is no limit to the number of potions he can have stockpiled (other than the availability of ingredients), the advantages and limitations balance out. The cost of the charges is as per the book.
  2. Any potion with a duration must be bought with a continuing charge. Powers that are instant (i.e. most attack powers) must be bought with continuing charges as well.
  3. They are bought with the Potion limitation (-3). This limitation is a combination of other limitations and is presented as a single limitation for bookkeeping ease. This is Inobvious, Accessible (-.5) and requires dangerous, difficult-to-replace components (.5) and Independent (-2).
  4. The time to create a potion is dependent on the number of real points the spell costs. Therefore, it is more advantageous to the alchemist to put more limitations on the formula, so that he may create potions more often. For more information, see below.

Creating a Potion
The word “potion” refers to any alchemical creation, be it a salve, an ointment or oil. The nature of the creation is only a special effect. To create it them alchemist gathers his ingredients and sets his pool to the proper power.

    Ex. Alberto the Alchemist wishes to create a potion of spider climb. He buys the power 10 points of Clinging with 4 charges that last 5 minutes each. Four continuing charges of five minutes each are a total -0 limitation. It does take the potion limitation however, which is 3. The final real cost of the potion is 10/(1+3) = 10/4 = 2 real points.

The time to create a potion is dependent on the GM, but one of these two systems is recommended:

Short Time: This system is quicker and easier to figure. It is recommended. In this system the number of days to create a potion is equal to the real points of the power. There fore the abovementioned spider-climb potion would take 3 days to create. Remember, that although the “brewing time may seem short, the time to collect the components could take weeks or even years!

Long Time: In this system it takes a very long time to make powerful potions. This system should be used if the GM wants to keep players from making potions that are too powerful, since the more powerful potions could not be created within the timespan of a normal adventuring campaign. Also, it encourages making low-dosage potions, since the alchemist will have great incentive to get the cost as low as possible. As above, calculate the real points, and then consult the following table:

Real Points Time
1-4 1 day
5-6 1 week
7-8 1 month
9-12 1 season
13-16 1 year
17-24 5 years
25-48 10 years

It is up to the GM as to how much time must be spent actually tending the formula, but it is suggested that the number of potions that can be worked on simultaneously be limited by the active size of the Alchemist’s Pool.

    Example: Natabo the Boiler, medicine man of the Atunda has an alchemy pool of 30 Active points. He wants to create several potions: Spider Climb for 3 points, Growth for 10, Underwater Breathing for 3, and Mind Control for 15. The total is 31. He will have to wait until one of his potions is finished before he may begin on the fourth.

Common Potion Limitations

Common Potion Limitations may include Side Effects, No Conscious Control, ...

Permanent Magic Items

Creating permanent magic items is the special province of spellcasters, particularly those who have the SFX spell, “Enchant Item” This is a spell which has no real power to it, but requires 30 active points. This ensures that only experienced spellcasters will be able to enchant magic items.

To enchant an item, the caster must have the ability to cast the spell he wants the item to duplicate. Thus, if the spellcaster does not know “Fireball”, he cannot cast it into an item. The exception to this would be enchanting an item to increase its natural attributes, i.e. adding damage classes to a sword.

Permanent magic items fall into two categories: Continuous and Instantaneous. Examples of continuous magic items would be magic swords, armor, cloaks of protection, etc. It means any item which provides a continuous effect.

An instant magic item is one which expends charges or endurance in order to provide its effect. Examples would be a wand of fire, a ring of wishes, a horn of summoning, etc.

Creating a magic item

The creation rules for either type of magic are similar. The item to be enchanted must usually be of high quality. The requirements for the item are entirely in the province of the GM, who may decide on a case-by-case basis, depending on how much he might think the item will upset the playability of the game.

To create a permanent Magic item, the power may need to be bought Continuous (and possibly uncontrolled if it is to remain functioning while the user is unconscious), but must take the Expensive Focus and Independent limitations.

    Example: Solon the Swordmaster wishes to create an armor-piecing sword that enhances the user’s ability. He chooses to enchant a broadsword (1 1/2d6k).That’s 25 points. He adds the AP advantage which brings it to 37 Active. He then adds 3 skill levels for a grand total of 46 active. The sword is an expensive oaf (-1.5), Independent (-2). Since the power for operating the sword comes from the user, no END battery or Continuous advantage is needed. If he had wanted to make the sword effortless to use, that would have cost an extra 19 Active points. He is a rather burly man, however, and thinks nothing of swinging the sword around all day, so he opts for the cheaper route.
    The total cost of the sword is 46/4.5 or 10 points. These points must be paid by Solon’s player and are now part of the sword.

    Example 2: Solon is making another sword. This time it is a cheapie version of the one he just created. This one is being paid for (financed, that is, the Hero points must always come from the spellcaster) by a customer with little resources. Solon does not want to invest a lot of magical energy for so little gain, so he makes a sword not quite as magical. This one has some flaws (limitations) to reduce the cost. This new sword has a serious drawback. It must drink the blood of an enemy before it is re-sheathed or it will attack the user next time it is drawn. The GM rules that one broadsword stroke is worth close to 30 active points, so it warrants the 30 pt. side effect limitation. This is worth another (-1/2) limitation. Solon wishes to reduce the cost even more, so he adds an activation word to the sword. If the word is not spoken, the sword cannot be drawn. This is worth another (-1/2). This reduces the real cost to 46/5.5 or 8 points. Solon has shaved a few points at the expense of his client.

When to buy Continuous or Uncontrolled

It may be a bit confusing as to when items need to be bought Continuous or Uncontrolled. Here are some quick guidelines:

  • If the power is based on charges, and the charges need to last a while, use continuing charges. Example: Smoke Bomb, Ring of Feather Fall.
  • If the charges magically reappear into the item without needing to be re-cast, use normal charges. Example: Ring of Feather Fall that works 1/day.
  • If the charges need to be re-cast into the item, this is worth an additional (-1/2). Example: Wand of Fireballs.
  • If the item just runs out of energy when it is used up, buy an endurance reserve with no REC. This is worth (-1) limitation on the reserve. Example: Some potions.
  • If the endurance reserve can be recharged, buy it a REC of 1. Example: Magic lamp that recharges during the daytime
  • If the item gives characteristic bonuses (not just an aid), the characteristic must be bought with the Lim: no secondary characteristics (-1/2) Example: Girdle of Giant Strength.

Alternate Sources for Limitations

The GM may wish to make it easier for a magic item to be made. He may wish to encourage a player to make magic items, or he may wish to present an enchanter with incentive to go adventuring. Thus he may wish to imbue certain materials, items, or places with a limitation value.

For instance, a magical coat of mail might receive another (-1) if made of mithril. A sword forged on the anvil of Karak the Dwarf-Lord might be worth (-1). A Wand of Cold might receive a (-1) if created in the Ice Caverns of the Frost Giant Kings.
These limitations should be cumulative and fairly generous.

Donating Points

Large groups of spellcasters, working in concert can create more powerful items than single spellcasters working alone. It is perfectly permissible for spellcasters to pool their points to pay for a magic item. In this case, at least half the points must come from the lead spellcaster, and the active points still cannot exceed the value of the lead spellcasters Magic Pool.

Found Points

The GM may wish to have certain items in his campaign that are natural sources for magic item points. Meteors that fall from space, hair from angels or bones from demons. This is an optional rule however, and the GM may simply wish to rule these as being sources of limitations.


Some Magic Items have charges. Instead of being a wand of infinite fireballs, the caster will find it cheaper to make a wand with charges. Charged items are much cheaper to make. Firstly, they do not need the continuous advantage, and secondly, the caster may reduce the number of charges to increase the limitation value on the item.

    Example: Fargo Firehand wishes to make a wand of fireballs. He has a 45 point pool, enough to get him a 2d6 Explosion. The wand is bought as an expensive oaf (-1 1/2) and Independent (-2). If he doesn’t tack on Continuous, he will have to give it charges. He decides it can be used 3x per day. This is worth (-1 1/2). He also give it a command word for another (-1/2). The total lim level is now 5 1/2. The cost of the item is 45/5.5=8 points.

The charges are expended as they are used. To re-charge the item, the caster must cast the spell into the item using his own endurance. If he wishes to take another (-1) limitation on the item, the charges must be restored using his own Long-Term-Endurance.

Really Powerful Items

Things like artifacts and relics are beyond the province of most mortal enchanters. For the really big-ticket items, divine or infernal intervention is required. In these cases, a petition is made to the powers that be. Usually promises have to be made. An angel or god might require that the item be used only for good or lawful purposes, such as a holy sword or a magic crown. A demon or evil god on might require regular sacrifices or that the item be used to slay icons of good.

If the pact is accepted, the supernatural host acts as a lead spellcaster as described above. It donates at least half the points for the item. This is really in the province of the GM, so the actual bonus may be as great or as little as he desires. It is also possible that the magic item might have traits unknown to the enchanter.

Sample Magic Items

This section shows some examples of magic items, both potions and permanents. A brief explanation of the item’s cost follows.

Gloves of Spider Climb
POW: Normal STR Clinging
LIM: OAFx: Gloves (-1.5)
Independent (-2)
Total Lim: (-3.5)
ACT: 10 REAL: 2
These are gloves finely woven of giant spider silk. They are not continuous or uncontrolled; if he is knocked out, he will fall.

Potion of Giant Strength
POW: 3d6 Aid to STR
LIM: Potion: (-3)
3 Charges (-1.25)
Total Lim: (-4.25)
ACT: 15 REAL: 3
This potion confers extra strength to the imbiber. Note that it is based on Aid, which means that no matter how much the user drinks, he can never get more than +18 to his STR. In this case, it is better to take individual doses over time. Optionally, the GM may wish to say that excess point merely extend the time that the extra strength lasts, being lost at the normal rate.

Girdle of Giant Strength
POW: +30 STR
LIM: OAFx: Girdle (-1.5)
Independent (-2)
STR only to Max 40 (-.25)
Total Lim: (-3.75)
ACT: 30 REAL: 6
This is a girdle with similar effect to the potion above. Note that it is more expensive..

Cloak of Protection
POW: 2 DCV skill Levels (10 pt.s)
+3 to Stealth, Concealment
and Shadowing (+9)
ADV: Continuous (+1)
Uncontrolled (+.5)
LIM: OAFx: Cloak (-1.5)
Independent (-2)
Only in natural setting (-.5)
No effect on creatures
with Magic Sense (-.5)
Total Lim: (-4.5)
ACT: 47 REAL: 9
This is a wonderful cloak created by elven spellcasters. It makes the wearer harder to be seen or hit, except by supernatural creatures and wizards, who can notice the dim aura of magic about it. Note that it is uncontrolled; this menas that it will confer bonuses to the character, even if they are asleep or unaware of an attack.

LIM: OAFx: Sword (-1.5)
Independent (-2)
DEX only for combat (-.5)
STR only for STR Min (-1)
Total Lim: DEX (-4), STR (-4.5)
ACT: 32 REAL: 7

Scorpion is a sword which imparts to its wielder fantastic skill and combat grace. Note that nothing has been paid for the HKA of the sword. Scorpion is an ordinary sword. There is nothing supernatural about the damage it does. It magically confers characteristics to the wielder.

Ruby of Fire
Ability 1
POW: 15 pt. Magic Pool (22)
Red School (3)
ADV: Continuous (+1)
Uncontrolled (+.5)
0 END (+.5)
LIM: OAFx: Ruby (-1.5)
Independent (-2)
Can’t be used while
ability 2 is active (-.5)
Total Lim: (-4)
ACT: 75 REAL: 15

Ability 2
POW: 3 Skill Levels, Magic Use (24)
ADV: Continuous (+1)
LIM: OAFx: Ruby (-1.5)
Independent (-2)
Can’t be used while
ability 1 is active (-.5)
Total Lim: (-4)
ACT: 48 REAL: 10
Total Cost
ACT: 123 REAL: 25

The Ruby of Fire is a fairly powerful magic item used to enhance red magic spell use. It has two abilities. Note that the total cost of the abilities is greater than 75. This does not mean that a 123 pt. Magic pool was used to create it. As long as the cost of one single ability does not exceed 75, a 75 pt. magic pool would suffice to create the item.
This item could have been created more cheaply with a Multipower, but that would have required putting frameworks and skills within frameworks, a blatant rules violation.
Note also that the Power Pool is continuous and uncontrolled. This is necessary because any continuous and uncontrolled spell it might empower would require it. The skill levels are merely continuous, since they are assigned by the user on a phase by phase basis.

Updated: 6/18/00 -- E-Mail:   
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