We're gonna take a break from setting for a bit, and go back to mechanics
I have just finished the draft for the Powers system in Pulpwood, which is the magic system. It's pretty simplistic and easy to understand, but I'll have to see how it holds up in playtesting.
The rules also assume a max level of 10, which is a pretty huge downgrade from my original idea of max level 20. I changed this for a few reasons:
1. It's much easier to get to level 10 than level 20
2. Level 20 was too absurdly powerful, and was more in the realm of superheroes than pulp heroes
I may raise the cap up to level 12 (or something else around there), but I'll have to think about it. But anyway, back to the Powers section
Though few may see it, the world is actually full of magic. However, it is a very rare thing to harness. The potential for magic is locked in all things, but it requires a special kind of person to unlock it.
Magic and its practitioners fall into four categories, and though how their magic works is basically the same, how they impliment it is different.
Arcanists are the traditional magicians, and they have a long history dating back to the height of Greece during its Hellenistic period. Arcanists study ancient texts and magical writing, and derive their powers from that. Some attribute the new abilities to define providence or contact with spirits, but it all lies within the scripts. Many Arcanists carry around chap books that contain the writings they pull their spells from.
Mesmerists harness the psychic powers of their minds. They have almost complete control over their minds, making it both a peaceful meadow and an iron fortress. All people, even some animals, have psychic potential, but the mesmerists were unable to unlock it through sheer force of will.
Gadgeteers actually build their powers in the form of inventions, creations that are years ahead of their time. Advanced guns, jetpacks, communication devices, invisibility cloaks and more all come from these often deranged or unhinged minds.
The final type of magic is extremely dangerous, evil, and off limit to player characters. It is known as sorcery, and dates back to primordial ages of paganism and occult worship. Sorcery is characterized by blood sacrifices, chants to evil spirits, self mutilation, orgies and other evil things. Sorcerers fear no man or god, nor do they have a reason to, as their powers can even dominate any supposed 'god'.
Potential and Power Ranks
Any character who has the Arcanist, Mesmerist or Gadgetter Talent start the game with 5 Potential. Potential is what fuels powers, and it represents different things to each type of caster: for Arcanists it represents the extent of knowledge they have with their texts, for Mesmerists it represents mental fatigue, for Gadgeteers it represents power charges for each invention, and for Sorcerers it represents bodily fatigue.
At levels 2, 3, 6, 7 and 10 characters that have Potential get 5 more Potential. At levels 4 and 8, they gain a new Power Rank.
Powers come in three ranks: Novice, Heroic and Legendary. These represent the varying effects that a Power can have. The more powerful the effect, the higher the Rank. Characters with Potential all start with the ability to use Novice Powers.
Using a Power
Using a Power is very simple. You first dictate what effect you want the Power to have, upon which the GM will work with you to determine a Rank and Potential cost. Once you reach an agreement, you pay the Potential, and then do an Academic Intelligence Action Roll. If the roll is successful, the Power works. If not, the Power fizzles away and you have wasted your Potential.
Regaining Lost Potential
Your Potential functions like your HP, in that it fully restores after a good nights sleep. Furthermore, characters can also use Second Wind to restore lost Potential in the exact same way as help. This would indicate pushing your brain a little farther, or overclocking your gadgets.
Where are the Powers?
Powers are extremely variable, and it is difficult to make a codified list that would cover all situations and ideas. However, below are some guidelines on both effects for each Rank, and suggested Potential costs.
Novice Powers are, of course, the least powerful. Many of these effects can be replicated with a piece of equipment, such as a pistol, a grenade, a med kit, or a radio. These are the Powers that should see the most use.
Blast that does 2d6 damage
Armor class bonus
Temporary skill boost
Protection from environment
Temporary attack boost
Create a light source
and so on
Heroic Powers start to get into the impossible things to do. These are the Powers that grant invisibility, flight, telekinesis and more. Still, a lot of these would just constitute really advanced 21st century technologies. These should see a good amount of use, but will be more situational than Novice Powers.
Burst (like a grenade) that does 3d6 damage
And so on
Legendary Powers are extremely potent, and often extremely dangerous or miraculous. These are the kinds of things books are written about. These Powers will only be used sometimes, and most of these Powers should have a 'catch' to them to balance out their extreme effects.
Bringing things back to life
Traveling through time
Travelling through dimensions
And so on