Abilities

Introduction

This chapter starts with a detailed description of History Points (HP). It then sets out how to invent and grade abilities. Then it explains how to use abilities in the game. It is vital that you understand these concepts.

Player Section: Abilities and History PointsPip Cost for a Level Increase

In order to play a character you will need to keep track of six kinds of numbers. These numbers are the ability scores for your character.

  1. The attributes of the character. Physical Fitness (PF), Mechanical Aptitude (MA), Intellect (IN), Intuition (IU), Psychic Prowess (PY), and Mystical Prowess (MP).

  2. Skills based on attributes. These are divided into Mundane Skills (based on PF, MA, IN, or IU), and Powers (based on PY or MP).

  3. Conditions.

  4. History Points (HP), these are an abstract measure of experience.

  5. Derived quantites (Damage Capacity, Speed Factor, and Carrying Capacity).

  6. Power detriments due to using powers.

The purpose of all of these numbers is to allow your character to perform actions in the game.

The least effective means of performing an action is to use an attribute score. This is what is used if no other option is available.

The most effective means to perform an action is to use the most appropriate ability that is specific to the action being taken. The first type of ability we willexamine is based on attributes. That kind of ability is called a skill. There are three broad categories of skills in ascending grades of difficulty: basic, difficult, and extreme. Skills are further classified as either mundane or powers. When you first acquire a skill it will begin at the number of the associated attribute, unless you have a destiny—where it will begin one level higher than normal. There are mundane skills, based on PF, MA, IN, or IU. There are psychic powers based on PY, see the chapter Psychic Powers for more about them. There are supernatural powers based on MP, see the chapter The Supernatural for details about these.

An ability not based on an attribute is a condition. Conditions always begin at a level of 1, unless you have a destiny relating to a condition, in which case it starts at 2.

All increases in scores, what we call levels, require you to purchase one of more pips in that score with HP. The pip system is based on multiples of five, that is if your level in something will be up to five then an increase will cost one pip, from six to ten it will cost two pips, and so forth. See the tables entitled Pip Cost for a Level Increase and HP Costs for Pips. Of course that leads to the question, “How do I purchase a pip?” That is a little bit complicated and is summarized in the table HP Cost for Pips.

Level Goal Pip Cost
1-5 1 per level
6-10 2 per level
11-15 3 per level
16-20 4 per level
21-25 5 per level
26-30 6 per level
Additonal multiples of 5 +1 pip per level
Pip Type HP Cost
Primary Attribute 10 per pip
Other Attribute 20 per pip
Basic Mundane Skill or Condition 1 per pip
Difficult Mundane Skill or Condition 2 per pip
Basic Power or Power Condition 2 per pip
Extreme Mundane Skill or Condition 3 per pip
Difficult Power or Power Condition 4 per pip
Extreme Power or Power Condition 6 per pip

Player Section: Attributes, Skills, and Conditions

We now get into the formalities of the ability system. At its core you will be inventing the abilities of your character. This begins with your character's attributes, introduced in the first chapter. We will say little about the attributes, as there is little to add. are what allow your character to function in the game system. To that end we have the following definitions:

So, how do you go about getting an ability for your character? You begin by defining what the ability allows the character to do, and then you give it a name. If you cannot think of an ability, the GM may have a list of suitable abilities to choose from.

The GM will then tell you how hard it is to get. There are three grades of difficulty:

  1. Basic.
  2. Difficult.
  3. Extreme.

You can see what these mean on the chart HP Cost for Pips, above.

Examples of Abilities

Here are some examples of abilities:

Examples of Advantages

Here are two examples of advantages:

Examples of Disadvantages

Here are two examples of disadvantages:

Examples of Power Conditions

Here are two examples of psychic conditions:

Here are two examples of supernatural conditions:

GM Section: Attributes, Skills, and Conditions

Encourage your players to be creative and invent their own skills and conditions whenever possible. It is likely that there may be several skills or conditions of the same name, but with different definitions. This is fine. It is even possible that a condition may have the same definition as a skill. There is a list of mundane skills and conditions in Appendix 1. There is a list of some psychic powers in Appendix 2. There is a list of supernatural powers in Appendix 3.

You must judge how hard an ability is. An ability is basic when it meets any of the following criteria:

An ability is difficult when it meets any of the following criteria:

An ability is extreme when it meets any of the following criteria:

For the examples given above:

Some abilities take time to learn. Basic abilities that take time should take a few weeks to learn. Difficult abilities that take time should take three times as long as a basic ability. Extreme abilities that take time should take about a year to learn. You always reduce this learning time by the number of pips you have in the attribute the skill or power is based on, in days. Thus a 3 in an attribute reduces the time by 3 days; a 7 in an attribute (9 pips) reduces the time by 9 days. Bear in mind that this reduction assumes that a character is working for only a couple of hours a day; this level of study does not impact the role-play of the character at all. If the player states in role-play, that their character is spending half a day each day required to gain the ability, that learning time will be halved; should a character be involved in strenuous activity for most of the day during role-play, that day will be lost in terms of study. If the player states, in role-play, that their character is spending an entire day working at gaining a specific ability for the period of time required to gain it, that learning time will be reduced to a third of the normal time (six months becomes two months); this level of study prevents the character from role-play activities beyond this study.

You may also decide that up to two abilities that are deemed appropriate can reduce the number of days to acquire an ability, this allows you to use abilities you already have to assist in learning new abilities. For example, if you already have skill in driving a car, you can use that to make it take less time to drive a truck. You may also decrease this time by one day per HP spent on it beyond the cost of the skill, representing additional effort.

Player Section: Specials

With every new level gained in an ability the character can add a sentence to the definition of that ability so long as the player of the character has something specific in mind (the GM should allow only a few seconds for the player to decide on such an addition). Be sure to think these up in advance. This extension of a definition is called a special. Whenever an ability score reaches a level of 5, or a multiple of 5, the resulting special can be exceptional. Note that acquiring a new ability never gives you a special, not matter what it starts at. You may never gain an advantage in performing an ability as a special by raising its level. If you have a 3 in handgun skill and raise it to 4 you may not gain a +1 with handguns as a special. You may gain the ability to modify some other ability by a plus if using a different ability. For example, a character raises an agility skill and gains the special +1 to unarmed combat when using agility as a modifier.

You may also research specials, without increasing the ability level. Researched specials can involve plusses to perform the ability under specific circumstances. Inform the GM of the special you want to research. The GM will ask you to make a roll based on the skill you are extending. Inform the GM of the result of your roll. The GM will tell you whether or not it is successful and, if it is successful, how long the research will take.

GM Section: Specials

Specials can be hard to grasp. Not all abilities will have specials, at least not due to level increases. A special due to a level increase is something that qualitatively adds to the description of the ability. No level increase-based special may add to the ability in a numerical way. It is possible for a supportive ability (such as a knowledge skill) to add to some kind of activity. For example, a Knowledge of Physics skill may develop a special allowing a +1 to hit with melee weapons when Knowledge of Physics is used as a modifier.

Researching specials requires a research roll (see the Player Section and GM Section: Using Skills and Conditions in the Game below). The result of the research roll will determine how long it will take to acquire the special. If the ability is difficult, there is a -1 research modifier. If the ability is extreme, there is a -2 research modifier. If the ability is a power there is an additional -5 research modifier. If the special is judged to be a modifier of 5 style special, then there is an additional -5 modifier. If it is judged to be a modifier of 10 style special, then there is an additional -10 research modifier. The same is true for any factor of 5 requirement for a special, the modifier will be the level requirement.

If the result is not a 1 or more, then it fails—there are no partial successes in research. If the research fails, then another research roll can be made after a few weeks for a basic ability, three times as long for a difficult ability, and a year for an extreme ability.

On a result of 1-4, the research will take a full year. On a result of 5-9, the research will take a half-year. On a result of 10-14, the research will take a season. On a result of 15-19, the research will take a few weeks. On a result of 20-24, the research will take a week. On a result of 25-29, the research will take a day. On a result of 30-34, the research will take several hours. On a result of 35-39, the research will take an hour. On a result of more than 39, the research is immediate.

Examples: Specials Acquired Through Gaining Levels

Here are some examples of specials gained through level increases:

Note that Jet Pilot did not have a special. This was due to the fact that the author could not think of a special that was not already part of the condition.

Examples: Specials Gained Through Research

Here are some examples of specials gained through research:

Examples: Multiple-of-5 Specials

Here are some examples of specials gained at a multiple of 5 skills:

Player Section: Psychic Powers

Psychic powers are powers that come from within the character. These are the only powers that the character has control of. They are invented just like any ability. There is one additional factor, the type of power it is.

Except for internal powers every use of a psychic power causes a psychic power detriment. This is a special kind of condition that decreases with time Psychic Detriment (b). The condition is a negative modifier for all attempts to use psychic powers as the primary ability. This does not apply to psychic powers used as modifiers. The use of basic powers increases the power detriment by 1 pip, difficult powers increase the detriment by 2 pips, and extreme powers increase the detriment by 3 pips. A character can recover from the detriment at a rate of 1 pip per hour, or 2 pips per hour when resting.

GM Section: Psychic Powers

If you allow psychic powers in your world, then consult the chapter Psychic Powers for details. For now you will have to decide if psychic powers occur in the brain of the character, or if there is a psychic world that people can become attuned to.

In any case, here is the method of determining the grade of psychic powers. A psychic power is basic if:

A psychic power is difficult if:

A psychic power is extreme if:

Examples of Psychic Powers

Here are some examples of psychic powers.

Here are some examples of specials due to level increases.

Here are some examples of specials due to research.

Here are some examples of level 5 specials.

Player Section: Supernatural Powers

Supernatural powers are powers that come from beyond the character. These are powers that the character has limited or no control over. They are invented just like any other ability. As with psychic powers there is an additional factor, the style of power it is.

In addition to the style of magic there are also several types of magic:

The thing to remember here is that all of these powers are designed to be the basis for a kind of spell casting. Without a magical intention, the goal of using a power to accomplish a specific task, they are nothing. A magical intention without a power is nothing. Together they form a spell.

When defining these powers make sure to include all relevant steps a details that will bring it alive for the character

GM Section: Supernatural Powers

If you allow supernatural powers in your world, then consult the chapter The Supernatural World for details. For now you will have to decide if supernatural powers occur in the physical world of the character, or in a separate Supernatural World.

In any case, here is the method of determining the grade of supernatural powers. A supernatural power is basic if:

A supernatural power is difficult if:

A supernatural power is extreme if:

Examples of Supernatural Powers

Here are some examples of supernatural powers.

Here are some examples of specials for supernatural powers due to level increases.

Here are some examples of researched specials for supernatural powers.

Here are some examples of specials-at-five for supernatural powers.

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GM Section: Abilities for Units, Habitations, Nations, and Societies

Groups of people, such as military units, factory workers, or any other group that shares similar training and experience, may develop abilities just like characters can. In this way you can determine how well a group performs as a single unit. For example, a military unit might have skill in a common weapon, to see how well the unit uses the weapon you roll once on the weapon skill, just like you would for a character.

Habitations, such as villages or cities, nations, and secret societies can also develop abilities. For example, if a place is known for its furniture, then you may make a roll on that ability to determine if any furniture is available should a character want it.

Player Section: Using Skills and Conditions in the Game

During game play, situations will arise where a character must take action. There are two possible methods for resolving the outcome of specific actions. For simple tasks where the character has a skill that applies the GM will usually just assume success. When the results of a success are important, or when there is doubt as the whether an action is successful (such as when the attempt is being resisted), an ability roll must be made.

An ability roll is handled according to the steps below.

  1. Choose the ability that best matches what you want the character to do. If worse comes to worse use the attribute closest to what you want. Make sure the GM approves of your choice, and be ready to justify this choice with a role play reason.
  2. Add to this your first modifier. This is an ability that seems supportive of the attempt. If nothing else, use an attribute. It is possible that nothing will be appropriate, in which case there will be no modifiers. Make sure the GM approves of your choice, and be ready to justify this choice with a role play reason.
  3. Add your second modifier if there is one. Make sure the GM approves of your choice, and be ready to justify this choice with a role play reason.
  4. Add any additional modifiers due to items or hung effects. Make sure the GM approves of all of your choices, and be ready to justify them with role play reasons.
  5. Subtract the roll of a d10 from the result.

GM Section: Using Skills and Conditions in the Game

From the GM point-of-view an ability roll is handled according to the steps below.

  1. Make sure that the character chooses the best ability in terms of role-play, and not just to get a big number. Make sure the player is thinking in terms of primary ability then modifiers. Does their role play reason make sense?
  2. Make sure that the reasons for the first and second modifiers are good ones.
  3. Make sure the modifiers for items and hung effects are good ones.
  4. When possible, observe the d10 roll. Or have another player observe it.
  5. The GM then applies a modifier to the result of step 4 based upon applicability of the choice in step 1 and the difficulty of the choice. Applicability ranges from 0 for a perfectly applicable choice, to -10 for something barely applicable. If a choice for the primary ability is applicable and difficult then the GM should grant a favorable modifier of +1 up to +4. If a primary ability is applicable and extreme then the GM should grant a favorable modifier of +5 up to +9.
  6. The GM applies modifiers for the difficulty of the task:

The result of a skill roll is called the level of success. If the level of success is a 0 we call that a ¾ success. If the level of success is -1 the result is a ½ success. If the level of success is -2 the result is a ¼ success. Partial success have results determined by the GM as appropriate to the skill being attempted; it is entirely possible that only a full success will result in anything useful.

If the d10 roll is an unmodified 10 then we have an unexpected result. Unexpected results can occur, even if the skill attempt is a success. Roll the d10 again to determine the results:

1: You have done exactly the right thing and succeeded, even for an impossible task! It is possible for miraculous things to occur. A demon is slain by a punch, a fall from a high building is survived, etc.
2-3: You have had a favorable result. Some additional effect has worked in your favor (most often this will be the acquisition of a new skill related to what is being done, or an increase in an existing skill).
4: The effort takes twice as long as expected, or requires twice the effort. This could result in a double power detriment.
5: The effort takes three times as long as expected, or requires three times the effort. This could result in a triple power detriment.
6: The effort takes four times as long as expected, or requires four times the effort. This could result in a quadruple power detriment.
7: The effort takes eight times as long as expected, or requires eight times the effort. This could result in an octuple power detriment.
8-9: The effort has resulted in some unfortunate effect. Equipment might be broken, information might be garbled, something was done wrongly, there might be minor injuries. You have had a minor accident (you spilled ink all over the book you are studying, you poked a friend in the arm with your sword as you swing at an enemy doing light damage, you are distracted while casting a spell by a creaking noise that reminds you of something hunting you, etc.) A sudden storm strikes without warning. The bad thing need not be related to the die roll, only that the character is effected by it.
10: The effort has resulted in a really bad accident! Equipment used might be destroyed, you might have learned exactly the wrong thing, there might be severe injuries, you might have killed yourself. Death should be a rare result here, but if the situation fits it is possible. For example, you set fire to the library where you are studying by candlelight; as you fire a machine gun at the enemy a friend is bumped into your line of fire before you can react doing extreme damage; a magical spell that would transport you and your friends to safety has backfired and transported you all into the hands of your enemy, a tsunami has struck the area and widespread destruction has resulted. It is possible that the result has nothing to do with the attempted action by the character, just that the character is effected by it.

Example: Ability Use

The character decides to attempt to land an airplane. The player chooses to use their Jet Pilot 3 (d) (the ability to operate a jet airplane), Reaction Time 3 (the ability to react quickly), and Dexterity 3 (eye-hand-coordination). The GM decides this is a normal task and gives it a 0 modifier, and +1 due to the modifier for a difficult ability. The player rolls a 10, followed by a 2. This results in a 0, a 3/4 success. And it is a favorable accident on top of that. The GM rules that the character's Reaction Time has increased by 1 and the plane suffers some undercarriage damage due to a rough landing.

Player Section: Using Items for Modifiers

Most items are pretty average. It is possible that an item is particularly well made, or it is an item of power. In such cases there will be a +number associated with it. This plus can be used as an additional modifier. It is possible to base your effort on this number, as if it were an ability.

GM Section: Using Items for Modifiers

Plusses to an item should be based upon the abilities of those who made it. Should you decide it is important, or that the item is above average, make a d10 roll against the three abilities of the crafter who made the item. The result is the number of HP that the item can use to buy its plusses. A result of eight difficult HP becomes a +4 difficult modifier.

Example: Using Items for Modifiers

In the previous example, say the jet has an ILS (Instrument Landing System) that gives a +1 to the roll. This changes the result to a 1, a successful landing, despite the accident. There is no damage now.

Player Section: Hung Effects

It is possible to have effects last for a period of time. For example, the character needs to keep watch for several hours and the character makes a die roll for it. Since this is to last so long, one modifier must be an ability that allows the character to stay alert for a time. For this duration there is a -1 modifier.

Longer durations are possible if the character makes a good story for it. For example, the character is studying every day so they have a hung effect of knowledge

In any case after the duration modifier, any remainder will be converted into HP to pay for the hung effect. You can call the effect by any name appropriate to what you want to do.

GM Section: Hung Effects

The modifier for durations is as follows:

Duration Modifier
One Hour or less 0
Day or Night -1
Entire Day -2
Up to ten days -3
Month or less -4
Half-Year or less -5
Year or less -6
5 years or less -7
Decade or less -8
Half century or less -9
Century or less -10
5 Centuries or less -11
Millennium or less -12
Several millennia -12 - the number of millennia
Forever -50

For durations longer than a day, if there is not a good story behind the attempt, make it a challenging task. For more than a month, make it a hard task. For a year make it a master-level task, and so on.

Examples: Hung Effects

A character wants to be able to react faster than normal, in effect increasing their Speed Factor of 2. The have the skill Reaction Time 3 (giving the character the ability to react quickly), Endurance 3 (the ability to keep going), and PF of 2. The character wants this to go on for the next six hours, gaining a -1 modifier. The GM assigns a -2 for average difficulty. The roll is a 4, for a total of 3 + 3 + 2 - 1 -2 - 4 = 1. So for the next six hours the character has a Speed Factor of 3.

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