Abilities are specific, interesting things that a character can do, such as firing a plasma rifle, flying on a jetpack, or hacking an airlock. Abilities can be anything a character could reasonably do based on his background and equipment. Abilities can be physical talents such as an acrobatic dodge, psychic powers of an Esper or Mthu’bo, or capabilities of equipment such as weapons and harness. Even defensive capabilities such as deflecting attacks with armor are Abilities.
What are Abilities?
Anything interesting a character does is an Ability. Shooting guns, wielding rygas blades, fast-talking crime lords, hacking station airlocks, and void catapulting are all Abilities.
Players have a lot of leeway to role-play character actions, however a player must Ready any Abilities in order to provide any actual in-game benefits. For example, a PC with a gun can talk about shooting it or possibly threaten with it, but must Ready an Ability to fire the gun before he can actually shoot it.
Abilities are a big concept in the game, and core to game play and player strategy.
Characters can have many Abilities
Every small interesting thing a character can do is a separate Ability. For example, flying on a jetback and using a jetpack to dodge are different Abilities. In fact, flying on a jetpack for a long distance is a different Ability than flying while carrying a passenger, or flying in space. This means a character can have a ton of Abilities!
Since a character can have so many Abilities they are not listed on the character sheet like Themes and Assets. Rather, players describe Abilities during play by “Readying” them.
Abilities are in-character
Abilities must be appropriate for the character, usually coming from Themes and Assets. Abilities can also be derived from something in the current Scene such as doors, vehicles, or ship stations.
Themes and Assets are often broad and flexible, with many possible Abilities. For example, a Space Pirate character probably know how to do many things such as pilot ships, void catapult, sail the shining paths, conduct boarding actions, wield various weapons, and curse like pirates. These are all things a Space Pirate might do based on that theme. Each of those things is an Ability, an applied use of a Theme or Asset.
Similarly, a Space Samurai would never be without his Rygas Blade, which is an Asset. The capability to actually wield the rygas blade in battle is an Ability, which in this case comes both from having a Rygas Blade and also being a Space Samurai, since the use of such blades requires very special talents and training. The space samurai could use his blade for many Abilities, such as “cutting souls”, “blade parry”, or “psychic duel”. If another character were to pick up a Rygas Blade he also might list it as an Asset, but might not be trained in it’s use and could not have the related Abilities.
A PC who wants to “use ship sensors to scan the floating space wreckage” must Ready the ship sensors.
Each Ability has an “Ability Die” that determines how much game impact the Ability has. Most Abilities act as an Advantage (which apply to a particular type of roll). The Ability Die can be either (a) a die gained by making a successful Ability check or (b) an Influence Die assigned by the PC’s player.
Option 1: roll Ability Check
Players can make an Ability Check to get a free Ability Die. The player rolls to see if the ability was readied properly.
- Good Stuff: The PC has Readied the Ability properly, which provides an Ability Die of D6 unless the GM says otherwise. (For example the GM might award D4 for an improvised item, or D8 for a higher quality item.) On Extra Good Stuff the player gets more leeway or increases the Ability Die to D8 (or a die set by the GM).
- Bad Stuff: The PC does not ready the Ability, and may not attempt to Ready the same Ability again during the Scene, or if in combat any Abilities until the next phase. On Extra Bad Stuff the GM can describe a mishap, such as dropping a void blade, damaging a firing mechanism, or misconfiguring a void catapult.
Option 2: use Influence
Players can skip a potentially risky Ability Check by allocating an Influence Die. Some details apply:
- Players can only use a d12 or d20 Influence Die when naming a Signature.
- An Influence Die cannot be recovered while it is assigned to an Ability.
Using Ability Dice
Ability Dice act as Advantages. The only difference is that the Ability Die might be a size other than the standard D6 for Advantages.
Just as with other Advantages, each Ability Die can apply only to only a single type of check, one of: Ability, Maneuver, Attack, Defend, Damage, Saving Throw, or Recover. For example, a player declaring a “void blade” Ability must choose whether that helps to Attack or inflict Damage–it cannot be both. (However, the player might use two Abilities to get both). Keep this in mind, as you will generally not want to use your Ability for the Ready roll.
A player can Ready an Ability by describing it and then either (a) allocating an Influence Die or (b) rolling an Ability check.
Allocating a Influence Die is quick and easy. For example, a player might say “Vilor prepares his combi rifle (D10)”. This assigns the Influence Die to the Ability Die, so a player who allocates his D10 Influence Die creates a D10 Ability Die.
Alternatively, the player can make an Ability check to get a free D6 Ability Die instead of spending Influence. A successful check grants a D6 Ability Die, which does not count against the player’s Influence, but expires at the end of the current game session, or Scene, at the GM’s discretion.
The player should be prepared to explain how his/her PC has each Ability, such as naming a relevant Theme or Asset, or some other factor of the environment such as “ship sensors”. While Abilities tend to draw from the PCs Themes and Assets, they are not the same, and are much more specific.
“Mia draws her Void Blade, which flickers red-black and howls menacingly…”
Readying an Ability is a fun and important moment to role-play, since special abilities such as futuristic gear and trans-human abilities are often central to character concept, and are dramatic, flashy, and fun.
Single- and Multi-Use
By default Abilities are single-use, meaning they go away (unreadied) after being used once. However, if a PC spends lots of time Readying an Ability then it is good for multiple uses. This is especially important to do between Scenes, when a player describes the “loadout” of his or her PC. For example, a player whose PC is disembarking onto a space station might say “Vilor makes ready his vacsuit, void blade, charming disposition, and rigged dice” and show the dice he is allocating (e.g. d4, d10, d8, and d6). This can also be a lot of fun to role-play.
Preparation is rewarded: Readying Abilities is core to strategy and tactics in the game. While it’s still possible to Ready Abilities in the middle of a fight, it is much better to plan ahead and Ready Abilities between Scenes because they are useable multiple times.
A Readied Ability can become unready based on actions of the PC. For example, a PC who holsters his gun would no longer have it Readied.
A Readied Ability can also become unreadied if the player rolls Bad Stuff, for the GM can describe how the Readied Ability has ended. For example, if a player botches an attack using an gun, the GM might use the Bad Stuff to describe how the “gun jams” or “gun runs out of ammo”, and the gun becomes unready and can’t be used until the player decides to Ready it again.
Single-use abilities immediately become unreadied when they are used. For example, lobbing a grenade unreadies it with a bang.
Abilities are freeform, but sometimes it helps to create a Framework for how they operate. For many Abilities, such as firearms, this is implicit, as everyone knows what a gun is. However, players should consider writing a Framework for any unusual Abilities.
Any Theme with special abilities must include a Framework that describes how they operate. For example, if your “Esper” character can “read minds” then you must describe how psychic abilities work for your character, what those abilities can or can’t do, how new abilities are gained, and how they are restored after being used. This should also include situations where the special abilities won’t work, such as if he is unable to speak.
Always consult your GM on Frameworks, especially if you are new to the game. While characters are freeform, the GM may inform you of any constraints inherent in the game setting, such as whether or not a particular ability belongs in the game, and if so, what kinds are most common.