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Skip Navigation LinksHack Guidelines>Ability Traits

Ability Traits

Ability sets may include one or more Ability traits that represent some of a character's more notable abilities.

Often, no roll is necessary to narrate how a character's abilities allow them to do colorful things that enrich the story. But sometimes success or failure matters, and when that is the case an action or reaction roll is typically called for. Whenever a character takes an action or reaction, they may include up to one (1) Ability trait from each of their active Ability sets in their dice pool if their player can describe how the trait might help them succeed.

By spending one (1) Plot Point per additional Ability trait a character can also include more than one Ability trait from the same set. Some SFX allow an additional Ability trait from the same set to be included in dice pools without having to spend a Plot Point per as well.

A player can attempt to justify adding a given Ability trait to a dice pool with a great deal of latitude, but the GM and / or other players may push back if a particular Ability trait added to a particular dice pool just doesn't make sense or strains plausability too much.

Ability Trait Die Ratings

Ability traits have die ratings from d4 to d12, which costs from one (1) to eight (8) Advances.

For some Ability traits the statistical advantage of rolling a larger die is sufficient to represent the scale or skill difference between basic and elite ability. However for some Ability traits higher die ratings also allow increasing justification for the type of effects that can be attempted. For instance Spells: d10 is not just statistically better than Spells: d8, it also allows a character to attempt actions and reactions that Spells: d8 does not. Ability trait descriptions go into details about that sort of thing where it is relevant.

Ability Trait Costs

Die Step
Advances
d4
1
d6
2
d8
4
d10
6
d12
8

Ability Trait Ranges

There are four Range options for Ability traits by default: Self, Standard, Scene, and Special.

An Ability trait with Self range benefits or affects the character that has it. If an Ability trait does not specifically indicate otherwise, it has Self range. For instance Durability, Running, and Growth are Self Range.

An Ability trait with Standard Range has a range that is based on the die step a given character has for that Ability trait, as indicated in the Standard Range Chart. A character making an attack with this type of Ability trait may spend one (1) Plot Point to extend the distance of their attack by one (1) zone.

Ability Trait Standard Range

Die Step
Range
d4
Same zone
d6
Adjacent zones
d8
Two zones
d10
Four zones
d12
Eight zones

Note that the Standard Range Chart provides maximum distances under ideal conditions; but how many zones away a Standard Range attack can affect a specific target in a given Scene is left to circumstance, common sense, and table consensus. For instance, if visibility is poor or intervening terrain or obstacles are present in the Scene, a character's effective range might be curtailed to less than their maximum possible range.

An Ability trait with Scene Range can affect any zone in the Scene, baring interference or opposition such as a relevant Complication, Distinction, Asset, or active opposition from another character.

An Ability trait with Special Range will provide an explanation of its range considerations within its own write up or within the write up of the Ability Category it belongs to. For instance, Manipulation Ability traits use the Manipulation Effect Justifications Chart to determine the Area that they can affect.

Custom Ability Traits

The default Ability traits provided should cover most cases, but it is important to keep in mind that it is fully intended and expected that custom Ability traits are available to players and GM's attempting to represent other ideas or to expand on or fine tune the abilities that are presented.

For starters, there are some obvious gaps in coverage of the sorts of abilities that one might expect for a game of this type. A Telekinesis Ability trait is not provided by default, for example. This is because for many telekinetic characters Strength with the Line of Sight SFX applied will prove sufficient to represent the concept. However a GM or player might prefer a full Manipulation Ability trait write up for a more nuanced take on the concept of TK.

In some cases if a character is taking a broadly capable Ability trait and severely restricting it, attempting to describe how that character's very restricted or narrow version of the Ability works by applying one or more Limits to it may be awkward and also unfairly costed. In those situations it might be easier to define a custom Ability trait sourced from the original and tailored to suit the need.

For instance, Telepathy includes the concept of locating minds and forming mind links among its many capabilities. A character who wants a narrower version of Telepathy that is only used for mind linking to their own allies could take Telepathy and slap a couple of Limits on it, but they would be losing a lot of utility in the process and taking up a lot of real estate on their character sheet to basically say 'I have a very weak form of Telepathy'. Instead, a custom Ability trait called Mind Link could be created using Telepathy as a starting point, stripping away all the other capabilities, and beefing up the mind link aspect to bring the utility of the trait up to a fair level for its cost in Advances.

Similarly, a psychic character might want an Ability trait such as Pyrokinesis which allowed them to make fire based attacks but also provide some manipulative control over heat and flames. Taking the Fire Ability trait as a starting point, removing the elemental summoning capabilities, and focusing more on offensive capabilities would be an entirely reasonable approach.

The bottom line is that while a default Ability trait plus maybe a SFX and / or a Limit usually covers most concepts, players and GM's should not feel constrained by the default Ability traits provided when they have an idea that just isn't covered in a manner that they find acceptable.


Ability Trait Categories

Ability traits are organized into Ability Trait Categories across three groups: Innate, Standard, and Exotic. Some Ability traits belong to more than one category; such Ability traits are subject to all guidelines or restrictions of the categories they belong to.

Innate Traits

Innate traits are special in that characters who have not spent any Advances to gain a given Innate trait may usually still attempt to use that trait at a penalty unless there is some logical reason a given character wouldn't be able to do so in a given situation (for instance, a paralyzed character probably can't jump or run and thus it would not make sense for them to attempt to use Leaping or Running even at the d4 level).

Characters who have not spent any Advances on a given Innate trait may usually still attempt to include that trait in a dice pool as if they have it at the d4 step, but if they do so both 1's and 2's in the rolled result are treated as opportunities by their opponents.

Characters that have paid one (1) or more Advances for an Innate trait may use their trait normally without suffering this consequence.

The following traits are standardized and assumed to be Innate for characters within the setting by default. However some abilities which are not normally considered Innate traits might be classified as Innate for a given character; for instance it would be resonable to consider Flight to be Innate for members of a winged race of beings. Similarly, some abilities which are normally considered Innate traits might be deemed as not being Innate for a given character; for instance Persuasion might not be Innate for an artificial intelligence.

Standard Abilities

Attack Traits

Combat-oriented characters usually have one or more Ability traits that describe some kind of attack. Though in some cases putting a Complication or Asset into play with an Attack trait might make sense and be interesting, most of the time the effect of Attack traits is inflicted directly as Stress.

It is possible for a character to take a custom Attack trait and name it something like Lightning Blasts or Magical Missiles as long as the players and GM involved reach a consensus on what that means in actual play. However, the following traits are standardized and assumed to be available with sufficient justification to characters within the setting.

Defensive Traits

Combat-oriented characters usually have one or more Ability traits that describe some kind of protection or means to avoid harm. Defensive abilities are usually used as part of reactions to avoid Stress or Complications.

It is possible for a character to take a custom Defensive trait and name it something like Lucky Avoidance or Infernal Aura as long as the players and GM involved reach a consensus on what that means in actual play. However, the following traits are standardized and assumed to be available to characters with sufficient justification within the setting.

Manipulation Traits

There are a variety of Ability traits that allow a character to exert some level of control over a concept or property of the game world. This kind of ability ranges widely, from mental manipulations to magic, control over matter or energy, the ability to create something from nothing, to produce illusions, and so on.

Manipulation abilities are usually used on actions to create or remove Assets and Complications, but can have other effects.

In addition to the normal benefits of having higher die steps in a trait, the die steps of Manipulation traits also grant increased justification for more elaborate and powerful effects as shown by the Magnitude and Area columns of the Manipulation Effect Justifications chart.

For example, a character with Force Manipulation: d10 is able to justify doing things at a scope and scale that a character with Force Manipulation: d6 cannot even attempt to do under ordinary circumstances.

Manipulation Effect Justifications

Die
Magnitude
Area
d4
Trivial
Touch
d6
Minor
Current Zone
d8
Significant
Scene
d10
Major
Region
d12
Supreme
Potentially Global

It is possible for a character to take a custom Manipulation trait and name it something like Probability or Gravity or Mass as long as the players and GM involved reach a consensus on what that means in actual play. However, the following traits are standardized and assumed to be available to characters with sufficient justification within the setting.

Metamorphic Traits

Some characters have unusual abilities that allow them to alter one or more things about their own bodies, such as Growth or Intangibility.

It is possible for a character to take a custom Metamorphic trait and name it something like Chemomorph or Husk Shedding as long as the players and GM involved reach a consensus on what that means in actual play. Additionally, some abilities which are not normally considered Metamorphic traits might be classified as Metamorphic for a given character. For instance Invisibility could reasonably be considered a Metamorphic ability on a character who alters their own body to become translucent. However, the following traits are standardized and assumed to be available to characters with sufficient justification within the setting.

Travel Traits

Some Ability traits allow characters to run or jump better such as Running and Leaping, or to have an exotic form of movement such as Flight or Teleportation.

Though the primary benefit of such abilities is to facilitate getting from point A to point B more expediently, Travel traits can also be used on actions and reactions where they are beneficial or relevant. For instance, a character might include Leaping in a dice pool when reacting to an attack by acrobatically jumping out of the way, or when attacking to represent incorporating their prodigious jumping into their assault.

It is possible for a character to take a custom Travel trait and name it something like Wallcrawling or Swinging or Levitation as long as the players and GM involved reach a consensus on what that means in actual play. However, the following traits are standardized and assumed to be available to characters with sufficient justification within the setting.

Exotic Abilities

Special Traits

Some Ability traits don't fit the usual mold of describing fixed capabilities arrayed across the dice steps, others are unusual in that they allow a character who has them to emulate other Ability traits, and some are just so potentially disruptive to game play that they warrant additional consideration on the part of the GM.

Special Ability traits can be quite powerful, and even game-wrecking at the higher die ratings if used irresponsibly. GM's concerned by this may prefer to disallow some or all Special Ability traits or place certain restrictions upon their usage, or tone down their levels of effect, or require characters to take at least one Limit restricting their usage.

It is also allowed for players and GM's to work together to define custom Ability traits that bend the normal rules of the game, combine elements of other Ability traits into unusual combinations, or introduce a complex concept specific to a given setting that doesn't fit nicely into the standard Ability trait model. While Ability traits like this may also fall into other categories (for instance, Spells is also in the Mystical category), they are still considered to be in the Special category.

Players wanting to take a Special Ability trait must get GM permission first, and the usage of such abilities typically relies on greater than usual GM discretion or interpretation.

Mystical Traits

This is a set of traits that might be available in settings that allow characters to have mystical abilities.

It is possible for a character to take a custom Mystical trait and name it something like Witchcraft or Necromancy as long as the players and GM involved reach a consensus on what that means in actual play. Additionally, some abilities which are not normally considered Mystical traits might be classified as Mystical for a given character. For instance, a character might take the Invisibility trait and justify it as being part of their mystical abilities. However, the following traits are specifically considered to be Mystical in nature by default.

Psychic Traits

This is a set of traits that might be available in settings that allow characters to have psychic abilities.

It is possible for a character to take a custom Psychic trait and name it something like Pyrokinesis or Clairsentience as long as the players and GM involved reach a consensus on what that means in actual play. Additionally, some abilities which are not normally considered Psychic traits might be classified as Psychic for a given character. For instance, a character might take the Durability trait with the Aura SFX applied and the Strength trait with the Line of Sight SFX applied and justify them as being part of their psychic abilities. However, the following traits are specifically considered to be Psychic in nature by default.