Prism Chapter 3 Abilities

3.1 The Purpose of Abilities

Abilities is the term we use to describe innate powers or advantages a character may have.  In most games, typical characters will have simple abilities like improved senses, social status, or an innate understanding of some subject; however, in superhero games, characters might have genuine superpowers!  (Characters not in superhero games may also have superpowers, of course, but much less often.)

Art copyright  Robin Wood 1997, used with permissionOne type of ability that can be especially interesting is a latent power ability.  This is a device used widely in adventure fiction.  Generally, the character finds out about his power little by little over the course of his adventures.  One approach to this technique is simply to give your GM a handful of points and let him spend them, without telling you what he spent them on; players who enjoy suspense will find this especially interesting!

Before you choose your abilities, you ought to read the next chapter, "Weaknesses," and plan out your abilities and weaknesses at the same time.  It is possible and even likely that your weaknesses and abilities will be related, possibly even different consequences of the same thing.  (For instance, an empathetic ability, a big help when trying to understand people, might also make you feel pain when anyone around you is hurt, or it might simply make you more vulnerable to persuasion.)  Also, a limitation to an ability is a weakness that you should work out with its corresponding ability.

You may not want your character to have any abilities; in many campaigns, this is entirely normal.  However, many characters will have abilities, simply because heroes are usually extraordinary people!  The typical hero, and thus the typical character, is likely to have one or perhaps two abilities, along with corresponding weaknesses.  In Prism terms, the point cost of the abilities is usually just slightly more than the points regained with weaknesses, so that the total points spent on stats, abilities, and weaknesses add up to about 35; however, this varies widely by player, GM, and campaign.

Art copyright  Eyal F., used with permission3.2 Racial Abilities and Weaknesses

If the world you will be playing in includes non-human races, whether halflings, Solarians, or computer programs, you may choose to play a non-human character.  In some campaigns, your GM will have some modifiers for rolled stats.  He may also require that you buy certain abilities and weaknesses that all members of your race possess.  For example, dwarves might be able to see in the dark and have exceptional resistance to poison; the GM might require they purchase Nightsight and Poison Resistance.  Solarian star-travelers might be entirely resistant to heat, but take damage from cold.  Your GM will have a list of required abilities and weaknesses for each race in his game world.  All racial characteristics that have game effects should become abilities and/or weaknesses.

3.3 Choosing and Buying Abilities

Odds are, in most game settings, once you've made your character, you won't be able to change her abilities and weaknesses; they will stay with her, shaping her for her entire history.  For this reason, you should choose them with care.

Art copyright  Doug Beekman, used with permissionThe next section provides a list of some standard abilities you can use.  However, they are just samples.  Many common abilities are not listed, and many of those listed are somewhat unusual; these samples are intended to illustrate what kind of abilities you can use, and perhaps to inspire some creative thinking.  Rather than using them, straight from the book, you should use them as building blocks to create new abilities, or as inspirations to invent totally new ones.  In fact, it is probably best not to skim this section when creating a character, but to try to let the ideas come by themselves.  If you do use an ability from this section, modify it slightly to make it even more appropriate for your character.

If you do use one straight from the book, the GM may modify it, perhaps drastically, to correspond to his game world; furthermore, he may change the point cost for any number of reasons.  Make sure you check with him first.

To make up a new ability, simply write out a description of it, similar in form to the descriptions of the sample abilities, and ask your GM if you can buy it and how much it will cost.  Don't forget to consider making a weakness part of the ability!  By the way, your GM may deny you an ability without giving you a good reason; he may have reasons he can't tell you, so you should honor his wishes respectfully.

3.4 Some Sample Abilities

The following are a selection of sample abilities.  Use this list to inspire ideas, not as the definitive compendium of possible abilities.  Suggested character point costs are listed in parentheses after the names; your GM may use different costs.


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