Prism Chapter 4 Weaknesses

4.1 The Purpose of Weaknesses

Art copyright  Robin Wood 1993, used with permissionWeaknesses are essentially the negative counterparts of abilities.  They can be physical disabilities or mental or social disadvantages.  They can also be "virtues," which it may seem strange to call weaknesses.  However, as desirable and respect-worthy as they may be, these virtues still "weaken" your character, by limiting his freedom of action.  For example, honesty means you can't or won't lie even when telling the truth could get you in a whole lot of trouble.

At first, you might think, "Why would I want my character to have a weakness?"  Well, there are two good reasons.  First, and simplest, you get character points back when you take weaknesses, because weaknesses have negative costs.  But more importantly, weaknesses are often more significant than abilities in defining your character's personality.  That's why virtually all adventure heroes from movies and books have weaknesses.  (For example, Indiana Jones has a phobia of snakes; B'elanna Torres (from Star Trek: Voyager™) has a violent Klingon temper; Sherlock Holmes has an incredible pride and an addiction to cocaine; Ellen Ripley is obsessed with destroying the Aliens and beholden to The Company; and the list could go on forever.)

Often, especially at climactic moments, a character with a mental weakness tries to "overcome" it; this is a powerful device in adventure fiction and is often used to great effect.  The potential lies in the fact that it happens rarely and succeeds even more rarely.  Do not overuse it!  When you want your character to try to overcome his phobia or compulsive behavior, make it dramatic; squeeze every last drop of pathos out of that weakness before you let it go.  You'll have to; if you don't, the GM probably won't agree that your character is really getting over it.

Often, these "overcomings" won't last.  A tragic hero is likely to slide back into his weakness.  Perhaps he only got over it for that stressful moment, and once the stress is gone, so is his willpower.  Perhaps she really did break the habit, but later circumstances make her fall back into it.  This will be up to you and the GM.  However, in those cases where the weakness is really beaten, you will have to pay back the points you gained for taking the weakness.  This is explained in full in section 13.2.3.

Of course, your character may always think he's going to overcome his weaknesses, but you know he's not actually trying, he's just full of hot air.

It is very important, when buying and playing weaknesses, to remember that these are strong weaknesses, unusual, not day-to-day ones.  Many people have a bad temper, and they may have trouble getting along with people.  If you want your character to be like that, feel free!  Some people have such a bad temper that they end up in jail and have to go to counseling and therapy.  This is a weakness, and is worth the -10 points it costs.

What if you want to have a bad temper, but not the towering rage that the weakness describes?  In this case you would use a sort of "mini-weakness" called a quirk.  You can take any weakness or just about any strange element of personality or character and call it a quirk (with your GM's permission); these are typically worth -1 to -2 points.  In fact, you can even take a few points for quirks you haven't yet figured out, and let them develop during the first few sessions of play.  Quirks are a great way to add a little flavor.  Just be sure your weaknesses are played as weaknesses, your quirks are played as quirks, and there is no confusion between them.

Art copyright  Jim Roberts, used with permission4.2 Choosing and Buying Weaknesses

You will probably want to choose your weaknesses along with your abilities.  The discussion in section 3.2 applies equally well to both processes, and you should reread it before beginning your weaknesses.  Sample weaknesses follow.  (If you are playing a non-human character, don't forget to ask the GM if there are any required weaknesses for your race.)

4.3 Some Sample Weaknesses

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