Powers

Every hero in this game system has a unique set of Powers that help them do what they need to do. In some instances, these Powers are inborn or otherwise permanent components of who a character is. Other times, they are enabled by the usage of gadgets, artifacts, or other factors external to the character. In either case, they’re defined as Powers. The sort of Conditions that can impact a character, and the kind of Moves they can take, are heavily based on what their Powers are.

Technically speaking, there’s no hard and fast rules on what kind of Powers you can have, or what their source is. They have to be justifiable, and can’t be perceived as a simple exploitation of the game system by the GM. When creating your character and defining your Powers, work closely with the GM and other players to make sure you’re creating a character who isn’t overpowered but isn’t trivial either.

In the super-powered fiction this game system is intended to represent, characters can have wildly varying capabilities and levels of potency. Some characters don’t actually have “powers” necessarily and instead are reliant entirely on gadgetry or pure skill. Those characters can still be effective contributions to the team, even if other characters in the same group might have powers of literal gods. Because this narrative-oriented game system is more concerned with how you do something and if you succeed rather than hard numbers like specific damage amounts, it is not difficult to balance the various capabilities of the player characters and their enemies.

Defining your Powers and how they work is done with two parts: Your Power Summary and your Power Profile.

Power Summary

To begin defining your Powers you need a Power Summary. This is where you will want to write down what your character is capable of doing in broad terms. List absolutely everything you will want them to be able to do in the future. Starting out, they will not be able to do everything on their Power Summary, but this is where you will look to see if something you want to do with your Powers is justifiable or not. Super strength, control over all things metal, flying or enhanced reflexes, all that stuff. Try to be as broad as you can and speak to abilities rather than specific actions. Don’t worry about defining just how strong, fast, tough, or otherwise potent your abilities are yet. That step is done as part of your Power Profile. Anything that goes beyond the abilities of a normal human being should go here. Here are some ideas of the kinds of Powers your character might have:

  • Animal mimicry, such as: gaining the strength of a bear, the flight of a peregrine falcon, the eyes of hawk, etc.
  • Augmentation of existing super powers, such as: bestowal or boosting a superpower, mimicking or negating someone else’s superpower, etc.
  • Body manipulation of some kind, such as: phasing through objects and people, density manipulation, elasticity, enhanced senses, healing, strength, agility, durability, immortality, invulnerability, special types of vision (X-Ray, radar, sonar, etc.).
  • Inventing, interfacing or talking with things other than people, such as: technology and machines, plants, insects, etc.
  • Psychic abilities such as: telepathy, empathy, precognition, mind control or manipulation, possession. Psionic bolts, astral projection or telekinesis.
  • Shapeshifting and changing physically into something like: an animal, another human, something monstrous or alien, etc.
  • The manipulation, conversion or absorption of energy or forces such as: light, the elements, magnetism, mass, microwaves, molecules, probability, radiation, sound, time, gravity, or luck.
  • A special power related to movement, such as: super speed, teleportation, portals, time travel, dimensional travel, propulsion or flight.
  • Specialized gadgets or unique equipment, such as: power armour, magical swords, utility belts, alchemical elixers, or trick arrows.

If you are having trouble thinking of some specific things you want your character to be able to do, try starting with the source of their Powers and answering the following questions. It might be helpful in determining their powers and possibly even elements of their backstory.

  • Source of theme of powers – Does your power have or use an energy source?
  • Do you draw it out of yourself, manipulate your chi or use magic, spells, or rituals?
  • Do you have some some genetic gift that changes you and gives you power, or are you not human by nature and from a different world, time, or species?
  • Do you use your mind or psychic force to power yourself and your abilities?
  • Do you rely on technology, equipment, or gadgets to do things normal people cannot?

Power Profile

Your Power Profile is the section where you detail what your character can actually do with their Powers and how easy it is for them to do it. When creating a new character, fill in one thing they can do in each category. What is really easy for them to do?

You may want to include things like athletic feats like jumping across rooftops, or something about having amazing accuracy, like hitting a target from 200 meters away. Things in your Power Profile may not all be about flashy super powers. The things you write here are what they can do without having to roll the dice to Push their Powers.

While you can only fill in one thing for each category to start, you will be building your character’s Power Profile as you play the game. Everything you write down should be specific actions, uses, or response for your powers.

Simple: What can you do with ease and so most often use your Powers to do? Simple uses of your Powers generally don’t require a roll to succeed, or render you essentially immune to certain Conditions.
Difficult: What is something that you are capable of and often use your Powers to do, but requires concentration and control? Difficult uses of your Powers will almost always require a Move of some kind to utilize.
Borderline: What are some things that you have used your Powers to do in the past, during times when you feared for your life or were otherwise pushed to your limits? Borderline usage of your Powers might be Dangerous or have other complications associated with them, and are often circumstantial.
Possible: What are some things you could probably do, or at least haven’t ruled being able to do, in the future considering that you’ve already been able to do with your Powers?
Impossible: What are some things that you definitely would never be able to do, just beyond the limits of what you can do with your power no matter what? Impossible uses of your Powers can’t currently be accomplished by your character, although with Advancements that may change.
Lost: An optional sixth category, Lost uses of your Powers are things you used to be able to do, but no longer can. This is not necessary for every character to define and isn’t appropriate to everyone.

It is possible to have multiple Power Summaries and Power Profiles on the same character if you gain additional capabilities granted to you by circumstances or external factors that are not normal parts of your character. Standardized equipment or access to resources granted to you by virtue of allegiance to a specific organization is an example. In almost all instances, these external Powers are defined by the GM and granted to the character as part of the campaign, and can’t be modified with Advancements. They can also be lost or taken away as a result of events in the campaign.
Here’s an example of a completed Power Summary and Power Profile:

Power Summary: Olympic-level athletics, pinpoint accuracy, quiver of trick arrows.
Simple: Hit small, inanimate targets like surveillance cameras or the centre of a dartboard.
Difficult: Take out far away targets.
Borderline: Take out a whole room (hit multiple targets at once) with a trick arrow.
Possible: Use anything you can throw or shoot from a bow as a deadly projectile.
Impossible: Hit someone from more than two blocks away.

When a character wants to do something outside the range of things they have written on their Power Profile, the Push Move is triggered. Whether a character uses inherent super-powers or uses external gadgets to do what they do best, whenever they need to expand their repertoire or perform certain actions that are not yet listed on their Power Profile, the Push Move is the way to do it.

The advantage to having Powers already defined is that whenever the proper consideration is taken in the campaign, your character will be able to do those things again without having to Push for it – they’ve done it before and they know how to do it again. If you want to have your character branch out to try to do something they have not yet tried with their powers, they have to make the Push or possibly the Desperate Measures Move. Either Move deals with possible consequences and could hold serious repercussions for the character trying to expand their Powers. However, even when the character can do it and knows how (and so does not have to use the Push Move to do it), that does not mean it is easy to do. Only Simple uses of your Powers require little justification to pull off. Difficult, Borderline, or Possible actions all require that they be justifiable and reflects the level of time and difficulty going into doing certain actions.

Your Power Profile acts as the guideline to determine future actions in addition to what you can do and how difficult it is to do it. If you want to do something in the future, you will decide and gauge if that action is Simple, Difficult, Borderline, or Impossible to do. It is very important to have this rough outline and ceiling set for yourself to help gauge the difficulty of certain actions later on. The easiest way to envision the scale of difficulty is to choose one type of action and then just scale it upward. For example, a Simple action for a character with super-strength might be “hit with enough force to knock out a normal man”, the Difficult one could be “hit with enough force to punch through brick or concrete”, and the Borderline one could be “hit with enough force to punch through solid steel”. This is helpful because it establishes some clear guidelines for your strength, but is limiting if you have more than one power and plan on doing more than punch inanimate objects the whole game. Spread the various types of actions you want to do across the difficulties. Think about what you want to be doing the most right out of the gate.

Your Powers define not just what you can do, but what can be done to you. A character with “Organic Steel Skin” in their Power Summary may have the justification to have bullets bounce off them, fists break on impact, or maybe even missiles hitting crash into them without being too worse for wear. It being under your Power Summary is the justification for being able to do something. What you put in your Power Profile are the specific things that your character knows they can do, has experienced, and can reproduce the results of.

If a character with Organic Steel Skin put “Impervious to bullets” in their Power Profile under Simple, then that means shrugging off bullets is second nature and not difficult for them to do. They generally can’t be affected by bullets and can’t have most Conditions imposed on them as a direct result of being shot with bullets. However, if a missile heads their way, and they want to see if they can absorb the impact like they would bullets, then they’d have to Push to see if they can. It’s not on their Power Profile yet, despite having the justification to be able to try in the first place due to having Organic Steel Skin on their Power Summary.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you’re invincible against things your Power Profile defines. While that same character with organic steel skin might be impervious to bullets, being shot by a loved one could still be a horrible experience (especially if the loved one didn’t necessarily know about the character’s immunity to being shot). A character might still have a condition like Shocked, Devastated, or Betrayed imposed on them, even if physically they’re unharmed. A character who can take a ballistic missile to the chest and keep standing isn’t necessarily rendering innocent bystanders or the surrounding environment immune in the same way.

Limitations

All Powers have drawbacks and ways they limit a character. Sometimes, these limitations will make it harder for them to fight under certain circumstances, or to take down enemies, but the most important limitation for a character is has to do with how it affects how easily they can interact with others. A character’s Powers, or the life they lead, might mean:
Having to keep the rest of the world at arm’s length, like characters with super-strength, razor-sharp skin, or the ability to absorb another person’s energy.
Simply not having the time and energy to pursue a career, family, or normal life, and having to exercise for, and recover from, fights with villains all the time can take a toll.
Not being able to trust others with their secrets, or fearing for their lives if they do unburden themselves with them.
Needing or being dependent on, or particularly vulnerable to, something like alcohol, the sun’s radiation, the ocean’s depths, or pieces of their home world is a common way to make an ultra-powerful character more manageable.

Take some time to detail limitations and drawbacks to the powers your character has and how it affects their life. The more powerful a character is, the more uses of their powers they can add to their Power Profile. However it means it will be more difficult for them to fit in, and they will have less Bonds. Consult the table below to see the dynamic between the two. Being able to fit in and lead a relatively normal life means more Bonds, but less Powers, while not easily being able to be a part of society means less Bonds, but more power.

The extra Bond Points you receive will also affect your Bonds, but for now check to see if you get to be able to add anything more to your Power Profile. If you do, write them in now before moving on.

Powers

Agents of STRIKE MattZenith MattZenith