Every element in the game is first described by its narrative before any abilities or die codes are ever assigned. The narrative description either directly or indirectly references abilities and hooks. The narrative description , or portions of the description, are summarized in a short phrase referred to as the concept.
An element’s concept determines whether or not the element has agency. An element with agency can make decisions and take actions; characters, opponents, and animals are examples of elements with agency. An element without agency may react to actions if appropriate but will not initiate them; traps, hazards, and computers are examples of elements without agency. The concept describes an element’s abilities in terms of the nature of those abilities, the scale of those abilities, and the scope of those abilities. The concept describes one or more hooks that are used to provide narrative happenstance and to stimulate the action point economy. An element may have as many concepts as needed and that make sense together.
The Nature of Abilities
An element’s concept describes what abilities are natural to the element. In the context of the game, every element is going to possess one of these natures.
Character: a character can move, speak, and manipulate objects. A character possesses agency. They possess the normal abilities of: Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, Perception, Presence, and Wits.
Vehicle: a vehicle is a tool for transporting things. A vehicle possesses the normal abilities of Body, Handling, and Speed.
Weapon: a weapon is a tool for damaging things. A weapon possesses the normal abilities of Damage, Ammo, and Range.
Equipment: equipment is any tool that enables, disables, or modifies abilities. Equipment may have any ability in the game as a normal ability. Any ability the equipment allows a user to use is a normal ability for that user. Any ability used by equipment but not by its user is considered extranormal for that user.
Object: an object is any element in the game that is not a character or a tool. Objects may have any ability in the game as a normal ability.
The Scale of Abilities
An element’s scale describes the level of effect at which abilities operate. A element is said to have parity of scale with something if it can reasonably affect or compete with it. Acting against something of a different scale results in a disparity of scale. Abilities that operate at a low disparity of scale are less effective or not effective at all. Abilities that operate at a high disparity of scale are more effective or overwhelmingly effective. Scale is necessarily progressive in the same way as conditions. Disparity of scale affects the result points of an action by reducing (low disparity) or adding (high disparity) 5 result points to the action total per level of disparity.
The Scope of Abilities
An element’s scope describes the range of effects upon which an ability operates. Elements may affect things which are within their scope normally, and things which are outside their scope to a lesser degree or not at all. Scope is not progressive; a broader scope may include more limited scopes wholly or partially. The degree and way in which an element affects something outside of its scope is up to the Game Master.
There are many ways an element may affect something outside of its scope. When a target is outside the scope of an element, it may, for example, have an increased difficulty to affect, the possible effects may be different, or the result points may be affected. If a scope partially or fully encompasses another element’s scope, it provides no additional effects to the results.
Hooks are short phrases or single words from the narrative description that provide a narrative justification for a happenstance or an extranormal ability.
Hooks Provide Abilities
An ability hook allows a character to posses an extranormal ability. Ability hooks do not require activation. A character with an ability hook has access to extranormal abilities, but they must spend action points to make extranormal ability rolls until they have at least 1 full rank in the extranormal ability.
Examples of ability hooks:
Trevor Stevens was a test pilot in a plane crash. He was rebuilt with bionic limbs. Trevor has the extranormal ability: cybernetics, which augments his athletic ability.
Carra Radine is a monk who has spent years honing his martial art skills and mastering mind-over-body. His fists can shatter steel. Carra has the extranormal ability: chi mastery, which allows him to damage armored vehicles with his bare hands.
Man-Spider is a spider who was bitten by a radioactive man; he has developed great powers which he uses responsibly. Man-Spider has the extranormal ability: totem power (spider), which allows him to walk on vertical surfaces.
Hooks Influence the Narrative
A narrative hook uses the action point economy to create narrative happenstance, to allow characters to temporarily use abilities they don’t have, or to allow characters to use abilities in normally disallowed ways. A narrative hook always requires activation through the use of an action or the expenditure of an action point. A narrative effect makes the character’s actions more efficient or effective in a specific way.
Just as a player can spend an action point to influence the narrative of the game in a character’s favor, the Game Master can “spend” an action point to make a character’s life more complicated. Players need not wait for the Game Master to do this. A player can suggest a narrative complication for their character; if the Game Master accepts, the scenario gets more interesting and the character is awarded an action point at the end of the scene. A narrative complication should involve hooks that make the character’s actions more costly or difficult in a specific way.
Examples of narrative hooks:
Trevor Stevens is staring at a nuclear device with only moments left until detonation. He does not have any skills that would let him disarm the bomb. Trevor’s player declares that if Trevor can interface his cybernetic arm with the bomb’s detonator, he might be able to disarm it, and he offers the GM an action point. The GM accepts, and Trevor attempts to disarm the bomb using his ranks in cybernetics.
Carra Radine is fighting an armored battlesuit in an abandoned warehouse. The battlesuit is tracking him with laser imaging and Carra can’t get close enough to punch. Carra’s player declares that if Carra triggers the fire suppressant system, the constant heavy downpour would interfere with the laser imaging. The GM assigns an ability check and difficulty number to the action; if Carr’s ability check is successful, the battlesuit will have Disadvantage on its targeting checks.
Man-Spider is fighting his arch-enemy The Octopus Doctor and it looks like the fight is about over. As the fight is about to end, a street punk grabs an old lady’s purse and flees. The Game Master notes that Man-Spider must use his power responsibly, and should try to stop the purse-snatcher as well as the arch-villain. Man-Spider’s player accepts the complication, and is forced to split his actions between the two opponents. The action point is awarded at the end of the scene.