Abilities measure your character's capability to undertake specific kinds of tasks. Whereas Attributes measure raw potential in broad fields, each Ability is a much more focused area of knowledge or expertise. Abilities let your character use his potential most effectively and compensate for underlying deficiencies in some cases.
A weak but experienced knife fighter can make mincemeat out of a big burly opponent who has no clue how to fight well, for instance, and a priest who lacks personal charisma but understands the principles of rhetoric can defeat a charming but unskilled opponent in debate.
Note: There is bound to be a time when you want your character to do something that uses an Ability she just doesn't have. What then? Does the fact that you didn't buy dots in dodge mean she can't even duck when someone screams, "GET DOWN!"? No, not at all. But the fact that you didn't spend points on Medicine DOES mean she doesn't have much hope treating a disease or healing a mortal's wounds. It's actually when you don't have an Ability that the differences between Talents, Skills and Knowledges become clear.
Talents, are relatively easy to do by the seat of your pants, Skills are harder, and Knowledges can be downright impossible. When you need to roll an attribute + Ability combination but you don't have the Ability in question, you roll the attribute alone. That roll is modified depending on what category the missing Ability falls into:
- Missing Talent: No additional penalty
- Missing Skill: +1 difficulty
- Missing Knowledge: No roll possible (automatic failure, or simply use the attributes with a raised difficulty)
A list of Secondary Abilities are also available for purchase at the time of chargen with Freebies, or with XP post-classing.
Talents are matters of innate apptitude, requiring no training to develop, and they improve primarily or exclusively through experience. Characters get better at them only by doing them regularly. It's possible to attempt actions related to Talents that a character doesn't possess. Everyone (or nearly everyone) possesses a rudimentary grasp of each Talent, even without the minimal competence required for one dot's worth.
Alertness is the ability to notice things that are going on in one's vicinity, with or without actively searching for them. Most Alertness rolls are paired with Perception, and it generally applies to physical stimuli rather than matters of mood, the soul and so on.
• Novice: You're seldom taken completely by surprise.
•• Practiced: Whispers do not go unheard in your vicinity.
••• Competent: You maintain a constant vigil.
•••• Expert: Few hidden things are safe around you.
••••• Master: Your senses push the boundries of human potential and rival those of the beasts of the field.
Specialties: Ambushes, Angelic/Demonic Manifestations, Crowds, Forests, Noises, Paranoia, Traps.
Athletics is aptitude for physical exertion, be it during relatively formal sports or simply in the course of active life. Athletic feats that are directly related to combat are covered by Brawl, Dodge, Melee, and the other combat abilities, except in the case of thrown weapons. These require Athletics.
• Novice: You lead a moderately active existence.
•• Practiced: You can compete effectively in local sporting competitions.
••• Competent: You can support yourself, at least in large measure, with the prizes you win in challenges of physical excellence.
•••• Expert: Stories of your prowess circulate widely.
••••• Master: Your reputation precedes you, and would-be rivals feel awe at your ability.
Specialties: Climbing, Dancing, Juggling, Running, Swimming, Thrown Objects, Tumbling
Brawl is the ability to fight unarmed, whether with a specific system of techniques or simply flailing away and relying on one's experience of where and how to strike. Brawling well requires coordination, speed, the ability to withstand pain and the willingness to deal out "unfair" assaults, particularly against strong or quick opponents.
• Novice: You don't immediately fold in the face of a fight.
•• Practiced: You've had your share of tussels with neighbors and other local brawlers.
••• Competent: You fight with confidence and competence, and you can count on winning or at least coming through a fight and remaining standing.
•••• Expert: You can take on most opponents and expect to win.
••••• Master: You do as much with your fists as many soldiers and knights do with their weapons.
Specialties: Arm-locks, Boxing, Drunken Fighting, Grappling, Showing off, Throws, Wrestling
Dodge is the ability to get out of harm's way, whether in combat or in the face of other sorts of danger. It encompasses the use of cover and agile maneuvering, and it comes from the systematic training of a knight or the tough-and-ready experience and instincts of a thief or brawler. Dodges plays a crucial role in survival of any character who fights often, greatly increasing his chances of escaping damage.
• Novice: You reflexively avoid most minor sources of injury and show a measure of grace in your movements.
•• Practiced: You're hard to hurt unless someone or something catches you by surprise.
••• Competent: It takes serious effort for an opponent to hit you, you get out of the way of most thrown objects as well as immediate dangers.
•••• Expert: Only skilled warriors can expect to hurt you very much.
•••• Master: Wherever a threat is, you're almost inevitable somewhere else.
Specialties: Backstep, Dive, Duck, Find Cover, Horseback, Leap, Sidestep
Empathy is the ability to understand others' emotional states and to present a suitable response - whether the character genuinely sympathizes with others or simply wishes to use them. It's crucial in unraveling motives and helpful in detecting dishonesty.
• Novice: You seem sympathetic to people with whom you share something in common.
•• Practiced: You share others' joys and sorrows, even when you haven't made any particular effort at it.
••• Competent: You display keen insights into others' souls and enjoy a measure of respect or fear depending on how you use your wisdom.
•••• Expert: Few people can deceive you. Enemies mutter that you deal with dark powers, and friends believe that God has given you special perception.
••••• Master: Nothing human is mysterious to you.
Specialties: Background Emotions, Emotions, Family Problems, Long-term Concerns, Personalities, Truths
This is your ability to get your point across clearly, whether through conversation, poetry or even email. Characters with high Expression can phrase their opinions or beliefs in a manner that cannot be ignored (even if their opinions are misinformed or worthless). They might also be talented actors, skilled at conveying moods or feigning emotion with every gesture.
Additionally, this Talent represents your ability for poetry, creative writing or other literary art forms.
• Novice: Your talent has matured past crude poetry on notebook paper.
•• Practiced: You could lead a college debate team.
••• Competent: You could be a successful writer.
•••• Expert: Your work is Pulitzer material.
••••• Master: A visionary as yourself comes along only once in every generation.
Intimidation takes many forms, from outright threats and physical violence to mere force of personality. You know the right method for each occasion, and can be very persuasive.
• Novice: Crude teenage bully
•• Practiced: Mugger
••• Competent: Drill sergeant
•••• Expert: Your air of authority cows casual passersby.
••••• Master: You can frighten off vicious animals.
You are an example to others and can inspire them to do what you want. Leadership has less to do with manipulating people's desires than it does with presenting yourself as the sort of person they want to follow. This Talent is usually paired with Charisma rather than Manipulation.
• Novice: Captain of your Little League team
•• Practiced: Student body president
••• Competent: An effective CEO
•••• Expert: Presidential material
••••• Master: You could be the lord and master of a nation.
The streets can provide a lot of information or money to those who know the language. Streetwise allows you to blend in unobtrusively with the local scene, pick up gossip, understand slang or even dabble in criminal doings.
• Novice: You know which neighborhoods to avoid.
•• Practiced: You're accorded respect on the street.
••• Competent: You could head your own gang.
•••• Expert: You have little to fear in even the worst neighborhoods.
••••• Master: If you haven't heard it, it hasn't been said.
You know how to conceal your own motives and project what you like. Furthermore, you can root out other people's motives, then use those motives against them. This Talent defines your talent for intrigue, secrets and double-dealing; mastery of Subterfuge can make you the ultimate seducer, or a brilliant spy.
• Novice: You tell the occasional little white lie.
•• Practiced: Vampire
••• Competent: Criminal lawyer
•••• Expert: Deep-cover agent or CIA.
••••• Master: You're the very last person anyone would suspect.