Sunday, November 25, 2012

Special Abilities in Year of the Phoenix

All player characters in Year of the Phoenix have special abilities – either mechanical (“The result of a mechanical device permanently attached to the hero's body”), physiological (“Abilities present as a result of quirks of the metabolism, genetic oddities, chemical imbalances, and the like”), or mental (“Abilities present because of special training, psychic properties, or simply unusual force of will...”).  Each ability usually has a drawback that tends to balance out the effectiveness of the ability.  Special abilities are what entitled the player characters to be recruited for Project Phoenix – not expert aptitude or an exemplary service record.  The special abilities chapter begins with a quote from Major Roger Nathan:
          You've all been called to this gymnasium so that we can test each of your Special Abilities.  Your Ability is what got you in here, so we're determined to see what it can do.  To your left you can see that metal enclosure.  It's a steel box with a door, really.  That is for testing things like weapons and heat- sensing, and heat-creating Abilities.
          Over here, to your right, are an odd assortment of vehicles and computers.  I see a couple of Corvettes, an army jeep, and three old, reliable MacIntosh computers.  Those are for testing machine empathy, as well as interfacing and electrical powers.
          The rest of this stuff, like the trampoline, is fairly self-explanatory.  Oh, and there's a medical team standing by.  I'm sure there'll be some casualties today.
Thanks for your confidence, Major!

To gain an appreciation of the variety of special abilities available, let's introduce ourselves to the pre-generated characters and see what abilities they have.

Carol Horn is the team pilot.  Her ability is “Heightened Sight.”  Her 'Line of Sight' is quadrupled that of what a normal person's would be and she can make out detail on an object eight meters distant as though it was only two meters away.  This ability has some drawbacks, she has poor night vision and is colorblind.  Unlike the other characters, the nature of her ability (mechanical, physiological, or mental) is not stated.  I guess it doesn't matter.

Bruce 'Keeps' Keeler is 'Communications & Payload Specialist' for our band of pre-gens.  He is ambidextrous, “has a swimmer's body, and sports a never-failing tan.”  However, these attributes do not represent his special ability.  Keeps has two levels of “Speed,” which is described as a “psychic ability to borrow future time.”  He can “increase normal reaction time and movement distances” for up to an hour's duration.  Immediately thereafter, for the same duration he “is proportionately 'slowed' as much as he...was 'hastened.' ”

Anthony Quill has been appointed 'Commander' of the team.  Quill has the “Weakness Analysis” ability as a result of a “specialized microcomputer hooked into sensory gear tied to the optic nerve.”  He can cause double damage but, before he can do so, the computer “takes over [his] eyes” for several seconds.  Quill is blind during this time.  At the level which Quill possesses this ability, he should be limited to a broad category of targets (e.g., animals, vehicles, structures), but this detail is not supplied.

Cynthia Shanders is 'Infantry.'  Had Martin Wixted written Phoenix today, he would describe her as “Native American” rather than “Indian.”  A “microprocessor” tied to her nervous system somehow allows her “to determine the surface thoughts of a gamemastered character,” but not a player character.  In order to do this, she must touch the subject and remain immobile.  It takes several seconds “to power up or shut down this Ability.”

David Toth is a 'Heavy Weapons' specialist.  Before he joined the service, David tried out for the Olympics but was not successful.  (His Basketball skill is at 70%.)  His special ability is listed as “Weapon/Mechanical.”  This means he has “Extendable claws...[that] reside in and/or around [his] hands,” or it could be his feet.  Instead of claws, they might be blades or metal plates.  Wixted does not specify.  Anyway, David does +4 Damage but it's possible he can injure himself with this weapon, even outside of combat.

Julie Whitmore is the 'Medic' of the group and – given her Chef skill – most likely the group's cook.  She is “almost too thin for high fashion modelling.”  Her special ability is “Self-Heal” to the extent that her recovery time is three times faster than normal.  This ability is 'mental' and, as such, requires a Talent Skill Sphere roll and a number of hours of (daily?) meditation commensurate to the level of trauma.

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