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.Thanks for your confidence, Major!
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.
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.
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.' ”