>Thief part 3: Powers, Effects, Descriptors, and Power Points

>What follows is a brief primer on how Powers are built and work in DC Adventures, using the Thief from the previous entry as a discussion point. Feel free to refer back to the character sheet if anything here is unclear, and of course questions and comments are always welcome!

Powers are built from two separate important components: Descriptors, and Effects. Descriptors are free; Effects cost Power Points. The secondary components are Extras and Flaws.

A Descriptor is a word or set of words that define what a power looks, sounds, smells, or otherwise acts like, a little bit about how it might interact with other powers, and other details such as where it comes from (origin). For example, our thief has two different kinds of powers; powers that come from Training, and powers that come from his Elven heritage. These are both Origin descriptors. As another example, a Mage might have powers with the Magic descriptor, which might define both origin and effects; he might also have a Blast power with the Fire descriptor.

Certain descriptors have inherent properties. Fire, for instance, can be used to set things on … well, on fire. Makes sense, right? A power with the Water or Ice descriptor might be used to put the fire out. A sword has the Slashing descriptor, which tells you that it can be used to cut things. A club has the Smashing or Bludgeoning descriptors. A Cleric or Angel might have powers with the Sacred or Holy descriptor.

In short? Descriptors are Adjectives and Adverbs. Any effect can have any descriptor, baring your GM choosing otherwise; but if you can find a logical explanation for why it works that way, it’s probably fine.

Just to be sure, though, always ask your GM what kinds of descriptors might be allowed in your setting – in a low magic setting, for instance, magic might not be an appropriate descriptor to use for powers. 

The second part of power creation is the choice of Effects. These are the Verbs; they define what a power does. Things like Teleportation, Flight, Damage, Telepathy, Concealment – these are all Effects.

Extras and Flaws are things that modify an Effect further, changing how it works to make it more or less effective – and more or less expensive. Limited is a Flaw; No Attack Roll is a combination of an Extra (Perception, +2/rank) and another flaw (Close Range Only -1/rank – added by a reasonable GM). Different extras and flaws have differing values, and your GM should be consulted during this part of the process if you need help deciding whether a particular extra or flaw is a good idea.

To construct a power, first give it a label; something like Evasive, in the case of our thief. Figure out what it does; in this case, it makes it harder to figure out where he is at any particular moment. This suggests a Concealment effect, but not at full strength – he’s not invisible, just harder to hit. Partial is the right flaw, here, as is another flaw that says it only works if he keeps moving. This drops the cost to 1/2 ranks.

After this, it’s only a matter of deciding how many ranks are needed to make the power fit the concept (he’s harder to see with precision, but not to hear or detect with magical senses), and then applying any other descriptors – or, to put it in conventional literary terms, describing what it looks like when he’s using the move. I’m picturing a rapid dance of footwork and precise movements of limbs that make it even more difficult to land a solid hit on him.

A last reminder; Power Points are the building blocks of your entire character, as well as providing a reward for “experience” that a character gains over their adventures. Every special trait that a character has – skills, advantages, powers, abilities, and defenses – has an associated cost in Power Points. Advancement in these is fairly slow – generally around 1 per session or adventure – because they’re intended to reflect the way characters grow and develop in most novels, movies, and comicbooks. Which is to say, slowly if at all; most literary characters start the story somewhat awesome, unless it’s an origin story or a martial arts epic that features a lot of training montages. 


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