[The Mountain Witch] Abilities Help!

So here’s a thing I want to crowdsource some opinions on: “Abilities” in tMW are a variety of character aspects (skills, traits, items, magic, etc) that grant some sort of narrative effect or special action (as opposed to a mechanical bonus or advantage). Here's the actual [section on Abilities], if you want to see it.

In the original version, players could freeform create Abilities during chargen. While this sounds simple, in practice it ended up being the slowest and most difficult part of the process. Furthermore, IME players often created Abilities that had a ton of color but very little practical use, and as such mostly just ended up sitting on the character sheet.

For the tMW revision, I want to include a list of Abilities that players can choose from. In the text, these Abilities will be defined by their narrative effect/ special action, though during chargen players will need to elaborate on the exact form that the Ability will take for the character. They will also be mutually exclusive between ronin.

Here’s what I want y’all to think about:
1) Look at the following list and tell me if there are potential Abilities you think I’m missing or would otherwise be good to add. Are there any I should take out? Should I rename any?

2) Tell me if you have any cool elaborations/ descriptions/ examples for the various Abilities.

Bonus) Read the linked file up above and look up the section on “Assumed Abilities”. Tell me if you think there are any missing or if there are any I should take away.
Abilities List
Note that the categories won’t be included in the final version.

(Attacks)
Missile Fire: Grants the ability to attack at a long distance.
Ex.: Bow & Arrow, Musket or Matchlock Pistol, Shuriken
Explosives: Grants an exploding attack, including the ability to damage large scale structures.
Ex.: Bombs, Fireworks

(Enhanced Traits)
Enhanced Sight: Grants the ability to see at great distances, or alternatively, to see through or around obstructions.
Ex.: Eyes of a Hawk, Mirror of Seeing
Blindsight: Grants the ability “see” without light or normal means of vision.
Ex.: Nightvision, Sonar, Blind Vision.
Enhanced Perception: Grants the ability to sense things in the surrounding environment that a normal character could not.
Ex.: Senses of a Wolf, Sixth Sense
Extraordinary Strength:
Ex.: Strong like an Ox

(Movement)
Leaping: Allows the character to leap, glide, or even fly through the air.
Ex.: Wushu Leaping, Flying
Teleportation: Grants the ability to teleport short distances, or alternatively, to pass through various barriers.
Ex.: Travel through Shadows, Pass through Walls

(Deception/ Influence)
Enhanced Stealth: Allows a character to conceal their presence.
Ex.: Moves like a Ninja, Camouflage into Surroundings, Shapeshift into Inanimate Objects
Disguise: Grants the ability to change one’s appearance, including the potential to impersonate another individual.
Ex.: Transform One’s Face, Disguise Kit
Influence: Grants the ability to influence another character’s thinking or emotions
Ex.: Mind control, Voice that can incite emotion
Illusionism: Allows the character to control another individual’s perceptions.
Ex.:

(Practical)
Rope:
Ex.: Rope & Grappling Hook, Create Spider Web
Climbing: Grants the ability to scale sheer surfaces.
Ex.: Climbs like a Spider, Climbing Claws & Spikes
Light:
Ex.: Torch or Lantern, Jeweled Necklace of Holy Light
Tracking:
Ex.: Tracking, Compass that always points to the object of your thoughts

(Perception/ Communication)

Perceive and Communicate with the Dead:
Ex.: Talk with the Dead, See the Dead
Visions: Grants the ability to have “spiritual” visions or otherwise to project their consciousness to another location.
Ex.: Astral Projection, Travel to the land of the Dead
Read a Person/ Situation:
Ex.: Detect Lies, Read Emotions, Detect Magic
Communication: Allows the character to communicate with others over long distances.
Ex.: Telepathic, Seashells that characters can speak through

(Magic/Weird)
Telekinesis: The ability to move or otherwise control objects and people.
Ex.:
Elemental Magic: Must pick an element.
Ex.: Summon Fire, Storm Fan, Control/ Build Stone
Thanks!

Comments

  • That's quite a complete list! Hmmm Monster Summoning perhaps?
  • I believe "Literacy" is worth mentioning as one of the assumed abilities (not everybody was literate, but people born in the bushi class almost certainly were).

    I'm a bit confused regarding this paragraph:
    In addition, players may also claim a general knowledge of the following topics, should the need arise in play:
    I can't figure out whether by "may also claim" you mean all PCs are assumed to have these abilities too (but they're unlikely to come up in play) or some PCs might have them and some might not, their player's choice. The problem might be that English is a second language to me, of course.
  • I'm not sure if this is the kind of feedback you want...
    And I'm (regrettably) not familiar with the original game...
    But, if I may waste a moment of your time...

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    1)
    a very minor thing: to me is kind of confusing to call "Ability" the simple ownership of items, such as in the case of "ranged attack". I really can't imagine a Player translating his PC's "fast travel ability" into something like "I have a horse". Maybe rename them as "Traits" or "Aspects" or something? I mean, you yourself start by explaining that:
    "The term “Ability” is used loosely, however, as these traits may encompass any character aspect that broadens a PC’s normal capabilities."

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    2)
    I can see how just offering a blank page to Players and then asking them to come up with whatever power/skill/item can end up taking too much time and effort.
    But switching from that to a list of specific "power functions" that THEN also need to be translated into specific fiction seems... inefficient?

    Depending on your design goals you might want to consider two options.

    A)
    You go the Apocalypse World way and use the ability list as a passive way to enforce setting, by which I mean that ALL abilities have to be specifically very flavourful and unique to the setting, so that a Player that is not familiar with your intended colour ends up creating an appropriately coloured PC no matter what ... but then you should get rid of bland/generic things like "Read a Person" or "Telekinesis".

    B)
    You use the abilities as an expressive tool for Player to come up with their unique PC, like you did in the past, but this time you add more structure to it in order to make the process more accessible and expedite.
    The idea is be to make the procedures more explicit and guided, so that you can also enforce variety (which seems to be the case, from your imagining Abilities as items, skills, powers).

    An idea from the top of my head would be this:
    - keep only the categories (Attack, Movement, Perception, Deception, Utility, Magic, etc... maybe review and reconsider which categories you care for most, or are most desirable, and only keep those)
    - instruct the Player to pick two different categories
    - instruct the Player to pick, for each chosen category, either the Item or Skill or Power descriptor
    - instruct the Player to now describe in their own words how their two abilities look like in the fiction
    - you may then supplement practical examples of what a Movement-Item or Attack-Power or Deception-Skill could mean for a character

    You could add more steps to add setting-unique details to each ability, to help Players incorporate elements they might otherwise not think about (spirits, animals, elements, ninja-stuff, etc).

    I would then not sweat about tactical minutiae like "range". You don't really need traditional "balance" with this kind of tools. Just by reading the chapter you shared I can't fathom the value of specifying two separate skills for katana use and unharmed grappling ... am I missing something?

    I instead find the "within the scene" limitation to both space and time very useful for the telling of a story, and to keep these powers meaningful but not story breaking.

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    3) by the same logic, drop the long explanation about Assumed Abilities.
    Just say that each PC has the same fundamental Ability/Trait/Aspect called "Ronin" which includes all the things a ronin is supposed to be capable of and be in possession of: melee fighting, countryside travelling, athletics and, if it fits the character's identity/concept a range of knowledges of the land, it's culture, it's society
  • Thanks everyone!
    Rafu said:
    I can't figure out whether by "may also claim" you mean all PCs are assumed to have these abilities too (but they're unlikely to come up in play) or some PCs might have them and some might not, their player's choice. The problem might be that English is a second language to me, of course.
    Well... both interpretations are valid. I generally assume the former, that everyone has them but those topics don't often come up in play. When they do come up, individuals can make the call whether it's appropriate for their ronin to possess the knowledge (which they usually do, but in some cases don't).
  • Hasimir said:
    a very minor thing: to me is kind of confusing to call "Ability" the simple ownership of items, such as in the case of "ranged attack"... Maybe rename them as "Traits" or "Aspects" or something?
    I guess the logic for the term "Ability" is that the underlying mechanical function is to "[allow] a character to perform tasks that they would not normally be able to accomplish." In other words, they're all about doing stuff, the external form is just color.

    I do hear you, though, it's a thing I've thought about in the past. But in the end I decided to just leave it.
    I can see how just offering a blank page to Players and then asking them to come up with whatever power/skill/item can end up taking too much time and effort.
    But switching from that to a list of specific "power functions" that THEN also need to be translated into specific fiction seems... inefficient?
    That's also something I've thought about. At one point I considered listing the various Abilities and then telling players they could only choose one of the official examples/interpretations.

    My suspicion---or maybe, my hope---is that ~80% of players will just select one of the official variations. (And in that way, I can use the Abilities list as a passive description of setting. That's already something I'm working on.) But I suspect that some players, especially those who have played the game before, will want to re-color the Abilities to better fit their vision of their character. Thus I feel I need the slightly awkward procedure of "select an Ability (basic effect/action) and then describe what it looks like for your character."

    I wonder if explaining it differently will help?
    drop the long explanation about Assumed Abilities.
    Just say that each PC has the same fundamental Ability/Trait/Aspect called "Ronin" which includes all the things a ronin is supposed to be capable of and be in possession of
    That's exactly what I did in the original version, but I had someone suggest I should outline it more. I'll remember this as a data point, and consider it as I get more feedback.
  • I agree that counterintuitive as it sounds, in practice, handling the players a list of options and then saying "but you can change anything there according to your expectations" ends up being more efficient than saying "come up with whatever you want". The latter causes analysis paralysis when the player isn't already engaged with the Genre, which is often the case. So, you give players a somewhat complete list; they will notice faster what's missing according to their expectations and fill the gaps by themselves.
  • edited September 2017
    Predetermined lists of abilities guide tone and player choices. Freeform ability creation is a province of more experienced roleplayers, in my experience, and even then it requires a certain je ne sais quoi to function properly. Instead, I would suggest predetermined ability lists with a section explaining how to make your own.

    Example:
    Leaping: Allows the character to leap, glide, or even fly through the air.
    Ex.: Wushu Leaping, Flying
    Locust's Stretching Legs. You can leap tremendous distances and land exactly where you desire, though you you cannot change directions.
  • timfire said:

    Well... both interpretations are valid.

    Suits me fine!

    In my position as a History of Japan MA, i.e. huge Edo-period nerd, I'm hugely interested in this Assumed Abilities thing as an effective tool for conveying setting. I don't necessarily want to derail this discussion toward issues of historical verisimilitude - not for a game which includes flying fire-breathing ninjas and vulcan-dwelling sorcerers anyway - but I feel like, if there's a place for historical detail in the whole game, this particular paragraph is that place.
    Therefore, I'll gladly split some hairs even more finely about this topic, if you don't mind me doing so. Do I recall it correctly that the historical backdrop for the game is the early 1600s?
  • Poison/Alchemy/Apothecary skills and Extraordinary body control like prehensile hair or extendable nails might be interesting additions. Maybe some skills to do more directly with kami or yokai?
  • You’re turning this into D&D. The best way to handle abilities in a game like this is to allow players to create them on the fly and then narrate how the character acquired the skill in the past. 3:16 does this with Flashbacks.
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