Theory Thursday #1: Level 6 Abilities

Observant readers of the wiki may notice mention of “Level 6″ abilities on the wiki here and there despite no faction actually teaching them. The “Abilities” entry on the wiki mentions Level 6 abilities as such…

Level 6 abilities are a frightening technique that can shake nations. Only the most powerful of individuals can learn these. These are generally reserved for powerful bosses, powerful monsters, or the three legendary heroes. Players will generally never get one of these, and if they do, you can be sure they went on a LONG quest to learn it.

As the quote suggests, such a thing is generally best left out of the PC’s hands and saved for Bosses and enemies with unique powers that defy ability levels. In this sense, their existence is merely a place marker for GMs that want to invent powerful abilities that defy categorization for campaign bosses. Something that not only gives the BBEG an edge, but defines him.

Of course, such a thing never stopped some groups from wanting to allow such a thing for their players as well. Perhaps the power level in Pirates vs. Ninjas just isn’t ridiculous enough or maybe GMs just want to reward their players with a super powerful technique for completing a side quest. Some GMs will also want better definition for “Level 6 Abilities”. This article is for these people.

The History of the Level 6:
The real reason the wiki does not really list level 6 abilities is because almost every level 6 ability is just the original version of another pre-existing ability. Many Evadinja know Ebb and Flow, but do you really think more than a handful of them have TRULY mastered the technique? As techniques get passed down, they transform from their original form and become less powerful. The Level 6 ability is the undiluted power of the original master of the technique’s skill and can only be learned by the technique’s inventor or one VERY close to them.

Abilities of any level can have a level 6 version. However, level 1′s are less likely to see this. There’s not much you can do to improve a +2 to lying that’s worth 12 character points without changing the ability entirely.

As such, making a Level 6 ability isn’t that hard. Take a decently powerful ability and merely make it more powerful adding the keyword True to the front of the ability. For instance, Ebb and Flow would become True Ebb and Flow, would cost 30 life, and deal triple the damage avoided back instead of double. The True Rolling Thunder would cost 20 life and have no cap on its damage from movement (although, god help you should you miss). This doesn’t apply to only damage though. The True Perfect Strategy might be worded so it can used any number of times a turn for 10 extra life per activation. The True There is No Luck, Only Skill might allow the user to use life instead of awesome points to negate awesome point expenditure. The True Immortal Man can be a passive that grants the learner true immortality (although, this doesn’t prevent, being knocked unconscious, feeling pain, or being tortured).

For the few Level 6 abilities that aren’t pre-existing abilities, this usually means that the creator has chosen not to teach them to anyone else for one reason or another. Perhaps the technique could destroy an entire town. Perhaps the inventor is selfish. Perhaps the “inventor” learned it from a demon or mystical artifact and doesn’t know how to teach it to others.

Level 6 Abilities in Your Game:
Once again, Level 6 abilities are really best saved for bosses and super powerful NPCs. Most characters will never get so high in character point total that they can be considered a true master of their style. Still, some people will want to play characters of up to 150 or even more points. At this point, it may become appropriate for such characters to learn Level 6 abilities (especially considering the likely challenges being thrown at them to compensate).

Apart from earning the trust of a true master or getting imbued with an artifact for a new powerful, the only real way for a PC to learn a Level 6 ability is to invent their own ability. This is usually the result of constant training and research of the player’s faction abilities. Perhaps the GM will let a player invent a custom ability and upgrade it to a Level 6 after they learn it well. Either way, it’s a simple matter of a training montage, finding a dramatic moment to reveal your new power, and spending 12 character points (minus the cost of the original ability if it’s an upgrade).

Fair warning. Once an ability is upgraded, the player can no longer use the original. In some sense, the character has trouble holding back their true power. The power of a truly powerful technique is really an all or nothing and would destroy lesser characters to use it. For some abilities, this isn’t such a big deal, but if the cost goes up too much, it may become suicide to attempt the ability. At this point, the character in question may begin to envy the students that will inevitably learn a weaker version.

So How Bad are Level 6′s in Play, Really?:
There’s a reason the warning exists. Most of Pirates vs. Ninjas has been tested to a certain level of balance of cost vs. power. Using a Level 6 is typically throwing this out a window. It’s one thing to spend 40 life to do 75 damage. Once a character can consistently do over 100 damage and one-shot a T-rex on a crit, cost starts to matter less and less and things get crazy and unbearable. Even the non-damaging level 6′s can cause the user to be able to heavily control the field of battle to their advantage. If a character has the TRUE Mass Media Music Mind Control Medley and can force everyone that can hear to fight, there’s very little stopping that character. This kind of power is okay for bosses since bosses will inevitably lose to some miscalculation, magical McGuffin, or the power of love. Players typically shouldn’t have that kind of power. Once they have it, there’s nothing short of GM’s fiat stopping the player from using it constantly.

Still, what the Level 6 does is up to GM and their discretion. So, in that sense, Level 6 abilities are only as broken as the GM chooses to make them. With an experienced GM, there should be little to no problem with players having this kind of power. Just make sure the ability is worth the extra 2 points or there’ll be no reason to even allow Level 6 abilities in play.

The Reward for Doing It Right
With careful discretion, a Level 6 can become a reward that makes them feel like their character has accomplished something and made a name for their self through all their years of adventuring. The character has earned their right to have their name in the history books. Furthermore, it can be a great way to allow players to progress their skill when they run out of abilities that fit their character’s fighting style. If a Rokinja learns ALL of the musical attacks and uses it for their primary fighting style, why force them to branch out into another style when they can take their style beyond the realm of most disciples of their faction?

So, despite their possibility to wreck your game, Level 6′s are also the chance to go outside the written rules a bit and create something richer for the players and the campaign as a whole. Ultimately, Level 6 abilities are a tool. No more, no less. Use them correctly, and they’ll serve you well.

That’s Theory Thursday for the week. Leave your comments on Level 6 abilities in the comments section or even post your own ideas for your own Level 6 abilities. Either way. Just have fun with it.

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2 Responses to Theory Thursday #1: Level 6 Abilities

  1. aparadekto says:

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    • Dairun says:

      Yeah. It’s a known problem, and seems to be an issue with WordPress itself. I’ve been looking into fixing it, but haven’t gotten any leeway so far. In the meantime, I suggest using a separate browser for this site. Not fun, and a bit inconvenient, but it’s all I can do at the moment. I’ll continue to look into it though.