Building and Buying Powers in Brave New Heroes


This post is out of date these days. Check out the new post, Revised Building and Buying Powers, for the latest.

What is a power?

A power is an ability not covered by a character’s normal skills They can represent anything from intensive training to spectacular capabilities defying the laws of physics.

Mechanically, a power is a collection of trappings and at least one aspect.

Jungle Cat was a “wild child raised by jaguars.” One of her powers is a “supernatural empathy with felines,” which gives her the ability to communicate, influence and train cats of all kinds. Another power, “one with the jungle” represents her mastery of her home terrain and includes trappings for knowledge, survival, and overcoming penalties when moving through undergrowth.

A power’s aspects should define what the power is. How it operates, where it comes from. They should suggest what the power might look like and what it’s limitations might be. They will determine how the power interacts with other powers and the environment. They are how the GM and the opposition inconvenience a character by compelling his powers to do unexpected things, or just not work at all. They are also how a character pushes the boundaries to use his powers in new ways he might not have explicitly paid for by buying trappings.

Trappings define what a character can do with a power and determine how much that power will cost.

How do we buy trappings?

A trapping is simply a bonus, a consumable, or a distinct effect.


Cost is 1 point per +1.
[there is more still to be said about bonuses. Specifically, how broadly do they apply and to what? Also, are they cumulative with stunts and other bonuses?]


+1 stress mark costs 1 point.
+1 Minor Consequence costs 1 point.
+1 Major Consequence costs 2 points.
+1 Severe Consequence costs 3 points.


Effect trapping: You build an effect trapping just like you would when building an effect; by selecting one of the mechanics and the modifiers that you want and paying points equal to the shifts the effect requires. When you use that trapping you roll and add the results of the dice to your effect, along with any aspects bonuses you invoke, and you have your effect. You can target as appropriate and the target can resist as appropriate. If the effect has a weapon modifier, then that part of the effect only applies if the rest of the effect is sufficient to affect the target.

The minimum cost for an effect trapping is 1 point.

Skill trapping: You may associate a skill with your power trapping by paying the standard cost of 2 points for a skill trapping. When you do, you get to add your skill rating to uses of the trapping but the trapping officially becomes a part of that skill and so has to abide by any extra rules that skill might have, and is affected by any situation that affects that skill.

The associated skill is sometimes an existing skill, but it doesn’t have to be. A character may create a new skill specifically for their power’s skill trappings.

The Sorceress, Dark Maiden of the Coven, possesses the power Dark Magic, which she wields using a new skill called Dark Magic. The skill trappings of her power all make use of her new Dark Magic skill.

These sorts of new skills may or may not be accessible to other characters and they may come with some additional trappings appropriate for the skill for free. For example, most character’s can learn the Dark Magic skill, but it doesn’t give them the ability to actually work magic unless they buy additional powers. However, they can use Dark Magic to sense the presence of active magic and as a lore skill for recognizing spells and such. They may even be able to use Dark Magic as a counter against offensive spells.

Passive trapping: Instead of buying a skill trapping, a basic effect trapping can be passive, meaning it is an effect that will typically operate continuously without any concentration on the character’s part. These effects must generally target, or at least be centered on, the character and they need to have an aspect specific to the effect, which can be targeted to avoid or turn off the trapping just like an effect with the continuous modifier must have.

Other trappings: There will be things a power might allow a character to do that aren’t covered by the listed mechanics. In these cases you can define a trapping that does exactly what you want and assign it a cost. You should aim for something comparable to other trappings and around 2 points. You can also use trappings from existing skills, such as Lifting Things.

Flexibility: you can buy modifiers as a part of a skill or effect trapping but by default you then have to use exactly those modifiers every time you use that trapping.

  • For +2 points you can add any combination of modifiers to your effect when you use a trapping, and vary them from use to use.
  • For +1 point you can access modifiers in a more limited way. Examples: you can turn selected modifiers on or off per use but not vary their levels. You can use any one modifier at a time, but not combine multiple modifiers. You can choose up to three modifiers that you can freely combine whenever you use the trapping.

Mechanics: Most trappings can use only one mechanic, chosen when the power is purchased. However, some kinds of powers, like magic for example, are more broadly useful and have access to multiple mechanics sometimes even at the same time.

  • For +8 points you can freely combine any of the mechanics in a single effect.
  • For +6 points you can use any mechanic, but only one at a time.
  • For +4 points you can freely combine up to 3 pre-selected mechanics.

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