Revised Building and Buying Powers in Brave New Heroes (or Keep’n It Simple)

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.

At its simplest, a power is just an effect with a name and possibly one or more clarifying aspects.

Jungle Cat was a wild child “suckled by mother jaguar.” One of her powers is Animal Mastery to represent her “supernatural empathy with felines.” Another of her powers, Jungle Born, represents her ability to move through her home turf.

A power’s aspects give it uniqueness and specificity. They can 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 affect 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. Conversely, a character can invoke his power aspects to do interesting things that might technically be outside the scope of his abilities. Superman creating a diamond using his super strength and heat vision is one example.

What is an effect?

An effect can be a bonus, a consumable, an effect constructed using mechanics and modifiers, or some other “thing” that a character can do.


A power can be a bonus to a skill or specific kind of roll.

Myriad has the power to change his shape and appearance to mimic any human. He can even copy their voice and smell. This is bought as…Myriad of Faces: Copy someone’s appearance. (+4 Subterfuge. 4 pts.)

Bonuses cost 1 point per +1.

Stunts and bonuses do not usually stack. Meaning you should apply only the largest applicable bonus amongst a character’s powers and stunts to a particular action.

Bonuses apply to a specific skill or domain and they don’t change. For a more flexible way to increase a character’s existing abilities use the Enhance mechanic.

Powers based on bonuses can be passive, meaning they are always on and don’t require the character to turn them on, or they can require some kind of activation. They might require the character to turn them on, such as Myriad of Faces does. In these cases, the bonus remains from the time it’s turned on until it is turned off by the character or by other circumstances.


A power can be a consumable thing such as consequence slots or refresh.

Karmic Power: character has extraordinary luck and influence over seemingly uncontrollable circumstances. (+3 refresh. 6 pts.)

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


Standard Effect: You build an effect by selecting one of the mechanics and the modifiers that you want and paying points equal to the shifts you desire the effect to have.

Fire Bolt: attack someone at range with a bolt of pure flame. (Attack 3, Range 1. 4 pts.)

When you use an effect you roll and add the results to the purchased shifts.

Man of Flames launches a Fire Bolt at Connor in the form of a sinuous eastern dragon. He rolls +3 and invokes “Flashy pyrotechnics” for a +2 which makes a total attack of 8.

You target characters with your total effect, not including modifiers, and they can resist it with an appropriate skill. If a weapon modifier is applicable than it only applies if the rest of the effect is sufficient to affect the target.

Connor has Athletics of 4 and he rolls +0 to dodge the undulating dragon of fire which makes for a 4 stress hit against him.

You can use shifts from your effect to add to modifiers that are a part of the power, but generally, you cannot add new modifiers to a power unless they are obviously applicable, or the character invokes an aspect to temporarily expand the scope of his power. If you want, specify appropriate modifiers on a power with a value of zero.

Flame Lance: Lance a nearby foe with flame or a distant one for -1 per zone. (Attack 3  Range. 3 pts.)

Negative modifiers reduce the cost of a power, but the minimum cost for a power is 1 point.

Find Mark: Where ever they are you know the direction and approximate distance to a target you’ve put a “Marked” aspect on. (Perceive 1. Range 5, Required Aspect -2 . 4 pts.)

Passive Effect: A power can be passive, meaning it’s effect will operate continuously without any participation on the character’s part. Such powers must typically target, or at least be centered on, the character.

If the passive effect is an outwardly directed effect, such as an attack, than anyone who fulfills some condition will be affected, up to once per exchange. Though they still get a chance to avoid the effects.

Electrified Body: Anyone the character comes in contact with suffers an electric shock. (Passive Attack 3. 3 pts.)
Spring follows my every footstep: Where ever the character goes it becomes spring; flowers bloom and it is warm and breezy. The character can control the maneuver created with a little concentration. (Passive Maneuver 3. 3 pts.)
Regeneration: The character’s body recovers from injury at an accelerated rate. Every exchange the character can heal 4 shifts worth of damage. (Passive Healing 4. Cumulative. 4 pts.)

Modifiers as Effect: Another possible option is to spends points on just a modifier to another type of power or a skill.

Handgun: A gun any character can use with the guns skill. (Weapon 3. Item -2. 1 pt.)
Potent Magics: The character’s magical effects are harder to undo than most. Attempts to magically counter or dispel such effects suffer a penalty. (Quality 3. 3 pts.)

Complex Effects: It may occasionally make sense to create an effect that combines multiple mechanics.

Modifiers might apply to all the mechanics of a complex effect, but extra shifts have to be divided amongst them. Typically this can be however the character wants, but equally is always an acceptable default.

Wall of Fire: Create a wall of fire that is also a physical barrier. (Block 3, Passive Attack 3. 6 pts.)

Other Effects

There are any number of effects not covered by the existing mechanics so feel free to create them and assign them some kind of cost.

Cannot Die: The character can never suffer death from being taking out. Though they can suffer any consequence. (Cannot Die. 2 pts.)
Vigor: Endurance never restricts the character’s actions and he only need eat and sleep once a week. (Unrestricted Endurance. 1 pt.)
Parkour: Invoke applicable urban environment aspects such as “stairs and railings” or “narrow alley” for free to add to Athletics rolls. (Free Invoke. 2 pts.)

General Powers

Powers built as specific effects have the flexibility of whatever modifiers are on the power, but it’s common for a character to have a more general power, something they can use to create a variety of closely related effects using whatever mechanics are appropriate. Magic is a common application of a general power.

What a general power is

General powers have a rating and two or more signature effects. A signature effect is just a specific effect and it operates like any typical power would, except the final cost of the signature effect represents its difficulty to create using the general power’s rating.

What a general power costs

A general power costs 2 times it’s rating in points and comes with 1 signature effects for every 2 points of rating. Extra signature effects cost 1 point each. They make great milestone rewards.

Using a general power

A character can freely use any of his signature effects, but he can only use them one at a time. If he has one signature effect that is a passive strength bonus and another that is a super leaping effect, he can’t use the super leap at the same time he is using his strength bonus. [Note: Thought about making this restriction in the same exchange, but I think that would too much to keep track of.] However, you may divide your rating between effects and use each simultaneously, but at reduced effectiveness.

Effects that are continuous are attached to an aspect and so will operate without the character’s participation and so won’t prevent using other signature effects.

Buying Extra (non-signature) Effects

You can also pay more points to buy effects under your general power with the benefit that these effects can always be used. For example, if you bought a passive Strength bonus with points then you may apply it even when you are using your general power for added leaping. In most cases you shouldn’t spend more points on an effect then you have rating in your general power.

Improvising new effects

Signature effects are the uses of a general that a character is most comfortable with, but its possible to use a general power for any appropriate effect. Even something the character has never done before. Improvising a new effect is more difficult than using a signature effect. How much more difficult depends on the effect in question and the narrative context the character provides. The typical penalty will be -2, but something very closely related to his signature effects might be a -0. Things that are more distantly related might incur a -4, and a lot of things will not be possible at all.

One response to “Revised Building and Buying Powers in Brave New Heroes (or Keep’n It Simple)

  1. Pingback: Building and Buying Powers in Brave New Heroes | Brave New Heroes·

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