A Path to Steam
An “advantage” is a useful trait that gives you a mental, physical, or social “edge” over someone else who otherwise has the same abilities as you. Each advantage has a cost in character points. This is fixed for some advantages; others can be bought in levels,” at a cost per level (e.g., Acute Vision costs 2 points/level, so if you want Acute Vision 6, you must pay 12 points). Advantages with “Variable” cost are more complicated; read the advantage description for details.
You can start out with many advantages as you can afford – although some advantages are forbidden to certain kinds of characters. You can also add advantages in play, if the GM permits. For instance, all the beneficial social traits in Chapter 1 (Status, Wealth, etc.) are advantages, and you could realistically acquire any of these in the course of the game. Magic and high technology can often grant advantages as well. For information on adding advantages in play, see Chapter 9.
You will sometimes see an advantage you would like to have but that would not make sense at the start of your career – or that you cannot afford on your starting points! Or you might just want to start your adventuring career with unrealized potential, like countless fictional heroes. In either situation, the GM may choose to let you set aside 50% of the cost of an advantage as a “down payment” against acquiring the advantage later on.
When you take a potential advantage like this, sit down with the GM and work out the in-game conditions under which you will acquire the desired trait. When these conditions are met, you must use bonus character points to pay the other half of the price as soon as possible; see Improvement Through Adventure (p. 290). The GM is free to assess partial or uncontrollable benefits befitting the trait until you finish paying for the
full, controllable advantage.
Examples of potential advantages include:
Heir: You stand to inherit wealth or a title. The GM decides when you will come into your inheritance. At that time, you acquire Status, Wealth, or other social privileges worth twice the points set aside for this trait. Until then, you enjoy extra money, reaction modifiers, etc. equal to half what you stand to gain. For instance, if you stood to inherit +2 to Status (10) and Comfortable wealth (10), Heir would cost 10 points, and give +1 to Status and a 50% bonus to starting wealth.
Schrödinger’s Advantage: You can specify that at some critical juncture in an adventure, just when all seems lost, you will suddenly discover a new ability – worth twice the points you have set aside – that will help you out of trouble. You must immediately pay the remaining points to use your new ability. This is a powerful option. To keep things fair, points set aside this way provide no benefit until you discover your hidden talent.
Secret Advantage: You have an advantage you don’t know about! The GM picks an advantage or set of advantages worth twice the points you have set aside . . . but he will not tell you what it is, or even give you a clue! The GM will reveal the truth at a suitably dramatic moment. Until then, the advantage provides the usual benefits – but it isn’t under your control, so you won’t be able to rely on it. The advantage functions normally once revealed and paid for.
TURNING ADVANTAGES OFF AND ON
An advantage that never inconveniences you (e.g., Intuition), that has to be on at all times to be of benefit (e.g., Resistant), or that reflects a permanent trait of your species (e.g., Extra Arms) is always on. You cannot turn it off.
Most other advantages are switchable: you can turn them off and on at will. To do so requires a one-second Ready maneuver, with activation or deactivation occurring as soon as you execute the maneuver. Unlike certain skills and magic spells, this does not
require concentration; switching an advantage is second nature, and cannot be “interrupted.” The default condition (while sleeping, unconscious, etc.) is “on.”
Attacks – notably Affliction (p. 35), Binding (p. 40), and Innate Attack (p. 61) – are only “on” while you are attacking. An advantage like this requires a one-second Attack maneuver to use; you cannot switch it on continuously without a special enhancement.
Exceptions to these guidelines are noted explicitly.