How many descriptors can you have without needing points?

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Claire Redfield
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How many descriptors can you have without needing points?

Postby Claire Redfield » Thu Jan 30, 2014 1:26 am

I posed this question to Jon via email, but he's busy and so it's worth asking here, too. (And when I get any kind of official answer, I can always post it here for future reference). How many descriptors can you have on a power before one needs Features or Extras to charge for it? If you have magical cold and ice powers, can they have Magic and Cold and/or Ice (different enough that sometimes having both as discrete descriptors is warranted) without being charged for it? Would three be a safe default?
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Re: How many descriptors can you have without needing points

Postby JDRook » Thu Jan 30, 2014 3:04 am

I think that's really too subjective to give a definitive answer. Each Descriptor essentially comes with its own built-in strengths and weakness, what with being able to counter (or be countered) by another power with an opposing (or same) Descriptor, so not only are they "free", they also provide flavour for the game and potential hooks for your GM. Personally, I'd say you could keep piling them on until the GM says stop.

If you really want to get technical about it, read the Descriptor section in the book at the end of the Powers Section, Chapter 6. It defines 4 majors types of Descriptor: Origin, Source, Medium and Result. You don't describe your powerset in a lot of detail, but I would assume that your Source would be magical and Cold & Ice would either be a Medium (if you manipulate it, like moving weather or shaping ice) or Result (like creating ice out of nothing). The power's Origin might be Training based on years of study and practice, or Bestowed upon the PC, or maybe an innate racial trait. Keep in mind that the book specifically states that this is inexact and just a guideline to help you decide how your powers will interact with others beyond the bare mechanics.

I really don't have a problem with having Cold & Ice as descriptors, and they are similar enough to almost count as one, anyway, and making it magical seems fine. I would only think you might need to pay for multiple descriptors if you want to vary them, which is what the Variable Descriptor flat extra is for. I would definitely recommend reading through that whole section on Descriptors.
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Claire Redfield
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Re: How many descriptors can you have without needing points

Postby Claire Redfield » Thu Jan 30, 2014 3:06 am

I did, but what you say about the four different types really makes sense. Okay, I think that works, and thanks! I can continue with my build now. :mrgreen:

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Re: How many descriptors can you have without needing points

Postby saint_matthew » Thu Jan 30, 2014 3:56 am

JDRook wrote:I think that's really too subjective to give a definitive answer.


Not as difficult as you would think.

The answer is simple this: One. You can have one descriptor per power, no more, no less. In the given example of magical cold, you don't have two descriptors of magic & cold, you have one descriptor: Magical cold. Magic is the source, cold is the effect, hence its magical cold. If someone comes along & can neutralise either of those, the effect is potentially nullified.

You were spot on when you said

Origin, Source, Medium and Result


Those 4 parts make up your singular descriptor. :D

Anything beyond that and we start moving into additional descriptors of effects like having a blast that shifts between cold & fire.... An once again you are spot on when you said Variable Descriptor.
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Re: How many descriptors can you have without needing points

Postby FuzzyBoots » Thu Jan 30, 2014 7:07 am

On a side note, if your players are amenable to some small amount of math (not all of them are), it might also be acceptable to establish which descriptors go with which ranks. To give a simple example, a flaming sword (not a sword made out of flame, but an actual flaming sword) might have 4 ranks of Slashing damage (probably with the mighty part adding onto that) and 4 ranks of Fire damage. Normally, it just works as 8 ranks of damage, but against an opponent immune to fire or slashing, he might only be doing 4 ranks. Against an opponent vulnerable to fire, he would be doing more fire damage. Against an opponent vulnerable to slashing, he would be doing more damage. Compare that against a sword made out of flame where it might just have a single descriptor of slashing fire and would fail against anyone immune to either, but would apply the full ranks to vulnerability to either.

Of course, it's also possible to just do that on the fly, but that risks players who go into a conniption fit when they don't know exactly what their ability is going to be doing, or, worse, they feel like the rules are changing on them. It's one of those things that you have to do to taste, both yours and your players. Personally, I like running things on the fly.

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Re: How many descriptors can you have without needing points

Postby Stigger » Tue Feb 04, 2014 10:12 am

I tend towards a 'as many as the GM says is okay' sort of response. I don't recall any specific rules limiting descriptors on effects, and I seem to recall the use of the word 'descriptors' there, implying that it's expected that at least some of your effects will have more than one. Not looking at the books at the moment, but since they are essentially flavor with some mechanical impact, I don't see an issue with a lot of them since the more you add, the more vulnerable you are making your effects to nullify effects and the like.

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Re: How many descriptors can you have without needing points

Postby Beleriphon » Fri Feb 07, 2014 10:18 am

Stigger wrote:I tend towards a 'as many as the GM says is okay' sort of response. I don't recall any specific rules limiting descriptors on effects, and I seem to recall the use of the word 'descriptors' there, implying that it's expected that at least some of your effects will have more than one. Not looking at the books at the moment, but since they are essentially flavor with some mechanical impact, I don't see an issue with a lot of them since the more you add, the more vulnerable you are making your effects to nullify effects and the like.


I tend to agree, the more the merrier. I mean there's a practical limit based on the character, but its really up to the player and GM to work with. If you look at Cyclops you'd end up with at least three for the optic blasts: mutant, energy and kinetic. From those you have the essentials of what the power is and does and what kinds of things would stop it.


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