Duane Sibilly

Written by Duane Sibilly, software developer, podcaster, tabletop GM and writer. Learn more.

Powered Items in AGE

1 April 2019

While commenting on my item stunt post, I got a really good question from P.K. Sullivan on Twitter:

P.K. and I had a nice back-and-forth about it, but the core of the issue presented here is that AGE stunts are proactive choices presented to a player as a result of a previous choice they made: to attack an opponent, to attempt to bribe or intimidate, to search a room, etc. There’s no mechanic in the system that permits a player to perform a stunt in reaction to another’s action.

Items with reactive powers are interesting, though. They’re fun ways to give a player a “gotcha” that lets them mitigate, avoid, or reply to consequences, which always feels good. A reactive power can quickly become overpowered: if you can blink out of the way of an incoming attack indefinitely, you’re invincible! Giving an item limited charges does a couple convenient things at once:

  • The item cannot be readily abused.
  • The player wielding the item now has a choice to make about when to use its reactive power.

AGE already has the concept of item charges: The Titansgrave adventure series takes place in a fantasy sci-fi setting that introduced batteries to the game. These portable power cells are usable in a wide range of powerful items that are certainly “magical” in the Arthur C. Clarke sense. Continued use of these items requires the user to obtain a supply of batteries… which depending on the game may or may not be readily available. The batteries are interchangeable, so the charges that were powering your arcane blaster pistol a minute ago could be repurposed to power a lantern or other device.

Let’s see how these powered items would address the use case P.K. asked about:

Displacement Bracers: These grey leather bracers have a pocket on the right cuff that can fit a small battery (up to 10 charges.) When a character wearing these bracers is hit by a Melee or Ranged Attack they may, as a Free Action, choose to expend 2 charges to instantly teleport to an unoccupied space within 4 yards of their current location. This action must occur after the attack roll, but before damage is rolled. These bracers cannot be used to avoid the effects of spells cast with the bearer as a target. Further, the pocket holding the battery is very awkward; swapping a battery in combat is a Major action.

This item does what was asked: it is defensive, reactively teleports the wearer a short distance away to avoid an attack, and does so while being limited in scope and placing the choices of whether its used or not firmly in player hands… And all without needing an item stunt!

Got thoughts? Hit me up on Twitter!