The Mystic's Kinetic Ability

I’m starting a new Scum & Villainy campaign on Sunday (my third!) & someone is playing a Mystic for the first time.

How have other GMs handled the Kinetics special ability? It’s in the top slot & so therefore the default Ability for S&V Mystics; hoping others have had some experience refereeing it. One of the players in the pending campaign chose it in our Session 0.

As written, it’s two Stress to change the fictional circumstance of a situation with no other mechanical benefits. That’s fine & I have run enough Blades in the Dark & Scum & Villainy to roll with it, but I’m curious what others have done with it.

Roll Attune to attack opponents at range with a table-sized object when you otherwise have no weapon? Given that a PC can, in most cases, declare they have a Blaster Pistol on them, it seems like there must be some greater benefit to it.Saying you’re "Scrambling “at superhuman speed” doesn’t really provide a benefit either. I can imagine a case where someone wants to escape or do something else really quickly at a mundane speed & one might ordinarily say it’s not possible, unless your speed was “superhuman” but the truth is I’m inclined to say “Yeah, roll for it and lets see how that goes” at any speed.

Maybe its benefit is simply in its flexibility to modify the narrative? I generally love those kinds of perks in RPGs but I’m a little cautious of them in a game where there are a couple dozen other Abilities that are providing more narrow and more specific mechanical benefits. I don’t want to step on those in my Kinetics rulings.

Moving at superhuman speed absolutely provides a mechanical benefit - it most cases, it would improve the Effect of whatever the PC is trying to do.

Throwing objects is great for when the PCs don’t have their weapons or don’t have time to draw them - say, a negotiation gone bad. Or when they’re in close quarters or in a big group and blasters would be ineffective. Or when they’re in a space ship and a misplaced blaster shot could rupture the hull. Not to mention that it gives justification to use Attune in combat, which is probably better for the mistake than Scrap or Wreck.

Remember that S&V is a fiction first game and so anything that changes the fiction by its very nature has a mechanical effect. Using powers like Kinetics should always be factored into the Position/Effect discussion.

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When I consider these “pushing” abilities to do neat things- I consider the surrounding fiction.

So the PC wants to throw their opponent away from them? How is the opponent positioned? If they aren’t an immediate threat and have not taken to action- the player spends the stress and pushes them away! No dice roll needed!

However, if the PC has been pushed to a wall while the Xeno Thug is trying to force a vibro-axe to the Mystic’s neck? While Scraping is definitely an option- but Desperate/ Limited for sure. Pushing with this Ability won’t just allow a “no roll force push” with this well positioned Xeno. I’d say a Force Push could be a Scrap or an Attune in this situation. Scrap would be Desperate/ Standard with this new fictional positioning. Attune would probably be Risky/ Standard.

Same idea for superhuman speed. Need to make a quick escape from someone that has no hope of reaching you? Spend the 2 Stress, Push yourself and obviate the roll!

Getting chased by a patrol squad of hoverbikes? On Foot, this is Desperate/ No Effect. There is no way, there is a realm of possibility (hence I’m providing opportunities to boost the effect whereas labeling such an athletic feat impossible). With the super human speed? Desperate/ Limited maaaaybe Standard.

As you have said- these are mechanical benefits. They are fictional benefits.

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Thanks for the examples. I left off the word “explicit” in my original post in "change the fictional circumstance of a situation with no other _____ mechanical benefits. I appreciate that changing the fictional position can be very powerful in Blades - that might be the core design tenant differentiating it from Apocalypse World and similar games.

I’m trying to figure out good baselines for judgments as a GM. Automatic success (i.e. filling a Clock) to entirely escape on foot or similar circumstances was one option I was considering.

Brainstorming out loud:

Any PC can push yourself to get +1 Effect or +1 Die for 2 Stress in any circumstance. That’s a baseline w/o any abilities.

A Mechanic can Tinker to get +1 Effect for two specific types of Actions (Rig or Hack) for no Stress.

The Muscle’s Unstoppable allows a PC to push yourself to effectively get +Scale (one of three elements in determining Position).

The Pilot’s Ace Pilot allows a PC to have +potency (one of three Position elements) under the narrow-ish auspices of “speed-related rolls.” + a side benefit for Pilot Resist rolls.

The Stitch’s “I’m not a Doctor, but” allows a PC to push yourself to use their doctor rating while performing a different action. i.e. use their best Action rating in unusual circumstances to effectively get +2 dice

Against those, and fiction dependent, Kinetics might perhaps be ruled as allowing the use of Attune to providing +2 Effect for 2 Stress under the narrow-ish circumstance of available big objects to toss or where superhuman speed would apply, i.e. actions where Scramble or Scrap might be the default approach. That and perhaps providing +potency for some circumstances when evaluating Position. Something along those lines…

You’re pretty much on the right track, but I’ll add some other thoughts.

  • The Mechanic’s Tinker starting Ability allows them- when Clocks are being used (and remember: Clocks are for complex problems only- not just willy nilly things)- to add an extra tick when they Hack or Rig. This applies to Crafting with Long Term Projects as well as Studying a Schematic for a Long Term Project
  • The Muscle’s Wrecking Crew- like the Mystic’s Kinetics- is a Special Ability that provides fictional positioning. If their superhuman feat of strength is sufficient enough to obviate a roll- obviate the roll! If it doesn’t then it most likely improves their Position or Effect. Fighting with Scale means they will likely be able to improve their effect
  • Indeed, the Pilot’s Ace Ability will provide Potency for their Effect Level
  • “I’m a Doctor, not a…” indeed does allow the Stitch to rely on past experiences to use their knowledge of Science and medicine to cover areas that would be best Positioned with another Action with their Doctor instead.

Just like any fiction first game and analyze/ interrogate the fiction. Determine what fictional permissions/ positioning is being provided and use that to determine how it would modify a given Action/ Approach.

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I think the thing here is that you’re trying to figure things out from a mechanics-first perspective. There’s really not much that “always” gives several effect levels or “always” affects the fiction in a certain way - nothing in a fiction-first game can exist (pardon the pun) in a vacuum. Context is king. For example, you can’t really quantify the fact that, say, a mystic with the kinetics ability can still act while an enemy has a gun pointed at them and they don’t have a gun. Even if that doesn’t necessarily gives them a better position or effect, it allows them to take an action that another person could not, in that same situation.

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