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In your opinion, what are the best utility powers?

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  • In your opinion, what are the best utility powers?

    I should preface this by saying I generally prefer the Super Powers Companion's take on powers. I like it when, if I have access to a power, it's always something I can do. I very much dislike how short the durations are for most of the powers in the core book; in my opinion, it hurts their utility. With that in mind, here are some of my opinions on the utility powers presented in the core book:

    Barrier: Seems good, but the fact that it's Seasoned makes it lose a few points in my book. Also, the duration is horrible.
    Beast Friend: Just an all-around good power. I vaguely recall disliking it last edition, but provided you aren't going to be exclusively in a city, it seems pretty useful this time around.
    Boost/Lower Trait: One of the most all-around useful abilities, but I have trouble justifying it for most casters. I've taken it in the past and wound up feeling like the dude that casts Guidance before every action.
    Burrow: Either great or darn near useless, depending on the campaign. Only lasting a few seconds severely limits its viability as a travel power.
    Darksight: Has a great duration and is cheap, but is also pretty situational. Most folks would just buy a flashlight.
    Detect/Conceal Arcana: Has a good duration and is broadly useful. It varies based on campaign, but I would still rate it at least a B+.
    Disguise: Has a good duration and crazy utility, but loses points for being Seasoned. Very solid power.
    Dispel: Great if you're in a high-magic campaign. The fact that it's Seasoned makes sense, but still makes it hard to build around.
    Elemental Manipulation: Gives too few examples of its use, and some of them are not at all useful. If you can use it to buffer your fall, it's great. If not, it's middling.
    Empathy: One of only two powers that give straight-up bonuses to rolls. It's good if you plan on being social.
    Entangle: It's forever glue. It has a lot of possible applications and it does not go away until someone takes the time to remove it. A+
    Environmental Protection: I don't really understand this one. If it applies to any environment, it's probably overpowered. If it only applies to one, it's underwhelming. Seems a great fit for Wizard.
    Farsight: Why?
    Fly: Really high rank, really low duration. Seems meant for battlefield maneuverability, not travel.
    Growth/Shrink: Seems more like a battlefield buff/debuff than a utility power, which seems strange to me.
    Havoc: Way better than I initially thought. Seems like it would partner wonderfully with Burrow. Probably my favorite "combat" power.
    Illusion: Arguably one of the best powers in the game. Seems strange that the illusions are not mobile and cannot cover other senses, though. Would have expected a Smell modifier.
    Intangibility: Too high rank to see much use. Seems solid if you can get it, though.
    Invisibility: Always good.
    Light/Darkness: I will always have to fight the desire to take this. It isn't super useful, but I love it.
    Shape Change: High utility, low duration. Like, weirdly so. Even a Gifted character with Concentration and a rank Power Points can only stay shifted for like 18 minutes? Cuts down on stuff like turning into a dog to track people, or turning into a bird to deliver a message. (As an aside, I really wish the base game just had a "can turn into X particular animal, unlimited duration" edge/power/racial ability.)
    Sound/Silence: Arguably better than Illusion for some builds. Anyone that uses mundane explosives, for instance.
    Summon Ally: Low duration, limited options. No summoning a mount, for instance.
    Telekinesis: Great utility, but it being Seasoned limits your opportunities to build around it.
    Wall Walker: I do not understand this power's low duration. It's fun conceptually, but that concept suffers when you can only do it for a minute at a time.

    My buddy's putting together a modern fantasy game in the near future and we had a session zero yesterday wherein we covered basic setting questions. I was the only player that presented any character ideas, which seemed a little absurd to me. One of my ideas was someone with fae heritage, represented by taking Gifted (Illusion). I was planning on taking Scavenger and having it trapped as either "pulling things out of the illusions" or as gifts from the fae, since despite it being a Weird Edge, I've never seen it trapped as supernatural before. It's always just been "yep, you happened to have that thing in your pocket", which I find disappointing.

    That said, I'm still open to other concepts, and in general am a fan of utility abilities. I haven't really played a caster in SWADE before, so I'm weighing my options. What are some of your favorite utility powers and/or their applications, this time around?

    As an aside, I'm a huge fan of the Conjurer edge from Savage Rifts. Even leaving aside its amazing summoning ability, it seems like it's the only way to summon equipment, which is one of my favorite super power tropes. If I thought I could talk my GM into allowing it, I'd bring it up in a heartbeat. Sadly, Rifts content is generally considered much higher power, so I'm not sure it'd slide.

    (Edit: Bolded the names of powers, to make the list easier to read.)
    Last edited by Wikrin; 02-11-2020, 01:43 AM.

  • #2
    For utility, I don't believe it gets any better than Boost/Lower Trait - if you worry about being the Guidance-guy, maybe limit it to Lower Trait only.
    We have a house rule, that you can extend Powers that have a duration in Rounds by taking longer to cast them. If you spend a minute casting your power - the duration will be counted in minutes rather than rounds and so on - may be your GM will allow something similar?
    I like the idea of pulling stuff from your illusions for Scavenger. I've seen it trapped as magic before - An Aladdin type character who got items from the genie and in a sci-fi game as nanites building small tools.

    Comment


    • #3
      I like Confusion, -2 /4 on a smarts save, so you hope the fighter types are not the brightest bulbs. They get shaken. Follow up with an AoE spell like Burst to inflict wounds, or make them use up Bennies to remove Shaken, or to make Soak rolls.

      Blind is also nice, Medium Burst template to Large Burst template, and you can reduce their Parry and trait rolls up to -6

      Fo Seasoned there is always Slumber. A sleeping opponent is a dead opponent.

      Comment


      • Jensolovski
        Jensolovski commented
        Editing a comment
        Blind and Confusion both work differently in SWADE. Confusion no longer Shakes the target but inflicts both Distracted and Vulnerable. Blind gives a -2/-4 penalty to actions but not Parry if I'm remembering it correctly.

    • #4
      Whoops. I am currently running a Deluxe/Fantasy Companion, so was looking in the older books.

      5.4 SWADE now allows a +1 cost increase to make a spell Selective, so your strategy for combat can now include a slightly higher cost and AoE your party members and foes. So I'd have to go through the list of powers and find the spells with the best/worst save scenarios to inflict on the enemy.

      Extra Damage, Lingering damage are all options to consider now as well. So a Utility power now has to be considered with all of these new options in mind.

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      • #5
        Power durations are mostly geared toward combat. If you aren't tracking actions in terms of rounds, it's simple enough to give a character a power "for the scene." They pay just the initial cost, but they don't regenerate PP as long the power remains active. A mage could spend 11 PP to give herself and her four companions fly, then soar for two-hours back to town. Those 11 points would essentially be "tied up" (like zombie's Permanent modifier) and cannot begin to recover until the scene ends.

        If this "fast & loose" approach doesn't sit well with your group, Jensolovski presented a beautifully elegant fix: increasing the casting time to 1 minute changes the base duration to 5 minutes. From here, we can assume that spending 1 PP to maintain the power extends it for another 5 minutes. Extrapolating from this, taking 10 minutes to cast a spell would have a base duration of 50 minutes, and 1 PP spent to maintain the power extends it for another 50 minutes.

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        • #6
          Elemental Manipulation: Gives too few examples of its use, and some of them are not at all useful. If you can use it to buffer your fall, it's great. If not, it's middling.
          One if the most under-rated powers, in my opinion. I've always treated it as the "cantrips" powers: it can do lots of little things, but nothing particularly well. I've allowed it to be used for "entry level" versions of other powers. Like a short range telekinesis with Strength d4.

          In practical terms, it's that power that can influence the other game mechanics in subtle ways. Don't be restricted by just the suggestions in the book.
          • Want to slow your fall? Each success and raise reduces your fall height by 4 yards.
          • Want to encourage (or discourage) the spread of fire? Each success and raise can add a bonus (or penalty) to the d6 roll.
          • Facing a sheer cliff face? Make your own handholds; each success and raise reduces the penalty by 1 (see Climbing).
          • Want to walk on water? A raise allows you to run!

          Comment


          • #7
            I don’t know about “best,” but the Stun power is absolutely brutal, and I’m almost surprised it’s a Novice power.

            Comment


            • pkitty
              pkitty commented
              Editing a comment
              Absolutely agree. The Stunned condition is crippling, making Stun one of the best combat powers in the game.

          • #8
            Originally posted by Wikrin View Post
            Barrier: Seems good, but the fact that it's Seasoned makes it lose a few points in my book. Also, the duration is horrible.
            It needs that limitation, though, otherwise it can be game-breaking. As written, you CAN just maintain it for quite a while, but it'll cost you dearly.

            Boost/Lower Trait: One of the most all-around useful abilities, but I have trouble justifying it for most casters. I've taken it in the past and wound up feeling like the dude that casts Guidance before every action.
            Yeah, the one big problem with SW's power system is that Boost Trait is so good, everyone feels like they have to take it, even if there are multiple casters. Last game we played I was one caster (well, psi) out of four, so I skipped it because the other three took it -- and I still ended up adding it later. Its versatility makes it a must-have and it's easy for the group to feel like every roll should be Boosted.

            Burrow: Either great or darn near useless, depending on the campaign. Only lasting a few seconds severely limits its viability as a travel power.
            Heh, speaking as someone who gives this to the occasional NPC combat monster, trust me that it can be devastating if you use it right.

            Elemental Manipulation: Gives too few examples of its use, and some of them are not at all useful. If you can use it to buffer your fall, it's great. If not, it's middling.
            This one is all about whether the GM understands that the examples are just a starting point. The idea of this power is that it should be insanely versatile. Can you use it to buffer your fall? Of course, since that's an Air effect, but there aren't rules for it so the GM will have to come up with one. Personally, I'd let each success and raise reduce falling damage by a point per die; so with one raise a fall of 5d6 becomes 5d6-10. But again, that's something the GM would have to rule on the spot; hopefully the SFC expands this.

            Environmental Protection: I don't really understand this one. If it applies to any environment, it's probably overpowered. If it only applies to one, it's underwhelming. Seems a great fit for Wizard.
            It's any one environment at a time, chosen upon casting. You need water-breathing? Done. Later you need heat protection? Done. And so on. It's fairly priced and potentially very useful IMO.

            Farsight: Why?
            Snipers. That's pretty much it.

            As an aside, I'm a huge fan of the Conjurer edge from Savage Rifts. Even leaving aside its amazing summoning ability, it seems like it's the only way to summon equipment, which is one of my favorite super power tropes. If I thought I could talk my GM into allowing it, I'd bring it up in a heartbeat. Sadly, Rifts content is generally considered much higher power, so I'm not sure it'd slide.
            Understandable as a general rule (Rifts is definitely a high-powered setting), but many of its Edges are absolutely fine in a normal-powered game. For example, we've allowed Charge and Overrun as general Combat Edges ever since seeing them, and Conjurer wouldn't break anything, I'm sure. Definitely something that needs to be considered on a case-by-case basis.

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