As you read this book, you will see references to “Game Abilities.” This refers generally to the skills you buy for your character with Experience Points. In general, it’s safe to assume that if a particular skill or ability may be used at the character’s choice (like swinging a weapon, using a Dodge, or casting a spell from memory), it’s a Game Ability. If it’s a skill or ability that must be used (such as additional Body Points from the Hardy skill or the Threshold monster ability), it’s not a Game Ability. Game Abilities (for items not otherwise defined under PC-obtainable abilities and skills) also covers anything that is usable a certain number of “times per day.”
This is important because some effects can prevent you from using your “Game Abilities.” If you are under the effect of Enfeeble, for instance, you cannot cast any spells, fight, or throw any gas globes since all of these are “Game Abilities.” However, you can still talk, drink a potion, activate a magic item, or perform other actions that do not fall under the “Game Abilities” list.
Wear Extra Armor and Hardy are the two skill exceptions to this. These skills affect what a character is instead of what a character does. Similarly, three High Magic abilities will continue to function when you are unable to use Game Abilities: Celestial Armor, Earth's Bounty, and Rebirth.
All other PC skills count as Game Abilities. This means that while under a “no Game Abilities” effect, you can’t identify Production items, can’t use Focus abilities, will be unable to read Ritual Scrolls, cannot apply Alchemical coatings, cannot disarm traps, and cannot evaluate items using the Merchant skill.
The mechanism of activating a Magic Item is exempted from negative effects which restrict Game Abilities. You must be able to at least move your mouth to vocalize (though the Spell and Arcane qualifiers may be used while under the effect of a Silence). For example, you could activate a Magic Item while under a Web effect, which holds you in place from the neck down, but not while under a Paralysis effect, which completely paralyzes you.
Note that you cannot use Magic Items which require expending a skill if you can’t use Game Abilities. For example, you could use a Memory Strike Ritual, since it doesn’t require using a skill at the time it’s activated, but you could not use a Battlemage's Strike, since that Ritual requires expending a spell from memory.
NPC Game Abilities
This rule also applies to NPCs even though most do not buy skills with Experience Points. For NPCs, Game Abilities would include:
- Duplicates of PC Game Abilities (such as Dodge or One Handed Edged);
- “Times per day” abilities which they may choose whether or not to activate, such as Phase or Engulf;
- The ability to strike or block with Claws;
- The ability to rip from various binding effects.
It does not cover any abilities an NPC might have which are not activated a certain number of times per day, or which they have no choice when to use or not to use. For example, NPC Game Abilities do not include:
- “Times per day” abilities which automatically activate, such as Spell Block;
- Monster strength;
- Natural Armor;