Talents are primarily skills that any character can learn, given time. You don't need to be born with freakish mutations, be exposed to dangerous radiation, or have an alien heritage to master a new talent - just the dedication and opportunity to do so. Talents operate in one of two basic fashions: they either give characters an ability they would otherwise lack, or increase their ability to perform some task or another.
While the former is pretty self-explanatory (the Artist talent allows a Karma bonus for creating art, for instance), the latter can be a bit more involved. Generally, if a talent increases the likelihood of success in a given action, it will enhance the rank rolled against by +1 CS (unless otherwise noted). This is the 'base' level of a talent, and covers most examples of trained individuals.
The Universal Heroes rules technically recognizes eighty-eight talents, those listed below. Of course, several are presented either as 'general' talents that are made more specific during character generation (like the weapon skill talent), or such that additional talents can be 'grown' out of the existing skills as 'specialties' - particularly where sciences are concerned.
There is certainly room for additional talents, should a Judge decide his or her campaign needs more - or if they feel one was given the 'short end of the stick' and deserves its own entry. And that's fine! The idea here is to cover as much as is reasonably possible which might come up in the course of regular play, whether the game makes use of the entire Universal Heroes rules or just bits and pieces of it.
Special Talent Rules
Some people will focus on a given skill above and beyond the patience or prowess of others, and will thus receive an additional bonus to related actions. For example, say someone wants to be very good at physics, so they study their entire life and perform esoteric research to that effect. This allows them to 'double up' their skill, providing a +1 CS above and beyond the normal bonus (if applicable).
Such skills are designated to indicate their increased bonus (the physicist in the above example would show that they have Physics 2, instead of 'mere' Physics). Any talent that is offering a double bonus should count as two talents (or cost two points), where a character's total skills are concerned. Other than an explanation as to why said character is so good at what they do, nothing else is really necessary.
On the other hand, rare individuals are the 'best of the best' in their given fields. These folks may 'triple up' their talent in a given area, allowing for a +2 CS beyond the standard bonus to related FEATs. This is costly, however. If our example physicist wanted to have Physics 3, they would have to sacrifice four of their talent slots (or four points) for this purpose. And, of course, offer a compelling reason for that level of ability.
Additionally, talent bonuses may be stacked. If a character has multiple talents that could reasonably assist a FEAT, add a +1 CS for each skill that applies, to a maximum of +3 CS. For example, a character with spatial combat and vehicular combat can add a +2 CS to combat maneuvers when piloting a spacecraft in space, while a scientist with electronics and chemistry gains a like bonus when developing chemical sensors.
Purchasing New Talents
Once play has begun, it may be more difficult for characters to acquire new skills, but it's not impossible - they just need the proper time to study! Assuming a character does indeed have such, he or she can master new lines of knowledge or skill at their leisure, as long as they have enough Karma to pay the cost. A new talent can be purchased for one thousand Karma points, twice that for talents that count as two.
One cannot purchase a new talent at a higher level to start with - everyone begins with but level 1 mastery in any talent they have begun to study after play begins. Once a talent is mastered, however, the character can continue to work on elevating its significance and extent if he or she wishes. Raising a talent to level 2 status costs a character twice as much Karma as they would pay to acquire it at level 1.
As is the case during character generation, the player need only offer a simple explanation as to why they've 'escalated' their knowledge in an area to level 2. It's a bit more difficult to learn a level 3 talent once play begins, though. This requires extensive work on the part of the character that may well draw him or her away from adventuring for large amounts of time - as well as a rather good reason for such a boost.
Finally, there's the Karma cost. To elevate an existing talent to level 3 costs a character three times the talent's base Karma price. That final Column Shift is an expensive affair, both in the time and effort involved and the Karma expended. However, it usually pays off in the long run if one really wants to express a mastery of any given subject, but it's often easier to just acquire a level 3 talent during character generation.
The possession of a talent implies a large amount of education and/or field training to account for the bonus(es) it provides. As such, people attempting to perform the actions covered by a talent without the talent to back them up should do so at a distinct penalty. Untalented characters may attempt to duplicate the actions described by a talent, but they suffer a -1 CS penalty when doing so.
This applies whether firing a handgun without the guns talent or trying to fix your television without the electronics skill. Sometimes natural ability will make up for this disadvantage, but trained individuals almost always have a leg up on their untrained brethren. This penalty does not apply where common sense overrules; for example, punching does not require martial arts type b, being an essential component of the Fighting ability.
Unlike most talents, background talents are usually something you only pick up during character generation. They often provide an origin (or part of such) for a character, or explain something about their abilities (or lack therein). Furthermore, background talents usually don't offer Column Shift bonuses like other talents do, instead giving a unique benefit that other skills will generally lack.
Typically, a character will only have one background talent, though several can be taken together if one's history indicates a necessity (law enforcement and military for an MP, or possibly an heir to fortune and student for a rich kid about to learn the family 'trade'). There are four background talents in all, each of which provides its own advantages (and drawbacks):
Heir to Fortune: this background talent helps to describe a character that was born into (or simply inherited) a whole lot of money. It offers a +1 CS to the character's Resources, which the player can then gamble upon to determine their final amount. The advantage here is that the character need not actually work to maintain his or her lifestyle (no job necessary).
Depending on the nature of the fortune, though, it may come with complications. For one thing, there's the family; if the character is a member of a wealthy or influential family, their fortunes may wax and wane dependent on the character's actions (and vice versa). If the character merely inherited their fortune, it's possible that stipulations in the will that gave it to them may hinder their activities.
Conditions such as these should be worked out with the Judge during character generation, though it's generally not fair to over-burden a character just because he or she was born into wealth. The overall idea is to enhance a character's background, after all, not weigh it down to the point of silliness. Heir to Fortune costs three talent slots (or three points) during character generation.
Law Enforcement: the character with the law enforcement talent has a background in, well, law enforcement. He or she may currently be a police officer or served as one in the past, and active law enforcement officials can legally carry a gun and make arrests while in their jurisdiction. This tie to the authorities gives a character two additional contacts, the first being the agency they work (or formerly worked) for.
The second contact provided by law enforcement can be anyone the character worked with on the job, from a fellow officer to an informant on the streets, or anything else that makes sense. Trained law enforcement officials also gain the benefit of learning the guns and law talents, as both are essential requirements to their line of work. Law Enforcement costs two talent slots (or two points) during character generation.
Military: this character has served (or is currently serving) with the armed forces of some country or another, usually noted with the talent itself ('Military / United States', or 'Military / France', for instance). The military builds strong bonds amongst its personnel, and a character with this talent gains two additional contacts, the first being the military agency they serve (or formerly served) with.
The second contact will be anyone of the player's choice, from a superior officer to a platoon mate or whoever else seems to fit. Trained military operatives gain the benefit of two additional talents as well, those being guns and martial arts type b - soldiers must be able to fight armed or unarmed against their country's enemies. Military costs two talent slots (or two points) during character generation.
Student: a student is a character who does not begin play with any talents to speak of, but instead is in the process of learning them. As such, the student talent costs all of a character's talent slots (or five points) during character generation - unless they also want heir to fortune. In that case they must have at least four talent slots - three for heir to fortune and the rest for the student talent.
This may seem a harsh penalty, but it pays off over time, as the cost of a student's talents is reduced by twenty-five percent.
The amount of time a character may remain a student is technically infinite. There's really nothing stopping them from racking up new skills at a discount, and truth be told, that's not a bad thing considering the disadvantage they start out with. However, a character does need to remain in good standing with the source of their talent(s) to keep receiving this benefit; if lost, it may be a proper adventure to regain this favor.
Note: a character who possesses the student talent as well as the quick learning quirk can benefit from the Karma discounts of both when purchasing new skills after play begins. However, this 'stacking' of discounts does not apply to the base cost of learned talent-equivalent powers, such as magic spells and psionics. Only one such discount can apply to the acquisition of ascendant abilities.
Talents of this stripe usually involve indirectly influencing a character - when you want something from someone or something, you know exactly what to say and how to say it. This may involve the alteration of actions, emotions, or whatever else is desired. Some skills of this type overlap with the professional talent category, but those that are listed here are not exactly a direct source of income.
Animal Handling: this is ability to train otherwise wild animals to do what you want. Through either positive or negative reinforcement, you can ultimately bend animals to your will, possibly even turning them into companions during adventures. Handlers are well-versed in animal behavior, and should receive a +1 CS reaction modifier when dealing with them.
Hypnosis: this is a special ability related to several different mental disciplines, and may be learned through any of them. Hypnosis can be used to place someone in a trance, a trick which is much easier when they are willing. If resisting hypnosis, a character may need... added persuasion, often in the form of torture or other manipulations.
Once a trance has been established, a character is highly suggestible, and the hypnotizer can impart commands and the like as if they possessed mesmerism at their Reason (log) rank. Hypnosis is fickle, however, and will generally wear off after 1d10 days. Furthermore, it cannot force someone to perform an act that is diametrically opposed to their personality, such as convincing a pacifist to kill.
Leadership: true leaders are somewhat hard to come by. This talent allows a character to make use of their wits and other talents to lead a tight-knit group of people, in or out of battle. When heading up a group, leaders add 100 points to its Karma pool while others are following their direction, a bonus that is freshly applied at the beginning of each new adventure.
Manipulation: on the other hand, some people get folks to do their bidding by less savory methods. Manipulation includes methods of coercion, deception, intimidation, and seduction, all of which give a manipulator a +1 CS to get their hooks into someone. Or, in game terms, to Popularity FEATs, whether working in a positive or negative direction.
Performer: this represents the work of an actor, rock star, dancer, mime, or whatever other form of entertainment you prefer. While related to the artist skill, the performer talent reflects immediacy; can he or she put on a good show for those before them? Performers gain ten Karma points for a week worth of work, whether doing stand-up comedy or acting on a movie set.
Service: the service industry always has a need for good people. Maybe you tend bar, or perhaps do technical support, but the idea is you have the ability to listen to others and help them to solve their problems. You should receive a +1 CS on any efforts to reassure others, even if it means 'reading between the lines' because someone doesn't know, or are incapable of articulating, what they're trying to tell you.
Sleight of Hand: this is the talent of misdirection, often used by stage magicians - though real sorcerers have made use of it now and then. With quick movements and fluid gestures, not to mention just a little bit of showmanship, a character using sleight of hand can seemingly make objects disappear right before your eyes, doing so at their Agility (dex) +1 CS.
Tactics: a natural complement to leadership, the tactics talent represents someone well-versed in thinking several moves ahead, and able to reason out a solution to almost any problem - either in or out of combat. While people follow the lead of a tactician executing his or her plan, they should receive a +1 CS on related actions when doing so - though this bonus ends if events evolve past said plan.
The eleven environmental talents involve specialized knowledge that assists a character in navigating or surviving the world around them. Whether it involves climbing an extreme vertical surface, following an elusive target's trail, or even thriving in the harshest of climates, this class of talent will get you there. The skills represented here are primarily non-combative in nature.
Astronaut: similar to pilots, astronauts can fly, but their rides glide through the inky blackness of space instead of the sky. Space flight has several challenges above and beyond standard aeronautics, including zero gravity operation, incredibly hostile environments, and navigation on a galactic scale. Astronauts receive a +1 CS in all of these areas, in addition to their actual flying ability.
Boating: piloting a water-based vehicle is typically more complicated than comparable earth-bound rides. Whether handling a water scooter, a fishing boat, a battleship, or even a submarine, a boater does so at a +1 CS. They also receive this bonus on efforts to spot / avoid water-based hazards (such as reefs), building rafts, attempting rescues on the sea, swimming, and even holding their breath.
Climbing: while most heroes climb with the assistance of super-human abilities, some individuals are just really good at doing so under their own power... or with the help of a bit of gear here and there. Climbers excel at ascending or descending vertical surfaces, from brick walls to craggy mountains, and should receive a +2 CS on any such attempts to do so.
Driving: while individuals in most modern societies can operate an automobile without too much hassle (no penalty), professional drivers excel behind the wheel. They may attempt most maneuvers while driving at a +1 CS, and know how to handle almost any ground-based vehicle, from cars to tractor trailers to tanks. As a bonus, drivers may maintain their vehicles with a similar bonus.
Piloting: more than anything else, pilots are experts in aeronautics. After all, you want to know the hunk of metal that is the only thing between you and a five mile drop very, very well. Pilots receive a +1 CS in the operation of any aircraft, whether Agility, Reason, or Control FEATs are required, and gain a similar bonus for the design and maintenance of aircraft as well.
Planargation: those who walk the myriad planes of existence often lack the ability to traverse the dimensions on their own, or have that but are lousy with finding their way from one reality to another. Studying planargation allows one to more readily navigate the twist, turns, ups, downs, and in-betweens of the multiverse, and receive a +1 CS bonus towards finding, or at least determine the route to, another universe.
Riding: those increasingly rare individuals who possess this skill are adept at riding a large creature, whether into battle or just for leisure. Most often this involves a horse, but can be any number of animals both mundane and fantastic, from elephants to pegasi to dragons! Controlling a riding animal may be attempted at a +1 CS by those who have mastered this skill.
Stealth: stealth is the ability to move without being conspicuous. Perhaps the character can tread silently, or maybe they're good at looking innocuous while doing so. When in use under practical conditions, stealth applies a -1 CS to Intuition FEAT rolls required to detect the stealthy character - a perk that works well with characters who possess super-human abilities of this stripe.
Survival: individuals who have been trained in survival techniques excel at keeping themselves alive no matter how dire an environment or situation may be. All things considered, a survivalist can usually dredge up enough food, water, and shelter to persist in any locale, from urban wastelands to the most overgrown of jungles to the coldest of tundra.
Teamster: an odd hybrid of driving and riding skills, the teamster talent provides the ability to effectively operate a vehicle pulled by animals. This can be anything from a chariot, intended for combat purposes, or a wagon, designed to haul cargo or passengers. Either way, a teamster can treat their animals, maintain their ride, and operate the two in tandem at a +1 CS to any applicable FEAT roll called for during play.
Tracking: while there is a super tracking power, perfectly normal humans can learn to follow others as well. The tracking talent allows a body to detect the signs of a person's passing, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant. They do so at their Intuition (alt) or (awr) rank +1 CS, depending on which portion is necessary to notice those blades of broken grass, changes in animal chatter, or whatever.
Fighting talents are capabilities that enhance a character's unarmed combat performance. It is important to note that fighting without related fighting skills will not incur a penalty. You can punch a foe without martial arts type b, grapple a foe without wrestling, or even attempt multiple actions without the multiple attacks talent, and not suffer a -1 CS penalty. There are sixteen fighting talents in all:
Acrobatics: an acrobatic character is incredibly nimble, either naturally or thanks to intensive training in this regard. The acrobatics talent offers several benefits in combat, granting characters a +1 CS on any dodge, escape, evade, feint, or weave maneuver they attempt. Acrobatics also offers a similar bonus to other feats of balance, such as walking a tightrope (funambulism) or rolls to avoid falling.
Aerial Combat: this specialized fighting skill involves training in airborne combat. It provides a +1 CS to all combat FEATs attempted while in the air, whether the character is flying under their own power or in a vehicle of some sort. This bonus can stack with other talent Column Shifts, but is often countered by the high movement rates of other aerial combatants anyway.
Astral Combat: one who masters this skill excels in fighting in a disembodied state. This can be while traveling in an astral form, a cyber-spatial avatar, or anything in-between. Astral combat grants a +1 CS to all combat maneuvers attempted while bodiless, whether armed or unarmed, a bonus that readily stacks with other fighting and weapon talents (where applicable).
Martial Arts type A: this fighting style involves using a foe's energies against them, and is representative of pacifist styles like Aikido and more aggressive Judo stances. Using martial arts type a, a character can inflict Slam or Stun results regardless of the Strength or Endurance differences between them and their foe, as said foe's own energies are being used against them to determine damage.
This works by making a Fighting (def) FEAT roll when attacked, on the weave column of the Universal Table. If the attacker misses, his or her offensive power is redirected as the defender chooses, either into the ground or a nearby object - or just into the surrounding space (a throw). The use of type a martial arts does not require initiative to succeed, even though it is technically an offensive action.
Martial Arts type B: this fighting style is indicative of the likes of boxing, and involves inflicting damage in quick, decisive strokes. A character trained in type b martial arts may strike in unarmed combat at his or her Fighting (off) score +1 CS, no matter what form of attack they attempt; punches, kicks, headbutts, elbow drops, knee smashes, and many more maneuvers fall under this heading.
Martial Arts type C: type c martial arts focuses on the application of holds and the execution of escapes from such. It provides a combatant a +1 CS to their Strength for the purposes of escape and grapple maneuvers (even where damage is concerned), and a +1 CS to one's Agility (bal) for the purposes of dodging and weaving attacks. It excels for purposes of containing and wearing out unruly opponents.
Martial Arts type D: a contemplative and deadly technique, type d martial arts allows a character to find and strike out against a foe's weak points. After two turns of study, characters with type d martial arts may ignore body armor (though not force fields) for the purpose of inflicting Slam or Stun results - even if no damage is inflicted by their attack!
Martial Arts type E: this fighting style involves striking fast and unpredictably, allowing one to act with surprise. The actions of a type e martial artist are difficult to predict, and their general speed grants them a +1 initiative modifier in unarmed combat. While a character with type d martial arts can still receive their benefits against a type e fighter, they cannot defeat the type e initiative modifier.
Mounted Combat: this talent is the ability to effectively fight one's opponents while riding atop a creature of some sort. This most often entails horsemanship, but creatures both mundane and fantastic can be used for locomotion in the midst of battle using this skill. Those trained in mounted battle may resolve combat FEATs while riding at a +1 CS to the applicable ability score.
Multiple Attacks: the character with this talent is trained in making a burst of melee attacks in the shortest amount of time possible. After extensive training, a character with the multiple attacks talent should receive a +1 CS on multiple (offensive) actions FEAT rolls, and no longer suffers the -1 CS penalty incurred when doing so (the -3 CS penalty for failing a multiple actions FEAT still applies, however).
Spatial Combat: characters well-versed in spatial combat are trained in the effects of alien environments on their fighting styles. They suffer no innate penalty to hit due to the effects of gravity on their body (whether it be zero Gs or multiples of earth gravity), either in melee or ranged combat, and can maneuver with (relative) ease no matter the gravitic conditions on their body.
Targeting: characters with this talent have been trained in the use of their ranged powers, allowing them to make to-hit rolls at a +1 CS to their Agility (dex). This skill works no matter the emission point of said ranged powers on their body, whether it come in the form of hand blasts or eye beams, but can be somewhat difficult to obtain in the first place, as it's an uncommon talent.
Tumbling: tumblers know how to take a fall, both literally and figuratively. Whenever a character with the tumbling talent falls (or is thrown) any distance which does not inflict damage, they may attempt an Agility (bal) FEAT roll to land on their feet. This makes them ready for action immediately, and of course prevents unnecessary Slam or Stun results that may occur due to, say, landing on one's head.
Underwater Combat: masters of this environmental fighting skill have the ability to effectively engage in combat underwater. They know how to compensate for underwater effects, and may attempt maneuvers beneath the waves without the normal to-hit penalty. Though water resistance and breathing may still be valid concerns, the skilled undersea combatant definitely has a leg-up on untrained foes.
Vehicular Combat: a specialized combat skill, this talent involves a character being trained in the use of vehicles while fighting. Whether it's an airplane, a custom-built car, or even a spacecraft, the vehicular combatant knows the ins and outs of such combat. They may attempt vehicular combat FEATs (either offensive or defensive) at a +1 CS to the applicable rank (usually Agility).
Wrestling: a wrestler is adept in applying holds, of either the standard or Sumo variety. By itself, wrestling allows a +2 CS to a character's Strength (mgt) for the purposes of placing an opponent in a hold, a bonus which stacks with type c martial arts quite nicely. While wrestling does not allow for additional damage, it does let the holding character maintain his or her hold each turn to inflict repeat damage.
This bundle of skills represents abilities that usually have practical use, but don't fit neatly into other categories. Miscellaneous talents encompass a wide variety of capabilities, some offering increased ability in some fashion. There are only eight miscellaneous talents in all, though there's always room for more that may not necessarily fit into the other, more focused talent categories available.
Escape Artist: the art of liberating oneself from bindings and traps, escape artistry is a practice that one can use either for entertainment or to avoid the authorities. Regardless of the form of restraint, whether handcuffs, chains, nets, a straight-jacket, or even a locked room, escape artists gain a +1 CS on attempts to free themselves, a bonus which, naturally, does apply to escape maneuvers.
First Aid: a limited form of the medicine talent, first aid is nonetheless a very useful skill to have in that it can be applied immediately during a fight (no ambulance ride required). When administering first aid, a character can immediately halt the loss of Endurance ranks in a dying individual, going so far as to actually add one lost Endurance rank back as well.
Similarly, if caring for someone who has slipped to Shift 0 Endurance, the character with first aid can bring them back from the brink if they reached that point within the last five turns. This period of time is added to the maximum amount of time a character can be resuscitated within if the wielder also has medicine (for 25 turns maximum), and boosts 'emergency care' FEATs for those with both skills by +1 CS.
Gastronomy: the practice and study of the preparation and serving of food and drink, gastronomers have existed as long as people have wanted someone else to make their consumables. Those well-versed in gastronmy include individuals such as chefs and cocktologists, whether they perform all such duties or are more specialized, and may prepare items for consumption with a +1 CS bonus.
Power Skill: this talent represents a character who has trained hard in the use of one of their super-human abilities, which may or may not have combat applications, depending on the nature of said power. When using this power, the character should receive a +1 CS on all actions they attempt with it, save where damage is concerned. The power so trained in is noted in the talent listing, such as 'Skill / Shape Change'.
Repair / Tinkering: tinkerers are great at taking apart an existing item and fixing or modifying it, in either a minor or major capacity. Tinkerers should receive a +1 CS on such efforts, whether fixing a toaster or adding a nitrous oxide feed into the fuel supply of their automobile, a bonus which is readily aided by other skills such as engineering or electronics.
Resist Domination: bearers of this talent have been trained in the use of various techniques to avoid mental control in all its many forms. Whenever facing the effects of the manipulation or hypnosis talents, or even the blatant use of psionics, characters with resist domination should receive a +1 CS to their Psyche (will) for the purposes of shaking off such control.
Trance: severe meditation and intense mastery of one's body and mind can allow a person to enter a deep, restive trance. While in this state, a character's body functions slow to the point that they are undetectable, and he or she appears to be dead (Intuition (alt) FEAT to make this distinction). Also, individuals in a trance have a minimal need for food or water, and recover lost Endurance ranks at a rate of one per day.
Trivia: experts in trivia know a whole lot about obscure categories of knowledge that are typically not covered by other talents. An expert on baseball cards may know everything there is to know about the cards, but not necessarily baseball itself (though he or she may have the sports / baseball talent as well). Those with this talent gain a +1 CS on knowledge FEATs regarding their trivial area of expertise.
The seventeen professional talents represent occupational paths. As opposed to scientific skills, these talents primarily lean upon practical experience to function. Sure, plenty of studying may be involved, but you mainly learn these crafts by doing, not reading. Furthermore, these talents lend themselves to a decent Resources rank - or at least a practical means of making money besides inheriting (or stealing) it.
Agriculture: the profession which gave rise to modern civilization, independently developed around the world, agriculture is the cultivation of produce and livestock. Agriculture invokes portions of animal handling and biology, whether subsistence farming or practicing agronomy, and individuals with this talent gain a +1 CS towards efforts to successfully produce food.
Artist: the artist is a person who creates works of, well, art. Unlike performances, these are lasting works that linger long past the actual performance proper (not counting recordings of such), such as photography, painting, sculpture, and writing. One work of art will typically take 1d10 weeks to finish, and offer a Karma reward equal to ten times that value upon completion.
Business / Finance: this is the art of running a business, or otherwise growing available resources. Financiers and business people gain the benefit of a minimum Resources rank of Good (10), and a +1 CS in monetary matters (whether actually handling it or in dealings with the business world), in addition to one free contact related to their field in some fashion.
Crime: crime is a sort of catch-all for capabilities that aren't specifically covered by other skills, which are primarily useful for engaging in larcenous behavior. Whether keeping an eye out for the police, picking a lock, disguising oneself as another person, or even appraising the 'street value' of stolen goods, a criminal may add a +1 CS to any such efforts.
Some enterprising criminals excel in one area of this talent, which should be so noted. A 'master of disguise' might have a +2 CS for the purposes of posing as others, while being useless where locks are concerned (and would be noted with 'Disguise' instead of 'Crime'). Alternately, a criminal may specialize in an area of crime as can a scientist, spending another talent slot for the additional +1 CS on top of crime in general.
Demolitions: a limited and specialized form of the Engineering profession, this talent involves the knowledge to build, arm, or disarm explosive devices. It allows a character to perform these actions at a +1 CS to their Reason score, and is representative of explosive ordnance disposal professionals or, alternately, military engineers who excel at destroying enemy gear with bombs.
Detective / Espionage: detectives are good at connecting the dots and finding the clues necessary to solve a mystery, while spies excel in liberating information from their targets. Both should receive a +1 CS on FEAT rolls to dig up or discover the information they require, and receive not one but two additional contacts to assist in their line of work.
Education: including aspects of behavior modification, politics, and performer, teaching involves passing knowledge on to others. Educators should receive a +1 CS when attempting to teach things to others, whether for keeping their attention or making things comprehensible. Educators should receive two additional contacts, usually people they've taught in the past.
Engineering: the craft of building, an engineer knows how to make things - from cars to skyscrapers. On the other hand, engineers also know how to take them apart, and make great demolitionists. An engineer should receive a +1 CS on FEAT rolls related to designing or building an object or device, including the Resources FEAT required for such.
Journalism: journalists master the craft of conveying news to the world, whether they do so with words, pictures, or both. This character excels in generating compelling accounts of current events, receiving a +1 CS when doing so, and should receive three additional contacts related to their field - possibly an editor, fellow journalist, or even a trusted 'reliable source'.
Law: armed with an extensive knowledge of the legal system, lawyers are put into play to sway judges and juries over to their line of thinking - and that of their client's. They should receive a +1 CS concerning legal knowledge and procedure, and benefit from one additional contact - either in legal circles or perhaps a client they made a particularly good impression on.
Leathercraft: a material that is both flexible and durable, leather is produced by tanning animal hides. Producing leather, and then fashioning it into usable garments and accessories, is a skill that has been developed throughout recorded history. Those who have mastered the art of leathercraft may apply a +1 CS to any FEAT roll required when going about that kind of work.
Metalcraft: those skilled in metalcraft can fashion useful objects out of various metals. Whether smithing, smelting, or founding, those practicing this trade either have general competency working with all metals, or focus on specialized areas like a blacksmith, brownsmith, jeweler, or work with more modern materials. Smiths may create and modify items made from metal with a +1 CS bonus.
Politics: politics is the fine art of making decisions for and influencing groups of people, and politicians excel in doing just that, whether in a diplomatic fashion (bringing people together) or in an abrasive manner (fear mongering, rabble rousing). Politicians should receive a +1 CS on efforts to sway a crowd to their point of view, and receive one bonus contact related to this purpose.
Salesmanship: some people train hard to influence other people, while others... just have an inherent knack for it. Salesmen are very, very good at convincing people that they absolutely need something - whether or not they actually do. They should receive a +1 CS on efforts to sell anything, whether in person or through the media (often known as marketing).
Sports: while just about everyone can play a game without formal training, the individuals with actual skill in their sport of choice have elevated their recreational passion into an art form - often with monetary benefits. The sports talent offers a +1 CS bonus to knowledge relating to athletics in general (rules, statistics, etc)., as well as actions made in the course of play.
But that's not all. Athletes typically specialize in one form of sport above others. Instead of a general knowledge in sports (often possessed by sports commentators), a character may instead be really versatile in knowledge related to one sport. This sort of character should receive a +2 CS in their game of choice, instead of having an all-around bonus, and are noted specifically (e.g., 'Sports / Lacrosse').
Stonecraft: one of the world's oldest crafts, masonry involves working rough stone into shapes more conducive to human use, whether for structures, tools, or weapons. A skill that takes on various forms depending on the era it is practiced in, stonecraft can produce results ranging from the primitive to the artistic, and this talent bolsters a mason's efforts by +1 CS.
Woodcraft: one of the earliest materials early man had to work with, wood has proven an invaluable substance for the production of tools, weapons, and other useful objects throughout the ages. Whether engaging in carpentry, carving, joinery, turning, or whittling, a trained woodworker may attempt to craft items from this material, regardless of its tree of origin, with a +1 CS bonus.
Talents of the scientific variety almost exclusively involve the study of some area of knowledge or another. The talents listed below are generalized into 'major' sciences, which allow for further specialization. If a character would like to specialize in a specific area of a talent (as an example, the doctor with medicine wanting to go into neurology), they can buy that specialization as a second talent.
While this can be expensive (particularly if one wants to have more than one specialized science under their belt), the specialist benefits from an additional +1 CS in their area of expertise, while keeping their basic level with a talent unchanged - which is a bit cheaper than 'doubling up' in a general science. There are fifteen scientific talents in all, each covering a vital area of knowledge:
Archaeology: archaeologists research the past to learn from it, for various reasons. The character with archaeology as a talent should receive a +1 CS on any FEAT roll dependent on knowledge of the past. It also lends itself to various specialty fields, such as anthropology, or even a focus on the history of specific nations (e.g., 'History / Spain').
Biology: students of biology become well-versed in the basic processes of life, involving both humans and other life forms. Biologists are familiar with a wide variety of organisms, and should receive a +1 CS on any FEAT concerning knowledge of such, either for identification purposes, the production of antidotes for organic poisons, or even the researching and treatment of a disease.
Biologists can specialize in many specific forms of their science, such as botany (plants), mycology (fungi), zoology (animals), epidemiology (illness and plague), pharmacology (drugs and their effects), exobiology (alien life forms), veterinary science (the care and treatment of animals), and many, many more. Biology readily overlaps with most other scientific talents, as well.
Chemistry: this is the study of interactions between different chemical substances, the changes they undergo, and the resultant energies produced. Characters with the chemistry talent can add a +1 CS to all chemical FEAT rolls required, whether remembering chemical structures, mixing new compounds, identifying substances by taste or touch, or even brewing antidotes for inorganic toxins.
Computers: a study of computer technology allows for a significant understanding of how 'thinking machines' work. Whether operating, assembling, or programming such devices, a computer expert should receive a +1 CS on necessary Reason FEAT rolls. This bonus applies whether working on regular computers, computer-controlled or assisted equipment, or even artificial intelligences.
Criminology: criminologists are experts in the criminal mind, knowing how it generally operates thanks either to personal experience or extensive study. They should gain a +1 CS on Reason or Intuition FEAT rolls related to criminal practices, and receive the benefit of one additional contact in either police or criminal circles (whichever is most convenient).
Electronics: a study of electronics allows one to bend the electron to their will! Whether building analog or digital circuits, a student of electronics can create all manner of devices to power their world, from the mundane to the fantastic. They should receive a +1 CS on any Reason FEAT related to this field, particularly when designing, building, or repairing electronic devices.
Genetics: related to both biology and chemistry to an extent, genetics is a study of the essential building blocks of life, such as deoxyribonucleic acid. While genetics has several beneficial uses, it lends itself to abuse by the more 'twitchy' members of the scientific community, particularly those who think it's time to 'improve' on a species - with or without thinking through the consequences.
Either way, a geneticist should receive a +1 CS on matters concerning genes in general, particularly where mutation is concerned. They share a benefit with biologists, having the skills to research and treat diseases, with the added benefit of being able to cook up their own. Finally, a geneticist has the ability (if not necessarily the resources or safeguards) to create new life forms from scratch.
Geology: the study of the earth, geology is a way to look at how our planet formed and functions. It provides a +1 CS on FEATs called for in regards to volcanic activity, the identification of particular rocks or stones, or even determining the characteristics of nearby strata. Common specializations of geology include ecology, paleontology, meteorology, and (in futuristic campaigns) astrogeology.
Linguistics: this is the study of languages. A linguistic expert may begin play with at least one additional language, which they can read, write, and speak fluently, in addition to their native tongue. Mastering additional languages after the second is much easier; each further language learned only counts as half a talent during character generation, or is purchased at half price during character advancement.
This talent can also indicate mere mastery of specific languages, instead of an actual study of such. This is functionally the same, only differentiated to distinguish true linguists from characters who may just happen to have an extra language or two in their 'pocket'. Non-linguists with multiple tongues are indicated by listing the languages they can use as talents (e.g., 'Languages / English and Farsi').
Lore: while most sciences focus on what others consider common knowledge, the student of lore digs deeper, into areas some consider fantasy at best. Lore is a sort of accumulated wealth of knowledge on mystic cults, relics, and forgotten (or forbidden) knowledge. The character who is a student of lore should receive a +1 CS in such matters, no matter how obscure.
There is room for many specialties of lore, as it is a science - if somewhat mysterious. A bibliophile may be an expert on magical books, while a scholar of antiquities may know everything there is to know about mystic artifacts, and a cryptozoologist might be the go-to person when freaky monsters from other planes of existence run amok down in the industrial district.
Mathematics: the 'queen of the sciences', mathematics is an advanced and rigorous discipline. Beyond the basic maths most children master in school, this talent deals in abstract concepts evolved from quantity, whether real or imaginary. These include geometry / trigonometry, calculus, information theory, probability / chaos theory, and more - all of which a mathematician handles at their Reason score +1 CS.
Medicine: characters with this talent have studied the human body extensively, and can treat a variety of conditions it may be suffering from. As you can guess, doctors and nurses benefit from a +1 CS on any Reason FEAT roll required in matters of medical problems or emergencies, medicines, poisons, surgery, and the treatment of most other ailments. Being a doctor has several additional benefits, however.
While anyone can stop a dying person from losing further Endurance ranks simply by checking on them, characters with the medicine talent can actually resuscitate wounded individuals who have slipped to Shift 0 Endurance within the last twenty turns. Furthermore, when treating the wounded, they may restore one lost Endurance rank per week, in addition to those regained thanks to normal healing.
Physics: the science of physics involves a study of matter and how it moves through space-time. This is a fancy way to describe a study of how things work, from the largest to the smallest. This talent offers a +1 CS on all Reason FEAT rolls regarding energy, force, motion, and time. Some specialty fields of physics include astronomy, nuclear physics, and quantum physics, among others.
Psychology: a psychologist studies the human mind and how it works. This is different than a psychiatrist, which is actually a medical specialty, in that a psychologist has no medical background, per se. They should receive a +1 CS on Reason FEAT rolls related to determining the behavior of others, either individually or in groups. Specialty fields include related disciplines such as sociology and political science.
But wait, there's more. An intense knowledge of how people think and behave has benefits above and beyond academic work and the treatment of mental illness. A trained psychologist knows the ins and outs of thought processes, which comes in handy when wielding psionics, either natural or learned. Psychologists attempt efforts to read, control, or influence thoughts or emotions with a +1 CS bonus to their power rank(s).
Theology: this is the study of spirituality, or of religious faith, practice, and experience. Theologists are keenly aware just what major (and most minor) religions represent, and should receive a +1 CS on FEAT rolls concerning such knowledge. Theological specialists are those who focus on just one faith for the most part, and are noted as such (say, with 'Theology / Pastafarianism').
The opposite of fighting talents, weapon talents involve armed combat to some degree or another. They primarily offer a +1 CS to the use of the weapon(s) in question, or provide the ability to use an entire class of weaponry without penalty. There are twenty-one weapon skills in all, each of which greatly expand the lethality of a character no matter their choice in personal armaments:
Advanced Guns: characters with the advanced guns talent are skilled in the use of high-tech, hand-held projectile weaponry. These weapons, which include laser pistols, particle beam emitters, blasters, concussion cannons, and the ever-popular death ray, behave differently than standard firearms and require special training - training which provides a +1 CS in the use of such devices.
Blunt Weapons: this 'package' talent provides a character the ability to wield all blunt melee weapons without penalty. Whether they're brandishing a staff, a club, a Louisville slugger, or even a nunchaku, a combatant may use it at their base Fighting (off) score, as opposed to the usual -1 CS penalty. Blunt weapons costs one additional talent slot or point (or an extra 1,000 Karma) to 'double up' or 'triple up'.
Bows: this talent allows a character to fire stringed weaponry at their Agility (dex) score +1 CS, whether it be a standard, compound, or crossbow. This talent assumes the ability to fire and reload the bow as a single combat action. Also, a character with the bows talent may attempt to fire several arrows at once (if not using a crossbow), though this requires a yellow Agility (dex) FEAT, and the usual penalties apply.
Concussion Weapons: concussion weapons are melee devices which produce a focused field that, when striking another, inflicts Force damage. This may come in the form of concussion gauntlets, charged melee weapons, or even solid energy constructs like a force bat. This talent allows the use of this class of weaponry without penalty, though related skills readily stack with the concussion weapons talent.
Energy Weapons: on the other hand, energy weapons are melee devices that generate a power field which inflicts more deadly, Energy damage instead. This class of weaponry includes power gauntlets, vibro blades, or even photon swords. This talent allows the use of lethal energy weapons without penalty, though related skills readily stack with the energy weapons talent (for example, swords and energy weapons).
Entangling Weapons: this class of weapons are designed to inhibit the motion of others, most often without inflicting damage in the process. They include implements like bolas, lassos, nets, and whips, which can occasionally harm enemies by themselves but are primarily used for containment purposes. Those trained in the use of such non-lethal weaponry may wield them without penalty.
Guns: the character that is trained in the fine art of gunplay may use such weapons as though their Agility (dex) was +1 CS higher than is listed. This applies whether the firearm in question is a standard, semi-automatic, or fully automatic rifle or pistol, and includes all applicable modes of fire for a given weapon (semi-automatic guns can fire one round or a small burst, for example).
Marksman: firing large-bore weaponry requires special training, including a lot of math as well as practical skill. A trained marksman can use this education to fire weapons with a line of sight range effectively, whether they come in the form of mortar shells, fire-and-forget portable missiles, or even large-caliber tank or ship cannons. These weapons may be fired at a +1 CS to the character's Agility (dex) score.
Martial Arts Weapons: this 'package' talent covers implements typically associated with more lethal fighting styles. Whether brandishing a sai, katana, crossbow, shuriken, nunchaku, or even a wakizashi, one can use it at their base Fighting (off) or Agility (dex), where applicable, as opposed to the usual -1 CS penalty. This talent costs one additional talent slot or point (or an extra 1,000 Karma) to 'double up' or 'triple up'.
Natural Weapons: this class of weaponry is not the kind that can be easily removed, as it is inherent to one's own body. It includes claws, quills, razor skin, battle tails, and the like. One can use such 'additions' without penalty if they lack this talent, but training in one's natural weapons allows the character so armed a +1 CS in the use of such unique, built-in physical enhancements.
Pole Weapons: occasionally improvised while sometimes designed for a specific purpose, pole weapons are sharp weapons mounted upon a long shaft. They allow their wielders to assault foes while keeping their distance, and include items such as the halberd, javelin, naginata, spear, trident, and war scythe. Those trained in the use of pole weapons may wield this class of device without penalty.
Quick Draw: the quick draw skill represents a character that has trained to wield their weapon of choice fast - very fast. This talent can apply to any one type of weapon, but not a weapon class (it can work with a handgun or a sword, but not all 'blunt' or 'sharp' weapons). In play, it offers the character with this skill a +2 initiative modifier when wielding their preferred weapon.
Furthermore, thanks to this inherent speed with one's weapon of choice, the quick draw talent allows its user a +1 CS to their Fighting (off) regarding multiple actions with said weapon. This helps a body get off just one more shot with that rifle, or perhaps an extra stroke with their sword. This bonus can stack with the automatic extra attack from two weapons if both revolve around the same weapon type.
Sharp Weapons: the opposite coin of the blunt weapons skill, this 'package' talent allows the character to wield any edged melee weapon without penalty (as opposed to the usual -1 CS handicap). This can come in the form of a sword, a dagger, an axe, a scythe, or just about anything else with a blade attached. Sharp weapons costs one additional talent slot or point (or an extra 1,000 Karma) to 'double up' or 'triple up'.
Shields: just about any slob can make effective use of a shield, assuming at least a passing familiarity with the device. The true skill comes in wielding it offensively as well as defensively, and this talent allows a body to strike another with a shield - either in melee or when thrown in the case of aerodynamic shields - at a +1 CS to the applicable ability score.
Spontaneous Weapons: the character with this talent has practiced in the use of turning almost anything into a weapon. Whether it's a chair, a couch, a television, a lamp post, or even a city bus, he or she can wield it effectively; think of this as 'blunt weapons' on steroids. Whenever using an item as a makeshift weapon, the character with this talent may do so without penalty (though with no actual bonus to hit).
Thrown Objects: the ranged equivalent of the above skill, the thrown objects talent allows characters to wield almost any object in long distance combat. It doesn't matter if they've palmed a rock, a crate, an automobile, or even a dumpster, the character can throw it as long as he or she has the strength to lift the thing. Characters with the thrown objects talent can fling any object at their Agility (dex) score +1 CS.
Thrown Weapons: persons who are trained in the use of thrown weapons can wield them at range, receiving a +1 CS to their Agility (dex) when doing so. Any weapon specifically designed to be thrown (boomerangs, shuriken, darts, and certain daggers and axes, for instance) falls under the purview of this talent. Other items (even weapons) not specifically designed to be thrown refer to thrown objects, instead.
Two Weapons: a difficult skill to master, the two weapons talent allows a character to effectively handle two similar (in shape, size, or weight) weapons at the same time. Two weapons provides one extra attack per turn when using similar weapons simultaneously, which allows for either two separate attacks or bursting. The weapons a character can dual wield are generally indicated as part of the talent name (e.g., 'Two Guns').
Weapon Skill: while most of the weapons talents listed above showcase general types of weapons (blunt weapons, sharp weapons, energy weapons, etc)., this talent represents a character who has worked hard to master one specific type of weapon, usually indicated in the name of the talent (such as 'Skill / Swords'). When wielding weapons of this type, a character does so at the appropriate ability score +1 CS.
This skill is the one amongst weapon talents that most readily stacks with others. For instance, the wielder of a force bat with a skill / clubs and concussion weapons would allow a +2 CS to hit (the clubs talent backed up by the concussion weapons talent). This sort of combination allows a general mastery of one class of weapons, with another the character can wield above and beyond others in that class.
Weapon Specialist: a character can train above and beyond the call of duty with a specific weapon to attain even greater mastery with it - say, a family heirloom, or unique artifact they discovered by chance. By becoming a weapon specialist with this item, he or she can add a +2 CS to their to-hit rolls when wielding it, which can stack with the normal weapon skill for its type.
Say our heroine finds a strange hammer with the power to control the weather itself! She trains long and hard, and masters hammers in general (skill / hammer), and then specializes in the use of this specific weapon, gaining a further +2 CS. The only danger is in losing this weapon, either if it's stolen or destroyed. If this occurs, and the weapon cannot be replaced, the bonus (and Karma spent to gain this talent) is lost.
An additional bonus a weapon specialist receives is that he or she may add a +2 initiative modifier when using their weapon of choice (which does stack with the quick draw bonus).
Weapons Master: something of a misnomer, this talent represents a person who has trained hard enough to be effective with just about every weapon available to them. While it offers no bonus, weapons master allows a character to literally wield any weapon, melee or ranged, without penalty. Of course, being a weapon master can be somewhat expensive, costing two of the character's total talent slots.
Though it's not of my own creation, I would be remiss in my duties as a writer if I didn't point you towards an excellent resource for Talents more or less compatible with the Universal Heroes system. By David Bailey and Tammra Goodman, the Ultimate Talents Book is great as an alternate source of skills for your game, in case you don't like mine or the original mine was based upon. Check it out at Gaming Nerds ᴙ Us!
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