It’s been a few weeks since my last update. The initial proof of the Companion has been laid out, and notes have been noted and sent back. Art has started being drawn, and before too much longer the pre-art proof will be sent out to those who backed the Kickstarter.

We’ve had a few previews of material coming up in the Companion, and this time around I wanted to preview how knacks look in fourth edition. Those of you familiar with this mechanic will recognize the basic shape, but for the rest here’s a rundown.

Knacks are specialized abilities that expand or enhance the use of an adept’s talents. If an adept meets the requirements, they can spend some time with a trainer, spend some Legend, and learn the knack.

Each knack is associated with a particular talent, and the adept must know the talent at a particular rank (or higher) in order to learn the knack. Here’s an example.

Halt Disease
Talent: Cold Purify Requirements: Rank 6
Restrictions: None Step: Rank + WIL
Action: Sustained (1 min) Strain: 0
Skill Use: No

Most of this is self-explanatory, but I’ll run through the game information anyway. This knack is based off of the talent Cold Purify, and requires the adept to know that talent at Rank 6 or better. It has no other restrictions, uses the talent Rank + Willpower for the test, takes a sustained (1 minute) action to use. It costs no strain, and cannot be used as a skill. Here’s the rules text:

The adept spends a minute to prepare a poultice as normal. However, instead the poultice stops the progress of disease by making a Cold Purify test against the disease’s Step. With two successes, the effect of the disease is halted. The victim does not heal any damage already inflicted; the knack merely prevents the disease ravaging them further.

So this knack allows an adept to use the talent to affect disease instead of poison; a new use for the talent.

A couple of things I want to point out here. First, the game information presented for the knack supersedes the rules for the associated talent. Depending on the knack, it might cost more (or less) Strain, use a different Attribute, or change the action type.

Restrictions provides another level of–well–restriction on learning the knack. In many cases, this lists a Discipline and Circle, so that some Disciplines get access to a knack sooner than others. For example, the Knack Take the Hit allows the adept to use their Anticipate Blow talent to take attacks intended for an ally. It requires Rank 6 Anticipate Blow, but has additional restrictions Warrior 5, Swordmaster 6, Scout 8. The adept must meet at least one of these requirements in order to learn the knack. Knacks introduced in future products might have knacks that can only be learned by adepts who belong to a particular organization or secret society.

Skill Use is a new expansion of the knack rules. Certain knacks can be learned as skills. For example, Lip Reading is a knack based on the Awareness talent, but can be learned as a Novice-tier skill. This allows any character (including non-adepts) to gain access to the ability. These  are added to the available, existing skills in the game; they have their own rank and are learned and advanced as a skill.

Some other things we’re bringing in are knacks that are “special maneuvers.” Similar to the special maneuvers that apply to creatures, these give an adept an option to spend extra successes from a test for special or extra effects, and they can be spent after the roll is made. For example, I’ll Take That is a Disarm knack that allows the adept to spend two extra successes from a Disarm test to take the weapon for themselves instead of sending it flying away.

Some of the knacks included in the book (like Lip Reading, mentioned before) bring talents from previous versions back into the game. These are usually abilities that can be useful, but don’t really deserve to be a full-blown talent in their own right. For talents that have had a couple of different versions over the various editions, a couple of “classic” versions of talents return as knacks. For example, Patient Maneuver basically allows an adept to use the original, full-round version of the Maneuver talent.

The last batch of knacks I want to preview are probably my favorites out of the new ones we’re introducing. These are Spellcasting knacks that allow a magician to create basic effects that tie into their casting theme. For example, Astral Strain is a Rank 2 Spellcasting knack, available to Nethermancers, that for 1 Strain and a successful Spellcasting test, gives the target a -2 penalty to their Mystic Defense until the end of the next round.

Other examples are Befuddle, which allows an Illusionist to impose a -2 penalty to the target’s Social Defense. Elementalists get Acid Splash, which reduces the target’s Physical Armor by 2 until the end of the next round. Wizards get Astral Ward, which gives a willing target +2 to their Mystic Defense. All of these powers are short range, and don’t scale with successes.

The really exciting thing about these Spellcasting knacks (each magician Discipline gets 5, spread out across various ranks) is the knack becomes a Simple action if the magician weaves a spell thread that round. This gives magicians a few basic, minor magical effects they do while preparing a spell by spending Strain, and potentially more to do beyond “I’m weaving a thread.”

That does it for this preview. I’m eager to see this book out into the wild. Want to talk about anything we’ve previewed here? Visit our forums and start a conversation!