What are GUMSHOE Abilities?

At a very quick glance, abilities in a GUMSHOE system game look a bit like skills in other roleplaying games. Don't be fooled, though. Abilities are not what you would expect. So what are they?

Abilities (investigative or general) are a measure of your character's opportunity to be awesome.

Investigative abilities do this constantly. As long as you have at least one rating point in an investigative ability, you have the potential to gain core clues with it. Having pool points remaining in an ability means you can spend one or more of those points to draw the spotlight onto your character for a moment. This takes the form of additional information, boosts to general ability tests, or other benefits that show how your character can leverage knowledge better than normal people.

General abilities more directly map to your opportunities to make fate your bitch. Because a general ability test involves a die roll, there is normally a chance for failure. By spending points from your ability, you declare, "No, this action is important. I want to succeed this much."

And in no way do the abilities in a GUMSHOE game have to correspond to anything in particular in the game world. You have Intimidate? Maybe you're quietly menacing, or maybe you're a hulking brute covered in scars. You have an insane Athletics rating? Maybe you trained all your life, or maybe you're just naturally quick, agile, or strong.

In the end, abilities don't represent what you can do but how often what you can do matters.

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