- Substitutes one ability level for another in relation to a specific kind of test or usage. Examples include swapping Strength for Willpower for intimidating (“My might is intimidating!”) or Intellect for Coordination for Dodging (“Totally saw that one coming.”).
- Provides a +2 bonus for a specific type of test in the form: “Because I [something unique about the character] I get a bonus when I [particular situation or test].” For example, “Because I once belonged to the criminal underworld, I get a bonus when I interact with criminals on their own terms.”
- Provides the effects of a power at a level equal to a “linked” ability. Note that this does not count as the “Ability-Linked” limit for powers that feature it (see the Great Power sourcebook for details).
- Provides a declared benefit the player can bring into play based on a specific Specialty, reflecting the character’s knowledge, experience, or resources. For example, “As a Business Expert, I know a lot of people in this field. One of them should be able to help us out.” This follows the same guidelines as a retcon (ICONS, p. 80).
Each knack a character has costs 1 point of starting Determination. If you think that knacks sound a lot like some of the benefits of spending Determination, you’re right: knacks are essentially permanent versions of a specific type of Determination spending, at the “cost” of a permanently “committed” point of Determination. The key differences are that the player doesn’t need to spend Determination to use a knack (other than the permanent starting point it costs) and therefore does not need to tag a Quality in order to use it. While players can use knacks an unlimited number of times during a game (unlike spending Determination) there are also likely to be adventures where the knack is of comparatively little use (where it might have been better to have that point of Determination available instead).
You can potentially create a fairly extensive list of knacks for use in your game. Some examples include the following:
- Cosmic Awareness: Due to your connection to higher powers, you can use your Awareness level rather than your Intellect to determine if you know things of a cosmic nature.
- Favored Foe: Because you have carefully studied a particular opponent, you gain a +2 bonus when making attack tests against that foe.
- Living Legend: You’re incredibly well known and beloved, allowing you to call upon people for favors and generally get favorable treatment.
- Matchless Mind: You have Resistance to Mental Powers (Great Power, p. 106) equal to your Intellect level.
- Mind Over Matter: You use Willpower rather than Strength for tests of endurance, overcoming pain, and so forth.
- Stunning Strike: Your mastery of vital pressure points allows you to make a close Stunning attack (Great Power, p. 115) at a level equal to your Strength.
Of course, some knacks can also easily be qualities, which can be tagged for a variety of Determination uses: “Living Legend” might even be both a quality and a knack, the knack not costing Determination (or requiring tagging) while calling upon the quality requires both.
Even if you don’t use knacks per se in your ICONS game, they can give you and your players some additional ways of looking at Determination spending to fill-in some of the details provided by other game systems, which the looser ICONS structure tends to leave out, putting such things in the players hands to whip-up during play via Determination. Even just a quick list of some potential “knacks” can offer players inspiration about how to spend their Determination points.