Gifts are those areas in which a character excels which are not well-reflected by stats, such as specific skills, abilities, and powers. Gifts are also used to reflect other assets, such as items and initiation into power sources.
In general, you'll want to talk to a member of the staff when it gets around to time to choosing your Gifts. There are nearly a thousand gifts in the game to date, reflecting the fact that many gifts are unique to individual characters; we allow and encourage players to have unique gifts that reflect what they want to do with their character. That can be a lot to sort through, although initially you'll find yourself narrowing down the selection pretty quickly (many of the gifts can't be bought in chargen, and you'll rapidly eliminate lots of stuff based on your character concept).
There are some common gifts that are widely possessed — for instance, packages of abilities for the various bloodlines of Amber and the Golden Circle, along with popular skills like Weaponsman — as well as gifts that are common to people with particular backgrounds (Arcanis spellcasters, Rebman mirror mages, Pattern initiates, and so forth), and some people choose to build their characters entirely upon existing gifts, but you don't need to. Almost all the gifts in the game exist because at some point, a player requested something for a character, so don't be shy about asking for something if you don't see it — it might exist and we can just point you to it, or it might be brand-new and we'll be happy to discuss creating it for you.
Please see our information about Gift Proposals for some guidance on how to think about, and propose, new gifts.
Each individual gift has a description stating what it does, and what its particular rules are. Use that gift description as the "official ruling". If someone claims an ability to you, ask them to +declare it so you can read exactly what it is supposed to do. Gifts are carefully written to try to prevent consent abuses, and in no case does a gift ever take away a character's free will. You always have the right to deny OOC consent if a player is not being reasonable, or is trying to use something in an abusive fashion. Please report issues with gift abuse to the staff.
The staff can and will clarify gift descriptions as we get feedback about how they're used in play. Such clarifications usually cover questions raised by players who have those gifts, and people who see a +declare of them, but clarifications may also be made as a result of unintended use and complaints of abuse. Gifts may also get additional abilities or expansion of existing ones, as new possible uses are raised or their power level is increased to bring them in line with other abilities of similar cost.
Because most players will utilize staff assistance when it comes time to purchase gifts for their characters, it's not necessary for players to personally understand the exact mechanics for gifts. If you do feel like you want to read through all the gift examples, you will probably first want to read about Stats, Focus, and Tokens.
Gifts are purchased with points. Some gifts may have pre-requisites — other gifts and/or certain Lores may be required first.
Broadly, the more powerful a gift is — the greater the impact it can have on play — the more it costs. The broader a gift is — its versatility, as reflected by the number of types of situations in which a gift applies — the more it costs. The more frequently a gift can be used — the frequency of situations in which the gift is applicable occur — the more it costs.
Gifts are normally 5, 10, 15, or 20 points. Some gifts contain multiple abilities ("packages"), making them more expensive; bloodlines are typically packages, for instance.
See the Gift Examples for some explanation of the general categories that gifts fall into.
Some general notes on gift-buying:
- As you buy gifts, more gifts will "open up"; initially, you'll see only those gifts that you're eligible to buy. In chargen, you can freely set and unset gifts, so you can buy gifts to see what possibilities they open up, and then sell them back if you don't like them. If you are looking for something and don't see it, please ask a GM; we're happy to point you in the right direction, or create a unique gift for you.
- You can use multiple bonuses at the same time, but doing so has diminishing returns. Some overlap is okay, but a lot of overlap is probably a waste of points. For instance, if you're a guardsman, and you're buying Dutiful (giving you a bonus in situations where you're following orders), you might or might not also want Weaponsman: Sword (giving you a bonus in situations where you're using a sword) — in most cases where that would be applicable, Dutiful probably would be also. See the notes on Gift Bonuses for a more detailed explanation.
- Most characters will have one significant bloodline; we strongly encourage a setting tie of this sort. Some will have two bloodlines, usually representing a strong bloodline from each parent. Taking three or more bloodlines requires purchasing a specific gift that allows this kind of heritage.
- You can buy gifts after character generation, also, including new gifts that you've proposed and gotten accepted by the staff. Don't feel you need to buy everything right at the beginning; we suggest focusing on the gifts that are iconic to your character concept. Read about Advancement for more.
What are signature abilities? Mechanically, they're no more different than other gifts, but conceptually, they carry a little more weight. A signature is something that your character might be known for, something that is important to the story of the character. In contrast, some abilities are "color". They may give the character extra capabilities, but it's not likely something that they're known for.
As an example, all of the princes of Amber are strong. Really, really strong. But for most of them, this is a piece of color — something that's true about them, but not the first thing you think of. Gerard is somewhat stronger, and he is known for being strong, so strength is a signature ability for him.
Now, why bring this up? Mechanically, there's no real difference between a signature and color ability. Sure, signature abilities are generally more expensive or potent, but that is not always the case — sometimes a minimally powerful, inexpensive ability can still be a signature if it creates a sufficient niche for a character. For example, the ability to travel through mirrors might be significantly less useful than Pattern, but it still gives the character who can do it a unique hook.
And that's where this becomes relevant. One of the important elements of allowing everyone to be awesome is that it demands that everyone be a little responsible for helping everyone else being awesome, and that is where signatures become relevant.
Ideally, everyone should have at least one signature ability. Sometimes these are individual gifts, sometimes they're packages (like a unique bloodline), but one way or another they're things that can be pointed to and say "This makes this character different and interesting."
So while we want everyone to have one or two signatures, they're the one area where we are more inclined to say "no". See, if one person wants to make a master thief and one person wants to make a tomb raider and one character wants to make the child of the sun, all three of those characters have cool signatures. But what do we do when someone wants to play a master thief tomb raider who is the child of the sun?
At that point, we will probably say no. We'll look for alternatives, see if we can tweak things, but the bottom line is that we sometimes need to take steps to protect other people's cool. And that means that we sometimes say no.
So what can you do? Take a minute and look at your character. How many signatures do you see? If the answer is "none", then that's a whole other issue and you should start up a conversation with a staffer if you'd like to change that. If the answer is 1 or 2? Awesome. You're probably golden. 3 or more? Take a minute and look at these and really ask yourself if all of these are necessary for the character to be what you want, or if maybe some of them were just picked up because they were kind of cool.
Now, none of this is cast in stone. We considered a hard cap on the number of things that could be picked up for more than 10 points, but we think that cap would be overly arbitrary. Instead, we want to take a moment here to explain what we're thinking if we say, "No, I don't think we can green light that, it's a signature issue."
As an aside: The bloodlines of the props of the setting (Oberon, Noble Houses, Golden Circle royalty) are not considered signatures. They are explicit setting hooks and are designed to be available across multiple characters, so they are not considered in this thinking. The same can be said to be true of any other ability that is expected to be reasonably common — the very fact that they're not unique means that they're not signatures.
As another note, because interaction is so very key to having a dynamic feel to a MUSH, we discourage you from taking a very broad smorgasbord of abilities. If you're totally self-sufficient, you have far fewer reasons to cooperate with other players. And if everyone has very similar abilities (even if the "color" around them is different), characters are less distinct and less interesting, which doesn't drive interaction in the same way that greater differentiation does.
Signature abilities are not necessarily unique, or even limited; they are merely things which are distinctive and character-defining. Indeed, we discourage "protectionism" over gift trees. The more people demonstrate interest in something by buying relevant gifts, the more important that element is likely to be in the game's overall story, since PCs will naturally do stuff that revolves around it, and the GMs take into account areas of player interest when we consider our own decisions.
We often create unique gifts for new characters. In general, these are things that make a character interesting and different, and as a result, we usually heavily deliberately protect these new abilities for a time (usually by setting steep lore and other-gift requirements in order to buy them), making them largely inaccessible to others until the new character has an opportunity to get settled in and strut their stuff for a bit. However, over time, these abilities are generally opened up more broadly, either because other people make the investments in order to buy them, or because we lower the prerequisites.
We also frequently create unique gifts for existing characters, upon request. In general, by being the proposer of a new gift, you will have lower prerequisites to buy the gift than other people who are trying to buy this gift in the future; that's a reward for taking the initiative and creativity to go after the new gift idea. However, these gifts are also generally available to the public over time.
Feature characters all have some distinctive gifts, generally driven by their unique personalities and color in the books, that are truly theirs alone, and cannot be bought by others.