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The Explorer special ability Escape (2 Speed point), as stated in the (old) Cypher System Rulebook is used to get free (p. 41):

You slip your restraints, squeeze through the bars, break the grip of a creature holding you, pull free from sucking quicksand, or otherwise get loose from whatever is holding you in place. Action.

But this is already possible using a common Might or Speed (or even Intellect) task, as stated in example in the description of the Giant (p. 295):

If a giant attacks a single target, she can choose to do regular damage or to grab hold of her victim, dealing 4 points of damage instead. On his turn, the victim can attempt a Might defense roll to struggle out of the grip, a Speed defense roll to slip out, or an Intellect-based task to distract the giant.

So what's the difference between Escape and a common defense roll?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Isn't the giant related escape action linked to the giants ability to grab and not a generic action? \$\endgroup\$
    – Litany
    Nov 20, 2019 at 10:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Litany I wrote "as stated in example in the description of the Giant" because there is no specific rule to break free (even if for the Deinonychus is very similar), but it is safe to say that is a standard Might or Speed action. If you have futher details please improve the question. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ohmnibus
    Nov 20, 2019 at 17:57

2 Answers 2

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As written, I don't see a difference: a PC could break free using Escape or a regular Might/Speed/Intellect task.

However, I can think of a few differences:

  • As you stated, breaking free might be a Might, Speed or even Intellect task, depending on the context, how the action is narrated, etc. Escape, on the other hand, is a Speed task, no matter the context, meaning this could make the action more reliably easier for a character built on Speed.
  • Narratively speaking, escaping from most situations would take some time. Wikiepedia, for instance, states that the world record for escaping a straitjacket is 8.4 seconds - and that's from a highly specialized indidivual. As a GM, I would assume that a character escaping a straitjacket or even simple handcuffs would require much more time. In the case of Escape, it is an ability of type Action, meaning it would require a simple combat action (ie. about 6 seconds) to escape whatever is holding its user - that's even faster than the world record! In a time-sensitive situation, this could be a life saver.
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  • \$\begingroup\$ As you explained it, basically Escape let the player set the task to be a Speed task and let the character to be free in an Action instead of a minute. This answer sound more balanced than others, but it's hard to narrate how a characted get free of a mind restraint with a speed task. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ohmnibus
    Jun 13, 2020 at 21:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ Agreed, but RAW, clearly, the ability text does not mention anything about narrative plausibility being a requirement for its use. Whether a GM would allow that or not is up to them and their group. \$\endgroup\$
    – SolarBear
    Jun 15, 2020 at 15:54
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Escape doesn't let you do something new, it lets you do it better.

A player can normally attempt a task to get free of something. You are able to spend speed/might/intellect points to improve the odds of success, and failure may mean damage.

Escape costs 2 speed points, but there is no task to attempt. The player escapes automatically with no task. There is no chance of failure (unless there is a GM intrusion coming!), and no chance of taking damage. All of this makes Escape far safer than a task.

The question explicitly contrasts Escape to defense tasks. But Escape also applies to non-combat situations. For example, a character tied up and left in a room could use the Escape ability to get out of the restraints. No kind of defense task will help you (though you could use a Speed/Might/Intellect task to attempt to escape anyway).

This is how I adjudicate abilities in Numenera. If an ability says you do something, you do it so long as it is allowed by the fiction.

This isn't all that powerful in most circumstances

In a comment, you mentioned that this seems powerful. Does it mean that a character can spend 2 speed to overcome a difficulty 9 challenge?

No. A difficulty 9 challenge is impossible. Unless you bring down the difficulty level, it may not be overcome by any means. In a logical sense this is an "unstoppable force meets immovable object" kind of problem. I would recommend leading with the fiction to adjudicate what happens.

Is this ability overly powerful for tasks that aren't impossible? The highest "possible" difficulty is 6. A fresh tier 1 character would have to be fairly invested to have decent odds at this, unless they have access to some assets to help.

On the other hand, Escape comes at a high opportunity costs. Abilities aren't plentiful, and choosing Escape means foregoing many others. It provides a significant bonus for a number of relatively uncommon situations. At higher tiers where the player is likely to have a higher effort score and speed edge, it's usefulness will be diluted.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ So to break free from a restraining crypto level 9 require a Speed task with difficulty 9, but a character with Escape can just spend 2 Intellect points and get free? Isn't it too overpowered? \$\endgroup\$
    – Ohmnibus
    Jun 13, 2020 at 21:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Ohmnibus Edited in response to your comment. Short answer - you can't use Escape to pass a difficulty 9 task, because those tasks are impossible. The benefits are good, but not overly powerful in most other circumstances. Your mileage may vary. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 13, 2020 at 23:56

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