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I remember reading a power based/super hero like game where each character was allowed to list a few powers. Each power was defined by examples of what it was or wasn't possible to do with that power. Examples are given for what's possible at each of a number of difficulty levels; the mundane things that can be done without effort, difficult things that can be done but not necessarily reliably, taxing things that may be possible but stretch the limits of the power, and impossible things that the power can't accomplish (These aren't the exact difficulties used in the game). For example, a character's powers might be described as follows

Hurk, stone avenger

  • Summon Stone Hurk can summon large stones from the earth or create smaller stones in his hands. Larger or more intricate shapes are more taxing. mundane: create first sized rocks, raise or sink the ground up to the size of a cart, difficult: form stone into specific shapes, raise or sink the ground the size of a building, taxing: raise a castle, encase someone in a stone prison or fortification, raise a stone wall in reaction to an attack impossible: raise a mountain, create valuable minerals, create stone that isn't touching either Hurk or the ground
  • Living Earthquake When Hurk is angry, he breaks things relentlessly in pursuit of the target of his wrath. Even he cannot control his wrath. mundane: become angry with something. while angry destroy an undefended object, while angry resist attempts to mentally control him, difficult: while angry destroy an opponents armor or equipment, while angry resist attempts to physically control him, taxing: end his anger, while angry destroy a cart or vehicle, impossible: while angry, do anything other than relentlessly pursue and destroy everything between him and the target of his wrath

A character would have a small handful of such powers. In my imagining of the game, part of the purpose of the powers is for the characters to help define what is and isn't fictionally possible in the world, and how impossible it is for everyone else. If creating a stone structure is difficult for Hurk, stone avenger it is likely taxing, time-consuming, or impossible for everyone else.

As characters leveled up, they could either add new abilities to their powers or make existing abilities easier to use, for example moving something that was taxing before to be merely difficult.

What game is this?

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    \$\begingroup\$ It sounds fun, anyway. Like a somewhat-crunchier implementation of FATE in a Mutants and Masterminds setting. I want this. :D \$\endgroup\$ – gatherer818 Apr 12 '15 at 6:13
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The game I was reading might have been Worlds In Peril, intended to be a superhero adaptation of the Apocalypse World rules.

The similar sections from the October 2014 draft describe the following difficulties

  • Simple – what can you do with ease and so most often use your powers to do?
  • Difficult – what can you, and often do, use your powers to do, but requires concentration and control?
  • Borderline – what are some things that you have used your powers to do in the past, during times where you feared for your life or were pushed beyond your limit?
  • Possible – what are some things that you could probably do, or at least haven’t ruled out being able to do, in the future considering what you've already been able to do with your powers?
  • Impossible – what are you some things that you definitely would never be able to do, just beyond the limits of what you can do with your power no matter what?

Characters list these in their Powers Profile. They start with one thing they can do in each category. Characters that are more powerful can list more things in some categories at the expense of Bonds Points. When a character tries to do something that isn't in their profile they trigger the Push move.

Push

When you push your powers and concentrate to do something that is not on your Powers Profile sheet first determine if the power falls under Simple, Difficult or Borderline and then roll. On a 10+, you do it and can add it to your powers profile if it's not there already. On a 7-9, you can do it, but the EIC will offer you an ugly choice or hard bargain in order to do so, you also take a Minor Condition if it was Simple; a Moderate Condition if it was Difficult; or a Critical Condition if it was Borderline and cannot add it to your Powers Profile sheet. On a 6- you take a Condition as per a 7-9 and the EIC also makes a move.

Powers that are only Possible or at least aren't Impossible are used with the last-ditch Burnout move.

Burnout

When the situation is desperate and you put all you have into one last attempt to save another when they are about to die and let your powers loose because of it, roll+Bond with that person. On a 10+, you do something you've never done, but possible with your powers, tell the table what it is and add it to your Powers Profile. After doing so, you're hanging on by a thread and can do nothing but move and mumble a few words until you rest and recover (and now have 3 Critical Conditions); you may raise your Bond with them by 1 (if you Bond with them was negative, you may reset it to zero). On a 7-9, as a 10+, but make the Last Chance move upon completion. On a 6-, you do it, but you're Dead for Now (make the Dead for Now move).

Characters can advance their powers by spending Achievements. New Simple powers cost 1, Difficult powers 2, Borderline powers 3, and Possible powers 4 Achievements. An achievement is equivalent to being able to form one additional Bond. Extra powers described at character creation come at the cost of both the number of bonds and the strength of those bonds.

Ease of Fitting In                                Extra Bond Points  Extra Powers Defined
Occasionally difficult                            6                  1 simple
Frequently difficult                              5                  1 simple, 1 difficult
Almost Impossible to form long-term relationships 3                  2 simple, 2 difficult
Actively ostracized by most                       1                  2 simple, 2 difficult, 1 borderline

The maximum number of Bonds a character can form, or Bond Threshold starts at Number of PCs at character creation + 1 + Extra Bond Points. The starting bond threshold is also used as the number of Bond Points that can be placed into these bonds. This explains the discrepancy between the additional powers granted by Achievements and those granted at character creation for difficulty fitting in.

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