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Yes, Virginia, You CAN Afflict Yourself

"If I have Affliction (Advantage, Flight), but not Flight, can I afflict myself and fly?"

It's a fairly common question, and understandably so, as the GURPS rules don't go into great detail on how Affliction (Advantage) interacts with the user. To get to the bottom of this, I disguised myself as a potted plant and hid in Sean Punch's house until he came home, at which point I administered the truth serum and interrogated him. Or I may have just emailed him -- I'm not sure; it was a while ago.

Either way, he agreed that the GURPS rules don't prevent anyone from afflicting themselves with their own Affliction -- the confusing blurb on p. 116 of Powers notwithstanding -- it's no different than shooting yourself in the foot with your own Crushing Attack.

So why would anyone take both Foo and Affliction (Advantage, Foo)? Isn't it always better to take the latter and just afflict yourself? Not necessarily. The downsides are threefold:

First, where most advantages work automatically, an afflicted advantage will always require a success roll. While the attack roll can be assumed to succeed, you must fail/make your HT roll for the Affliction to take effect. If it's a Malediction, you can choose not to resist, but you must succeed at your initial Will roll (since it becomes an activation roll instead of an attack roll.) Even the best of us roll the occasionally 17 or 18, and having to waste an action just to try again on the next turn can be anything from annoying to life-threatening, depending on the situation.

Second, once you're afflicted, you only have a limited version of the advantage -- limited in that you have no control over its duration and cannot end it early. In addition, you can't change the details on how it's being used midway. For example, you could use Affliction (Shrinking 5) to reduce your SM by two levels, but once shrunk, you could not shrink any further or return to normal size until the Affliction wears off.

Third, you have no access to any of the cool tricks from Powers. You can't add Temporary Enhancements to the afflicted ability, because you don't have the ability, you have an Affliction that provides it. So you could only add Temporary Enhancements, Extra Effort, etc., to the Affliction, not to the advantage which it inflicts. And because it's an Affliction, you cannot use the underlying advantage to Power Dodge. So if one super has Insubstantiality and the other has Affliction (Advantage, Insubstantiality), the first can Power Dodge an explosion to avoid all damage while the second cannot. No, Afflictions can only Power Parry, and only if the GM agrees that it's appropriate -- so at best, you might be able to justify "phasing away" 1d (per level of Affliction) of incoming damage, but no more.

Immediate-effect abilities (e.g., Affliction (Advantage, Warp)) don't suffer from the loss of duration control, but they usually suffer worse from the third set -- losing the ability to Warp instantly at -10 is a huge loss to the Warp ability, and you can't do that with Affliction (Advantage, Warp)! After all, Affliction requires an Attack maneuver to use, or a Concentrate maneuver if it has Malediction, and neither of those can be done either as a free action or out of turn. Warp has special rules which allow it to be used instantly, but Affliction does not (and should not), which limits it significantly. Similar issues apply to movement abilities: A character with Flight can move into the air with no effort, even as a Step or Retreat, but a character with Affliction (Advantage, Flight), must first take a full combat turn to give himself Flight, which can be a problem if unexpected disaster strikes.

So, feel free to take Affliction (Advantage, Invisibility) instead of Invisibility -- the ability to affect other people makes it versatile in its own way, but the lack of personal versatility will more than offset this. However, the best compromise may just be to take the two as Alternate Abilities to each other, which is themetically justified as well as tactically sound. The few additional points are unlikely to break your budget, and you can rest easy, secure in the knowledge that your ability to cloud their minds isn't going to fade away right as you're walking by the armed guards.


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