Bending is a very spiritual discipline where a Bender connects with their element and directs it to their will through ritualised movement – commonly martial arts. It is both more and less constrained and powerful than Alchemy. It tends to crude, large effects for little cost. It is related to Dresden Files RPG Evocation and the Channeling magic system described in the Toolkit (TK: 131).
The Bending skill reflects characters’ connection with their element and practise in controlling it. However unlike most skills, it generally works only in conjunction with others (particularly Fight and Athletics). Think of it this way, Bending enables a bender to connect themselves – their body – with their element, but conducting/ controlling the element through movement is a different skill. A character with a deep connection but poor form can move mountains – but not aim them well; whereas a character with a less refined connection but impeccable form can take their small elemental control (one boulder) and send it exactly where they intend.
Benders cannot create their element, only take control of it. Bar firebenders, who can create fire out of apparent thin air. However, this is because there is heat and oxygen everywhere. They merely must supply the fuel from their own chi – or perhaps the various fire spirits of the world share some. There is no mechanic representing this directly, otherwise firebenders would be a severe disadvantage.
Bending is also used for connecting to the Spirit World and perceiving spirits in the Waking World. This is a subtle art and much more difficult to master.
Overcome: Not a common thing for Bending to be used directly. Two main forms would be in overpowering another’s control over some of your element (I.e. chi tug of war for a hunk of rock). The other would be in piercing spiritual veils or forcing your will on a spirit (not recommended).
Create an Advantage: Again, Bending is normally used to achieve this indirectly. However, you could use this to centre yourself and gain an aspect like “Attuned to the Local River”, to invoke later on in the scene.
Also it can be used to create barriers. To place one between two zones, make a check against 0, the result indicates the difficulty to bypass (and stress track of) the barrier.
Attack: Bending isn’t normally a direct offense. It is channelled through a bender’s fighting form. However, spirits, spiritual constructs, and possibly alchemic spells may be effected. Benders who are extremely well trained can use a shared connection to an element to influence others’ spiritual state.
Defend: Bending can be used as a defence against physical attacks on its own. This represents a crude, instinctual response. Eg. Pulling a wall of water up in front of yourself.
This is similar to Evocation, but a simpler and less risky for the user. When making a bending attack a bender first rolls Bending to take control of their element. The result determines how many shifts of bonus effects they can add to their action (see below), normally a Fight roll.
Unused shifts can be accumulated, provided character achieves at least a Mediocre (+0) Bending roll. If they don’t (or roll -4 before adding Bending skill), their control slips and they have to begin controlling their element all over again. Unlike Dresden there is no constant mental stress for bending. Instead the risk is in your misses becoming environmental hazards.
Shifts can spent to:
- 1 shift = 1 weapon rating on your attack (these can be spent of separate targets, sharing the Fight target roll).
- 1 shift per weapon rating to hit all targets (friend or foe) in a zone.
- Shifts can be saved to boost a Bending defence rolls until your next turn.
- Any Create Advantage you could do normally (see above).
- Shifts can be turned into armour for the bender (these cannot be placed on others since it requires bending to maintain and move. Even encasing an ally bender of the same element with armour is impossible since they would have to take control – and in the changeover the armour would fail). This armour is temporary, all damage it soaks up weakens it (so Armour 2 in the face of 1 stress would become Armour 3; 2 stress would become Armour 4; 3 stress would be destroyed). However excess stress is not taken as damage.
- 1 Shift = Armour 4 (damage taken maxes at 4)
- 2 Shift = Armour 3 (damage taken maxes at 3)
- Barriers can also be created (see above).
Elemental Baggage – Emotional and Spiritual
Each element has stereotypes associated with it which are reflected by its benders. Firebenders are hot tempered, airbenders can be flighty. These are only generalities, many benders deviate from them.
These inclinations are epitomised by the spirits. Spirits are generally connected to an element, even if they are not elementals themselves. Spirits are not human. Their worldviews are often at odds to humanity’s, even their bender cousins. See Spirits (p. x) for more.
A skilled bender can affect the metaphysical, emotional versions of their element. A firebender can fan the flames of a crowd’s anger, or a waterbender get people to be more flexible in their thinking. This is not mind control, more focused emotional manipulation. The greater someone’s connection to an element the more they can be manipulated by it. That is, a bender has an easier time manipulating other benders of their element, than people of their nation, than anyone else.
Mechanically, this is enacted in a Bending create advantage action, opposed against the target’s Will. The created aspect then can be invoked (for a Fate point) by the bender.