There are three primary restrictions on the Powers that a Character can take.
1. They must be created using The Contract’s Power system
While we try our best to enable almost any Character concept, not every Power imaginable can be created via The Contract’s Power system. Often this is because we are still working on expanding the Power system and simply haven’t gotten around to adding the desired effect. Other times it is by design. In particular, Power behavior is always clearly defined when the Power is awarded, which means that effects which are extremely contextual or flexible are not possible in The Contract. Examples of these include a witch’s curse that manifests differently depending on the nature of the target’s regrets, or traditional “intuitive” magic that allows a Character to channel raw energy into a variety of effects that are not predetermined.
See the article on Incoming Improvements to the Powers System for more details.
2 Your Character must be eligible to take the Power
The Contract is opinionated about the balance of Powers. More potent Powers may require more than a single Gift to achieve. Your Character cannot achieve invulnerability on their first game merely because it fits their Character Concept! The cost of each Power is clearly defined, and Players may customize Powers so that they cost fewer Gifts. Generally Powers are granted with a cost of a single Gift and then future Gifts are sunk into the Power to improve it to the desired degree. Zero-Gift Powers are not valid and cannot be taken.
Your Character must also have achieved the required Status for a Power. Certain effects are restricted to Contractors that are Seasoned (10+ Victories) or Veteran (25+ Victories). This done sometimes for balance reasons, but more often to help with Scenario creation. GMs know what kind of effects they may be dealing with when they are designing a Scenario for Novice, Seasoned, or Veteran characters.
3. They must fit the Character's concept
This is the most important restriction of the three.
A Contractor's Powers must fit their Character Concept and paradigm. A celebrity chef Character should not be allowed to take a Power to track people through the forest. A child who was raised by wolves should not receive a Power that lets them hack computers.
We make no attempt to systematize which effects fit which Character Concepts. Instead we rely on Cell Leaders and Players to keep things in check.
In practice, this rule is not as restrictive as it may seem. We give Players full control over the flavor of their Powers, and so most effects can be justified for most Character Concepts. For example, maybe our celebrity Chef character can feed people a curry that is so pungent he can smell it on their breath for miles away, allowing him to track them. It's a stretch, but it's more likely to be accepted.
You're unlikely to run afoul of this rule if you don't choose Powers based on what your character "needs." Instead, start by thinking about what fits the Character's Concept. Let the concept be a map that leads to Powers, and you'll never have an issue.
Why do we care so much? Restricting Powers by Character flavor prevents several crucial failure modes for Cells in The Contract. It forces Characters to rely on each other for victory, to try out Powers they normally wouldn't, and it prevents game design ruts where challenges are solved in the same way over and over again. But the biggest risk is that Characters will no longer feel unique. The rainbow of colorful Characters is reduced to a muddy mess. Your favorite shonen anime becomes way less interesting if all the characters have the exact same moves.
A note on healing Powers
Healing Powers are more strictly restricted. You should only allow Healing Powers on Characters who can be described as Healers. This includes but is not limited to: doctors, surgeons, Chinese traditional medicine practitioners, chiropractors, veterinarians, psychic surgeons, televangelists, traditional witches, nurses, herbalists, pharmaceutical scientists, massage therapists etc.
Healing Powers can also be granted if they are appropriate for well-established archetypes. For example, a werewolf could take a Regeneration Power.
Be very strict to Players who justify tenuous connections between their Characters’ archetypes and healing. Just because some healers are psychic doesn’t mean all psychic characters get healing Powers.
See the article on Restrictions on Healing Powers for an in-depth explanation of why this rule exists.
This restriction can be relaxed slightly for Characters that have more than 15 Victories, as they can then move toward a more self-sufficient playstyle in preparation for becoming Veterans.
Oh, and Cell Leaders can veto Powers for whatever reason they want
If your Power passes the three requirements outlined above, there is very little chance of it being Vetoed by your Cell's Leader. However, Cell Leaders always have the final say in which Powers are allowed for the Characters in their Cells.
Here are some reasons Cell Leaders may choose to veto Powers
- The Power violates a house rule
- The Power's Description has too many balance implications or was not created in good faith
- The Power is not obviously supernatural even though the Base power does not specify that it isn't, and the Concealed Enhancement is not taken.
- The Power abuses the freedoms afforded by the Power system to nullify Drawbacks, create an infinite combo, or is otherwise unbalanced due to shenanigans
- The Power is restricted due to the Cell's chosen Setting (e.g. Hack may be restricted in a cyberpunk Setting)