In comics, pulps, cartoons, some episodic TV shows, and similar sources, it is often the case that the hero will display some ability or tactic that he or she has never used before. Even though it might be a generally useful and effective thing to do, it may never show up again.
If we wanted to, we could easily incorporate such a thing into many RPGs. In 4e D&D, this would be easy – allow players to swap out a single encounter power between sessions (or, perhaps, during an extended rest). In other systems, it might take a bit more creativity. In 3.5, this could be a feat swap, or the swapping of a single spell for some classes (such as the sorcerer or bard). In Exalted, this might be a charm in one of your caste abilities. In the Marvel RPG, this would likely be power stunts.
The idea is simple, and it is useful in addition to emulating certain genres. What does it get you?
- Variety: You aren’t always doing the same thing game after game.
- Adaptability: You can anticipate what abilities you have will be pointless in the coming session… and what abilities which you don’t normally have will be useful.
- Experimentation: Thinking about taking a new ability? Take it for a no-commitment test drive first.