Unknown Armies 3rd edition Identity questions

Hello, I'm thinking of starting a UA 3rd edition campaign soon, and I'm rereading Book One: Play and have some questions about mundane Identities with regards to when you can/cannot roll them.

Obviously Identities substitute for an ability, and can be rolled in that abilities place. My first question is whether you can also sub in the identity if the ability that the identity replaces isn't relevant, but fictionally you can justify using the skills the identity taught you. For example, maybe my Identity is Lifeguard, which substitutes for Fitness. During the game my character is trying to perform CPR on someone in the middle of a fight, which is probably a Knowledge roll. Can I substitute my Lifeguard ability because being a Lifeguard likely taught me CPR?

A related question to this regards the "Of Course I Can..." features. My original assumption was that this just flavours the Identity and tells us something about it, is this correct or do they also have mechanical implications? Lifeguard is an example Identity in Book One: Run, and has 'Perform CPR' as one of its "Of course I cans". So does this mean that if I found myself in the above situation, I could do CPR without a roll even in a fight? Or could I sub in the Lifeguard ability, or would I be forced to use the relevant standard Ability (probably Knowledge) because Lifeguard doesn't substitute for Knowledge?

This also concerns the Unique feature for Identities. Are Unique features always rolled, sometimes rolled, or never rolled? How do Unique features differ from Of Course I Cans?

Finally, I have a question about Casts Rituals. This is obviously an Identity feature, and the book states that if you don't have Casts Rituals as an Identity feature, Secrecy is rolled instead. Should I therefore take this to mean that an Identity that Substitutes for Secrecy cannot be used to cast Rituals? I can't find anywhere in the book that this is outright stated, but it would make Casts Rituals always worse than Substitutes for Secrecy.

I'm very sorry about the long post, and doubly so if this is clearly answered in the books somewhere.

You roll Identity for ANYTHING that plausibly falls into that Identity. (As covered by the I'm a _____, OF COURSE I can ______.)

The Identity ALSO substitutes for all checks with a specific Ability, even if they don't directly or obviously fall into that Identity. I find that the rationale for this can usually be most clearly seen with Fitness: You're an Acrobat or a Prizefighter or a Triathlete, so you're just generally pretty fit, right?

(You can also play with this a bit to refine your Identity: A Spy who substitutes for Violence is a slightly different Spy than one who substitutes for Connect.)

Re: Rolling Unique. Still follow the normal guidelines for when to roll and when not to roll the dice. Is the outcome uncertain? Roll. Is it not uncertain? Don't.

Re: Casts Rituals. Note that Secrecy only works with Gutter Magick (if you have a hardened notch in Unnatural). It doesn't work with Minor or Major Rituals.

This does mean that there's only the most marginal use case for creating an Identity that both substitutes for Secrecy AND has Use Gutter Magick as a feature. So... don't do that. :wink:

(Use Gutter Magick is really there just in case to cover the oddball situation where it's necessary. IIRC, none of the sample Identities in the book even use it.)

Good questions!

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Thank you, this all makes sense!

The only thing I'm still unsure about following your post is Unique. Given how rolling Identities/Of Course I Can works, this makes Unique features seem like they're not worth taking a lot of the time. On Page 50 of Book One: Run there's an Electrician that has Unique Feature: Build & Evaluate Electrical Devices AND Unique Feature: Repair or Demolish Electrical Devices. Surely these ought to have come under Of Course I Cans?

The Police Officer on page 52 has 'Of Course I Can... Reasonably request entry to most places'. In a game about obsessed weirdos trying to change the world, this seems like it has loads of potential to be useful, so why isn't it a unique feature?

I'd assume that the idea is that Unique features are there if an Identity seems like it would potentially be so useful that a Feature should be paid as the cost, but this is pretty messy, and as far as I see isn't made explicit by the text. The book entry on Unique on page 45 mentions that Unique features are any recurring action that you can talk your GM into. Should I take this to mean that when GMing I should be careful that the players aren't rolling the same Identity under Of Course I Can to take the same actions/solve the same problems, unless they've taken a Unique feature?

This isn't a huge issue for me, I'm sure myself and my players can figure it out at the table, but I'd be interested in some insight into this mechanic nonetheless.

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Unique is really designed as a catch-all for anything not covered by the other categories, so it ends up inevitably having some muddiness to it.

This is all about layers of specificity to make it as clear as possible between player and GM so that (a) the player is clearly signalling what they want their character to be about and (b) they're on the same page about what the identity will allow.

Like, you could technically just say "Computer Programmer" and nothing else. The Of course I can.... stuff, though, defines exactly what the player means and intends by "Computer Programmer," and gives the GM a structured opportunity to provide feedback.

And you could just leave it there. But the Features allow the player to further say, "And this specifically includes the ability to hack into computer systems without authorization." (unique feature) And maybe the GM says, "I think that's already covered by the identity. Are you sure it needs to be a feature?" But, regardless, the player is asserting that this is the thing they'll always be able to roll no matter what.

For example, the Trucker has smuggling as a unique feature. For some people that might be a given ("yeah, sure, all truckers know enough about customs checks that they can figure out how to smuggle stuff"). But for others it's clearly outside the normal lines of Trucker, so it's a unique feature.

For the police officer example, the fact that "reasonably request entry to most places" isn't a Feature means that the GM can rule that it can't be rolled if, for example, they're trying to gain access to a military base or a foreign embassy. But if the player made it a Feature of the identity that they can "use their authority to request access to places they normally couldn't go", then they SHOULD be allowed to roll at the military base and foreign embassy. (They might still fail the roll, of course, but they'll be able to roll.)

From the rulebook: "Non-paranormal identities have two additional features, two circumstances where they definitely come into play, above and beyond the "Of course..." elements and the free substitution."

In the Electrician example, I think the player and/or GM is interpreting "tinkering with and creating original electrical devices" as not automatically falling into the purview of "person who maintains electrical equipment." Furthermore, the GM seems to think that this is so valuable that it needs to be split into two different features.