This page outlines character policies. For a directory of characters, reference the character listings.
Choosing a character to play on Before the Dawn MUX is as simple and as complex as figuring out what you will enjoy, how it will fit into the game's setting and Theme, and which other characters you'll be able to play with. At the most basic level, this means selecting a character that is allowable here.
For example, while this is a fantasy game where many amazing things are possible, you can play a vampire in the style of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer or a werewolf in the style of Teen Wolf, but you can't play a superhero or a Jedi Knight. You need to fit in with the basic world and rules of the world, so be sure to read over the information about the game's world, the characters and types of creatures in it, and so forth.
It's also important to think about how your character will fit into that world. Who will your character interact with? What role-play hooks will they have? You should try to find a character, especially if it's your first character, who will allow for lots of opportunities for role-play, and the more story hooks you can build in, the better. It can be especially challenging to play a villain, so if you have that in mind, please be sure to read our guidelines on the subject.
Sometimes, we all have wild ideas that seem like fun, but be sure to ask yourself: will the character fit in on the game, and who will role-play with this character? If you're playing Lady Sunset Autumn Honey Purity Sunflower Rainbow the star elf ~vampyre~ (half), who will your character relate to? Where will she fit in? A character who's too outlandish, esoteric, or confusing to other players can make it really difficult to find role-play. So, while it's awesome to make a unique and interesting character with plenty of story hooks, be sure you're not writing yourself into a hole with something that's a bit too "out there."
In the end, staff (and many players) on the game are always willing to help you work out your concept. You're always encouraged to log into the game, ask questions, and work through your ideas. Even if the idea has a few issues with it, the odds are we can figure out how to make it work.
Character Types and Limits
As MU* veterans will know, the term "alternate characters" (usually shortened to "alts") refers to all of the characters one plays on a game. There are several types of characters: Main, Supporting, Guest Star, and Linked characters.
- Every player may have up to 3 may be Main Feature Characters on the game.
- Every player may have up to 5 Original Characters on the game.
- Every player's combination of Main FCs and OCs may not total more than 5.
- Every player may have up to 2 Guest Star Characters on the game.
- Every player may have up to 2 Supporting Characters on the game.
- Every player's combination of Guest Star and Supporting Characters may not total more than 3.
- Every player may have one set of Linked characters. (This is true whether one or both of the linked characters in the set are yours.)
- Players may have one specially "Adopted" character, who does not count toward their alt limit in any category.
Note: On the game, you can use the +alts command to display your character information.
This news file is for those largely interested in making an original character on Before The Dawn. Information on Feature Characters may be found BELOW. Original characters may be nearly any of the species available, and they may join in any game faction that their concept fits. See also notes on Factions. In addition, they may be directly inspired by any of the source materials noted in the game's Theme, or they may be more original concepts--but please note that they must still be generally compatible with the theme. If you would like to create an original character based off of a source, concept, or species that is not currently available, be sure to contact staff and discover what may be required to do so.
Players creating an original character may very well want to connect their character to an existing FC in their background. So long as this does not fundamentally alter the FC in some fashion, it is usually acceptable. (For example, if you want to play someone who went to school with and casually knew Scott McCall or Sam Winchester, that's probably fine. If you want to play the previously unknown fifth Halliwell sister, that is less likely to be accepted.) The player must contact staff about the issue as well as seek permission from any existing player of the character first, however.
Playing a Feature Character (FC) represents a fun and unique challenge. The most important thing to remember is to always know the character. Research them, learn them, and keep to the spirit of the character. Try not to fall into the trap of playing yourself in that FC's "skin." There are specific steps to be taken when attempting to apply for a FC. First and foremost contact staff to be certain the character you want to play is available. Do not just sign in as a FC and start the application. You may very well be wasting time that could be spent on making a character that is available if you do.
Feature Characters must be apped and played at the most plausible extension of their existence from the canon source material, up to cutoff, such as is available. Even if they have no established game history post-cutoff and considerable IC time has passed, they must follow the arc of continuity as much as possible. While the stories of some FCs are not well explored and their players should feel free to fill in those gaps, any major changes to the character will be subject to staff scrutiny during the approval process.
If the character you wanted is available but has role-play history on the game, it is important to learn that history as well. In most instances it is required to honor that history. (A good way to do this is to check to see if they are on +chars or have an established page on the game wiki.)
Feature characters introduced to any source after the cutoff are available to be applied for as well, though they may need some adaptation. Characters who have no prior introduction before their source's "canon cutoff" are not subject to being introduced in the timeline or the fashion they were in the original source material. However, such characters should appear as close in spirit to the canonical material as possible, even if they come from after the cutoff. For shows that are still ongoing, when new canon pertaining to a character's past is introduced, it should also be included if it does not conflict unduly with what has been established through role-play.
Post-approval, characters may of course evolve and change beyond their canonical origins. They may in time evolve and change quite a lot, though it is key that this happen through role-play, not simply be hand-waved so that it took place overnight or "off screen." Major changes to a character at the level of abilities or identity should be explored over role-play arcs that could last weeks or even months, depending on how significant a change is being made and how heavily one role-plays, but players should bear in mind that in playing a FC they are here to play the character, not to instantly rewrite that character into something they would prefer.
Please review the allowed sources we have at present, and remember that if you would like to add a source, you should consult with staff.
Main Feature Characters are the ones who would appear in the title sequence of a series: they're generally the most active in IC play, and they don't upset the game balance too much by existing because they're such active parts of the world that they both define and are defined by it. (Note that characters who appear in a series as guest stars may in many cases, for the purposes of the game, be treated as main characters if the player wants to elevate them to "main" status.)
It is strongly recommended but not absolutely required that of one's three main characters, only one character be exceptionally powerful. The others are certainly not required to be "low-powered," but should perhaps gravitate toward more "average" power level (or, if preferred, below average). This way we allow everyone the chance to play a "big gun" character, but we don't overwhelm the game with them and edge out the lower-powered characters who may also have much to contribute to role-play.
- Should have a significant presence in both day-to-day role-play and major events as much as is plausible for the player and character to do.
- These characters are expected to remain fairly active in role-play.
Support Feature Characters are the ones who are routinely part of the setting but not always (or even usually) involved in the main action. Sure, they may wander into the path of danger or discovery when the plot calls for it, but they also might just spend their time slinging drinks at the local watering hole or offering advice when it's needed. They may appear in RP as often as they like, but they should generally allow the "main characters" to play their roles, and supporting characters have plenty of excuse to stay out of the thick of things.
- Should have a noteworthy impact on day-to-day role-play but fairly limited impact on major events unless they have become central to a plot arc.
- Support characters may be freely emitted to fill in a scene if they are unplayed and it makes sense. However, their characters should remain essentially unaltered by emitted appearances. Large impacts on characters should be done when they are played--or at least as part of a plot.
- These characters are less scrutinized for active role-play.
Guest Star Characters
Guest Star Feature Characters are generally just as important to the story as Main characters, but they may not appear as regularly or become involved in the story quite as extensively as the main characters. Perhaps the Guest Star has other commitments (such as an off-grid location to worry about), is more of a recurring antagonist not meant for everyday play, or actually dwells on another plane of existence (such as being primarily a spirit, even a resident of Heaven or Hell). It should be noted that Guest Star characters may or may not have held this status in terms of their role in a source since this is determined more by how the player is apping the character than on their canonical depiction.
- Should have less impact on day-to-day role-play but make a large impact when they do show up, whether by challenging the Main characters or rendering critical aid.
- These characters are less scrutinized for active role-play.
Usually, alternate characters of the same player should not interact extensively. We take a somewhat more flexible view of this than many games, so the point that our main concern is that characters are played to facilitate role-play, not to metagame and help out their own alts.
That means alts of the same player shouldn't share information, do each other favors, or otherwise exist to "help out" each other. They should also not be best friends or specific enemies unless they're linked alts. However, they could be members of the same group or social circle if they aren't going to need to interact in every scene.
Our reasoning behind this is simple: Our goal, here, is to get people role-playing and having fun. If a character is sitting unplayed, then no one is having fun with that character. So, if a player can manage running two characters who have some degree of interaction, then it may be allowed.
There are a couple of specific cases when alt interaction is always fully allowed, however:
- Alternate characters may interact if they have approval from staff to do so for a specific purpose in service of a plot that has been worked out with cooperation from staff.
- Alternate characters may interact if the two characters are linked alts.
Linked characters are an experiment on our part. It has long been an assumption on most MU*s that alts should never interact with one another. This stems from the assumption that it's bad for players to control more than one character at once, generally because of a concern that unscrupulous players will try to "cheat" and game the system somehow.
Thus, the experiment: A linked character may be "spoofed" (that is to say, emitted or played by proxy) via the other character it is linked to--even if the character is run by the same player. So, if Player A and Player B have linked alts, they can emit each other in scenes. But if Player A has Character 1 and Character 2 as linked alts, the same holds true.
This comes with obvious limitations. Primarily, if the same player controls both characters, then the "linked" character, especially if an FC, should not be of equal "main character" status as the character to which it is linked (with certain exceptions, noted below). The entire purpose of this policy is to round out rosters by filling characters who are less likely to be played, not to let one player control two popular characters.
For instance, if players wanted to "link" Liam Dunbar and Mason Hewitt, , this would be fairly reasonable. Liam could emit Mason. If someone wanted to play both Liam and Edward Cullen, then linking them might not be as acceptable. A different but perhaps ideal example of linked alts would be Ethan and Aiden from Teen Wolf. As twins, the characters would definitely need to interact, but their powers also involve them merging together into a single being. As such, it would be problematic for one of the two to be unavailable--so either one player or two separate players might "link" them.
Of course, staff acknowledges that this is an increased responsibility. Players would still need to keep both characters reasonably active, and if at any point difficulties arose, the linked alt might need to be relinquished. In addition, staff asks that anyone picking up an FC linked alt be prepared to allow a new player with an interest in a linked alt to be able to pick up the character unless some reason exists (such as Ethan and Aiden, above) why that might not work.
Essentially, this policy invites players to see themselves slightly more as writers or GMs, controlling an additional character for the good of the game as a whole. It is a radical idea, an experiment, but it is one that we hope will only encourage more role-play.
- Linked alts may be emitted via the character to which they are linked, as though the character was in the scene.
- Alts may only be linked by the choice of the player(s) involved. This cannot be done against someone's will.
- If a player runs an FC as a linked alt but chooses to list that FC as open for apps, that FC will not count against the player's total number of alts. This means the character can be picked up at any time, and the player is just running them in scenes to keep them active. If this is the case, the player should avoid burdening the linked alt with any needlessly complex or character-altering continuity, as a courtesy.
- Two Main FCs should not be played as linked alts, though a Main FC and a Main OC or two Main OCs may be -- however, in any given scene, only one should be acting as a main character, while the other should take a supporting role.
In some cases, there may be unplayed characters connected to your own who are highly important to your character's life. In these cases, it may be appropriate for you to emit those characters as NPCs when they are needed. To do so, you must have specific staff permission (such as a +request or as part of an approved plot), and one way to have that in an ongoing manner is to submit the NPC as a "Standard NPC" for your character. (Check out the final chargen room on the game for instructions.) When another character is approved as a Standard NPC for your character, you may emit that character freely within the following guidelines:
- All Standard NPCs must have approved character objects and +sheets on the game. If one does not yet exist, you can work with staff to get one created. (You may need to write the app if staff lacks the knowledge or ability to do so.)
- All Standard NPCs must be unplayed characters. If someone picks up the character, then you lose the privilege of running the character as a Standard NPC for as long as that character is being played.
- Standard NPCs must be run in a way that leaves them essentially intact and easily accessible for future appers. Outside of approved plots, they should not undergo any lasting changes so that they will remain as accessible as possible to future potential players.
Banned concepts may not be played on the game.
- None listed yet
Restricted concepts require special staff permission to get approved on the game.
- "Alpha" Shifters or were-creatures
Overused concepts are much more difficult to get approved on the game.
- None listed yet
Agents of Human Authority
These characters should be exceptionally rare. Any player character agents of human authority are the exception, not the rule. Dale Cooper is highly-respected but still has to have a damn good reason to call in connections and colleagues, who are generally skeptical to any surreal goings-on. Fox Mulder is regularly the target of derision and struggles to accomplish anything. Albert Rosenfield and Dana Scully, for Cooper and Mulder respectively, are more representative of the majority...though it should be noted that Albert and Scully are far more forgiving and accepting.
Any players should be aware that they are not going to reveal the truth about the supernatural until or unless there’s a plot towards that end. There are several things in place to protect the secrecy of the supernatural. The word "occult" means "secret" or "inscrutable," or even "incomprehensible to the uninitiated." Some players may be frustrated by the limitation, so it’s important to let them know before they get into it. The X-Files went for basically a decade constantly setting the agents back, so it’s not too shocking.
Authority figures like police or FBI are likely going to have to keep their organizations in the dark. Even Noah Stilinski in Teen Wolf, despite being aware of the supernatural goings-on, has to take care that the truth doesn’t go beyond trusted individuals. Not only would it endanger some of them, but it might risk his job or his life. Charlie Swan, similarly, will be limited in what he can realistically do. They usually won’t be able to involve themselves in a situation where they will have to account for too many specifics unless it is a life or death problem.
These characters may not be able to participate in numerous situations. Bureaucracy is a consideration, even if we handwave a large amount of it. They can always try to participate privately, not in an official capacity, but that brings up other considerations. It’s not going to be easy to play a character tied to mundane authority, because they tend to function as a narrative obstacle to the vast majority of supernatural characters.
Most characters are by default not going to trust any character formally involved in authorities. This will present complications to role-play unless the character is easily or already tied into the proceedings, like the aforementioned Sheriff Stilinski. But even he has to be very careful of what he does and how he involves himself, and just because he might be the father of a friend doesn’t make him instantly trustworthy to everyone. It took into season 3 of Teen Wolf for Stilinski to learn the truth, and it was into the last book of Twilight before being revealed to Charlie.
Approved characters must log into the game a minimum of once every 30 days, or they risk going into idle status. Unapproved characters must log in at least once per week. Feature Characters who enter idle status may be placed up for re-adoption by new players if they enter idle status.
Feature Character applications should be completed within two weeks, barring extenuating circumstances. If you're having difficulties, please just contact staff (you can page them or, if none is available, use +request, which is explained on-game via '+jhelp request'). Original Characters may take as long as they need to complete applications.
If a Feature Character is meeting minimum login times but is consistently unavailable for role-play and does not demonstrate some kind of activity, staff may conference with this person and may determine that the character needs to be placed up for re-adoption. To track this, players are asked to +tag each other (use '+help +tag' on game) in each scene when they play, thus enabling staff to track how many days out of every month the character is active, as well as how widely they are playing, when, and with whom. FCs, especially faction leaders, are expected to be regularly active and should be actively playing with the majority of the members of their factions each month.
If a Feature Character is meeting minimum login times but is consistently unavailable for role-play and does not demonstrate some kind of activity, staff may conference with this person and may determine that the character needs to be placed up for re-adoption.
To track this, players are asked to +tag each other ('+help +tag' on game) in each scene when they play, thus enabling staff to track how many days out of every month the character is active, as well as how widely they are playing, when, and with whom. FCs, especially faction leaders, are expected to be regularly active and should be actively playing with the majority of the members of their factions each month and should appear in role-play weekly. FCs who do not receive +tags for role-play will be considered idle.
- At two weeks without RP, FCs will receive anactivity notice via @mail.
- After three weeks without RP, Main FCs may be placed up for application.
- After four weeks without RP, Guest Star and Support FCs may be placed up for application.
- After being idle for two weeks, FCs will be placed up for application.
- Weekly idle checks will be made at some time each Sunday.
- Idle-removed players cannot re-app the alt for a minimum of one month.
Players may avoid idling out when they cannot play by setting a +vacation. This is done using the +vacation command (+help +vacation).
Rules about vacations:
- Vacations lasting longer than 30 days should be discussed with staff ahead of time, as that is a long time to leave an FC unplayable.
- If you do not post a message to the Vacation and Away Notices board that explains where your character is or what they're doing during this time, staff reserves the right to invent excuses for them so players are not left hanging by their absence, especially if they are a faction leader.
- Characters who go more than a week past their posted vacation date may be opened up for new players.
- If a player loses a character due to inactivity beyond their control, they may re-app it with staff approval. If another player has picked up the alt in the interim, then while we are sorry to see the original player lose access to the character, we must allow the new player to keep the character, as otherwise it is unfair to them.
- When possible, we will negotiate and work with players, but staff reserves the right to enforce all vacation and activity rules.
Please note that staff always prefers to work with people when possible. We don't want to be hard-asses about this stuff! Please always feel free to come to us if there are issues, and we'll help however we can.
Playing the Character
Of course, part of role-playing is playing the character in a reasonable and responsible manner that fits with the game's theme.
- Main Article: Role-Playing Rules
Characters on the game have a minimum age of 13 years old. This allows for characters to be young and innocent if the concept requires it, but it also avoids the awkwardness that comes with trying to deal with characters who aren't yet teenagers.
Characters may be, in literal or chronological terms, younger than this, but in terms of their psychology and appearance, they must be functionally at least thirteen years old.
As a point to consider, the younger a character is, the more scrutiny they will draw if they are out having dangerous adventures. So, it is helpful to think about, if you're making a younger character, how they're able to do so and to have adventures instead of just ending up in a group home.
The closer to the lower end of the age minimum that characters are, the more scrutiny will be applied to any romantic or intimate role-play that they engage in. Innocent hand-holding and such is acceptable, but we hope that it is common sense that child characters shouldn't be involved in overtly sexual role-play.
Applications and Updates
Character applications may be completed by going through the character generation (or "chargen") rooms, located in the game's OOC area. Just follow the steps, be sure to complete all sections, and ask staff if you have any questions.
For character updates, just do the same. However, please note that major character updates should be spaced a minimum of 30 days apart, starting after the player initially enters role-play with a character.
Skills are rated at each of the following levels. If a character does not have a skill listed, then they are considered "Untrained" in that skill.
This level indicates useful trained ability in a skill, but it acknowledges that the character still has much to learn before becoming fully proficient in using it. They can often get results, but it can be a challenge.
- Academics: You have fairly typical high-school-level knowledge of most academic subjects.
- Combat: You have training, such as self-defense courses, or limited practical experience.
- Lore: You know the basics and perhaps a few secrets, such as an apprentice or dabbler.
This level indicates greater experience and refinement in a skill, up to the level of a seasoned professional. The competent character knows exactly what he is doing and can usually get solid results every time.
- Academics: You have fairly typical college-level knowledge of most academic subjects.
- Combat: You have enough training and experience to be highly effective in a fight.
- Lore: You are a solid practitioner, well-versed in the subject, such as an experienced professional.
This level indicates ability beyond what most will ever attain in a skill. The true expert excels at the skill to the point that they may be a true master of their craft. They are almost always able to get results, if results are possible.
- Academics: You have professor-level knowledge of at least one academic subject.
- Combat: You are a veteran warrior who might casually decide to fight a horde of ninjas.
- Lore: You are a master; it's likely you have forgotten more arcane lore than most will ever know.
Special powers are rated at the following levels. Note that these levels are intentionally broad; as such, there may be characters who in their source canon fall more at the "low" or "high" end of a range, but for game mechanic simplicity, these are the scales we're working with. You can fudge the details as needed in your skill and power descriptions, but in general characters in the same "weight class" are assumed to be on fairly even footing. Also, please note that when statting abilities you should err on the lower side; characters may have moments of big, splashy effects that go beyond their normal limits, but that is more of a narrative device than an everyday ability. Think of this as the character's more moderate ability level, working well within their limitations, and try to avoid grabbing for higher power levels than are needed. (This way, we can focus on storytelling instead of power-gaming.) High power is certainly not bad, but the main goal is to make interesting characters who can interact with others in a fun way--not to just dominate everyone they encounter.
- Main article: Magic
For abilities that are empowered human traits, "Basic" is considered equal to "Human-level," so you never need to add a "Strength" power rated at "Basic." That is assumed unless otherwise stated. However, for a power like Telepathy, which baseline humans usually lack, "Basic" is a feasible power level. Examples of Basic powers are:
- Toxins equivalent to a mild hallucinogen or sedative.
- Mental influence akin to simple compulsion or hypnosis that can be resisted by those of moderate to strong (Competent) willpower.
- The ability to cast limited magic, such as minor to moderate hexes, simple illusions, basic warding, scrying, or apprentice-level evocation.
- The ability to travel (either via great speed, time dilation, or effective teleportation) up to a few miles in seconds.
Most supernatural creatures (Vampires, Human-form Werewolves, etc.) tend to have "Enhanced" level physical traits, as seen in most of the media that depicts them. For non-physical powers, this is the level of the unusually potent, akin to a particularly effective user of a power. At the enhanced level, it is generally preferred to assemble similar powers into a group, such as "spellcasting" or "physique" rather than listing various schools of magic or separate physical traits, like strength, dexterity, and toughness. Traits that differ from this level, of course, should be listed separately. Examples of Enhanced powers are:
- Physical strength sufficient to bend and twist metal bars, smash through most non-armored structures, and break through a brick wall with sustained moderate effort. Usually able to push up to a few tons and dead lift a small motor vehicle.
- Agility up to several times that of human norms, allowing one to catch arrows with moderate effort or dodge bullets with a bit of luck. This also allows for visibly enhanced running speed and reflexes, perhaps ten to twenty times human norms.
- Toughness or regeneration sufficient to either shrug off or endure non-lethal wounds (as defined by the character type) from personal-level weaponry (swords, rifles, shotguns) without great loss of ability. Minor wounds heal almost instantly, and even severe wounds heal within a few hours to a few days, usually "off screen."
- Senses up to the level of an animal, such as the scenting ability of a bloodhound, the hearing of a wolf, or the night vision of an owl.
- Natural weapons up to the potency of a sword or firearm, such as a rifle or shotgun.
- Toxins equivalent to a severe hallucinogen, strong euphoric, fast-acting sedative, or poison lethal to normal humans.
- Mental influence akin to overt domination, such as holding another in one's thrall. Such powers can only be resisted by mystic defenses or exceptional (Expert) personal willpower.
- The ability to cast magic on a larger scale, such as potent hexes, complex illusions, potent warding, expanded scrying, or wizard-level evocation.
- The ability to travel (either via great speed, time dilation, or effective teleportation) up to a few hundred miles in seconds.
The "Supreme" level is reserved for the strongest of the strong. For example, gods or full "man-wolf" werewolves might have Supreme level physical strength. Other powers enhanced to this level tend to affect an unusually large area or have extreme, almost excessive potency. At the Supreme level, it is not acceptable to assemble similar powers into a group, so rather than listing "spellcasting" or "physique" you would list "Evocation" or "Strength." Since powers of this level are more significant, they must be more focused in scope. Examples of Basic powers are:
- Physical strength sufficient to bend and twist metal girders, smash through armored doors or stone walls, and break through a bank vault with sustained moderate effort. Usually able to push up to 1-2 dozen tons and dead lift a large motor vehicle.
- Agility up to many times that of human norms, allowing one to catch bullets with an effort and perform physical feats that seem to defy physics. This also allows for exceptionally enhanced running speed and reflexes, perhaps up to fifty times human norms.
- Toughness or regeneration sufficient to be completely unharmed by personal-level weaponry (even heavy blades or military-grade firearms) and either shrug off or endure even heavy weapons fire (such as armor-piercing fire or RPGs) for non-lethal wounds (as defined by the character type) without great loss of ability. Even serious wounds may heal in seconds.
- Senses beyond the ken of nature, such as telescopic or microscopic vision, hearing 100+ times human capability, the ability to analyze chemical compounds by taste or smell, or approximate dowsing magic by touch alone.
- Natural weapons up to the potency of a chainsaw or rocket-propelled grenade.
- Toxins sufficient to completely alter the perceptions of another or poisons lethal to those with Enhanced resistances. There is a greater chance of these toxins being effective over a large area.
- Mental influence akin to mass hypnosis or extreme domination that can be partially resisted by those of Expert willpower or those with Enhanced level mystic wards.
- The ability to cast magic on a master level and expanded scale, such as reality-altering hexes, swift planet-wide scrying, virtually impregnable warding, or grandmaster-level evocation.
- The ability to travel (either via great speed, time dilation, or effective teleportation) up to intercontinental distances in seconds
- Note that having any Supreme-level trait is a big deal, and having more than one, perhaps two, is extremely unlikely.
A signature ability is a specific trait that is inherently tied to who the character is. It's not a power fully under their command, as it only surfaces in particular situations, and in many ways it is often bigger than they are. It might be based on their personal powers, abilities, or skills--but it can just as easily be something that happens around them, as nature itself or the world around them responds to something that might be a feature of their abilities or might just be impossible to really quantify.
Something fairly specific must happen to trigger the activation of a signature ability. It might be that the character must be supremely angry, beyond what any normal circumstance would allow, or that a loved one must be in mortal danger. Generally, the more powerful the ability, the more specific its trigger must be. These abilities generally don't last for long, so much as they cause one immediate or short-term effect, but in some cases they may last longer, depending on the particulars of the ability.
Signature abilities have no set power level, as they can be as powerful as a particular situation requires, but they don't grant automatic success, either. Essentially, when they kick in some significant aspect of the immediate circumstances of a scene will shift in response to the ability. The specific effect of a signature ability must be defined on the character sheet, but it should always fit closely with who the character is, what triggers the ability, and any other aspects that define the ability.
In adding such an ability to your sheet, as per the instructions in the game's chargen area, be sure to explain what triggers the ability, what it does or allows them to do, and how long it generally lasts. Staff will approve each ability on a case-by-case basis, considering how the ability fits the character and reflects their identity, how balanced it is in terms of impact on the character and the game, and how much it seems designed to enhance storytelling rather than simply being an extra power for the character.