What Is An Appropriate Advantage?
Characters can use advantages that are appropriate to the action's focus but what counts as appropriate? This is left entirely to the Game Leader and the group to decide. Making these decisions is as much a part of the game as playing a character.
These discussions are also part of the creative process that is at the heart of all role-playing games. Deciding that the magic spell Zap! can be used with a Spite advantage because the character's magic power thrives on inflicting pain adds just as much to the game as their back-story about a lost tribe.
The beauty of role-playing games is that they create a shared world in the imagination of the players that is unique to that particular group of players. Another group playing exactly the same adventure would have a similar but distinct world of their own. This is why the group as a whole, not the Game Leader, decides what advantages are appropriate. Everyone playing has a stake in the shared world and everyone has a right to guide and shape that world.
Game Mechanics and The Golden Rule
The style of a game is reflected by which advantages are considered appropriate for an action. Dark, gritty and realistic games will tend to be more restrictive whereas action-film, gung-ho space-opera type games will tend to allow almost any combination. Which style a group leans towards is a matter of taste and has no impact on how the game works as long as it is applied equally to the characters and monsters.
However, there are a few game mechanics that force advantages to be used in certain ways. The + (Keyword+) keyword is the prime example and appears to conflict with the Golden Rule - “There is no right or wrong way to combine advantages.”
The Skill+ and similar keywords are used when the advantage does something over and above a normal action. For example, the Stunning Blow advantage does life damage and potential damage in the same action. The Skill+ keyword makes the advantage more limited than, say, a Brawn advantage because it cannot be used on its own. This is the cost the character pays for the additional power that the advantage gives. If these costs were routinely ignored, it gives an unfair boost to characters with those advantages.
Keeping the game fair is essential for the continued enjoyment of all the players. Whenever a player argues that an advantage should be usable despite its keywords, the impact on the game overall needs be considered as well as its appropriateness. The Golden Rule always applies but, in these circumstances, a higher threshold should be expected in justifying the advantage's use.