Abilities are the basic properties of all characters. Even without skills, a character will possess these innate traits to some degree.
This is the raw physical power which the character possesses, and it is tested in those situations where the character must lift, move, push, pull, or throw something which is unusually large or heavy. It also includes the character's ability to crush or break sturdy objects, hold down an enemy in combat, or other such trials of might.
People who are highly agile are good at jumping over pits, swinging from ropes or vines, escaping from bonds, and picking pockets. It has to do with balance, manual dexterity, hand-to-eye coordination, and limberness, and it can be tested quite often in action oriented adventures.
Not only is this how good the character is at resisting disease, but also how good they are at running long distances, dealing with poison, holding their breath, etc.. Health rolls are relatively uncommon, in normal combat situations, and are more likely to be used in situations involving disease, poison, and tests of endurance. Some characters may have secondary health dice, if they have resistances to one particular thing that exceeds their normal tolerances.
Often referred to as "knowledge of the world," this is a general measure of how much the character has experienced and how much education they have received. Older, smarter, or more travelled characters usually are more knowledgeable, and this ability is tested when a character needs to see if they know important information on government organizations, how a steam engine works, or similar feats of experience and wisdom. It is unlikely that you will roll knowledge, but the Storyteller may use this skill to determine what things a character should know about a setting or situation, so that the player can be informed, before the scene starts. Professional knowledges should be listed as skills, but knowledge of worlds other than the one from which your character originated should be listed with secondary dice. If your character has found the inn, and realised it is not in the world he or she is from, you can list Knowledge (Far Lands): Vague (d20).
Often called "powers of perception," the Storyteller will call for tests of this ability when the players have a chance to notice something in a scene that isn't readily apparent. This includes seeing hidden or obscure clues, hearing distant noises, or smelling that telltale whiff of poison... A character who excels in one or two areas of perception may have secondary dice for those senses, and the same for a character who has limited perception in a particular sense.
The ability to use magic is something that only some characters possess. There is no competency for magic, but only a notation of whether your character can use arcane magic, divine magic, or no magic at all. Arcane magic is usually a feature of the character's lineage. Kitsune, fae, and mermaids, for instance, are likely to have a talent for arcane magic. Divine magic is granted by gods, and frequently goes to their devotees. Priests, oracles, and temple prostitutes, for instance, are likely to have learned some divine magic. Arcane magics work poorly in divine settings, and divine magics work poorly in arcane settings, but both work equally well in the natural planes, so do not be surprised if your character's magic skills and bonuses work a little less well, in certain places.
Skills are most frequently defined by you, the player. There is no pre-set list of skills your character can study or specialise in, although commonly chosen skills involve professional choices your character may have made. Hiding, reading foreign languages, understanding mechanical diagrams, picking locks, playing instruments, magical aptitudes and spells, and using weapons are some examples of what to list in your character's skills.
Something about experience and learning skills goes here, I just don't know what it is.
The study of magic skills is open to characters who are in some way innately magical, and will frequently be restricted to one or two types of magic, based on the character's natural abilities and history. For instance, a fire elemental is likely to have magic that revolves around the use of fire, but those same fire magics would not necessarily be available to a dryad or a necromancer. In the event that a spell affects an area, rather than a single target, that area will not be larger than a 20 foot radius.
Bonuses and Flaws
Natural bonuses and flaws are traits that your character has because of their heritage or a dramatic event in their lives. These can not be altered via experience points. Often, they are things like shapeshifting, permanent wounds, elemental weaknesses, or creature abilities like a siren's song or a succubus's kiss. In some cases, they are circumstantial changes to skills or abilities, like a berserker gaining a smaller die in his primary weapon skill, but losing all ability to dodge, if he is defending his village. Occasionally, these may be added or removed by way of an adventure, a personal plot, focused on some aspect of your character.