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I've noticed that some abilities don't seem to share cooldowns with each other. The various grenade abilities, for instance, and the Vanguard's Nova biotic. The Sentinel's Tech Armor also doesn't cause a cooldown to turn on (though it does to detonate).

Which abilities are off the shared cooldown? What about ammo powers?

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I thought grenades were the only weird ones with cooldowns. Ammo powers don't have cooldowns, do they? – Ben Brocka Mar 9 '12 at 22:26
@BenBrocka It's not much, but it's there. They don't cause a cooldown, but they respect it. – Raven Dreamer Mar 9 '12 at 22:30
Really? I'll have to test that when I get home. No powers when you're cooling down? – Ben Brocka Mar 9 '12 at 22:35
@BenBrocka Pretty sure. Grenades, yes, change ammo, no. – Raven Dreamer Mar 9 '12 at 22:36
@Raven are either one of these answers sufficient to satisfy your question yet? – l I Mar 12 '12 at 22:05
up vote 5 down vote accepted

There's technically three types of powers in Mass Effect: Active Powers, Grenades and Passive Abilities.

Active powers a single Global Cooldown. A skill either activates the Global Cooldown or it doesn't. Skills that don't activate a cooldown are only limited by how quickly you can perform the action (the time it takes to switch ammo/throw a grenade).

Most powers listed as a base power here qualify as Active. These are your standard attacks and always cause a cooldown.

Passive powers are always active and don't have cooldowns, simple enough. Ammo powers are technically passive, and you can always switch ammo regardless of cooldown. Tech Armor is basically a passive power unless you detonate it.

Grenades don't use a cooldown either, and if something seems like an "active" power and it doesn't activate the cooldown, that's because it's technically a grenade. Proximity mines, Nova and Sentry Turrets are all technically grenades.

Nova has a "cooldown" that's actually based on your Biotic Barrier (the purple "shield" Vanguards have). You can't use Nova if your Biotic Barrier is empty, but it otherwise ignores cooldowns like a grenade.

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what about Nova, is that a special case? – l I Mar 9 '12 at 22:34
And the turrets? – Raven Dreamer Mar 9 '12 at 22:36
The Turret is technically a grenade and nova is based off your biotic barrier. Are there any other exceptions I should note? I'm looking through the Wiki – Ben Brocka Mar 9 '12 at 22:37
Nova is technically a grenade as well, it's just that instead of drawing off your supply of grenades, it draws off of your barrier. – LessPop_MoreFizz Mar 9 '12 at 22:40
@BenBrocka any further testing results? :) – l I Mar 12 '12 at 22:07

Ammo Powers do not trigger a cooldown when activated, but cannot be activated when something else is on cooldown.

Fortification, Defense Matrix, and Tech Armor can be turned on without causing a cooldown, but activating their ability (+melee damage, shield restore, explosion) causes a cooldown.

Grenades and Nova are on their own separate cooldown class, and can be freely intermixed with powers. (Nova might require shields, though)

Sentry Turret and Combat Drone (engineer specials) share a cooldown with each other.

Finally, some highly evolved powers have a chance to proc a bonus power, where activating them will not cause a cooldown. (Examples: Tactical Cloak, Charge, etc.)

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Are you sure about the first point? I could switch ammo fine on cooldown. Single player, Vanguard. I'll triple check tonight. I never did get to test Sentries because I haven't unlocked that class in multi. – Ben Brocka Mar 13 '12 at 13:13

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