Chapter 3: Traits
Character concepts, and individual characters, are too diverse to model with Talents and Skills alone. Traits represent all other relevant aspects that might be unique to a given character, be that a reflection of his personality, his personal history, an event in his past, an ally or enemy, a personal fear or ambition, a quirk of manner or appearance, or anything else that makes the character a unique variant of his Race, Archetype, or Profession. Traits serve to flag those things that are important and interesting about a character. They are not drawn from a list, but entirely invented by the player when the character is created. And while they have a small mechanical impact on the game, and can be deployed creatively just as talents can, their primary purpose is to give the player a few core ideas around which to shape his portrayal of the character, and to signal to fellow players and the director what makes his character interesting, and what they should react to.

Traits can also be used to represent a character's relationship with the world and with his culture, and those things that have happened to him over the course of the game, the day, or even in a given moment. Traits are versatile, fluid things, and while some will stay with a character for life, others will be overcome as the character evolves, or morph into something else, or become redundant as the character's context changes, or simply be discarded when he moves on from his current location. A trait can represent something as immediate and short term as a character being cloaked in shadows, to something as lasting as horrible facial scarring, or a volatile temper. It might represent his ties to a powerful noble house, or a vengeful enemy he has crossed, or the fact that he has specialized only in the study of ancient history, or the fact that he's bleeding out from an arrow wound.

Character Traits

Character Traits are unique aspects of who and what the character is, in terms of what makes them special, what their role in the story is, what their ambitions, back-story, personality, associations and so forth contribute to make them unique. While these are also rated from 1-3, they are not chosen from a list. In fact there is no list. They simply grant a +1 to +3 bonus or penalty to a test whenever it is appropriate that they come into play. The concept is not just to add flavour and personality to the rules, but also to allow players to highlight what's important about the character to them, and see it reflected mechanically. A player chooses as many of these as he likes, and describes them as he chooses, but generally 2-4 traits, with a good mix of character quirks, and potential complications, would be normal for a player character, and just 1 or 2 for a supporting character would be the norm.

Creating Character Traits

When creating a Character Trait a player must give the trait a name, a value, and a description of how he expects to deploy it. The name should be as creative and thematic as he can make it. The value is assigned along the lines of the Character Trait's importance, with a 1 signifying something interesting about the character, be it a minor personality trait or association or interest or the like. It is likely to be memorable, but not definitive of who that character is. And the player will take the opportunity to play it if and when it arises. A 2 signifies something important to a character, something that is definitive of who or what the character is, and something he wants the director and other players to take not of, and react to. And finally a 3 is reserved for those things that define a character concept. Assigning a 3 to a trait is a player's way of signalling that it must be pro-actively addressed in plot.

Positive and Negative Applications

Players should keep in mind that a Character Trait must always be deployable as a bonus and a penalty, and when describing how you'll deploy that trait you should describe how you'll use it to generate a bonus and how you'll use it to generate a penalty. The actual trait need not be deployed evenly in both respects - it is perfectly acceptable for a trait to be more commonly deployed in a positive or negative manner, but it must always have both options.

Changing Traits

Though we'll discuss it in more detail in Chapter 7, remember that Character Traits can be resolved, become redundant, or be reversed during the course of play. Characters might resolve personal issues, break connections to individuals or organizations, defeat foes or befriend rivals, or go to a location where personal their oddities are no longer remarkable. So long as there is justification in story, players are free to add, remove, subvert, replace, or reinstate character traits during play.

Context Traits

A Context Trait reflects a character's relationship to the setting, and how the setting will react to him. Values are all assigned based on the setting of the story taking place, and are changeable during play to reflect changes in geography or situation. Context Traits lie somewhere between a Character Trait and a Talent, in that they mechanically resemble Character Traits, in that they can be assigned a number that will work as a bonus or penalty depending in the situation. But, like Talents, they are consistent across all characters. All characters must assign a value to the Devoutness, Fame and Social Class Context Traits, and like a Character Trait, the values and details of Context Traits can be changed arbitrarily in reaction to, or to reflect plot developments. Wealth will be dealt with in more detail later, and Rarity is largely used in reference to Professions or Gear.

  • Devoutness measures a character's devotion to his patron Divhi, his ability to place his faith in the Divhi's guidance, and inability to question, challenge, or break the oaths and strictures of his faith.
  • Fame is an indication of how well known a character is in and around his home. A famous character will find himself welcomed and celebrated, an infamous one feared or derided, and in either case the better a character is known, the harder it will be for him to go about without attracting notice.
  • Rarity is largely used for professions, objects, animals, and other things that might be available in profusion across a society or geographic region. It measures how likely something might be to appear, from nigh-omnipresent, to absolutely unique.
  • Social Class tells us the echelon the character occupies in his society, by attribute of profession, wealth, property, birth or alliance. It suggests much about a character's lifestyle, and can cow, impress, or alienate members of a substantially different class.
  • Wealth is largely useful comparatively, allowing regions to be compared to one another in terms of prosperity, and forming a core statistic that allows characters to keep track of their finances without counting every coin.

Status Traits

A Status Trait is a temporary (in the short term or long), or permanent Trait imposed upon a character by events during play. They might reflect emotional states, physical injury, social status, or any other particular circumstances dictated by the individual. There can be some confusion as to whether to model a situation as an advantage/disadvantage (see Gameplay) or a Status. Generally speaking if the condition is unique to the character, or travels with him (for however short a time) it is a Status Trait. If it affects anyone in his position, and is escapable, it is better modelled by advantage/disadvantage.

The Tome of Lore: Core Rules for Darkrealm
Chapter 1 Character Creation; Concept; Core Details; Player Interaction
Chapter 2 Talents; The Fourteen Talents; Generating Character Talents; Properties
Chapter 3 Traits; Character Traits; Context Traits; Status Traits
Chapter 4 Skills; The Skill List; Purchasing Skills
Chapter 5 Gameplay; Announcing a Test; Sequence of Play; Actions and Objectives
Chapter 6 Damage; Opposed Tests; Effects of Damage; Recovery; Death
Chapter 7 Development; Awarding Hero Points; Training; Changing Character Traits
Chapter 8 Setting; Tone; Technology & Lifestyle; Religion; Magic; Other Oddities
Chapter 9 Player Races; Civilized Races; Racial Abilities
Chapter 10 Gear; Armour; Weapons; Tools; Animals and Transport; Clothing; Weight and Encumbrance
Chapter 11 Magic; Alchemy; Divination; Talismans and Relics; Fear and Superstition; Spellcasting
Chapter 12 Game Creation;
Appendices Common Actions; Damage Statuses