Everyone believes in a Lie. It can be a delusion of reality, a misunderstanding of themselves or others, a traumatic lesson involving nature or society, or a vow never to repeat a mistake. 1. Write 4 Traits (Observant, Strong, Cunning) 2. Write 2 Talents (Pyromancer, Greatsword Specialist, Crossbow Master) 3. Write 1 Lie (“Only knowledge is power”, “Men are tough”, “Trust no one”) Requires GM and 1+ players. Roll 1d20 for risky actions. Add your character bonus (starting at +2) if a Trait/Talent applies. The GM determines the DC (10 is Medium). In combat, players declare an action (ex. fireball, swinging, shooting), the GM determines the DC if necessary. Deadlier actions (chopping head vs. slashing leg) and multiple targets (AoE, shooting 2 foes) have higher DCs. Think creatively/tactically for lower DCs. Flank around shields, slash unarmored limbs, trip for allies. Try various options. When you confront, roleplay, or converse about your Lie, add a tick mark. Your Lie can impair you, present complications, torment you, or teach you. Erase 3 marks to increase your character bonus by 1 (max. +19). Your Lie can change as you play. Roleplay your Lie to progress faster.
This game was inspired by two sources: my text-only Dungeons and Dragons: 5th Edition game, and an article by K.M. Weiland about character arcs (link: http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/write-character-arcs/).
In nearly all of the sessions I’ve GMed, I’ve always put a focus on dramatic, emotional development, where the characters are put into harsh or grim situations and must make the most out of it. A young child goes missing in the woods. An old man scrounges for supplies in a dog-eat-dog world.
There is nothing more satisfying to me both as a player and as a DM to impose (and get imposed) large, bigger questions, and to have my flawed character’s ideals challenged and denounced and struggled with. I absolutely love to watch him or her change over the course of the game, for the better or (hopefully not) for the worse.
TRAITS was designed to encourage this idea. It was first developed incredibly rules-lite, as I am a strong believer of simple, yet deep and elegant mechanics. Your Traits and your Talents paint your character in broad strokes, creating an outline or a silhouette of who he or she is. Is she smart? Strong? Does he master pyrotechnics or is his dueling prowess feared across the land?
Then, inside this outline we put the Lie, a festering, decaying black hole that eats away and begins destroying this character. It could be the fear of rejection learned as a young child, of believing you don’t belong or don’t deserve to be with others. It could be a mentality, that you push yourself to be stronger, to be faster, to be better, and that every fall or mistake or downfall you make is because you were not strong enough.
It adds the kind of depth that’s typically unenforced in typical tabletop roleplaying games, and adds another dimension to play and explore in. Now, not only are your characters fighting an outer struggle, some big antagonist that threatens to destroy the world, but an inner one too, insecurities and fears and phobias and misconceptions.
I plan to expand this game out far past the Challenge into hopefully a Pay-What-You-Want PDF and even a soft/hard cover book if it becomes widely popular. I am absolutely enthralled in the concept of character development and emotional struggles as much as physical ones, and I’m thrilled I could try my own take or version of it with TRAITS.
I want to thank the community of /r/RPGdesign for critiquing and commentating on my project, as well as the creator and the judges of this contest for inspiring me to push forward and do it in the first place. It is an incredible thing you guys are doing, and I look forward to participating in any more contests you have in the future!