These Questions Two: What are your traits asking you?

John Cleese as Tim the Enchanter from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
I’ll pose to you these questions two,
Ere that action you do.

(I know the bridgekeeper said the line in the film, but Tim the Enchanter is cooler and it’s easier to find good screenshots.)

The traits we use in roleplaying games frame a lot about how the game works and how characters fit into it. Three years ago, Fred Hicks encapsulated this (in an excellent blog post on Fate Accelerated Edition) by saying that the traits in the game pose a question that is answered when you pick which trait to use. In Fate Accelerated, for example, the traits are Approaches and the question is “How are you doing that?”. When you pick the Approach to use for a given action, the question is answered: Quickly, Carefully, Forcefully, Cleverly, Flashily or Sneakily.

I’d been thinking about something similar before Fred’s blog, and I’ve been thinking about it on-and-off ever since. It’s come to the forefront of my mind again recently because of Cortex Prime. Cortex Prime is a modular game system, so players (and especially GMs) need to have a solid understanding of what the traits in their games mean and why they’re there. (Cortex Prime is also why I’m using ‘traits’ as a generic term for rated stats that you pick when you need to roll or resolve something.)

I now believe that, contrary to what Fred wrote in his blog post, traits don’t pose a question for players to answer: they pose two questions, which players answer at different times. As well as the in-the-moment questions when players pick the trait they’ll use, there’s another question, posed even earlier, when the players establish the ratings of the traits on their character sheets.

In this blog, I’ll look at what these two questions are and what they mean, then give example questions for the main trait types in use today (and some new ones!). Hopefully this will be useful for GMs working out how to make their Cortex Prime campaign, as well as game designers more broadly. Let’s get to it!

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Sailing the 7th Sea is exciting but choppy

7th Sea (2nd edition) cover

7th Sea (second edition) by John Wick Presents is a roleplaying game of swashbuckling and sorcery in a fantasy version of 17th century Europe. I’m currently running a short campaign. The players and I are having fun, but I’ll probably never run it again and one of the players who had intended to run it himself has been put off from doing that. Some of the mechanics are great and powerful additions to the RPG designer’s toolbox; in other places the core rules feel unclear and frustrating, putting a burden on the GM to make rulings.

This isn’t a thorough review of the game (Rob Donoghue has you covered if that’s what you want), but it is a look at some specific areas that I feel are worthy of greater attention. First up is Stories, and players taking the helm for their own development.

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I bought the Nobilis and Chuubo Bundle of Holding

Cover of Chuubo's Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine

After weeks of umming and erring, I finally bought the Nobilis and Chuubo Bundle on Bundle of Holding, featuring the games Nobilis and Chuubo’s Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine by Jenna Katerin Moran.

It’s not that I wasn’t sure of the games’ worth. On the contrary, it’s because I well understand the quality and beauty and ingenuity of these games that I considered buying the bundle, despite already owning both of the games. Chuubo’s Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine, the one that I’ve played before, is unlike any other roleplaying game I’ve ever tried, and the scope of the ideas it can add to a game designer’s toolbox is immense.

I bought the bundle because I hope the Chuubo supplements will help me sort through a few issues that are holding me back from running another Chuubo’s campaign. I really want to, but some relatively minor things are in the way, like the need to provide and use large amounts of stationery props (the Quest and Issue cards). I got some advice on this on Google+, so I might have eventually got round to doing it again regardless, but this Bundle is a prompt to dive back into this (occasionally mindblowing) game and see if I can sort through it.

Even without playing, there are so many great game mechanics in these games that can be lifted out and used in other places. That’s what I did recently with the emoting rules in my blog post on Revealed Emotionality in roleplaying games, but there is so much more gold to mine in these pages.

To make a long story short, there are only two days left on the Bundle of Holding. If you don’t have these games already, this is an excellent opportunity to get them at a bargain price. If you own them, maybe it’s time to give them another look. I’m planning to do just that.

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