Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Monitors: traiting once more

Cf. this post and this earlier post it refers to. See also my recent change of heart on dicepools.

Attributes and Traits


Attributes represent very broad areas of competence, without any specific training for a task. Characters each have the following attributes:

  • Physical: how good the character is at doing things with their body.
  • Wits: how good the character is at doing things with their mind.
  • Social: how good the character is at interacting with other people.
  • Awareness: how much the character is aware of the world around them, and how much detail they notice.
  • Resilience: how strong, fit and healthy the character is.

Attributes are on a numeric scale that tends to be in the 2-5 range for Monitors and potentially anywhere for bizarre alien beasties with super-senses. Hostile NPCs will have attributes appropriate to their nature: low for petty criminals, moderate for guards and mercenaries, high for henchmen and major foes. Note that even civilians may have high specific attributes if it seems appropriate - a brawny lumberjack gym fanatic can reasonably have Physical 5.

I'm not yet sure about Resilience. I could use Physical to test endurance instead. I'm considering making it a more general resisty kind of attribute, including willpower and cool-headedness, but then you'd have one catch-all resistance attribute that it might be daft not to pump.


Characters also choose a number of traits. These include lineage traits, background traits, and professional traits that describe specific areas of training or study.

My feeling is that each of these are qualitatively different and could interestingly be modelled in different ways. Let's see if this can be done without over-complicating things.


As discussed last time, I think it's appropriate for training in a specific area to just grant one automatic success. This offers a way to ensure success at simple tasks, while maintaining a curve of difficulty without sharp jumps. It makes trained characters more likely to succeed on all relevant tasks, and also increases the upper limit of their capabilities, while making it hard to fail badly. In a game of competent characters, this feels about right to me.

I'm not sure if I want to define an exact list of training, or just offer suggestions to try and keep it roughly balanced. My instinct is that suitable skills might include: The Occult, Firearms, Finance/Accounting, Physics, Covert Ops, Nature, Crime*, Art, Medicine, Engineering, Archaeology, Martial Arts, Computing, Performing Arts, Fine Arts, and so on. Crime may need renaming - I don't want to give a bonus on everything that can be considered crime-like, but this skill might help you spot suspicious activity, recognise criminals, read a crime scene, talk to underworld characters, and have a bash at breaking and entering. Ideally, I'd like training to be applicable to all the attributes - another reason to question Resilience.


Backgrounds represent what you were doing before becoming a Monitor. You were definitely doing something, because this ain't the House of Commons - you won't get in unless you impress the agency with what you can do, and that means a bit of time in other jobs first.

A background can grant you a bonus die whenever it seems like knowledge, contacts or specialist experience earned from your time would come into play. Importantly, backgrounds do not overlap with training or with attributes. Your attributes are fixed and should be chosen to reflect your character - your ex-lumberjack doesn't grow extra muscles when you're dealing with lumberjack-related issues. Training overrides background, so if you reckon your time in the military gave you Firearms training, that's what that training means; you don't get two bonuses for it. Conversely, you aren't automatically better at the sort of activities you do in a given job, because professional skills should be modelled with training - you don't get a bonus to shoot people for having been in the military, you need to take the skill.

What background is supposed to do is make you better at handling the sort of situations and people your previous roles entailed, because you're more familiar with them. The professor knows how to deal with academics, can navigate universities and quickly riffle through academic paperwork. The ex-cop knows the codes and slang, talks the talk, knows what to talk about (and what not to talk about), gauges what rules can be bent in her favour, predicts procedures and knows who's who. The lawyer knows rules, has contacts everywhere from courthouse to solitary confinement, is good at navigating legal boundaries, sending official-looking letters, and wringing information out of other lawyers. The field researcher is used to wilderness travel, field repairs, spotting natural hazards and being chased up trees.

I'll probably offer a listed of suggested backgrounds, which might include: Law Enforcement, Academia, Armed Forces, Business, Medicine, Public Service, The Arts, Intelligence, Explorer/Field Researcher. Players are encouraged to be a bit more specific about the kind of things they've done to help flesh out the character. Do I want characters able to take more than one? Not sure yet. Background doesn't necessarily cover everything you did, just one significant aspect of your history that offers you useful insights.


I think at the moment species are perhaps too specifically defined. Instead, I might just suggest you pick one major and two minor lineage traits that are particularly important to your character, and these grant you benefits. Other traits aren’t necessarily absent, they just aren’t game-mechanically relevant. I do want to try and ensure that these traits feel significant.

Lineage traits may grant a special ability, or a bonus die when applicable. A neutral trait has drawbacks as well as benefits, and one neutral trait may be taken in addition to other traits.

Major Traits

  • Fast (+1 die)
  • Powerful (+1 die)
  • Ferocious (+1 die)
  • Carapace (Armour 5)
  • Bite Toxin (Slow 1d6)
  • Ballistic tongue (Close range, can pick up small objects, can inflict Pinning on enemies)
  • Sturdy (+1 Wound)

Minor Traits

  • Keen Scent (+1 die)
  • Chameleonic Skin (+1 die when skin visible)
  • Toe Pad Grip (+1 die to climbing and gripping when pads uncovered)
  • Shed Tail (escape a difficult situation by shedding tail; regenerates in 1 week with medical care or 1 month without; inflicts lingering injury)
  • Regeneration 1*
  • Heat Sensitive (at short range or closer, see temperatures like colours)
  • Secondary Eyelids (Visor 8)
  • Scaly Hide (Armour 8)
  • Powerful Leap (+1 die)
  • Water Running (run on liquid or fragile surfaces with Physical roll; weight limit; fall if stop running)

Neutral Traits

  • Toxic Hide (Blind 1d4 or Slow 1d4, contact)
  • Amphibious (breathe underwater and trained in Swimming; -1 die to resist dehydration or contact toxins due to permeable skin)

* Regeneration speeds up recovery from lingering injuries. It doesn't affect short-term injury.

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