Month: June 2015

Traits & Passions System in D&D (Part III)

TRAITS (continued)


Rather than give in-depth trait requirements for each class,  I’d keep things general.  Martial classes should have Valor scores of 12 or higher while divine casters should have Piety score of 12 or higher.  Otherwise I’d leave trait choice to the player, keeping their class archetypes and background in mind.  For example, a paladin with the Oath of Vengeance should probably have a low Forgiveness score (12 or lower) to reflect their vengeful nature.



Hate, Honor, Hospitality, Love, Loyalty

These 5 passions are generated by rolling 3d6 at the start of play, though not all characters will have cause to generate all 5 of these passions.

Hate (Group or Race):  Hate is a destructive passion that may be rolled during character generation.  If rolled, the character chooses a race or group (religious, cultural, or political) that their character has an ingrained and irrational hostility towards.  A low hate score still indicates a deep prejudice and lack of empathy  towards members of that race or group, while a high hate score indicates an all-consuming desire to attack or otherwise harm members of that race or group.

I’d give the following Greyhawk races the Hate passion at the start of play:

  • Dwarves:  Hate (Orcs), Hate (Goblinoids)
  • Elves: Hate (Orcs), Hate (Drow)
  • Gnomes: Hate (Kobolds)

Drow elf player characters, on the other hand, would not hate elves in general but would probably hate the Drow faction or family responsible for their exile.

Half-Orc characters would probably be greeted with some mistrust by elves and dwarves but, in the interest keeping the game running smoothly, would not have their Hate passion apply to half-orcs.

Honor: Honor is the passion that sets heroic character apart from ordinary people. It is a combination of personal dignity, integrity, and pride.

All characters would have a starting Honor score that would be modified as follows:

  • Lawful alignment: +2
  • Chaotic alignment: -2
  • Good alignment: +2
  • Evil alignment: -2
  • Background: +2 to -2 (a chivalrous knight would have a+2 bonus while a charlatan would have a -2 penalty)

Performing the actions listed below clearly and invariably diminishes honor:

  • Attacking a helpless foe -1
  • Cowardice –1
  • Desertion from a battle, quest, or mercenary contract  –1
  • Plundering a holy place of your faith or allied faith –1
  • Killing an helpless holy person of your religion –2
  • Kidnapping –2
  • Breaking an oath –2
  • Rape –3
  • Treachery against a member of your family –3
  • Treason (against your lord) –4
  • Killing a kinsman –5

Characters with an Honor score of 14 or higher are noted for their honorable behavior while those with an Honor score of 7 or less are seen as dishonorable scoundrels.

Hospitality:  This passion measures how much your character respects the time-honored institution of hospitality. In cases of great passion (14 or higher), a proponent of this practice might feel bound to correct others’ inhospitable behavior, and perhaps even to seek out and destroy those who break the rules of hospitality. On the other hand, anyone with a disregard for hospitality (less than 7) is likely to steal without compunction.

Love (Person, Patron, or Group):  Love is an emotional bonding or attraction felt by one individual for another individual, group, or deity. A character may have many loves, but it is best if only 1 or 2 warrant this passion.

Loyalty (Lord or Order):  Characters who serve some lord or order should roll this trait at the start of play.  Examples include, but are not limited to:

  • feudal lord
  • an order of knights
  • a religious order
  • a supernatural patron
  • a guild
  • a god
  • a wealthy sponsor

A low loyalty score indicates that the character serves his own needs before those of his lord or order and, as such, draws little inspiration from service to that lord or order.


Character who roleplay according to their character’s traits and passions should be rewarded with Inspiration (PHB 126) and, over time, will gain renown (or infamy) through their actions and ideals.  Players who consistently act in accordance with their notable traits and passions (those with score of 14 or higher, or of 7 or lower) should gain a small XP award at the end of each session.  I’d recommend 50 XP multiplied by the character’s proficiency bonus.

Invoking a Passion:  Furthermore, when a character’s passion is threatened (i.e. their honor is impugned,  their paramour is taken captive, or they combat a hated enemy) they may seek to invoke that passion by succeeding at  a DC 15 check, modified by their passion score modifier and proficiency modifier.

  • On a failed roll the character suffers disadvantage on all attack rolls, saves, and ability checks for the length of the encounter.  Their passion score is automatically lowered by 1 point.
  • On a successful roll the character gains advantage on all attack rolls, saves, and ability checks for the length of the encounter.
  • On a fumble (a roll of a natural “1”) the character’s passion score is automatically lowered by 2 points and the character gains long-term Madness as per page 258-259 of the DMG.
  • On a critical (a roll of a natural “20”) the character’s passion score is automatically raised by 1 point and the character gains advantage on all attack rolls, saves, and ability checks for the length of the encounter.

Because invoking a passion is arduous, it may only be attempted once per long rest.


Traits & Passions System in D&D (Part II)

This is a continuation of my last blog post.


Traits between 8 and 13 represent the average range of traits.  When faced with tests tied to these, the player may forego the trait check and use free will to determine a course of action.

Characters who consistently act a certain way will eventually have the appropriate trait raised due to the rules below.


Only famous traits (i.e., those with a value of 14 or higher, or of 7 or lower) are noteworthy, and such traits must be checked with a die roll whenever character behavior is challenged in a crisis.  This does not mean that trait rolls must be used whenever the character makes any decision in the game. And even characters with famous characteristics are allowed free choice of behavior except when the plot demands otherwise. The DM should request trait rolls only when a trait is tested in an important situation. In general, trait rolls simulate situations in which a crisis forces the character to act unconsciously.


When characters face moral dilemmas and/or are tempted to act in a particular manner, the DM may call for a trait check.

Since traits define character personality, they must be consulted whenever the DM feels them necessary. In crises, it is assumed, individuals act according to their character, not spontaneous and ambiguous choices. Custom and training triumph over instinct. Players may not want their characters to do something dictated by a die roll, but free choice is not always possible.

Trait checks are handled much like ability checks (PHB 172).  When a test of a particular trait is called for, the DM determines the difficulty of that check.  The player then rolls a d20, adding the modifier for the relevant trait score and their proficiency modifier…  as experience tempers judgement.

Typical Difficulty Classes
Task Difficulty                          DC
Very easy                                 5
Easy                                          10
Medium                                   15
Hard                                         20
Very hard                                 25
Nearly impossible                  30

If the total equals or exceeds the DC, the trait check is a success – the character overcomes the challenge at hand and acts in accordance with that trait. Otherwise, it’s a failure, which means the character may give into their vices.  A natural “20” indicates a critical success while a natural “1” indicates a fumble. See the table below for the effects of success and failure at a trait check.

Roll Result and Effect

Critical Success: The trait increases by one, and the character must act strongly in accordance with the trait unless he succeeds at a Wisdom saving throw with the same DC.  If this save succeeds, the character may act freely but reduces the trait by 1 point if he fails to act in accordance with it.

Success:  The character may act in accordance with the trait but is not required to. The player may decide precisely what action ensues within that limitation.

Failure:  Failure indicates the player fails to act in accordance with the checked trait unless he succeeds at a Wisdom saving throw with the same DC.  If this save succeeds, the character may act freely.

Fumble:  The trait is immediately reduced by one 1 point and the character immediately acts against that trait unless he succeeds at a Wisdom saving throw with the same DC.  If this save succeeds, the character may act freely and doesn’t suffer a loss to the checked trait.

Example:  Hromund Hammerhand, a level  3 dwarven paladin renowned for his purity has a Chastity score of 16 and  encounters a succubus in the form of a beautiful dwarven maiden. The DM asks the  player to make a Chasity roll with a DC of 15.   His bonus to this roll is +5 but he rolls a “4” on his trait check.  Unless he rolls a successful Wisdom save Hromund will give in to the succubus’ charms.

The following chart shows the effects of passed and failed trait rolls.  The character acts accordingly:

Trait Checked Failed Check (Vice Exhibited) Successful Check (Virtue Exhibited)
Chastity Lustful Chaste
Diligence Slothful Energetic
Equity Arbitrary Just
Forgiveness Vengeful Forgiving
Generosity Selfish Generous
Honesty Deceitful Honest
Mercy Cruel Merciful
Modesty Proud Modest
Piety Worldly Pious
Prudence Reckless Prudent
Temperance Indulgent Temperate
Trust Suspicious Trusting
Valor Cowardly Valorous

berserker sword


My absolute favorite aspect of the Pendragon rules is its use of traits and passions to flesh out characters, define their motivations, and, at times, compel them to take actions that are in keeping with those traits and passion.

With WotC’s Unearthed Arcana variant alignment system in mind, I thought I’d see if I could effectively shoehorn my favorite bit from Pendragon into my new favorite RPG.



Roll 3d6 to determine each of the 13 traits listed in the left-hand column below.  These traits are also called virtues.

Add any cultural and racial modifiers to the relevant traits, to a maximum of 20 and minimum of 1. No starting trait may exceed 20, even after initial modifiers.  If no virtues are notable (14 or higher), you may raise one virtue of your choice to 14.

  • Values of 8-13 indicate no strong leanings with regards to that trait.
  • Values of 7 or lower show that you exhibit the vice listed in the column to the immediate right of the listed trait.
  • Values of 14 or higher show that you are virtuous, and strongly exhibit the virtue listed in the far right column.
Traits 7 or lower 14 or higher
Chastity Lustful Chaste
Diligence Slothful Energetic
Equity Arbitrary Just
Forgiveness Vengeful Forgiving
Generosity Selfish Generous
Honesty Deceitful Honest
Mercy Cruel Merciful
Modesty Proud Modest
Piety Worldly Pious
Prudence Reckless Prudent
Temperance Indulgent Temperate
Trust Suspicious Trusting
Valor Cowardly Valorous


These should be left to individual DMs and be heavily dependent on the campaign world and tone that they are aiming for.  I’ve provided some quick examples that I’d use in my classic Greyhawk campaign.

Dwarf, Mountain or Hill:  +2 to Equity, Diligence, and Valor/-2 to Generosity, Forgiveness, and Trust

Elf, High or Grey: +2 to Diligence, Mercy, and Temperance/-2 to Equity, Modesty, and Trust

Elf, Valley, Wood, or Wild:  +2 to Diligence, Temperance, and Valor/-2 to Equity, Forgiveness, and Trust*

* Wild elves suffer a -4 penalty to Trust

Gnomes, Deep:  +2 to Equity, Diligence, and Prudence/-2 to Generosity,  Forgiveness, and Trust

Gnomes, Surface:  +2 to Diligence and Prudence/-2 to Forgiveness and Temperance

Halflings, All:  +2 to Generosity, Forgiveness, and Mercy/-2 to Diligence, Temperance, and Valor

Half-Orc:  +2 to Diligence and Valor/-2 to Forgiveness, Mercy, and Trust

Humans: While cultural modifiers could be used, I’d simply allow humans to add 2 to up to three traits and subtract 3 from an equal number of traits.



When making a trait  test (which will be explained in an upcoming post) to resist giving into a particular trait’s, the trait score assigns a modifier which works just like ability score modifiers.

Score             Modifier

1                       -5

2-3                    -4

4-5                    -3

6-7                   -2

8-9                   -1

10-11                +0

12-13                 +1

14-15                 +2

16-17                +3

18-19                +4

20-21                +5

22-23                +6

24-25                +7

26-27                +8

28-29                +9

30                    +10


Law/Chaos Axis


Lawful:  Trait modifiers for these traits total +8 or more.

Neutral:  Trait modifiers for these traits total -7 through +7.

Chaotic:  Traits modifiers total -8 or less.

Good/Evil Axis


Good:  Trait modifiers for these traits total +18 or more.

Neutral: Trait modifiers for these traits total -17 through +17.

Evil:  Traits modifiers total -18 or less.

dragon with hoard

Mad Max Fury Road has got me thinking…

Not that I’ll get a game up and running (I get to run my D&D game all too rarely as it is), but I enjoyed Fury Road and it got me thinking about post-apocalyptic RPGs.  In thinking of which are best suited to a Mad Max theme, the top contenders (in no particular order) are:

Barbarians of the Aftermath which is a Barbarians of Lemuria expansion.  I’m about to start playing in a BoL game and, when I’ve played it in the past, I really dug its rules-lite approach and flexibility.

Atomic Highway is probably the best fit for a Road Warrior themed-game.  In fact it seems like the game was built with the Mad Max movies in mind.  A few years ago I toyed with starting up a AH game but, as things often do, the game didn’t come to fruition.  Even better, the PDF is free!

Gamma World is a little too gonzo for a Mad Max-themed game but I had to include it out of nostalgia.  Sadly my favorite version of Gamma World, the 1992 version penned by Bruce Nesmith and James Ward, is hard to come by for a reasonable price.  Mutant Future, on the other hand, is available for free… though it’s closer to earlier iterations of GW (which isn’t a terrible thing!).

Coin Sizes in D&D

I saw this post by a poster named 77IM on ENWorld and thought I’d repost it here because it’s the kind of thing I like to consider in my games:

Do you wonder what size coins are? I sure do! Keeps me up at night.

So let’s math this out a bit.

50 coins weigh 1 lb. so that means 1 coin is 0.32 oz., or 9 g if we are being metric, which we are, because that is how Wikipedia lists coin weights. So, looking to see if any US coins weigh 9 g, it looks like the closest is the dollar coin, at 8.1 g.

The dollar coin is comprised primarily of copper, so BAM, that’s about how big a copper coin is. Actually it will be slightly bigger, about 12% bigger by volume, which is pretty negligible. For those of you unfamiliar with the dollar coin, it is is about an inch across (26.5 mm) and 2 mm thick, so it’s not that much bigger than a quarter.

Now let’s look up metal density. Copper is about 9 g/cm^3, and silver is 10.5 g/cm^3, so pretty close. This means a silver coin is slightly smaller than a copper coin. Since the copper coin is slightly bigger than the dollar coin, this means that the silver coin will be about the size of a dollar coin, or maybe a bit smaller. I’m to lazy to bust out pi*r^2 and figure out exact sizes for these coins so I’m satisfied saying “both silver and copper coins are about the size of a US dollar coin.”

Also, this assumes the metal is pure, and it’s usually not. Silver usually has some copper in it, and copper coins (in the US) often have substantial nickel in them, and once you start putting zinc in there things lighten up considerably. So all these sizes are going to be approximate anyway.

Looking at the density of gold (19.3) and platinum (21.5) it looks like they are pretty similar and both nearly double the density of copper and silver! Well that’s handy. It means that gold and platinum coins should be half the volume of the copper/silver coins.

Since most US coins are copper, a gold or platinum coin of the same dimensions would weigh twice as much. So to get the dimensions of a 9 g coin (50 coins weigh 1 lb. in D&D), we need to find a 4.5 g coin. Crawling around Wikipedia, it looks like the closest is the familar US nickel coin, at 5 g. That’s actually OK, because our D&D fantasy coins are probably not pure gold or platinum, which means they will be less dense and therefore slightly larger than a pure coin.

So there you have it:
A copper or silver piece is about the size of a US dollar coin (or a UK 20p piece).
A gold or platinum piece is about the size of a US nickel (or a UK 10p piece).

I’d add that electrum pieces would roughly be the size of a US quarter.


Tool Proficiencies in 5th Edition

According to the DMG (239) the proficiency bonus for tool proficiencies don’t apply when making ability checks to ascertain the quality, or to discern the origin, of a crafted items, since these checks do not require tool use.

I strongly disagree with this because no one should be more qualified to appraise and examine an item or structure than someone skilled in its creation.

In the PHB, tool proficiency affords the following:

A tool helps you to do something you couldn’t otherwise do, such as craft or repair an item, forge a document, or pick a lock. Your race, class, background, or feats give you proficiency with certain tools. Proficiency with a tool allows you to add your proficiency bonus to any ability check you make using that tool. Tool use is not tied to a single ability, since  proficiency with a tool represents broader knowledge o f its use. For example, the DM might ask you to make a Dexterity check to carve a fine detail with your woodcarver’s tools, or a Strength check to make something out o f particularly hard wood.

I’d expand this slightly, by allowing tool proficiency bonuses on both investigation and appraisal checks made to examine items that would be made with those tools.  If the character is proficient in the investigation skill, he does not gain any additional bonus (as he already has a proficiency bonus to such checks).

Furthermore I’d allow characters with a tool proficiency to more capably run a business related to that craft.  In the DMG, on page 129, there is a chart that determines how successful a character is in the running of a business enterprise.  I’d allow characters with a tool proficiency bonus to multiply that bonus by 5 and add it to the percentile die result.  I wouldn’t add any ability score modifier to this bonus because, when running a business, various ability scores would come into play (CHA to deal with suppliers, debtors, and customers, INT to balance the books and deal with the minutia of running a business, WIS to know how to deal with the unexpected, to apply common-sense when tackling problems, and to have the strength of will to weather rough patches, STR and/DEX to work at creating goods for sale, etc.)