Traits and Flaws
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    Traits and Flaws

    Traits and Flaws
    Written by Michael Todd
    Big Finger Games
    17 b & w pages

    Traits and Flaws by BFG takes some ideas weíve seen before from Unearthed Arcana, as well as some concepts I havenít seen for d20 before in the form of Disadvantages, and adds them to the d20 Modern game. Weighing in at 17 pages, T&F uses a standard two-column layout. Of those pages, two are used for credits and licensing information. There is no traditional cover or table of contents. Art is dark and doesnít add anything to my reading of the book and would probably be better replaced or refined so that the reader can tell what exactly the art is supposed to be. As the art is minimal in the book, itís not a big deal. The book makes good use of bookmarks with bookmarks for sections, and bookmarks within those sections to make navigation easy. Use of color is kept to a minimum, relying on shades of gray for border text at the bottom with white page number and at the top with book name. Shame as that space at top couldíve been used to indicate section as opposed to repeating the book name repeatedly.

    Starting with traits, the book provides a wide assortment of ways to customize a d20 Modern character. Much like some of the background material in Mongooseís various line of Quintessential books, these provide a bonus to one area and a penalty to another. For example, Musclebound provides a +1 bonus on Strength-based skill and ability checks while penalizing you with a Ė2 penalty to Dexterity-based skill and ability checks. The benefits arenít always so harsh though. For example, Nearsighted gives a +1 on Search checks and Ė1 on Spot checks. Those types of even exchanges are easier to swallow.

    Iíve never liked these little unnamed bonuses as they smack too much of min-maxing for my taste. With feats and talents, a d20 Modern character has far more options than a standard D&D character to customize their character. Some however, will enjoy the ability to add these little benefits and penalties to their character.

    Flaws are another simple idea. You are in essence getting an anti-feat, something Iíve seen in other products like the Kingdoms of Kalamarís Villainís Handbook. For each Flaw you get, up to two at first level, you get a bonus feat. Flaws are broken up into different types; mundane, conspiracy, psionic, and supernatural. For me, once again, these elements smack too much of power gaming. For others, the option to customize your character, especially if you take penalties that actively effect your character, are great.

    For example, if youíre playing a sickly scholar and take Meager Fortitude, thatís a Ė3 on all Fortitude saves. However, if youíre playing a character whose sole stick is using ranged weapons, fairly common in a modern game, and take Noncombatant, youíre power gaming as thatís a Ė2 on all melee attacks.

    The one thing I hadnít seen before in d20 terms, were disadvantages. In Hero and GURPS, you can take disadvantages to reflect various issues that may crop up in game play. This can range from a non-player character being put in danger, to having a secret identity like Zorro or other details that may hinder your character.

    Here, the disadvantages have rankings from 1 to 5. You receive experience points for overcoming the disadvantage. The experience you gain is listed on a chart broken down by ranking and your level. For example, if your first level and overcome a ds5, thatís 450 experience points. If youíre 20th level and overcome a ds1, thatís 570 experience points.

    Itís recommended that no one have more than 10 points worth of disadvantages. Characters can remove the disadvantages by making a Will Saving throw of DC 15 plus the severity level. There can be other modifiers depending on how well role played out the situation has been played but itís a pretty simple method for buying them off.

    Disadvantages range in levels. Some are a single level, like Achilles Heel, while others can be taken at a variable level, like Dependant. For Achilles Hell for example, you select a number from 1-19 and that number when rolled against you, is always a hit and is automatically a critical threat. If it requires a saving throw, you take a Ė4 penalty on the save attempt. Mechanically, it seems like a harsh flaw as opposed to a disadvantage. Itís not something you can overcome and youíll only gain experience points from suffering the flaw, unlike Hero say, where itís a base total added to your starting points.

    Others can be min-maxed like Hideous Appearance where you take a penalty equal to twice the severity level on all charisma based skills checks but gain a bonus equal to twice the level on intimidate checks.

    Overall, this is something that can add a lot of flavor to a d20 Modern game, but can also be abused severely. Game masters should be on the lookout for combinations of traits, flaws, and disadvantages that stack the character too high in one area while penalizing them in another that they donít use or is of minor inconvenience.
    Last edited by Blackrat; Sunday, 31st August, 2008 at 12:41 PM.

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