E. R. F. Jordan’s Quirks (5e Rules) is a roleplay-heavy rules supplement that gives players a major character trait that has both beneficial (talents) and negative (flaws) sides. Though certainly focused on the roleplay, this book features elegant mechanics for the quirks, and they translate extremely easily to other existing mechanics, such as minor magical item properties, background features, and more. This versatility, along with some guidance by the author for using quirks as alternate rewards or having them chosen via random roll, really gives Quirks a lot of usability in a clean 11-page package.
Quirks (5e Rules) by E. R. F. Jordan is an added “trait” system for player characters. It provides a list of 21 traits from which a player can choose one for their character at character creation. A quirk gives the character both a positive, beneficial bump (a Talent) and a negative trait (a Flaw). Both of these tend to have roleplaying and mechanical elements, though that’s not always the case: some are purely roleplaying prohibitions or advantages, some are purely a mechanical benefit or hindrance in fairly specific circumstances. But the bulk do feature both.
As mentioned, Quirks features 21 traits — called Quirks (duh!) — that give you a talent and a flaw. Normally you pick one quirk at character creation, but the author also provides some guidance on using them as a replacement for your Ability Score Improvement granted at various class levels. This is a nice touch because it allows for certain character personality traits or similar features to become more important over time. Perfect fodder for showing characters grow and change over the course of a campaign! Arguably, the benefits and hindrances of quirks don’t really balance well against an Ability Score Improvement or taking a Feat because some might be a little too mechanically rich while others are a bit too specialized, but given the fact that there are only 21 of them to worry about, finding your gaming group’s preferred balance (for example, adding a single +1 to an ability score in addition to taking a quirk) should be very easy. More on balance in a second.
Another great thing to point out before getting to the meat of quirks is noting that Jordan often mentions “choose, or roll” in cases where there are a menu of options for a particular quirk, its talents, or its flaws. This makes a lot of sense: if you’re the kind of Dungeon Master that doesn’t really care about interacting with the “player-facing rules” much (like me), you can just let the players choose from the options presented, but if you’re a bit more old school you can handle it all by random rolls and letting the dice fall where they may. Given that quirks are meant to be birthrights or things your character can’t necessarily choose but is instead born with or saddled with by society, that’s a great option to call out.
So, finally, the quirks themselves! The list is:
Touched by magic
In many cases, the talent (the beneficial side of a quirk) provides your character with proficiency in a skill or tool, or expertise (you double your proficiency bonus) in cases where you already have proficiency. In other cases, you get advantage on checks in specific situations, such as researching in a library, recalling pertinent lore, or resisting specific types of attacks (grapples) or saving against things like poison or disease. The benefits tend to be limited in nature or situation, but there’s enough of them that are fairly broad that balance could be seen as an issue. Flaws are much the same: disadvantage in certain circumstances, prohibitions or compulsions that cause you to prioritize specific activities above things that might otherwise be more “strategically important.”
Overall, there’s not really an attempt to make the talent and flaw create a balanced trait that is equal to taking a Feat, for example. Chronicler gives you proficiency in calligrapher’s supplies or one musical instrument (or expertise in it if you already have proficiency) as its talent, and as its flaw you simply feel morose if you didn’t record the day’s most important event in your favored art form. There are no mechanics for that flaw. Meanwhile, the flaw for Compulsive Liar requires you to succeed on a DC 15 Charisma check to tell the truth, and if you fail, the DM determines what you say. Those are pretty wildly different levels of perceived balance.
But if that’s the sort of imbalance that makes you want to write off this release, you’re doing yourself a massive disfavor! The elegant mechanical twists found throughout are primed as something that defines who a character is — thus, why you pick one at character creation and that’s it by default — and they do that well. Even better, the vast majority of these quirks are fantastic fodder for minor magic item properties, faction benefits, background features, or as additional ideas for system expansions like the ones you find in Tarokka Deck Unleashed by Joshua Raynack and Companion System by Chris Ramsley. That’s a lot of versatility: the fact that there are so many neat little roleplaying twists linked to simple mechanics means anybody can find something useful in Quirks. The Devout quirk is perhaps my favorite example, being a perfect mechanical double-edged sword for characters who have a high Faction rank in a religious organization, or for groups like Sigil’s Factions in the Planescape campaign setting. Additionally, several of the talents and flaws work within the confines of the Social Interaction rules (DMG Chapter 8) or have interactions with the alignment system. Putting added mechanical interaction into those systems is something a lot of groups look for to increase the importance of the interaction pillar of play.
This guide sports a very simple, two-column, art-free internal layout (aside from the cover art, of course). Some might find this off-putting or too simplistic, but at 11 pages and being primarily a player reference guide, I think that’s perfect. It’s going to print out nicely without a lot of ink-usage, and the layout is eminently readable and clean. The editing is top-notch, too: I found a single mistake on page 3 (“addition” should be “addiction”) and nothing else, so you’re getting a professionally written guide with lots of mechanical and roleplay inspiration for a steal.