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5E Traits, Ideals, Bonds, and Flaws

whimsychris123

Explorer
I am curious about how or if groups use the personality traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws system in their game. I have some thoughts about them, but I wanted to hear from others before I share mine.
 

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Retreater

Legend
I don't use them, or inspiration. They didn't even make it through a single campaign.
They are straightjackets to actual roleplay or worse provide opportunities for disruption of the game with playing out the flaws. Inspiration, when it is remembered at all, is a wink-wink nudge "I did something in character, can I get a bonus" annoyance. Most of the time it is completely forgotten - even when I upped its importance to basically "you can do anything in the game, succeed at anything."
In my games it's a completely unnecessary subsystem with no real impact on the game, kind of like backgrounds (just take any two skill proficiencies you want and be done with it).
 

Purely as a roleplay reminder. I've never handed out trophies or awards or inspiration for playing your character.

It doesn't mean I don't value personality traits. They're actually one of my favorite parts of the game, and I encourage players to use sheets that have these front-and-center. It's my experience that, without constant reminders, many players given enough time will revert from playing the character into some caricature of their own personality and/or the same type they always play, such as the smart-ass.
 

In terms of helping people come up with characters to play I think something like the backgrounds in 13th Age or Barbarians of Lemuria is more useful. In those games they're used as skills, but even if it's just something to write down it's more useful then bonds and flaws and the like.

Something like:
- Small village farmer
-Drudge slave for 6 years
- Pit-fighter

Gives a player more to work with. I think it's a mistake to work from the inside out. Get the basic life background down in succint details and the inner stuff will work itself out. In the above example it naturally leads you to start thinking "hey, I was enslaved as a kid - what happened to my parents - maybe I want revenge" and "my guy has been a slave most of his life, maybe he's not comfortable with freedom".

A lot of players (including myself) take a few sessions to really feel our way around a character and things like personality traits written down in advance are not much help there.

It might work better if after three sessions or so, you asked the other players to try and identify the traits of the player's characters - but I'm not convinced there's much to be gained from codification.
 

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
I ask my players to fill the traits/ideals/bond/flaw section themselves, no rolling on the background charts, mostly as a gentle nudge toward putting a modicum of effort to think about the mindset of their character.

I decided that I will no longer use Inspiration in my games: Advantage is too easy to come by, no need to have one more source. I'll discuss it with my players, but I thought of having ''Inspired'' be a condition that lower the DC of Death Saves from 15 to 10 for the PC, being lost at the end of each ''adventure'' (no each day, but each adventuring sequence ie. a dungeon, one wilderness treck etc)
 

I don't use them, or inspiration. They didn't even make it through a single campaign.
They are straightjackets to actual roleplay or worse provide opportunities for disruption of the game with playing out the flaws. Inspiration, when it is remembered at all, is a wink-wink nudge "I did something in character, can I get a bonus" annoyance. Most of the time it is completely forgotten - even when I upped its importance to basically "you can do anything in the game, succeed at anything."
In my games it's a completely unnecessary subsystem with no real impact on the game, kind of like backgrounds (just take any two skill proficiencies you want and be done with it).
Yeah. It's not great. Something like "rude" is a much more gameable flaw then "gambler" which is what I picked the first time I played 5E. It's very easy to go around being rude all the time (and potentially disruptive). Gambling involves an actual opportunity to gamble. (I tried extending it a little "well this plan would be a hell of a gamble but I think we should try it" but the DM didn't pick up on it, and I wasn't about to make the whole thing even more artificial by stopping the game to draw his attention to it).
 

guachi

Explorer
I detailed how I use it here: The Case for Inspiration.

Just about everyone who plays in my games takes this to their own games (or so they tell me).

This is the version I use. Let the player claim inspiration. When a player claims inspiration it encourages him to figure out his character, takes the burden off the DM, and informs the other players what the other characters are like. PCs can't ever have more than one inspiration point, can't carry them to the next session, and can only claim inspiration once per trait/ideal/bond/flaw.

This has the result of players trying to be more than one-dimensional PCs and also to use the inspiration basically as soon as the PC gets it. Once players got used to it, it added something extra to the game. I think it was especially useful as the last three campaigns I've run have been with people who were essentially strangers to most of the other people at the table.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
I am curious about how or if groups use the personality traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws system in their game. I have some thoughts about them, but I wanted to hear from others before I share mine.

i have replaced the complicated and cumbersome traits, ideals, bonds and flaws system with a much simpler system.

It is a simple and universal system that allows players to describe a basic personality that their character “aligns” with, using my own patented nine descriptor system.

Sure, it’s not perfect and it’s really general, but it allows players to a general guideline to their personality type without being overly formalistic or silly.

I just have to come up with a name for it!
 

whimsychris123

Explorer
I like the idea of having a subsystem that ties PCs to the setting and inspires players to treat their characters as characters rather than just a series of stats. But it feels that the system in place is a little weak.

I may play around with asking players to describe the background or reason behind some of their choices. For example, now that you've chosen "Fighter" please explain why or how your character became a fighter.

Anyway, you've all given me some ideas and things to think about. Thank you, everyone, for your thoughts!
 

ccs

40th lv DM
I ignore the section completely when writing up my own characters.
It's just wasted pages in my book.
  • If it's a throw away character - for example I'm playing in a one-shot or some pointless generic grind/delve like DotMM - then it simply won't be important in my experience.
  • If it's not a throwaway? Then I've already written such stuff into the character anyways & in far more detail & more organically than a random sentence pulled out of the PHB. I also don't require a mechanical carrot to play the details, good/bad/etc, of my characters. That is afterall the point of playing an RolePG.... So I'll be doing that regardless.

As far as players in my games using it? RPing your character is simply expected. The reward for doing that is a more interesting/memorable game . The penalty if you don't? A less interesting game (who wants that??). That's not really something that can be boiled down to a bonus dice roll.
I can tell you all about the characters in our current game. I couldn't begin to tell you what (if anything) the players have actually written on their sheets concerning traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws.

Inspiration:
As a player I might use it if I've got it. But honestly? I'm far more likely to have it noted on my sheet & have forgotten all about it.
As a DM? I don't need to bribe the players mechanically into playing their characters. So Inspiration isn't a thing at my table.
 

Hriston

Hero
I (as DM) use the PCs' five personal characteristics (2pt, b, i, and f), as well as a sixth factor -- their "high concept" -- which is a statement of who they are informed by their class, race, alignment, background, and goals, to come up with and introduce situations in which playing to these factors will complicate things for them. If they take the bait, as it were, they get inspiration. So I use them as more of a DM-facing element, rather than player-facing. I'd rather the players were inhabiting their characters rather than trying to fulfil or live up to something written on their character sheet.

I try to run my D&D games in a "Story Now!" mode (with varying results), so I regard the personal characteristics of the PCs as one of the ways for the players to tell me what type of situations they want to imagine their PCs engaging with.
 

aco175

Legend
I like them and having backgrounds. I find that they help make a character, maybe more for newer players to help with a concept. In play, I find that they do not come up as much as I would want. The Players do jump on the hooks I present if they are tied to a past, but getting the players to come up with something is more difficult.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
It bears mentioning that I also use personality traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws with NPCs. This is useful when implementing the social interaction rules from the DMG. Players work to figure out what these characteristics are so they can get advantage when trying to influence the NPC"s attitude ahead of asking the NPC for help.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
The Inspiration mechanic is, as someone has said upthread, a half-baked afterthought, and I run games without it. That said, I think listing the traits, flaws, et al., is useful as a player-side exercise; they can work as something of a replacement for backstory, or as a summation of same, and they work well as a role-play reminder for what might be one character out of dozens in a given player's head.
 

If I was a bigger fan of Inspiration, I'd totally use @iserith method. However, since I'm not a huge fan of the mechanic, I don't tie them together.

As a player, I don't use the charts, which I personally feel are a crutch. Instead I consider the full concepts for each item, using it to flesh out to help roleplay my character. If something occurs in play, I might adjust them to fit, since like alignment, they're a guide, not a straitjacket. I'll also add Bonds if they come up, tying me to the world.

As a DM, I review them when I can. I like to put minor aspects into the game that play on them, especially Bonds and Flaws. I do the same with Backgrounds and backstories if they make them*. It lets the players know that their characters are really part of the world, rather than just visitors. Sometimes I can't do this, mostly because some players just copy and past things from the charts without really detailing anything out.


*Great example of this was from my current campaign. The player writes YA romance stories, and while working out a new idea, she used it for her character's backstory. It was an awesome story (I helped modify it for the setting), and while she was surprised I brought her ex-lover/rival into the game, there was NO way I was gonna pass up that opportunity! He became a problematic NPC, periodically betraying the party until he finally went to far. He served evil masters who opposed the PC's patrons (both sides were pawns in a larger game), and he had to stop them or die. Eventually she was forced to execute him, and his final words hinted at the larger game.
 

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