Traits can be a contentious issue at some game tables. On the one hand, they can be a fun way to customize your character, and add a few little bells and whistles, all while having them have some mechanical impact on the character (thus preventing a disconnect between flavor and mechanics that can put a strain on suspension of disbelief). On the other hand, the fact that traits are generally additive (i.e., if your campaign uses traits, you just get two extra traits, meaning characters with traits are stronger than those without), and, let’s be perfectly honest, as much as the party line may be that “a trait is equal to half a feat,” there are plenty of traits out there that are clearly worth more than that, and in a few rare cases, some can even be argued to be flat-out better than an existing feat.
I bring this up because regardless of the other concerns, there’s one particular use for traits that I personally like quite a bit, and that is using them as a hook to get player characters engaged in the campaign. Traits like this, which have built-in hooks to a specific campaign’s beginning, are available for each Paizo adventure path. Which got me thinking: what if there were more traits like this? Obviously in order to create hooks tied to specific adventures the GM would need to tailor them specifically to his campaign, but what about general plot hooks, that could be used for a variety of games?
Here’s what I came up with.
Motivation traits are similar to campaign traits in that they are designed to make it easier to involve your character in a campaign’s storyline, giving you a built-in reason to adventure, but instead of focusing them specifically on a single campaign, they are designed to work well in a variety of different campaigns. Motivation traits are their own list of traits, which is separate from campaign traits (allowing you to have both a motivation trait and a campaign trait, if you choose), but, at GM discretion, motivation traits can fulfill the requirement that, if campaign traits are being used, one of your starting traits must be a campaign trait.
If your motivation trait ever ceases to apply to you (such as because you have achieved the goal described in the motivation trait, or because your character has changed his mind and given up on it, instead), then you can retrain it for another trait the next time that your character gains a level.
Join the Guild
You have only one wish in life: to join a specific, prestigious organization. But first, you must prove yourself worthy.
You want to prove yourself so that you can join a specific prestigious organization, such as a knightly order, an arcane college, an assassin’s guild, and so on. Work with the GM to determine the exact nature of the organization, and whether or not there are specific requirements for entry, or if they simply need to become aware of your exploits. Either way, your GM should provide you with a brief list of general activities and achievements that can serve as stepping stones towards joining the organization.
Benefit: Knowing that your dream is on the line, you can draw upon great reserves of inner strength. Up to three times per day, while pursuing an activity that is related in some fashion to joining the organization you hope to join, you can add a +2 trait bonus to a single d20 roll. You must declare that you are using this ability before the roll is made.
The love of your life has been taken from you, and only adventure can possibly reunite you.
Some impassable obstacle bars you from being with your one true love. He or she may have been abducted by a horrible monster, or may have been taken away by other circumstances to a far-off place, where you lost track of his or her whereabouts. In some particularly complex cases, you may even need to recover a certain specific item or perform a specific task before you and your love can be reunited. Work with the GM to determine the last known whereabouts of your love, and the circumstances of your separation.
Benefit: Your desire to see your love again gives you a strong will to live. You gain a +4 trait bonus on Constitution checks made to stabilize. Additionally, once per day, you may add a +2 trait bonus to any single d20 roll that is related in some way to reconnecting with your lost love (even if tangentially). You must declare that you are using this ability before the roll is made.
Searching For Your Past
Your past is a mystery, even to you. With only a few vague clues to start with, you begin a journey to uncover your true place in the world.
Your origins are a mystery. You may have been adopted under unusual circumstances as a child, when you were too young to remember, or you may have recently been stricken with amnesia, but whatever the case, you don’t know where you came from, originally, and you want to find out. You have a single clue as to your origins, most likely a unique heirloom of some kind, but possibly a particular name or a single memory. Work with your GM to determine the exact nature of this clue.
Benefit: Because your origins are a mystery, you cling to your identity and self-concept more strongly than other people, making it difficult to subvert your will. You gain a +1 trait bonus on saving throws made to resist compulsion effects.