Further Adventures with Traits

image from ArtBreeder

filed under mechanics and soloing on 20 Oct 2016
tagged solo, house rules, scarlet heroes, traits, solo gaming, and mechanics

Inspired by a post at Last Gasp(link has some NSFW content, LotFP alert) on turning things into dice progressions, I decided to see how many systems I could convert into traits. Hahaha. It turns out everything can be represented by traits if you look at it hard enough.

Warning, almost none of this is play-tested yet (which is why it's not published yet). All theory. All speculation. Probably contains at least a few logical errors and mathematical flaws. And the usual disclaimer regarding solo play versus shared play applies – I have no idea how well any of this would work in a group game.

New Stuff

Remember that under my modified trait system, you always apply up to two positive traits to any roll, in addition to any and all negative ones and any temporary (situational) traits, positive or negative.

A new concept for this post is the idea of “bonus” traits; these are traits that, under very specific circumstances, may be combined with the normal two positive traits on a roll. You should only use one bonus trait per roll. (Yes. Power creep after ONE post. That has to be a new record.)

Another sort of new concept is “net”; if you add all your positives and negatives on an action together, the total is your “net”.

Sneak attack

Sneak Attack is now “Quick Death”.

The “Quick Death” trait replaces the Sneak Attack special ability and serves the same general function.

The trait includes how you know how to stab stuff in the vitals. Maybe it’s “doctor of anatomy, quick death” or ‘scout training, quick death” or “hunter, quick death”. The trait can be used for purposes of the “how” part as usual – if you have “hunter, quick death 3” you can hunt and move quietly and determine which species made a particular set of tracks and so on.

It can also be used as a bonus trait (which means in addition to any others you’re entitled to use on a roll normally) on attacks that satisfy the requirements for a standard Sneak Attack. Generally this would be after sneaking up on a foe or while using any special abilities that give you sneak attacks.

On a successful hit, any creature of HD equal to the trait’s value or less is killed outright. Otherwise, multiply any damage by the quick death trait’s value.

Two Weapon Fighting

When using two weapons, assign your hero a temporary trait of ‘two weapon fighting -2/-4”. Whenever you get an attack in a round, you can choose to make two, applying the first penalty to the first roll and the second penalty to the second. Apply any other negatives, your AB, and one positive trait as usual to each roll.

When you purchase a point in this trait, raise each of the penalties by one, ie, to -1/-3, then 0/-2, and so on – but you can’t raise your primary over 0; any points spent will continue to reduce the penalties for your off-hand until you hit 0/0.

Note that even if you’re not armed with two weapons in the traditional sense, you can always decide to throw a punch or kick as part of your attack, taking the penalties as above.

How does this combine with Quick Death? You make two quick death attacks, obviously, taking a -2 to the first one and a -4 to the second (or whatever you’ve bought the trait up to).


Light is a temporary trait that is generally only ever positive (but you could certainly set it negative for magical spheres of darkness or something similar). The value of the trait is equal to the light value of the lit item; a torch is a +1, a candle or mage light cantrip a +2, a lantern a +3. This value is used as a negative trait for hiding or stealth, and as a bonus for spotting things in the range of the light and other light-related purposes. Light checks also count as a negative trait for purposes of avoiding wandering monsters.

To roll a standard light check (generally once per dungeon turn), roll a normal check with no traits added against a target DC of “easy”. The target number should be raised if conditions warrant it. On a success, raise the DC by one category for the next check. On a failure, decrease the light’s value by 1. When it hits 0, on the next failure it goes out.

If a condition or creature is trying to put the light out (say, a stiff breeze or a rainstorm), make the same check, applying up to two positive traits and subtracting any negative ones as normal. The light source is extinguished on a failure.

Note that if you use this to model a spell, the trait’s value should be equal to the spell’s level, and you may or may not want to require rolls to see if it extinguishes naturally.


When carrying up to normal worn gear (light armor, a belt pouch or two, a day’s worth of iron rations, a weapon), encumbrance is considered to be a 0. If you’re carrying camping gear (a backpack with a few days of food, a bedroll and some tools) plus your regular gear, or a load of about 1/3 your weight, gain “encumbered, -1”. If you’re carrying more than that, up to a very full backpack, a wounded person, or any load that weighs less than you do and masses about your size or less, “encumbered, -2”. If you’re carrying more than that, up to a load that weighs up to one and a half times what you do or masses up to twice what you do, “encumbered, -3”. If it weighs as much as you do or masses more than twice what you do, “encumbered -4”.

If your rules call for it, apply a -1 for medium armor and a -2 for heavy, reducing these penalties by 1 if the wearer is accustomed to the armor or specialized in it.

If a load could fit into two different categories based on weight and mass, choose the worst of the two.

When making any check where Encumbrance might apply, apply it as a negative trait as normal.

If your hero is heavily encumbered (-2 or worse) and wants to do something requiring movement, add up your total modifiers for the roll (positive and negative). If your net modifier is less than -3, your hero can’t accomplish that movement or action. It’s just not doable. You can also just set the DC really, really high if you’d prefer.

For example, if your barbarian hero is carrying a golden idol on his shoulders that weighs less than he does but is about twice as large, he’s at encumbered -3. If he has “very strong, +2”, his net is -1 and he shouldn’t have more than a little trouble fording that upcoming stream. If, on the other hand, his “very strong, +2” has been wiped out by a temporary ‘sapped of strength, -2” and “cursed for stealing golden idol, -2”, his net would be -5. He likely can’t move at all under all that weight.

Exhaustion, Severe Temperatures, Starvation

These are handled the same as light, pretty much, except don’t go above 0 (unless you really want to give a bonus for being well-fed or something). Start at 0 for no penalty; don’t write them down unless they come into play as negatives. If conditions are ripe for imposing one of these effects, make a saving throw as normal (up to two relevant traits plus the character’s level or hit dice, minus any negative traits) versus a DC of 9 plus any severity worsening conditions (from 1 to 10). On a success, the next roll’s DC will be one point harder (and environmental changes might apply). On failure, the character gains the trait at a -1 or the existing trait worsens by 1.

At regular intervals or whenever conditions warrant it, make the roll again, remembering to include the temporary trait as a negative trait. If the character’s total modifiers for a roll – the two positive traits plus any applicable negative traits – is less than -3, he’s pretty much dead or incapacitated. At the very least, he”ll take a severe or lasting injury.

For example, if the hero is ‘soaking wet, -2” and “extremely tough, +2” in a freezing blizzard, the target DC would be a 15 (9 + 6 for “blizzard”), and he”d take a -2 to the roll for being wet but get a +2 for being so tough (net 0). On a success, the DC goes to 16; if the blizzard worsens, it might even go higher. On a failure, he gains the temporary trait “hypothermia, -1”; his new net is now -1. If he fails another check, the check (and the net) goes to -2, and then to -3, at which point he’s incapacitated.

Temporary traits of this sort are reversed by applying a suitable remedy (a good meal, a drink of water, a long rest, a campfire), taking a good night’s rest, or taking a day of recuperation, per point of penalty.


Purchase rations as usual; the first unit costs standard, with each subsequent unit doubling the cost. Each ration unit counts as a +1 to your “has rations” trait. 1 Ration is included in the “0” encumbrance rating. Rations up to 3 are considered as part of the -1 encumbrance category and shouldn’t be counted separately. Every two units of rations past that worsens the encumbrance penalty by -1 unless you have a pack animal.

Every day, make a saving throw, applying any relevant positive traits (“used to fasting”, “iron stomach”), any negative traits, and the hero’s class level or HD versus a DC of 9 (plus 1 if you have a pack animal with you). On a success, the DC goes up by one. On a failure, reduce your rations trait by one, to a minimum of 0.

When your rations drop to 0, take the trait “starving” at 0. Each day you’ve got the ‘starving’ trait, make a save at “Hard” DC plus the absolute value of your “starving” trait (and apply it as a negative to the roll, too, starving isn’t fun). If you fail, subtract one from your “starving” trait. If your “starving” trait reaches a net of less than -3, your hero is incapacitated, delirious with hunger, or otherwise on the way out.

Finding Food

You can always choose to take some time for hunting, foraging, or fishing in an attempt to add a ration to your inventory. Make a check at a DC reflecting how scarce game is in the area (roll a d12 and two d4s, subtracting the first d4 from the d12 and adding the second d4 to the d12 if you’re not sure). Roll a second d4; this indicates about how many times you can forage for food before the area is depleted.

You can make this check up to twice a day, as long as the area isn’t hunted, foraged, or fished out, but each attempt takes a half day. On a failure, you waste the time. On a success, you can consider yourself fed for the day, wipe out one point of your “starving” trait (or erase it if it’s already at 0), or add one to your rations trait, your choice.

If you roll the absolute lowest possible on the die on an attempt to find food, you run into a hungry predator. If you roll the absolute highest possible on the die, you get both benefits of a success (fed and a ration back) If you’re not starving, gain two rations instead.

I’ll be play-testing these soonish – I think they”d be a great fit for Kyneros, which is a little more simulation-style.