Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Pendragon Character Traits and Passions

Chris Perkins (not the WotC one, so far as I am aware) of From The Sorcerer's Scroll wrote about utilizing Pendragon's Traits in a Dungeons and Dragons context. It's an interesting idea to generate a bit of personality in ordinarily-quite-plain PCs. The first post laid out the basics of rolling these traits like ability scores and then modifying the base number according to some assumed racial traits.  The second post lays out famous traits and trait tests, a sort of continuation of the old idea that acting against your alignment produces an alignment change, but in typical 5e with trait checks and DCs and an overabundance of detail. The final post lays out passions (Hate, Honor, Hospitality, Love, Loyalty) and feeds both traits and passions into the nascent storygamey Inspiration mechanic.

Chris surely finds this useful but it is far more than I'd ever want in D&D. I'm not interesting in mandating certain character behavior, or mechanizing role-playing, or creating a new mechanic for my players to have to grok. But I still think some of the ideas he lays out can be utilized in an OSR brew. And like 50% of all OSR content, it breaks down as an add-in to character generation: Player Characters start as a tabula rasa. They don't have, nor should they have, detailed personalities or backgrounds. Any detail in that direction should be created and noted as smoothly as possible; in other words, something ripe for random generation.

The fun part is that this is an element that I'd leave entirely in the capricious hands of the random number generator. The specifics will never appear written down, the requirement to make thirteen additional 3d6 rolls will never make an appearance in my game, and the existence of its biases will be known only by me. If I want more knavish characters generated, I can slightly alter the balance of traits by changing a single number upward and from then on vices will appear more often than virtues. If I want to (and I plan to do this) weigh traits according to player character races, that is a slight addition to hard code and a slightly larger addition to make dynamic and from then on I can make Dwarves trend towards lustiness and piety, for example, while Elves might be indulgent and honest, and because the number crunching is done in secret there doesn't even have to be the appearance of balance.

That's what I've done with this little button here. It generates 3d6 scores for each of the 13 Pendragon traits, judges which ones are interestingly different from average, and then feeds out the top 3. It's also a lot heavier than it probably needs to be, code-wise, but that's because I intend to incorporate it into further character generator randomness. I didn't bias it either way, so heroes are as likely as villains.

Finally, a major reason I made this is that I want to work on my programming skills, something spurred on by Spwack's and Saker's own random generators. In that vein, I'll try to explain what I did and why below.