In Starscape, your character’s abilities are dependent on skills. There are 30 skills which are each fairly broad, and taken together they describe everything you can do. But they don’t say anything about who you are, or what is special about you. That’s where traits come in.
Are you a cyborg? An alien of some sort? Are you psionic? Are you just exceptionally able with a gun, or a skilled hacker? Some of these can be described by skill, while others aren’t covered by skills at all.
You have between 2-6 Career Terms, which describe what skills you learn as you grow in experience and activities. In addition to your skills, you also choose one trait in each career term plus an extra one during Personal Development.
In each term, you pick a trait that marks you out as special in some way, but which also enhances your ability in your current career. A Barbarian might be a Berserker or have Herculean Strength or an Animal Friend. A Space Pirate might be a Gunslinger or have any of several Starship Traits. An Investigator might have a keen Sense of Danger, notice things others don’t with Deduction, be good at provoking people with Taunt, and so on.
These traits enhance what you’re probably already good at in ways that break the rules, or provide opportunities to do things that aren’t available to other characters.
There’s a special kind of Trait that is only available in the first term. Maybe you are an unusual type of human (a transhuman, say), an android, or a psionic, an alien, or whatever. These are taken as Traits.
Humans and human-variants are the default choices, but there are other otpions.
There are two special Traits you only gain at certain numbers of terms.
If you reach term 5, you are an Elder, averaging 100 years old, and have reached such advanced age by expensive anti-aging technologies.
If you reach term 6, your age is much higher – you are typically several centuries old, fabulously wealthy, and your life is maintained by much more invasive anti-aging technologies which can break down…
Such older characters are more wealthy, and have greater understanding of the setting. They have seen more history and may have helped make it!
Special Power Traits
There are certain traits that can be classed as sapecial powers, like Psionic powers amd cybernetic or bio-engineered Augments. You can only take them if you get certain Careers – it’s not a free choice.
The Balance of Traits and Luck
Traits are not completely balamced to each other, but each can only be used a limited number of times. The more beneficial traits also have a Luck Cost.
You start with 10 Luck, but pay some of it during characetr design for certain advantages. More beneficial traits often cost some Luck to take. So as a player you have a trade off – do I want to have less luck (and fewer advantages in play) or do I want a more consistently powerful benefit?
But game balance isn’t a primary concern of the system. You should be allowed to play the characters they want to play. the Luck cost is just a little frosting, but not a major hindrance.
Getting New Traits
You can get new Traits in play (every 10 full skill advances). They are free – you have already paid for the skills with a lot of experience points. But some Traits do still need to be justified- why would you have this trait? And some you can’t just choose to acquire – you can’t suddenly become an Android if you weren’t already one (well, not usually, but it is a science fiction game…).
The Variety of Traits To Choose From
There are a lot of traits to choose from – over 100 – and you only get a few (around 5, maybe 10 for a very experienced character). So you can’t have a Pokemon attitude of Gotta Catch Them All. Be selective, and pick the ones that help define your character.
If there are some that everyone takes, they are likely too good, and will be either removed or split into multiple traits.
Traits are such a good concept for games like this that I may back port them into Legends Never Die (another game that uses the same basic PAGES system).