The roleplaying game system BITS was made to simplify and speed-up all a person needs to do in the famous Dungeons & Dragons while also being crunchier and less weak-wristed than rules-lite systems such as Powered By the Apocalypse.
To achieve that, the bodily statistics of a fictional character get compressed into the Body, Interaction, and Thought (BIT of BITS) values. To handle things like profession and life experience, Specialties exist to add advantage to any actions that involve the character’s expertise.
I’ve been thinking: If everyone is about the same (i.e. everyone is a human being, capable of about the same median skills and outcomes as anyone else), why include the minor distinctions of Body and Interaction and Thought?
What if a character’s training and life-lived were all that influenced how that character overcomes the challenges in their way?
For this October’s goals, I choose to explore this question by applying it in implementation. The result is Gunslinger, a dusty RPG set in The West where players only have different traits (i.e. specialties) to help them sling their guns (or knives, or fists, or harsh words – the game doesn’t discriminate).
To my surprise, the premise worked really well!
A character is advanced by gathering more traits. They can of course find better guns and supplies, but these items are available to everyone else, too. The only way to gain an edge is to have some experience with the thing in question.
The traits also speak to the premise of the game. Sure, a player may request some expertise not provided in a list of suggestions, but it is the suggestions that mean to convey what will be important to the player. Suggestions such as:
- Fast Draw (always the first to shoot before anyone without this trait)
- Short-Barreled Firearms (revolvers, shotguns)
- Fist Fightin’ (advantage when in a scuffle)
- Throwin’ (knives, axes, bottles, or, if creative, insults)
- Horses (riding, easing, taming, etc.)
With these, not only are players given mechanical- and narrative-context tools for their roleplay, but the tone is also set to help the Game Moderator in guiding the other players through the game.
Applying Specialty Traits
So what does a special trait actually do?
In short, a Specialty gives a player’s action that requires a roll of dice Advantage. (This only applies if the Specialty can apply in the fictional context the roll is happening, e.g. a ‘Stabbing’ Specialty will not help a player’s character ride a mule).
Advantage improves the odds of a roll succeeding.
Advantage can be applied in many ways that I will explore in more depth in another post. Some examples include: Adding a value to the dice rolled, rerolling a certain number of dice, and, expanding the range of what is considered a success.
As a complete surprise last month, I was introduced to the RPG Tiny Dungeon.
This excellently concise game doesn’t have attribute stats (Strength, Dexterity, Wisdom, etc. in D&D or Body, Interaction, Thought for BITS). Instead, a character only has their health (“HP”, defined by what species they are) and a set of three or more traits the player selects when creating their character.
As for adding narrative ‘flavor’, not all traits give flat advantage – some give extra hit points, alter actions, and more!
Character advancement comes in the form of additional traits. As discussed, traits help a character succeed, so as advancement happens, characters succeed more and more against harder and harder obstacles.
With a 4.6/5 on DriveThruRPG (unaffiliated link) and 4.4/5 on Amazon (also unaffiliated), traits-based games seem to do all right 🙂
I’ll have a separate post for v0 of Gunslinger soon – keeping it as v0 since it really is a draft!
Where have you seen traits-based play before? How did you feel about it?
Checkout my other BITS posts when you get the chance – lots of RPG discussion on more than just this roleplaying game system!
Cheers for now.