Doctor Who Second Edition - Traits Revised
As you know, the award-winning Doctor Who: The Roleplaying Game has regenerated into a new Second Edition that is faster, easier, and even more exciting! The corebook is hitting the shops now, presenting all the rules and background you need to voyage across time and space with the Doctor, or as new characters experiencing brand new epic adventures.
A while ago, producer Dave Chapman discussed the changes we made to the Second Edition and outlined how it is still compatible with all previous supplements. Today, Cubicle 7’s talented Doctor Who writer Andy Peregrine explains more on Traits and why we removed them from the Second Edition.
Where did all the traits go?
One of the main design elements in the First Edition of Doctor Who: The Roleplaying Game was the Traits you could pick for your characters. They offered a great way to round out your character. If your character was attractive, a good mechanic, intuitive about the weather, or many other interesting things, you could get a specific bonus to manage that in the game. So, it’s a fair question to ask why we chose to remove them for the Second Edition.
The main reason is that there were too many. After several supplements, each with new Traits, the list was becoming exhaustive. Some Traits were better than others as well, leaving plenty of options to unbalance the player group. It was also becoming difficult to have enough points to buy everything you needed. They stopped becoming a nice extra for character flavour, and turned into a broad ocean of things you might need. With the new edition, we wanted something that was more streamlined and easier for the Gamemaster and players, and wouldn’t become unmanageable as we expanded the line.
That is where your character’s Focus comes in. Your Focus is that one big Trait effectively, but it’s not all your character can do. Many companions had a particular trait that drove their character. For Amy Pond it was her curiosity; for Clara it was her intellect; Jo Grant was always trying to see the good in people. This doesn’t mean it is the only thing they did though: Amy could be clever; Clara was often curious; even Jo Grant could be confrontational on occasion. They tended to shine in a particular area, even if that was what often got them into trouble.
While they may have gone from the character sheet, Traits are still hidden in the design, but in a more narrative way. Story Points are effectively all the other traits you think your character should have. Let’s take the ‘Phobia’ Trait as an example. It was meant to be for characters who had a real fear of something specific, or who physically are unable to go near something. However, it was easy to end up taking something like arachnophobia just to gain a few extra points to spend on Skills. The Trait hardly came into effect, unless they ended up on Metebelis III or deep underground in Sheffield. This can all be handled with some roleplaying, the player remembering that the character has a phobia. And playing in character, keeping true to their background and experiences, means the Gamemaster can reward them with a Story Point or two.
A Trait like ‘Keen Senses’ can be easily explained with a Story Point, too. Your character is observant, but if they need to be particularly keen-eyed to spot something important, a Story Point can give them a little boost, or change the result of the roll for the better.
There are a few things that even Story Points can’t do. You can’t just decide your character is telepathic or has natural claws with a couple of Story Points — at least, not usually. For this we use Distinctions. These replace the Special Traits that made your character alien, powered, or unique in some way. They may also provoke Story Point spends as well as offering a power or ability. A telepathic character might spend a Story Point to sense an especially strong emotion in an NPC. While empathy is not covered specifically in telepathy, it’s reasonable to believe a telepathic character might be able to pick up on a strong empathic signal. In this way we can collate many of the Doctor’s wide range of strange Time Lord abilities into a smaller list with all the minor oddities becoming Story Point spends. So, instead of creating a complex series of Traits for a Time Lord’s ability to resist radiation, you might allow a Time Lord to use a Story Point to put the radiation into one of their shoes, especially if they never use this ability again. A Distinction doesn’t just give you a special ability, it adds a new facet to your character that you can build on during the game.
Essentially, Traits haven’t actually left Doctor Who: The Roleplaying Game. The special Traits have become Distinctions, while everything else can be accomplished through potential Story Point spends, all of which is then guided by your character’s Focus and your roleplaying.
-Andrew Peregrine, one of Cubicle 7’s renowned Doctor Who RPG writers.
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