December 30, 2019

How Tabletop RPG Character Talents Work

This week’s #newbieTuesday post is all about how character talents work. As some new characters may know, there are numerous different systems/sets of rules used to play stories. Virtually all of them have unique ways to approach how it is we define a character. So today’s mini guide is more a high-level perspective on character talents rather than how they work in any one system.

For talents, first think: what it is you want your character to be good at doing? If you have a role, what would it allow your character to do well? In general, talents are traits, strengths, passions, and areas of excellence for your character. They add situational bonuses that can help throughout the course of the story.

Using our StoryNite system as an example, let’s say your character came across a futuristic alien computer of some kind and you’ve determined that you’d like to access its information. You look a bit closer and see that the user interface is not in a language you understand. From a skill perspective, you could potentially use Electronics, to access the interface and maybe change the language settings, History, to see if you know how others have accessed such computers before, Intuition to see if the user interface is intuitive enough to navigate without knowing its language, or even Craft to see if you can’t develop your own interface for the machine’s database.

But your character also possesses talents. Take the “Hacker,” “Technologist,” “Detail Oriented,” and “Polyglot” talents as examples. Hacker would allow you to gain access to a foreign system more quickly, Technologist would allow you to leverage your experience across myriad systems to help you extract information from this new system, Detail Oriented would allow you to detect patterns in the user interface to navigate around without knowing the words/symbols, and Polyglot would allow you to learn languages more easily on the fly to allow you to pilot the alien user interface.

The beauty of talents, and their depth of character customization, is that they empower the player to creatively solve the dilemmas they face while providing a foundation for a greater connection between the player and their character. So new players: when you play stories, have some fun when you pick your talents!