ben vandgrift · on living the dream

Trust System: Traits

Traits for the core structure of a character in the TruST System, defining the general strengths and weaknesses of the character, and providing defaults for all the character’s actions. It is possible to completely define a character using only Traits, and as such, they are the first step in character creation.

There are four Traits that all characters have scores in: Strength, Endurance, Psyche, and Warfare. For every Trait, a character has a rank, a number which measures the power of that Trait.


There is no constant equation defining the relationships of ranks within a given trait. Simply, the difference between a rank of a trait and the next greatest rank is exactly as much power as is required to always win in an unmodified content. I.e., someone with two ranks in Strength will always win a fair contest of Strength against someone with one rank.

This is not to say that any contest should be fair, but it provides the basis for the contest resolution system. Examples of complex contest resolution will follow in later chapters, but presuming no other mitigating factors:


This begs the question: what happens in the case of a tie? Generally, neither contestant can gain an upper hand, and the contest is unresolvable. In most types of contents, however, other factors can influence the outcome in one of the contestants’ favor. Consider an arm-wrestling contest: when neither contestant can gain a Strength advantage, the contest shifts from Strength to Endurance. Every contest is different, and few contests depend on only one factor.


It is possible to have no ranks in a Trait, or for a Trait to be reduced to zero. In that case, the trait is considered nonfunctional, and the character will automatically lose all contests involving that Trait. Incidentally, they will likely be incapacitated in some fashion. A Trait can never have a negative value.


Your setting may have a variety of races or species with normal, minimum, and maximum traits. Normal values represent the average of the species. Minimum is generally zero, however your setting may have exceptions. Maximum represents the finest the species aspires to, outside of special circumstances. Two examples: Humans and the Gäo.


Humans are a versatile species, and are just as good at anything they set their mind to. All human Traits have the standard minimums (zero), and a maximum of six ranks in any Trait. Normal humans have two ranks in every Trait.


Created by the Gospog for use in Gaedel’s War during the Second Human Empire, the Gäo are an amphibious race, exceptionally strong and resilient, but lack initiative and cognitive ability. The Gäo are also subjected to military training within a few hours of hatching.

The Gäo have standard minimums (zero). They carry a maximum of 7 ranks in Strength, 8 ranks of Endurance, 4 ranks of Psyche, and 5 ranks of Warfare. Normal Gäo have 4 Strength, 4 Endurance, 2 Psyche, and 3 Warfare.

Exceeding Maximums

During the natural course of a story, characters will improve themselves through experience, training, technological or magical augmentation, or any number of other circumstances. Maximums represent the limits of the capacity of the unmodified species. While any advance beyond the maximum should be justified within the boundaries of the narrative, there is no absolute maximum.

For example:

These examples clearly come with limitations, but implementing limitations will be discussed in a later chapter.

written: Sep 15 2012