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Species Traits

Species traits are meant to represent the cool things that different species can do, like fly, shapeshift, breathe water, or use part of their body as a tool. Many species traits are connected to properties of the character’s body, like wings or gills, and can be used any time it is appropriate (no roll needed). Other species traits boost skills, and therefore dice rolls are required to use them. For example, the species trait Heightened Senses gives a character extra information when they are successful on rolls using awareness skills. In addition, there are a few species traits that encompass things that characters get from their individual ancestry, culture, and family, such as learning an additional skill or having immunity to fire.

Please keep in mind that skills and abilities associated with a species traits do not automatically come with that species trait. For example, the species trait Flight makes a character capable of flying, but that doesn’t make the character skilled at flying under challenging circumstances. So if you want a character with Flight to be good at flying, they need to also be trained in the Flying skill.

If there is something that you definitely want your character to be able to do, be sure to represent it with a species trait, skill, or ability. In order to keep things fair, everyone starts out with one species trait. So, if you want additional species traits, you will need to trade skills or abilities for them. This process is explained in the “Questions About Species Traits” section below.

This is a digital artwork of a yellow and green budgerigar sitting on a branch with a tiger head that is the same color as its yellow feathers.

This is a digital artwork of a yellow and green budgerigar sitting on a branch with a tiger head that is the same color as its yellow feathers.

 

 

Options for Species Traits

All characters start out with one of the following species traits.

Extra Skill: In your childhood you learned a specific skill. Choose an additional skill from the skills list.

Skill Aptitude: You have an aptitude for a skill which grants a special bonus when you are using that skill. Choose a skill and choose what your bonus is. It can be an additional benefit you receive on full successes (two successes), being able to use that skill in unusual circumstances (decide what those are), or doing that skill unusually quickly. For example, a character with an aptitude for stealth could move quickly while being silent.

Skill Focus: When growing up you had the opportunity to focus on developing a specific skill. Choose a skill. Three times a day, your character is prepared when they use that skill.

Heightened Senses: You have extremely keen senses. When using your senses for Awareness Skills (Insight, Perception, Survival), your character gains additional information on full successes (two successes).

Additional Sense: You have a sense that most species do not have. This sense gives you information that others without that sense do not have. For example, you could sense electric currents or have an internal compass. Decide what this sense is. Next work with the game master to figure out what kind of information this sense gives you and what limitations it has. Within those limitations, you can use your additional sense to gain sense-specific information from awareness skills. For example, a character with echolocation can use Perception to perceive nearby things in total darkness.

Telepathy: You can communicate directly with the minds of nearby people. This allows you to send information to others and receive their replies. Telepathy works best if you both know the same language, otherwise communication is vague.

Amphibious: You can easily transition between being on land and in water. All of your gear is waterproof and is designed to function in both air and water. Choose whether you hold your breath for a long time or you breathe both air and water. Those characters that can hold their breath for an extended period of time are able to use that capacity in a range of different circumstances, such as holding their breath to avoid inhaling an airborne toxin.

Doesn’t Need to Breathe: Certain species, such as magical constructs, don’t need to breathe. This means that they can’t drown or suffocate. They are still affected by airborne chemicals, but the effect is different and less severe than it would be for a breathing creature. For example, a clockwork construct will not be poisoned by a noxious gas, but the gas could corrode the metal in their joints.

Immunity: You are immune to something. Choose one immunity off the following list. Your immunity applies even when magic goes awry.

  • Fire.
  • Cold.
  • Wind. You can choose to make wind and other strong movements of air flow around you, rather than hitting you. Any time that you are hit by a strong wind you can choose to use this immunity. If you don’t make that choice, the air affects you normally.
  • Being knocked over. Even when powerful forces affect you, you can choose to remain upright.
  • Being lifted off the ground. When you are touching the ground and choose to stay that way, you can’t be picked up or lifted off of it by any means.
  • Direct harm from poison. Poisons cannot directly harm or kill you, but you still experience their side effects, such as pain or dizziness.
  • Side effects of poison. Poisons still harm you, but you do not experience any other effects from them.
  • Plant growth that impedes movement. This means that any plant growth, whether it is magical or mundane, is unable to slow you down or otherwise block your movement. For example, plants that entangle can’t grab onto you, and dense, thorny hedges don’t harm or hinder you.
  • Magical effects that slow you down, restrain you, or prevent you from moving. You still experience any other effects from the magic.
  • Direct harm and fatigue caused by extreme weather. Keep in mind that extreme weather can still harm you indirectly. For example, a desert’s heat won’t affect you, but you will still need to have a source of water.
  • Magic that makes you perceive things that aren’t there. Be sure to tell the game master when you are using this immunity.
  • Magic that prevents you from perceiving things that are there. Note that things can still be hidden from you by mundane means. Be sure to tell the game master when you are using this immunity.
  • Fear. You still feel fear, but it never takes over or clouds your ability to make decisions.

Magical Nature: You have an inherent magical quality that is expressed in two minor magical effects that you can do. These minor magical effects can be used without risk of failure, which means that no roll is needed to use them. However, if you incorporate one of them into a more complicated action, you will need to roll to accomplish that action.

In addition, some minor magical effects have a specified duration while others don’t. If no duration is specified, then the effect wears off at a story appropriate time, usually at the end of a scene. When the effect does wear off, non-magical outcomes, like healing and harm, remain. You may take this ability multiple times, but you must choose a different type of magic to be attuned to each time.

Choose two minor magical effects off the following list.

  • Light a small flame in your hand or on another body part of your choice.
  • Make a magical light that hovers near you.
  • Fill a cup with drinkable water. At the end of the scene any unused water vanishes.
  • Create a small gust of air.
  • Amplify your voice.
  • Become extremely light for a short period of time.
  • Become extremely heavy for a short period of time.
  • Heal minor damage to a plant by touching it.
  • Become nonthreatening to shy animals.
  • Once per day, you can transform your body to have a specific animal body part, such as claws, camouflaging skin, or gills. When you take this ability, choose what this body part is. This choice is permanent.
  • Make one cosmetic change to your appearance. This change can be anything you want, as long as it only affects your appearance. For example, you could switch to a different hair style or change your eye color. Each change lasts as long as you want and there is no limit to how often you can make new changes, but you can only have one change happening at a time.
  • Shrink to half your size. Note that you will have one eighth of your previous weight.
  • Heal minor scrapes and injuries with a touch.
  • Feel when undead beings are nearby.
  • Detect one specific emotion. Choose an emotion, such as surprise, sadness, anger, or joy. This choice is permanent. Any time you choose to focus on detecting this emotion, you know if a nearby person is feeling it.
  • Send a secret message to one nearby person. This can be done in any language that you both know. Only the person that you select receives your message.
  • Always know where north is.
  • Double your speed for one minute. You must rest before you can do this again.
  • Double your strength for one minute. You must rest before you can do this again.
  • Make food taste better.
  • Create a nonverbal phantom sound. Anyone near you can hear this sound.
  • Telekinetically control a small object for one minute. This is done by touching the object and then focusing on it. For one minute you can levitate this object and move it around with your mind.
  • Magically clean an object. This is done by waving your hand, or a different appendage of your choice, over the object and focusing on it.
  • Sense which nearby items are magical.

Limited Shapeshifting: You can shapeshift into a single form. This transformation happens automatically without requiring a dice roll. Most often this trait is used to shift between a humanoid and an animal form, but other options are possible.

Malleable Form: Your body is made from a flexible substance that you can reshape at will. This allows you to morph your body into abstract shapes, squeeze through small holes, and shape your body into a rough approximation of a creature or object your size. However you can only take on shapes of limited complexity and a creature the size of an average humanoid can’t fit through a hole smaller than a chicken egg.

Note that reshaping your body is different than shapeshifting. Like an octopus reshaping its body to fit through a small hole, your size, weight, speed, and form of movement don’t change. In addition, the surface of your body stays the same so that you always have the same external markings and appearance.

Natural Armor: You have armor built into your body. You still need training in physical defense in order to use your armor to its best advantage, but it is always on you and does not interfere with sleep.

Regeneration: You heal rapidly. By eating a lot of food and resting for one night, you can heal all of your injuries. When you wake up you are completely healed. It is up to you whether or not you are left with a scar.

Flight: You are physically capable of flying. It is up to you whether you have wings or a magical form of flight.

Additional Limbs: You have more than four limbs.

  • If you have additional grasping limbs, such arms, trunks, prehensile tails, or tentacles, then you can hold and manipulate additional objects with those limbs. For example, a character with four arms can climb a rope and shoot a bow at the same time.
  • If the additional limbs are legs, then you can move more quickly than a two legged person of the same size and ability. In addition, your additional legs help you keep your footing. This means that you are considered prepared when doing tasks that involve staying upright or keeping your footing, such as moving over a slippery surface without falling.

Built-in Tool: You can use part of your body as a tool for one or more skills. Choose one of the three options below for the benefit your built-in tool gives you.

  • Option #1: Your built-in tool can be used for two skills that require tools. Choose those two skills. You never need to carry tools for those skills because your built-in tool is always with you. For example, retractable claws are tools that can be used for the Climbing and Melee Combat skills.
  • Option #2: Your built-in tool can be used for one skill that requires tools and it grants a special bonus to that skill when you use it. Possibilities for this bonus include granting an additional benefit on full successes (two successes), being able to use this skill in situations where it wouldn’t normally be possible (decide what those are), and allowing you to work unusually quickly. For example, a gecko lizard-person could have climbing tools built into their hands and feet that allow them to climb on smooth surfaces that aren’t normally climbable.
  • Option #3: Your built-in tool can be used to grant a special bonus to two skills that don’t have required tools. Choose those two skills. Possibilities for these bonuses include granting an additional benefit on full successes (two successes), being able to use this skill in situations where it wouldn’t normally be possible (decide what those are), and allowing you to do something unusually quickly. Bonuses can be different for each skill. For example, frog legs could allow a character to use Athletics to jump unusually far and use Swimming to move exceptionally quickly through the water.
  • Ideas for Built-in Tools: Claws, horns, thorns, stingers, octopus skin, ink sacks, gecko hands and feet, frog legs, webbed hands, and silk glands with spinnerets that produce spider webs.

Plant Talker: You can communicate with living plants. This is done by getting close to the plant and using a verbal or signed language to speak to them. Only you can perceive their replies. Plants know about some of their properties, what they are currently experiencing, how they’ve been interacted with recently, and significant events in their past, such as droughts, fires, floods, and major injuries. Their descriptions of the people and objects that interact with them are basic and they can’t give you information about actions that did not directly affect them. The exception to this is magical plants. Some magical plants are more aware of their environments. These plants also have their own desires and goals. This means that their cooperation needs to be earned or negotiated for. Negotiating with magical plants uses the Deception, Diplomacy, and Intimidation skills.

Animal Talker: You can communicate with one category of non-magical animals. Choose whether you can talk to mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, or fish. Any time that you get close to an animal of your chosen type, you can use a verbal or signed language to communicate with them. Animals can give you basic descriptions of people and events, but they are primarily focused on food, danger, members of their own species, and anyone they consider to be family. However, just because you can talk to an animal, doesn’t mean that they will cooperate with you. Negotiating with and persuading animals uses the Communicating with Animals skill.

Ghost Touched: You can perceive and interact with ghosts and other incorporeal beings. This means that you hear and see any incorporeal beings that are present in the same location as you. In addition, whenever you choose to, you can physically interact with incorporeal beings as if they were corporeal.

Incorporeal Form: You can take on a form that has no physical substance. When you become incorporeal, all of the objects you are wearing or holding (including magical items) become incorporeal with you. Those objects stay incorporeal until your incorporeal form wears off. Incorporeal people and objects pass right through ordinary, corporeal people and objects without physically interacting with them.

While incorporeal, you are harder to notice, and as result you are prepared on stealth rolls to avoid being perceived by corporeal people and animals. You are also able to go through non-magical walls and barriers, however magical barriers block you. In addition, incorporeal people and objects are solid to each other.

Decide what your incorporeal form is like. This form doesn’t have to be anything like your corporeal form, but it should have an associated sight, sound, and smell. For example, you could be a glowing pink cloud that smells like roses and rumbles like distant thunder.

Choose one of the following two options.

  • You can become incorporeal once per day for five minutes. At any time during this five minutes you can choose to end this effect and return to your corporeal form.
  • You can become incorporeal once per day for thirty minutes. When the thirty minutes ends you return to being corporeal, however you can’t end your incorporeal form early.

 

 

Questions About Species Traits

Do you need to take the obvious character trait that matches your character’s species, or can you choose something else?

Feel free to give your character any trait you want. However if there is something you definitely want your character to be able to do, make sure to take a trait that represents that. For example, if your character is a five-foot-tall sapient parrot, there is nothing wrong with giving them Regeneration instead of Flight. However if this character isn’t given Flight, then they can’t use their wings to fly.

 

What if you have a concept for your character that involves having more than one species trait?

In many cases, there are class abilities that characters can take, such as shapeshifting, that grant capabilities similar to species traits. However for those cases where multiple species traits are important, skills and abilities can be traded for species traits. Because most species traits do not require a dice roll to use, they tend to be very potent. For this reason each additional species trait that a character takes costs either two skills or one class ability.

 

What if the trait you have in mind comes with a major drawback?

Sometimes a desired trait is balanced out by a significant drawback that comes with it. For example, instead of eating food, a dryad might need sunlight. In these situations a useful option can be to treat things like a trade rather than a species trait. So the dryad can be thought of as trading a need to eat food for a need to get sunlight. These sorts of trades can be worked out in the “Additional Mechanics” step of character creation.

 

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