Talents - What I learned from novels, comics, and movies

Sigmar out of the box
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Posts: 11
Joined: Fri Apr 24, 2020 12:25 pm

This is a response to the idea of letting characters socket an unlimited number of talents to a character and why I think that's not the best way to go. I'm also going to explore the idea of using the talents as obvious story telling devices when using the narrative dice and the not so obvious benefits outside of the effects listed on the talent cards. In my experience, less is more when it comes to talents.


Talents, in my opinion aren't the same thing as D&D's feats or , shocker, World of Warcraft's Talent tree. They're the flavour of you character and more in line with a characters "Look" from Apocalypse World or Blades In The Dark. A few key words we can use to define our characters brand. They are designed to give you a slight edge in certain cases where your players hero are expected to step up and hopefully shine. When we look at our favourite characters in media they are usually defined by three or so qualities. Be it Felix in the Gotrek saga, Dirty Harry, or Captain America. Conan and Batman have had volumes of stories written but we can still distill them down to half a dozen words or so when it comes to their feel. When they interact with their worlds it's usually not a surprise to us how they do it. These, to me are the talent cards.

Limiting the number of socketted traits helps lock in what defines the character during the scene and probably over the course of the campaign. Signature aspects of the character that we might expect to see in different situations. When all of the talents are always in play, we start to get away from what the character is all about and it is harder to lean into these hooks as story telling devices, both as players and GM's. D&D does this with the Ideals, Bonds, and Flaws and can provide opportunities to generate inspiration dice.


By limiting the cards in play we're asking each other "What do we want to see in this scene?". Socketing in Notorious and Icy Stare set the mood for what's about to go down. The mechanical effects of the cards might not even come into play directly but they can be used as triggers and hooks for the scene. How NPC's interact with the players can be a reflection of what the players current mood is. If there are a dozen cards available and all are in play things become more nebulous and a lot harder for everyone to focus on what is important. Also, when there are only a couple sockets available in encounters players are less likely to collect more than a half dozen over a campaign. Again, probably closer to the fiction most of us consume.

When using the Party Sheets (I'll post separately about them) you also start defining the spirit and disposition of the group as a whole and which aspect are bleeding over to everyone or which abilities the group has picked up. The talents provided by the characters become a bit of a glue that pull the attitudes of the players together.


Outside of the obvious effects on the cards, I use the talents to generate fortune for the pool on the party sheet. Much like D&D's inspiration, where playing to your character Flaws, Backgrounds, etc, can grant you a bonus d20, we can use the talents as descriptors for why an action succeeded, failed, generated or removed fatigue/stress even if they were never used specifically. I love hearing players put their twist on the results and talents give us that excuse. After a while it becomes pretty natural to hear "well, I've seen worse" when interpreting rolls that get no benefit from the card. Maybe the gregarious character's chaos star results in the table determining the NPC is one of those people that just dislikes overly friendly people and going forward the relationship is goes down a step. If it fits with the fiction and gives an opportunity for a character to cement a quality or flesh out our world I think everyone at the table wins.

So all that said, I really do think playing with the socketed talents adds more to the game, especially on the RP side then having a whole spread available all the time.

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Posts: 168
Joined: Tue Jan 08, 2019 3:30 am

Excellent stuff, thanks for sharing! I don't have anything to add, but I completely agree with you about limiting talents. Your way of justifying it really fits with the logic behind the narrative dice system (imo). I'll be getting my players to read this guidance in future.

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the party sheet too.
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