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Question for those of you in the alpha test of Dime Adventures:

Now that you've gone through character creation, what options do you feel are absent, but which should be present? Are there any obvious archetypes/backgrounds missing? Is there some ability that doesn't appear in the traits, which you feel should be there?
Here are my initial thoughts:


I did some thinking and reading, trying to think what archetypes might be missing. I think you got a good number of them. Some that may be missing (and possible example character that comes to mind):

Professor/Academic (Professeur Espérandieu, anyone from Miskatonic)
Archaeologist (Indiana Jones, Adèle Blanc-Sec)
The Kid (Jonny Quest)
Pirate (Captain Nemo)


I always think there should be more traits. While stats may be the backbone of a system, traits and skills make things interesting.

There are a pretty equal spread of traits, though Dex's fighting styles give it the most options. Having something similar to fighting styles for each stat could make sense. Having a set of Strength/Speed/Endurance based fighting styles would work for the physical stats. For the other stats, they would have be differently worded, but could work in a similar way:

Degree (Int): Situational bonuses to certain skills that are most associated with Intelligence and education (Lib-Arts, Science, Occult).

Improved Sense (Perception): Each particular sense can be improved for situational mods.

Social Experience (Charisma): Bonus to various social skills when dealing with the group the character has experience with (high society, military, criminals, etc.).

Disciplined (Determination): A set of areas where one gets a bonus to determination, like focusing on long tasks, etc.

Some other random suggestions:

Swashbuckling Stuff: I saw Witty Strike and Fencing, but maybe a Charisma-based duelist trait that grants a “free” Moxie just for issuing duels or other mechanical benefits for the separate duel mechanics?

Plucky/Clever: Possibly something Charisma or Intelligence-based that adds to the Willpower defense to represent guts and gumption similar to Iron Will? Maybe make it cost a Moxie?

Meditation: With adequate time, able to make what would normally be a Int-based skill use into a Determination based one.

Ally: A 5-point associate that is does a little more than a contact.
I think Indiana Jones and Adele Blanc-Sec can be covered pretty well by Adventurer and Journalist. I definitely agree that some kind of Professor/Academic background would be useful. The “Titan of Industry” archetype is an important one in genre, but with everyone having the same starting Wealth, implementation could be awkward. I don't know if Lunatic is a background in and of itself so much as a Weakness Trait or three tacked on to some other background (Soldier who's seen too much, Mystic who read a book they shouldn't have, etc). Also, maybe a Police background would be good, though I can see the overlap with Investigator.

I am, of course, always in favor of more Traits, especially those that could let you play dinosaurs or mummies or Bigfoot or whatever. Natural weapons, extra limb or tail, etc. Enhanced senses is an excellent idea for Per traits that aren't even necessarily supernatural. Int-related Traits to specialize further within a skill like Lib-Arts feel very appropriate for a genre where you often see people billed as “the world's leading authority on Mesoamerican myths” or whatever.

I think awarding Experiences for backstory writing nicely addresses the issue of how characters with no Int Experiences from their background can still start play bilingual. If that's not a default rule, it should be.
You guys gave me some great feedback on traits last week, and this week I want to continue to focus on them, so here are the session questions:

Which existing traits are either useless, lackluster or simply provide something you'd expect to see for a trait of that stat/cost?

Currently there are 57 traits in the playtest (7 per stat, plus the language trait). In my ideal world, there would be somewhere in the ballpark of 80 - 100 traits. There are a few reasons, however, why there aren't yet that many traits in this phase of the playtest. These reasons include:
  • I am trying to balance the number of traits between each stat. Ideally I would like to have the same number per stat, unless I see a good reason to make an exception. Some stats I have found it easy to come up with new traits for (Dexterity, Intelligence, Charisma) and others I've found more difficult (Strength, Endurance, Determination).
  • So far I have been resistant to adding traits that do nothing more than add a conditional bonus to stat/skill flips. In my mind, these traits are a) not particularly exciting, and b) this conceptual territory is already largely covered by the experiences system (that is, the game already has one mechanic for gaining a conditional bonus to skill flips; what value is there in adding a second trait-based system that does essentially the same thing?) Now, although I have been resistant to adding traits like this so far, I may yet break down and add them to the game. So if you've got good ideas or an argument in favor of these sort of traits, feel free to share them; just be aware of my bias.
  • I would ideally like to avoid having too many traits that do essentially the same thing as each other, although I have already broken this guideline in having two traits that add to Moxie, two that add to HP and a couple that add to damage. At the very minimum, I don't want to have two that do the same thing under the same stat.

Keeping in mind the above aims, what traits are missing? What genre-appropriate abilities aren't yet reflected in a trait? (Extra credit if you have ideas for traits that would fit under the auspice of Strength, Endurance or Determination.)

In the list above I talk about my thoughts regarding traits that add a bonus to stat/skill flips? What are your thoughts on this matter? Do you have a good argument for or against these traits?
the only thing i can think of is muli level traits
I am mostly just jotting down notes as I think of them.

Which existing traits are either useless, lackluster or simply provide something you'd expect to see for a trait of that stat/cost?

I think some of the 9s are too costly, Hyperlinguistics for example. How many sessions to even get to Int 9? How many sessions beyond that to get this trait? And then, in an ideal situation, the character can possibly learn 5 additional languages in a session, at a cost of a Moxie each, but just for that session. Then the player may spend even more XP or spend a Moxie in another session. Except in maybe a diplomatic one-shot, I'm not sure of times when one wouldn't just be better off buying 9 languages. The most widely spoken languages in the world are Chinese, Spanish, English, Hindi, Arabic, Portuguese, Bengali, Russian, and Japanese. Depending on the campaign, it might make sense to swap out a few, but if I were playing the talented linquist in a game, I'd just buy a nice package of languages in session 1.

Other expensive traits: Most of the 9s.

Witty Strike is a bonus to just the attack, and while the right build might make use of this, a 9 Charisma is a pretty big investment and probably means the actual combat stats may not be built up. I love the flavor, but the cost may be high.

Weapon Master is the same damage bonus as Forceful Strike and Rage, yet the +1 to Parry reactions doesn't really seem enough for the additional XP cost and high requirement. It is also interesting that a Weapon Master doesn't get a bonus to hit, but a Witty Strike does? Blind-Fighting probably should be made more general to allow other limits to perception, like striking foes around corners maybe?

Things I mentioned previously that still fit these requirements:

Swashbuckling Stuff: Charisma-based duelist trait that grants a “free” Moxie just for issuing duels.

Nimble: Dodge gets a Speed Trump.

Random Traits I would like to see:

Ally or Contact Group: Build off Contract trait and possibly have their own mechanics.

Pets: Pulp often has strange pets.

Lifestyle: Charisma trait that creates artificial bonus to lifestyle (Friends everywhere or something).

Wealth: Ways to buy this up at creation might be work as a trait or come out of Intelligence (clever schemes), Determination (Hard work), or Charisma (Inheritance or Gifts).

Invention Traits: If there is a whole system for something, it should have a trait or two, and I love such systems. While Gadgeteer covers a lot of this, it could actually be split into something like Gizmo and the +2 bonus with costs of maybe 3 and 5 or 5 and 5 each. Traits that hit some part of the system (scrounger) might work too.

Dirty Fighter - Spend a moxie to auto hit, but take a hit to social interactions by anyone who witnessed it or learns about it after the fact. May have balance issues, but it fits genre if reworked.

Strength trait possibilities:

Strength-based Fighting Styles:

I do think having a strength-focused fighting styles that allows using strength instead of dex to hit might be nice. Also things like Wrestling (see versatile grapples below) or boxing (better damage with bare fists) could be fun.

Ways to change damage: Another idea I had was rather than straight bonuses to damage, things that affect only the club damage, always raising minimum damage based on strength. This increases average damage without increasing maximum damage which might make balancing less problematic.

Versatile Grapples: More things to do during grapples should also be strength-based and might make interesting traits.

Improved Strength Based Criticals: Hits with melee weapons are give a more severe conseqences or something. Other stuff similar to Dazing Strike maybe.

To the Moon!: Improved Range on strength-based ranged weapons.

Endurance trait possibilities:

Grin and Bear It: Character can spend a moxie to negate a critical consequence from an enemy attack.

Less Sleep/Less Food/Less Air: Endurance traits based on needing less of some life requirement. 4 hours instead of 8 for sleep, 1 meal rather than 3, hold breath a long time, etc.

Tireless Worker: Something that works with the extended action mechanics, not as a bonus, but as a way of adding extra rounds in for that character by pulling double shifts, skipping breaks, etc.

Moxie-for-fatigue: Spend to drop fatigue consequence where normally couldn't? May have balance issues.

Take a Bullet - Can spend a Moxie to change damage from a ranged attack to the attack's Club damage. Bullets never seem to kill people as much as they should in pulp…


Retroactive Pulled Punches: For the character that doesn't want to hurt anyone too badly, can adjust down strength for pulling punches after the fact.

Trance: Faking one's death with trances sort of fits pulp, though not sure if that useful. Possibly used to slow bleeding out?

In the list above I talk about my thoughts regarding traits that add a bonus to stat/skill flips? What are your thoughts on this matter? Do you have a good argument for or against these traits?

I agree that the experiences/specialties covers a lot of space. I also know a lot of games have a lot of “stack the bonuses” which make it a game of numbers, not characters. I do it myself since a lot of systems punish those who don't. As a design choice, I think it is fine.

That said, I do think that everything not covered by experiences: attack damage, hit points, defense numbers, dodge, and so on may be valid for traits that improve them. I would love more ways to be agile, but as it is right now, it is easier to just add more hit points. Conditional defense increases would be nice (examples: Fearless - will defense increase against terror, Fighter's physique - defense against unarmed attacks).

Which existing traits are either useless, lackluster or simply provide something you'd expect to see for a trait of that stat/cost?

Hyperlinguistics: I agree with Micah 100% that Hyperlinguistics is hideously over-costed. Language barriers can be fun RP in many cases, but I feel like “I can speak that language!” is almost never game-breaking or plot-killing, and in fact often helps the party progress the plot. I think Hyperlinguistics would be a perfectly reasonable 9-pointer if it let you pick up enough of any language to make yourself understood after one conversation or studying one text, and then letting the owner pick that language up for free after a session in which they encountered or used that language. If you are sinking 9 flippin' Experiences to be The Best at Languages ™, I think you ought to get something really cool out of it.

Truly Scary: I'm not sure that I'm convinced that being able to give everyone on the enemy team -1 or -2 on everything at the cost of an action with an opposed flip required is worth 9 points, but having not seen it used I don't think it's really so obviously wrong as to demand correction.

Fighting Style (Wrestling): All the other Fighting Styles actually seem to do their thing pretty well as far as I can tell, but Wrestling just underwhelms me. If I'm grappling someone in an RPG, it's usually because I don't just want to kill them with damage, and I'm also usually not super-invested in my ability to do things other than grappling them at the same time and do them well. I'd much rather pay for a trait that lets me grapple people better, with a +2 on Melee checks to grapple or something. OTOH, I can see someone wanting to make Strength-based huge character that chokes people to death all the time, that's a Pulp thing, so maybe we could even keep the optional extra damage in for those characters. But as it stands, it offers me the ability to do two things I don't really care about doing better while not letting me do the actual thing I want (grapple people and have them stay grappled) any better. If we don't like flat bonuses, maybe introducing a “pinning” technique that increases your target's penalties on affecting people outside the grapple even more?

Weapon Master: I actually think this one is fairly reasonable. +2 on damage in all circumstances with no downside is clearly better than Rage, and the +1 to Parry is actually pretty huge considering that Melee is capped at 5. Every extra +1 to Parry is pretty darn valuable IMO.

Lucky Dodge: I will be interested to see how much we miss this now that we realize it's not just a core use of Moxie. It may actually be so universally useful as to be possibly undercosted.

Deft Retreat: 7 points to avoid a ZoCA, AND you still have to spend an extra AP? We didn't provoke a single ZoCA in our first session, and that may be coloring my perceptions, but this still seems like it's way too expensive for a situational benefit that also costs you extra AP. This should definitely be a Trait, but I think it would be more reasonable as a 5 (without the extra AP cost) or maybe even a 3 (with the extra AP cost).

Master Detective: This trait isn't necessarily costed wrong, its mechanics are just bizarre. It is most useful to characters who didn't actually put any points in Investigate since it lets them find all the answers just by paying a Moxie. It might work better as a Spycraft-style “you never fail at this skill even if you get a really low result, you always find SOMETHING useful.”

Blind Fighting: I like the flavor and the mechanics both on this one, but I wonder if it's over-costed at 9 points even so. Eliminating a class of situational penalties does not seem like it's worth 9 points to me. The extra benefit from Night Vision is super cool, but that effectively makes you pay 12 points to get it. I think that benefit could be folded in to Blind Fighting for free, without requiring you to also have Night Vision. I know that this makes Night Vision useless if you have Blind Fighting, but maybe it should give you a 3-point discount if you “trade up” from Night Vision to Blind Fighting. Making little chains like this could be a good way to introduce more Traits, actually.

Witty Strike: What if, instead of a flat +2 to attack, this Trait allowed people to use Charisma rather than Dex as their attack trait as long as they make a witty remark? Not actually sure this is better, it just occurred to me.

Keeping in mind the above aims, what traits are missing? What genre-appropriate abilities aren't yet reflected in a trait? (Extra credit if you have ideas for traits that would fit under the auspice of Strength, Endurance or Determination.)

I agree with and support literally all of Micah's suggestions above except Dirty Fighting. I have yet to see the whole “people might look at you funny” thing actually be a significant downside in play in systems that include it, regardless of what the game's rulebook says. It's another thing for the GM to keep track of, it gets lost or forgotten, it never seems appropriate, and most characters who take stuff like Dirty Fighting couldn't care less about such a penalty anyway so it becomes an easy pick for min-maxers. I don't think it's a bad idea to have a Dirty Fighting trait, I just think “people will think less of you” never really works out to be a downside except in games like L5R or Hackmaster, where Honor is actually a tangible numerical quantity that has mechanical effects.

Some trait ideas of mine:

The Direct Approach (3): You can always get Spade damage when attempting to damage an object, such as breaking open a door, punching through a wall, bursting bonds, or snapping an evil staff of Set over your knee.

Feat of Strength (7): Spend a Moxie to perform a feat of strength that should probably be just barely impossible (GM's discretion), such as lifting up a car, shifting an enormous boulder, or leaping a chasm while carrying the dead weight of an unconscious comrade over each shoulder. Benefits last only one round; if you want to keep lifting that car or carrying two people, spend a Moxie every round.


Climate Adaptation (3): Choose a climate hazard, such as extreme cold, extreme heat, or altitude. Reduce the severity of any Fatigue consequence imposed on your character by the chosen hazard by one, to a minimum of zero.


Unbreakable (9): You never stop fighting, no matter the odds. The TN of your actions to stay conscious despite damage are capped at 10. If you benefit from this cap in a fight, you begin Bleeding Out and may still die from three failed Endurance flips - you just don't stop fighting in the meantime!

In the list above I talk about my thoughts regarding traits that add a bonus to stat/skill flips? What are your thoughts on this matter? Do you have a good argument for or against these traits?

Honestly, I think they are an appropriate way to be “the best of the best” at something. Yes, Experiences offer bonuses as well, but once you reach 5 in a skill, Experiences don't matter anymore. Disregarding adders and trumps, a world-class (Athletics 5) gymnast with peak human agility (Dexterity 10) still has an almost 20% chance of failure when attempting a Daunting task, and an almost 50% chance of failing an Absurd task. This actually feels fairly appropriate for modeling how real-world people would do in these situations, but Dime Adventures PC's are not real-world people, they are pulp action heroes. Absurd and impossible are their stock in trade. When it comes time to do their special thing, they're supposed to succeed. Failure needs to be on the table to keep things exciting, but I think a pulp game should let the PC's stack the deck in their favor when pushing the limits within their character's particular specialty. I mean, how many pulp adventures can you remember where Flash Gordon fails to make the nearly-impossible jump from the collapsing lava cliffs to reach the door of the escaping spaceship? He's an athlete, that's his thing. Having specialization traits that give you a +2 or +4 or something on a specific subset of a skill, similar to an Experience (track and field for Athletics, Mesoamerica for Lib-Arts, Planes for Pilot) seems like a good way to model this. Maybe call them “Paragon Experiences” or something, and say you can buy ONE paragon Experience in a Skill you have at 5 and it gives +2 or +4 or something.
As someone playing a PC with high Charisma, I find Witty Strike really underwhelming, and think I still would even with Matt's implementation of it. Looking at it this way:

At Charisma 9 it's going to take you months to get there. It's almost impossible to start with a Charisma above 7 so that's 8 weeks to get to Charisma 8 and then 9 weeks to get to Charisma 9 and then *another* 9 weeks to get to 9 Charisma experieinces. That's… 27 Charisma experiences? Spaced out, at the top end, over 27 weeks? If I'm going to dedicate 27 experiences to something, I want it to be the epitome of what that trait *does*. The epitome of Charisma is not a flat +2 to hit. It's honestly not even use Charisma in place of dex to hit. If you're dumping that much exp into Charisma, you want some sort of social skill, instead of a better to hit skill.

I could see Witty Strike being a thing, but I would much rather see it around a 5, and maybe triggered by spending a Moxie. +2 is nothing to sneeze at, and at 5 you could make it available to people who were fighters without Charisma being Their Main Thing.

Some Charisma Ideas:
Something that allows you to spend a Moxie to convince an NPC to like you when you first meet them.

Life of the Party (9) - Something that allows you to monologue and make it hard for NPCs and Extras to do anything until you stop talking. This allows your PC to act as a distraction for the rest of the team.

Silver-Tongued Devil (7 or 9) - May make a (Some hard difficulty here) Cha+Relevant Social skill to take an Extra out of the fight. That extra must understand the User's language to use this trait.

I also think Determined could benefit from some sort of “Elan”-like ability. +2 if you spend a Moxie specifically to flip a new card off the top of the deck and gain a +2 to it. There is more Moxie in general than Bennies, but I feel like enough of them are spent playing a card from hand, plus the added drawback of Jokers makes it worth it.

Or maybe a 7 or 9 point Determined Trait that lets you spend a Moxie to luck even a Joker?

Iron Liver: Grants bonuses to Endurance pulls against Poison?

You could make a Strength Trait surrounding “Lookit Those Guns” wherein you can spend a Moxie to substitute Str for Cha in a roll surrounding either showing off or intimidation?
I would agree on Weapon Master except Spears (Reach) and Staffs (Defensive 1) give equivalent bonuses to defense. That said, increasing one's Defense by +1 would probably cost at least 9, assuming low Speed and Perception. Increasing damage only possible for Melee, and is at least +2 Strength, so again at least +9. Maybe it is more an emotional response. Spending 9 sessions to buy +20% better (5 parry vs 6 ) isn't really exciting to me. I'm probably also thinking too much of Acrobatic Dodge from earlier system variants where it was possible to be very defensive for much less than 9 XP.

You are right on dirty fighting. While I love the scene where Indiana Jones just shoots the guy with the sword, when playing in an RPG, it is too easy to be a psychopath. “People are upset with me? Time to burn the world and move on to the next!” Possibly dirty fighting could add a consequence for a cost of a Moxie, but gives attack penalties for later attacks against that enemy (who is now on guard for such things)?
Oh yeah! Joker-proofing is a really cool Determination ability, definitely a 7 or 9 pointer, but Thorin may not want Joker-proofing to be a thing because removing all chance of failure is a pretty substantial shock to the system. As long as it has a cost it could still be balanced IMO. And good point on the Charisma capstone being a fighter power; that being weird didn't even occur to me but you're right, there should be something more social there.

And Micah, your point about Weapon Master not being exciting is a good one, I think. Mechanically I think it's pretty strong, but it's definitely not exciting, and if you're going to spend all that time and all those Experiences 9-pointers should really be exciting, or else so incredibly good that you will constantly revel in their use (like the Speed 9-pointer).

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