A question of traits

Hi everybody. Sorry if this has been asked before but I have a few questions regarding traits.

On page 102 of the core book, it says that your first personal trait will be your place in society and always should include your House. Your second trait is your personal reputation.

However, planned creation later on says that your first trait is your archetype (possibly with a bit of rewording). And indeed the example character of Kara only has “Noble” as her first trait rather than something like “Firstborn scion of House Molay” or something along those lines.

These two don’t quite line up. So… which one is it?

A second question, are these traits purely about reputation or also about ability?

I’ll clarify that with an example.

If it’s about ability, then with a trait like ‘Warrior’ I should be able to claim a -1 difficulty to just about any skirmish-related roll. Ditto for Duelists in duels and courtiers in intrigue scenes, etc. That sounds pretty potent though. Is this the case? Since page 102 also mentions that these personal traits are no different from other traits, I’m guessing it’s this one. It just sounds very powerful so I figured I’d ask.

If it’s just about reputation, then they seem of relatively little value. Someone with a rep for being a great duelist but who doesn’t actually duel that much better than any old soldier sounds a bit anti-climactic. Having a known reputation for being a spy or infiltrator could be actively detrimental to you if it doesn’t also lower the difficulty of certain rolls!

Thanks in advance for any answers you can provide!


I think the pg 102 specification of always including your House may be a relic of an earlier set of creation rules as all other references just have more generic traits, as in the example character or the NPCs in the GM section.
The example traits are all just suggestions so they can be changed as appropriate anyway.

Traits cover both aspects. As long as you can justify the use of the trait to the GM then you should be able to apply it.
You are right that if you have a broad enough trait and a silver enough tongue you could justify the Warrior trait to most skirmishes. But you can’t apply it to any intrigue like a Devious courtier might be able to.
So while it is powerful it is showcasing your characters expertise in that particular field. In other fields other characters will have the chance to shine.

And remember traits can also be used against you. The GM may cite your Warrior trait as increasing the difficulty when you are in esteemed company. ‘Smile, Gurney’
Make it too broad and it can cut both ways. :smiling_imp:


Something to ponder about Warrior trait as reputation: If it is reputation, it isn’t necessarily true as it could be just cultivated reputation, but anyone fighting against someone who has reputation as a warrior needs to be careful, hence justifying its effect.
Of course, in this case someone else could figure this out, and if revealed, it probably should lead to the trait changing immediately or at least negated for the moment, depending on the circumstances.

I wouldn’t suggest this kind of thing for a player character, but could be neat for NPCs.

(Incidentally can Threat-created traits apply to player characters and/or are they permanent? Reputation could be negated with one.)


Good question.
According to the rules on pg 156 “the GM may change, remove or create a trait by spending 2 points of threat. This must come naturally from some part of the current situation”

I would say that yes you can use this to apply to player characters. In the adventure Harvesters of Dune there is a situation where the players can be assigned the trait ‘Battered’ or ‘Bruised’. If the GM can do this a natural part of the scene then spending threat to achieve the same result is perfectly acceptable. As long as they can also justify it, that rule should always cut both ways in a RPG.

For making it permanent there is nothing in the rules in the same way as there is for a player spending momentum to make an asset permanent.
I have carried over environmental traits from both momentum and threat in my game for free, but not ones that apply directly to a PC or NPC.
The only time I would agree to make such a trait permanent is if the player suffered a defeat. Then I would be willing to spend threat to give them a permanent scar or similar in the same way as a PC can do (lasting injuries pg 168)


The short answer is that as long as you have the right amount of traits at the end of character gen, they can be anything you like.
We suggest basing them on certain things to make sure you use a broad selection. But its certainly more of a guideline than a rule. :slight_smile:

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Just to piggyback off this, there is one question that I’d really appreciate confirmation on, Andy. When OP asks about the traits and skirmishes, is that accurate?

I ask as I am running Wormsign soon and I believe I should apply the pregen Marcus Syn’s swordmaster trait by making contested battle rolls in the skirmish with the Harkonnen soldiers -1 difficulty, and contested rolls against him +1 harder (as per CRB p. 144). While this seemed too unbalanced to me (but totally implied by the rules as I read them), Thalim’s suggestion on the negatives seems perfect. So, Syn might get these incredible bonuses in combat but in a social situations his swordmastery might count against him (perhaps the fremen at the end of Wormsign might gain the trait “amused” and not take Syn’s character very seriously).

Hope you can confirm what the intention with the power of traits is. I’ve otherwise found this rules set to be really intuitive and the help in this forum incredibly useful, having come from a background in 3.5 DnD. Thanks!


To be honest, its very much up to the GM.
Swordmaster as a trait really means much the same as Baker (for instance)
It would give you a bonus where people would be impressed you are a swordmaster, or when people are listening to your opinions about using blades as you might a baker about bread making.
But it wouldn’t necessarily add to every combat test, otherwise ‘street thug’ could arguably do the same.

At the end of the day, the narrative elements are really for the GM to decide.
We’ve specifically not given a list of approved traits and how they must be applied for this reason. A trait can be anything and apply to anything as long as the GM agrees.
So if its working for you using a mixture of positive and negative aspects that suit your game, thats cool.
If someone is doing something different that works for their game, thats cool too.
If you give each other new ideas having heard how someone else is doing it, even better.

The bonus and problem with a narrative system is that its very much up to you, and to trust the GM as the arbiter of what is fair for the sort of game they want to run.

Personally, I’d look at it in terms of power balance among the PCs. Its fine to have overpowered stuff as long as everyone is still getting a fair share of the adventure.

Sorry not to be more definitive, but hope thats useful :slight_smile:


@TheyShavedMomoa glad you are finding it intuitive as am I. I played mostly 5e and PF1/2e and I am loving it. @Andy-Modiphius one of the things I am loving about Dune, even out of all the other 2d20 games is that level of flexibility and the fact that your fun factor is based on the social contract between the players and the GM.


Definitely useful, if not definitive. Whenever my GM senses stray towards definitive answers, I do try to remind myself of the Quick Tip on p.218: “Change the rules.” Haha

So I think I’m seeing this. On the one hand, traits could be ‘narrow’ in the sense that in a baking contest, the trait ‘baker’ may well reduce difficulty, etc. but generally unless bakery is the narrative focus, it’s not going to modify rolls too much. On the other, I could take a trait like ‘swordmaster’ and apply it everywhere, giving advantages in every relevant melee combat and disadvantages in any context where combat and violence is seen as a negative (negotiations, banquets, etc.). And so long as it’s consistently apply either approach is fine.

So, if I lean into traits being broadly applicable in Wormsign perhaps the Bene Gesserit character trait ‘Bene Gesserit’ could instantly make all negotiations with those who oppose ‘the withces’ more difficult (such as Harkonnen soldiers warned against them), but it might make negotiations with the Fremen easier (if the character reveals or uses their training). This kinda fits with my headcanon for Dune, where the main characters are OP in their field and Paul is just each OP character rolled into one.

I still can’t get over the fact that I, and others, can just blast random questions into this forum and get excellent community and developer responses. Thanks! I’ll be sure to add a session report one day too (trying to look on the bright side of lockdowns, etc.!)


Hey I don’t know how to ‘mention’ another user in comment as you elegantly did, but just wanted to say cheers and it’s nice to find other people who are getting along fine with 2d20. I read people online getting tied up in knots over running a duel or something and I just can’t figure out how they can miss the premises of this system. Intuitive is the word. At least mostly haha traits threw me a little.


You use the @ symbol and then their username.
The forum is smart enough to initially give you a list of everyone who is in the thread which speeds things up.

For people getting tied up in the system I think it is partially due to the heavy influence of Fate and similar where a lot of things are just swept up and abstracted out.
Works great for me, but some people seem to prefer a bit more rigidity in their system.

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Yup, with traits its easier to think of them as ‘things you are’ rather than ‘things you can do’
Your skills and drives govern how good you are at actually doing something so traits are usually more about position, reputation and background.
But essentially, if you can put in a sentence “I’m an X so I can…” you are doing it right.

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