Character flaws

I’m in the process of putting together a new game, and was looking for a little advice. A key part of the premise being that each character needs to posses some form of deep seeded flaw.

This specifically isn’t going to be a Starfleet ship, and these aren’t going to be people who have chosen to come together. I guess examples would be Lost or The Expanse. In theory this could be a really fun set up, but my relative inexperience as a GM in general is showing a little here, and I want to make sure I set up a good foundation.

Does anyone have any advice or useful reading on helping my players develop these kind of characters? Or any generally useful advice for building such a game?

I’ve been running the game for almost 3 years now, and I’m confident mechanically, but this set up is definitely a bit outside my comfort zone!

There are no rules for that in STA, but JCoM has rules for flaws. In short a character looses Momentum if the Flaw comes to effect or the character has to pay Momentum to prevent something happening because of the Flaw.

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You could build it into the Values system. They’d have to define one value to cover the flaw - and then you’d enforce its use in play.


You don’t necessarily have to do anything mechanical; just let it be part of the role playing. Look at the DS9 cast, for example. They all have character flaws that aren’t reflected on their stats. Bashir is kind of a jerk for the first season or so and of course there’s the genetic engineering. Major Kira is short tempered and has skeletons in her closet. Dad has some deep seated confidence issues relating to how Jadzia became a host that crop up occasionally, and also various situations from past hosts that she has to struggle with. Etc.


There are rules for it, it 100% should be part of the values system. I’m more after general role play GMing advice than mechanical to be honest

Encourage the players to be creative in their values. They don’t all have to be positive. Take a look at Dukat’s values:

  • A Disciplined Cardassian Mind
  • They Don’t Know What It Means to be my Enemy
  • One Man’s Villain is Another Man’s Hero
  • Everything I have Lost, I Will Regain

No reason a Starfleet character couldn’t have some flawed values. I bet Jellico and any number of TOS-era admirals had some interesting ones.


Mechanically I’m fairly ok. The values system is pretty robust and allows a catch all mechanic for this sort of thing.

Do you, or others who have been GMing for a while got any practical advice for encouraging this type of play, or the development of believable characters?

Remind players the game is all about the characters, first, and then do what you can to make the stories you tell directly related to their characters and their back stories or histories or lifepath. Encourage the players to flesh out the lifepath material and build in some content you can use in the stories you prepare. Make it personal to them as opposed to a stock adventure any group could play through–tailor as needed.

Some of it has to be on the players, though, meeting you halfway.


Just remember, if you encourage the players to do something, you will have to embrace it in the game.

I just bring it up because no GM plan ever survives contact with the players.

Be very specific with what you actually mean and make sure you and your players are on the same page.

I obviously don’t know you or your players. But any game that wishes to place an emphasis on flaws or dark secrets from the past can quickly spiral out of control if everyone at the table doesn’t have the same concept of what a flaw or dark secret should be.

Even in this post I am assuming that flaws will be based on dark secrets which may not be your vision at all.

Also put a little thought into getting the players to take into account each other. I have been in games where players created backgrounds that were in direct conflict, which didn’t end well.

My biggest recommendation, which I have adopted for all my RPG’s, is require all characters to be built together in session zero. They all get approved by the GM at the same time at the same table.

Some PC conflicts are good, some are game destroying. By influencing them from the start you can tone down the destroying part.


Earlier 2d20 games have this exact mechanic. It’s a personal obstacle that GMs can use to generate their dice manipulation points or players can activate to generate theirs.

But I am inclined to agree with @Spence. If you want “mysterious secrets” in your game, I suggest you come up with them as story hooks and offer them to the players you know can handle them. A lot of Star Trek characters have these: Data has an evil twin, Picard was court martialed for an altercation with the Ferengi and has a robot heart, Worf killed a kid in a soccer game, McCoy euthanized his father days before a cure was discovered, Sisco’s mom was actually a Prophet, Data’s mom was a robot, Quark’s mom is a financial genius.
If you control the hooks and they agree, any left field weirdness they come up with is mitigated.