Sometimes I think I don’t actually want to bring skills to the table but I want to bring those King Arthur Pendragon traits to the character, using a d20 or 2d6 or something.
Assume we wanted to see whether a character would watch over a city gate for two days. Instead of making a focus skill check, you make a trait check to see whether your character is energetic or lazy.
If you don’t know: King Arthur Pendragon 1st ed. is free on RPGNow until the end of the month, apparently. Each character has a variety of opposing traits such as chaste vs. lustful, energetic vs. lazy, forgiving vs. vengeful, etc. The point is that your character might not act the way you want them to and I like that. The two opposing traits always add up to 20.
chaste ↔ lustful
energetic ↔ lazy
forgiving ↔ vengeful
generous ↔ selfish
honest ↔ deceitful
just ↔ arbitrary
merciful ↔ cruel
modest ↔ proud
pious ↔ worldly
prudent ↔ reckless
temperate ↔ indulgent
trusting ↔ suspicious
valorous ↔ cowardly
So say we have energetic 13 and lazy 7. You want the character to stand guard for two days. Let’s have an energetic test: If you roll 1–12, you succeed. If you roll 13, you have a critical success. If you roll higher, you fail. Failing this check might mean that the characters started nodding off, or got distracted. They weren’t energetic enough.
In some cases, you might want to determine whether the character does the exact opposite of what the player wants. In these situations, make an involuntary check of the opposite trait. In this case, a lazy check: if you roll 1–6, the character is lazy. On a 7, critically so. If the characters were actively lazy, they probably retired to a nearby tavern and decided to keep an eye on the gate by peeping out the window every now and then. On a critical lazy result, they’re probably drunk and crawling around on the tavern floor.
If characters fail both checks, the player gets to decide. Since players get to decide if they succeed the first check (since this is what they wanted the character to do) and if they fail the second check, characters actively disobeying players doesn’t happen too often.
On important occasions, the referee might decide that an action was worth a “check”. A check means that at the end of the session, players roll a d20 and if they beat the existing score, it goes up (with 19 being the upper limit). In a D&D game, you might want to do this immediately, but at most once per session, or upon gaining a level (but that might be very long off).
If all players start with traits around 7–13, a trait of 16 or higher would mean that they are famous for being generous, lazy, lustful, or whatever.