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Bonds, Flaws, Traits, and Ideals. Oh my!
Unlike most 5e rules, I straight-up ignore the Bonds, Flaws, Traits, and Ideals on every character I make, all NPCs, and none of my players use them, either. So why do they keep these?
I’m just gonna say what we’re all thinking: Personality Traits, Flaws, Bonds, and Ideals in Fifth Edition are…well…one of the worst and most useless parts of the system.
I leave those sections of the character sheet blank every single time I generate one. I am 90% certain my players do, too. Do you?
It really made me do a double-take today when I was looking through the Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen early access on D&D Beyond that the NPCs all had a section under them with these silly things highlighted.
Now, this is totally normal for 5e, and all the hardcover books do this.
I just kind of gloss over them and don’t think about it. But for some reason, they stood out to me this time, and it made me think to myself…well, those things are just shy of useless.
These are supposed to give us a brief outline of how to roleplay the character, but they don’t. Not really.
Take the Bond for Cudgel above: “Money motivates, but the right cause inspires.”
What is the right cause, and what does she do if she’s inspired?
She’s a mercenary according to the bio, so we know the money part already, but we have no idea what actually drives her and inspires her.
Even the flaw “I can be slow to leave the comforts of an inn or tavern” is pretty bland.
But there’s hope in OneD&D!
Admittedly, I’ve not been a huge fan of what I’ve seen in the OneD&D playtests so far, but I am keeping an open mind because it’s still very early in the cycle.
But when I thought about this particular mechanic, I went to check the OneD&D PDFs. And they’re nowhere to be seen.
Yet, at least.
Unless my CTRL-F skills have failed me, the character creation and background generation don’t include Flaws, Bonds, Ideals, and Traits anymore.
I think that’s just great. Because it’s wasted space and design energy that could be put into something else.
What I want instead: Roleplaying Tips
All I want is a “Tips on Roleplaying Cudgel” or something like that. A lot of third-party supplements have this sort of thing, and I really like it more than the base 5e system because of how it gets into who the character is and how they will most likely interact with the party.
I think that’s the big part—we need a way to know how they’re going to interact with the party, not how they have previously acted in the world. When it comes to NPCs, at least.
What about players?
For players, I don’t think there needs to be any sort of mechanical incentive to have a backstory. I know no one who roleplays off the sheet and what it says, and even if they do, it’s alignment and nothing else.
I think the way OneD&D is handling backgrounds and feats so far is how we need to keep going. I think that the Custom Background and Custom Lineage from Tasha’s and onward is a great step, too.
And none of those involve Flaws, Bonds, etc. Because they don’t really add anything to the game—even from a flavor perspective.
Give me a big blank square on part of the character sheet labeled Bio and a smaller square (make it a circle, if you must!) that says Portrait, and you’ve got a much simpler and more useful system than these crazy d8 charts.
Or am I alone in this?
Are they actually widely used, and my anecdotal evidence is very wrong and my experiences not universal? (Le gasp!) Let me know in the comments!
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