Earning Physical Character Traits

Having gone through our first trait vote, one of my players has gotten really excited over the prospect of earning Abnormally Long Tongue. He’s been going out of his way to mention how abnormally long his tongue is at every opportunity.
Is this reasonable? How do you guys award physical character traits that aren’t a direct result of something that happens during gameplay (scars, for instance)? Should he be tying weights onto his tongue or something instead to justify it in-game? Or trying to overcome problems or take the game in a different direction by using his tongue in some way?
I guess ultimately it’s up to us what it will take to convince us to vote him the trait, but I’m wondering if anyone has any advice here. How do people usually handle this sort of thing?

Ummm, no. He shouldn’t be trying to overcome problems with his tongue.

Is this adding anything to the sessions? It sounds like this would mainly be a source of annoyance. In that case, have a word with the player and explain that he is being disruptive.

Or, just give him the tongue if it’s that important to him. But consider that this might both annoy the other players and strain their belief in the game or the system, and that the wrong kind of player might still just wag his tongue around and keep being disruptive…

I’m sorry, having fun is now illegal in the sacred game of Burning Wheel? Adding interesting tidbits to the character is one of the things that makes the game better, not worse. Also, Seawyrm asked for advice on how to make this a smooth part of his game, not for advice on how to classify certain people as “the wrong kind of player”.

Seawyrm, I think the answer to your problem is dependent on the tone of your game. If oddball things happen a lot (due to player or GM action), then I think that creatively solving tasks with tongue-use is totally legit (say, creepy-seduction, or conspicuous. Or REALLY high ob lock-picking?). If you’re striving for a more “gritty” or realistic vibe, then you might have to lay down the law and say that physical traits like this are only available at character creation, sans weird intervention (like weight-torture, or bizarre magic stuff. These should, of course, be relevant, not out of nowhere). At the end of the day, though, if you let him go through with this I think that merely mentioning the tongue consistently shouldn’t be enough. Burning Wheel is fundamentally about working for what you want, and finally earning it is the best part, even if it’s something nutty like a long tongue trait.


Storapan’s point is that Burning Wheel is a game that doesn’t handle major differences in tone from different players very well. If three people want dark and gritty, and one guy wants wacky hijinks, it’s not going to go terribly smoothly.

The short answer is this: giving a character trait (any character trait) is encapsulated by the trait vote rules. To reiterate his question in a slightly different way, SeaWyrm has to ask if the player’s fixation on the trait and getting said trait fits within the overall tone of the game and the players expectations. If it does, then he should go through some goofy hijinks and then get the trait. If it doesn’t fit the overall tone, then there is a chance that he isn’t a good fit for the Burning Wheel game that the rest of the group is playing.

To answer your ideological question about having fun, having fun isn’t illegal in the sacred game of Burning Wheel. From the OP’s description, this guy sounds like a fairly archetypal disruptive player and once the novelty of having a giant tongue wears off he’ll be off causing trouble in some other way. Due to the way that beliefs drive the game forward, having disruptive players with major tonal differences can have a serious destabilizing effect as the player’s beliefs fight each other.

If he were being disruptive, I would not be considering awarding him a trait for it! Maybe I overstated the situation in my original post - “He’s been going out of his way to mention how abnormally long his tongue is at every opportunity” doesn’t mean he keeps bugging everyone with it, just that he’s been bringing it up from time to time, when relevant. I know he wants it, and I want him to have a shot at getting it.

Giordanisti, thanks. Our game is quirky enough that I could see letting him get away with creative tongue-based task solving, maybe. I’ll have to think about it - I don’t want to set a precedent for all sorts of previously unmentioned physical features to jump out of the woodwork. But I think there’s a clear dividing line there. Obviously, if someone starts going on about their giant hideous mole or third arm growing out of their back, it’s pretty straightforward to see if it passes the “wait, why is this the first we’ve heard of that?” test. (Or the “wait, no, that’s stupid and makes no sense” test, in the case of the extra arm, though I don’t see my players trying to pull one of those anyway.)

Burning Wheel is fundamentally about working for what you want, and finally earning it is the best part, even if it’s something nutty like a long tongue trait.

I think that’s the key, there. However he gets it, I definitely want him to earn it. I’ll tell him that.
Anyone have examples from your own play of someone trying to earn a physical trait? How’d you handle it? What did they have to do to get it?

Does he have a non-reqired character trait he does not normally play up? Just swap it out if so.

Actually enjoying yourself means you risk losing track of the game, and I strongly disapprove of it. If this irreverent so-called “enjoyment” actually manages to infect even the GM, all would be chaos! Just say NO.

I’ve considered a similar situation with trolls. A lot of the cool troll Traits are physical ones–Horns, Bull-Legged, Crystalline Spines, etc. My approach has been to mention those physical traits I’m interested in, but he doesn’t get any mechanical effects until he’s actually awarded the traits (and he’s not awarded them until he earns them–charging a lot, spending artha and describing the action as lowering his head as he slams into an opponent is a good way to aim for Horns, for example).

Also, just because someone doesn’t have a descriptive Character Trait doesn’t mean a character doesn’t have that (lower-case-t) trait. It just means it has no mechanical weight, no earning Artha for using it to drive the story in some way. Getting that trait voted in doesn’t mean there’s some sudden physical change, it’s just everyone at the table agreeing that this aspect of the character is interesting enough to become a (capital-T) Trait.

I think this is a very interesting point! And a great way to handle ridiculous over the top parts of a character (or trait). If you want the trait to help change the course of the game then go ahead and give it to the player as one of their Traits, but if it’s just something that makes the player have a little more “fun” that they like to mention, but has no bearing on the story, then every time they say “Oh yeah, I have a long tongue so that helps me talk to this mayor.” You can say “Yes you do have a long tongue, but it doesn’t change how the mayor feels about you.”

Basically, as long as the player feels comfortable making a joke of your campaign (especially if it doesn’t fit the setting), then you as the GM can feel comfortable about giving no game advantage to their jokes.

If it’s all in good fun, and the player is making jokes with you and the other players then that’s a good game. But if one player decides he’s going to have fun by ruining the experience for everyone else then that guy can take his wonderful personality right out the door. Unless of course he is providing the location, food and beverages.

In which case milk that sucka dry!

I told him that he needed to earn it by actually making something happen in the game, and he felt this was quite reasonable. (Though he voiced much indignation when I showed him this topic!)
He did seem in favor of the notion that his character might already have the tongue, but not as a capital T Trait, but he also seemed keen on trying to earn said trait, so I guess I’ll see where he chooses to go with this.

If it was me running the game I’d make sure somewhere down the track after he earns the trait, when he’s just taken a hit to the head, to stack on another incidental wound [especially if it tips him over to a wound] as he bites his tongue and toss him a fate point with a big smile on your face. :wink:

Awesome… I don’t think it’s quite the same in Mouse Guard, but certainly he can get an injured condition right after a fight that involved a hit to the face. Maybe as the price of an extreme compromise he could lose his tongue and become a mute! HA!