Judging the Incorporation of a Trait Used Against

If you can incorporate a trait into your description of your character’s
actions so that it hinders you, you apply a penalty to your roll.
DHB 80

Question #1. Does the GM, the table, or no one judge whether or not the trait was suitably incorporated?

In the sections above “Using Traits to Benefit Yourself” DHB 79 and “Reaching” DHB 80, the group judges if it was used well. But for traits a player uses against themself I don’t see any instructions to judge — or for judging — the descriptive incorporation.

Question #2. If the group or GM judges, should they be quite lenient?

In the one very brief campaign I ran the players really struggled to incorporate what their traits in a way that I, as GM, felt was appropriate to the meaning of the trait. Upon further reflection I noticed that the traits seemed quite difficult to apply in any situation (e.g., sure-footed). Perhaps I was interpreting them too strictly and should allow more inventive and broad interpretation, so long as they’re genuinely trying to describe their characters behaving according to their traits?

I’m inclined to apply the advice from the “Using Traits to Benefit Yourself” section for traits used against themself.

Be creative with your traits. They are open to interpretation, so you can
be inventive and surprise the other players with interesting descriptions
of your character.
DHB 80

And let the group judge if they feel it’s appropriate.

Should I let the table decide and us all lean on the side of rewarding the attempt?

The group decides.

I don’t know if ‘lenient’ is the right word but groups should be generous and helpful. Don’t just shoot down a proposed description; if possible, offer something you think would work.

As for sure-footed, I think that’s something you can use against yourself whenever you blithely do something dangerous/risky because you trust in your sure-footedness: Walking out on ice without a second thought, stepping onto a narrow ledge or onto scree, etc. You’re so used to your sure-footedness that you do the dangerous thing without thinking about it.


I agree that trait incorporation should always be thrown to the group. If anyone thinks the description of incorporating the trait is fishy, they should say so. For most generic traits I don’t find this to be an issue. It’s with the class specific traits where I find the most conflict happens. I think this is mostly something that needs to be worked out between most players/GM’s since it comes down to fundamental assumptions that are made about the fiction and/or setting that can be interpreted subjectively.

How traits work for/against should always have the room for a group discussion when they come up. As the group congeals on how they work, these discussions will happen less and be less of any sort of disruption as the group plays over time. But the discussion space needs to be there, especially with a new group, and especially with people new to torchbearer, just because things can be so vague and subjective.

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