I was burning a character with a friend today, and it again struck me how oddly… restrictive some of the mandatory traits are for some life paths. Looking at student, for example, “rabble-rouser” is a mandatory trait - but that simply seems out of place against how many people would think of an academic character!
Normally I let players commute some of the weirder outliers, but how do you guys feel about this? Stick to it exactly as written, make people take quiescent, or?
University students were a plague on many medieval cities. They spent much of their time carousing, drinking and brawling. Students fell under ecclesiastical law rather than secular law, and as a result were immune from corporal punishment. In essence they were free to break secular laws with impunity. Theft, rape and murder were not uncommon, and students did not generally face serious consequences for such crimes. They not infrequently started riots.
With character traits, you can play it as a sort of reputation – not one that you have but something that’s kinda particular to your background and profession. Even if the character doesn’t have a rebellious bone in his body, others jump to the conclusion that he’s one of those no-good “Screw the rules! Upend the system!” over-educated types.
“Rabble-Rouser” is one of the things that separates City Student from Court Student and Noble Student. The way I read it, it marks them out as kinda disreputable. For all the sweet skill points you’re getting and stuff, you’re also upsetting the social hierarchy. It’s like you’re noveau riche but you’re not even rich, yet you’re still devoting your life to all this cultured learning that, in the eyes of all those high-status characters, you’ll have nothing to do with. And what kind of shameless person would teach you in the first place? Clearly you’re all radicals and iconoclasts!
Also, sometimes that reaction of “But my character isn’t like that!” is useful in character burning – it’s telling you that maybe the LP might be a poor fit, on some level. Maybe your character was heading in that direction but kinda recoiled at that life and took a different path?
Often I see the weirder traits as inspiration. That’s not the character I envisioned, but BW isn’t about making the character you picture. It’s about ending up with a character and making sense of it just as often.
And for this trait/lifepath in particular: even if the character isn’t a troublemaker, given the situation Thor describes the character is likely to find themselves at the center of trouble anyway: people will assume he’s a trouble-maker, and even if he’s not it’s not fair that he doesn’t have to obey the laws, and he’s probably just like the others anyhow. In other words, he’s going to be at the center of a maelstrom of trouble no matter his pesonality. It’s just the nature of a student in the city.
Yep, and Reputations have a specific mechanical effect. I’m not saying the Trait should have any affect on Circles rolls; I’m simply trying to explain how one might understand a character they don’t particularly think of as a troublemaker still having the Rabble Rouser trait. Trouble tends to follow them because students aren’t well liked by the town populace.