The Talent’s Time to Shine


There is always a lot of debate about roll-playing versus role-playing. Criticisms of how a person plays have been kicking around since this hobby began, and I believe we’re no closer to a consensus on what the “right” way to play is since we started. My opinion of gaming is as long as you’re having fun, and that fun is not somehow at the expense of another person at the table, you’re doing it right. I also think that roll vs. role is a moot point. In most tabletop games, both have their time and place. You don’t want either one to suffer. Different games fall on different parts of the narrative/combat spectrum, but why can’t we have both? If you’ve picked up the Unchained Heroes System Resource Document, or purchased the full game, you’re probably aware of the dynamic combat system Unchained Heroes offers. But what you may not be aware of is how much the Talent system can add to your game, specifically when it comes time for role-playing.

Talents are more interesting than Skills

While most games simply offer a skill check when you need to check Athletics or Education, Unchained Heroes’ Talent system gives your player a lot more. Taking different Talents opens up more powerful options for your character when playing your role. Talents cover shape-shifting, setting up alarms, speaking the language of creatures, extra-sensory perception, and enhancements to your Character Skills. They are the roleplaying abilities of Unchained Heroes that function on a separate track from the combat experience. They function under the same rules but are applied when you aren’t trying to use steel to solve your problems. Let’s say you’re the party’s sneaky rogue, and you’ve got to lie to a pair of guards. You tell them that they “need to let you in that gate!” and “Don’t you know who I am?”; following that with a  “If you don’t let me in there now, I’ll make sure you serve the next ten years of duty on the Island of Flaming Rat Beasts!” You could use a basic Influence Skill Check or you could use something more interesting, like a Talent.

Your rogue is a practiced liar and at character creation, you picked up the Talent Hidden Motives. With this Talent, you are so good at lying that they don’t get to use any truth-sensing skills of their own, they have to trust their gut. The result being that they believe you, you make them soil their breeches with the threat of ten years of hacking away at Flaming Rats, and they let you breeze past into the keep. Self-justification sets in and by the time you walk away, they’re pretty sure they’ve seen you before, and that must have been Lord Wimbly’s nephew, right?

Adding Flavor

Another example where Talents shine would be the Necromancer Ogress, Malica, that I’m currently playtesting with Kurt. I’ve designed her to be an unconventional Necromancer, so instead of dark and spooky, she’s greedy and pragmatic. Mal has always been greedy, but didn’t know a way to go about scratching the itch for wealth (everyone say it with me in Goldmember’s voice “I love Gooooold!”). So when she discovered there was a school of magic that would allow her to raise the dead, she put one (tombs have lots of gold) and one (tombs have lots of dead bodies in them) and got two (make the dead bodies get the gold for you).

So what Talents are appropriate for this character and the way I plan to play her in the future? Things like Death Sense (which Necro’s start with) and Sixth Sense (something I plan to take in the future) seem obvious choices. But Talents like Decipher Device and Decipher Enchantment seem wise if she’s going to spend any time traversing dangerous places. Dark Vision also seems prudent, as you never know when you could lose your torch. Detect Magic and Object Reading would be valuable to her as she examines any items she might find in her travels. Malica also has to frequently convince others to part with valuable information, so Silver Tongue will probably save me some coin in the future, reducing those pesky “finder’s fees”.

Expanding your Soft Skills

The Talent System is a great way to customize your character and expand on their personality, history, and skills, without lessening your combat experience in any way. It also gives you some really cool tricks that are available to everyone, even if they have no supernatural powers to speak of. Skill Checks will likely always work, but a Talent gives you a special skill, ability, or bonus regarding roleplaying areas that go beyond a simple check.

-Jenn Patz

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