Talents are strengths that are unique to your character: things you do well, that no one else does quite the same way you do. Troubles are unique problems that beset your character on a regular basis. After choosing a Template, either pre-gen or one of your own making, you next select a Talent and a Trouble that are tied into the Template. (I’ll talk about how to do that in a bit.)
Talents: A Talent is a short phrase that describes some unique advantage your character possesses, like “Face of a Saint“. A thief with that Talent looks fresh-faced and innocent, no matter the circumstances. Even if they’re caught red-handed with stolen goods, people will tend to believe they weren’t involved or, at worst, were an unwitting dupe of the real thief.
Talents can represent innate knacks (Violin Virtuoso, Born With a Gun In His Hand), inherent advantages (Voice Like an Angel, You Gotta Love ‘Im), unusual training (My Uncle Was a Kung Fu Master, The Necronomicon is in My Backpack), or anything else that gives the character an edge. All characters have at least one Talent (that ties into their Template) but can have one or two others, for a total of three.
Talents give a bonus in any situation where they could reasonably apply. Face of a Saint, for example, might help you fast-talk a policeman (“Oh please, officer, can’t I stay here for just a second longer? My dad will be right out.”) but it probably shouldn’t help you do it over the intercom. (“Face” implies seeing the character.) This is something of a judgement call, but the GM has final say.
The first time a Talent is used in a module, it’s worth a +3 Skill Bonus to one Combat or Skill Challenge. The second time, +2 to a different Challenge. And the third, and last, it’s worth +1. Talents refresh between modules, back up to their full +3.
Talents aren’t just “doing better” mechanics. They also help illustrate who your character is. A character who is A Real Class Act is very different from the Who Are You, Again? guy, even if they have the same template.
Yes, Talents do give bonuses but they also personalize a character, making them distinct. Other characters might have the same Attributes and even skills, but none have the same Talents.
A Note On Balance: The most important part of Talents is the flavor, not the game balance. Some players might try to word one so its useful in as many situations as possible, others so it can be used with every single type of weapon. Neither of these are much of a problem, because Talents can only be used three times in one module, and weaken each time they’re used. They’re self-limiting. As long as the Talent is interesting, flavorful, and apt for the character, it’s fine.
The same holds when deciding if a Talent applies to a particular situation. For the most part, if it makes sense, allow it. “My Uncle Was a Kung Fu Master, so I know about Martial Arts styles (Knowledge Challenge).” Maybe you should allow that, maybe not. But don’t stress over it.
Talents are self-limiting, and if the player gets a +3 on the Knowledge Challenge, they’ll only have a +2 on whatever comes next, so feel free to let them use the bonus. Again, the mechanic is self-limiting, so you don’t need to police them all that stringently. Go ahead and disallow clearly ridiculous uses, but err on the side of “okay” rather than “no”.
That’s Talents, the basics at least. I’ll talk Troubles next post.