If the dice mechanic for Fading Suns is like Pendragon, the character mechanic is much closer to White Wolf (with some notable carryovers from Pendragon, discussed below). This isn’t surprising, considering that Fading Suns was created by former White Wolf developers.
In most cases, a character’s trait total is equal to Characteristic + Skill + Misc Mods, just as in White Wolf. Characteristics range from 3-10, with 6-8 being regarded as a good range for a competent starting character. Skills range from 0-10, but, interestingly, the most commonly necessary skills (combat skills, perception, stealth, athletics, and social skills) start at 3. So, before modifiers, the worst a character can have in a common skill combo is generally 6 (min characteristic 3, min skill 3). The most a character can have is 20 (which, as mentioned in the last post, isn’t any better than an 18).
Modifiers typically come from Blessings and Curses (the system’s merits and flaws), which typically provide a plus or minus 1-3 to certain rolls (Beautiful characters gain a +2 Charm, for example). These stats aren’t terribly well balanced, especially during character creation. The value of a blessing or curse is often equal to the value of the skill bonus it provides. Since the Current Level Conundrum is in full effect, it’s often far more effective to buy up the associated skill further instead of taking a blessing, or to buy up the skill with the points from a curse to completely negate it. Essentially, blessings and curses are too straightforward and mechanical, making them very easy to min-max.
Characters also have Benefices and Afflictions, which replicate White Wolf’s backgrounds and non-mechanical merits and flaws: rank, ownership of property, addictions, phobias, etc. As with blessings and curses, these are fairly easy to min-max. Also, an interesting artifact of the price of rank means that many PCs will start off much higher ranked (in their noble house, church sect, or guild) than the setting seems to assume. For example, becoming a Baron is easily within range of a starting character, when all the fiction assumes PC nobles will be knights (the minimum possible rank). Since the genre fiction is less specific about the relative political potency of church and guild titles, it’s not uncommon to have PCs with 5-7 points in their guild or church rank being led around by and deferring to knights with only 3 point titles. This is weird.
But not as weird as Opposed Traits.
As mentioned at the top of this entry, there is one set of character statistics that takes more inspiration from Pendragon than from White Wolf: Spirit characteristics. In addition to three physical and three mental characteristics, characters also have six opposed characteristics (eight in first edition). A character’s sum of two opposed characteristics cannot exceed 10. Since they start at 3 and 1 for each pair, a character will typically have 3-9 in the primary characteristic, and will only raise the secondary characteristic if the GM likes to call for rolls of it a lot. But the GM probably won’t, because, despite being the most complicated traits in the game, the opposed characteristics have erratic mechanical support.
For example: Extrovert vs. Introvert. Extrovert is the only social characteristic in the game. There are two primary skills and four secondary skills that require Extrovert as a base. There are only two skills, both secondary, that suggest using Introvert. Introvert is effectively another mental characteristic, so Wits, Perception, and Tech are much more frequently used. A character that decides to make Introvert primary is effectively deciding to not be able to participate in social rolls, in tradeoff for an advantage with a handful of psychic powers (at least as many of which use Extrovert).
Another set of opposed traits, Faith vs. Ego, is typically meaningless unless the character has powers, in which case psychic characters raise Ego and church mystics raise Faith. Of all the opposed traits, Passion vs. Calm is potentially the hardest choice, as both traits actually have useful associated skills. However, because the system rewards having very high trait totals, it’s still probably better to raise one of the two to exclusion of the other to gain a good chance on one vs. a mediocre chance on both.
Opposed traits work (to the extent they can be argued to work) in Pendragon because they are rarely directly, mechanically used except to test a character’s response to a social stimulus and to qualify for prerequisites. And there’s still relatively little reason not to completely favor one trait out of each pair. Also, a character automatically has the maximum possible value with both traits combined (e.g., there’s a total of 20, so a trait of 5 on one side automatically means a 15 on the other) and strategy is about shifting the midpoint to a place that the player is happy with. In Fading Suns, the opposed traits start out low and paying to raise one lowers the effective maximum for the other. The game tries to make both sides relevant to all characters and fails.
In practice, players raise Extrovert if they have to make a lot of social rolls, raise Faith or Ego if they have special powers, and otherwise completely ignore the traits as too much exp for the benefit. While I have some issues with the opposed traits in Pendragon, Fading Suns managed to copy all of their flaws and none of their merits.