FES: Acquisitions and Traumas

Hello! I’m pretty long overdue for a writeup of this, but I’ve conceptualized the last two bits of my ttrpg: Acquisitions and Traumas!

I’ll be writing down details in this thread as I work through it.


In most games, magic, abilities, skills, and items are commonly separated out by categorization and concrete rules. FES doesn’t work this way - it’s intended to be a very freeform-oriented game that has enough glue for you to be able to try random things and see how it feels on the fly.

Instead of all of that, players attain acquisitions as directed by their own personal background, and the ongoing stories they participate in!

An acquisition is made up of two designations: Effect, and Limits.


There are four mechanical groups that an acquisition can fit into of one or more categories:

  1. Skills: If you have access to a skill you may add your player level to a roll. If you do not have access to a skill, and it makes sense to be punished for attempting a maneuver without an appropriate skill, you must also roll with disadvantage. If a trait is relevant to a skill, you may add that skill as an acquisition any time you like.
  2. Boons: A boon is something or someone a character can use or call upon to gain advantage to a roll. A divine blessing, a merchant contact, or even “filled with courage” can considered a boon. Alternatively, a boon can grant +1 on relevant challenges- a spell that grants power might only grant advantage, but a ring of power might grant +1 on relevant challenges to the power attribute!
  3. Magic. Magic lets you do something that is not possible in a world with realistic enough physics. If you have magic, you can do anything related to what that magic allows you to do. If it makes sense to solve a challenge with magic, you may override whatever attribute would typically be required with the mental attribute you choose to cast your magic with. Examples include: Attacking with ego using a fireball, convincing someone with a charm spell to use cunning instead of ego, navigating an obstacle course by using a levitation spell to channel your willpower instead of your agility, and so on.
  4. Tools: If a situation would require you to use a tool, you can have any number of disadvantages related to the lack of a tool. For instance, lockpicking would require a tool. Will you try it with a dagger or your fingers? You must take disadvantage for every circumstance complicated by not having the appropriate tool, ie. alchemy requires several tools to distill reagents, so not having an alembic AND a heat source might count as lacking two tools, or a complex magic lock might grant a bonus disadvantage if it requires a magic magic tool to properly unlock it on top of not having the tool to begin with.

What happens when you use an acquisition? This covers a large variety of concepts, but it really can be whatever you want. Some ideas include:

  • A fancy strike attack that can damage and disarm an opponent (typically, you can only disarm once you get an enemy to 0 HP)
  • Attack a target using a mental stat
  • Gain fire resistance (+advantage against fire damage, can stack!)
  • You get an animal companion or familiar that can do challenges on your behalf

Really, the sky’s the limit here! However, as things scale out beyond basic abilities, keep in mind how strong the effect is compared to your proficiency level. In general, it’s a good idea to limit the maximum permanent effectiveness to equal one advantage for every +2 proficiency a character has starting from +1 - so for instance, if you’re proficiency level +3, you probably shouldn’t have access to permanent effects that surpasses +2 advantage or total bonus, otherwise the balance of the game can get out of control. This is a guideline, not a rule, and to get access to stronger effects, you should consider applying healthy limits to your abilities.


A limit is intended to encapsulate the duration of an acquisition’s effect, its drawbacks, how often it can be used, etc. Often, if an effect is very powerful, you should balance it out by making your effect more conditional or have worse drawbacks.

If you have an acquisition stronger than what’s recommended, then there should likely be some kind of extreme limit or drawback. A potion that heals you can only be used once to immediately heal you, but a wand that heals you can be used for a much longer time, and is therefore quite a bit stronger an effect and thus might require a healing challenge instead of just restoring health. A stronger heal spell might heal someone for multiple turns, granting them a temporary, separate acquisition that heals them 1 hp every round until the effect is depleted.

Perhaps you wield a cursed blade, and its use depletes your own hp 1 per turn you successfully strike a foe, but it grants you multiple advantage dice in exchange.

Ultimately, how your acquisitions are limited are up to your interpretation, but I’ll eventually start compiling a proper index of examples as I play this more.

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When your physical hit points or mental hit points reach 0, you acquire a trauma. Generally speaking, if a player character experiences a number of traumas equal to their proficiency level, you should strongly consider your next trauma to be death.

While I’m not going to tell you how you want to run freeform rp, I advise you not to go above the sum of your fortitude and your willpower combined in addition to proficiency level, as that is probably the upper limit of traumas that is reasonable to give some kind of god-tier character.

This is a category that advantage cannot help with: Everyone exhausts themselves physically and mentally when challenging things that tire them, let alone actively try to kill them. Depending on the nature of the trauma, you may need new acquisitions in order to cure it, or it can even be potentially permanent. If it makes sense that your trauma is modified in some way (such as a poison treatment only being partially successful), you may update your trauma and reevaluate how it impacts your character. If your ankle got twisted, that’s pretty nasty, but if your foot is in a sprint you likely can put weight on it more easily in most situations, so don’t forget to apply advantage and disadvantage relevant to the trauma where it makes more sense.

Traumas are comprised of three basic components: Description, Duration, Cure.

Sometimes, when acquiring a trauma, you might not fill out more than the description, so keep in mind that if the effects of a trauma evolve over time, that doesn’t typically count as a separate trauma- unless it makes sense to, such as a lost limb leading to blood loss or an untreated concussion becoming unconsciousness.


Name your malady.

Give it a voice.

What is your body trying to say?

What are your feelings trying to process?

Record how a trauma has changed if it makes sense, as behind every cure there is a story.

Some traumas may require that you make a challenge against it repeatedly, or over time - poisons, injuries, abuse, etc. can make life a lot harder both short or long term.


How long does your trauma last? Perhaps it is temporary. Leave blank if you don’t know. Extend the story how it pleases you, this is still a freeform game.


What will it take to overcome?

When you attempt to cure a trauma, its duration is affected somehow. If you are challenged by the cure, and you have a relevant acquisition to cure it, you may designate an arbitrary length of time to describe the cure. Let it make sense to you, and fix it later if it matters enough. Then, succeeding in a challenge against the trauma will reduce the duration by a number of points determined by your roll total.

However, consider the consequences of failing to cure a trauma. Bad therapy can be worse than no therapy. If you are looking to consider a negative effect for failure, you can:

  • Make it narratively worse
  • Make its duration longer
  • Affect yours or your target’s HP or MP
  • Affect yours or your target’s acquisitions where relevant
  • Affect yours or your target’s traits where relevant

Or any other consequence you can think of that makes narrative sense.

Failing to apply a bandaid won’t kill someone, so at worst is modifying the pain to be uncomfortable instead of managed by proper bandage placement. But failing during a surgery could be lethal, causing HP damage on the failure. It’s up to you to decide how to interpret the result.

If your trauma cannot be mended, I am sorry, I understand, and I truly hope you are able to live with it comfortably. Remember that this is fantasy, and you are allowed to do whatever it is you need to remedy or accommodate this, both ingame and out.