Operation LAPIS: Virtue Trait System

What better way to kick off summer than by sharing a brand new trait system for the Recentiī player-characters in Operation LAPIS? As a little bit of a background, one common suggestion from students was that the player characters didn't quite feel like they were truly in an RPG. We solved this to a small degree last year with the introduction of the denarii rewards and gear system.
Points, traits, and levels are key components of most RPGs -- whether it be a pen and paper table-top game or a popular video game. However, given our insistence that learning objectives map onto play objectives, grafting on a superficial system of strength or charisma points just wouldn't be acceptable. I also wanted to find a way to bring the core Roman values into play in a meaningful way. 


Each character now has six different virtues that will not only shape their character in a more dynamic way, but also scaffold additional elements to the role-playing. These virtues will also help scaffold responses on the part of the Agent of the Demiurge (the instructor) when interacting with their students inside of the immersive world of the TSTT. 
Progress bars and rank increases should make the character feel more playful
There are a couple of neat technical features built into the character sheet. First, the progress bars, cost to next rank, and ability bonus based on the current level are all automatically awarded as the trait increases.

Each virtue, if the operatives choose to specialize, has a capstone ability and subsequently grants an additional agnomen to the character. For example, upon reaching rank 10 in 'auctōritās', the character is automatically granted the agnomen 'Aquilīnus', or 'Eagle-like'. From this point forward, he would be known as Gaius Recentius Bellator Aquilinus.

In addition, there is a dropdown menu selector that further describes what the Romans thought about each of these traits. Our hope is that the way the abilities are described, and the added description box, the students will understand that the Roman virtues were primarily based on how others perceived you (which, I think, is a bit different than traits and stats in most modern RPGs).

Puncta Virtūtis

So how do operatives gain points with which to advance their character's traits? This is where a new self-reporting system of 'Virtue Points' comes into play. In order to make a system where choice has meaning, the point system has to be balanced so that it would be incredibly difficult to max out everything. As a result, puncta virtūtis are tied to the entire team's participation in the discussion for each immersion.

If all members of a team contribute in some meaningful way on an episode, the character receives 3 puncta virtūtis. If the lead-operative fulfills his or her duty and posts the response of the character, the team receives an additional bonus of 2 puncta virtūtis. The intention here is to encourage full participation each immersion since so much of the student's success is driven by their engagement with the material. This incentive system, since it is tied in no way to evaluation or assessment, encourages and rewards engagement in an innocuous way. You'll also notice that the character level (gradus) also increases automatically as the trait levels are increased. Again, this is to make the character system feel a bit more playful without compromising the core values of practomimetic learning. 

Like the denarii system, self-reporting and management on the part of the operatives is also a very important aspect of this system since it encourages the type of responsibility for self that we'd like to see in all of our students.

If you'd like to play around with the sheet for Gaius Recentius Bellator, feel free to access a publicly viewable sheet here and make your own copy. However, there are still a few things to clean up and to add before all eight Recentii characters are updated to the new system and ready for the fall. 

Hope you enjoy the new trait system and it makes the characters feel more playful!

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