Updated Mon, Jan 05, 2009 by Methost
In The Lord of the Rings Online™: Shadows of Angmar™, a Trait is an interchangeable ability that alters your character in some fashion. Traits allow a great deal of skills customization, so two characters of the same class and the same level can still be significantly different from each other depending on how their players have used Traits to modify their character's skills.
The most basic Traits do fairly simple things – like increasing your Might stat or your block rate in combat. These Traits take a number on your character and make it bigger. Simple, but effective, these basic Traits are the first ones you will see throughout the course of your character's advancement.
More complex are the Traits that modify skills (or groups of skills). For example, one Trait may add a new effect on a critical hit that it didn't have before, while another may make a skill uninterruptible or reduce the power cost of an entire group of skills. Yet another type of Trait works only after a specific combat event, allowing you to gain power on a critical hit or increase your defense on a successful block.
The majority of Traits are passive; once the Trait is slotted it is always "on," providing its benefit to the player. However, there are some Traits that are active – these Traits, when slotted, give you an entirely new skill. Like other skills, they must be placed on your hotbar and activated to do anything.
Your character doesn't start with active Traits – far from it. Traits must be earned through completing Accomplishments (more info on Accomplishments will be released soon!). When a player earns a Trait, it goes into their Trait pool. Much like the equipment in a character's inventory, Traits don't do anything until they are "equipped" (in our case, dragged to a Trait slot).
Trait slots are unlocked through leveling. Combined with Accomplishments, this allows the player to "grow into" their specialization, building upon their preferred play style rather than being inundated with confusing choices at the beginning of the game that have repercussions much later down the road.
While Traits can be slotted and unslotted, slotting a Trait is not free. A player can only slot and unslot Traits while speaking with a Minstrel NPC in a town; Trait slotting may also have a cost associated with it. This allows players to re-spec their character (customizing it to better fill a role, like a healer in a fellowship, or to better function in solo play) while still making their choices meaningful.
All Traits are not the same kind. Traits are grouped into four families: Common, Race, Class, and Legendary. Each Trait can only be slotted in a slot of the matching family.
Common Traits are the simplest Trait types and are available to all players. These are typically the first slots to be unlocked and the first Traits to be earned.
Race Traits are slightly more complex. A player can only earn race Traits of his corresponding race (e.g., Hobbit may get better at eating but he won't be able to gain the toughness of a Dwarf).
Class Traits are the bread and butter of the Trait System. The majority of slots the player will earn are class slots, and these are the ones that directly modify class skills, providing much more power and depth than most race or common Traits.
Finally there's the top tier of Traits: Legendary Traits. These Trait slots are not unlocked until the higher levels, and the Traits themselves are more difficult to earn than others. The goal is for Legendary Traits to be truly legendary – something the player can be proud of earning and slotting.
Traits are an incredibly flexible system that provides enormous flexibility and in turn gives the players room to develop a unique character of their own.