There has been some speculation and questions about traits on the forums. What are traits? How do you collect them? Does Colin Johanson secretly run a moa ranch in eastern Washington as a front for the Order of Whispers? We will provide you with two of those three questions right now and leave the third open for future elaboration.
What are traits?
At a basic level, traits make you better at what you choose to do. You slot traits in order to modify skills and attributes. Once you have mastered a handful of traits they become a key component in creating your overall build.
So how do you get all those traits to make a build? Good question.
You acquire traits by completing profession challenges scattered throughout the world. For instance, you walk into an inn and persuade a shadowy stranger into telling you a rumor about a mysterious tome full of arcane knowledge. Or you challenge a legendary swordmaster to a duel while exploring Divinity's Reach.
Each profession focuses on different activities to develop his or her traits. Warriors train physically, bash stuff, eat stuff, and drink stuff. Elementalists, on the other hand, seek ancient knowledge locked in tomes or particularly powerful elemental locations. The different trait challenges accentuate the unique feel of that profession and really bring the experience of playing that profession to life.
Your prowess will grow as you complete challenges that develop your character's particular traits. The defeated swordmasters will teach you their age old techniques, allowing you to select the Swordmastery trait. Discovering the mysterious tome will allow you unlock the secrets of magical energy.
Building with traits
Builds are one of the things that make Guild Wars unique, and it is something we are carrying over into Guild Wars 2. For those not familiar with "builds," they are a combination of traits, skills, and attributes that mechanically work well together. With roughly 100 traits for each profession, there are way more traits in the game than you could possibly equip on a single character, so you have to make decisions and choose certain traits over others.
Traits play a large in letting you customize the way your character plays
Each profession has its own set of trait lines. These are similar in theme to the profession specific attribute lines in the original Guild Wars. Each trait line has a number of major and minor slots. Warriors, right now, have two general lines called Power and Tactics as well as lines for each of the weapons they can wield. As you master traits, you slot them into these lines, affecting your character.
Previously we talked about the Guild Wars 2 skill system and how you can make choices about your heal skill, elite skill, and utility skills. Now it's time to introduce traits into the mix. Here's a specific example of a high level warrior creating a build.
To give this some context, let's pretend an event has started. A giant boar is marauding through the forest and your party decides to take it on. This build is meant to maximize the damage you and your teammates can deliver against a single target.
Step 1: Pick a weapon. The weapon you're currently wielding is the major determining factor for how your character will play. Let's pick a sword, a versatile weapon which comes standard with a chain of three skills (Sever Artery, Gash, and Final Thrust), a rapid-fire repeating attack that hits a small area (Flurry), and a chase skill to close the distance between you and the enemy (Savage Leap). For my offhand weapon I could take warhorn for damage buffs, but I'll cover that with my utility skills. Instead, I'll dual wield swords to maximize my own damage. In practice, you'd also decide on your alternate weapon for switching in combat - perhaps a longbow for range.
Step 2: Pick a heal skill. Let's go with a basic heal like Healing Surge, which gives you both health and adrenaline when used. Adrenaline gives you damage bonuses and allows you to use your burst skill more often, so it's perfect for our build.
Step 3: Pick your utility skills and elite skill. You choose On My Mark (which lowers an enemy's armor and calls a target out), For Great Justice (which gives allies Fury Boon and Might Boon), and Frenzy (which increases my overall adrenaline gain). For my elite skill, I'm taking the always epic Battle Standard (which puts an array of powerful buffs on your allies).
Step 4: Assign your traits. Here you can start focusing your play style and being clever with what you slot in each trait line.
Power: Let's choose to stack traits that increase your strength attribute so your individual melee attacks do more damage.
Tactics: While kiting the giant boar, switching weapons faster sure would be awesome, so you slot the Weapon Master trait that lowers the cool down on switching weapons. You also slot traits that increase the number of targets your shouts affect, and increase the duration of your banners.
Sword: You choose to slot Swordmastery to further increase the damage you do, as well as the trait that increases the chance you will score a critical strike with Final Thrust.
Longbow: Out of what is available let's keep things simple, more damage.
We want experimentation with traits to be fun and engaging, so we've made the rules for changing traits extremely flexible. With no in-game cost, you can respec at will, outside of combat. This means you are open to experiment with what works and what doesn't work on the fly, without having to go back to town or worry about if you have enough gold.
Whether it's adventuring around Tyria trying to stop dragons or fighting other players in World PvP - the trait system is there to experiment with, to have fun with, and to allow you to feel like you are actively mastering the profession you have chosen. Like Guild Wars, there are countless unique and clever combinations to be found.