In Magic: the Gathering, most of the creatures traditionally have a single trait defining their race (eg. Elf, Dwarf, Goblin, Merfolk, etc.), some of the more recent sets have creatures bearing two traits, one of which is the race while the other might be an occupation (eg. Elf Farmer, Dwarf Miner, etc). But then there are specific game effects that might target cards based on their name, not just their traits. It’s a simple system, and the forerunner for a lot of similar card systems.
I’m actually fonder of the trait system in the Asian inspired card game L5R. I think this will fit better as a template for the trait effects in Ho8W. In this game, all heroes and retainers have a clan (or function as ronin), they have an occupation (samurai, shugenja, courtier, ninja, etc.), and they often have a few more traits that really help define them as individuals (are they an “archer”, a secretive “kolat”, are they “tattooed”, “unique”, a “sailor”, are they tainted by the “shadowlands” or are they a “clan daimyo”). There is no real limit to the number of traits a character might possess, with some unique and special characters having six or more traits helping to define their specific place in society.
“Unique” characters in L5R may only be included in your deck once. Ho8W gives each of its skaters unique names, and a team may not have two skaters sharing the same name, so the issue of having duplicate skaters generally won’t crop up. All skaters are “unique”.
Characters who gain popularity within the L5R game may see reincarnation as improved versions of themselves. This is implemented through the “experienced” trait. The typical version of a character does not possess an “experienced” trait, but if a new version is re-issued they gain this trait. An “Experienced” character typically has better stats than their regular version and either has a special ability, or has overcome a penalty found on the regular version of the card. If a character card is experienced and gains enough notoriety in the game, they may get a second experienced card form (designated with “Experienced 2”). Some of the most prominent figures within the game have seen five or more versions with varying degrees of experience.
This could work well with the notion of skaters with different values; especially when they represent novice, regular and veterans on the track. Over the course of play, we could see expansion sets with three or four different cards bearing the same name, each of which reflects the skater’s progress from a lowly member of the rookies through to the heady heights of the all star league. Since a skater bearing this name may only occur in the team once, we won’t have the paradox where a skater is allied with an earlier version of themselves on the track.
(They may come into conflict with a skater on the opposing team who shares their name, but don’t let this bother you.)
There are probably other games that use this kind of system, but L5R is the one I know best.
For the moment I’m thinking of four general types of traits (the names are subject to change); social, physiological, attitude, and fashion.
Social traits relate to the skater’s upbringing (I guess it’s a bit like their “race”); they define who the skater’s family is, and the types of social morality that defines them.
Physiological traits relate to the skater’s appearance; they cover the surface features clearly visible on the skater, their physical size, and maybe their age.
Attitude traits relate to the skater’s mindset while they are on the track; such traits define whether the skater has any virtues or vices, if they are susceptible to any of the seven deadly sins, and possibly even their social ideology.
Fashion traits relate to the skater’s lifestyle beyond the track; they may define the type of music the skater listens to, the type of clothes they wear, whether they possess tattoos or piercings, or the colour and style of their hair.
Any of these things could be viable traits. One skater could have a hatred of another skater’s clothes, their tattoos, their youth, their social upbringing or their attitude; and this could inspire them beyond their normal limitations. A skater might feel an affinity with something physical or mental in their teammates…you can never tell what might be enough to push a skater that little bit further.
It also allows us good reasons (with mechanical advantages) to create rugged teams of all tattooed skaters, blonde bombshells, burlesque babes, or any of the other kitsch stereotypes associated with the roller derby track. After all, this game is all about having a bit of fun and not taking things too seriously. This would be a long term plan though; the kind of thing that becomes possible once there are hundreds of available skaters for players to choose their teams from.