What lies in that grey area between "before" and "after"?
If in the extreme "before" situation, I can only use a trait if I've already narrated its use, and in the extreme "after" situation, I can use any trait I like with the expectation it will be narrated in afterwards, up to and including using "quantum physics" to seduce the bartender or "matchstick model maker" to scale a cliff-face - is the intermediate situation where I can invoke traits only if they're either already in the narration or in the plausible future penumbra of the current events?
The way I've been thinking about it, and tried to phrase it, is to include the "plausible future of penumbra of the current events" (good phrase) as part of "before."
I did that because I don't think I've ever seen play which absolutely, unswervingly adhered to the ideal (?) of "you can't have it unless you play it first," particularly with things like Traits as we're discussing the term. Maybe with metagamey bonus dice or something like that, but not with rock-solid, on-my-sheet, I-am-fast material.
So the grey area begins not with "I did it" vs. "It's obvious that I'm doing it or am about to," but rather the boundary of plausibility, referring specifically to your phrase.
Sorry to be terse; I wanted to give a real-life example but am being pre-empted by children ...
I don't think there are any bright line categories here, just a lot of variant techniques that groups fall into primarily by habit and hapenstance and what feels right when the ball is rolling.
I've played games where things like Advantages and Disadvantages had to be demonstrated before the "call to dice" or they didn't count. If someone grabbed the dice and said "time to roll" and you hadn't positioned yourself to claim an advantage, too bad so sad -- The "too late Sucker!" technique.
I've played games where a Trait (whatever label it has in the game) is called upon and the players pause and wait expectantly for the player to act it out sufficiently to "get it" -- the "Dance for us, monkey" technique.
I've played in games where a trait is called upon with the assumption that it will get played out sometime before the final resolution but no one really polices it too hard and inevitiably sometimes that gets forgotten -- the "fit it in where you can" technique.
In Blood Red Sands Traits are announced and the die for them acquired and rolled but after that they may or may not ever be explicitly referenced in the fiction. In this sense they are pure color. Their purpose is the image of the character built in the other player's minds as the Traits are announced more so than guiding any particular immediate behavior or character action. The fact that you know Kreeling Flesh Eater wears a coat made from the raw flesh of his enemies is more important then whether that coat actually is or isn't useful in the context of a particular fight. That said, players are free to include their Traits in their narration. If I'm advancing dice in an attack described as intimidating you into surrendering and I notice that I'm using the die provided by my coat...I can think of lots ways to narrate that bit of squick into how I'm intimidating you. But the game doesn't require it...in a sense its neither Before nor After.
As I was thinking of the terms (or pseudo-terms), that's After with a "imagine it yourself" or "optional to describe" clause.
I guess the point of After, again as I'm tentatively trying out the idea, is that you get to call in the Trait (very almost) no matter what. The only real limit would be resource-based, if a given game has one.
It ties into Markus' concern with his Pool/Boba Fett example, in that he couldn't figure out some way that the character *wouldn't* always use that Trait. That's because he was playing After and the player realized she'd just grab that one because it was big.
(There were other issues regarding basic SIS stuff in that example, but this one ties in too.)
Here's my original text from the thread:
""Before" means that the SIS must be firing with certain elements in place which then permit the Trait to be legally used. "After" means the Trait is simply activated more-or-less freely, thereby changing the SIS in a distinct fashion as part of its use."
Seems to me like we're in a phase of everyone saying it his or her own way, more-or-less to try it out.
I'm trying to find a nice way to say "Yeah, that's where I started, Seth." So, um, "yes, that's a good way to put it," or similar.
I'm currently speculating that most of the systems which use the Traits (as defined in the previous conversations) don't offer much guide to this particular issue, so groups have effectively built their own methods of before/after on the ground. Very likely, they've even arrived at their own local language for the cut-off point between before and after.
Using traits at the moment of invoking mechanics creates a pinch point. The trait enters in, or not, as a filter for past and future action and as a "yes/no" switch for mechanical effect. They inform our play in many other ways before and after this as well.
A problem Markus talked about in his first thread makes me think of some serious questions that have been raised about reward cycles, and the blanket use of them. Incentives are going to be used if offered, and lining them up with fulfilling story is not guaranteed, as he found. Care for the fictional impact of traits can fall by the wayside very easily in the face of mechanical effect.
I am going to follow up on the links Ron posted on the functions and characteristics of characters. I've been thinking about that a lot.