When it comes to traits, I much prefer trade-offs to flat bonuses and penalties. It’s partly because I’m the type of player who used to spend hours re-rolling “perfect” starting rosters (until recently biting the bullet and installing BEAM mod to save time hahah)… but it’s not even down to min/maxing, it’s because traits help define our hearthlings’ characters which in turn sets up the story that will play out within the game.
A flat bonus/penalty makes you more or less inclined to explore a hearthling’s story; a trade-off makes their story more interesting (and gives you the chance to customise your town a little, too – do you go for X or Y trait, do you keep that starting hearthling or choose another who fits your dream team better?) Sometimes you’ll get, say, a hearthling with high ability scores but they’re Pessimistic and Charismatic (so they’re likely to pass on negative thoughts to hearthlings around them – YIKES); or you might get a hearthling who isn’t particularly good for the job you want to put them in but they have another beneficial trait… these kind of decisions make the game interesting and again they build up a story around how things are playing out.
Focussing on trade-offs rather than penalties, though, means that you’re always adding to the story rather than choosing whether or not to pursue it. Glutton giving a health boost, for example, makes it a really interesting trade-off for a hearthling who already has a high Body and moderate Spirit – they’d be a perfect candidate for a Knight or Footman since they can take more hits than usual. Or, what about Featherweight on your shepherd? If they have to walk a long distance to carry food to pastures then it’s a down-side; but if you build so that their food stocks are stored in/right next to the pastures and disable hauling for them then they’ll zip around town tending to all their animals.
Trade-offs mean choices, and choices is the core gameplay that we’re all here for hahaha