Passions are an unusual kind of attribute for characters in Blade of the Iron Throne – unusual not only inasfar as they are entirely made up by the player, but even more so in how they are as much an attribute of the player as of his character.
On the surface, a Passion is something a character wants to achieve – rescuing somebody, getting revenge on somebody, attaining some goal, or anything else the player can think of. Whenever the character is in pursuit of the thing he has a Passion for, the Passion attribute aids him in his die rolls to achieve this goal. On this level, Passion attributes can be regarded as that bit of extra drive and resolve that sets apart the hero from the common man.
On a deeper level Passions serve to communicate to the referee aspects of the story that the player wants to tell through his character. In other words, at a broad level what the player wants the game to be about for his or her character. If a player endows his character with a Passion to “Wear the crown of Aquilonia upon a troubled brow”, this is the player’s way of telling the referee very clearly that he would like to have adventures where his character has opportunities to further this goal. Communicating this clearly serves a dual purpose:
For referees, the communication serves as a pointer and an inspiration in creating scenarios.
For players, communicating their wants and expectations clearly serves as a virtual guarantee that they will experience scenarios that really engage their interest. This is how the Passion attribute is really also an attribute of the player and not just the character: From among the spectrum of pursuits that are plausible within the frame of reference that is his character’s fictional personality, the player selects those pursuits that interest him and elevates them to Passions.
On yet another level Passions assure that characters in Blade of the Iron Throne stand head and shoulders above lesser men and are equipped to achieve great things: The player decides what he would like his character to achieve or at least pursue. He makes this into a Passion attribute. In creating a scenario, the referee reviews the characters’ Passion attributes and creates material that engages one of more of the Passions of each of the player characters. By having Passions that engage with the scenario presented by the referee, the characters are more successful in braving the scenario than average guys would be.
And there is still more to Passions, like serving as a reward mechanic driving character development and uniting a group of quite possibly rather diverse player characters in pursuit of one common goal or of at least mutually supportive goals. You can find out even more about those aspects of Passions in the pages of Blade of the Iron Throne.