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To try to keep the things simple : the generals stats in the five aspects are really important to trait obtention. That's why if you want to NOT get Pacifist on Cao Cao (for exemple) you should unequip Shadow Runner and give him weapons, ancillaries and spec skills that preferably do not give him cunning (Knowing that he has a pretty high value from the get go because of his legendary status). You can also obviously just decide not to use him as the lead general.
Ofc having low stat doesn't mean you won't get a certain trait by doing certain actions and having a high stat doesn't mean you're guaranteed to get one either. In the end it all comes down to a certain amount of luck.
But as far as I've experienced it, the system kinda works like that.
Friendly reminder : Fire is Instinct, Metal is Expertise, Earth is Authority, Water is Cunning and Wood is Resolve.
Another three notes of importance before starting : 1) Some traits do not have the same name in the tables and in the game. I tried to guess which ones were which but 2) Children and randomly generated characters seems to get whatever they want on the list 3) This is an interpretation (aka I'm trying to put into understandable terms the contents of the table) of the ceo_group_spawners table. (So for pros feel free to check it out)
Executing battle captives (aka the generals you capture after the battle) can cause : - Feared (Fire) - Cruel (Fire) - Spiteful (Fire) - Stern (Metal) - Relentless (Metal)
Hiring battle captives can cause : - Charismatic (Earth) - Suspicious (Water)
Completing a battle (as far as I know this only applies to the general commanding the army) can cause : - Defiant (Fire) - Composed (Metal) - Disciplined (Metal) - Stalwart (Metal) - Pacifist (Water) - Determined (Wood)
Fleeing from a battle can cause : - Cowardly (Water) [Note : Not sure if it's withdrawing, routing or both that causes the trait to fire]
Completing a battle with a rival in force can cause : - Competitive (Fire) [Note : ceo trigger trait is named 3k_ceo_trigger_traits_battle_completed_friend_rival_in_force_fire - so I'm interpreting that as having a rival in the force (and not a friend, friend being supposedly a reference to the guanxi system) since I never saw Zheng Fei develop this trait - take this one with pincers]
Completing a battle with a high personnal kill count (250+) can cause : - Intrepid (Fire) - Intimidating (Fire) - Brave (Wood)
Completing a battle after getting ambushed can cause : - Careless (Fire) - Unobservant (Metal)
Loosing a battle can cause : - Indecisive (Earth) - Cautious (Earth) - Incompetent (Earth) - Vengeful (Fire)
Loosing many battles (10+) can cause : - Superstitious (Water)
Winning a battle can cause : - Reckless (Fire) - Vigilant (Fire) - Patient (Metal) - Perceptive (Water)
Winning a battle as a secondary general can cause : - Ambitious (Earth) - Commited (Earth)
Winning many battles (10+) can cause : - Arrogant (Earth) - Distinguished (Fire) - Fulfilled (Metal)
Ransoming captives after a battle can cause : - Greedy (Earth)
Seizing supplies after a battle can cause : - Resourceful (Metal)
The following traits do not have any requirement except for turn start [Note : aka those are the most annoying random traits imho] : - Philanthropic (Earth) - Fiery (Fire) - Energetic (Fire) - Frivolous (Metal) - Trusting (Metal) - Creative (Metal) - Direct (Metal) - Artful (Metal) - Clever (Water) - Cunning (Water) - Brilliant (Water) - Elusive (Water) - Enigmatic (Water) - Bright (Water) - Scholarly (Water) - Deceitful (Water) - Understanding (Water) - Tranquil (Water) - Humble (Wood) - Charitable (Wood) - Ascetic (Wood) - Honest (Wood) - Stubborn (Wood)
The following traits can trigger for governors : - Populist (Earth) - Tolerant (Earth) - Gracious (Earth) - Impeccable (Fire) - Vain (Fire)
The following trait can trigger for characters of high rank (7+) : - Formidable (Metal)
Starting a turn with high satisfaction (70+) can cause : - Dutiful (Earth) - Loyal (Metal) - Trustworthy (Metal) - Cheerful (Wood) - Fraternal (Wood)
Starting a turn after having stayed idle (aka non moving) can cause : - Uncomplicated (Wood)
Starting a turn with low satisfaction (-15) can cause : - Disloyal (Fire) - Temperamental (Fire) - Obstinate (Wood)
Starting a turn with many friends (4+) can cause : - Friendly (Earth) - Cordial (Earth) - Modest (Earth) - Selfless (Wood)
Starting a turn with no friends can cause : - Solitary (Metal) - Quiet (Water)
Starting a turn while being old (65+) can cause : - Wise (Water)