The Purpose of Complications

In our Discussion Forum, Ed Heil asked:

“One thing that seems vital that is a little hard to get into is exactly what Complications are for and how they work. They’re clearly at or near the heart of the game, but they have no exact parallel in any other RPG”

Complications are indeed a key facet of the game. Here are some of the ways in which we’ve used them. If you’ve found some other good uses for them, let us know.

1) An idea starter:

Sometimes you have a scene with a lot of potential but you don’t have a clear idea what direction to take it, or how best to spice it up. One way of doing this is by Originating a Complication. The act of Drawing upon Traits (and which Traits get Drawn on) can provide a ot of interesting details to the action when it comes time to resolve the Complication. Often whole new branching story ideas can come from how players responded to an otherwise innocuous Complication.

2) An alternative to Challenges:

Complications can be used to guide a story another player is telling in a desired direction without resorting to Challenging that player or Interrupting them completely. Rather, a Complication can be used to introduce elements into a scene and force other players to react to those elements.

3) To introduce a certain degree of challenge or difficulty:

Sometimes in the course of a narrative a player may be having the hero perform all kinds of high flying actions (or even not so high flying). At some point you may want to interject a very traditional concept of “hey lets make him roll to see if he succeeds at that). This is where the Obstacle Complication comes in. When another player is narrating an Event and you want to interject an element of uncertainty into the outcome you can Originate an Obstacle Challenge. The twist is that the roll doesn’t determine success / failure of the Event directly. Rather it determines which player (or combination of players) gets to decide how the Event happens.

4) Another means of adding an element of suspense to the game:

Which player wins will often make a big difference in the direction the story goes.  That this is determined with a dice mechanic can add an element of unknown and surprise.

5) As a way of generating new Coins:

Complications are one of only two ways to earn additional Coins in the game.  The interesting detail of how this works is that it encourages you to base Complications off of elements that already exist in the story (which helps maintain consistency). It does this because of the way Complications work.  The more dice you roll, the more likely you are to get more Coins out. Also the Winner statistically should average 1.5 times the Coin output of the Loser and the more dice you roll, the more likely you are to win. So obviously, more dice in should lead to more Coins out.  There are 2 ways of getting more dice.  One way is to buy them at 1 Coin each. However, if you are paying Coins for most of the Dice in your Pool, your net profits will likely be slim (or even a loss if you wind up Losing the roll). So the better way is to get most of your dice from Traits that are already present in the scene. Someone else paid to put those Traits there (or you Introduce a Component that has many useable Traits for just 1 Coin) and you capitalize on their presence.

If you can arrange a situation where you are rolling a lot of dice for which you paid very little: a) you are likely to reap great profits allowing you to pocket those Coins you earn in excess of those you use to bring the Complication to a satisfying resolution, and b) the Complication is likely to be consistent with the story being told because it was built from elements that already exist in the scene.

6) And, in point of fact, I find them to just be flat out fun.

—-Ralph Mazza


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