Making the Protagonist Special

Sometimes it can be hard to tell who the protagonist of a story is.  Sometimes the story gets overcrowded with so many supporting characters that the main plot gets lost.

These Gimmicks suggest a few ways to make the Protagonist more special if you find yourself in such a situation.  Most are player submitted and represent great examples of how to use Rules Gimmicks to achieve the style of play a group prefers.

Protagonist Refresh Boost

Submitted by Ralph Mazza

After any scene in which the identified main character was present (i.e. Introduced), the standard Coin Refresh is 7 Coins instead of the normal 5 (or whatever level you’ve set your group’s Refresh rate to).

Inspired by a game where it was suddenly realized that the main character of the story hadn’t been present in the last several scenes; this Gimmick provides a mechanical incentive for not forgetting to include the protagonist more frequently.

Additionally the main antagonist could be included in this rule.

No New Traits During Complications

Submitted by Alan Barclay

No buying new Traits during a Complication. The ban covers all components, whether they’re in play or not. Once the dice are rolled and results tallied, the ban is lifted.

This moderates a tendency for surprise traits to appear when needed. It encourages players to think ahead and add Traits carefully during regular play.  Since main characters are the ones players will be spending the most time thinking about and interacting with, they will tend to have the most complete set of Traits, which helps to distinguish them as the protagonist.  It also forces players to rely on purchased dice (and creative descriptive justifications for them) during Complications.

–Alan has noticed that often times during Complications players will add Traits to characters that are amazingly just what the character needed at the time.  Mike Holmes points out that this is actually a feature of many movies and TV shows that reveal in the thick of the action some new skill or talent we didn’t know the character had.  But for some genres this can be inappropriate.  Also at times Traits of questionable legitimacy may be purchased just to boost a dice pool.  While Challenges are the best way to handle this, if it becomes habitual a Gimmick like this can put an end to it.


As an alternative to a complete ban, I suggested differentiating between set-up scenes and climactic scenes.  The Framing Player can buy a Trait of “Climactic Scene” if desired.  During such scenes the above ban is enforced.  During set-up scenes, Complications can be thought of as a vehicle for illustrating the characters abilities and Trait purchases during them may still be allowed.

Named Character Limit

Submitted by Alan Barclay

No more named characters may be Created.

I bought this gimmick halfway through a game. I thought we had enough major characters and wanted play to focus on them, instead of new, last-minute creations.  Limiting the ability to name characters did indeed limit the creation of new major characters.

–An effective technique in games experiencing a good deal of character bloat.  This gimmick forces players to think in terms of using existing characters rather than to keep inventing new ones.  Of course, for an newly thought of important character, it is a simple matter to propose another Rules Gimmick which permits an exception be made.

Only 1 Trait per Turn

Submitted by Alan Barclay

No character may gain more than one neutral or advantageous Trait per turn (or even per scene).

This is intended for introduction after major character’s have been introduced, to limit burgeoning casts.  The limit makes it difficult for any new characters to achieve the same number of Traits (and hence Importance) as the main character(s) were able to pre-gimmick.

Same Trait Ban

Submitted by Alan Barclay

No component may purchase the same Trait multiple times (e.g. Marksman x3), except to represent numbers.

Instead of Marksman x3, this Gimmick encourages more creative thought like: Marksman, Eagle Eye, Combat Reflexes, or the like.  The goal here is 1) for the additional variety of Traits to flesh out main characters in more detail, and 2) to make it more difficult to suddenly invent a minor character who had a high degree of proficiency in just one thing

–This Gimmick is a direct replacement of a rule from the book which expressly does allow for Traits to be purchased multiple times.  Which is entirely acceptable for a Gimmick to do.

Protagonists Must be Most Important Character

Submitted by Ralph Mazza

One character is named as the “Main Protagonist” (by buying this as a Trait). No other character in the story can ever have an Importance higher than the “Main Protagonist” except for the “Main Antagonist”.

A variant would allow each player to select 1 main character for an ensemble cast. No other character can have an Importance higher than the highest Main Character (or alternatively the lowest Main Character).  Again, except for the equivalent antagonists.

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