I'm toying with this concept of Complications vs. Secrets. I'm wondering whether to implement one or the other, or both? Do you see this as a useful contribution to a game? Could some of these be accomplished with feats instead? Are the various complications balanced?
A complication is a drawback that hinders the character in some way and also provides a way to gain Conviction if the character can overcome the drawback. (see my examples below)
A secret could be a complication (e.g. a hidden curse) but I see it more like secret societies (think Paranoia) that characters belong to without other characters knowing about their hidden allegiance.
Examples of Complications
You are the victim of a curse placed upon you by a spiteful djinn or sorcerer. See the Curse power for ideas about what this curse might be and ways to end it.
Turning Point: Ridding yourself of the curse.
Your family is embroiled in a feud. Members of the rival family may insult, taunt, or even attack you unprovoked. Merchants of the rival family will refuse to sell to you, or charge exorbitant prices. You certainly aren’t allowed to associate with members of the rival family, lest you incur your family’s wrath. If a member of your family is killed in the feud, you may be called upon to avenge them, or at least bring the killer to justice.
Turning Point: You sacrifice your life in such a way that the two families reconcile. You find evidence that a third party is truly responsible for instigating the feud. One side totally defeats the other. You negotiate peace between the families upon being appointed a qadi. Become an ascetic (Destitute and Taboo).
Code of Honor
You adhere to a strict code of honor. This may be due to an oath you swore, a personal commitment, religious fanaticism, or even a magical compulsion. This oath must include at least 6 points from the list below:
- Fealty: Unfailing obedience to your lord or temple, tithe 1 Wealth each month
- Justice: Always bring a criminal to justice, never harbor a criminal, and always observe the holdings of a legitimate court
- Honesty: You must keep any oath you make and are forbidden from lying
- Bravery: You can’t refuse a challenge (though you may send a student in your stead)
- Fairness: You may not “cheat” in combat (e.g. throwing sand, fighting an unarmed opponent, many fighting a single matched foe, etc)
- Pride: You must avenge all insults to your self, family, country, religion, lord, or people under your protection
- Friendship: You may never abandon a comrade in need
- Loyalty: You may never betray your homeland or god in word or in deed
- Uprightness: You may never engage in slander, blackmail, or extortion, and you avoid people and places of ill repute
- Mercy: You must defend the weak and offer mercy to the repentant foe
- Warrior’s Code: You must honor the request of a dying person, friend or foe
Turning Point: Unlike other complications, a Code of Honor can be abandoned at any point (unless you’ve been charmed). It is automatically abandoned after two violations. Only an epic quest of atonement allows you to regain your Code of Honor. In some cases, a person who breaks their Code suffers from Madness. By adhering to your Code of Honor despite extreme self-sacrifice you regain Conviction.
You have been crippled by an accident or in battle. If you lost the use of both your legs, you may only move 5 feet per round, unless you are atop a mount. If you lost an arm and a leg, you have a base speed of 10 feet per round, and may not perform actions that require two hands.
Alternately, you suffer from old age or a wasting disease (such as leprosy). Any type of exertion causes you to suffer a non-lethal fatigue (no save). You may accrue no more than one fatigue level this way per encounter.
Turning Point: You regain the use of your legs. Your youth is magically restored. In both cases you become Indebted to the one who healed you. Your condition is healed through a quest (it is unaffected by Cure Disease).
You have lost all your worldly belongings…or you never had any to begin with. You begin with a Wealth score of 0 and cannot make any purchases until you reach the turning point. You have no home, are forced to sleep on the streets, and only one or two belongings. You may resort to begging to survive.
Turning Point: Achieve a Wealth score of 5 (and possibly the Duties that go with it).
You have duties which you must attend to, either a mundane life or an oath. In the case of raising children and a mundane job, this requires a bit of your time nearly every day – unless you’re taking a vacation. This restricts your ability to travel, unless you transplant your family and your shop. Your family may become a liability if you have a truly wicked enemy willing to attack them to get to you. Each month you lose 1 Wealth providing for your family and paying taxes. In the case of an oath of service, you must spend some time every year with your ruler, djinni, secret lover, etc. Generally, the person to whom you’ve sworn require your presence more as your Reputation increases. Make a Reputation check prior to beginning an adventure. If it succeeds, then your presence is requested at an inopportune moment.
Turning Point: Refusing your duties, you may earn an Envious Rival or worse. In the case of a mundane life, if your children grow up, you may retire (to an adventuring life of course!). In the case of an oath, you can be freed only by the one to whom you swore it.
You are under the magical sway of another, whether you know it or not. You claim it is out of free will that you protect them with your life and fawn over them. This djinn or sorcerer may direct you to perform missions, which you have no choice but to obey.
Turning Point: Breaking free of the charm magic.
You have earned a rival who wants to one-up you, expose you, humiliate you, defeat you and your people, beat you to the punch, or otherwise prove herself superior. Your rival gains the Dedication or Favored Opponent feat with you as the target.
Turning Points: Coming to terms with your rival. Beating your rival for good. Your rival finally feels they’ve become better than you (perhaps by making you Destitute).
You march towards a pre-determined fate, and it’s not a pretty one. Decide with the Narrator what your character’s fate is and whether she knows about it. In either case, your character feels afraid of the circumstances which lead to her fate. For example, if she sees the knife which will be used to kill her, she is terrified of it.
Turning Point: Unless cosmic forces intervene, the turning point is meeting your fate! In rare cases, your fate is Duties that you’ve been putting off.
You have lost someone very close to you – a lover, family member, or even an entire tribe – and the loss devastated you. Alternately you may be grief stricken about a bad situation you have no power to change. You suffer a -1 penalty on all rolls, and you do not gain new feats or skills while you are grief stricken.
Turning Point: Coming to terms with the loss (e.g. accepting it wasn’t your fault, acknowledging they’ve gone to a better place, performing a quest your mother’s ghost asked of you in a dream), or reviving them from death. Changing the situation, leaving it, or accepting there’s nothing you can do (or that it’s not your job).
You have a friend who is constantly getting into trouble and dragging you into it. And yet, you keep falling for it time after time. You get dragged into your friend’s fights, romantic dramas, debts, disastrous business ventures, etc.
Turning Point: Your friend finally gets killed (chances are you’ll become Grief Stricken). You become enemies (your friend becomes an Envious Rival). You part ways for good, and make sure to keep an ocean between you two.
You owe money or your life to someone. In the case of money, the debt is quite large, requiring a DC 30 Wealth check to pay off. If you successfully pay off your debt, you automatically lose all your Wealth save 1. Failing this check means your debtors come knocking; it’ll take a successful Bluff or Diplomacy check to convince them that you’ll pay soon. The first time you fail this check you get beat up and they steal any Wealth they can get their hands on as collateral (lowering the DC by an equal amount). The second time you fail, they’re not so forgiving – death, mutilation, and slavery are all happy possibilities awaiting you. In the case of a life debt, you will not cause the person harm and you would never kill them. Rather, you seek to prove yourself to them. A life debt is virtually impossible to pay off, unless you save their life in return.
Turning Point: You pay off your debt or it gets dropped (a qadi rules you were charged unlawful interest rates, your debtors go to prison, the person you owe a life debt to dies and leaves no children behind).
You are totally unskilled, having either squandered your youth or simply having below average intelligence. You are illiterate and only speak one language- Arabian. You may not begin with Intelligence greater than 0, and at first level you start with half the normal number of skills (i.e. 1 for Adepts and Warriors, 3 for Experts).
Turning Point: You are congratulated on a successful use of a skill and receive recognition for it. Your family no longer ridicules you for being inept. You pass a difficult test. You perform a feat of great intellect or gain +1 Intelligence.
You’ve fallen head over heels for someone, and you’ll do anything to win her love. Once per gaming session you must offer a new gift to your beloved, such as a rare magic object you’ve found, a poem you’ve composed just for her, or a prized steed you stole.
Turning Point: Your love scorns you or she dies (you become Grief Stricken). You and your love consummate your relationship through marriage (most likely gaining Duties).
You’ve been touched by madness due to a trauma you witnessed or suffered. You might alternate between stark raving aggression and truly subtle dementia. You may believe certain delusions about yourself or the world around you. You respond disproportionately to all situations resembling the one that drove you mad. In all cases, you act inappropriately and are utterly unpredictable in a crisis.
Turning Point: Your madness is healed. This is a difficult process requiring at least one other character who attempts to heal you.
You are at odds with the law. Whether you’ve been declared an enemy of the state or a simple bounty has been put on your head depends on your Reputation (which only provides you a bonus among criminals and those few who still trust you). Anytime you are recognized (via a Reputation check or otherwise) while you are within lands where you are wanted, you will be reported to the city watch.
Turning Point: You are punished according to your crimes. You are given clemency by a figure in power (possibly becoming Indebted to them). All record of your crimes is destroyed and everyone who knows anything is silenced. Your innocence is revealed.
You are pursued by a suitor who sings you ballads day and night, delivers bushels of roses to your doorstep, gets into fights “on behalf of your honor”, and otherwise makes a fool of himself for you. You suitor, while charming, can also be annoying, blowing your cover at critical moments, placing himself unknowingly in harm’s way, and otherwise distracting you from the task at hand.
Turning Point: Your suitor finally gets that you’re not interested in him. You acquiesce to your suitor and get married. You scorn your suitor (gaining an Envious Rival). Your suitor dies. You convince your suitor to pursue someone else.
You come from a provincial or backwater area, or grew up in a fanatically religious household. You are utterly superstitious. Whenever you confront a Strange and Fearsome Thing (see table), you must make a Will save. If you succeed, you manage to keep your superstition in check and react (more or less) normally. If you fail, you react negatively. You might avoid the object of your superstition, refuse service or aid to the person, or talk bad about them behind their back. Or, if it particularly fearsome, you might flee as fast as possible (cowering helplessly if unable to do so) or lash out violently if it seems you have strength in numbers. In either case, you have a hard time describing what you saw, resorting to comparison, exaggeration and unintelligible gibbering. Enemies who know about your superstition and succeed an Intimidation check, can increase their fearsomeness by +4 (see table).
DC....Strange and Fearsome Thing
10.....A newcomer in town. Doing something unlucky (or failing to perform a taboo). Unfamiliar, but unassuming technology. Minor magic charms. A wise woman. A certain kind of animal (depends).
14.....Illness and death. Unfamiliar and frightening technology. A non-human species (e.g. a giant or pahari). A newcomer with a different appearance (dress, skin color, accent, race, etc). Someone affected by magic.
18.....A witch (i.e. spellcaster). A djinni or ghost. Someone back from the dead. Powerful magic object.
22.....A monstrous creature like a dragon, rukh, or zartani. An enchanted or cursed location, such as the lost city of Ubar or Jinnistan.
Turning Point: You overcome your superstitions by facing them. This may be done by receiving a patient scientific explanation of your misconceptions, befriending a witch, djinni, dragon, ghost, or foreigner, using a magic object, or breaking a superstitious taboo.
You must observe a set of unusual taboos. This may be due to your culture’s belief, necessary steps for you to work magic, or an oath you made to a djinn. The cost of breaking the taboos could be exile or death. These taboos are above and beyond the usual taboos inherent in the character’s faith. Possible taboos include (choose at least 6):
- Celibacy, or restriction of sexual activity to certain group of people or one day a year
- Knots, rings, belts, circlets (and anything else like a closed loop) are forbidden
- Required to worship ancestors
- Required to make a pilgrimage every year to a certain holy site
- Required to maintain ritual cleanliness
- Mistreating a fire or fire source is considered blasphemy
- Reading and learning to read are forbidden
- Must always prepare extra food and set table spot for a djinni spirit
- Can’t use/say certain names (dead people, personal names, deity names)
- Can’t cut fingernails or hail
- Prohibition against bloodshed
- Prohibition against using technology, especially iron
- Forbidden to interact with a certain group of people
- Forbidden from entering certain area (temples of opposing faith, cemetery)
- A certain secret which cannot be revealed publicly
- Your face must remain hidden to all but your closest allies of the same sex
Turning Point: Discovering the taboo was in place to control the population. Adapting to a new culture. Quitting the practice of magic. Being freed from your oath.
You have a relative (often an uncle or step-mother) who is wicked through and through. They will belittle you at every turn, making your life difficult just because they can. Often they have ulterior motives in repressing you. If you should succeed, your relative will surely try to cash in on your wealth and reputation. Your relative may even engage in nefarious schemes, and you feel obligated to stop them, though you’d never bring true harm to them. After all, they are family.
Turning Point: You discover you’re not related…and it’s time to take the kit gloves off. You manage to reform your relative. Your relative is killed by another, and (ironically) it’s up to you to bring their killer to justice before a Blood Feud erupts.