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Games where GM Has a Complication Currency

furashg

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Lots of games nowadays include a "Complication Currency" where the GM can introduce a complication by spending a limited currency. Examples

Star Wars (new)
Mophidius 2d20
Cypher System
Cortex Prime
Chill

Is the RAW intention of these games that this is that the only way difficult things can happen to players is through this currency. For example, if in the fiction the players murder someone in public, the reasonable outcome of that is the get arrested. My guess is these systems use this currency for things that aren't natural consequences.
 

Ysidro

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They generally act as a pacing mechanism and a way to increase dramatic tension. Sometimes they act as ways to "cheat" the system, but in full player view. Other times, they are used to activate rules (such as enemy abilities).

Keeping it player facing is the important part. A GM can always bend the rules or use whatever tools they want. But this sort of mechanic always the players to see how much doo-doo they might be in and in most systems, they let the players decide how much if this resource the GM gets. It becomes a risk management game.
 

tomas

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In Conan 2d20, the complication currency (called Doom) is meant for random, on the spot things that make the immediate situation more difficult for the players. So it could be a minor change in the terrain (player stumbles over something), reinforcements arriving, or to activate the effects of weapons or talents of the bad guys.
 

downer

Fairy Tale King
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7th Sea has "Danger Points", which the GM can use to beef up villains and trigger additional problems. They have no bearing on problems the players create for themselves, nor do they interact in any way with the GM's task of creating problems for the players to solve.

In general, it is my experience that these point pools serve as a balancing tool. They allow the GM to add some spice if the action slows down or things get too easy. Most older games seem to simply assume that the GM will do that anyway and of course know what's best. Newer games recognize that, all too often, this comes across as arbitrary and anti-agency and give the GM a cap on this ability. Thus I would put them squarely in the "GMs might need a hint now and then, too" school of game design.
 

Occam's Spork

be seeing you.
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I'm curious on how this is generally done to balance things? I'm unfamiliar with all the above games. How is the currency pot established in the first place? I could imagine it would be relative to the number of PC's and their power level?
 

Strange Visitor

Grumpy Grognard
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At least with Cortex Prime, nothing about the doom pool or the like stops planned difficulties from occurring outside of it; what the doom pool does is provide the GM with an accepted tool for complicating things on-the-fly; they're specifically for adjusting things in the wind, a process that often gets less than a positive reaction in some circles, but tends to be much easier to swallow when someone knows its limited and managed.
 

Strange Visitor

Grumpy Grognard
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I'm curious on how this is generally done to balance things? I'm unfamiliar with all the above games. How is the currency pot established in the first place? I could imagine it would be relative to the number of PC's and their power level?
There's a lot of different methodologies used in different games; in Savage Worlds, its based partly on the number of players, partly on how many Wild Cards (PC class) opponents in use; in the doom pool version of Cortex Prime, its based on how many spoilers (semi-fumbles) the players roll, which also gives them extra plot points.
 

Maxen M

Somewhere off to the side
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Reasonable outcomes are also dependent on tone too; it could be very common in a game, when players do something dramatic like kill-someone-bad-and-it's-technically murder, to gloss over that fact and emphasise that yes this is the 20th time wolverine has killed someone this campaign, and he should probably have a detective making a pin board of his movements by now, that is an outside event as far as the rules you've established are concerned.

This is similarly true for player plans that seem pretty good except for a (to you) obvious flaw that you could reasonably introduce and ruin their day.

A friend of mine really likes taking every moment like that and associating it with a negative currency like doom, when he has a big pool, he can treat your plans and actions more criticically and spend the doom to introduce new enemies, when it's empty, he'll let things fly more and wait for it to grow.

So the doom pool moment to moment helps modulate the generosity of his GMing.
 

Chris Tavares

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To be technically correct (the best kind of correct), Cypher System doesn't meet your definition because the GM isn't spending a limited resource to introduce complications. A GM Intrusion is triggered when a player rolls a 1 (on d20) or whenever the GM wants. However, if the GM triggers it they must aware the affected player 2 xp. The player keeps one and must give the other to somebody else at the table.

There's no rules limit to the number of XP that can be awarded this way. You don't want to do it too much of course, but it's not spending out of a budget.
 

tomas

Registered User
Validated User
I'm curious on how this is generally done to balance things? I'm unfamiliar with all the above games. How is the currency pot established in the first place? I could imagine it would be relative to the number of PC's and their power level?
In 2d20 Conan both the players and the GM have a metacurrency - momentum and doom respectively. The players earn momentum by exceeding the target number for success meaning that if the GM is calling for three success for an event to happen and the player rolls four successes he/she has earned one momentum. The player can immediately put that momentum to use by bettering the situation for themselves (extra damage, a better than expected situation, etc) or they can add the momentum to the momentum pool that any other player can draw from later to help their own situation. The pool is limited in size.

The GM starts off the game with a pool of doom that is based on the number of players. That pool can be increased by specific player actions (like a PC doing a parry against an attack). Like the players a GM can use to improve the situation from the adversary's perspective (increased damage, a better success, summoning reinforcements). It is expected that the most of the doom will be spent in the climatic final battle to make things even more tense.

Now there have been complaints that the doom pool is meant to screw over players and that it makes for a more antagonistic relationship between players and GMs, but I disagree wit that point of view. As a GM it is my prerogative to "toughen things up" if the PCs are cruising through the scenario too easily or to ease off if they find themselves in too tough a situation due to bad dice rolls or something like that. The doom pool actually helps me keep a tab on how far I can go to make things difficult because it is based on the earlier successes of the player actions. And there is nothing that states the GM must end the game with a doom pool of zero.
 
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