Complications

Characters in Shimmering Kingdoms get turned into animals, charmed by faeries, fall in love, and run afoul of the law. Complications represent the variety of conditions that may befall a character, making their life difficult or even unbearable.

  • All heroes must begin with one Complication.

When a player plays up her character’s Complication, the DM may reward the character with a point of Conviction, similar to playing one’s Nature.

Each Complication has a turning point which represents ways the character can overcome the complication, thereby earning a point of Conviction. If multiple turning points are offered, the first one the character meet rids them of the Complication.

A character can have any number of Complications in his or her life at any given time, though only one Complication may be chosen by the player at a time; selecting additional Complications adds drama to the player’s life! For example, a rogue who starts off as an Outlaw might over the course of an adventure be pardoned by a sympathetic noble; the rogue’s player now decides the rogue has fallen in love with the noble’s daughter and is Love Struck. Of course, the player is under no obligation to choose the new Complication, it is merely an option.

The DM may impose Complications upon heroes appropriate to the story. Although not a requirement, it enhances play (not to mention gaining the extra Conviction when resolved, for heroes to have at least one Complication at all times.

Feel free to consult with the DM to create new Complications (not on the list below) for your character.

Accursed

You are the victim of a curse placed upon you by a spiteful Faerie or sorcerer. See the Curse power for ideas about what this curse might be and ways to end it. However, you can never be killed directly by curses, which instead temper you like steel in an Dwarven smith’s furnace so long as you are accursed.

Turning Point: Ridding yourself of the curse.

Ashamed

You think poorly of yourself for a perceived wrong you have done. You are naked, defeated, alienated, lacking in dignity or worth. In many ways, such a state of mind is the result of living in a patriarchal society where humiliation and dishonor are one and the same. You may not take 20 on any checks, nor may you perform any action which you would see as boasting or putting yourself above others. In addition, when confronted with a situation similar to the one that caused you shame, you may become enraged (as per the Heart Shaping power) or paralyzed at the DM’s discretion.

Turning Point: Shame is a nefarious enemy, and success does not offer freedom. Only realizing the true source of your shame frees you. This may be realizing that you did your best, that your superiors aren’t actually superior, or discovering something you value more than your honor.

Blood Feud

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 make a great sacrifice so 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. Become an ascetic and transcend the conflict.

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 code must include at least 5 points from the list below:

  • Fairness: You may not “cheat” in combat (e.g. throwing sand, fighting an unarmed opponent, many fighting a single matched foe, etc).
  • Fealty: Unfailing obedience to your lord or temple, tithe 1 point of Wealth each month or when you are rescued from a terrible fate.
  • Friendship: You may never abandon a comrade in need.
  • Justice: Always bring a criminal to justice, never harbor a criminal, and always observe the holdings of a legitimate court.
  • Loyalty: You may never betray your homeland or god in word or in deed.
  • Mercy: You must defend the weak and offer mercy to the repentant foe.
  • Pride: You must avenge all insults to your self, family, country, religion, lord, or people under your protection. You can’t refuse a challenge.
  • Uprightness: You may never engage in slander, blackmail, or extortion. You avoid people and places of ill repute.
  • Warrior’s Code: You must honor the request of a dying person, friend or foe.

    Special: If you fail to uphold your code, you lose a point of Conviction. By adhering to your Code of Honor despite self sacrifice you regain a point of Conviction. The maximum number of Conviction points you may lose or gain in a single session equals the number of tenets your code has. Unlike other complications, a Code of Honor can be abandoned at any point (unless you’ve been charmed), though you lose all Conviction if you abandon your code. Only an epic quest of atonement allows you to regain your Code of Honor.

Condemning Secret

You have a secret which, if others learned about you, could ruin you politically, and possibly turn your closest allies against you. At least one person besides you knows about this secret.

Your enemies may learn this secret only through extensive research; at least three adventures are required with the enemy investing considerable resources to learn your secret, and somewhere along the way you must be alerted by the DM that your enemy is digging around in your past.

Turning Point: Your secret is revealed and you deal with the consequences. You seek absolution for your past misdeeds. Everyone who knows your secret is eliminated or otherwise silenced…permanently.

Destitute

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 with a cost of 1 or higher until you reach the turning point; likewise you cannot take 10 or take 20 on Wealth checks. You have no home, are forced to sleep on the streets, and have only one or two belongings. You may resort to begging to survive.

Turning Point: Achieve a Wealth score of 4 (and possibly Duties that go with it).

Duties

You have duties which you must attend to, either a mundane life or an oath.

  • 
_Mundane Life_: 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 or on pilgrimage. This restricts your ability to travel, unless you transplant your family and your shop or find a custodian to take care of them. Your family may become a liability if you have a truly wicked enemy willing to attack them to get to you. Increase the Difficulty of taxes you must pay by +2.
  • Oath: In the case of an oath of service, you must spend some time every year with your ruler, faerie lord, secret lover, etc. Generally, the person to whom you’ve sworn requires 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. In the case of an oath, you can be freed only by the one to whom you swore it.

Ensorcelled

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 faerie or sorcerer may direct you to perform missions, which you have no choice but to obey. In some cases, the ensorcelled victim doesn’t even realize they are under another’s magical sway.

Turning Point: Breaking free of the charm magic.

Envious Rival

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 him or herself superior. Your rival gains the Dedicated and Favored Opponent feats for free (with you as the target).

Turning Points: Coming to terms with your rival. Beating your rival once and for all. Your rival finally feels they’ve become better than you (perhaps by making you Destitute).

Fated

You march towards a pre-determined fate, and it’s not a pretty one. You gain the Destined (Tragedy) feat. Decide with the DM what your character’s fate is and whether she knows about it. In either case, your character is frightened when confronted with any 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. This fear is based on dreams you’ve had or a prophecy you heard.

Turning Point: Unless divine forces intervene, the turning point is meeting your fate!

Grief Stricken

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 that you have no power to change. You are shaken. In addition, you do not gain new feats while you are grief stricken; if you advance a level during this time you may gain the feat you earned at a later point once your grief is resolved. Every day you risk becoming despondent; roll 1d20 and if a roll of ‘1’ results then you are totally immersed in your grief for a scene and you find it hard to do anything which doesn’t focus on your departed loved one.

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); this requires at least several months. Reviving your loved one from death. Changing the situation, leaving it, or accepting there’s nothing you can do (or that it’s not your job).

Haunted

A memory haunts you; this may be a terrible crime you committed, or a loved one who you wronged and never came to peace with. This haunting is a ghost which exists only in the mind of the haunted one. Whenever you are in a situation which reminds you of the crime or departed soul you must make a Difficulty 25 Will save; the DM may declare one such situation per game session. The results of this save depend on your margin of failure or success.

Will Save Effect of Haunting
Fails by 5+ You are panicked.
Fails by 1-4 You are frightened.
Succeeds by 1-4 You are shaken.
Succeeds by 5+ You act normally, realizing it’s all in your mind.

Turning Point: You succeed your Will save by 10 or more, effectively mastering your fear of who or whatever was haunting you. You perform a quest to redeem yourself. You have someone perform an “exorcism”; however, this panders to the belief that you actually were haunted by spirits and thus you gain the Superstitious complication.

Hazardous Friend

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, and disastrous business ventures. If you do not help your friend when they need it, one of your friend’s Complications becomes your own (gain a random Complication).

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.

Indebted

You owe money or your life to someone.

  • 
_Monetary Debt_: 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.
  • Life Debt: 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 judge 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).

Ineptitude

Special: May only be taken at 1st level


You are totally unskilled, having either squandered your youth or simply having below average intelligence. All your relatives know you as a fool and give you menial errands just to get you out of the way. 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). You may not begin with the Skill Focus, Skill Training, or Talented feats. Whenever you fail a check by 5 or more a disastrous failure occurs with dramatically negative consequences.

Turning Point: You are congratulated for possessing a rare virtue that outshines your ineptitude, and receive wide recognition for it. Your family no longer ridicules you for being inept. You pass a difficult test of skill. You perform a feat of great intellect or gain +1 Intelligence.

Special: Once the turning point is achieved you no longer make disastrous failures. In addition, if you are an Expert the next level you advance, gain 2 skills as your intellect shines without the shame of your ineptitude burdening you.

Infirm

You have been crippled by from old age or a wasting disease such as leprosy.
Any exertion causes you to suffer one fatigue level (no save); you may accrue no more than one fatigue level this way per scene. In addition, if you ever make an extra effort, you must make a DC 10 Toughness save or suffer one point of Strength and Constitution drain. In addition, your condition is deteriorating; every level you advance while you still are infirmed you must make a DC 15 Toughness save or suffer -1 Strength and Constitution damage. Should you ever reach -5 in either ability you will die.

Turning Point: Your youth is magically restored. Your condition is healed through a quest. Your condition is healed by a DC 30 use of Cure Disease; this constitutes extra effort for the healer.

Inner Conflict

You are torn between two competing ideals, philosophies, loyalties, or people. This inner conflict must be central to your character. A good example is an adept who struggles between practicing magic for power and considering quitting the practice of magic because it is evil. Whenever you are faced with making a decision between the two competing beliefs, you are dazed for one round and must reflect before taking action. Make a Wisdom check to determine how long you must reflect. You may decide to take action spontaneously before this time, but you are limited according to the results of your Wisdom check. An extra effort reduces the penalty for acting spontaneously by one (e.g. from “not possible” to “nauseated”, or from “shaken” to “no penalty”).

Wisdom Check Time of Reflection Act Spontaneously?
7 or less 1 month Not possible.
8-11 1 week Yes, but you act as if nauseated.
12-15 1 day Yes, but you act as if entangled.
16-19 1 hour Yes, but you act as if shaken.
20+ 1 minute Yes. No penalty.

Turning Point: You reconcile the two competing beliefs or decide to uphold one instead of the other. You transcend the conflict entirely by becoming a mystic.

Love Struck

You’ve fallen head over heels for someone, and you’ll do anything to win her love. Once per character level 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. In addition, you are prone to fits of melancholy when separated from your love; every day you are separated roll 1d20. If you roll a ‘1’ then you are in a fit for a scene as you pine in longing; during this time you find it impossible to do anything besides compose lamenting poetry devoted to your love or bemoan your star-crossed fate.

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).

Madness

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. Any time you fail a Sense Motive check by 5 or more you learn misinformation as if it were truth. Additionally, you cannot use feats, skills, or powers that require concentration.


*Turning Point*: Your madness is healed. This is a difficult process requiring at least one other character who attempts to heal you over the course of several months.

Maimed

Whether through punishment by the law or the cruel hand of fate, you have been physically maimed in one of the following ways:

  • Eunuch
    Your genitals have been removed through a surgical procedure. You are unable to reproduce.
    • Turning Point: A combined DC15 Cure and Fertility check restores your fecundity. This constitutes extra effort.
  • Gouged Eye
    One of your eyes was gouged from your head, perhaps as a punishment for spying on someone. You suffer a -4 penalty on all Notice checks that involve spotting. Opponents with cover gain an additional +2 Defense against you, and your miss chance against concealed opponents increases by 2 (15 or higher for partial concealment, and 9 or higher for total concealment). You may not take the Precise Shot feat; if you already had it before you lose it now.
    • Turning Point: A combined DC 15 Cure and Cure Blindness/Deafness check restores your eye. This constitutes extra effort.
  • Hideous Scars
    You have been mauled by a beast, endured too many battle wounds to count, or otherwise been horribly scarred. You suffer a -2 penalty on all interaction checks, except for Intimidate, in which you gain a +2 bonus. You may not take the Enchanting Beauty feat; if you had it before, you lose it now. Wearing a mask, veil, or other concealing clothing hides your scars temporarily.
    • Turning Point: A combined DC 15 Cure and Fleshing Shaping check heals your scars. This constitutes extra effort.
  • Missing Ear
    One of your ears was cut off from your head. You suffer a -4 penalty on all Notice checks that involve listening. In addition, whenever someone says something to you during the heat of an action scene, there is a chance that you don’t hear what they just said. For example, you might not hear an ally inspiring courage during a battle. Roll 1d20; if the result is ‘1-2’ you misinterpret what was said, and if the result is 3-10 you didn’t hear it at all. You may not take the Uncanny Dodge feat; if you had it before you lose it now.
    • Turning Point: A combined DC 15 Cure and Cure Blindness/Deafness check restores your ear. This constitutes extra effort.
  • Severed Arm/Hand
    Your dominant hand has been chopped off, possibly as a punishment for theft. You suffer a -4 penalty on all attack rolls, you cannot wield two-handed weapons, nor can you fight with two weapons. In addition you suffer a -4 penalty to the following skills: Climb, Craft, Disable Device, Sleight of Hand, and Swim. You may not take the Two-Weapon Fighting or Two-Weapon Defense feats; if you had either before, you lose it now.
    • Turning Point: A DC 30 Cure check regenerates your hand. This constitutes extra effort.
  • Severed Foot/Leg
    One of your legs has been severed, possibly to save your life from gangrene. Your base speed is reduced to 10 feet per round and you may not move all-out while on foot, though you may still move at an accelerated pace (20 feet per round) if you have access to crutches. You suffer a -4 penalty to the following skills: Acrobatics, Climb, Jump, Ride, Stealth, and Swim. You may not take the Run feat; if you had it before lose it now.
    • Turning Point: A DC 30 Cure check regenerates your leg. This constitutes extra effort.

Not Taken Seriously

Nobody seems to take you seriously; this may be because you haven’t reached adulthood yet, you are notorious for crying wolf, or you’re good name has been smeared. Your Reputation never has positive connotations; if anyone recognizes you by making a successful Reputation check, you suffer -4 penalty on all interaction skill checks. In addition, your testimony is overruled in a court of law, you are denied your proper inheritance, and no one believes you when you report miracles…or impending disaster.

Turning Point: Everyone realizes too late that you were right all along. You reach the age of maturity. You perform a great deed which earns you respect and recognition. You put an end to the smear campaign against you and correct the popular negative image people have of you.

Outlaw

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.

Persistent Suitor

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 after several months. You acquiesce to your suitor and get married. You scorn your suitor (gaining an Envious Rival). You convince your suitor to pursue someone else, like a younger sibling.

Superstitious

Prerequisite: May only be taken at 1st level


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 is particularly fearsome, you become panicked 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 a Bluff or Intimidation check can increase their fearsomeness by +4.

Superstitious

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.
14 Illness and death. Unfamiliar and frightening technology. A newcomer with a different appearance (dress, skin color, accent, race, etc). Someone affected by magic.
18 A witch (i.e. an adept). A djinni, faerie, ghost, or non-human species. Someone back from the dead. Powerful magic object.
22 A monstrous creature like a dragon. An enchanted or cursed location.

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, faerie, djinni, dragon, ghost, or foreigner, using a magic object, or breaking a superstitious taboo.

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 an powerful creature such as an outsider or faerie. 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:

  • 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 by bathing multiple times a day
  • 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 faerie 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. Leaving your old culture behind. Quitting the practice of magic, or adopting a new arcane philosophy. Being freed from your oath.

Wicked Relative

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 engage in nefarious schemes which you feel obligated to stop, though you’d never bring true harm to them. After all, they are family.

Turning Point: You discover you’re not related. 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.

Note: This system is based off of Complications found in Paradigm Concepts, Inc. Tales of the Caliphate Nights


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Complications

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