Atlanta Cinere Surgit
Trouble is the gasoline that drives story.
However, injecting Trouble can be a tricky and delicate matter for Storytellers.
Inject too little, and players will idle, listless and unmotivated. This is true even of good players when the Storytellers delay too long- the internal trouble of a story tends to bleed out over time and must be sustained by external trouble being injected in.
Inject too much, and players grow frustrated, angry, despairing- or worse, become solely focused on resolving the trouble to the exclusion of the broader story. This is especially common when the trouble threatens the entire world, or at least the central premise of the game. Our little lives don’t count at all, when compared to Godzilla coming to town. This feeling can be global, suffocating the entire game, but it can also be reached by an individual, if a player happens to have too many troubles on their plate at once- even if each individual trouble would be interesting and manageable.
And finally, when trouble is inequitably distributed, you have players feeling by turns persecuted or envious. When all the trouble in the world seems to follow one person, they can flip from feeling frustrated to feeling persecuted- to blaming the Storytellers on a metagame level for their recent woes. Conversely, when a newer player with no troubles is idling away and observes that older players always seem to be having fun and keeping busy, they are likely to feel envious, blaming the Storytellers on a metagame level of their lack of challenges or playing favorites with the spotlight.
The Trouble Jar
The Trouble Jar is a literal jar, which contains slips of paper that have names. Before game, two or three names are pulled from the jar- to serve as catalysts or seeds for the STs to think up tailored troubles just for these fortunate individuals. If, over the course of the game, the STs notice a lack of energy, they can go back to the Trouble Jar and pull another name or two. Such Troubles are meant to serve as spices to whatever the overarching trouble is, if any.
Trouble should be difficult for the Troubled character to individually resolve, but relatively easy to solve either with assistance or by another character who’s specialized in a weakness of the Troubled character. Trouble should be enough to encourage interaction, but not so much that the entire game must roll out to manage.
There are several ways to get your name into or out of the Trouble Jar. They include, but are not limited to-
- Everyone will be in the Trouble Jar at least once, just for existing. To be a character in a story invites trouble.
- Depending on where your Haven is located and where you feed, you may generate Trouble. Some domains are safer than others.
- If too many vampires feed in the same Domain, each one generates Trouble.
- If you possess certain Flaws (such as Hunted or Ward), then you might generate some extra Trouble.
- Certain Backgrounds or combinations of Backgrounds may also generate Trouble. In particular- Fame is often a two-edged sword, Allies can need help of their own, and having multiple ghouled Retainers is a known potential problem that must be carefully managed. Normally, none of these will necessarily result in Trouble- but any of them may.
- If you leave a scene thinking ‘Well, with luck, no one saw that / no one will find out’, you’ve probably left some Trouble in your wake. This is doubly true for potential Masquerade breeches.
The Trouble generated for a particular cause (for example, being Hunted) may be tagged, to indicate that this isn’t general Trouble for your character, but should specifically call out the flaw.
Some Downtime Actions you take may invite Trouble. These will be at the STs discretion- but generally speaking, they’re for actions where the immediate outcome is not in doubt but fallout or longer term consequences are a possibility.
You may also use Downtime Actions to smooth Trouble over. Doing so removes your name from the Jar once per Downtime Action spent, to a minimum of 1.
Influence is an obvious and potent vector for managing Trouble.
- With an appropriate Elite 2 or Underworld 3 Influence Action, you can remove a name (including your own) from the trouble jar.
- With an appropriate Elite 3 or Underworld 2 Influence Action, you can add a name (including your own) into the trouble jar.
- With an appropriate use of Contacts, an Elite 2, or Underworld 2 Influence Action, you can learn about some incipient Trouble before it strikes- letting you best position yourself for it.