Don't, I Mean Do, Cross the Streams...of Complication

For this chapter (numbah three) of 'How to Handle Complications,' I'll be carrying on from where I left off yesterday. After I get through the whole Ghostbusters movie based upon the Complications that would be used if it were a role-playing game, I spend a whole chapter wrapping up. For now, Onward!

So far I've learned you should introduce each Persona by playing up one of their Dis/Advantages (which double as Complications when centered upon). Early in a game, the particular game's identity is fluid enough that Complications at that point jockey for dominance over both majority (a Complication that encompasses the whole game) and tone (Complications that resemble each other in character and form a consistency of presentation, like comedic, serious, wacko, and et cetera).

I've also found that Scenes often end when a new Complication is presented. Complications that don't result from things that have happened earlier should come right out of the Genre Expectations. A lot of minor Complications will get flat out ignored and if they draw no interest they should be allowed to disappear.

Not to forget, but both Personae's Dis/Advantages and the game's Complications must be allowed to metamorphose during play (you can record it later). In a 'bounded game' (like one with a 'movie-like' Genre Expectation), it is okay to keep piling Complication on Complication until around mid-point, then you must let the smaller ones go.

Cut Scenes - Fame! I Wanna Complication!

I'm guessing that the visual montage that follows is actually the group 'limbering up' for a new session. The gamemaster discusses how he believes that they'll jump ahead a piece and the group starts brainstorming how the Personae 'get famous.' It's a cruel trick, because it secretly attaches quite nicely to the 'starting your own business' Complication without being overly obvious about it.

Scene Eight - Storm Clouds Gather

Back to playing...the players are set 'returning from a call' based upon the Complications of fame making them very busy. This makes a very good segue into the Complication with the EPA because it fits that the fame has attracted the attention of the august body.

The clash over government regulation could have actually gone several ways, it did not have to end with a show down (although that is the only one that seems appropriate after Venkman slimes Peck's jacket sleeve). It could have resulted in a short tour and a rain check (which could have lead to confrontation then or simply a nagging 'here comes another inspector, why can't they make a decision' Complication), but didn't. So grand was the outcome, the gamemaster decides to try and somehow add it to the Zuul Complication to create an intriguing multifaceted major Complication, if he can.

To carry on addressing further spin-offs of the fame Complication, they discuss how busy they've been and Egon reveals a part of the major Complication that the gamemaster has figured out: things are getting bad 'out there.' ("What about the Twinkie?") This happens to be another way that the gamemaster is trying to tie all the big Complications together to form a neat major Complication.

So what does the gamemaster have so far for the major Complication? 1) Zuul, 2) Peck, 3) Fame/Business headaches, and 4) 'Out of the Frying and Into....' The first and last probably fit together well, but what about the other two?

Scene Nine - Making Exceptions

At this point, either Sigourney or Bill point out that she needs a little spotlight time and you know what that means, more of the Romance Complication. (And the gamemaster wonders how he can invoke that Complication 'within' the Zuul Complication without making Bill's Persona seem weak or solely reactive.)

A quick Scene later (and a cut Scene on the rooftop forewarning a Mystique the gamemaster just thought of regarding the Zuul plot), and Dana is in her apartment. The gamemaster toys with Sigourney's Persona regarding the Romance Complication and then launches into the Complication that embodies and reinforces Dana's Sine Qua Non as 'the victim.' Sigourney racks up some good Keepers jumping in with the 'hands springing out of the chair' stuff (who saw that coming?).

Not to minimize any of her other Complications, the gamemaster does a cut Scene where Louis 'gets his.' Everything seems pretty primed for the climax and in just the same fashion as a cliffhanger, I'm gonna stop here.


Lessee, what else have I learned? There's an art to figuring out which Complications should be melded into the major Complication using this 'bounded' of Sequence for the 'comedy movie Genre Expectation.' We've taken one from each of the players; Dan gave us fame (it evolved from money and then business problems), Dana gave us Zuul, Bill gives us Peck, and the gamemaster added 'the frying pan....' (What about Egon? None of this would have happened but for his inventions; that means they should figure highly in the resolution.) The important thing to remember is that as far as the participants in my little thought experiment go, they have no idea what the final confrontation will be at this point; several surprises still await all of them.

We can see several variations one what you can do with Complications, they evolve (money begets business headaches), they convert (womanizing turns into romance), they spawn (fame begets Peck and busyness), they get adopted (Peck is spawned by fame and adopted by Bill), they fuse (Zuul and 'the frying pan...' have already joined at this point and more must follow to create the major Complication and final confrontation), and there'll be other ways as well (I'm still working on a list).

Also, contrary to how I've seen them used in the past, ending a session in the middle of a Scene and calling it a cliffhanger should simply be called a crime. Real cliffhangers come at the end of Scene which just begs for more. For example, when a Scene closes because another Complication is introduced, it really does close and it really begs for more. The same goes with Scenes that seem to 'put all the pieces into place' (as seen above) for a climax of some kind.

I hope this has been as informative for you as it has been for me; see you at the same Ghostbuster time, on the same Ghostbuster channel.

Fang Langford


Posted by: Fang Langford on Apr 24, 03 | 11:36 pm | Profile


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