Subplot (Action)

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Heroic Action Role-Play

Subplots: are social limitations or background elements that put demands on you and direct your actions.

Bard's Tongue

Your statements tend to be prophetic in a bad way. Simple predictions or even negations, such as "surely it won't begin to rain", tend to come true quite soon and in a negative way. This can cause all kinds of minor trouble around you, and makes people annoyed and you are likely annoyed at you. Anything you say at the game table, in character or not, is fair game for the GM to use. If other player character(s) suffer from your predictions, they gain one Fortune point. If this brings their Fortune over their Mind, the Fortune must be spent by the end of the scene, or it is lost.


You have NPC close friends or family that tend to get involved in the plot. These can sometimes be an advantage for you as contacts, helpers, or emotional support. The limitation is that they sometimes become involved in the action and need help and protection - which gives the GM story hooks.


There is something about you that make you stand out in a crowd. When belligerents look for victims, when the major looks for volunteers, when the police need witnesses or journalists interview the "man on the street", it tends to be you. When adventure just happens to a random person, that person is you. This can either be because of looks and style or just an ephemeral quality.


You have a duty to uphold. This is a job you take seriously, and comes with both everyday and adventuring tasks. Examples include a dutiful police officer, solider, knight, or family man. Other depend on you and you take your duty to them seriously. This can serve both as a motivation, an adventure hook and as a reason why you are sometimes too busy busy to adventure (in cases where you as a player cannot be there).


You are well-known and well-recognized. Any check to recognize you or your handiwork gets a +5 modifier. People contract you for help and your name carries weight in many circles - tough your detractors say you have too high a profile to touch.


You have a group of followers who look up to you and want to hang around you, but who do not work for you. They will turn up and offer to help, fawn over you, or just hang around. This is sometimes helpful, but mostly annoying, making it hard for you to keep a low profile. They will not generally accompany you on adventures and never willingly enter danger. Whenever you roll Snakeyes and are in a place where your fans could possibly turn up, they do - which can turn a normal situation into a hostage crisis right quick.

Most of your fans are Victims with a maximum skill two lower than yours or lower. All details are determined by the GM. Rarely, a powerful person or even a monster might turn out to be a fan, in which case he or she is likely to be extra pushy and demanding.


I'm his daughter-in-law elect! - He'll marry his son - (He's only got one) - To his daughter-in-law elect!
- THE MIKADO by William S. Gilbert

It is well known that Something Marvelous is coming your way. People know you are the heir apparent and fawn over you accordingly. You get involved in plots and intrigues where people try to bank on your future position or play you out against rivals or even the current title-holder. Whenever you roll Snake eyes on a social roll your future title becomes the focus of the action.


You are in debt, and always need cash to pay off loans. You need to watch over your shoulder for repo men and other possible agents of your loan shark(s). If mismanaged, this can turn into a nemeis. You do have ready cash to use in day-to-day situations, but you always need more money to keep the wolves at bay.

Legally Dead

Legally speaking, you are not a living person. You may be written off as dead, or maybe you are a machine, summoned creature, clone, "inferior" species, or otherwise legally a non-person. In any case, you have no legal rights whatsoever, and the law cannot protect you or punish anything done to you. Nor are you eligible for social security, communal hospital care or any of the other benefits or rights of being human.


You don't fit into your social context. You may be a foreigner, belong to a persecuted minority, carry some visible disease, or otherwise be a pariah. There is usually a small subgroup where you do fit, but most of society looks down on you. The contacts elements of your skills don't work outside your small group.

Mistaken Identity

You are known for traits and abilities you do not possess, based on misinterpretation, rumors, or just plain lies. People assume you are someone who you are not, with dramatic consequences. They might think you are the cyber messiah, world-famous terrorist, heir of the lost empire, or otherwise have grand expectations on you. A Snake eyes roll in a social context makes the mistaken identity into a critical part of the action.

Sometimes, you might not know if you have Mistaken Identity or True Identity - these two limitations can be exchanged as the story develops.


Your fate and purpose is linked to a particular non-player character. You and your nemesis are bound to run across each other again and again, and have a mysterious way of ending up in one-on-one encounters. Your nemesis advances in power as you do, and has an amazing ability to survive and return to fight another day. And should he die, there is always someone else on the sidelines, ready to step in.

The GM has to approve your choice of nemesis; it is generally best to pick a nemesis you've met during play and that proved particularly interesting, memorable, and loathsome.

A Nemesis need not be out to kill you, or even cause you harm. It might be a rival who demands a duel, a one-sided romance, a bumbling cop that causes chaos, or a colleague that is out out to impress you but ends up as a constant obstruction. As long as the nemesis is an NPC foil that pops up to complicate your life and the plot, this is a relevant limitation.


You are being manipulated or outright ordered about by some outside agency. This is an organization with a great deal of clout, which can make life very bad for you if you refuse to do as they say. They might enforce their control by social means, or have direct power over you, such as a Oathbinding or one of the nasty options under Imbue Tech.

In the basic version of Pawn, you are under the control of the organization, and it can be harsh and treat you cruelly, but you and the organization have overreaching goals that align. A typical example is a soldier or spy working for his own country. For two points, you can be the pawn of an organization whose strategic goals are completely strange to you or that you object to - like being the pawn of an alien sorcerer or hostile nation.


Somehow, you are always out of cash. Even if you make a break, you still don't manage to hang on to it; perhaps you have sworn a wov of poverty, are a poor gambler or have expensive habits, perhaps you pay a lot of money to charities or have a family to support. Whatever the reason, money is a hassle for you. You can't pay taxi fare, opera tickets, or casino chips. You eat at cheap places and may sleep in the open. This does not mean you cannot have basic adventuring gear; your stuff might be old, worn, and not have a sale value, but it sure works. But you can't afford luxuries of any kind.


You are owned by someone - a slave or bondsman. In many cases, you might not even be considered a person at all, such as if you are a Robot or Monster. You have no legal rights of your own, but a certain protection as the property of your owner - which can be another player, an organization, or a non-player character. If you run away, you become Legally Dead.

Secret Identity

You have some secret identity that you must keep private. This can be a background, such as the fact that you are a wanted man, or you might be trying to protect your loved ones and relatives. You must spend time and effort maintaining your identity. Enemies might try to disclose your identity and use your secret against you. A Snakeyes roll in a social context makes your identity into a critical part of the action.

Mistaken Identity

You have a secret but significant identity, and this identity is destined to become known and/or play a part in upcoming events. You can be the long-lost child of the old king, the destined savior of all lizardfolk, or a dragon bound to human form and abilities by a curse. The DM has to approve your choice, and its usually best to pick your true identity in play, once you know what the campaign is all about. A Snakeyes roll in a social context makes the identity into a critical part of the action.

Sometimes, you might not know if you have Mistaken Identity or True Identity - these two limitations can be exchanged as the story develops.


You adhere to a distinctive dress code, generally because you belong to an organization. Your uniform might be police, nurse, military, chivalric (a coat of arms), superheroic or otherwise distinctive of who you or your organization are. You almost always wear this uniform, and when out of uniform you lose any perks or privileges of your position.

This differs from Costume in that a uniform is not personal; it identifies you as a part of an organization. You can only take Uniform if it carries meaning and you belong to an appropriate organization or group to which the uniform is relevant.


Trigger Action

You have a tendency to end up as a victim; when someone is to be captured, mugged, or otherwise fall victim to a subplot, it tends to be you. Taking this trait means you'll accept that the DM hand-waves situations where you fall into peril and have to be rescued or work to escape.

Whenever you take damage or suffer a setback, you can use this schtick to negate that damage or setback. Whenever you are reasonably alone and vulnerable, the GM can use this schtick against you. It can also trigger on any Snakeyes roll when you are alone or cut off from your friends.

When Victim is activated, you are captured, often unconscious. You will soon re-enter the action, but then as a captive of the enemy - as a hostage, sacrificial victim, caged decoration, or just tossed into a corner. You will either be central to this scene, where it revolves around your rescue, or you'll find it very easy to escape and enter the action.

Working Stiff

You are not poor, but neither are you economically independent, and your adventuring activities do not provide for your living for some reason. You have a job you need to work at you maintain your lifestyle. You need to spend time and effort to maintain this job; you might have to ask for favors to get time away from work to partake in an adventure. Often, you can be a part of the action on the job - people in occupations like journalist, military, medical, emergency services or private detectives often get involved in the action.