In addition to a High Concept, every character has some sort of trouble aspect that’s a part of his life and story. If your high concept is what or who your character is, your trouble is the answer to a simple question: what complicates your character’s existence?

Trouble brings chaos into a character’s life and drives him into interesting situations. Trouble aspects are broken up into two types: personal struggles and problematic relationships.

Personal struggles are about your darker side or impulses that are hard to control. If it’s something that your character might be tempted to do or unconsciously do at the worst possible moment, it’s this sort of trouble. Examples: Anger Management Issues, Sucker for a Pretty Face, The Bottle Calls to Me.

Problematic relationships are about people or organizations that make your life hard. It could be a group of people who hate your guts and want you to suffer, folks you work for that don’t make your job easy, or even your family or friends that too often get caught in the crossfire. Examples: Family Man, Debt to the Mob, The Scar Triad Wants Me Dead.

Your trouble shouldn’t be easy to solve. If it was, your character would have done that already, and that’s not interesting. But nor should it paralyze the character completely. If the trouble is constantly interfering with the character’s day-to-day life, he’s going to spend all his time dealing with it rather than other matters at hand. You shouldn’t have to deal with your trouble at every turn—unless that’s the core of one particular adventure in the story (and even then, that’s just one adventure).

Troubles also shouldn’t be directly related to your high concept—if you have Lead Detective, saying your trouble is The Criminal Underworld Hates Me is a dull trouble, because it is already assumed with your high concept. (Of course, you can turn that up a notch to make it personal, like Guildmaster Giovanni Personally Hates Me, to make it work.)

Before you go any further, talk with the GM about your character’s trouble. Make sure you’re both on the same page in terms of what it means. Both of you may want to find one way this aspect might be invoked or compelled to make sure you’re both seeing the same things—or to give each other ideas. The GM should come away from this conversation knowing what you want out of your trouble.

Lenny wants to contrast the whole “I know an ancient martial art” vibe. He’s not playing an ascetic monk or anything like that. So he wants something that will get him into social trouble, something that has to do with him and not with any specific people or organizations. So he writes down The Manners of a Goat. His character will unconsciously make an ass of himself.

Lily likes this idea of her character being her own worst enemy, so she’s also going for a personal struggle. She’s had the idea for a while of playing someone who can’t help but be Tempted by Shiny Things, so she writes that down.

After seeing the other two go for personal struggles, Ryan wants to add a bit to the setting by having a problematic relationship trouble. He wants something that’s involved with his high concept, someone he can’t just fight openly against—he wants to see intrigue in his story. So he writes down Rivals in the Collegia Arcana (which also names a group of people in the setting, that Ryan’s character is a part of).


Since your trouble is an aspect, it’s something you should also be able to invoke, right? Because you’ve been so focused on how this complicates your character’s life, it’s easy to miss how a trouble also helps your character.

In short, your experience with your trouble makes you a stronger person in that regard. Dealing with personal struggles leaves you vulnerable to being tempted or cajoled, but it can also give you a sense of inner strength, because you know the sort of person you want to be. Problematic relationships often cause trouble, but people do learn hard lessons from the troubles they deal with. They especially learn how to maneuver around many of the smaller issues their troubles present.

Lenny’s The Manners of a Goat could be used to the group’s benefit. Maybe he turns that up intentionally, to draw attention away from Lily’s character sneaking around.

With Lily’s Tempted by Shiny Things, it could reasonably be said that Lily’s character is well-acquainted with the value of various shiny things (and well-acquainted with getting caught and locked in prison, so she knows a thing or two about escaping).

Ryan’s Rivals in the Collegia Arcana can come in handy when dealing with rivals he knows well—he knows what to expect from their tactics. He could also use this aspect to gain aid from people who share his rivals.

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Shimmering Kingdoms FATE PhoenixMark