Underworld Campaign Quick Reference - Action Complications


The following complications are relatively simple and generic, usable to describe a wide variety of actions.

Extended Actions

Sometimes you need more than one success to accomplish a task fully. For example, you might have to spend all night tracking down obscure newspaper articles in a library, or climb a cliff face that's impossible to scale in a turn. If you need only one success to accomplish an action, the action in question is called a simple action. But when you need multiple successes to score even a marginal success, you're undertaking an extended action. Simple actions are the most common in the Storyteller System, but you will have ample opportunity to perform extended actions.

In an extended action, you roll your dice pool over and over on subsequent turns, trying to collect enough successes to succeed. For example, your character is trying to dig a temporary haven in the forest floor, using only his bare hands. The Storyteller tells you that you need 15 successes to hollow out a den that provides sufficient protection from the sun. You'll eventually succeed, but the longer you go, the more chance there is of you botching and collapsing the tunnel. What's more, if you have only so many turns before dawn, the speed with which you finish your task becomes doubly important. The Storyteller in all cases is the final authority on which tasks are extended actions and which aren't.

You can usually take as many turns as you want to finish an extended action (but situations being what they are in the World of Darkness, you won't always have that luxury). If you botch a roll, however, you may have to start over again from scratch. Depending on what you're trying to do, the Storyteller may even rule that you can't start over again at all; you've failed and that's that.

Because extended actions are often quite apropos for describing certain feats, they're used frequently in Chapter Six. FIowever, because of the amount of dice-rolling involved, extended actions should probably be kept out of the more intense sessions of roleplaying.

Example: Veronica Abbey-Roth is trying to work up a large portion of capital for a certain upcoming project others. Even though she has Resources 4, the Storyteller rules that she'd have to liquidate much of her belongings to get the money she wants. So Veronica decides to play fast and dirty with her money, running a number of illegal operations and playing a very intricate game with the stock market to raise the money she needs. The Storyteller decides that for Veronica to reach her goal, Lynn will have to score 18 successes on an extended Wits + Finance roll (difficulty 7 - this is an intrinsically tricky way to earn money). What's more, since this sort of thing takes time, she can make only one roll per night of game time.

Veronica has Wits 3 and Finance 4, so Lynn rolls seven dice each night. She gets three successes on her first roll - things are opening up nicely. On her second roll, she gets two successes, for a total of five. Unfortunately, luck isn't with her on the third roll. She gets 3, 4, 1, 6, 4, 1, 6 - a botch! The Storyteller rules that one of Veronica's brokers has gone sour, and she's actually lost money on the transaction. But the efforts of three nights' work have been neatly condensed into five minutes or so of real time. As the game continues, Veronica is left with a tighter budget for a while, and the choice of trying again (and running the risk of attracting the Justice Department's attention) or abandoning her grandiose plot...

Resisted Actions

A simple difficulty number might not be enough to represent a struggle between characters. For instance, you may try to batter down a door while a character on the other side tries to hold it closed. In such a case, you'd make a resisted roll - each of you rolls dice against a difficulty often determined by one of your opponent's Traits, and the person who scores the most successes wins. However, you're considered to score only as many successes as the amount by which you exceed your opponent's successes; in other words, the opponent's successes e liminate your own, just as "1s" do. If you score four successes and your opponent scores three, you're considered to have only one: a marginal success. Therefore it's difficult to achieve an outstanding success on a resisted action. Even if your opponent can't beat you, he can still diminish the effect of your efforts.

Some actions (arm-wrestling contests, debates, car chases) may be both extended and resisted. In such cases, one or the other of the opponents must achieve a certain number of successes to succeed. Each success above the rival's total number in a given turn is added to a running tally. The first to achieve the designated number of successes wins the contest.

Example: Veronica, prowling for trouble at the latest Camarilla soiree, has determined by night's end to spite her rival, a Ventrue by the name of Giselle. Giselle arrived at the fete with her latest childe in tow: Tony, a talented and delicious young man with a medical license and a much-vaunted pedigree. Veronica decides that there would be nothing more amusing than stealing Giselle's childe away from her for the evening - of course, that'll take some doing, as Giselle will be watching him like a hawk.

Lynn (Veronica's player) and the Storyteller roleplay out much of the initial three-way conversation (as well as the covert knife-edged glances) between Veronica, Giselle and Tony. Finally, the Storyteller has Lynn roll Veronica's Manipulation (3) + Subterfuge (3), resisted by Giselle's Manipulation (3) + Subterfuge (4). Lynn rolls six dice versus a difficulty of 7 (Giselle's Manipulation + Subterfuge); the Storyteller rolls Giselle's seven dice versus difficulty 6 (Veronica's Manipulation + Subterfuge). Lynn manages to score four successes, while Giselle remarkably manages only three. Giselle's successes subtract from Lynn's, leaving Lynn with one success. Tony opts to make the rounds with Veronica, although her marginal success means he casts a few longing glances back Giselle's way...


You don't always have to go it alone. If the situation warrants (usually during an extended action such as researching a family tree or decoding an Aramaic inscription), characters can work together to collect successes. If the Storyteller decides that teamwork is possible for the task in question, two or more characters can make rolls separately and add their successes together. They may never combine their Traits into one dice pool, however.

Teamwork can be effective in many situations - dogpiling on the prince's pet enforcer, shadowing a hunter or doing research in the library, for instance. However, it can actually prove to be a hindrance in certain situations (including social interaction such as fast-talking or seducing a subject), and one person's botch can bollix the whole attempt.

Table: Examples of Actions and Complications

SimpleDodging a bullet, Sensing an ambushTask is completed with one roll. The Storyteller announces the difficulty and the players roll dice. Automatic success is possible.
ExtendedMountain climbing, ResearchTask is completed when a given number of successes are obtained, which may require more than one roll (which provides more chances of botching).
ResistedShadowingA contest of skill between two individuals. They compare their number of successes; the character with the most successes wins.
Extended & ResistedArm wrestlingAs a resisted action; the contest requires a given number of successes and may take more than one turn to complete.