Optional Challenges

I’ve pondered a lot about the thought that most minor twists are generated by Overcome actions, and one possible minor twist is to add a challenge. If you add a challenge that is mandatory (meaning you must complete it to win) then that seems to be the same thing as negating the success.

So I was thinking about “optional challenges”. The rulebook seems to imply that all challenges must be handled before the scene tracker runs out or there will be negative consequences, but what if I mark certain challenges as optional? I would let the players know that there would not be negative consequences for failing the challenge, but:
a) there will be a reward if you complete the challenge AND/OR
b) there is now a negative penalty that will keep occurring unless the challenge is completed.

example: After you save the children from the burning school bus, one of the children tries to run back in. You stop them, of course, but the little girl wails, “But I need my backpack! It has my phone, and my science project, and my favorite toy, and mementos of my dead parents!”
This is an optional challenge, no penalty for failure, but a hero that succeeds gets a +3 bonus for “Heroic Morale”.

I’d be interested in hearing other people’s thoughts on this.

1 Like

I would be very suspicious of that convenient a backpack. That little girl is probably a Fleshchild.


As you run back into the burning bus, you’re ambushed by three more little girls, who all look exactly like the little girl who lost her backpack!

1 Like

Or they could prevent things from getting worse later.

If you successfully breach the walls so the civilians can leave, the villain won’t have them to hold hostage later!

@TakeWalker I feel like you’d have to be careful with this kind of example, because it veers back into the “You have to succeed at this challenge or there are negative consequences” territory, which is what I’m trying to avoid.

I guess it depends on the situation. If you’re dangling a reward in front of them by saying there’s an extra opportunity to avert the hostage situation that was going to happen anyway, I’m down for that. It makes them have to think about whether the reward you’re offering is worth using up one of their precious turns, and possibly generating yet another twist.

But if you’re saying the price for the heroes solving one challenge to avert disaster is that now they have to solve another challenge to avert disaster then that, in effect, would negate the success.

1 Like

You could make the “Challenge as a result of a Twist” the kind of twist where the result of failure is a penalty in the next scene. Take damage at the end of the scene, or start the next scene with a hinder. Completing it could bring extra healing, or a boost for the next scene. Let the players decide if it’s worth it. Could even make it specific to the one who got the twist in the first place.

1 Like

The concept is interesting, but I’m having a hard time thinking of examples of penalties I’d apply for future scenes, unless I knew that the next action scene was going to happen immediately with no chance to rest.
Maybe something like: You successfully disarm the doomsday device but you get exposed to harmful radiation. Nothing bad happens immediately but after the action scene you get sick and need treatment, which will require a successful Overcome during a Montage scene or you take a persistent -2 penalty.
Is this the kind of thing you’re thinking of?

On another note, I don’t mind if challenges generate twists that generate more challenges if the heroes are in a montage scene or otherwise “not on the clock.”


This might be a good opportunity for unclear future consequences that may or may not be a red herring, much like you can do with minor twists.
So you lost that piece of leverage that might compromise your identity? Well, no immediate consequence… but you keep the player dangling on that rope whether or not it will bite him in the future. Tell them it’s not ‘if’; it’s just ‘when’…
Better yet, the GM will have a nice hook in that player for use in some other story, or as a balancing element at their disposal in some unrelated scene when the heroes fare a little too well.

Yeah, these kinds of vague future consequences can be cool when they come to fruition. As a GM, I know I am all too prone to forget about these kinds of things and it never comes back.

One thing I’m planning to try in a game is giving the heroes an optional challenge in an action scene where they are investigating gang activity in a mall. What’s the challenge?
Getting ice cream from the best ice cream shop in the mall.

If they can pass the challenge to get in line, and keep their spots, then they get to take two actions during the follow-up montage scene instead of just one. If they don’t pass the challenge? Well, they don’t suffer a penalty from it.
Twists would be mainly Hinders, powers or qualities being impacted, or narrative consequences. After all, they are in line for the best ice cream in town. Where better to get early glimpses of notable NPCs later on down the line?


Haha, I love it!