I'm going to describe a problem I had in a game of universalis. What I want to know is, Did I misunderstand the rules.

We had a master component of a barbarian, who had (relevant) traits of "mighty thews", "trained warrior", and "furry underwear", all of which were deemed appropriate for a physical brawl. This brawl took place inside the barbarian village, meaning that introducing new barbarians was a reasonable option.

A player realized that for every 1 coin spent on introducing a barbarian, he would get three dice for the ensuing complication. Because of the way complications work, he would then get back triple the coins (if he lost,) or be very likely to at least recoup his investment.

This led to a horrible situation where the best solution was to go all-in on generic instances of any master component with more than one relevant trait.

It seems to me that I must have missed some aspect of the rules that disallows this, but I couldn't find it.

Of course, I can always buy a tenet of "no thundering herds", or make sure that all my complications are set in limited-space environments, so that people can't bring in infinite generics. It's easy to fix the problem, but I can't help feeling that I've just missed something that stops this up front.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Would another possible way to "fix" be to have the challenge somehow be honor or culturally bound to having single or limited opponents? \$\endgroup\$
    – user2102
    Oct 29, 2012 at 20:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ I could buy a trait like "prefers single combat", which would give me double points if I try to veto a new fact. I don't think that specifically helps in a complication. Plus, I would have to preemptively notice that a master component is ripe to be used this way, and spend my coin. If I have to, the tenet is much cheaper, and correctly addresses this problem at the meta-level. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 12, 2012 at 13:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ If the tenet addresses the problem at the meta-level, then you should likely post that as an answer so that others can land upon it. \$\endgroup\$
    – user2102
    Nov 14, 2012 at 14:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ What I'd really like to know is if the rules (as written) prevent this shenanigan. It requires an unusual enough combination of effects that I might have played it wrong. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 14, 2012 at 16:06

1 Answer 1


I'm no expert on Universalis, but here are a few thoughts:

  1. I think your 'no thundering herds' rules gimmick is clean and effective. I wouldn't challenge it if you wanted to introduce it in play.

  2. What if it came up without the rules gimmick in play and I didn't want to let someone benefit from that kind of play? Well, if someone goes 'all-in' -- i.e., puts all of their coins into introducing multiple barbarians in your example -- they are effectively out of coins. Thus, they have no capacity for further narration until the complication is resolved. I would be inclined to interrupt after they had bought all of their components and change the complication so that some of the traits can be used against them. It's a bit hard without more details from your example but e.g. (and stretching a bit), perhaps the furry underwear is 'particularly flammable' (1 coin to add to master component) and the fight is taking place 'amidst the cooking fire pits' in the village. That would then be -1 coin for each barbarian in the opposing player's dicepool. You might be able to do something with 'mighty thews' by making it a contest of subtlety.

Note that these changes might constitute a new internal complication (i.e., a nested complication - see here. Again however, the first player is out of coins, so unless someone else plays against you, you should be able to get your way in the new complication.

I might be inclined to narrate this way if the 'all-in bar brawl' was a boring contribution to the story. However, if it fit and the other player was just getting a bunch of coins for it, then I might also be inclined just to let it go and let him have his coins.

Ultimately, however, I think you have the rules right. The master component rules do create this kind of incentive in a complication. It is up to player-challenges, additional narrative power and tenets to keep it in check if you think it is being abused.


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