Overall tonight's session was pretty light on Icon usage. I guess that just happens sometimes; it was a short session, and somewhat combat-heavy. Each player rolled one 5 for Relationships at the start of the session, and there was an outstanding 5 and 6 from last session that hadn't been spent as well. Complications are awesome and make perfect sense in some situations, but in others I find I struggle to come up with a good disadvantage. Results of 5 can be, quite simply, more work to utilize in play (unless you're endowed with more improvisational creativity than I am).
Argus, our party's Fighter, wanted to copy down some ancient writing from a tapestry onto paper for later research. The player simply asked if the standard adventurer's gear included paper. Thinking it unlikely for any but a studious Wizard type, a Bard who likes to compose on the road, or a PC of any class that has an established personality/backstory that would justify carrying paper, I said probably not. "But what happened to 'Always say Yes,'" you might ask? Well, I happened to be struggling with coming up with any applications for these relationship rolls (as were my players), so I offered the player the following bargain: if he spent a 5 for the Emperor that was still in play, he can be carrying around imperial stationary with an appropriate writing implement.
The beauty of this suggestion is that it's so minor at the present time that I didn't feel the need to tack on a complication. Easy on me, right? Results of 5 could involve a complication, OR they could simply provide a lesser benefit than a 6 would. But it's still open-ended. How did Argus come by this imperial stationary? His Relationship with the Emperor is conflicted, and his OUT is that he's the only person known to have insulted the Emperor to his face and lived to tell the tale. Is it left over from a former position that he once held in the imperial military? Or did he come by it later through illicit means? Will it be possible to forge an official document later on, now that it's established that he carries imperial stationary? Maybe a more significant benefit will come up later, and the possibility for future conflict is certainly there as well. Point being, just because you need to come up with something on the spot for a relationship roll doesn't mean you have to come up with EVERYTHING on the spot. And everyone knows sometimes minor details can end up having a big narrative impact later on.
Turns out the best example of a surprising (and yet obvious, in hindsight) background application came from Argus as well. After repeatedly breaking down several doors with axes (because when will a party consisting of a Cleric, Paladin, and Fighter decide to pick a lock?) and subsequently alerting those in the room, Argus decided to finally try to pick the final door in their path. "Can I use Blacksmith?" he asked. Lightbulb moment. Hey, we have someone whose halfway decent at skulduggery! A blacksmith just might know enough about the internal workings of locks to be able to have an advantage while picking them. And an otherwise under-utilized background gets some screen time.