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Gaius Iago Urbanus

Building PC's contact networks

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Greetings again!

 

Same neophyte GM here from the Crafting an Inquisitor thread.  I want to start working on the next phase of my pre-campaign plans.  Phase one is the chargen described in the other thread.  Phase two is some early character development.  While I am not running a Hogwarts in Space kind of thing, neither is my Inquisitor setting his acolytes up for failure.  To wit, PC's will receive some training - whether they realize that it is just training or not.  (I have the seed of an idea for some kind of PvP covert spying scenario as their final, graduating mission)  One of the primary foci of this portion of the pre-campaign is for each PC to develop their own networks.

 

These networks, of course, will be more limited in size and loyalty than what the Inquisitor has (and in which the Acolytes are pretty far down, hierarchically).  However, my game will lean heavily towards mystery/intrigue/intelligence gathering, avoiding grimderp/slapstick-comedy/ultraviolence.  As such, I want my operatives to be able to operate.

 

So, any tips or suggestions for how to go about developing this (both mechanically and narratively)?

 

Thanks,

 

Gaius

Edited by Gaius Iago Urbanus

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So, any tips or suggestions for how to go about developing this (both mechanically and narratively)?

 

Character backgrounds.
 
What contacts a character has should be reflected in their history, which means both class/role selection as well as elements of the individual backgrounds the players have come up with by themselves. For the latter, ideally contacts should tie into history that already exists, although it is certainly possible to insert "fresh" history to explain a contact the player wants to have for style reasons. The most important thing is that the existence of a contact needs to be explained, so that you as a GM can accurately narrate the interaction.
 
Some characters will have ties to entire organisations, others will know individuals personally. In terms of balancing these contacts, I would weigh the wider application of org-contacts (especially if you can find them on almost any world, such as Ministorum temples or Arbites precincts) against contacts of locally limited influence by making the latter more reliable and more favourably predispositioned towards the PC. The explanation would be that characters who are or once were members of a certain organisation may be treated with more respect than an "outsider", but since this bonus does not involve personal influence (friendships, debts and vows of honour, or even romance) it would not be nearly as noticeable.
 
For example, an organisation may favour any of its members when it comes to lending aid or believing their story, but when it comes to requests concerning things "off the books", only personal contacts should be viable. As such, the nature of the contact should not just determine the level of the Peer bonus to interaction tests, but also what a PC may even ask without immediately getting kicked out through the same door they just walked in. As always, common sense applies.
 
A good approach would be to allow both general organisational contacts, but also individuals within that organisation, as many characters may have met and befriended someone of value there. However, all of this depends on the character's background and personality, as well as what their player actually wants to have in terms of contacts.
 
Needless to say, multiple types of contacts would not stack -- upon making a request, a character would have to choose if he is officially addressing an organisation, or instead wishes to speak to a particular individual. However, in some cases knowing multiple individuals could affect the likelihood of success, as the player character may, through other contacts, remotely remove various obstacles to better allow the primary contact to help them (true networking, conspiracy-like).
 
You could perhaps take a page from Shadowrun here, and allow every player to come up with a number of contacts (based on their Fellowship Bonus) for free, then compare them to the character's background and greenlight them if appropriate? For a more complicated approach, players may be allowed to spend multiple "FB points" on a single contact to raise their influence.
 
tl;dr:
 
Contact Type (costs 1 FB point each)
  • Group: official support, possibly transplanetary, but larger group size increases the delay or lowers the amount of support extended to the character (red tape and resource management)
  • Individual: unofficial support, of limited use outside their immediate location and area of authority, but possibilities of "off the records" assistance
Contact Influence
  • +1 FB: provides influence roll bonus of +10 or allows Group contact to have Adeptus status
  • +2 FB: provides influence roll bonus of +20 or +10 if Group contact has Adeptus status
On a sidenote, I vaguely recall DH1's Inquisitor's Handbook having a section on networks and contacts... might be worth a look?
Edited by Lynata

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Greetings again!

 

Same neophyte GM here from the Crafting an Inquisitor thread.  I want to start working on the next phase of my pre-campaign plans.  Phase one is the chargen described in the other thread.  Phase two is some early character development.  While I am not running a Hogwarts in Space kind of thing, neither is my Inquisitor setting his acolytes up for failure.  To wit, PC's will receive some training - whether they realize that it is just training or not.  (I have the seed of an idea for some kind of PvP covert spying scenario as their final, graduating mission)  One of the primary foci of this portion of the pre-campaign is for each PC to develop their own networks.

 

These networks, of course, will be more limited in size and loyalty than what the Inquisitor has (and in which the Acolytes are pretty far down, hierarchically).  However, my game will be lean heavily towards mystery/intrigue/intelligence gathering than towards grimderp/comedy/ultraviolence.  As such, I want my operatives to be able to operate.

 

So, any tips or suggestions for how to go about developing this (both mechanically and narratively)?

 

Thanks,

 

Gaius

 

Peer (whoever) and Contact Network/Cover Up will serve you well enough mechanically. Influence as a stat is another resource to dip into. It's not just "the money stat", it's titular. It's your Acolytes influence, peoples regard for them, favours owed, threats enacted and bribes paid. All of this is what you're after. Tie it in to your characters backgrounds. A murderous sociopath from the J stacks of Hive Asmoden would have his influence relative to the J stacks, people would know of his reputation and that'd influence (geddit) their disposition towards him. Doors may slam shut, crumpled notes of Gelt stuffed through letter-boxes to ward off his displeasure, or people may be more than eager to step forward and offer him the information he seeks, if he doesn't come for them later on. Across the Caustic River in the K stacks perhaps he's not so well known and his influence may be mildly hampered, but with care and 'cultivation' they too will know his calling card and all that it entails. 

 

 When the campaign calls the players to Hive Asmoden then your Murderhobo has people he can call upon, connections he can enjoy. Do this for every PC, but let them work together. Just because the Cell are in the J stacks, doesn't mean only the Killer is effective, team game!

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Lynata, cyclocius,

 

Thanks for the great suggestions here!  Between the two posts I think I can flesh out what the PC's bring into the Inquisition from their backgrounds (Homeworld and Background).

 

I am really looking for something a little different though.  I want the PC's to actively and through play develop 'real' networks.  The PC's will be playing as something closer to intelligence agents than shock-troops.  How would a PC (both mechanically and narratively) recruit contacts?  Maybe the word contact is too loose.  I'm imagining something like taking the general structure from Inquisitor down to brand-new Acolyte and taking it down a level of recursion, with each Acolyte as the root node in their own network of informants, fixers, fences, brutes, drivers, cooks, etc.

 

I also want the PC's to be aware of and actively manage their networks, not just abstractly imagine it through a simple Influence roll when it happens to be relevant.

 

Any further insight in this direction?

 

Gaius

 

edit: This is the kind of stuff I am looking for (I think): 1, 2, 3

Edited by Gaius Iago Urbanus

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Hmmh - it would depend greatly on just how the players manage to represent their characters, and whether they are suitably aware of this facet of the game.

 

To the less manipulative characters, contacts will only come "naturally". Most often likeminded people, someone whose attitude and/or actions have impressed them as they were interacting with them previously. Most often, they would not truly foster a network, but rather just call upon old acquaintances they remember when the situation presents itself.

Other characters, those more suited to the shadowy games of politics, may instead actively seek out influential or at least useful people and attempt to recruit them for their own active network.

 

I suppose it would depend a lot on how you present the NPCs in your games, as this is where the players would look first to recruit contacts from. One possible way to handle contact generation would be based on roleplaying, determining a character's opinion of the PC (and thus any bonuses or penalties for future interaction) by how the players behaved towards them or something that is important to them, and how much "common ground" they share as a foundation of their cooperation. The players would have to either announce their intention of making a contact, or you notify them that they have gained one based on previous actions.

 

Feel free, however, to insert tests for Charm ("How about that drink now, my good ser?"), Command ("My organisation may have need for your services again, Captain."), Intimidation ("Mylord -- let me explain in detail what happens to heretics convicted of sheltering mutants such as your daughter...") or whatever else applies best to how the player character is talking to a prospective contact. Depending on the nature of the NPC, they may respond better to one than the other, so you keeping hidden modifiers to the test could make for an interesting twist in that the players may have to gauge the target's personality, actively looking for how to approach them best.

 

Perhaps you could allow players to spend XP on improving contact disposition over time, representing regular correspondence that, at some point in time, unlocks a +10/+20/etc bonus when trying to gain information or a favour from them. In addition, you may allow for Influence tests in-between assignments, where players may use their existing resources to improve the reach of their network, such as by arranging for the promotion of an Arbites Enforcer to Precinct Marshal, convincing the Orders Famulous to make a rather specific match for the son of a certain noble, or slashing the budget for local security in a certain Hive sector to allow a criminal gang to expand. Players have the option to gain bonuses to the Influence test by using existing contacts where appropriate, thus slowly beginning to utilise their network more and more.

 

Of course, should the Influence test fail, a risk of backlash may be appropriate. Depending on the specifics of the operation, perhaps the contact gets "burned" as they are arrested or come under suspicion of having been bribed, or a section of the entire network comes under threat as a rival Inquisitor becomes aware of what must look like a conspiracy.

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Also feel free to award the Peer (organisation) or Enemy (organisation) talent to the players. You can keep it as bit or as simple as you want to have it. Narrow it down to a special gang or police district, or widen it up to whole Organisations (Adeptur Arbites for example).

 

I handle peer not only as a way to get +10 bonus, but also to determine what they can ask for and if they are even eligible to roll for something.

 

Enemy on the other hand does the exact opposite. And some groups may take a unliking to the characters if they are well known and respected by some other group. A Fleshcutter gang might hate a PC if he is a member or affiliate of the local police force or some other, rival gang.

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Having some recurring characters is also a good way of making the contact network feel alive. Johnny the Shoe-shine who'll know anything for a small bribe is more interesting than the abstract knowledge that Quint the Assassin has contacts among the middle-hive workers. The main trouble in making such characters, though, is that they have to grow organically out of the campaign rather than being forced in by the GM in order for them to really shine. The easiest way is probably simply throwing people at the story and seeing who establishes a rapport with the players. Give the NPCs a simple idea and a description point and send them into the world. If they spark interest, make them more interesting and develop them through interaction and improvisation. If the players ignore them as Generic NPC #73, no need to develop them past the stage of Generic NPC #73

My best example is acolyte Boris: he was a simple ganger heavy, a caricature of a mob bouncer, a mere doorstop for the party on their way to the gang leader;  who ended up surviving everything the group threw at him through the sheer power of bad dice rolls as his comrades-in-crime were mowed down around him. When he finally went down, the group immediately press-ganged him into the Inquisition for his tenacity. Acolyte Boris has now, through player popularity and heavy Russian accent, become the preferred groundwork guy - no proper off-world investigation can ever be done without Boris arriving beforehand, getting the lay of the land and the seriousness of the situation.

Creating individuals in the contact network can also help scaling the power of the players' networks as they progress through the campaign: the Arbites Seeker might have contacts in the Adeptus Arbites all along, but where it originally only was Sergeant Atmore, and perhaps her squadmates in an emergency, it might later be the more powerful Judge Noirgrim; the leader of the strike team he sends to assist the group is of course their old friend Sergeant Atmore.

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Having some recurring characters is also a good way of making the contact network feel alive. Johnny the Shoe-shine who'll know anything for a small bribe is more interesting than the abstract knowledge that Quint the Assassin has contacts among the middle-hive workers. The main trouble in making such characters, though, is that they have to grow organically out of the campaign rather than being forced in by the GM in order for them to really shine. The easiest way is probably simply throwing people at the story and seeing who establishes a rapport with the players. Give the NPCs a simple idea and a description point and send them into the world. If they spark interest, make them more interesting and develop them through interaction and improvisation. If the players ignore them as Generic NPC #73, no need to develop them past the stage of Generic NPC #73.

 

This is good advice. Throw in a bunch of loosely defined characters that you didn't put a whole lot of work into and invariably the players will latch onto one of them. Save yourself the effort of fleshing out a bunch of characters that are on screen for all of five minutes and let the players organically grow their networks.

 

This is probably more than you need, but there's a deck of 'story cards' floating around the internet that you can give to players to give them some explicit narrative control. One of them was "Hey, I know that guy!" which allowed the player to make up a past with a recently introduced NPC. Maybe you could add that as another use for fate points?

 

My best example is acolyte Boris: he was a simple ganger heavy, a caricature of a mob bouncer, a mere doorstop for the party on their way to the gang leader;  who ended up surviving everything the group threw at him through the sheer power of bad dice rolls as his comrades-in-crime were mowed down around him.

 

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This is good advice. Throw in a bunch of loosely defined characters that you didn't put a whole lot of work into and invariably the players will latch onto one of them. Save yourself the effort of fleshing out a bunch of characters that are on screen for all of five minutes and let the players organically grow their networks.

 

Agreed. But, at the same time, make sure you note down NPCs you introduce somewhere, because seeing the same people again and again in the same areas - albeit with some character progression - helps a lot with story immersion; a key element to stop it being a bad computer game RPG is the constant feeling that stuff is happening 'off-stage' - be it murky and world-shattering plots, or just life and business as usual.

 

Note that it is worth fleshing out the character who make a regular appearance; the "Reinforcement Character" mechanic is usually thrown around whilst talking about Deathwatch Space Marines and Sisters of Battle. Not surprising - they're the example characters - but that's not the real advantage of it.

 

Where the system really comes into its own is calling in - for a relatively trivial price of influence - a 'specialist', who isn't some uber-monster of bolt round spewing death, but has skills and talents that the party don't have. "Give You Good Price" Pietro is a standard character that I've often seen players spend influence on bringing in - he's a local gunrunner who has Investigate, Trade (Armourer) and Common Lore (Underworld) out the wazoo, which gives players who've taken combat-focused skills and stats access to useful investigative skills.....temporarily, and for a price.

 

This also works both ways - letting the characters evolve as part of the story gives the players more of a feeling of connection to their contacts, which gives you levers to affect the players. There was an especially memorable occasion where the players (very much off the inquisitor's books) ended up getting talked into 'helping' Pietro with a little 'minor issue with the magistratum customs' - about a day later, they were tearing up the hive megway in an autocarriage with an arbites vulture in the rear view mirror spraying punisher cannon fire at them (unaware they were associated with the inquisition...).

 

Equally, don't hesitate to use the player's contacts against them. When dealing with a competent opponent who's aware of their existence, it's quite within the bounds of realism to have someone the acolytes call for help once be found dead if they try to use them again - eliminating an acolyte cells contacts, or the entities that represent their influence score (be they bank accounts, service records, reputations or networks of individuals) is a sensible move if you can't strike at the individual directly.

Edited by Magnus Grendel

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Keeping notes on the characters you introduce is important - good call.  It will help you present them consistently over multiple sessions, and if there's one thing all players love it's call backs to things that happened a few sessions ago.

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Equally, don't hesitate to use the player's contacts against them. When dealing with a competent opponent who's aware of their existence, it's quite within the bounds of realism to have someone the acolytes call for help once be found dead if they try to use them again - eliminating an acolyte cells contacts, or the entities that represent their influence score (be they bank accounts, service records, reputations or networks of individuals) is a sensible move if you can't strike at the individual directly.

 

 

To work on that angle more, basing off DH1's IH, you can always lower the price of a contact for added 'instability'/unreliability; maybe that barfly like to pillow talk with whores, that reporter goes foward a story because he's got the 'scoop of the millenium', that Manufactorium owner can't help but talk about how he knows someone in the Inquisition with his Club member to better his standing etc etc....

 

Sometimes, danger comes from closer than expected.  Loose lips sink ships and all that.

Edited by Braddoc

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