Wednesday, April 14, 2010

[Future Perfect] Contacts!

Starting Contacts:

Contacts are as varied as any other character, and may range in power and ability from the most inept to those with truly masterful capabilities. The more potent a contact is, the more that contact costs to acquire. Starting player characters should consider wisely how they spend their initial contact points – spending them all on myriad one point, essentially inept contacts may not be the best choice. Similarly, spending all of one’s points on a single, very potent ally could leave the character overly focused – especially if his actions make that ally into a convenient target for his enemies. Most of the time, it is best to stick to a few contacts of different values and focuses.

Much like a normal character would have, contacts have a number of characteristics. Most of these characteristics act as a kind of short-hand so that each does not have to be built as a complete character. Instead, the contact system is designed so that the Game Master and the Players can take in all the appropriate information they need with only a quick glance at the contact record sheet. The GM may decide to keep full stats on hand anyway, but it shouldn’t be necessary unless the character is a regularly appearing NPC.

Starting Contact Points:

Characters begin play with a number of contact points equal to either their Spirit die or Streetwise skill, whichever is higher. Additional contact points may be gained from Edges, Hindrances, and Background Turning Points. Similarly, certain Hindrances and Turning Points will reduce a character’s starting points of contacts.

The following guidelines apply when determining a character’s starting pool of contacts:
  • Edges and Hindrances that modify a character’s Charisma value in most or all circumstances apply that modifier to starting contact points.
  • Edges and Hindrances that modify a character’s Charisma in particular, but not most (or all) circumstances apply half their modifiers to starting contact points.
  • Beginning play with the following Edges grants an additional two points of contacts for each of these Edges taken: Rich, Filthy Rich, Command, Noble, and Natural Leader.
  • The Connections Edge grants a starting contact point pool equal to the sum of the character’s Spirit die and Streetwise skill, instead of just the higher of the two. This edge also provides an additional five contact points each time it is taken after the first.
  • The Wanted and Delusional Hindrances reduce a starting character’s contact points by one if taken as a Major Hindrance.
If for some reason the character’s total contact points are reduced below zero, then the character should apply a point of Negative Reputation to their character. The scope of the Reputation is determined by the amount of negative contact points: 1-3 points (small/local group), 4-6 points (medium/regional group), 7-9 points (large/system wide group), 10+ points (major faction).

Contacts cost 1 point to acquire at the basic contact level, reflecting a generally inept character – essentially, the contact is just some guy the player character knows. A basic contact has the following characteristics:

Availability: +0
Capability: d4/+1 [with a single Trait, see below]
Influence: +0

Luckily, contacts may be improved with additional contact points. Such improvements cost 1 point per step of increase, and no attribute may be increased by more than five steps. Furthermore, Traits may be added at a cost of 1 point each, with no limit on how many points may be so allocated. The following improvements are allowed:
  • Improving Availability by +1 (Max +5)
  • Improving Capability by a die type/+1 (Max d12+1/+6)
  • Improving Influence by +1 (Max +5)
  • Adding a Trait to Capability (No Max)
  • Adding a Trait to Influence (No Max)
Starting contacts have a single Trait to define the nature of their Capabilities. More advanced contacts will also gain Influence traits; provided a contact has at least a +1 Influence, he gains an Influence trait that corresponds to each Capability trait listed for the contact.

Once a contact is built to the satisfaction of the player and the game master, it should be recorded on the contact record sheet.

Contact Characteristics:

Name: The contact’s name or the alias by which the contact is known to the player character

Occupation: What the contact does for a living / how the contact spends his time.

Location: Where the contact may be found.

Allegiances: The factions and organizations to which the character is allied or loyal.

Attributes: Availability, Capability, and Influence.

Availability: The likelihood of the contact to be available or willing to help if asked. Availability represents how busy the contact is, how hard he may be to find, and how close a relationship the contact has with the player character. The value of this Attribute is a bonus applied to any rolls to determine if this contact may be reached or called into play.

Capability: How skilled and effective the contact is at what he does, it reflects the contact’s general skill level as well as how reliable he is. The value of this Attribute is both a die type and bonus number. The die is the contact’s die to determine any success with his applicable traits and general abilities related to his occupation. The bonus is applied to the player characters rolls when working in tandem with that contact on a long term project.

Influence: How influential the contact is within the general world, and the intensity of those resources he can bring to bear in order to get what he wants. The value of this Attribute is a bonus to rolls usable when the contact is exerting his influence or drawing on his own contacts and resources to benefit the player character.

Traits: The defining foci of the contact’s attributes, illustrating the nature of his abilities. Traits may be split into two types, Capability Traits and Influence Traits. Capability Traits are much like regular skills, and should depict the nature of the contact’s abilities. Influence Traits correspond to Capability Traits, denoting how much influence and resources the contact has in order to reach his goals within each particular sphere. Influence Traits tend to be more social and economic and scope.

Cost: The cost for each Attribute, with added Traits included.

Notes: Any additional information that seems important to know about the contact.

Gaining New Contacts:

Player Characters will gain and lose contacts over the course of a campaign. New contacts may be acquired through one or more of the following methods:
  • The Game Master assigns a new contact to the player, without cost, because of something which occurred in the course of game play.
  • Improving the character’s Streetwise skill, grants the character the point difference between the current value and starting contact point value.
  • Gaining new Edges that affect a character’s Charisma value grant additional contact points equal to the amount of the listed bonus.
  • Taking the Connections Edge for the first time allows the character to increase the size of his contact pool by the difference between his current contact point value and the sum of his Spirit Die and Streetwise Skill.
  • Taking the Connections Edge additional times provides five new contact points to allocate each time that Edge is purchased.
  • Taking any of the following Edges grants an additional contact point for each of these Edges taken: Rich, Filthy Rich, Command, Noble.
If the game is one in which the players are granted significant control over the game world and the events that occur, then the game master should consider allowing experience points to be spent on added contact points. In these instances:
  • Spending one experience point earns the character three contact points.
Any contact points gained during the course of a campaign do not cancel any earlier reputation penalties if the character gained negative reputation for having a negative contact point value.

Losing Contacts:

Some contacts likely will be lost during a campaign. They may die, be betrayed by the character, or be otherwise inaccessible for a host of possible reasons. Characters do not regain any points for contacts that are lost through game play. Those contacts are lost, and the points are gone. The only exception to this situation is those cases where a GM decides that a contact has become so ubiquitous in the game that it should be treated like a fully recurring, friendly NPC. In those cases, the GM may decide to filter some, or all, of that contact’s value in points back to the character to reallocate among new contacts.

Advancing Contacts:

Contacts should not be improved often, except when the story indicates such an improvement is warranted. There are two methods which may be used, depending on the amount of influence the player’s themselves have over the game. In most situations where the Game Master defines the world, contacts should simply be adjusted as necessary, and the changes recorded on the appropriate player’s contact record sheet.

In games where the players have a lot of control or influence in shaping the game world, any earned contact points may be usable to improve contacts in the same manner as new contacts are gained. In most cases, the Game Master still should approve or deny any request to improve a contact to insure the changes are appropriate to the game.

Contact or NPC:

Sometimes a contact is used so often that it becomes a common point of reference and support for the player. As a general guideline, if a contact becomes well known to more than one character in the party and is encounter with an increasing level of frequency, the contact should be converted to a complete non-player character. This better reflects the notion that the person is accessible not just as one character’s contact, but may respond favorably to all or most of the party.


Anonymous said...

Did you intend Noble to be a double-dipping Edge as regards starting contact points, since it grants a Charisma bonus?

Slaine said...

sittingduck1313 - interesting question. In truth I'd intended Noble to be a double dipper, but only to provide 3 total points. I'd forgotten that though I play Noble as offering a conditional Charisma bonus that applies only under particular circumstances, the SW:EX present Noble as providing a constant Charisma bonus. Since many of the games I run tend to have anti authoritarian themes, being a Noble isn't always a bonus, and certainly wont favorable impress everyone.

So, to answer your question, I had intended Noble to provide 3 points -- Two points coming straight from it being such a social edge, and one point coming from a situational +2 Charisma modifier. I may have to revise it, since I think Noble already gives A LOT for one edge.