1879: Actual Play: Can I Get an Attitude Check?

Continuing our series of Actual Play blog posts, here we’re going to focus on the Social Conflict system. GMCs, or Game Master Characters (called NPCs in many systems), have an Attitude. (Wow, don’t they though.) This represents how they feel about a player character, or an organisation, or you know, pretty much whatever they need to take an Attitude about. This Attitude runs a very small scale, for ease of use:

  • Awestruck – would take a bullet for you
  • Loyal – would lend you a quid without a question
  • Friendly – would have a drink with you
  • Neutral – needs to think about it
  • Unfriendly – doesn’t like you
  • Hostile – leaves the bar when you arrive
  • Enemy – shoots at you when you walk in

The GMC’s Attitude determines how they react to the character, or social club, or what have you, at least initially. Social Interactions, using roleplaying (the preferred method), Interaction Tests, and maybe a little magic or bribery or offer of a favour, may adjust the GMC’s Attitude one way or another. Let’s see how this works, instead of just talking about it.

Sam Ridley and Bethelie Lepercq, having survived yet another run-in with Otto von Schmerz, have decided to see if they can maybe get ahead of this irascible Prussian. They’ve gone to the Maison d’Pierre, not the most reputable of drinking establishments, to see if they can find Berliosz Peretsky, a displaced entrepreneur from Poland, who might be able to finagle a deal and let Our Heroes in on Herr von Schmerz’s plans. The questions are many, with Sam and Bethelie needing to determine if they can get in to see Mr. Peretsky, if he’s willing to deal with them, to what extent, and if they can trust him to not immediately let Herr von Schmerz know that someone was asking after him. This will take a few Social challenges to resolve.

Upon entering the establishment, and ignoring the appraising looks from some of the clientele who might be deciding whether Our Heroes are worth robbing, Sam and Bethelie make their way to the bar. Upon gaining the attention of the bartender, a surly individual with a nasty scar giving him a permanent sneer, Sam inquires as to whether Monsieur Peretsky might be in office.

“Who wants to know?” the barkeep inquires, in a challenging tone.

Sam’s player makes a Bribery Test against the barkeep’s Social Defense, with a +1 bonus for his Social Level of 3 against the barkeep’s Social Level of 2, and rolls a 13 against an 8. That’s an extra success. Sam quietly places a coin on the bar, under his hand, next to the barkeep’s hand, and replies calmly, “Monsieur Napoleon.” He slides the coin from under his hand to under the barkeep’s, and the coin magically ends up in the barkeep’s apron pocket. The extra success rolls to a bit of extra service, and the barkeep sets out three glasses and a bottle of cheap Bordeaux.

“He’s in the second room,” the barkeep says, with a jerk of his head to the stairs. “You won’t be interrupted.” Not for a gold Napoleon, they better not be interrupted, Sam just spent 20 francs and a nice Bribery Test result to make sure of that.

Sam gets the wine, Bethelie the glasses, and off they go. At the door, Bethelie makes a First Impression Test against Peretsky’s associate, getting only an 11 (even with her +4 step Social Level bonus) for her winsome smile and a wave of the wine glasses. That’s enough that the associate shrugs and lets her and Sam in to see the boss.

Monsieur Peretsky has rather a lot of legal documentation, contracts and ledgers and such, spread over the green baize table, and a scowl that says that he would much rather be playing cards as the table deserves than going through all this nonsense, and who are these people who have interrupted him?

“Who the hell are you?” he growls. He’s starting out Unfriendly.

Sam turns on the charm. “The people who have brought you wine,” he says, holding up the bottle, pointing the cork at Peretsky so that he can see that it’s intact. Bethelie puts down the glasses, and as Sam makes a bit of a show uncorking and pouring, Peretsky shuffles aside some of his paperwork, interested in spite of himself. Sam’s player makes a Bribery Test against Peretsky’s Social Defense, using the wine as the bribe, in an attempt to Make An Impression. He’s got no Social Level bonus here. Peretsky may be shady, but he’s not a criminal, he’s a businessman, with a Social Level of 3, equal to Sam’s own. Being a Journeyman Airship Pilot, Sam can spend karma on Bribery, and the player decides to do so up front, as this roll may make or break the scene. The roll comes up with a 21 against Peretsky’s Social Defense of 9, and the two extra successes move Peretsky up in Attitude from Unfriendly to Neutral. He picks up a glass, noting that Sam gave him the choice of which one he wanted, waits until Sam and Bethelie have both taken a sip, then tastes the wine. It’s cheap, but it’s not costing him anything.

“Sit,” says Peretsky, indicating a couple of the less-occupied chairs. Sam and Bethelie move the books off them to the floor and take seats. “So what brings an Englishman and a slumming aristocrat to this place, and to me?”

“Information,” says Bethelie, and her player makes a First Impression Test, throwing karma into it and getting a +2 Step bonus because Bethelie has a Social Level of 5. She gets a 17 against Peretsky’s 9, one extra success not quite enough to push him to Friendly, but she’s on the way there. “You are known, within certain circles, to be a man who keeps his ear to the ground, I believe the phrase is?” She plays up her accent just a little, not spreading the charm on too thick, but enough.

Peretsky shrugs. “I know a great many things,” he admits, “but information is a commodity. What have you to offer?” He looks her over perhaps a little too familiarly.

Sam distracts him briefly by refilling his glass. Bethelie lowers her eyes, not playing the coquette but rather being slightly ashamed. “You and I, we have much more in common than you may know, m’sieur.”

Peretsky raises an eyebrow. “Oh?”

She nods. “You know that I have taken up the adventuring life, gallivanting about with airship pilots and other disreputable sorts, but was once of a more well placed family. Do you know why I do what I do?”

He shrugs. “Why does a woman do anything?”

She ignores the sally, and instead lowers her defenses. “My family had holdings in what is now the Zone Rouge.”

“Ah.” Peretsky sits back, sucks his teeth for a moment. He’s no longer being aggressive, but maybe a little receptive.

Bethelie seizes the moment and fires off her best shot. “I am as much a refugee as you, M’sieur. My family fell on hard times because of the damnable Prussians, and I sold my personal reputation for what profit I could turn to help support them. You likewise have suffered at their hands, have you not?” Bethelie’s player throws karma into a Diplomacy Test, adds in the Social Level step bonus, and gets a 25. She moves Peretsky up to Friendly, and then on to Loyal, at least as far as she is concerned. Sam’s on his own.

The scowl returns, but directed at memory rather than paperwork. “This is true. I cannot return to my beloved Polska under the current regime.” He sits up and looks at her directly, all business now. “So is there a particular Prussian that troubles you?”

“You know that there is,” Bethelie replies. “Von Schmerz has been loud and overt in his maneuverings, as Prussians always are.”

And at this point all that remains are the negotiations as to how much will be revealed, and how much will be paid, none of which has to be rolled for, as Bethelie has traded a bit of her history (or something close enough to the truth of it to stand casual inspection) for an Attitude shift on the part of the NPC. Sam and Bethelie get some details on what von Schmerz is really up to, who he might be working for, and what his next moves are likely to be, and Peretsky gets enough coin and the assurance that he is helping a fellow refugee to ensure that he keeps quiet about Our Heroes having paid him a visit. And he got most of a bottle of cheap wine in the bargain. All in all, an afternoon well spent.

What is von Schmerz up to? When will he show back up? (You know he will…) What are the Zener tubes actually for? And who is orchestrating all of this? Find out in the next thrilling installment of Actual Play!

Tally Ho!