1879: It’s Who You Know

Paul Czege (@paulczege@rpgtable.top) posted this the other day, and got me thinking about it.

That first item is what Connections in 1879 are meant to address. We only sort of glancingly refer to relationships with GMCs in the 1879 Players Guide, and explore the subject a bit more deeply in the 1879 GM’s Guide in the Gamemaster Characters chapter (starting on p.171). The forthcoming 1879 Players Companion expands on this considerably, and talks about what Connections are, what you can expect to get from them, the cost of maintaining a close relationship, and how Connections work in the longer campaign. Let’s poke at this subject a little, shall we? Characters do not exist in a vacuum, nor do they spring into existence from thin air. Like real people, characters should have family, friends, allies, all of which group together under the heading of Connections.

Creating Useful Character Background

To start with, think about family. Are the character’s parents still living? Do they have siblings? Cousins? That annoying uncle who shows up every six months, ensconces himself in the spare bedroom, drinks all the port, and leaves before his creditors can track him down? All of these tie into the character’s background, and create Connections that could be useful to the player, the Gamemaster, or both. The uncle could provide an introduction to a swank gambling establishment, providing of course that the party assist in the small matter of a slight tab owed. The creditors could be highly unsavoury types who show up at exactly the wrong moment, providing an unwelcome diversion from the matter at hand. Plot complications drive stories. Family will drive you mad.

Did the character attend a school of any sort? School ties are more than fancy patterned bits of fabric worn about the neck. Keeping in touch with the rugby team could prove useful if you need a few sturdy fellows who know how to ignore pain and keep driving toward the goal. That swot you kept the bullies off of is now a financial officer at a large firm and might still feel grateful toward you. Just being an alumnus is normally enough to get you back into the library.

Professional acquaintances count for a lot. Everyone knows it’s not your skills and experience that count, it’s who you know that lands you the position. How did the character learn their trade? Who was their mentor? Their co-workers at previous engagements? What about professional societies – do they belong to any? Being able to drop a word in a friendly ear at the monthly dinner of the London Association of Actuaries might get things rolling.

Social Level Impact

No one climbs the ladder by themselves. Someone has to give you a hand up somewhere along the way, or you’ve got to step on a lot of heads, which is never a good idea, as you meet the same people on the way down as on the way up. Who you know can determine how easy, or hard, it is to advance or decline in terms of Social Level. While that pawnbroker who operates a cleaner’s out of the back room, turning stolen goods into coin by removing identifying marks and thus semi-legitimizing the items, might be handy to know in some circumstances, if she gets arrested and people know you’re a friend, that could be a Scandal. Let’s hope it’s only Minor. Conversely, while having a Baron as an old school connection could do wonders for you, getting you on the invitation lists you need in order to rise in status, his friendship with you might be seen as a bit déclassé by the other nobility, having a positive effect for you but a negative for him.

Favours Owed and Owing

Sometimes it’s not a matter of who you know, but what’s been left outstanding from previous events. You don’t have to like someone to work with them, after all. If you’ve done someone a favour, they owe you, and you can call that marker in on its own strength. Having a few IOUs out isn’t necessarily a bad thing, either. Reputation is like any other form of capital. You’ve got to make investments in order to build the fund. Beyond that, favours both owed and owing give the Gamemaster plot hooks built into the character, ways to draw the character deeper into a story, and telling a story is the idea of the game.

How They Work

Characters may have and maintain a maximum number of Connections equal to their Charisma Step. The character may know a hundred people well enough to call them acquaintances, maybe even friends, but only a few can be cultivated and held as Connections.

When seeking a Favour (1879 Gamemaster’s Guide, p. 181) from a Connection, they require one less success. Thus, a Loyal Connection would automatically perform a Small Favour, and would only require one success for a Large Favour. If the Connection owes the character, this also reduces the success count. A Friendly Connection who owes the player character in some way would do a Small Favour just for the asking, and would only need a little convincing (one success) to perform a Large Favour. Yes, this does mean that a Hostile Connection that owes the character could be convinced to perform a Small Favour for three successes, and a Large Favour for four. Forget about getting a Large Favour from an Enemy Connection – it’s just not going to happen.

Connections must be maintained. Forget to collect the debt for long enough and it may become non-collectable. Miss the family reunion and the cousins may be offended. Keep in touch with friends, or they become acquaintances and then strangers.

Mechanically, Connections are another form of Equipment. There’s no monetary cost inherent, although a Connection that’s picked up as the result of a debt owed or through a financial transaction has a monetary cost associated with it. Rather, they’re given freely at the time of character creation, picked up through roleplaying, or bought with APs if the Connection hasn’t been seen on-stage as of yet.

Example:

Paulo Rodriguez, a newly minted Brassman, has an old school chum, a cousin, and a bookie for his starting Connections.

  • Enrique de Seville, now a handsome and well placed insurance analyst with the Barcelona branch of Lloyd’s, was small for his age and stammered as a child. Paulo’s support and defence kept him from getting beaten up on a number of occasions, and gave him the confidence to overcome his speech impediment and excel in his studies, leading to his current position. He is Awestruck with Paulo, and would gladly help out his friend in any way he can.
  • Ignacia Rodriguez, daughter of Paulo’s father’s sister, runs a small cantina in an area of Barcelona that is, shall we say, not the best in the city. She has customers who are sometimes in need of Paulo’s creations, and can steer business his way. In return, Paulo makes sure that his customers run up their bar bill during meetings. They get along well enough, Ignacia being Friendly toward her cousin.
  • Domingo Bolivar does not have a reputation for patience. Paulo owes him 600 pesetas from a boxing match that did not go so well for Paulo’s contender. (That’s £24/10 for you British sorts.) While Domingo could steer a highly lucrative client Paulo’s way, giving him the chance to earn the money to pay his debt, Domingo would take his cut off the top plus a middleman’s fee. He is decidedly Unfriendly at the moment, although 600 pesetas would improve his Attitude to Neutral.

Maintaining Connections

Like Social Level, which mandates a monthly Lifestyle cost, Connections require upkeep. If the depth of the relationship isn’t nurtured by regular contact and the occasional AP, the Connection fades into just someone the character knows, and the benefits of a Connection are lost. See the following table. The Contact Requirement is the means and time spent necessary to keep the Connection thinking of the character as someone special in their life. A more intimate means is always acceptable, but a less personal one is not. Thus, a Friendly Connection can be maintained with a telegram, but not with a postal card. The AP Cost / Week is the number of Adventure Points that must be spent each week to maintain the Connection.

Connections that are Unfriendly, Hostile, or Enemy must be maintained each week without fail. One miss drops the Connection. Neutral or better Connections slip down the Attitude scale one degree for each week they’re not maintained. Renewing the Connection and bringing their Attitude back up requires two weeks of maintenance to restore one Attitude degree. Once the character is back in the Connection’s good graces, with the Connection’s Attitude restored, they can bring up the Connection’s Attitude further through roleplay and in-character effort as with any other GMC.

Using and Being Used By

Using a Connection works like asking a favour or assistance from any other GMC, with the exception of the aforementioned bonuses. The Gamemaster may require a personal visit to request a Favour (of either sort) of an Unfriendly, Hostile, or Enemy Connection, or a Large Favour of a Neutral, Friendly, or Loyal Connection. Awestruck Connections just have to be informed by direct communication from the character. A handwritten letter delivered by messenger would be sufficient.

The Connection will expect the same treatment in return, especially if the character owes their Connection. If the Connection asks for a Favour, base the pressure put on the character on the Connection’s Attitude. A Loyal Connection would expect a Small Favour to be done without question or hesitation, and only a little convincing to be necessary to obtain a Large Favour. Failure to deliver on the player character’s part without a truly excellent reason results in an immediate drop in Connection Attitude. If the Connection was already Unfriendly or Hostile, they break off the relationship, becoming just another GMC, albeit one with a personal grudge against the player character. An Enemy Connection scorned gains a vendetta against the player character, and may exact a lengthy and potentially lethal revenge.

So keep up with your friends and enemies both, as it’s the strength of the relationship over time that matters. More on this when the 1879 Players Companion comes out!

Tally Ho!

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