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Old 01-29-2017, 08:44 PM   #1
Otaku
 
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Default [Basic] Advantage of the Week (#30): Contact Group, Contacts

Last Week: Constriction Attack
Next Week: Cultural Adaptability, Cultural Familiarity, Xeno-Adaptability

Today we cover Contacts and Contact Group. Though we are not reviewing them at this time, other traits which seem at least somewhat related are Ally, Ally Group, Claim to Hospitality, Dependent, Enemy, Favor, Patron, and Puppet. Some of these are Disadvantages and both the similarities and the differences between how they function and are priced can be illuminating. Originally, we were going to cover Favor in this thread, but as it encompasses more than just Contacts plus Contact Group and this is already going to be somewhat long, we will look at it another time.

Basic

A Contact is a Mundane Social Advantage found on p. B44-45. It is used to represent the relationship between the purchasing PC and an NPC, one where the NPC will help the PC with tasks of a certain nature, and not necessarily for free. The primary use is to obtain information through a Skill roll made by the NPC but can also include other things so long as they can be classified as two (or more) of the following: inexpensive, non-hazardous, or quick with respect to said NPC. The Contact is not intended to be a fully realized NPC with its own full character sheet. As far as the Advantage is concerned, all that is required is a basic idea of who or what the Contact is, its effective Skill level, Frequency of Appearance (p.36), and Reliability. There is also an additional cost if your Contact has access to means exotic for the campaign. [Basic] specifies supernatural means, but as sometimes those are common place to a setting, I would appreciate if anyone who could, would provide clarification.

A Contact is defined by a single Skill, specified when the trait is purchased, and appropriate to the Contact's background and the information or tasks you'll want the Contact to handle. The base cost for contacts is 1 CP for an effective Skill of 12, 2 for 15, 3 for 18, and 4 for 21. Should it prove relevant, it is important to note that the actual Skill for the Contact need not be the effective Skill for which it was purchased; the effective Skill is a useful abstraction of a general character concept. The example in Characters is the president of a steel mill, who would likely have business related skills ranging from 12 to 14, but due to his position within the company would be purchased as if he had an effective Skill of 18. While not part of the example, this is where an additional point is charged if your Contact has some unusual, more effective means of gathering information like ESP, magic, etc.

Next, we apply the Frequency of Appearance (p. B36) multipliers: x1/2 for 6 or less (round up), x1 for 9 or less, x2 for 12 or less, x3 for 15 or less, and x4 if no roll is required. This represents how easy it is to get a hold of your contact, not whether or not they can provide the information. That would be a roll against effective Skill, though Reliability also factors in; it covers what happens if the Contact fails its Skill roll. Completely Reliable means tripling the cost, but minimizes the risk of using the Contact: only a critical failure results in the Contact telling you it doesn't know (and can't find out), while a regular failure means it still gets you the information, just 1d days later. A Usually Reliable Contact costs double means your contact will lie to you only on a critical failure, while a regular failure means it can try again 1d days later (a second failure here means your Contact cannot find out at all). A Somewhat Reliable Contact doesn't increase or decrease the cost further. On a regular failure, your Contact cannot find out the desired information. On a critical failure it lies, and a natural 18 means your Contact also informs someone you don't want about your inquiry. An Unreliable Contact reduces its effective Skill by 2. Any failure means the Contact lies, and any critical failure (not just an 18) means it rats you out.

The good news is that with this advantage, money talks; bribery - for that one task - can increase the Reliability level of a Contact, but not beyond Usually Reliable. Once that level is hit, then compensation results in a Skill bonus. It also doesn't have to be cash; you can also exchange a favor, and depending upon your Contact and the campaign setting, a cash bribe may be completely off the table. A +1 bonus to skill costs approximately a day's income, +2 a week's, +3 a month's, and +4 an entire year's income! It does not explicitly state so in the text whether this is relative to the PC or the NPC; I assume it is based on the Contact, or else whichever one costs more. It makes little sense for a Dead Broke PC to pay a pittance to receive assistance from a Contact that could have personal Wealth several levels higher. This is another area where assistance would be appreciated.

Contact Group is a Mundane Social Advantage found on p. B44. This is a potentially great point saver, as it represents a network of Contacts. If you want said network to cover a vast array of diverse skills, this is the wrong trait; you'll need to just purchase those Contacts all separately. Now, if you have several Contacts in the same group (organization, social stratum, etc.), like an entire criminal syndicate or police department, or all the upper class or merchants of a particular town, then you may have a Contact Group. You still request information or favors (still at least two of quick, non-hazardous, and inexpensive), but with a Contact Group you don't pick one Skill but an entire category of Skills, such as all business Skills, all military Skills, etc. As with a single Contact, you specify this when you buy your Contact Group, and it needs to match their backstory. You purchase them as you would a singular Contact: effective Skill, bonus for supernatural goodies (if applicable), Frequency of Appearance, and then Reliability. Then you multiply the cost by five. When the GM rolls for the Contact Group's effective Skill, you don't specify which Skill; the GM will provide appropriate information based on any applicable Skills within the group's category.

Other Supplements

GURPS Powers does not have anything for Contacts or Contact Group; I must confess to being somewhat surprised, but also oddly relieved. There are many creative uses for other traits in this book, but this means we can move onto something else I have handy, GURPS Power-Ups 2: Perks. No Contact or Contact Group related Perks here, though it does bring up Friend as an example of a Claim to Hospitality; this includes explaining how a Friend is not like an Ally or Contact. I may be reading too much into it, but this seems to clarify the relationship between Ally, Ally Group, Claim to Hospitality, Contact Group, and Contacts a bit. Those with PU2 handy, feel free to weigh in. GURPS Power-Ups 3: Talents also doesn't contain anything for Contacts or Contact Group, but the last choice definitely does: GURPS Social Engineering. It adds the Advantage "Contacts!", a "wildcard"-like version of the regular Contacts Advantage. Also included are more guidelines and uses for Contacts.

Useful Links

Pending. Feel free to make suggestions.

Questions
  • Have you or someone in your group ever used Contacts or Contact Group? How did it go?
  • Anything you like about these traits?
  • Anything you don't like about them?
  • Anything you might change or, conversely, think is just right as is?
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Last edited by Otaku; 02-04-2017 at 06:04 PM. Reason: Linked To Next In Series
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Old 01-30-2017, 03:10 AM   #2
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week (#30): Contact Group, Contacts

I've used Contacts a fair bit. They've tended to be generalised a bit, but without becoming a Contact Group. For example, one may buy the local US Marshal as a Contact with Criminology or Forensics. However, at least half the time, the benefit of that Contact is that you can tell her things that are relevant to her responsibilities, and she'll listen and consider acting on them.
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Old 01-30-2017, 04:01 AM   #3
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week (#30): Contact Group, Contacts

Contacts are a nice idea, but looking at them they seem a bit too limited:

1. The way their built around makes them very limited, at least as I see the RAW. For instance the example of a president of a steel mill probably gets Market Analysis but you should probably also be able to take questions about Metallurgy to him! Other cases like would be those people Delvers sell to, they should have both Connoisseur and Merchant, and a memetics expert should have both Psychology and Propaganda.

2. Getting them to do something that doesn't require a skill, like a secretary slipping something into her bosses in-tray.

3. Magic users, how to do a Mage that will occasionally cast a spell for me? Arguably Contacts! would work, but #1 also applies he should probably be good for Thaumatology and other magic skills, or maybe that's what I paid for in the first place.
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Old 01-30-2017, 06:45 AM   #4
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week (#30): Contact Group, Contacts

Quote:
Originally Posted by scc View Post
1. The way their built around makes them very limited, at least as I see the RAW. For instance the example of a president of a steel mill probably gets Market Analysis but you should probably also be able to take questions about Metallurgy to him! Other cases like would be those people Delvers sell to, they should have both Connoisseur and Merchant, and a memetics expert should have both Psychology and Propaganda.
I give Contacts Professional Bang skills. Like Profession! (President of Steel Mill).

Quote:
2. Getting them to do something that doesn't require a skill, like a secretary slipping something into her bosses in-tray.
That should be fine. Too much more and they tread close to low frequency Ally territory.

Quote:
3. Magic users, how to do a Mage that will occasionally cast a spell for me? Arguably Contacts! would work, but #1 also applies he should probably be good for Thaumatology and other magic skills, or maybe that's what I paid for in the first place.
[strike]That is a very low frequency Ally.[/strike]

[EDIT]
Upon reflection that would be "pick any two of 'quick', 'non-hazardous', and 'inexpensive'" favors. In this case 'quick' and 'non-hazardous'.
[/EDIT]
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Last edited by evileeyore; 01-30-2017 at 08:31 AM.
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Old 01-30-2017, 06:52 AM   #5
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week (#30): Contact Group, Contacts

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Originally Posted by evileeyore View Post
I give Contacts Professional Bang skills. Like Profession! (President of Steel Mill).
Soo what's left for the contact group then ? Is their collection of closely related skills even more bangier?

Edit: Note I do agree with such houserule otherwise the contact would be seriously weaksauce. It also does not good consistensy make - for example an engineer contact that for some reason cannot help you at applied mathematics.
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Old 01-30-2017, 08:32 AM   #6
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week (#30): Contact Group, Contacts

As written, contacts just don't feel like people. They feel like skills. I don't think I've ever bothered with fixing that though, at least formally. I think I've worked with the "Two of quick, inexpensive, and nonhazardous", though.

The reliability statistic has always bugged me. It feels like it belongs in a specific genre, not as a significant stat on every contact.
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Old 01-30-2017, 08:36 AM   #7
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week (#30): Contact Group, Contacts

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Originally Posted by fifiste View Post
Soo what's left for the contact group then ? Is their collection of closely related skills even more bangier?
It would be even 'broadier'.

The above President of a Steel mill probably wouldn't be able to give tips on welding or where to make cuts to a steel structure so that it would fail under duress (the Pres also wouldn't be able to to do those things as favors)... but a shop foreman or cutter or welder might.

So Contact Group (Steel Mill and Workers) is still valuable.

And while the Pres could clear out the plant for a weekend or two so the PCs could work in it, he couldn't keep the workers from getting curious and he couldn't get them involved to help necessarily. The Contact group clears that up.
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Old 01-30-2017, 08:42 AM   #8
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week (#30): Contact Group, Contacts

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Originally Posted by ericthered View Post
As written, contacts just don't feel like people. They feel like skills. I don't think I've ever bothered with fixing that though, at least formally. I think I've worked with the "Two of quick, inexpensive, and nonhazardous", though.

The reliability statistic has always bugged me. It feels like it belongs in a specific genre, not as a significant stat on every contact.
Agreed. I tend to either ignore it, or bump the cost down (setting Usually Reliable as the base x1)



And with my above post: The Contact Group also can have skills that fall outside the 'broad' Professional Bang. On a good roll when dealing with the group one of the Contacts might mention that "Why yes, I did do underwater welding in the Navy, I could definitely give you tips/do you that favor".
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Old 01-30-2017, 08:50 AM   #9
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week (#30): Contact Group, Contacts

One thing that has never been clear to me is what the "skill" is for a contact whose main role is to provide inside information about the activities of their organisation. If my character is a PI and I have the secretary of the Fire Commissioner as a contact, presumably they don't have Professional Skill (firefighter) as a skill, nor do I expect them to perform analysitcal tasks with Administration - I want them to give me insider information about suspicious fires and the progress of arson investigations. Current Affairs (My Office) seems like an odd skill....

This is the sort of thing that, if the Contact were the PC instead, they'd probably just know automatically, or roll against IQ, but as a Contact they're meant to be assigned some specific skill.
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Old 01-30-2017, 09:38 AM   #10
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week (#30): Contact Group, Contacts

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Originally Posted by CoyoteGestalt View Post
One thing that has never been clear to me is what the "skill" is for a contact whose main role is to provide inside information about the activities of their organisation. If my character is a PI and I have the secretary of the Fire Commissioner as a contact, presumably they don't have Professional Skill (firefighter) as a skill, nor do I expect them to perform analysitcal tasks with Administration - I want them to give me insider information about suspicious fires and the progress of arson investigations. Current Affairs (My Office) seems like an odd skill....
In one of my attempts to redo contacts, I figured that indeed the primary reason to take a Contact, instead of just taking the same skill personally on the PC's character sheet, was to get access to what's going on in their workplace. Quite often a legitimate Contact will have the same skill as what the PC already has (e.g. a PI and their Contact in the police force will both have basically the same investigative skills, such as Criminology). I then gave the main skill of a Contact as Current Affairs (Stuff Related to my Position). If the Contact was also for access to a special knowledge skill, then this was an extra enhancement and cost was related to the skill of the PC. Likewise access to special equipment or to files, books or databases off-limits to the PCs would also be an enhancement.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ericthered View Post
The reliability statistic has always bugged me. It feels like it belongs in a specific genre, not as a significant stat on every contact.
I think it's a bit broken, for at least two reasons-
1) Patrons and Allies don't have an equivalent mechanic, and are automatically considered to be Completely Reliable without a x3 point tax on them. Thus, having a "good" contact becomes way pricey in relation for what they can do for you, i.e. give you a piece of knowledge or a small favour. Changing Completely Reliable to x1 and then having lower levels be Limitations can help fix this.

2) Because with Completely Reliable there's no failed roll, it's more cost effective to take this together with a low Effective Skill level on your Contact. Effective Skill is supposed be the defining attribute of a Contact, not their Reliability.

3) (Told you there were at least two reasons...) It's not clear what the Reliability axis is meant to represent. A Completely Reliable Contact is so good at what they do, and persistent, that they can always get an answer- measuring skill and persistence. A Somewhat or Unreliable Contact will lie or rat you out to your enemies- which is a measure of loyalty.
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