I was watching heist trailers, and was struck by the phrase “He’s the guy who knows a guy who knows a guy”. It jumped out at me that this is, in a nutshell, how to adjudicate contacting rolls, in any system.
Basically, you make the roll, and if you blow it out of the water, then you know a guy. Have a scene with that guy and get what you want.
If you don’t quite nail it, then your guy knows a guy, and he gives you an introduction.
If you really don’t do well, the maybe your guy knows a guy who knows a guy.
In short, the worse you roll, the further out you need to go. Now, this is cool for two reasons.
First, it generates more scenes, even if they’re just quick ones. Those scenes all revolve around people, which is great. It means the GM needs to have a decent stable of lowlifes, but if you’re running a game where someone knows a guy, then that should be an expectation.
Second, each additional circle introduces new wants and uncertainties. You can trust your guy, sure. And he says you can trust his guy, so maybe you can, but he’s going to want something for making an introduction with his guy, who may well have his own array for problems.
All of this hinges on an understanding that contacting (and really, similar social-gathering-information skills) should not just be treated as a mechanized version of google. Things don’t just happen – there are always people and things involved, and where people and things are involved, that’s where life gets messy.
But on the other hand, you don’t want contacting to dominate play – sometimes you just want to breeze past how you got you hands on a truckload of chickens and get on to the caper. To deal with that, I’d suggest the following rules of thumb:
- If you succeed well enough that you got it from your guy, then don’t play a scene, just note which guy.
- If you need to go further out, then that’s a reason for a scene. You need to meet with this new guy. And this is the important thing – you may not want to go alone. Bring at least one other character along as backup – after all, you ARE dealing with criminals here. And if you guys can’t get a good scene out of a clandestine meeting with some total screwball, then consider whether this genre is right for you.
- Yes, your guys should have names and personalities, even if just loosely sketched. ↩