Stuff and Shackles
A contact is a unique NPC with useful skills or powerful connections. You can call upon contacts for aid to accomplish specialized tasks without getting directly involved. A low-level contact can dig up a local rumor, tell you where to find a good meal, or impart basic knowledge. However, as you earn more of a contact’s trust, he might perform greater tasks with greater personal risk, such as helping you track down an adversary, bailing you out of jail, or loaning you a magic item.
Two factors influence the effectiveness of a contact: the amount of trust you share with the contact and the amount of risk involved with what you ask of the contact. A contact who doesn’t fully trust you won’t risk his neck to help you, though he might still perform some basic risk-free tasks to see if you warrant additional trust.
- Wary: A wary contact has no more trust in you than in any stranger. Though he’s willing to divulge minimal information, he’d just as readily sell your information to your enemies or turn on you in order to protect himself or his reputation. A wary contact performs only basic tasks that assume little to no personal risk.
- Skeptical: A skeptical contact has established some small amount of trust with you. Despite earlier positive interactions, the contact remains fairly cautious. He can be called upon to perform tasks of minimal risk, but refuses any task that might jeopardize his safety, public image, or finances. If questioned about you, the skeptical contact attempts to remain neutral when describing his relationship and won’t immediately turn on you.
- Reliable: A reliable contact still doesn’t fully trust you, but is willing to make a greater effort to help. He might perform tasks that place him at slightly greater risk, such as hiding a fugitive on his property or loaning small sums of money or non-magical items. A reliable contact is not willing to assume greater risk solely out of trust in you, and tries to protect his own reputation as a reliable contact.
- Trustworthy: A trustworthy contact holds you in high regard. When you ask for assistance, he sincerely desires to aid you. He puts in extra time and effort to assure success, but still avoids undertaking tasks that would place him or his loved ones in significant danger. He will not lightly accept a task that would destroy his career, reputation, or finances.
- Confidant: At this level, the contact trusts you with his life. He attempts to help you even if it stretches his personal means or involves great personal risk. A confidant never turns against you unless he’s shown absolute proof that you betrayed him.
- None: No-risk tasks include carrying a message to one of your allies in a neighboring town, directing you to a reputable merchant, getting your equipment repaired, providing you with minor rumors, or getting a sage to show you a history book or map. These tasks might be inconvenient, but the contact doesn’t risk any sort of penalty for performing them.
Critical Failure No consequences worth considering.
- Minor: Minor-risk tasks include deliberately leaving a door to a private area unlocked, acquiring a semi-legal item for you, or finding a place for you to lie low. Negative consequences can include paying a small fine, provoking the ire of the local authorities, suffering a small financial loss, or enduring social embarrassment.
Critical Failure: Fine or imprisonment with bail. You must spend 1/3 the value of the contact’s gear (by level) to rectify this situation; otherwise, you lose the contact, and all current and future contacts have their Trust scores lowered by 1 with you.
- Moderate: Moderately risky tasks include lying to authorities on your behalf, making forgeries, helping you evade authorities (such as by providing horses or casting a teleport spell), or loaning you money or equipment . If the contact is caught while involved with this task, he may have to pay a fine, face short-term imprisonment, or suffer a moderate financial or social loss.
Critical Failure: Fine or imprisonment with bail. You must spend 1/2 the value of the contact’s gear (by level) to rectify this situation; otherwise, you lose the contact, all current and future contacts have their Trust scores lowered by 2 with you, and the DC of any of your future attempts to raise the Trust scores of contacts increases by 5.
- Considerable: Considerably risky tasks are explicitly illegal (such as burglary or robbery) or are morally questionable even if legal (such as fraud conducted by taking advantage of obscure loopholes in the law). If the contact is caught performing such a task, he may be imprisoned, have his property seized, or lose personal rights (such as a formal title or high-status employment). He may be punished by flogging, torture, or enslavement.
Critical Failure: The contact is imprisoned without bail or his social status is reduced to that of a peasant. You must restore the contact’s status, possibly by legally freeing him and vindicating him, or by rescuing him and helping him establish a new life elsewhere. Failure to do so means you lose the contact, all current contacts have their Trust scores lowered by 3 with you, and the DCs of any of your future attempts to raise the Trust scores of contacts increase by 5.
- Great: An act of great risk describes any task for which the failure results in death, exile, or life imprisonment, such as murder, grievous assault, or treason.
Critical Failure: Within 1 week’s time of the contact being caught, you must get the contact’s sentence negated, overturned, or revoked, or otherwise save him from his fate. Failure to do so means all current contacts have their Trust scores lowered by 4 with you, and the DCs of any of your future attempts to raise the Trust scores of contacts increase by 5. Extraordinary measures, such as raising the contact from the dead, allow you to retain the contact (though his status and usefulness may be questionable if his reputation was also destroyed). Unless it is known that you used these extraordinary measures, the Trust penalty for other contacts remains.
- If a task’s risk is higher than contacts trust he refuses.
- Otherwise an opposed diplomacy check is made against the contact (who adds the risk level to his roll).
Once a contact agrees to help, the GM must determine the extent of his success. The GM attempts a skill check on behalf of the contact using the contact’s most appropriate skill for the task (or an ability check if no skill is appropriate). The DC for this check is determined using the following formula:
DC = 10 + the CR of the task + the task’s Risk score + other modifiers
Failing this check by 5 or more results in a critical failure.
Most tasks require 1 day of work, with the check to determine the contact’s success or failure attempted at the end of the time period. When appropriate, the contact may decrease the DC of a task by increasing the time spent completing it, representing the time spent planning and preparing, gathering resources, and waiting for the right moment to attempt the task. Subtract 1 from the DC for each day spent beyond the first, to a maximum of 4 extra days.
Gaining, Cultivating, and Losing Contacts
To gain a new contact, you must first establish the NPC’s trust through repeated positive interactions or a single profound one.
Positive interactions include things such as regular patronage of the NPC’s business, providing the NPC with some form of additional compensation for his efforts, performing a deed on his behalf, or using your personal influence to help the contact gain a position of greater power or prestige. Profound interactions include saving the life of the NPC or someone the NPC loves, protecting his reputation against ruinous slander, or preventing loss of his property or finances. Once you accrue at least five positive interactions or one profound interaction with an NPC, you can treat him as a contact. This means you can ask him to help you, and you can attempt to improve his Trust score with you.
A relationship with a contact develops as you spend time with him. Each time you have a positive or profound interaction with the contact (but no more than once per character level), attempt a Diplomacy check to improve the contact’s Trust score by 1. If the interaction is profound rather than merely positive, you gain a +5 bonus on this Diplomacy check. The DC of the check depends on the contact’s Trust score with you.
|Trust Level||Diplomacy DC|
If you’re away from the contact for an extended period of time, that contact’s Trust score with you might decrease as he forgets about you. If this happens, attempt a Diplomacy check against the above DC. Success means the contact’s Trust level remains the same, and failure means it decreases by 1 (minimum 1).