Gamemaster’s Guidepost: I Know a Guy Who Knows a Guy

You know the character type. He knows a “guy” who knows a “guy.” He’s got friends in every city and every walk of life, and everyone bloody well owes him a favor. He’s the face man, but he’s also the fixer. He can find the guy you need for the job or the diamond-tipped industrial drill at 3 in the morning. Currently, the best way to do that is by buying a bunch of Allies, Contacts, Contact Groups, or even Patrons and hoping something is useful. Below I’ve presented some new options that I’ve used to success in the past.

Social Networking
The following is a new modular ability (p. B71) often found on the character sheets of face men, spies, and others who have an easy time of finding information and allies. I prettified this for my own campaigns a long time ago, and it was taken more or less whole cloth from this post by Anders (aka Asta Kask).

Social Networking: You have an easy time finding friends, allies, etc. in new situations. This ability can only be used to buy certain Social Advantages (Allies, Contacts, etc.). Rearranging your points requires a minimum of four hours per slot – this time is spent gossiping, hanging out with the right people, building confidences and perhaps even learning dirty secrets. Unlike most Modular Abilities, this is not an Exotic advantage; it represents a combination of social grace, panache, timing, and luck. Cost per slot: 4 points base + 3 points per point of abilities.

Yeah, I’m a Friend of Bobby Singer’s
The Using Abilities at Default optional rule from GURPS Powers (p. 173) is not just for lightning-chucking, fireball-spitting mutants and psis…it can be pressed into service for other things. For example, it works surprisingly well on certain social advantages, like Contacts or Contact Groups. To do this, you need to make a roll against your Contact’s frequency of appearance, if successful, proceed to the next step. Then you need to spend at least 1d hours schmoozing around, talking to people, consulting your own contacts, etc. You may use the Time Spent rules (p. B346) to reduce this time, though it affects your skill roll (see below). Next, make a skill roll against an appropriate skill, like Area Knowledge (Specific city) or Streetwise (see GURPS Social Engineering, p. 22 for more information about finding people) with a penalty based on the following:

-2 per 25% of the starting Contact’s point cost the default ability is worth, or fraction thereof; e.g., for a 20-point Contact, this would be  -2 for a default that costs 1-5 points, -4 for 6-10 points, -6 for 11-15 points, and -8 for 16-20 points. Apply another-2 penalty if the Contacts could not be logically linked – both are police or law enforcement Contacts, both are corporate Contacts, etc.

If successful, you get a one use of that Contact who must be used right then. If you do this more than once in a 24-hour period using the same base Contact, you suffer an additional -2 penalty. I suggested this one in the GURPS Social Engineering playtest, but it didn’t make it in.

Proto (Zoa) (15)
Another option is to use a special form of Potential Advantages (p. B33) or “Proto-Contacts.” This works normally; you set aside a specific number of character points that you don’t use for anything until it’s defined in play. At a dramatically appropriate moment, you may declare that you “know someone” (even if it’s an NPC you’re currently interacting with, though all reactions remain in place for that encounter – even if you do buy them as a Contact) and spend the points necessary to buy the Contact you need right then. I also suggested this one in the GURPS Social Engineering playtest (and again) didn’t make it in.

I Owe You Big
Sometimes it’s appropriate for characters to “owe” someone else, for long-term favors or blackmail Duty is probably the way to go, but for one-off favors the following might be more useful. This also appeared in the Social Engineering playtest (but never made it in) – though the idea is mine, the following wording is Antoni Ten Monrós’ – I didn’t rewrite it, because really, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Disadvantageous Favor


You owe a favor to someone else. This usually is a one-time  duty, possibly with extremely hazardous, but other social disadvantages, such as dependent, can also be used. To figure out the cost, divide the cost of the underlying disadvantage by 5, and round up. Once it is used, it disappears from your character sheet. The GM might require you to then pay the cost to buy it off, if you bought it at character creation, and failure to do so might earn you other social disadvantages, such as further disadvantageous favors. Disadvantageous favors usually come bundled with other social traits, such as rank, status, allies, contacts, etc., meaning that you got them thanks to the intervention of someone else, and thus owe them. There are two ways to handle this: either you owe a single favor, or you owe a favor each time you use the underlying advantage. In the first case, simply add a disadvantageous favor to your character sheet, and note what advantage it is linked to. Failure to repay the favor could mean that the attached advantage is  forfeited! In the second case, this is a special form of temporary disadvantage. Figure the value of the limitation as half the cost of  the underlying social trait (thus a trait that imposed a -10 point duty as a favor each time it is used would have a -5% limitation).

Picking Over The Bones
Of course, you might just use multiple Contacts or even multiple Contacts as Alternate Abilities might be a way to go, though if you fail to use one Contact that will put all your Contacts out of commission for the game (a possible unwanted outcome). Additionally, the GM could just use the rules for Finding People from GURPS Social Engineering and call it a day. Whatever you, as the GM decide, make sure your players know in advance what you’re doing so that those who want to know a guy who knows a guy knows what they need to take trait-wise to achieve their goal.

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