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Getting the most out of mortal Allies and Staff

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  • Getting the most out of mortal Allies and Staff

    I'm hoping to get some advice to help out one of my players.

    Our game is set in the Arthur's Brittannia Dark Era (roughly 500 AD). One of my players has invested 5 dots in Allies, 5 dots in Staff and has a 5 dot Retainer. These represent a ship that he owns, its captain and crew, all of whom work for him.

    Recently he has expressed frustration that he doesn't feel he can do a lot with these merit dots and I think a lot of that is down to me as a Storyteller. Narratively, it seems like he should have a small army he can call on at any given time, but my reading of the Allies and Staff merits doesn't reflect this. In fact, from my reading of the Staff merit, it seems like it can do very little even at 5 dots. Allies likewise is quite vague in terms of what they can actually do for you.

    I'm looking for advice for how the player can start making use of these merits to make them worth the XP he has invested in them. How have other people made use of these mechanics in your games? Are there any other merits or systems we could employ to represent what's going on narratively?

  • #2
    Your Allies can do anything for you that seems like they should be capable of doing based on who they are. The only question is whether they’ll agree to do it and the merit lays out how to determine that.

    What five skills does he have Staff for?

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    • #3
      You should probably have the activities of the nearby pirate or smugglers' den or a small fleet of the royal navy or a trading guild figure more prominently in the story. Your PC is poised to have considerable influence over those activities.

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      • #4
        Allies alone should let him order them to do something important and get it done, the retainer again is a case of do this while I handle on screen stuff. Staff are 5 skills he has an extra success on if he has time to organise them so I’m not sure how he isn’t getting any use from them. Could you give an example of when you couldn’t find a way to make use of them?

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        • #5
          Agree with what mentioned above.
          Furthermore: allies and staff are not an army which you can call to your side.
          Ally represent ONE ally in a specific sphere of influence (Police, criminality etc) the more influent the more high the level is.
          Ally 5 in police could be someone (don't know usa hierarchy) , to which you could ask to call for a Daylight perquisition the very heaven of a kindred rival of yours.
          Staff is giving you free success in that specific field. Retainer is a Renfield. someone you can call whenever you want, you can have him doing your bids, caring of your heaven during your absence, which is having specific pools based on the level.
          Plus you can use allies to block another kindred's allies/contacts.
          Seems pretty useful to me.
          In your example it's not clear who is the ally and who the retainer is. I believe the retainer is the captain of the ship (who to be at 5 would need to be pretty skilled). Who is the ally then?
          Staff 5 gives him 5 skills (meaning 5 different kind of specialized employee). Talking about a ship crew they may range from cartographer to saiors, giving him the possible following skills: survival/strettwise(smuggling)/brawl/larceny/stealth(hiding something or someone)/occult(superstition) etc. Whenever he can call or take advantage of his staff he can have a success in any of these skills.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Marcus View Post
            Agree with what mentioned above.
            Furthermore: allies and staff are not an army which you can call to your side.
            Ally represent ONE ally in a specific sphere of influence (Police, criminality etc) the more influent the more high the level is.
            Ally 5 in police could be someone (don't know usa hierarchy) , to which you could ask to call for a Daylight perquisition the very heaven of a kindred rival of yours.
            Staff is giving you free success in that specific field. Retainer is a Renfield. someone you can call whenever you want, you can have him doing your bids, caring of your heaven during your absence, which is having specific pools based on the level.
            Plus you can use allies to block another kindred's allies/contacts.
            Seems pretty useful to me.
            In your example it's not clear who is the ally and who the retainer is. I believe the retainer is the captain of the ship (who to be at 5 would need to be pretty skilled). Who is the ally then?
            Staff 5 gives him 5 skills (meaning 5 different kind of specialized employee). Talking about a ship crew they may range from cartographer to saiors, giving him the possible following skills: survival/strettwise(smuggling)/brawl/larceny/stealth(hiding something or someone)/occult(superstition) etc. Whenever he can call or take advantage of his staff he can have a success in any of these skills.
            Ally could also rapresent an organization or group, in this case the crew i suppose, or a mercantile group they belong to

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Aurumae View Post
              I'm hoping to get some advice to help out one of my players.

              Our game is set in the Arthur's Brittannia Dark Era (roughly 500 AD). One of my players has invested 5 dots in Allies, 5 dots in Staff and has a 5 dot Retainer. These represent a ship that he owns, its captain and crew, all of whom work for him.

              Recently he has expressed frustration that he doesn't feel he can do a lot with these merit dots and I think a lot of that is down to me as a Storyteller. Narratively, it seems like he should have a small army he can call on at any given time, but my reading of the Allies and Staff merits doesn't reflect this.
              What makes you and your players think so in the first place? I would say that adressing that issue and adjusting things, mechanically or not, accordingly is the key factor here.

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              • #8
                Remember that you can call on Allies for equipment or services with an availability rating equal to the merit dots. A five dot crew should be able to acquire most anything falling under the purview of maritime trade with enough time

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                • #9
                  I don't really have any advice regarding the use of those Merits because we've never really used them (personally it's because I find them to be a combination of lackluster and situational, so I've always had better stuff to spend XP on). But having them all represent the same group makes me wonder if the problem is less the mechanics behind the Merits and more if the characters represented by those Merits simply aren't relevant to the current story. If everything happens inland, then any Merit representing a ship's crew will be very difficult to use due to their outright irrelevance.
                  If that is the case, then I simply recommend Sanctity of Merits to allow the player to redistribute the dots on other stuff (or just straight up refund it as XP). The ship and its crew can still be there and part of the character's backstory, but if they don't provide any mechanical benefits then there's little use in spending dots on them. If the player wish to represent them through Merits then Contacts, Herd and/or Resources might fit better.


                  Bloodline: The Stygians
                  Ordo Dracul Mysteries: Mystery of Smoke, Revised Mystery of Živa
                  Mage The Awakening: Spell Quick Reference (single page and landscape for computer screens)

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