Cohort creation in fiction?

So my players are gradually accumulating allies as their stories play out. Here are three examples that have come up in sessions 1 and 2:

  • Sawtooth, the physicker, is a friend of my Cutter, Elijah. Elijah’s been using Sawtooth as a doctor during free play (for NPCs) and during downtime for himself

  • When the Bluecoats rounded up The Usual Suspects after their first heist, they took Buckwell Jamison, a foundling from the Blackwell Home, an outfit affiliated with Elijah. The kid didn’t talk, despite being beaten black and blue and having his arm dislocated. Elijah gathered him after that and took him to Sawtooth for treatment. Then he let the kid stay in their lair and rewarded him with some silver. They’re thinking he’ll be their first gang member because he’s shown he’s got the steel for it.

  • When the crew took over the Jays’ downmarket trance den in Session 2, they told the bartender to scram before the shooting started, then come back tomorrow if he wanted to keep his job.

Then I realized a Cohort is a crew upgrade or a gang/expert they can hire during Downtime. Any advice on how to handle the situations above? For example, do I have them pay Coin during Downtime for Sawtooth’s services? I imagine this is going to come up repeatedly as the crewmembers are already focused on growing their crew and territory.

P.S. This previous thread on cohorts was very useful in understanding crew scale, which I had misunderstood by only looking at the table.

So Cohorts are different than “the NPCs that you know and can help you.”

I like to break down NPCs as follows (note that this isn’t necessarily all RAW/ RAI, but it has been effective at keeping a fiction first approach to the NPCs the Crew comes in contact with):

Plain Old NPCs

These are, of course, the NPCs that the Crew will inevitably deal with throughout the game. They may be Friendly (most likely connected to or directly associated with a Friendly Faction), Neutral (again, most likely connected to or directly associated with a Neutral Faction), or Hostile (connected or associated with a Hostile Faction).

These are folks who will help or hinder you mostly based off their Status with you. An NPC that is connected or associated with a +2 Faction is far more likely to assist you when you need it- sometimes going so far as you act without your express request for assistance. Likewise, hostile NPCs would function much in the same way.

Friends and Contacts

The Friends and Contacts you know are very specific individuals that you have already cultivated some sort of relationship with- they’re almost always interested in helping you (for whatever reason as best explored in the fiction).

I think it is relatively wise to not apply “blanket” considerations to factions. +2 with a Faction probably shouldn’t entail that everyone just loves you- but most of the Factions pertinent members are willing to come to your aid.

These Friends and Contacts are good specifications of those individuals, especially those you want to keep around and signal to the GM/ table that you’re interested in seeing that NPC on screen fairly frequently. In essence, you might not have the highest relationship with the Lampblacks as a whole- but being Close Friends with Baszo Baz is more than enough for you and that specific relationship is the one you want to explore (and perhaps someday use as the starting point to better ally with the Lampblacks).

I like to ensure my players know that their character knows all 5 people on their Character Sheet and the Crew has worked with all 6 people on their Crew Sheet. It is of those 5 people that one is a “Close” Friend and one is a “Significant” Rival and of the 6 people, one is a “Close” Contact.

The “Closeness” represents, roughly (IMO) individuals that could be equated to a +2 or +3 Faction Status. They’re very willing to help out where they can- expecting little else in return (up front, at least). They may expect something at some point- especially depending on what you need them for- but we can kind of “assume” that you’ve already done them some “solids” in the past.

For those that are not “Close,” I like to think of them the way I think about neutral and +1 Status Factions. They’ll help- so long as it isn’t bothersome to them… or if the price is right.

For those that are Rivals, these are the folks that fit into that -2 or -3 categories. These are the people that want to actively sabotage you when and wherever possible.


Cohorts are NPCs (or groups of NPCs) that take a more “active” role in the Crew’s operations- namely as subordinates. You may be “friendly” with them- but not necessarily the way you are with your actual friends. They are the people you are sending out to do your dirty work- that is what they’ve been hired for!

Cohorts don’t even have to really like you, either! The relationship can be purely business and that is that!

Cohorts also function differently than Friends/ Contacts, as they don’t technically add +1d to Downtime Actions or function as a +1d for Engagement Rolls (at least when it comes to the question of whether a “Friend or Contact could provide aid or insight,” the Cohort can certainly provide a bonus elsewhere!).

Shifting Around

As time goes on, NPCs- and their relationships with you- may change and shift over time. Regular NPCs that are part of a Faction may be of more specific aid to you over time and become front and center focus as a friend. Maybe they’ll become a “Close” Friend (or Contact)? Maybe when you opt to gain a Cohort Upgrade, that Friend or Contact becomes part of (or THE) Cohort and their role in your character’s life changes to one of greater or at least different responsibility?

The other way around is also possible!! Once Close Friends or Contacts may become Rivals. It may be fictionally appropriate for a Cohort to split away.

There may be all sorts of other interesting scenarios as well- such as a specific member of a Gang Cohort being one specific PC’s Close Friend! There are all sorts of possibilities, and it is important to get a feel for the fiction as time goes on…

Litmus Tests

An NPC probably isn’t considered a real “Friend” or “Contact” (Close or otherwise) unless they have a close connection to a PC or the Crew and are pretty darn willing to help without needing something immediately in return.

A Friend or Contact is almost always willing to help and probably won’t ask for much in return unless you really start to pull on them a whole heck of a lot. Close Friends and/ or Contacts will be a heck of a lot less likely to ask for something than a “Not Close” Friend or Contacts. Either way, Friends and Contacts will likely appear more as colleagues and equals than necessarily “subordinates.”

Cohorts are those that are ready to take orders. Whether that is due to inherent loyalty or from a business deal- you often rely on them to just “get things done.” Because their connection to you is often Employee to Employer- unless their Flaws or Significant Fiction says otherwise- they won’t as easily “turn” on you. Often times, they have a more “active” role in the Crew.


At the end of the day- the bottom line for acquiring Friends, Contacts, and Cohorts is all fiction first! Analyze the fiction and bring the most appropriate mechanic to bear!

Sometimes it just “happens”! You’ll find that- through events in the fiction- you’ll have a new Friend or Contact (Close or otherwise). You may find a Cohort through this method as well (most likely from the Payoff of a Score, perhaps?).

Sometimes, there may be some “elbow grease” involved! It may take some Long Term Projects to get new Close Friends on board (or make existing Friends/ Contacts “Close” as well). You may want to work outside the “normal” advancement schema and do some LTPs to get a Cohort (after all, what is Crew XP except an intrinsic repeating 10 Segment LTP Clock?).

That whole LTP Process may start off from acquiring an asset and moving forward to solidify that relationship!

Your Table

As far as the characters mentioned in your game:

  • Is Sawtooth the kind or person that’ll start demanding payment? What is their status with the PC? Just a regular friend? “Close”? Does Sawtooth need the money? Do they just “work for free” unless it causes them issues? Maybe a 4 Segment Clock is in order- “Pay Sawtooth or Else”
  • Maybe this kid will become a Crew Contact and provide further aid in Downtime? Maybe they’d be willing to round up some other Foundlings if you help them out and function as a Gang Cohort (Score? Repeating Acquired Asset? Long Term Project? Standard Crew Advancement?)
  • Maybe this barkeep person becomes a Crew Contact? Perhaps not “Close” to start, but they may get there someday…

Again, I wouldn’t take all that I say as hard and fast rules for NPCs and Cohorts and the like. This is just stuff that has worked for me in how I think about NPCs at the table and what makes a Friend, Contact, and/ or Cohort different from each other and other NPCs at large.

Being a fiction first game means there won’t always be a clean definition to delineate them from each other with clean inputs and outputs. So just try and default to the fiction as it relates to triggering mechanics.

  • Does it make sense that an NPC Friend or Contact wants something in return at this moment? Does that portray the fiction honestly?
  • Is this person becoming a Contact or a Cohort? What role do they play in the Crew? More of an associate for intel, connections, and Jobs? That might be a Contact. More like hired hands or subordinates to follow your orders? That might be a Cohort.

Anyway, that’d be my 2 Cents. Hope that all makes sense and hope that helps!

Thanks for the really helpful rules of thumb. If I may summarize:

  • Cohorts are subordinates first and may not even be friendly with the crew; mechanically they don’t add dice to engagement rolls or downtime activities.

  • Play NPCs fiction first and follow player leads on who they want to interact with; mechanics could assign NPCs status like factions to determine basic responses, clocks can be used to track changes in status or long term status development, and NPCs can just get added to the character or crew sheets like other contacts.

  • Not everything in a faction is at the same tier; mechanically, not every member of a crew with which you have a +2 relation is going to like every member of your crew at +2 (which matches what the book says about their other gear).

It’s the first point on which I was stuck. I’ll work toward having more relationships on the sheet—I started with the suggested defaults.

Thanks also for tips to proceed with specific relationships. My players are proactive with the fiction on background NPCs. In the case of Sawtooth, Elijah was taking care of Sawtooth as much as Sawtooth was taking care of the foundlings, so it was a close relationship with lots of mutual favors. Elijah had much more money as a bookkeeper, so also helped out with some coin. As to Frake the locksmith, I think the player said he felt sorry for Harmattan and took him in off the street like a stray dog and fed him, only to discover he had a knack for tinkering. After that, they became buddies and Harmattan just kind of picked up stuff on the side from watching Frake work and helping where he could.

The only thing I would clarify is that Cohorts can add benefits to Engagement Rolls, but not likely due to the “Can a Friend or Contact provide aid or insight?” More likely it’ll be having the Scale of a Cohort or the Cohorts particular expertise that can help in getting some other potent advantage for an Engagement Roll.

Otherwise, yeah- I’ve never run Cohorts to add a bonus dice to DTAs.

Also, I don’t think you need to get every relationship on the sheets ironed out. The most important to know about are the Close Friend, the Significant Rival, and the Close Crew Contact. That is more than enough to suffice.

I like to go further by ensuring my players don’t just write off the others on their sheet! It helps to know that while you are Close Friends with Grace, the Extortionist; Mercy- the Cold Killer may be able to help out with that LTP to Hunt down the Safe House of that coward Lamoire from the Ballad Street Gang.

I also like to, when it comes to the remaining 3 Friends on the Character Sheet or the remaining 5 Contacts on the Crew Sheet (although, it actually applies to all of them), that my players should feel free to alter anyone on those default lists that we haven’t seen “On Screen” yet.

So, as the Bravos- we decided that we know Lucille- the Tavern Owner as our Close Crew Contact (we changed the name from the default because Lucille is the mother of the Leech who happens to be named Luke and his brother is Lawrence and his two nieces are Luna and Love). It was decided that the Crew didn’t feel like Walker- the Ward Boss- made much sense (in fact, Walker was never even featured “On Screen” yet, so they probably weren’t getting used anyway).

So at some point, when deciding to infiltrate the Banshee’s Occultist Supplier, they figured they’d employ the help of Cole- the “Shaman” on 81st Street- who “just so happens” to be the main rival supplier to the the Occultist Supplier for the Banshees! Surely Cole might know a thing or two about his rival store owner, right?

In the case of Mercy and Cole- sure, they aren’t close- but I’m sure they’d be willing to help. Maybe there is a simple cost or condition? Maybe there is a tough cost or condition? Maybe there is nothing at all! Mercy might just be happy to see Lamoire get their comeuppance and maybe the same for Cole and his rival? Maybe Mercy wants to get in on the action (and her antics may involve getting some Heat?). Maybe Cole has a condition? Interrogate the fiction and play to find out.

And, unless it helps your bookkeeping or its something you feel really should take center stage for your notes or game- you don’t necessary need to apply a “Relationship” or “Disposition” Status for every NPC they meet. If it helps you- great! If not- don’t sweat it! I have never gone into such detail with my NPCs, but when I think about what makes a “Close” Friend or Contact different from a regular Friend/ Contact and what makes either one different from other NPCs- it helps to at least think about disposition; but you needn’t go into strict detail.

Anyway, I hope that provides further clarification!