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!).
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…
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!
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!