Self-Employed or On The Payroll?


#1

I have found that crews who have their own agenda and work for their own goals make for more interesting campaigns than crews who are mostly doing jobs for other factions. But, at least for me, this own agenda usually didn’t develop as naturally as I was hoping for.

The chapter on Starting Situations suggests creating a conflict or triangle of factions and throwing the PCs somewhere in the middle. So these factions have goals and the crew will probably help one of them and hurt the others. But what about the crews own goals? After around the third session I sat down with my players and discussed this and we actively tried to come up with goals the crew themselves could have in the context of the unfolding situation in the city.

I also feel this comes harder for certain types of crews. Hawkers probably want to dominate their market, push out competitors, etc (I don’t remember the Bloodletters ever working for someone else). We don’t even have to talk about Cults. But Shadows? Assassins? Their business inevitably means doing jobs for someone else and advancing their agenda rather than your own.

What’s your experience with this?


(Sean Clancy) #2

I find that after a few scores working “under” other Factions, a crew will start to chase their own goals more aggressively. Blades is set up to emulate a “rags to riches” sort of crime story, and the Shitty Opening Job is a staple of crime fiction. In Scarface, Tony Montana carries out an assassination and a risky drug deal for Frank Lopez, but it’s clear he wants his own operation, and he uses the growing leeway Frank affords him to achieve that. (Of course, you could argue that Sosa is just as much a “boss” as Frank, but in Tony’s eyes he’s a least a more powerful boss.)

I also feel this comes harder for certain types of crews. Hawkers probably want to dominate their market, push out competitors, etc (I don’t remember the Bloodletters ever working for someone else). We don’t even have to talk about Cults. But Shadows? Assassins? Their business inevitably means doing jobs for someone else and advancing their agenda rather than your own.

The name on a crew playbook doesn’t need to map cleanly to the crew’s place in the fiction. For example: my current crew are Bravos, but we’re not just another gang of street toughs. The Ashen Hand is a pro-labor political movement that, sure, occasionally organizes demonstrations that devolve into what some might call “riots.”

Similarly, an Assassin crew doesn’t need to be taking murder contracts from others (though that’s a fine place to start)–they could be the operators of a butchery who kill their competitors and turn them into, uh, “product.” Shadows could be independent archeologists who steal ancient relics and try to disprove the flawed theories espoused at Charterhall University.

That said, sometimes a crew’s goal isn’t going to be more complicated than “make money” or “advance in Tier,” which is fine.


(Stefan Struck) #3

I have one group where we failed to start a new game/crew as long as there wasn’t a solid up-front “pitch” what the game will be about (including drive of the crew). You may say that we had a premature 3rd session crisis but that was ok, because we skipped the frustration of have this happening mid-game (and we managed to play some other awesome games in the meantime).
I see different patterns here:

  • Some groups want to know upfront, they talk, they decide, they play (or don’t).
  • Some groups just don’t care or play the “classic” tropes: Getting bigger by doint the “usual stuff”. Shadows robbing/buglary, Hawkers peddling drugs, leviathan blood, information, etc.
  • Some groups care later, after the initial phase: This may have the risk that only now you see that the group of players (not PCs) has different opinions about what is cool/interesting and what is not.
  • Some group has a dominant player (or a small group of players) who decides what is played and the rest is along for the ride

I don’t say that one is better then the rest. It depends on the group what is a good idea.
We started a new group of Assassins (after the pitch was ok) and I think (or my PC) that this will be all about revenge because we were wronged and someone has to pay for that. We don’t have enough resources, so in the intial phase we’re about coin and rep but then… Maybe the other players has other ideas but this is what “inner conflict” is for, right.
All this came pretty natural from the discussions in session 0 with the pitch as background material.


#4

My Crew was Assassins and we specifically went for missions that helped our initial allies and contacts, or harm our enemies. These were mainly the ones established by our selection of Hunting Grounds, Upgrades and Contact, but also ones that were personal to the Scoundrels.

Looking at the faction sheet we determined we needed to discredit the Ink Rakes, sabotage the Dimmer Sisters and crush Ulf Ironborn. Since we were constantly ringing the Deathseeker Crow’s bell, we knew it was inevitable to interact with the Spirit Wardens. We also made sure to track our rivals (Marlane, Casta, Telda, Jeren, Scurlock) and work against them and their allies; for instance Casta turned out to be currently employed by the Leviathan Hunters, so we formed a score against them to flush her out.


#5

I have a similar issue with my play group when we manage to get together to play. I think some of the self driven motivations can be easier with groups who are able to play more frequently. My approach is to plant little tests in various jobs to see if they want to run off in a different direction than my main faction jobs. So like one of them will have a down time mission with a big occult tease and if they seem interested in running that down we can work out something to do in that direction. I think of it as giving little prompts like “hey this is also part of blades is that important to your character?” sometimes the answer is no but sometimes I’ve found strange things i didn’t expect. It can also be fun to attach clocks to some of these teases and have a consequence if your crew interacts with them enough times without pursuing a story.

As for your Shadows and Assassin distinctions I think this is true but partially dependent on the dynamic you set up with your crew and the city. My Shadows mainly work on a large city council plot I set up but they have an uneasy relationship with their main contact which leads them doing independent work to try to outflank the faction they are working with. I can think of a fun Assassin’s game where your crew basically goes John Wick on factions or decides they know who deserves to die better than their clients.