Shadows, misdirection, rep, status and heat

So there was a discussion at the start of the year about high stealth games, but it was specifically about the No Traces ability; I’m generally struggling with how rep, heat and faction status work when the whole point is that nobody else know what you are doing. Maybe you and one other party.

I get that the change in status with a faction after you do a score with them as the target, along with the rep and heat, are abstractions for the change in relationship, reputation and unwanted official attention the job caused. It is assumed that small mistakes are made - a bullet casing here, a drunk spotting you leaving there.

That’s all great - I’m on board with the concept. But it makes playing sneaky shadows really hard as the success state is that nobody knows it was you. If your whole aim is misdirection, to place the blame for actions at another’s door through false clues, disguises, spreading rumours etc. If you successfully frame one faction for an attack you perform, without getting spotted and with efforts made to lay a false trail, it would make sense that you do not take a negative change in your faction position. Side note - it would make a good fiction to be able to meet them face to face and brazen it out offering to help them with their “problem”. This is exactly what a shadows crew should be doing.

From that you could argue that you get the rep from those few in the know who you confide in, and others in the Shadows Game who have picked up on more subtle signals, though that’s tenuous especially things you do off your own bat. Heat is also questionable, but it may be the activities round the action that lead to it. Definitely not stable ground.

How have others handled this for Shadows? I guess it’s fine if you are mostly thieves for hire and this only occasionally comes up, but if you go for the spider-like intrigue type crew, do you never take negative status directly? Do you get full rep and heat? I notice that there is an option for vigilantes to swap half rep for putting the blame on someone else. If we go down this route then rep would increase rather slowly unless they are crap at what they are trying to do, which seems counter-intuitive.

I’ve run a game with an assassins crew who’s whole things was murders that look like accidents.

Before they took No Traces, they basically got no rep and no status changes with factions. Then they picked up No Traces and we played it straight, half the rep of the target +1 for no heat. They basically became the bogeyman and got blamed for all sorts of accidental and unexplained deaths. Worked great!

Rep progression was slower, which was fine since the players were focused on the narrative and vegenance rather than being a powerful faction.

But it wasn’t that much slower. If your crew is Tier I and you pull off a successful score against a Tier III target, normally you earn 4 rep (2 rep, +2 rep for a target two tiers above you). For a completely quiet score with No Traces, you earn 3 rep (4/2 +1 for no heat).

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I think the point of No Traces isn’t about framing another crew, but when a job is done with no witnesses, no leads, and no evidence left behind, everyone in the underground starts talking about it and they know that there’s only one crew that could pull off a score like this. Think of it like being some cat burglar who everyone’s heard of, but has only left behind calling cards, baffling the police.

Now, if you’re framing another crew, I would say that No Trace doesn’t apply, because in passing on the heat you would begetting, you’re also passing on the credit, and therefore rep.

2 Likes

The way I understand it, status changes are wholly up to the GM; there aren’t any fixed rules for it and thus these changes are optional. If the crew is successful in carrying out the score without leaving traces, don’t change statuses.

If they fulfill your requirements of what consitutes a “smooth anf quiet: low exposure”, they don’t get heat. If their exposure is near to zero, I wouldn’t punish the crew by giving them additional heat for carrying out a score on hostile turf or high-profile targets. The story has to make sense - fiction before rules. It gets more interesting if killing’s involved (+2 heat) as spirit wardens will soon show up. But again, if there’s nothing to tie the crew to the incident, I wouldn’t give them the heat. You could, however, turn this into a challenge: say, spirit wardens happened to be nearby, they show up right away and the crew has to run without being seen. If they succeed, they deserve getting no heat.

Though it’s questionable whether earning rep makes sense narratively for a 0 heat score, I’d still give it to the crew. They deserve their reward in full for such a score. Sure, rep stands for reputation, but for me, rep is first and foremost a mechanic like xps. It is for the GM to decide what’s required to gain Tiers; rep can encompass more than just reputation. That’s how I handle it.

4 Likes

Thanks everyone. Each of these makes sense in different ways to me (perhaps why I often have choice paralysis - I see too many sides as having merit!)

I don’t want to de-value No Traces, but I’m going to go fiction-first and if they can give me a good reason why the right people know but will keep it to themselves then they can keep the rep for low heat and without change of status with their target - pinning it on someone else happens if they do enough narratively for that to make sense. So my version of No Traces would have make to make all this easier or less risky - the above could all come tumbling down later.