I try to break it down like I would a thieving or fighting heist; a series of obstacles, and some potential complications. You usually wouldn’t open a theft heist with the crew cracking the final safe, or an assassination with them about to pull the trigger on their target.
Like those other heist types, I would start with the target and then build outwards from there. So let’s imagine it’s a social score to set up a sale of narcotics to the Billhooks. Checking the faction’s details in the book, I see that their leader Tarvul is in prison, so this is going to be about organising the sale with Erin, his daughter and the current captain, in their butcher shop HQ. She’s listed as confident, deadly, ambitious.
I would put down an 8-clock across the score called “the deal falls through”, that can be ticked by any number of failed rolls; social faux-pas, bad luck, suspicion raised, etc. If the clock fills, Erin gets paranoid and calls the deal off.
Then I would set up a few clocks.
- Talk your way into the butcher shop HQ (depending on the plan and engagement roll, once you roll up to the butcher shop you have to talk your way past the guards).
- Gain Erin’s full attention. Maybe this can be during a walk-and-talk to the slaughter-house down the street. There’s no reason social scores have to be physically static, so let’s say that Erin has a short attention span and a low opinion of the PC crew, so she gives them five minutes of her time in between appointments to make their pitch.
- Seal the deal. The third and final clock - as a power-move, Erin is likely to seal the deal in the slaughter-house where pigs are being noisily slaughtered. If you can fill this clock, the deal’s on.
Then I would just have a list of potential complications to make things more interesting, or to use on miss or mixed-success rolls:
- Erin’s brother Coran shows up (fierce, loyal, quiet - he wants to take over the gang instead of Erin). He’ll try, either subtly or not so subtly, to get the PC crew to deal with him instead - and he’s willing to offer a better deal than Erin to get it. Whoever they choose to deal with, the PC crew will piss off the other sibling.
- A bluecoat patrol shows up in the street. The presence of bluecoats will make Erin suspicious; what do you do?
- A rival hawker crew has made, or makes, a better offer to the Billhooks. What do you do?
- One of the Billhooks thugs gets rowdy, trying to shove a PC around, insulting them. The Billhooks don’t deal with pushovers, so they’ll want you to settle this with a quick round of bare-knuckle boxing. What do you do?
- Erin steps down to the slaughter-house floor, wrestles a pig and cuts its throat herself. She throws the knife at the feet of the PCs - can one of you step up and prove yourself? It will impress her.
- A faction who dislikes you shows up - they’re going to cause trouble. Better shut that down quick or you might blow the deal.
- A faction who likes you shows up and takes one of the PCs aside - they warn you to cancel the deal, that the Billhooks can’t be trusted. What do you do?
Basically what I’m looking for are:
- Literal complications; hard decisions for the PCs
- Small diversions that could blow up into big problems if they’re not dealt with
- Opportunities for non-social PCs to have something to do; opportunities for a bit of physical action, even if that’s just wrestling a pig. You can also then cut between the social negotiations and the physical side-show, alternating action rolls, which has a nice dramatic effect.