The Alexandrian

Technoir - Jeremy KellerVornheim includes a set of stripped down guidelines for giving PCs a set of contacts in an urban setting: The PCs can hit up their contacts for information about a particular topic and there’s a table for randomly determining what their reaction to the question is. (Here’s an example of the system in practice.)

Technoir is built around a plot-mapping mechanic in which PCs are created with a set of contacts: When the PCs hit up one of their contacts, there’s a system for randomly determining what they know. (And here’s an example of that system in play.)

The Technoir approach is built around the assumption that the GM — taking into account the subject indicated, that subject’s position on the plot map, the contact’s relationship to the plot map, and the specific question that was asked of the contact — will provide an act of creative closure and figure out what the contact says. And, in general, that works just fine.

But I thought to myself: Wouldn’t it be useful and nifty if I had a Vornheim-style contacts table for Technoir? So that the rules of Technoir would produce the lead the contact was pointing them towards and then the Vornheim-like table would give some guidance on how they ended up pointing them at it?

The Vornheim contacts table includes some null value (“I don’t know anything about”) values, which don’t work well in Technoir. So I tweaked the table a bit and ended up with this:

Pretends they don't know anything, but tips off an interested party. (Who'll come looking and provide the lead.)
Gives them inaccurate information. (This might be intentional or it could just be an honest mistake.)
Doesn't know anything personally, but can make introductions with someone who does. (The "someone who does" might be the node rolled.)
Says they don't know anything, but seems afraid to say.
Doesn't know anything, but somebody else was asking them about the same thing.
"Maybe. What's in it for me?"
Doesn't know anything, but has a different proposition for them.
Doesn't know anything, but has a vested interest in the PCs finding the answer and will pay for it.
"Maybe. Come back tomorrow." (When the PCs come back, something has happened.)
Knows the answer to their question.


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One Response to “Thought of the Day: Technoir + Vornheim Contacts”

  1. Zeta Kai says:

    That’s a good start, but I see a couple of issues with your chart. Firstly, there’s only a one in ten chance that you will get your question answered properly, without any hassle. That will potentially alienate some players with less patience for complications. I would suggest using a d20 to roll, & everything above a 9 will yield an easy answer; that way the players have a slightly better than even chance (55%, to be pedantic) of getting what they want, while still allowing for dramatic possibilities.

    Also, the list seems to be laid out in a rough gradient, from least fortunate to most fortunate, but could be tightened considerably with some reordering. Number 6 seems a worse answer than #5, & #3 seems better than #7 or #9 (really, #7 could be potentially terrible). An order more oriented to the players’ perspective would allow the GM to grant bonuses or impose penalties to the die roll based on circumstances. For example, if the players have done something to offend the contact, undercut the contact’s usefulness, or degrade the contact’s capabilities, then the GM could force them to make the roll with a -1 or more penalty. Conversely, if the players improve the contact’s attitude, usefulness, or ability, then they could earn a +1 or more bonus to the roll.

    Lastly, if the above modifiers are used, then additional outcomes for rolls below zero could be made, nasty results such as temporarily losing that contact, permanently losing them, or even a betrayal. This should perhaps be reserved for higher stakes games, or more hardcore games where failure is more expected by the player.

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