Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Status as Pulling Rank

Social Engineering brought up some interesting points regarding Status that might be pertinent to Psi-Wars.  Action doesn't deal with status, but Action operates in a meritocratic world with a flat society, where major political figures might make a point of getting a photoshoot at McDonalds to show that they are "one of the people," while Star Wars features princesses, counts and knights.  We can make the case that Star Wars, itself, is largely meritocratic, but given the presence, already, of princesses and aristocracy in Psi-Wars, why not play out what it would look like?

My primary problem with Status in Psi-Wars is that I don't know what it would do.  Status, by itself, just sits there like a reaction modifier lump that often doesn't even act as a reaction modifier: a street punk might not care that you're a princess.  My solution thus far was to grant people a "Title" perk, which allowed them to gain a +1 from people who care about such things.

But if we want to embrace the full scope of status and what it offers, it might be worth thinking about what it offers and how we can represent that in Psi-Wars.  What I'd like to do is make it as "concrete" as Pulling Rank, making it a sort of a specific "Social Rank."  Let's see if that works!

Status as Social Rank

Status greater than 0 means you are a member of the ruling class in your culture. Your family may be hereditary nobles (e.g., Plantagenet, Windsor), successful businessmen or politicians (Rockefeller, Kennedy), or some other type of big shots  - B28
What exactly is Status?  It means you represent the elite of your society.  It suggests power.  Status is imputed via Rank and Wealth, which means high ranking and wealthy members of  society are higher in status than those who are poor or do not belong to major organizations.  This, in turn, creates influence in the sense that you think they can do more for you.  If you could persuade someone to "owe you a favor," would you rather it was your local wino, or someone like Bill Gates or Hillary Clinton?  The latter two have the wealth and power to make any favor they owe you much farther reaching, therefore, you might be more willing to do for them, in the hopes of impressing them.  The reverse is true too: You would rather offend a wino than a wealthy Secretary of State, because the latter can make your life much worse.

Rank and Wealth do not come with reaction modifiers except via imputed status.  The status, here, represents the influence one gains by being wealthy and powerful.

Ascribed status is a little trickier to discuss than imputed status.  However, the basic premise is the same: status implies power.  In an aristocracy, those with titles typically have access to powerful officials, special laws and legitimacy that those without titles simply lack.  For example, an aristocrat might be tried in a different court than a commoner, allowed into the presence of the king, and seen as a generally more worthy person.  Given a choice between having your product endorsed by a nobleman or a wealthy commoner, someone might choose a nobleman.  This might seem weird, but the same sort of thing happens in our society: People would rather see their product endorsed by a celebrity or athlete than by a wealthy-but-unknown businessmen.  The celebrity is better known and lends more legitimacy to the product than a no-name-but-powerful man.  In this sense, ascribed status doesn't reflect power so much as carry power with it: If you can claim a title and get everyone to back your claim, that title itself gives you power.

In both cases, Status represents how important you are to society as a whole.  People seek to curry favor with you because, in a broad, abstract way, you are more powerful than someone without status.  This mirrors how Action handles Rank; Rather than worry about who you directly command, it uses Pulling Rank as an abstraction of your power in an organization.  We can use Status to represent an abstraction of your power in society.

The Rules: Pulling Social Rank

In Pulling Rank, a character must have Rank 0, must be in good standing with the organization (having all appropriate disadvantages).  "Social Rank" doesn't have the latter requirements, so I'm going to suggest that you need Status 1 at a minimum to Pull Social Rank.

Pulling Rank suggests that Charisma, Reputation, appropriate skills, and Smooth Operator might all apply.  We can certainly keep this: Reputation definitely applies.  I'd also add Social Regard and Social Stigma, as a Status 3 slave is going to have a harder time Pulling Social Rank.  I'd add use Savoir-Faire instead of Administration as your skill roll, not just because a more polite request is going to get what you want, but Savoir-Faire also includes knowing what you can get away with, meaning you're less likely to even make a request that wouldn't be granted (the same reasoning behind Administration acting as a complementary roll).

What's the roll for Pulling Social Rank?  There might be as many as ten levels of status (with the Emperor being at the top), which suggests, if we kept it in line with our organization rules, treating it as a 30-point patron, but I'm going to suggest treating social status as a 20-point patron.  That makes it slightly worse than standard Pulling Rank from Action 1, but is consistent with a "standard organization" for Psi-Wars.  It also makes lower levels of status more immediately useful.

Thus, Status 1 succeeds on a 3 or less, Status 2 on a 5 or less, and so on.

What can Pulling Social Rank get you?  Anything the GM thinks is reasonable, but typically Social Privilege.  That is, people are more willing to work for you (Hireling), invite you to major social affairs, or offer introductions to other VIPs.   You might make the case for special legal benefits (Bailout), and higher levels of trust (Cash, Information and Funding), but I would argue that these are generally gained via other avenues. That is, society doesn't say "What?  A princess in prison?  Get her out!" or "Sure, you're a duke, so can have lots of money!"  Instead, when making Pulling Rank rolls using your actual rank, or when trying to do something where your position might add a bonus, consider treating your request as a complementary roll.  Critical success is worth +4, Success is +2, Failure is -1, and Critical Failure is -2.

Status still behaves like a social modifier under specific circumstances determined by the GM, typically the difference between status levels under conditions where that matters (A powerful princess barging in on a king is going to be less badly treated than a peasant doing the same).  A character can only benefit from either his reaction modifier or the complementary modifier, not both.

Lower Status?

I don't see a need for additional penalties or problems associated with lower status beyond what they already impose.  The reaction modifier and being unable to access Pulling Social Rank is sufficient.

Gaining Status

For Psi-Wars, I would use Imputed Status as a standard.  That is, apply all the normal rules for Wealth and Rank (provided the rank can reasonably grant Status: being a mob boss probably won't get you invited to the Cotillion Ball) to a maximum of +6 like normal.

The Title perk allows someone access to ascribed status, which costs the usual 5/level.  We'll treat it as 4 simple levels:
  • For lesser nobles (Lords, Ladies, Knights, minor titles like "Baronet"), gain +1 status.
  • For greater nobles (Barons, Counts, Viscounts, Marquis, etc), gain +2 status.
  • For royal nobles (Prince, princess, duke), gain +3 status.
  • For ruling nobles (Kings, Emperors, archdukes), gain +4 status.

Character Considerations

Status only really matters for two backgrounds: Aristocrat and Outcast.

Aristocrat 20 points

You have a title. You either descend from noble blood, or you have been lifted up to the position of noble as a reward for your heroic deeds. You have a minimum title of something similar to Lord, Lady or Knight.

Advantages: Title [1] and Status +1 [5], Wealth (Comfortable) [10]

Skills: Savoir-Faire (E) IQ [1]

Additional Skills: Choose another 8 points from Carousing (E) HT [2], Connoisseur (Any), Leadership, Politics or Public Speaking all (A) IQ [2], Current Affairs (High Culture, Politics) (E) IQ+1 [2] Law (Galactic) (H) IQ-1 [2], or Dancing (A) DX [2], or improve Savoir-Faire to IQ+1 [2] for +1 point, or improve any lens skill by one level for 2 points; or improve any lens skill by two levels for 6 points.

Social Traits: You may also spend any left over points, or your template advantage points on Contact (Wealthy friend, fellow noble, politican, skill 12, 15 or 8, 9 or less, somewhat reliable) [1, 2 or 3], Contact Group (Politicians or Nobles) (Skill 12, 15 or 18, 9 or less) [5, 10, 15), Fashion Sense [5], Favor [varies], Haughty Sneer [1], High Heeled Heroine [1], Honest Face [1], Sartorial Integrity [1], improve Status up to +4 [5/level] or gain additional Wealth [varies].

Optional Disadvantages: Add the following disadvantage options to your template: Bully [-10*], Callous [-5], Jealousy [-10], Overconfidence [-5*], Selfish [-5*], Unfit or Very Unfit [-5 or -10].

Outcast 20 points

Because of bad life choices, your race, or your poverty, you struggle to survive on the edges of galactic society.
Skills: Streetwise (A) IQ [2].

Additional Skills: Another 18 points chosen from Beam Weapons (Pistol), Brawling or Knife all (E) DX+1 [2], Filch (A) DX [2], Pickpocket (H) DX-1 [2], Area Knowledge (Planet or important starport) or Savoir-Faire (Mafia) both (E) IQ+1 [2], Gambling, Holdout or Smuggling all (A) IQ [2], Carousing (E) HT+1 [2], Running (A) HT [2], Scrounging (E) Per+1 [2], Observation or Urban Survival both (A) Per [2], or Intimidation (A) Will [2]; 2 more points in any lens skill to raise it by one level; or 6 more points to raise it by two.

Additional Traits: You may spend any leftover points, or template advantage points on Contact (Fence, Fixer, Smuggler, trusted friend etc; Appropriate skill at 12, 15 or 18, 9 or less, somewhat reliable) [1, 2 or 3], or Contact Group (Gang, pirates, minority clan, skill-12, 15 or 18, 9 or less, somewhat reliable) [5, 10 or 15], Cultural Familiarity (Native to Homeworld or minority), Language (Native to homeworld or minority) [2-6], or Street Smart [5/level]

Disadvantages: You must take a minimum of -5 points worth of following disadvantages as part of your -50 points: Social Stigma (Criminal, Second-Class Citizen or Minority) [-5 to -10] or Status -1 to -2 [-5 to -10]. You may add the following disadvantages to your template disadvantages: Greed [-15*], Obsession (Regain former standing) [-5], Sense of Duty (Your minority) [-10] and Wealth (Struggling or Poor) [-10 or -15].

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