"HumInt" or NPC Asset Creation Rules

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Leodiensian Leodiensian's picture
"HumInt" or NPC Asset Creation Rules

With the release of Firewall, I began thinking about some of the realities of playing Proxies as opposed to Sentinels. Something that occurred to me was that Sentinels, being part-time agents often tapped on an as-needed basis, would not always be active compared to "always-on" Proxies. In terms of meshing the game narrative with the realities of play (or at least with how my players are) it made more sense for me to have Proxies as player characters and Sentinels as assets they could tap to make up for gaps in their skill set or get places they can't go themselves.

With that in mind, I drafted up some house rules for the players, as Proxies, to create a network of Sentinels or other Firewall-friendlies and general assets to have at hand. I refer to them, both the NPCs and the rules regarding their creation, as HumInt ("human intelligence").

Please, provide feedback on them and, of course, use them if you like them!

HumInt: Feet On The Ground

The tech may have gotten more advanced but the basics have not changed; a covert operative's greatest asset is their network. Informants, fellow agents, unwitting patsies, moles in rival organizations; these are the individual strands of a web at the center of which squats the agent, the spider feeling for vibrations. A master spy could topple governments all without firing a shot. Through their allies they can learn the comings and goings of powerful individuals, gather blackmail material or organize assassinations.

These rules are written under the assumption that the characters are playing Proxies or equivalent-level members of similar organizations such as Project Ozma, Oversight or the Titanian Fleet Intelligence. They are optional but recommended for characters with at least one reputation and Networking score of over 60 each.

At character creation, an agent can invest points of their reputation for a relevant network to establish pre-existing relationships with an NPC character. For example, @-rep can be used to create relationships with a Barsoomian or Scum, but not a Jovian; f-rep could be used to know a media personality but not a scientist.

Establishing new relationships can be done in-play; these should be roleplayed to some degree and in general should be slower, perhaps even taking whole sessions to form depending on the intensity and value of the relationship. Identifying, grooming and recruiting intelligence assets is not a fast process; it should involve at least some footwork to establish their basics aspects, a more detailed evaluation to test their capabilities and personality and then a final recruitment to seal the deal.

Rep invested in a HumInt asset is spent permanently, even if the asset is killed, captured or otherwise taken out of play. This is for balance reasons; the ability to create NPCs who act in your stead is both tactically extremely powerful and affords a great deal of narrative control to the player and should be expensive. The GM has approval over the creation of HumInt assets; they might stipulate complications or strings attached to them, or even outright refuse assets if they feel the player is abusing their rep or that the creation of that specific asset might provide too much of an "easy out" to a situation.

Once created, a HumInt asset can be tapped once per session for favours and information without needing to roll Networking or spending rep. The agent simply has to make the request and the HumInt will attempt the mission. Note that this is not a guaranteed success, simply that they will make the effort. Failure might well occur, which could endanger or even kill the HumInt, so it is not advised to throw them into the meat-grinder. One HumInt does not have access to everything in their entire field; if the GM feels the player is abusing their HumInt asset, they should take appropriate corrective action.

Each HumInt asset must have at least 1 point in each of the following qualities: Bond, Access, Talent, Resources. Each category scales from 1 to 5. Buying a level in a category costs rep equal to that level; buying the first level costs 1 rep, buying the second costs 2 etc. Thus each HumInt asset costs somewhere between 4 (1 for all) and 60 rep (5 for all).

Bond represents the nature and intensity of the relationship between the HumInt asset and the PC agent. This bond might be professional, personal, even romantic. Put simply, the higher the Bond the more the HumInt is willing to do for the PC agent without requiring payment or rep. They will be able to do higher-level favours but will require some form of justification or compensation for doing so; asking too much of them should have consequences..

  • 1: Casual Acquaintance: The HumInt has agreed to do small favours for the agent but has no great investment in their well-being; they will not be great friends or relatives and are unlikely to be full members of the same organization. At this level, they will do 1-rep favors with no questions asked.

  • 2. Fellow Traveler: The HumInt has some degree of affection or loyalty towards the agent or their cause; they might have some off-the-job contact or belong to the same interest groups. At this level, they will do favours up to level 2 with no questions asked.

  • 3. Sworn In: The HumInt might be a relative, romantic partner or fellow agent; they have strong interest in the well-being of the agent. They will do favours up to level 3 no questions asked.

  • 4. Loyalist: The HumInt might be a sibling, spouse or a former partner-in-crime of the agent and are willing to do almost anything for them. They will do favors up to level 4 no questions asked.

  • 5. Fanatic: At this level, the HumInt would be willing to do anything for the agent. They might be a blood-brother, a die-hard believer in the same cause or a soul-mate. They will do any favour no questions asked.

Access represents where the HumInt is positioned that might make them somehow desirable to a PC agent. Generally speaking, it represents the employment but might also represent membership in certain anarchist collectives, crime syndicates or other institutions. This serves two purposes. First, it gives the HumInt some of their skills. Second and more importantly, it provides the player with a source of information and a way to open certain doors. Put simply, the more points in Access, the higher places your friends are in. But remember, a Cognite executive is not necessarily going to be able to know about the inner workings of Xperia...

  • 1. Drone: A low-level position in a small-to-moderate level institution. This might be an indentured corp employee, a street thug a or a script-kiddie hacker. They will have a Profession skill at 40 and one other at 30. They can provide some basic insider information but nothing classified or sensitive, such as office chatter or the next day's orders.

  • 2. Line Manager: An established position in their institution. This might be a mob lieutenant, a moderately respected scientist or a Direct Action squad leader. They will have a Profession skill at 40 and one other at 40. They will have access to some moderately sensitive information such as the location to a small drophouse.

  • 3. Middle Management: A respected person in their institution, occupying a fairly secure position. This might be a junior executive, a notable hacktivist or a media darling. They will have a Profession at 50 and one other at 50. They will have access to some classified intel such as the secret drug habit of a minor politician.

  • 4. Major Domo: Someone in a quite high position within their organization, in a position of some authority or respect. They might be a mob under-boss, the head of a department at TAU or a senior Oversight auditor. They will have a Profession at 60 and one others at 60. They will have access to highly classified intel such as the location of an oligarch's private hab.

  • 5. Beating Heart: Though not a faction head, they are extremely well-placed within that faction. They might be the head of a hypercorp research facility, the most respected member of a certain Scum Swarm or (with GM permission) placed within Project Ozma. They will have a Profession at 70 and one other at 70. They will have access to top-secret intelligence such as the details of ongoing weapons R&D.

Talent represents some extra-curricular skills and abilities the HumInt asset has that might make them useful to an agent. These are practical skills, whereas Access is more social; what they DO versus who they ARE. They also help serve flesh them out more as a character. A HumInt asset might be a hired gun, a data analyst or have some extremely niche knowledge. If your team doesn't have a bomb disposal expert, sometimes it's useful to know one.

  • 1. Dabbler: The HumInt has a fairly normal level of knowledge or skills. This is the man in the crowd, the average student and GED. They have two skills at 30.

  • 2. Hobbyist: The HumInt has developed their skillset slightly beyond the normal means. They might have been raised bilingual or spend their weekends at the shooting range. They have one skill at 40 and two at 30.

  • 3. Expert: The HumInt has some niche knowledge or a well-developed skillset. They might be an otaku, a trained technician or grad student. They have one skill at 50, with a specialty, and two skills at 40.

  • 4. Specialist: The HumInt is highly capable and skilled in their chosen field. They might be a professor, a seasoned veteran or a professional athlete. They have two skills at 60, each with a specialty, and two skills at 40.

  • 5. Polymath: The HumInt is truly exceptional and can hold court on a wide array of topics. They might be a renowned expert in their field of research, a high-rep Argonaut or an Ultimate Exemplar. They have three skills at 60, each with a specialty, at two at 50.

Resources represent the HumInt's material wealth, what physical gear or assets they can offer to the mission. This also includes their morph with any bioware or cyberware, and how much liquid asset they might be tapped for at any given time. Bear in mind that this represents how much the HumInt asset has to spare rather than their entire worldly fortune; it is assumed they have enough to meet their day to day needs. Still, sometimes you need someone with a safehouse, some untraceable funds or guns with the serial numbers filed off..

  • 1. Borderline: The HumInt has enough to get by in their society but not much room for luxury. They probably live in cramped conditions with barely enough room for themselves, let alone other people; they may even be homeless. They have an unaugmented morph - probably a Case or Flat - and can be squeezed for up to 500 credits. They might be indentures, low level criminals or Titanian reboots.

  • 2. Comfortable: The HumInt lives moderately well. They can afford small upgrades to their morph - which is probably a Splicer or Exalt - and could conceivably have room to house one or two others in their accommodation. They might be squeezed for up to the equivalent of 2000 credits before they encounter difficulties. Hypercorp employees, small Extropian operations or individual Scum might be at this level.

  • 3. Affluent: Before the Fall, someone like this would have lived in the walled-off sectors; they have far more than they need and probably have extensive mods on their morph - perhaps a Sylph or Fury. They could be tapped for the equivalent of up to 10K credits of disposable income and goods. Hyperelite scions and the glitterati or lauded members of an anarchist collective might have this level of Resources to spare.

  • 4. Privileged: Someone like this probably was born with a silver spoon in their mouths and have more than enough for a dozen lifetimes. Their morphs might be anything and are likely highly customized. They can be tapped for up to 25K credits in goods or services or have some other significant holding the agent can make use of, such as a private lab. Titanian Ministers, Lunar bankers or veteran gatecrashers might have this level of resources.

  • 5. Obscene: People like this are few and far between; they might have been born into an oligarch's dynasty or have bootstrapped themselves up to being richer than God. They likely have unique morphs made by famed designers. They can be tapped for up to 50K credits in goods and services and have extensive holdings the agent might call on. For this reason, the GM should be careful about permitting a Resources 5 HumInt asset without good reason or no strings attached. People with this level of resources are mostly immortal Inner System oligarchs, though a few notable autonomists might ave enough sway to command the equivalent in rep.

Putting that all together with an example: in one game we had an NPC named Hadrian Nguyen, a morph designer. He was a wealthy man, having secured patents on a few key elements in the morph manufacturing process that made him independently wealthy through royalties alone (Resources 4). He was mostly withdrawn from day-to-day life as his avant-garde designs had fallen out of favour following the Fall (Access 2) though he was still an extremely skilled scientist and designer (Talent 5). Mostly he kept to himself in his private hab on Mars and dabbled with different aspects of morph design and manufacture and collaborated with a player character mostly out of immortal boredom (Bond 2): they always brought him the most interesting cases!

Personally, I recommend noting the basics of the HumInt (name, qualities, any important notes etc) on a small flashcard; when the asset is tapped on the mission, flip the card face-down to reflect that it has been used. If the GM is generous, the HumInt can be tapped a second time, but this should somehow endanger their position. The second time they are used in a session, remove the card from the table entirely. Between sessions, the GM should think up a potential consequence for the HumInt being overexposed. Perhaps they lose assets or their organization does not trust them as much any more; this might be represented by reducing one of their qualities. Alternatively, they might come under attack for supporting the wrong team. Rescuing a valuable asset could make for an exciting mission!

mellonbread mellonbread's picture
Looks pretty good. I'd

Looks pretty good. I'd consider a rule for some kind of reciprocity. If you squeeze a guy for his last 500 credits it's reasonable to expect he'll ask you to pull some strings when the collections agency comes to repossess his morph.

Did you hear the one about the guy who became a fence?

Spoiler: Highlight to view
They say he was a real posthuman
ThatWhichNeverWas ThatWhichNeverWas's picture
Good for keeping track of allies in any game.

Not bad at all, even for non-proxy games as a replacement/expansion of the Allies and Patron traits.
My only issue is that that the costs seem too low; a single no-questions-asked level 2 favor is worth more than two level 1 favors.
I suggest increase them to be equal to the rank, so a having a quality of rank 5 would cost (1+2+3+4+5) = 15 cp, rather than 5.

In the past we've had to compensate for weaknesses, finding quick solutions that only benefit a few.
But what if we never need to feel weak or morally conflicted again?

Leodiensian Leodiensian's picture
Great Feedback

Thanks for the responses, guys.

@mellonbread: I feel that sort of thing is so situational that it might be worth leaving up to GMs to decide on a case by case basis.

@ThatWhichNeverWas: I did umm and err over costing - how expensive was too much? How cheap was abusable? I didn't want it too expensive, to encourage having multiple HumInt assets (an actual network rather than "this one guy Steve I know"). I think you hit the nail on the head with that pricing suggestion. A real nice middle ground.

Leodiensian Leodiensian's picture
Sample HumInt assets

What follows are some example NPCs that an agent might wish to call upon. They have varying purposes and levels. Tweak them as you wish - for instance, the sample Watcher is modeled after the homeless (and amateur) informants of Sherlock Holmes but if you wanted a more dedicated and professional data-gatherer then pump more rep into it. The sample Analyst specializes in media and memes but could easily be repurposed to be a computer specialist, a chemical analyst..

Analyst (22 Rep)
Trawling through data and identifying patterns - or irregularities in patterns - can be key in a mission being successful or not. The Analyst is someone with a pattern- and detail-oriented mind who can be called upon to make sense of data that the agents cannot decipher on their own. They might be financial AGIs, argonaut researchers or Bright savants. They are not field-trained and probably not part of the conspiracy and their main asset is their mind.
This sample Analyst is an Xperia media producer who studies the mesh to identify cultural trends.
Bond: 2 (Level 2 favours)
Access: 2 (Academics: Cultural Theory 40 and Profession: Memeticist 40; Xperia intel)
Talent: 4 (Research 40, Profession: Data Analyst 60 (Pattern Recognition), Profession: Media Tech 60, Interfacing 40 (Scanning))
Resources: 3 (Assets: Analysis suite, Menton morph)

Bagman (29 rep)
No matter the conspiracy, it all unravels the same way - following the money. Clandestine operations depend on black budgets and sources of anonymous funding. Bagmen are financial sources tapped to get a flow of untraceable funds, through privileged positions in economic, commercial or financial institutions - or the criminal underworld.
This sample Bagman is an LLA financier.
Bond: 3 (Level 3 favours)
Access: 4 (Profession: Investment Banker 60, Academics: Economics 60; sensitive intel on LLA financial industry)
Talent: 2 (Profession: Black Marketeer 40, Interest: LLA Banking 30)
Resources: 4 (25K creds; assets: anonymous accounts, Exalt morph)

Cleaner (25 rep)
Cleaners remove evidence, scrubbing up inconvenient data trails or bloodstains. They're useful in keeping secret organizations secret and black ops black. Cleaners could be anyone but naturally they work best when they are just as inconspicuous as the agents themselves. A cleaner might be a forensic technician, an anarchist hacker or a campaign manager handling political scandals.
This sample Cleaner is a Barsoomian hacktivist.
Bond 4 (Level 4 favors)
Access 2 (Infiltration 40, Profession: Hacktivism 40)
Talent 3 (Infosec: 50 (Systems Purging), Interfacing 40, Impersonation 40)
Resources 3 (Assets: Anonymous accounts, burner programs; Ruster morph)

Mule (24 Rep)
Mules work by getting something sensitive from A to B without it being detected; they might be drug smugglers, couriers or logistical network managers. They are especially useful if the agents fear they themselves are going to come under scrutiny; the Mule can take sensitive intel and objects to keep them out of hostile hands. They also make good people-smugglers and might, in a pinch, be used for transportation and infiltration services.
The sample Mule is an Olympus Infrastructure Authority engineer.
Bond 3 (Level 3 favors)
Access 3 (Profession: Smuggling Tricks 50, Academics: Engineering; OIA transportation schedules)
Talent 3 (Interfacing 50 (Stealthing), Palming 40, Deception 40)
Resources 3 (10K creds, Menton morph; access to Olympus space elevator)

Watcher (11 Rep)
Put simply, the more eyes you can put on a problem the better. Watchers are information-gatherers who serve as whisperers, gossipers and surveillance operatives. They may operate in meatspace, physically staking out their quarry, or use the copious information available to them through the mesh to learn all they can. They might be private detectives, stalkers or social chameleons.
The sample Watcher is "down-and-out" on the streets on Noctis.
Bond 2 (Level 2 favors)
Access 1 (Profession: Panhandling 40, Protocol 30)
Talent 3 (Infiltration 50 (Blending In), Kinesics 40, Interest: Local Gossip 40)
Resources 1 (500 creds; Case morph)

uwtartarus uwtartarus's picture
Having just seen "A Most

Having just seen "A Most Wanted Man" (2014) makes this thread all the more relevant to my game plans. Really awesome stuff!

Exhuman, and Humanitarian.

Leodiensian Leodiensian's picture
Thanks

Glad you like it, uwtartarus! If you do end up using it in game, let us know how your players "creatively exploited" the rules, any cracks you find etc. Or any assets they create!

Sandras Prime Sandras Prime's picture
As one of uwtartarus' players

As one of uwtartarus' players I tend to play Logistics and Face characters. I look at this and really like it as a way of perhaps fleshing out traits like Personal Connection, Allies, and Blacklist. As a form of human resources it's probably a bit overpowered without noticeable GM curbing. The trick to this is twofold: there is no network/rep test to garner the favor, and it's crazy cheap given it's potential power. I frequently throw 30 CP into rep if I'm playing a social character. Throwing another 20 in to make sure I get a cadre of exceptional contacts isn't a sacrifice especially if they are usable once per session.

Addressing the ease of use, I would probably still call for a Networking test to get a hold of them, see if they pick up your call, are free, etc. I'd bump it a level or two easier since it is intended to be used for sub-sentinels but I've played where the players turn off their mesh due to carousing and shenanigans. I agree with the no rep cost for favors because you're effectively buying assets.

Secondly, I would suggest maybe sourcing the cost as 1/3/5/7/9 (or level squared). Ultimately 25 rep per field (100 total), this slows it down a bit and means that if you're going to start with an army of go-fers you're having to start lower. I see the cost for a 'maxed' NPC (effectively a Zealot Batman in your pocket) as 6CP under your costs. That's a steal considering Personal Connections and Allies are far more expensive (15 and 30 respectively) and quite probably inferior overall. The risk of losing assets is comparable to getting into the shit with Allies or PC qualities in that if you abuse your connections you're likely going to lose them.

I could see using a random generation to build up NPCs quickly if we wanted some throw away people and then use a more selected approach for the group to build a dossier on and set up for grooming long term candidates. All told I'm really looking forward to playing with this and seeing how it works in practice. It should give us (even though we're sentinels ourselves) some tools for patsies and cutouts that are quick and easy to stat up.

Leodiensian Leodiensian's picture
I've decided to give these a

I've decided to give these a whirl at the table, trying to get a game together with these, running a game probably set around Lunar space.

eaton eaton's picture
Not sure if anyone's

Not sure if anyone's interested, but I liked these rules enough to print up a handout for my players and give them the option as they develop their characters.

PDF version for the curious: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/6677/humint-rules.pdf