Thursday, 19 July 2007

Pentasystem: Influence

Here's an expansion of something I talked about in my last post. It's strongly inspired by an idea in the version I saw of Tony Dowling's Mathematica (now retitled Principia: Secret Wars of the Renaissance). Tony has a thing - I forget whether it's an ability or a Secret, I think a Secret - called rank (and a parallel thing called wealth) which is about a character's position in society. I was going to call mine Scale, but I've already used that term; I think I'll call it Influence for now.

(Fair warning, by the way: the terminology of the Pentasystem, and the names of a good many things in Underground Railroad, are likely to change. For example, the game Sufficiently Advanced, which is coming out soon, has something called Twists which are completely different from my Twists. I'll probably rename Twists as something like Rollups and Rolldowns - generically, Rerolls, which is what they are. As for UR, the onomastics are totally screwed up and suffer from incipient Bad Fantasy Name Syndrome. I need to sit down and figure out how little work I can do and still create believable languages as background.)

So, Influence. Like everything else, it's rated on a 5-point scale and is an attribute. However, you can specifically have Influence of 0. This happens if you're a peasant, a salaryman, a serf, a rank-and-file, a private soldier, a proletarian or otherwise on the bottom of the food chain. As an individual, you have 0 influence; your voice will not be heard, except maybe, hopefully, by people of influence 1 whom you know.

Influence 1 means you don't have a recognized official leadership position in the prevailing hierarchy, but you have some local influence as a person of good standing - a prosperous peasant, a lawyer, a minister, a valued employee (perhaps a supervisor, but not necessarily) - someone generally who has some wealth and knows how to talk and will know people with influence 2. In the Army, you're an NCO. (OK, that's official leadership; some hierarchies are more official than others.) In the Church, you're a vestryman or something.

Influence 2 means you do have a recognized position at the local level - you're the mayor, line manager or what-have-you. You know people who have influence 1; you are willing, generally, to meet with people of influence 0, though you may dismiss their concerns quite lightly; and you know people of influence 3. You're a lieutenant, maybe a captain, in the Army. In the Church, you're a local priest.

Influence 3 means you have some kind of regional significance inside the hierarchy or are a minor celebrity outside it. You know people of influence 4 (you can kind of see a trend developing here, yes? In general, people know people with one more or one less rank of influence; they are generally willing to talk to people with two ranks less, and can get to see people two ranks higher by special arrangement, usually through a person of the intervening rank). You're a major or a colonel in the Army. In the Church, you're a bishop.

Influence 4, you have national significance; anyone in the country who knows the names of people who are important knows your name. You have direct access to the highest level of influence. You're a cabinet minister, a general, a major celebrity, a captain of industry in the Bill Gates or Richard Branson kind of class, a vice-president if we're talking about a corporation, a Cardinal if we're talking about the Roman Catholic Church. Because, of course, Influence is not just an on-off kind of thing; you may be at the top of one pyramid (Bill Gates, influence 5 if we're talking about Microsoft) but only partway up another, and still further down a third. A general is Influence 4 nationally, but Influence 5 in the Army, where a brigadier is Influence 4.

Influence 5, obviously, is where you don't have a boss, you are the boss. Again, this may be limited to a specific context. It also doesn't mean that you're not accountable to a Board or Cabinet or College of Cardinals or whatever. But the buck stops with you.

On the Board/Cabinet thing, in fact, a general principle of influence is that a group of people who are at the same level has influence one level higher as a group than they do as individuals. So a mob of peasants has Influence 1, a deputation of respectable citizens Influence 2, a regional mayors' conference Influence 3, and so forth.

The mechanical implication of Influence is that you command a certain quantity of resources. I haven't worked out the exact details yet, but my starting point is that you command a certain number of people one level down, who in turn each command a number of people at the next level, and so forth, and their resources are, theoretically, your resources (inasmuch as they fall within the context of the hierarchy in which you have the influence). These levels also insulate you from people more than two levels below you, as a rule, though you may sometimes deign to speak with a peasant if you are a king, or a line worker if you are a CEO. You're unlikely to pay much attention to what they say, though, if you let them say anything at all.

Concretely, if you're a king, you may in theory command the whole country, but in practice in a given situation you may only have a squad of the royal guard with you. I need to work on the whole scaling thing, but that's the principle: the more influence, the more resources, other things being equal.

Also, and this is the important bit, if the main characters can get to you and win a conflict against you, they can get you to use your influence to change things towards the way they want them. You can't change the law of the land by winning a conflict with a peasant, only with the King (or the Royal Council, perhaps). You can get local things done by winning a conflict with an Influence 2 person, regional things with an Influence 3 person, and so forth.

Such, at least, is the principle.

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