During the salon sessions, influence is represented by roleplaying, forming relationships, and being personally engaging. THIS IS THE CORE OF THE GAME. This is where the fun is. Please do everything you can to keep the action on stage as much as possible. But eventually there will be situations where you want to affect something in the world outside the salon setting, and for that you need Influence.
[Ed. note: If you just looked at the number of words we wrote about roleplaying vs. mechanics, you might get the mistaken idea that the mechanics are far more important than the roleplaying, but this could not be further from the truth. The mechanics are here to help embellish and enrich the roleplaying; unfortunately, it takes a lot of words to explain the mechanics. The relationships you form are still your most important activity. ]
Influences are a broad measure of the weight your character can throw around in a particular arena. The Influence system is intended to reflect the movement of power and money from a high-level perspective and encourage interaction, as you find and build relationships with people who can help each other to wield the types of influence they need to accomplish whatever they are trying to accomplish outside the Salon, without getting bogged down in intricate details and numbers. It is not intended to micromanage finances or act as a substitute for roleplaying. Do the roleplaying first and pass the cards afterwards when it is time to send a message via the Heliograph Office to take the action.
Important note: To this end, Influence cards never have any direct affect on player action. They are not special abilities. You cannot go wave a bunch of Influence at someone and force them to do your bidding. The physical cards do not exist in game. That said, having all that Influence does indicate that you have the ear of important people, and they would probably do well to at least hear you out.
Influence cards are spent to achieve objectives between sessions, and are intended to provide evidence of actions taken and people persuaded. Tell a GM what you want to do and they will give you an answer on the amount and types of influence that will be needed. The intent is that you will need to make contacts and build relationships with other characters who hold the sway you need. Your task is to convince people to lend their support to your cause through roleplaying.
All Influences are based in a specific nationality, colony, faction, or scientific pursuit and have a specific type (for example, British High Society or Belgian Finance). Influence is most useful in the community they represent. Attempts to use Influences in other communities happen at an increased cost of 2 more Influence than normally necessary. Thus it might take 5 British High Society Influence to squash unflattering gossip in Germany (reflecting the incestuous nature of European politics), whereas with German High Society Influence you could do it with three. Note: Influence from one community may not be used in another community they are at war with. Thus if France and Belgium go to war, French Influences cannot be used to affect Belgian activities.
Influence cards may be exchanged freely between characters, but they may not be stored or banked. You will get new ones each session and the old ones will be worthless. If you want to accomplish something that requires more influence than you have available you will have to either involve more characters (which is preferred and the point of the exercise), or work on the objective incrementally, spending Influence a little at a time to complete intermediary steps towards the long term goal.
Also note that with few exceptions, Influence is NOT anonymous. Each card can be tracked back to the character it was originally issued to, and unless additional Influence is spent to ensure privacy, it is conceivable that the Press may get hold of this information at some point. So be careful about to whom you give your influence and which projects you support. Your good name is a valuable commodity, and scandal has consequences.
Note that money in this campaign is just another form of Influence, and it is generated by the character's Wealth rating. It is assumed that the characters are generally well-off enough that small sums are not worth worrying about. We will not be tracking bank accounts, and you may assume that your character has an appropriate amount of money for their position. But unless you are earning Monetary Influence you don't have any extra to throw around for significant bribes or projects.
Influence can be earned in three ways: By spending Character Points to raise Attributes, by completing SubPlots, and by producing Entertainments at a Salon:
Spending character points:
Completing Story Goals/Subplots/Chapters:
Entertainments at the Salon:
Influence is spent by turning the cards into a GM along with a description of what the Influence is being used to do, written in the form of an in-character telegram or letter to an NPC. Influence may not be stored between sessions, but since many projects will require more influence than anyone can generate at once, Influence can be spent in working towards an objective over time. So for example, if you want to start a new business enterprise and it is determined that this will require 3 Finance and 2 Industry Influence and you and your cohorts only have access to 2 Finance, you can spend the two you have in the first session "arranging the loans" and then complete the project in the second session by spending the third Finance and the 2 Industry Influence.
See the Heliograph Office for details on submitting Influence actions.