Shifting Sands

Player Guide


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.

Obtaining Influence

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:

  1. When an Attribute is raised to level 3, the character earns 1 Influence per session for it. The type of Influence earned must be decided on when the Attribute is raised to level 3, and the player must have a rationale for why that Attribute gives them that particular type of influence.
  2. When an Attribute is raised to level 4, an additional Influence is awarded. It may or may not be the same type of influence that raising that Attribute to level 3 earned them.
  3. When an Attribute is raised to level 5 a third influence point per session is earned. Again, it can be of any type that the player can rationalize could be earned by having that Attribute.
  4. Character Attributes may not be raised beyond level five, so no more influence points may be earned in this way. (I.e. a character can only generate up to three levels of influence through the advancement of a particular Attribute.)
  5. Characters may not earn more than three levels of any particular type of influence through Attribute advancement, even by using a combination of different Attributes.

Completing Story Goals/Subplots/Chapters:

  1. Subplots are story milestones that the player and the GMs have agreed are significant enough that, if achieved, should incur an additional point of a particular type of influence on an ongoing basis.
  2. Subplot awards should be agreed upon before completion of the goal. Only in unusual circumstances will any influence be awarded ad hoc.
  3. Subplots are expected to take multiple sessions to complete. The goals will become harder to achieve the higher the level of influence to be obtained is. In other words, gaining the first point of British political influence may be a simple matter of doing a few favors or bribing a few officials, but if the character already has 2 points of this type of influence, earning the third will require several different machinations, will necessarily involve other characters, and will take a considerable period of time.
  4. A character can earn no more than five levels of a given specific type of influence through any combination of sources. So you could earn two levels of British political influence by taking Member of Parliament at level 4 as your current Occupation, earn a third by taking Military Attache at 3 as a previous Occupation, and then complete two subplots to get your fourth and fifth levels of British political influence, but no more influence of this particular type can be earned. Clearly it's time to start working on German political influence!
  5. Some examples of Subplots might be:
    1. Building a colony
    2. Establishing a trade route
    3. Negotiating a treaty
    4. Exploring a previously unreachable area
    5. Productionalizing a revolutionary invention
    6. Arranging a marriage

Entertainments at the Salon:

  1. Providing entertainment for a Salon provides a point of temporary Influence (usually High Society or Science); at the next session you will receive an Influence card usable only for that session. It does not carry over to later sessions and it does not provide an additional point of influence on an ongoing basis.
  2. If an artist or other character is attending a Salon at the behest of their patron, and the patron has the artist provide an entertainment, then the patron gets the temporary influence, not the artist.
  3. Note: In order to receive the Influence point, the presentation does actually have to go off reasonably well. If a fight breaks out in the middle of your recital and ends in a duel, no Influence for you!
  4. Some examples of entertainments that qualify (i.e. pretty much any organized activity open to the assembly):
    1. Performing a piece of music or having someone perform your latest composition
    2. Reading a poem or the latest chapter from your upcoming novel
    3. Displaying your artwork and giving a short presentation about it
    4. Presenting the results of your latest expedition
    5. Organizing a scientific symposium on a particular topic
    6. Presenting the results of your latest research
    7. Demonstrating your latest invention

Spending Influence

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.



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