Thursday, April 17, 2014

A Guide for the Social Climbing Traveller

     A character I rolled up, a while back, who we will call Max served honorably in the Army and mustered out as a Major after a long service. When he went home, though, he found that his rank and service did not matter and everyone still treated him as his social standing of 3 deserved. So he decided that he wanted to move up in the world. Now, how does he make that happen?

    As there are no rules statements at all in the experience section of LBB3/TTB concerning Social Standing [SOC], I assume that the writers had one of two intentions:
  1. No character's SOC would ever change outside of character generation.
  2. SOC change was not quantifiable and had to be handled all within the setting of the game.
  I prefer answer 2, as this means that a character has to interact with the setting in a way that is meaningful within the setting, and thus, is going to tell a story. 

    The player and the referee should work together to plan out how the character will go about gaining the upward mobility. The referee will then have foreknowledge of the character's plan, and can decide how the society will respond to the rising star. The referee should determine how successful the character's endeavors are at improving their image, but keep it subjective rather than tie it to die rolls or number of 'x' actions performed. Public opinion is a fickle thing, and the referee should allow it to fluctuate at least a little. Any number of adventures could go into the pursuit of improving SOC, but it would be easy to let this drag out too long and have player frustration set in.

    Here are some ideas for approaches to the quest for upward mobility. John over at The Wandering Gamist blog had this to say about improving SOC (while he was talking about using Traveller as a fantasy rules set):  “Caught red-handed and branded an outlaw? Set Soc to 2. Slay the dragon, save the kingdom, and enjoy the accolades of the people? +1 or +2 Soc. Gain a noble title and lands, or become the archbishop or archmage? Set Soc to 10ish. Marry the princess? Set Soc to 12.” 

    Like it or not, SOC is often tied to money. So massive capital gains would be one route towards upwards mobility. This will probably require cash in the mega-credits range. The list of possible means of acquiring large amounts of wealth is too long to attempt. Referees who want to make a social climbing campaign last a little longer have only to make some of that cash go 'poof', but don't over-do it or the players will get frustrated.  Property ownership whether by conquest, purchase or land grant should be another component of the plan. In the movie Operation Petticoat with Tony Curtis and Cary Grant (a very fun film, by the way), Curtis' character explains how one goes about gaining wealth (and therefore SOC):  by inheriting it, or by marrying it. If the Duke is willing to offer marriage into the family if the PC will perform mission X, then that's a fast-track way to improving SOC. 

     Finally, the character must have a positive public reputation. This is probably the hardest one to pull off, and the one most likely to fluctuate. Depending on the stratification of the society your character is trying to break into, gaining a positive public opinion may be limited to just persuading the reigning aristocracy, or it could be an appeal to the masses. Once the character is in the public eye, anything can and should influence the public's opinion. Maybe the referee should attempt to quantify this public opinion, but I leave that to the referee to decide. In any event, the character now has to take public opinion into account when deciding what kind of activities to pursue. 

    Once a character starts moving upward on the social ladder, their improved SOC should be of some in-game benefit. In the Traveller Book, on page 102, under the section on reactions, there is a general statement that reaction modifiers can be introduced based on the specific situation. Any time a character has a social interaction, the referee should consider the relative SOC scores of the parties involved. Where would higher SOC have an advantage?  Dealing with government officials is often easier when you're considered upper class, or at least not lower class.

    Lastly, once a character has his hard-won SOC of B, C or whatever, there remains the tricky business of keeping the position. Now the PC's will have to contend with revolts, invasions, economic woes and all manner of new challenges. 

Help for the Social Climbing Referee

     There have been a few gaming articles I've come across that discuss SOC, particularly trying to put some actual meaning to characters with SOC 11+. Dragon magazine had “Relief for Traveller Nobility”, and White Dwarf published “Robe and Blaster”, both codifying the advantages of being nobility. The Dragon article “Traveller Politicians” also referenced SOC and social influence within the Third Imperium. If you can find them, there are ideas to be mined on how to keep your newly ennobled characters' lives interesting. Also, see my post on designing a Noble House for Traveller.

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