Monday, January 23, 2023

Mor on Skills: Carousing and Streetwise

In this series of posts on skills, I have assumed that the given skill descriptions were suggestive, not restrictive. ‘Generally, the skill works for this, but other uses may occur to players’.

 In Traveller, a PC’s skills are the primary tools for interacting with the universe. They are the first measure of a character’s power. The skill list in CT is not large, so it is only sensible for skills to have broad, not narrow, application. You don’t need a big list of skills to be a worthwhile character.

Sometimes, though, skills seem to overlap. This is one of those cases.

Streetwise and Carousing: Close but not Quite the Same

Streetwise: The individual is acquainted with the ways of local subcultures (which tend to be the same everywhere in human society), and thus is capable of dealing with strangers without alienating them. This skill is not the same as alien contact experience. Close-knit subcultures (such as some portions of the lower classes, trade groups such as workers, and the underworld) generally reject contact with strangers or unknown elements. Streetwise expertise allows contact for the purposes of obtaining information, hiring persons, purchasing or selling contraband or stolen goods, and other shady or borderline activities.

Referee: After establishing throws for various activities desired by the characters, allow streetwise as a DM. If streetwise is not used, impose a DM of -5.

I realize this picture has nothing to do with the topic. Rule of Cool, people.

I have often looked at this skill as “how to crime”. Note the underlined phrase above. Now I think of it as also being “I know a guy” and “figure out who's who”. Streetwise is the more familiar skill, coming from Book 1. Carousing was introduced in Book 5. For the most part, I’m talking today about Carousing.

Carousing: The individual is a gregarious and sociable individual, well-adapted to meeting and mingling with strangers in unfamiliar surroundings.

Characters with the social skill of carousing enjoy meeting and dealing with other people. Any level of skill allows a DM of +1 on the roll for a patron encounter; half of any carousing skill level (round fractions upward) serves as a DM on the reaction table when used initially by the patron. Carousing is also usable when meeting individuals as potential hirelings.

Following the skill description, Carousing applies to two things: getting jobs from patrons, and hiring NPCs. In the latter case, this also overlaps with Recruiting skill. Which is also a skill with a narrow application. You can see the overlap between these two skills.

What else, though, could Carousing skill be useful for? What other situations can it apply to? The obvious answer is information gathering, aka Networking! “The sharing of information or services between people . . . or groups.” (Wikipedia)

You might say that Carousing skill is “Streetwise for Respectable People”. Carousing is hunting and finding information or people. Streetwise does the same sort of thing, so the distinction is in the social context.

  • If the PCs want to put out information into a society, Carousing can identify where to share it so the word spreads.
  • Carousing can find an NPC who has a specific skill, or level of skill that the PCs need.
  • Carousing can help the player ‘read’ an NPC by guessing their SOC, INT, EDU or skills.
  • Carousing can help PCs bluff their way past guards and the like, by putting on a front of belonging where they are.
  • Carousing might net the PCs helpful information on what’s for sale that week in Trade and Speculation.
  • Carousing will certainly help a lonely Traveller get a date.
  • If you have the supplement Startown Liberty, Carousing is made for that scene.

Applying Carousing to the search for a Patron, and then getting a favorable reaction means the PC knows how to talk to people with a purpose. Carousing might serve as Steward-1.

Carousing is all about talking, and getting others to talk. This might in some situations work as a stealth form of Interrogation.

Both skills should stay distinct from Liaison, the negotiator skill “try to see it my way”. Or the Referee may allow skill-1 to serve in place of Liaison, again dependent on the social context.

The distinction is not critical. Both skills can do the job in either high-class or low-class society. If the Referee permits, the PCs can use whichever skill they have. But if both skills are present, and with different PCs, the Referee should let each have their wheelhouse.

Say the PCs are tracking a human target. If the target is a low-life (SOC-3) it’s likely he will hide out in the underworld of the local planet. Streetwise is the skill to ferret him out.

What if the target is instead a dissolute and dishonorable son of a Count? He will be hiding out on a local noble’s country estate. Word on the street won’t help here, the PCs need Carousing to catch a whisper of his presence at the night club or embassy.

Carousing gets you invited to the private card table, the exclusive event, the Noble’s weekend party. Streetwise might get you on-site, disguised as part of the serving staff. Similar results, but two different approaches.

Consider the Firefly episode “Trash”. The crew could have sent Inara to the party, or rather she could have used Carousing to get herself invited. Then she lets Mal into the building. He used Streetwise to put himself in place of a delivery-man, by finding out who was hired for the event.

In my post on Random Events the PCs may encounter public & social events that are important locally. Outsiders like the PCs won’t know what’s going on, or why. Carousing can get the PCs clued in on the big picture of the event, so that they can respond to it.

Both Carousing and Streetwise can be affected by the PC’s SOC. This might cause more complications, though. A Knight down in shantytown, or a common laborer at the country club will stand out. They may not get to ply his skills before being jumped by thugs, or shown the door by the bouncers.

Traveller is not as much about social interaction as some modern ‘storytelling’ games. All the same, the wise Traveller player knows there’s times where a fast talk is more effective than a fast draw.


Image Credit: Pixabay

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