What is influence?
At its very base, influence is a short cut in multiple ways. In IC terms, when you use influence, you are actually employing numerous smaller actions. You are sending e-mails to people; making small donations to charities; making a well-timed phone call; and having lunch with important people—all small actions that take place of a period of time. Influence is the ability to know who to call, to get meetings with people, to understand the culture of the area in which you hold influence.
In OOC terms, influence is a way for staff to judge the above IC actions without having to run every e-mail, every phone call, every lunch meeting, etc. It saves time and frankly creative energy to reduce this social activity to a roll or a series of rolls.
Not everyone is going to have influence; not everyone should have influence. This system was designed to make this background useful in game terms while also allowing it to be applied uniformly. It is not meant to be anyone’s sole means of interaction with other PCs, nor is it allowed to allow a person to ‘win.’ Influence is a tool, but it cannot be the sole tool in a character’s possession and that character expect to meet its goals.
Influence is divided into spheres to represent the different areas in which influence is possible. By the book, it reduces influence to one single background, which is fine for a table top game, but someone with influence 5 in a MUSH game would be overwhelmingly powerful in this system. The areas are Bureaucracy Influence, Church Influence, Financial Influence, Health Influence, High Society Influence, Industrial Influence, Legal Influence, Media Influence, Occult Influence, Police Influence, Political Influence, Street Influence, Transportation Influence, Underworld Influence, and University Influence. Each will be discussed after the basics are touched.
What does it mean to have influence?
When you have a rank in an influence, you have approximately three things. First, you have knowledge of who you need to talk to and how to get in touch with them. You know, for example, that the head of public transportation likes to go to a certain coffee shop for lunch, or that he has a mistress on the side. Second, you have knowledge of the system you are trying to influence. You understand what the people you are talking to can or cannot do. Third, you have a reputation of reliability and usefulness yourself. Influence is always a two-way street.
This system relies on that fact. If you have political influence, and you have no social talents or no knowledge of politics, this system will be very frustrating. Be mindful of what abilities you will need to have in order to make use of the influences you want. Charisma and manipulation are important attributes, as are the secondary abilities of networking and power-brokering, which deal directly with influence.
Influence is useful because it is a way to make changes without danger or risk of exposure. We will talk about this below, but it is virtually impossible to punish another person for taking an influence action. Exposing that a rival had lunch with the head of a bank might be good gossip, but it will not hurt the rival or the head of the bank.
Influence is ranked from one to five. In storytelling terms, this is a geometric progression. Influence at one is useful, but nowhere near as useful as having influence at five. The book talks about geographic areas, but this is not as useful on a MUSH, so it represents power level. If you have a five in an influence, you are among the true elite in a field. Mechanically, it also has other effects, which will be explained below.
What are the limits of influence?
Ultimately, influence is about the manipulation and control of institutions. It, by definition, must work within the goals of that institution. No amount of political influence, for example, will force a politician to knowingly destroy his or her own party. No amount of police influence will make a police officer turn into an assassin. Influence could help you learn secrets that will destroy the party; influence could help direct you to a bad cop, but those are both functions of the institution.
In addition, influence was divided into a multiple spheres because knowing all the occult researchers and book stores in town does not help you get rid of a parking ticket at all. You could think of ways to do this, but that is up to your storyteller. This wall was created to help promote social interaction. If you don’t have the political influence you need, then you have to find someone who does. If you refuse to make alliances or pay other people’s price, you will have to endure not using that influence.
Ultimately, influence can always be trumped by an individual taking a ‘scene-based’ action. If you use your political influence, but your vampire rival goes to the head of the political action committee and dominates him, Domination wins. Influence is a slow, safe tool, but more dangerous, direct tools are more effective.
Also, a storyteller can negate an influence action whenever they want. Influence can easily stomp plots into the ground, but a storyteller can say, no matter how many actions you take, that it simply requires scenes. Be aware of this.
What is an influence action?
You have a number of ranks in a particular influence. This determines the number of influence actions you can safely take in a month. An influence action is defined as the use of a specific influence to a specific goal. For example, you want to use church influence to get private access to a cathedral at night. This is a single influence action.
You cannot ‘combine’ influence actions to the same goal. Even if you have church influence 3, you can only take one influence action to a specific goal. When you take that influence action, you can roll the pool decided upon between you and the storyteller X times, where X is the rank of your influence. So, with church influence 3, you can work towards three different goals safely, rolling three times for each.
When you decide to take an influence action, the storyteller in charge determines the difficulty, the pool, and the number of successes you need to take an action. They will often ask for how you are influencing the situation. There are examples of the number of successes below, but they are guidelines. The storyteller can determine how many successes you need to gather.
An influence action toward a particular goal is a slow action. You cannot change the platform of a political party in a day, no matter how good you are. An influence action is considered to take up to an IC month of time. (This is why influence pools are refreshed on the first of each IC month). If you do not succeed in the IC month, you can extend that action to the next month. If you need it done quicker, you will have to take a non-influence action. Now, if you succeed, a storyteller can deliver the results of that action whenever he or she chooses. For example, the storyteller may give you the results of an influence action before a month is up. This is the storyteller’s call.
You will have noticed that I used the word ‘safely.’ Let us say that you have used both of your influence actions for a given influence for that month, and then suddenly, you need to make another influence action that cannot wait, such as defending your influence from others. You can still take that action, but it has significant risk. After the storyteller determines the difficulty, the pool, and the number of successes, you can roll as if you were burning another influence action, but it is at +1 difficulty. If you botch one of these rolls, you will permanently lose a rank of your already existing influence. You have just pushed people too far.
You always have to have at least one rank in an influence to take an influence action.
How do I grow influence?
As you play, you may decide that you want more influence than you have in a sphere or start growing influence in another sphere. If you have influence in that sphere already, it is a simple influence action; the networking ability is a secondary that directly applies to this. If you do not have any ranks in the influence sphere you desire, this is a special type of influence action. You can’t lose influence you don’t have. The storyteller can always say demand to know how you intend to raise this influence.
The number of successes you need depends on the level you are going to: To get the basic level of influence, you need ten successes. To go from rank 1 to rank 2, you need ten successes. To go from rank 2 to rank 3, you need twenty successes. To go from rank 3 to rank 4, you need thirty successes. To go from rank 4 to rank 5, you need forty successes.
It could take years to go from no influence to influence 5, but that is at it should be. Wizards have the authority to award the influence if it makes sense without rolling. This is solely at the discretion of the Wizard in of your Sphere. This is something you cannot ask for, but it is something they can decide.
What happens when I work together with other people with influence?
Sometimes, you are attempting a very difficult action or a very long, complex action, and you wish to get it done faster than two or three months. Or you are trying to bring down someone with a huge amount of influence that you cannot handle by yourself. People can pool their influence to be more potent.
One person is considered the initiator and the others are considered assistants. The initiator rolls his or her full influence action, while the others roll half their influence pools as an influence action, minimum of one roll. Thus, it makes sense for the person with the greatest influence rank to be the initiator. What is required though is that all of the individuals involved be ICly aware of the action. You cannot coordinate influence without the knowledge of what they are doing. If two people are acting in the same manner, the influence actions are resolved as normal, but the totals are NOT added together.
Two special cases are when you are attempting to grow influence and when a person joins an influence action that is already underway. In the first case, the person growing the influence must be the initiator, even if the assistant has much greater influence. In the second case, if a person wishes to join an already ongoing influence action, they become an assistant. They cannot replace the initiator.
It is entirely possible for a group of people using influence together to roll different dice pools at different modifiers.
How do other people tell that I use influence?
Whenever you take an influence action, people with greater influence than you can tell that you have done so. If they are one rank above you, the storyteller will ask them to roll a perception roll at a base difficulty of 8. If they are two ranks above you, the storyteller will ask them to roll a perception roll at a base difficulty of 6. If these people get one success, they get a description of ‘someone is raising/using their influence.’ If they get two successes, they get a description of the person and what they are doing. If they get three or more success, they get your name and your goal. If they are three or more ranks above you, they will be told your name and your goal. For any positive result, they can proceed to come to your aid, using the rules above; they can ignore you; or they can attempt to block you. This is an influence action that reduces the number of successes you have rolled by the number of success they have rolled.
One exception is attempting to gain the first rank of influence. That cannot be detected automatically. They have to use an action to look at other people’s influences.
You can also conceal your influence action by spending an extra action. This action, usually a manipulation+subterfuge roll, creates a buffer for those who might get a chance to spot you. Those making perception rolls must overcome the buffer in order to get the information. If the buffer is greater than the perception pool of those three ranks above you, they get no information. Concealing your influence action can be a group effort, in which case it protects all of the involved parties.
If a group action does not conceal their influence action, the trigger for influence perception rolls is based on the lowest of the participant’s full influence ranks.
You can also take an influence action to see who is doing what in the influence sphere for this month. If the action is concealed, you must get more successes than the concealment roll. You can also take an action to see who has influences. This gives you a list of PCs and statted NPCs who have ranks in influence, and what they have. If a target notices you (like they can notice any influence action), they can either block you for all the action or just block you discovering their influences. This is also an influence action.
How do I attack other people’s influence and influence actions?
Anyone can attack anyone’s influence. It is an influence action and it can be concealed and it can be a group action. However, even if the target cannot perceive who is attacking him, they can always take an influence action to defend themselves.
The totals you are going for are equivalent to the levels it took to grow the influence. To destroy the basic level of influence, you need ten successes. To reduce from rank 2 to rank 1, you need ten successes. To reduce from rank 3 to rank 2, you need twenty successes. To reduce from rank 4 to rank 3, you need thirty successes. To reduce from rank 5 to rank 4, you need forty successes.
How do I modify an influence action?
There are three ways to modify an action. If you think of another way, please feel free to make a pitch to staff.
Since an influence action is actually a number of smaller actions over time, willpower cannot be used on these rolls.
First is the use of a supernatural power. This can add dice to the pool you roll in the influence action or it can reduce the difficulty of the roll, at the call of the storyteller. In order to be used to modify it must not expend resources (willpower, blood, etc.) or it must have a duration of one month. Thus, you can use the fascination sorcery power as it does not expend resources, even though it lasts only a scene. Vampires with dominate or presence are masters of this.
Second, events that disrupt the institution can raise the difficulties on all influence rolls. If you blow up city hall, the difficulties of bureaucracy or political influence actions will increase dramatically.
Third, you can disrupt the reputation of the person wanting to use the influence. For example, if a major media mogul can be tied to organized crime, this might hurt both his underworld influence, his police influence, and his political influence. To destroy that influence, you would still have to attack it, but you could severely hamper him using it.
What can I do with the various realms of Influence?
Please keep in mind, these are examples to give you an idea for how many successes you will need for a non-permanent result. To keep police presence active on one street for a month or two, is different than for the life of your character and successes needed will be adjusted accordingly.
Reminder: These lists are just examples. You are not limited to these lists, but they will be used by Staff to determine how many successes you will need for the result you seek.