Friday, February 12, 2016

Review: Social Engineering: Pulling Rank

Rank is a nebulous advantage. It has a meaning, sure, but it is hard to nail down a specific set of mechanical effects to prescribe to it. This means two GMs running two very similar campaigns can have wildly different expectations of what Rank 1 versus Rank 4 provides. Social Engineering, while covering other things, tries to address this as well as other loosely defined social advantages so that a player might know exactly what he or she is getting into when they choose to take or forego rank.


Table of Contents
Pulling Rank is a short, but inexpensive supplement for GURPS. It's broken up into three important sections among others, the first two roughly the same length, and then a longer example chapter. Subtracting the intro and the index, you have about 15 pages of content. Let's take a look at what each of these three sections cover. The book is a supplement for the Social Engineering series, but stands on its own without heavy references or reliance to the original book.

Setting The Price

This chapter goes over how a GM might appropriately price out rank and patron advantages based on factors such as the capabilities of the organization that the character holds rank in. This section does make some important references to Social Engineering, for details of accounting for rank, status, and wealth, and some of the more complicated interactions therein. It then goes into concepts about merging the capabilities of Patron with Rank, and figuring out how to determine how much help might be appropriate and how hard it might be to get that help contingent on a character's rank. There are quite a few worked examples of general cases and many tables to go with them. It then gives some GM advice on how easy rank should be to come by, and reasonable limitations like maximums depending on the situation. The chapter is overall very mechanically inclined, with little fluff, and several good examples.

Asking For Help

This chapter dives into the process of actually pulling rank, and describing modifiers that may make requests more or less difficult to perform. It gives rules for a large group of team members to work together for requests, and especially appropriate consequences for accepted or denies requests. The chapter is completely straightforward with no background information; it even includes some interesting considerations for edge cases like membership in organizations too small to rate numerically and courtesy rank.

Request Granted

This chapter is advice on all the types of assistance that an organization might be able to provide, and extra considerations when making those requests. There are tens of thought out examples each with modifiers that might make the requests more or less smooth. It includes some extra rules for converting requests into complementary rolls or delegating the decision of appropriate aid to the giver rather than the requester. A very thorough list that does not leave one wanting for inspiration.


This book is solid mechanics, and is almost a necessity in any campaign where the players have any kind of interaction with a hierarchy, either as a lackey or while employing lackeys. There is almost no historical background information like the Low-Tech books if that sort of thing is your bag. The supplement Dungeon Fantasy 17: Guilds is almost a pure implementation of the framework laid out here. Although very descriptive of the help organizations provide, by itself it is not drag-and-drop capable right into a campaign, and requires a bit of implementation to custom tailor it to the game world. Prices of rank per level and what types of aid, and how much aid, for example, are not answered by this book; the book gives you the questions to ask, and tells you what those answers might reasonably mean, but it isn't a catalog of agencies and organizations. I repeat though, that anyone that scratches their head when looking at rank, but feels like they need it in their campaign, needs this supplement.

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