Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Campaign Preparation: Smoke on the Water - Big Man

It's apparently a real thing. Don't let
anyone say GURPS never taught
Pesudo Boo nothing.
So, it is a bit of a curiosity to me, but an interesting thing. When I looked at the occupations in the back of Low-Tech Companion 3, I stumbled across the Big Man occupation, and it seemed like a really good fit for the position of the party face in my TL0~1 campaign. Let's go about working out how to construct a master negotiator for this game.


Well, not really research, but clicking on wikipedia and scanning really fast. I then looked at the Historical Folk conversion PDF for some similar templates to borrow from. From what I gather of the position, the templates that might be good inspiration are:
  • Diplomat - Big Men are good at negotiating on behalf of the people that follow them.
  • Politician - A Big Man uses his words and administration to make things happen.
  • Town Crier - He is a conduit of information that keeps his followers on the level.

Puzzling It Together

So, I think my goals for this character, are at a minimum to have:
  • good reaction bonus (let's quantify this as at least a +4)
  • good negotiation skills (Let's quantify this as at least 14)
  • resources to distribute (High wealth)
  • a good network (Contacts with all the major castes)
A Big Man typically has decent wealth and status, so that is the first hit to points, but the high status also goes towards meeting the first piece of the criteria, and the wealth of course... towards high wealth. Because it is easier, I will attack the final bullet point first.
The big castes in my campaign are:

  • The Religious Order
  • The Military
  • The Tradespeople
  • Royalty
So, 4 contact groups, and I am considering the very best in each area to be around a 12~14, so let's see, for the first three, we have a contact group that has a skill of 15, is somewhat reliable, and appears on a roll of 9 or better... expensive... so I am cutting them in half by moving effective skill to 12. I think it could be a valuable asset to buy these up, but I'll leave that to my players. 
Let's boost IQ a bit because all of the skills depend on it, and now we can juggle the different advantages brought on by the different reaction roll enhancing advantages. If I really want everything to fit inside 100 points, I probably want Voice because that helps Fast-Talk and Diplomacy, and one level of Charisma, which incidentally gives bonuses to a hall suite of good skills as well. Let's take a look at this template, which unfortunately, seems like it doesn't give a lot of wiggle room, but at least leaves most of the disadvantages alone.

Big Man

95 points
Attributes: IQ+2[40]
Secondary Characteristics: Per-2[-10]
Advantages:  Charisma 1[5]; Contact Group(Craftsmen)(Effective Skill 12, AR 9, Somewhat Reliable)[5]; Contact Group(Soldiers)(Effective Skill 12, AR 9, Somewhat Reliable)[5]; Contact Group(Priests)(Effective Skill 12, AR 9, Somewhat Reliable)[5]; Contact Group(Royal Family)(Effective Skill 12, AR 9, Unreliable)[3] Status 1(Big Man)[5]; Talker 1[5]; Voice[10]; Wealth(Comfortable)[10]
Skills: Diplomacy(H) IQ+3[4]-15; Fast-Talk (A) IQ+2[1]-14; Finance (H) IQ+0[4]-12; Merchant (A) IQ+0[2]-12; Politics (A) IQ+1[1]-13

Other Thoughts and Closing

This is probably my least flexible template of the bunch so far, and number 3 of an expected 4. For some reason, I didn't think that making an effective negotiator was this difficult. That said. the Big Man historically has some opportunities for some interesting disadvantages as well, particularly Dependents that he supports for showing his influence and power, as well as other "rival" level enemies in the form of other big men that jockey for social superiority.
This template is also open to a *ton* of other skills being improved that I would definitely increase even if they aren't the absolute bare minimum, like:
  • Public Speaking
  • Savoir-Faire
  • Detect Lies
  • And, of course, Sex Appeal
All very useful for negotiation.


  1. With all those contact groups, this would be a very versatile character even if the Template itself seems restrictive (but disadvantages would allay that concern). Good job!

    Also, the ancient Sumerian term for "king" was "lugal", which literally means "big man"!

    1. Thanks for reading, buddy! That's kinda interesting about the Sumerian bit too. I wonder if anthropologist got the term from that phrase.


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