Contacts come in three varieties: information contacts, influence contacts, and skill contacts.
Information contacts are useful for what they know. They’re the ones who hear all the rumors – and they can discern which ones are true. Some just have an uncanny sense of what’s going on in their neighbourhood or town, such as the grumpy bartender, the talkative fruit merchant, and the watch captain who has seen it all. Other information contacts have more focused interests, such as the army sergeant who knowns all about troop movements, the fence who is privy to every major theft in the city, or the scribe assigned to write down every utterance of the high cleric-prophets.
Influence contacts are useful because of who they know or who they are associated with. While a player can’t define the queen as his character’s contact, he can define one of her chambermaids as a contact. The maid doesn’t have a broad store of information, and she doesn’t have any skills the PCs might need. But she might be able to put in a good word with the queen, and she can certainly make introductions between the PC and the rest of the queen’s domestic staff. The purpose of an influence contact is to enable and smooth talks with more important, but less friendly, NPCs.
Skill contacts are useful for what they do. Some skills – especially categories of Craft, Profession, and Knowledge – are rarely possessed by PCs. Skill contacts have those skills in abundance, so they’re useful when characters need a smith to repair a lance, an honest broker to appraise a giant pearl, or a herald who can identify the helmed knight displaying a two-headed wyvern on her standard. A special category of the skill contact is the linguist, who can tell you what “Bree-Yark!” means in Goblin.
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