Contacts align with your agenda and principles: develop them from the questions players answer; give them a fire and a shadow; and find out who they are in play.
This section gives a few tools and guidance to carry this out. You do not need to use every one of these tools with every Contact. Define enough to give you some direction for roleplaying them, and let the rest develop with the story the group creates.
If This Role is True...
Every Contact is given a town role. This is the first fact you know about them. The role may not reflect who they are, but it does define how people in town view them. Use this role as a springboard for roleplaying and developing them.
Ask yourself, “If this is true, what else is true?”
For example, if a Contact is the town gossip, what else is true? Maybe they love to be the center of attention. Or maybe they attend a lot of social events. Or maybe they are a sneaky gossip, hovering silently in the corner, unnoticed.
What Fuels Them?
Most of life is built around the mundane moments. The every-day concerns and same interests. Give each Contact a source of fuel. This isn’t some driving conviction, but an every day joy. It could be a hobby. An interest. A habit or ritual that grounds them. A person whose company they enjoy.
Maybe they fish or fix cars or like reading books about chess or constantly repaint their home.
This fuel keeps them grounded and going, despite the hardship and conflict.
What Lit the Fire?
Give every NPC—including Contacts—a fire. This is what they hope for in the future. This is what they imagine Could Be. It may inspire them to action, or help them hold on, or keep them entertained during the long, dull days. You can decide this during prep or let it develop naturally in play.
Once you know their fire, you can use it to inspire their history: what made them hope for this? Did their family raise them caring about it? Do they believe it in defiance of past loss? Is it a childhood dream they never let go?
Why Do They Fear Their Shadow?
Give every NPC—including Contacts—a shadow. This is a secret they hide from almost everyone. This is a part of their past (or present) they believe would destroy their life if it came out. For some shadows, the fears may be founded in concrete loss, e.g. they killed someone and fear jail. Most shadows will have less clear consequences which is part of why the Contact is so afraid: anxiety likes to take ambiguity and forecast worst case scenarios. For example, someone might have made a mistake in the past they are ashamed of, and fear complete rejection from loved ones if it comes out.
Why someone fears their shadow reflects what is important to them. Possible losses could include losing:
What Are Their Extremes?
To create a clear distinction between Contacts it can be helpful to think about what makes them different from each other. This can be done by highlighting two aspects of their personality that are more pronounced than normal. In many cases, the way people respond and act depends on context. A person might be pessimistic about politics, but optimistic about their relationships. The context changes how pessimistic they are.
However, people tend to have some strong personality traits that come out regardless of context. These represent the extreme traits of their personality.
Giving each Contact two extremes to their personality can help separate them from each other. It can also provide guidance when you are unsure how they would react.
Below is a list of opposed personality traits. You are not limited to these by any means, but hopefully they provide some inspiration:
Traits need to be specific enough the players know when to use them for Contact rolls, but general enough they can apply to many different scenarios. A trait should be unique and noteworthy, similar to town roles. Saying a Contact is “the town gossip” implies a lot about them, while also leaving space to fill in details in play.
As the examples below show, a Contact trait can range from a personality feature (fearless) to a former role (former metropolis executive) to a resource (always knows a guy) to a hobby (art collector).
To create this Contact, I chose a town role and then chose the fuel, extremes, and fire. I purposefully made those decisions in an unrelated way to create a range in character traits. I chose a shadow inspired by the Contact’s extremes and fire: it made sense that someone who is impulsive and over-permissive may have lashed out at some point when they felt stepped on. This shadow might threaten their hope for a stable home.
I used all of these points to inspire the Contact’s traits. Someone who is over-permissive may be people pleasing or extremely loyal, meaning they highly value other people, so they would Never Leave Someone Behind. Since they lack a stable home, maybe they are used to chaos and disruption, leading them to develop a Sixth Sense for Conflict.