Little Bits: The Broker

Look, I know you’re some swinging dick out there on the dirty streets of Aalee, but these men have no regard for life in a kind and sympathetic way. Captain, if you let me do my job, I will talk to their leader and get those people back. Yes, they’re your people, but this kind of scum trusts scum like me. I talk the talk, and your people walk. You will have to sweeten the deal with some kruuns– this lot doesn’t take ducats. I know a guy, don’t worry. We’ll do the currency exchange, and then the hostage exchange. It will go smoothly. It will be a happy ending for everyone involved. Questions?” – Timarkin of Delroyn, Broker

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In a grim and hostile world, ransoming kidnapped hostages is a lucrative trade. Some have taken it upon themselves to help the needy or get in on the action. Oftentimes both motivations and more apply. Enter the Broker, a person capable of talking and negotiating under the harshest and most stressful of circumstances. The Broker is a natural and charismatic speaker, as well as a shrewd opportunist. In a grimdark roleplaying game, a Broker character can really add some new dimensions to the roleplay experience, as communication is their key talent and skill.

The first thing to figure out is what kind of Broker the PC or NPC is going to be. Some Brokers are more idealistic than others, while some are more cynical and even murderous. Really, it’s up to you or the player. Keep in mind that if your playgroup is more hero-oriented, a duplicitous, nasty Broker may not be a good fit. Then again, they could make the perfect behind-the-scenes foil for those goody two-shoes bastards.

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Truth be told, there is nothing quite like the look of smothered hope smeared all over the faces of a group of players, made even sweeter by the fact a player helped you make it happen… but we’re not focusing on that right now.

Here’s a quick roll-chart to see what your Broker is all about, if you’re the type who enjoys randomness; D6:

1 – Amoral opportunist. Doesn’t care about people any way you cut ’em.
2 – Was once a hostage and the talks went wrong. People died. Now a crusader.
3 –  Is actually someone who contacts kidnappers to set things up.
4 – Just happens to be really good at talking. Fell into this career.
5 – Has a background in this field due to parent; is trained and professional.
6 – Violent psychopath. Does it because it’s fun. Usually tracks down and kills accomplices.

Brokers, being the natural negotiators they are, can find work doing many other, similar things, like brokering deals for merchants with criminals, haggling out understandings between dock workers, tavern owners, bawds, and pimps, and much, much more. Also, it probably goes without saying that many a broker goes back into the more mundane sectors when they tire from the constant threat of having their throat slashed hanging over their head (or neck, as it were). Play them as you see fit– just keep in mind that they’re pros who are quite capable at what they do… or else they wouldn’t be known as brokers.

The kinds of attributes brokers need to be what they are include intelligence, wisdom, and charisma. Anything having to do with the fellowship of others and quickly accessing knowledge to best suit their immediate and future social needs. Brokers are often from a more median social status. Not too rich to have never gone into their practice in the first place, but not too poor as to afford education. Many middle children of lesser noble families become brokers, or try to. Sometimes a broker rises from the bloody pile of bodies the lower classes manage to pile on, but it’s exceedingly rare.

The kinds of skills and/or talents needed for a broker include ones like fast talking, blathering, any kind of bullshittery, charm, etiquette, streetwise, nerves of steel, quick learner, “poker face”, seduction, sexual wiles, bluffing, lying, bartering, negotiating, basic self-defense (you never know), begging, wit, social knowledge, history, organized crime (or knowledge thereof, and so forth. Sometimes survival skills help because often brokers have to set out for meets alone, and bandits will enjoy making them sweat, waiting for days in the wilderness for contact. Try to fit this profession to your game as you see fit.

How you want to play them, table above aside, is really up to you. Many Brokers are scum who are only in it for the money. Others enjoy the social latitude they get, with both rich and poor needing their services, so they flit about societies like some sort of floating upper middle class. Still others are crusaders, looking to help and bring a little bit of heroism to a bleak world. More often than not, Brokers tend to be a combination of backgrounds and motivations, which can make them extremely interesting characters.

In the future, expect The Broker to pop up in a Black Goat Games product. For now, let this fuel your imagination. Now, while I have come up with this for fantasy RPGs, the Broker archetype can be easily used in any kind of RPG setting, including modern, near/cyberpunk future, and far future.

Thanks for reading this Little Bit!

Be seeing you.

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