Thursday, August 9, 2018

Corruption, Repo Men and more

Some contributor work for Demon City. One from journalist and Hand to Mouth author (and, ssssh, gamerLinda Tirado (NY Times review here) and one from OSR godfather Jeff Rients of the Gameblog....

Political Campaigns (by Linda Tirado)

First thing to know is that all of political corruption comes down to influence. If I can get someone to think that I can help their career, they’ll help me. Do that with someone who’s not experienced enough to know what’s going on, well, you can get a lot done with useful idiots. 

There’s three kinds of bribes: money, connections, or work. Money might be your briefcases full of cash, or it might be free trips to the Poconos on someone’s charter jet. You can convince someone that you’ll invite them to an exclusive listserv or dinner party - or even do it; bait that hook and they’ll call you for years. Work might be legitimate contracts or the more cushy “consultant” kind.

Politicians are most vulnerable (and perhaps most interesting as game-fodder) during the campaign. When you walk into any campaign office, the person manning the front desk is usually an intern or trusted volunteer. Charm them by loving their candidate. Get them to leave the room by asking for a detailed policy position; they’ll have to go ask someone to print it off.

If you want to know what‘s going on in a political campaign, make friends with the person who could find the policy stuff; they’ll be lower-level management, essentially. Field directors or volunteer coordinators. Political people love to talk shop over drinks, and very few people understand what they do for a living, so if you know anything about the field, you can draw them out at a bar. 

The campaign manager is the guy who holds the purse strings and controls the flow of information and campaign money. They’ll think they’re slick and manipulative, they might well be. The point is that they’re ambitious and prone to intellectual flattery.

All campaign work is by nature temporary; jobs after the campaign ends are at a premium. Top to bottom, you’ll find people who want to be your friend if you know where to get the rent paid after the election.

Posing as press can help or hurt you in finding out political intrigues, and it depends on how credulous your mark is, or how sophisticated. Smart politicos keep some friendly journos around by feeding them information; stupid ones can be coaxed into blabbing about nearly anything. 

As far as security, there probably isn’t any. In this internet age you might find someone leaves a camera on the front door but that’ll be it. Most of the information that’s really valuable is going to be kept at best in a locked file cabinet. 

Money will be in a portable safe in the finance office or the campaign manager’s office. There will likely be small sums stashed around the office in various drawers that serves as petty cash for various departments. Campaign offices can keep a lot of cash on hand; into the thousands on the nights before an election so they can pay the canvass staff. 

If you’re looking for financial data, all campaigns keep donor books around. That’s a printed binder with notes on all major donors, including names, addresses, phone numbers, and preferred times to call. You'll also find information about family members, anniversaries, children, party registration history, net worth and who’s in their network. 

If you want polling and field data, there’ll be a field office. It will be littered with sensitive data, including voter files. If you take all the papers with barcodes you can find (this will likely be hundreds of pages) you’ll be able to figure out what kind of voters the campaign is targeting and in which neighborhoods they’re operating.

You can tell how healthy a campaign is by how busy its offices are, so it’s not uncommon for campaigns to surveil each other. If you follow and target their lowest-level workers, the canvassers, you can buy yourself an army by offering fifty cents more an hour. 

It is the simplest thing in the world to put a mole in a campaign; send them to volunteer. The more time they spend being helpful, the more responsibilities they’ll be given. Campaigns are chronically understaffed and underpaid; a competent adult who can be trusted might be given the keys to the website or proprietary software, and will certainly have access to vast amounts of information and opportunities to eavesdrop. They’ll also have a lot of opportunity to sabotage. 

See also: Host Section—Building A Horror Investigation: Some Adventure Formats—My First Conspiracy, Library—Horrors—The Machine, Library—Horrors—Cultist, Library—Horrors—Demons of the Second Order,  Sketches and Pitches: The Mayor of Demon City, Tables—Interpersonal Conflict, Organized Criminals, Relationship to Next NPC, Crime Lord Schemes, Murder Motives

Oh and here's a layout from Shawn Cheng

Repo Men: These Fucking Guys (by Jeff Rients)

If you take out a car loan and find yourself more than a couple monthly payments behind, odds are pretty good the bank is going to hire a repo man to get their collateral back.

You can find otherwise normal towing companies that do repo work, but real repo men rarely advertise that they have a business at all.  Their place of operation is just a little out-of-the-way garage with a few bays for servicing cars and a fenced-in yard with a bunch of junk and probably a dog that can switch from sweet pooch to vicious beast without notice.  No sign giving the name of the place or its owner can be seen anywhere.  These guys don’t advertise their services and they don’t need your walk-in business.

Repo men work for banks because they like the solid cash from the Man, but the service they provide is a combination of old west bounty hunting and legal car theft.  The banks like them as independent contractors, because that allows the repo men to circumvent local laws and ordinances while remaining at arms-length.  The suits want plausible deniability when shenanigans occur.  For their part, the repo men love being authorized to do things that would normally get you sent to prison.

No one goes to school to become a repo man.  And the licensing requirements vary widely from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.  The path to this life varies, but repo men all have a few things in common.  Every good repo man knows his way around a wide variety vehicles, as mechanics and as drivers.  They understand motor vehicles with the same combination of deep experience and instinct that tells the artist what to do with a brush and canvas.

To them, the lock and alarm system in your car is the least interesting problem in acquiring your vehicle.  Often times, they arrive on the scene with a key in their pocket that was custom made to open and start your particular car.  The bank is happy to provide the key code, which they get at the time the loan is made.  And if that doesn’t work, they have all sorts of ways of jimmying open the door and hotwiring the car.  Or they can just tow the car away.

Finding the car is usually the fun of the job to them, so, by all means, hide your car.  The longer it takes them, the bigger the bill to the bank.  Like a stone age human following a wounded mammoth until it succumbs to exhaustion, the repo man is willing to play a long, slow game with its target.  They will visit all your old addresses.  They will talk to your old neighbors and your current ones.  They will visit your place of employment.  They will have tea with your grandma.  Never will they mention why they need to talk to you, other than “business.”  They’ll even talk to you, if they think it will help.  They’ll look inside every old shed and ramshackle barn within fifty miles, if need be, in order to find your car.  

If they can’t find you, each repo man has a sweet little old lady or middle age Walter Mitty on speed dial.  This contact has friends in the Department of Motor Vehicles who will pull registrations for them, an old pal in the city Department of Records who can get all sorts of stuff, and a college roommate who now works  in the FBI.  Given enough time, they can find the address of unlisted garage in another country where some fool stashed their car.

They’ll also talk to the cops.  Some cops don’t like repo men (they get behind on car payments, too) but just remember that the repo men work for the banks.  The bankers are members of the same country clubs as the judges and the mayor; the bankers fund the reelection campaigns of nearly every elected position in the city.   So the cops often cooperate, or at least stay out of the way.

Repo men don’t look to get into shoot-outs or fist fights.  They’ll run if they can and will generally avoid confrontations where they would be outnumbered.  But they can be dangerous when cornered.  Many carry handguns, whether technically legal locally or not.  Nearly all of them have a taser or pepper spray handy.  Some carry collapsible batons, big knives, or heavy duty flashlights that double as brutal bludgeons.  Most of the repo men that haven’t been formally trained in boxing or martial arts are experienced barroom brawlers.  They’ll probably have kevlar on underneath a cheap black sweatshirt if they’re sneaking onto someone’s private property at night.

Repo men tend to look like any other working man.  Ratty old blue jeans and a t-shirt stained with motor oil is the standard uniform.  Footwear is either boots heavy enough for kicking in teeth or running shoes.  When on the prowl, they’ll often be wearing an old ballcap with the insignia of the local team; they’ve got more like them back home, at least one for each city they visit.  Their tow trucks and vans are usually plain white, late model but not new.  These vehicles lack any logo and are missing the department of transportation numbers commercial vehicles are required by law to display.  If called on this omission they will produce a magnetic sign that they say they removed to wash the truck and then forgot to put back on.

Most repo men are scruffy fellows, but some are the clean shaven, crew cut type.  None are physically imposing specimens, tending towards average or small builds.  Many of them have experience in the armed forces, ranging from working in the motor pool repairings hummers to driving tanks to shooting people with machine guns.  They rarely talk about this part of their lives and don’t wear anything that would tip anyone off that they have a bronze star and a purple heart in a box back home.

Most repo men are friendly fellows with single syllable names like Al or Tom.  Behind the smiles and the love of danger so typical of this type is a deep vein of melancholy.  Most repo men are divorced; being on the job at all hours--staking out leads sometimes for days at a time--is not conducive to a stable relationship.  This turns some repo men into hard drinking, love ‘em and leave ‘em womanizers.  A few turn to religion instead.  Never settling for middle-of-the-road respectable Protestantism, the repo men who find God all get there via fire-and-brimstone or snake handling Evangelicalism or a self-indulgent confession-heavy Catholicism.

Every repo man has at least one hobby that is as wild as his line of work.  Storm chasing, driving demolition derby,  hot air ballooning, collecting and repairing old Soviet vehicles and weapons, and sculpting logs with chainsaws are just a few examples.

(See also: Library—Horrors—The Machine, Library—Horrors—Serial Killer, Sketches and Pitches: Down and Out In Demon City, Tables—Organized Criminals, Relationship to Next NPC, Crime Lord Schemes, Murder Motives)
Jeff Grubb said that!

The Demon City Kickstarter is almost over!!!
Stretch goals coming up include contributions from Kenneth Hite
and online generators from Last Gasp /Logan Knight and 


Kent Miller said...

Both these entries will be useful - most excellent work

DazzleEngine said...

Repo men don’t only repo cars - people borrow to buy shop fittings, furniture, boats, ships, aeroplanes, helicopters, stock (which can be anything) etc. Some of these spawn specialist repo men or repo men who coordinate legitimate subcontractors like pilots, ship masters, transport companies etc. You can get situations where the repo man serves the order on the butcher while a cop is yelling at him to put the knife down, a tradesman is rolling out the oxy-acetylene torch to cut up the shop fittings, the customers are screaming and the apprentice is being asked if they’re his knives and apron or if they belong to the shop. I dare you not to have fun with that in an RPG.

Anonymous said...

Love the write-up on 'repo men', which I can only presume is an archetype for the RPG and I would never have believed, before reading it, that it was possible to romanticise the job to any degree whatsoever.

I don't wear ratty old blue jeans, however, or any clothing stained with motor oil. Nor do I work for the bank.

The deep vein of melancholy is probably spot-on though.

And while we'll check old addresses and have tea, or coffee, with your grandmother - we probably won't spend days staking out leads because the file is really only worth a few hours of our time.

Zak Sabbath said...


You must not live in Demon City then.

Or wherever it was that Jeff worked