Thursday, March 3, 2011

Crime 101: Fences Part 2

In Tuesday's post we talked about Fences, and while there is more to go over with these people, we have enough to start using them in our games already. Now, what we went over on Tuesday was just the basic, bare bones, of what a Fence provides - namely, a place for thieves to unload their stolen goods, and for others to buy them - but just with that, there is a lot to use. So, let's take a look at how you can use Fences in your game.

The Stolen Heirloom
A lot of stories can start off with theft. Seriously, they can, and if you don't believe me than you aren't reading enough or watching enough TV. Now, at least one of the plot lines to every theft story is the identity of the thief. However, there is usually another plot line as well: what happened to the stolen item? Who better to help find a stolen item than a fence? After all, their job is the buying and selling of hot goods.

Now, this is an obvious use, but I brought it up because it also brings to light another element. Almost any story that involves a fence is going to involve thieves. This may not always be the case, but it probably will be nine times out of ten. After all, if you're not looking for the buyer of stolen goods, nor is that aspect of the story relevant to what you want, than the fence doesn't have to be a fence at all. They can just be a reseller of goods. Goods that they don't look into the origins of.

So, just keep this in mind. Most stories that use a fence as a fence, are also going to need a thief or thieves.

I'm Looking For Some Information
Fences are a great point of contact for PCs, or NPCs, in a game. While they may not know everything, a good fence has their ears out for rumors and gossip. After all, those rumors will tell the fence what items are going to be selling, and things that are going to be selling are things that a fence wants to have in stock.

Furthermore, a lot of people will pass through a fences shop, or at least close enough for the fence to get some feelers out. This can make a fence a good information broker for low-level street information. Which means that, amongst other things, a fence will know who to go to for higher level information. A good portion of buying and selling is networking, and networking lets information flow a lot easier, so why not take some work off your hands and just make the fence the information broker - provided you need one.

A Point of Contact
Fences employ thieves. Think about that for a second. It doesn't matter if the thief comes to the fence with items he needs to unload, or if the fence goes to the thief with a request for items, there is a connection there. Now, any good person in the underworld knows that it is usually best to be hard to find through official channels, especially if you're a low man on the totem pole. However, it does you no good if you're so hard to reach that work can't find you either.

This means that anyone who needs to find a thief, will probably find them fastest by going through a fence. There are remarkably few fences in a city, and the profession is fairly well guarded and self regulating. By their nature, and the needs of their work, fences are fairly stationary in their business. Their protection doesn't come from being hard to find, but from layers of distance from the crime, an appearance of being legitimate, and how hard it is for the system to actually prove they committed a crime. This all means that a fence is much easier to find than a thief, but once you've found a fence you can use them to get word to a thief.

This works great for people of all walks of life. Someone from the upper echelons of society who needs something stolen. Someone from the lower echelons that needs work. Someone looking for the guy who stole his mother's necklace. Now, granted, the fence isn't necessarily going to be game to coughing up the locales of one of their suppliers, but the chance for contact is still there.

There is more in how you can use a fence in your game, but when talking about the basics these three things should be plenty to get your brain going. Next Tuesday I'm going to talk more about how fences control thieves, and the business relationship that works there. That should wrap up the important parts of a fence, and free us up to move on. However, there is a lot to the world of stealing goods, so we'll probably be back sooner rather than later.


  1. Good stuff, keep it up! I don't have anything intelivision to add so I'll leave it at that.

  2. Glad you're still enjoying it. Will hopefully have part 3 on Fences on Tuesday up for 8 am. Depends on how much time I lose this weekend to school work and family.

    Fences are one of my favorite parts of the underworld "scene" stuff though, just as they have ties to damn near everything.

  3. Hmm. . . So then two questions that maybe you've already planned to answer but in case they weren't on the roster.

    How does one find, approach and enter a dialog with a fence? Either as a thief or investigator?

    How much power does a fence have? (S)He's not a crime lord but has a lot of influence. How would you characterize them on the underground food chain?

  4. I'll cover those in part 3 for you.

  5. This is interesting; it got my imagination going and I think I'm gonna have a fence as a contact in my campaign on Sunday. I'm looking to have a more roleplay heavy session and I think this will be a nice addition to what I already have planned. Thanks.