Provisioner: getting the party what they need

From her position hidden in the wagon, Katarina could see that negotiations where not going well. Fire had his hands up and, for the moment at least, seemed to be showing due respect to the spear pointed at his chest; the Shifter was not known for his patience, however, and Katarina was more than slightly concerned that he might decide to put his faith in his natural regenarative powers and take dramatic action. She could also hear Aryn's voice, though that did little to ameliorate Katarina's growing concern — she would not have described the terse Haffan as being particularly gifted at diplomacy.

"I think they're standing close," she whispered. "I wish we had some tar."

"We do," Kuro said from behind her, deeper in the wagon.

Katarina managed to suppress the first few responses that came to mind. Into the silence, Kuro continued: "I've made maybe a dozen. Healing potions and scour, too. I've had plenty of time, while we've been riding across the Kingdoms of Men."

"Well, Kuro, now would be the time," Katarina said, and she gestured for the shifter to pass a bottle forward.

Provisioners provide the party with useful resources. In many games, this is a role mainly filled by NPCs; in Renaissance, it is intended to be a player role — and a potentially powerful one. Provisioners give players access to powerful resources, from arms and armor to stockpiles of alchemical potions to more abstract resources like blackmail material or political leverage. Any one of these resources can provide the party with a game-changing advantage at a crucial time.


There are many ways to build a provisioner, each offering different benefits to the party, working in different ways, and requiring access to different resources to operate. The crime-lord who get access to anything —for the right price, and providing the party doesn't mind getting their hands dirty; the artisan who can offer the party the product of their craft; the wealthy noble who can simply purchase whatever is required for the party; and a well-connected character can lean on their title, influence, and connections to open doors that would otherwise be closed; these are all provisioners.

It's always important to have a specific understanding of what you roll in the party is going to be — the ways that your character can contribute, the strategies that they use, and the situations where it's their time to act.

Some key questions to ask when building your provisioner:

  • What resources do they provide?
  • How do they provide those resources?
  • What do they need to provide those resources?
  • What risks do they face?

What does your character provides?

What your character provides is going to play a major role in determining their relationship to the rest of the party and their role in the game. Considering the list of examples we used:

  • Criminals can provide nearly any resource to the party, albeit for a price – in money, compromised morals, favors in kind, or worse. Criminals can even provide some relatively unique resources – like blackmail material, or services like smuggling, intimidation, alibis, or shakedowns.
  • Artisans, of course, provide the party with access to their skill and craft; armors produce armor, chemists produce potions, and carpenters can produce houses, ships, and carts. (The Jack of All Trades trait can be very useful for Artisans, because it opens up the ability to do a minimum-adequate job of producing nearly anything.)
  • A wealthy character can simply buy nearly anything the party requires, from resources to goods to information – dependant, of course, on having access to their wealth, and on there being someone who's selling.
  • A connected character can provide access to their network of organizations, clients, and patrons – so, they provide whatever their connections provide. So, for a connected character, you'll need to have a fairly specific idea of what their connections are, and what they can do for you (and the party).

How does your character provides it?

In order to play your character effectively, you're going to need to have a good idea for how they provide the resources that they provide. This will help determine how your character operates – what "plays" or strategies they use.

For our examples:

  • A criminal depends on their criminal connections – their gang, their contacts, and the people they have influence over. Unlike creating or purchasing items, we don't have specific rules for this; it will usually be handled in a freeform way. So, to play a criminal, you'll need to have a good idea of how your character operates as a criminal – are they the leaders of a gang, do they work connections down by the docks, or do they have connections to a veritable rogues' gallery of local criminal figures?
  • An artisan provides the party with access to the things they can craft, by crafting them; so, you'll need to have a good handle on the rules for creating items.
  • A wealthy character provides resources by simply purchasing them, so you'll need to have a good handle on the rules for wealth and bartering.
  • A well-connected character depends on their contacts to provide resources. Similar to criminals, we don't have hard-and-fast rules for how this works – absent a few specific classes and traits, like the Member class or the Reputation alternate rules. So, you'll likely need to have a good idea of what their connections are, and how they work them.

What do they need?

Of course, you'll need to know what your character needs – and how they cope when they can't get it.

  • Criminals, of course, need access to their network of criminal connections – their gang, cronies, and contacts. They also frequently need things to trade with; this can be money, favors in kind, or concessions and sacrifices in the shifting world of crime.
  • Artisans need a place to work (a shop, a work-site, or a safe clearing in a pinch), tools, resources, and time. (Note that access to resources are often assumed, unless you're using the advanced crafting alternate rules.)
  • Wealthy character need access to their wealth – relatively easy when they're near their home, but trickier when travelling (see trade-goods and currency).
  • Well-connected characters need to be able to access their contacts, which often means that they need to be in the area where their contacts and organizations operate. They'll also need to maintain good standing with their contacts and organizations – which can mean pay dues, repaying favors, or doing service during down-time.

While we're thinking about what we need, it would also be good to consider how the character meets those needs when they travel. For many provisioners, operating in their home territory – where they have shops, connections, wealth, and other resources – is relatively easy, but operating far from home isn't. Criminals will be far from their base of power; artisans won't have access to their shops; the wealthy won't have access to their wealth (wealth is relatively less portable – and more dangerous! – in the era before EFTs and national currencies); and well-connected characters won't have access to their networks, organizations, and contacts. Consider which of your characters resources can be made portable, and which can't; and which of their skills and talanets are general, and which aren't.

What risks do they face?

Finally, what risks does your character face? What risks do they suffer when they fail – or simply by operating as themselves?

  • While criminals can be powerful provisioners, they also suffer significant risks, both from law enforcement and from other criminals. Betrayal, trickery, and back-stabbing are common-place; you'll always need to be on your guard, sometimes against the very people you most depend on. Managing these relationships can be tricky – it can require very carefully balancing influence and leverage, and making sure you never show weakness or become vulnerable. And, of course, you'll always be at risk from law-enforcement, which can require that you keep your operations rigorously secret.
  • In practice, Artisans face few risks – other than particularly tough GMs imposing damage or wounds on critically-failed Craft checks.
  • Given the rules for bartering, the major risk that wealth-based provisioners suffer is the depletion of their available wealth dots. Of course, bargaining often involves role-play, and this also exposes wealthy provisioners to all the risks of failed social interactions.
  • Social-connection-based provisioners run the risk of exhausting their contacts, damaging their relationships, and expending their social capital. Well-connected provisioners often do their jobs through freeform role-play, so failed social skills checks can have stinging consequences.

Matching the Game

While designing your Provisioner, it's also worth considering how they'll fit in with the game and the party. You'll need to make sure that your concept will work in the scenario, and that they'll produce something that the rest of the party needs.

Katarina is an excellent provisioner, having wealth and connections – both criminal and legitimate. However, she might struggle in an adventure set on a newly-discovered island chain a five hundred demarc from the western shore. There, there will be no-one merchants, cronies, gangers, guild-members or nobles. In her place, a character with a range of Craft skills would be substantially more useful; they could create potions and weapons, build shelters, repair boats, and so on. She might also struggle with a party that prefers a more "straight-forward" solution to problems; blackmail material is less useful to a party that prefers thrilling heroics to cloak-and-dagger subterfuge.

Remember, there's nothing wrong with coordinating your character with the rest of the group!


Builds can vary widely based on how the provisioner works.

  • Criminals
    • Profession: Criminal will be very important, as it represents a knowledge of how to be a criminal (and get away with it!). If you want your character to know how to go about getting black-market goods or useful secrets, you'll need a goot rating in Profession: Criminal.
    • Criminals often do what they do with active use of skills in role-play; therefore, skills like Athletics, Deception, Intimidation, Persuasion, Read, Sleight of Hand, and Stealth will be important.
      • Persuasion and Protocol can also be important, if you'd like to be able to get what you want without making an enemy. Sometimes being an effective criminal can be just as much about making an appealing deal!
    • The Member trait can be useful for representing membership in a gang or crew; Patron can also be useful.
    • The Leader trait can be useful if you'd like to have a particular underling that you develop in greater detail.
    • You can also purchase facilities for your gang as Major or Extreme items – although purchasing these items with your own CP generally only makes sense if your character directly controls the gang (as opposed to merely being a member).
  • Artisans
    • Your character's Craft skills will of course be the core of their concept and function.
    • You'll also want to purchase appropriate skill kits or shops, depending on how established and well-heeled your character is.
    • A Profession skill appropriate to your craft (or crafts) will be extremely important if you want your characte to know how to operate as an artisan – how to purchase supplies, sell their services, and so on.
  • Wealthy
    • Your character will need the wealth to spend, so Wealth Level 4 or 5 will be important.
    • So will the Protocol skill, because of its central role in bartering.
    • Since bartering often involves role-play, the other social skills can also be useful.
    • Portable wealth (like trade goods) and an income source (like an investmnet) can also be important.
  • Connections
    • Obviously, you character will need connections to call on. These might be represented with the Member of Patron classes, the Reputation system, or some other way.
    • Working with your character's connections will often involve some amount of role-play, so good ranks in social skills will be important.
    • Of course, your character likely has reciprocal obligations – if they're a member of the Far Watch, then the Far Watch will expect them to contribute – so skills appropriate to their role in the organization will be important.


As a provisioner character, you will play something of a supporting role: your job is to produce things that will help, enable or enable the rest of the party. This can take different forms: sometimes you'll produce things that they need to function in the first place, like purchasing gear and supplies for a party that's about to set out on an expdition into the frozen north, or the far shores past the horizon; other times, you'll produce items that amplify the party's effectiveness, like producing or upgrading weapons and armor, or producing an arsenal of useful potions; and still other times, you'll swoop in in with game-changing resources, radically altering the shape of the game, like a crime-lord character providing the party with leverage over a local lord or vital intelligence on a dangerous cult.

Note, of course, that "supporting" does not mean "passive". Just like any other player and role, you should be continuously and actively playing your character. You should always be on the lookout for times when your character's resources can make the difference – from something as simple as producing weapons and potions to something as vital as leverage, secrets, and access.

Other Characters

As a support character, you'll succeed by enabling the party; as such, understanding what they need will be important. After all, having a master gunsmith in the party won't help much if no-one in the party has the skill to use a gun.

It'll pay to work with the other characters, listening for any time they need something – any time the thing blocking another character, or the whole party, is the want of some thing that your character can provide.

Alternatively, you can also keep a listen out for times when your resources could dramatically change the tactical situation or open up new options.

One the one hand, you don't want to be pushy, trying to force tactics and choices on other characters that they don't want; but on the other, you also don't want to wait passively for them to call on you for help. After all, not every player is comfortable asking another character for help, and not every player keeps in mind the abilities of everyone else on the team. Sometimes, it's going to be your job to remind the party that you can help – that you can make potions, or buy supplies, or find blackmail, and that might be useful right now.


Of course, different variants of provisioner combine well with different roles.

Criminals, of course, can work well with infiltration, combat, and social skills, creating something like the classic rogue archetype.

Alternatively, provioners who use their wealth and connections often need good social skills, so they combine well with the socialite role.

Profession and Craft are COG-linked skills, and Profession is a knowledge-skill. So, crafters can also make good analysts.