Analyst: figure out what's going on

Very carefully, Fire used the small putty-knife to scoop out a glob of the dark ichor that had oozed from the creature's skull; he scraped it off into a clay jar and closed it with its waxed lid. He picked up the sealed jar and walked over to a small iron kettle that he'd brought to a boil at the foot of the bon-fire Aryn had built; he dropped the sodden putty-knife in.

"All right, throw it on," he said to her; she nodded to Chandra, and the two began to walk over to the corpse of the strange and disfigured crow-like creature that they'd slain. "Don't touch it."

"We're not idiots, Fire," Chandra said, although not angrily; Fire, silently contemplating the sealed jar, did not notice.

Renaissance focuses on intrigue, exploration, and horror as primary play modes, and characters who understand the subtle details of how their world works are essential to succeeding (or just surviving) those kinds of adventures. Knowing which Kingdom-of-Men a certain pendant belongs to, whether a magical effect is the work of mortals or spirits, or what kinds of creatures lurk in the deep underground can all turn the course of an adventure.

Your Analyst's Concept

Renaissance has very diverse knowledge skills; from Art: Theater to Knowledge: Astronomy to Profession: Scholar, there's more out there than any one character could know. This means that your Analyst character will have to pick a specific set of Knowledge skills to focus on, and will wind up being fairly specialized. (The ever-valuable Scholar and Jack of All Trades classes can help with this.)

So, a good first step is thinking about what you want your analyst to be expert in. Are they a scholar of history and law, like River? A master of magic and natural philosophy, like Fire? A high-ranking military officer, well-versed in matters of war and politics, like General Chandra? Or perhaps just a well-read, well-travelled, inquisitive soul, like Notebook?

Of course, Profession is also a knowledge skill; that means that a professionals, traders and artisans can also be Analysts. A master smith offers not just the ability to make useful items, but — through the Profession skill — a knowledge of business, and understanding of what is possible with blacksmithing, the ability to analyze the work of others, and a knowledge of the uses and purposes of weapons, armors and tools.

Matching an Analyst to a Game

Some types of Analysts will be more useful to some types of games than others; while working on your concept, it's a good idea to make sure that your analyst has the skills that your game is actually likely to require. River (a lawyer, expert in law and history) might come to dominate an intrigue game set in the Kingdoms of Men, but he might also be of little or no use in an exploration game set on an island hundreds or thousands of demarc out to sea.

If you're building a character for a one-off game, it's easy to match their expertise to the situation; if you're building a character for a persistent group, that's likely to go on different adventures in different places, it can be trickier. While the Scholar and Jack of All Trades classes can help, no one Analyst could ever possibly cover all — or even most — of the areas of knowledge that a group might require.

Practically, its important to make sure that every character picks up at least a few ranks in the Knowledge skills that represent their ares of expertise. (Since you'll have supporting skills — like Research — that many of other characters won't, your skills as an Analyst will still be essential.)

Building an Analyst

If your character is great at Analysis:

  • At least two Knowledge skills at 70.
    • These represent your Analyst's particular expertise.
    • Remember Art, Knowledge, Profession, and Protocol are all Knowledge skills.
  • Research at at least 50.
  • Either the Scholar class, or the Jack of All Trades class, or both.
    • The Scholar class is important so that your expert in military tactics can still be an Analyst during an adventure on an unexplored island 800 demarc from the coast.
    • The Jack of All Trades class is important for profession-based Analysts; it allows your master Chemist to be able to provide at least basic information about farming practices or soldiery.
  • 25 COG or more
    • This is important to get the highest TN you can for your knowledge skills, and to get the most out of the Scholar class.
    • Even if your Analyst is art-based, you'll still want ot have good COG, because COG is used for the Scholar class, for the Research skill, and to Solve Logical Puzzles.
  • 20 INT or more
    • The Jack-of-All-Trades class uses a INT as well as COG.
    • INT is used to Make a Guess, Get a Clue and for Difficult Uses of Language.
    • And, of course, Art is INT-based; you'll need 25 or more INT if your Analyst is an artist.
  • Optionally: the Member class
    • Are you faculty at a university somewhere? Or or you a member of one of the Commonwealth's professional guilds? Represent it with the Member class.
  • Optionally: a skill kit or shop.
    • A skill kit might contain the tools specific to your area of expertise, while a shop might include a library, an office, quills, paper, or a space for tutoriing.
    • A Profession: Scholar skill kit is a workable way to "cheat" and get a flexible kit that includes "you know, probably papers, pens, and some reference books."
    • You should definitely take a Skill Kit or Shop if you don't take the Member class — because your character has to have their papers and notes somewhere, and if they're not a Member of a of some organization, they have to provide it themselves.
    • You might want to take a Skill Kit or Shop even if you are a Member of an organization, so that you aren't dependant on that organization for support — which is especially important if you're a travelling scholar who might find themselves far away from the college that they're a member of.
  • Optionally: Profession: Scholar at 50 or more.
    • This is in addition to your two-or-more other knowledge skills at 70 or more.
    • Profession: Scholar is useful if your character makes their living as a scholar — by tutoring students, lecturing, conducting research, and corresponding with other scholars.

If your character is good at Analysis:

  • At least two Knowledge skills at 50.
  • Research at at least 50
    • Research might be even more important if we already know your character doesn't know everything about their particular expertise.
  • Either the Scholar class or the Jack of All Trades class.
    • These classes remain important for the same reasons, but note that you'll need to take good enough COG and INT to use them.
    • If you don't take one of these classes, you might encounter a lot of situations where your group needs an analyst but you can't help.
  • 20 COG or more
  • 20 INT or more, if you're going to take Jack of All Trades

Playing an Analyst

As an analyst, your main job is to provide the party with information.

Over the course of an adventure, the party will have question. "Could this strange phenomenon be the work of mortals, or is a spirit doing it? What mortal mages are likely culprits?" "What Spirits could be doing this? What do they want? How can we stop them?" "Who would want to assassinate this Eastern King? Does this scrap of cloth make one of those options more likely than the other? Could it be a set-up?" "Is that person a real blacksmith? Where are they really from? Where they ever in the army, or a guild?" "Did this relic really come from a mysterious island far off the coast, or is it a fake? How old is it? What might it do?"

Your job, as an analyst, is to provide this kind of information, and your knowledge skills (and the Scholar and Jack-of-all-Trades classes) are the tools that you'll use to do this.

Sometimes, the GM will tell you things that you just know, without requiring you to explicitly ask a question or roll a check; after all, if a character has basic competence in a skill — that is, 10 ranks in a skill — then they have access to common knowledge associated with that skill.

Other times, however, you'll need to actively ask the GM questions, and actively roll checks to find out what your character knows; always keep in mind that your character might know more about a given subject than the GM told you up-front. The GM might not even tell you that you can roll a check or might know more; you need to be proactive, on the lookout for times when your skills might allow you to gain more information or make connections.

Try to keep track of what bits of information the party has, and what other pieces of information that the party needs, and look for ways that you can answer those hanging questions. (In investigation-themed games, parties can hang because they either don't have an analyst, or the analyst isn't actively tackling open questions and turning them into answers.)

Note that some of those questions are of the form, "and what can we do about it?" That's a question that you can use your Knowledge skills to ask the GM! Sometimes, especially when the group is stuck, you can ask the GM what avenues the party has open, or what pieces they might have missed. If you're an analyst, you might have good INT; remember that you can always just make a guess or get a hint (see Basic Rules).

Of course, you shouldn't be overbearing. Just because you have all the expertise, doesn't mean you get to be the boss. Just because you have a plan you like, doesn't mean the rest of the party has to agree to it. And just because you need some piece of information, doesn't mean someone else has to go get it for you.

Research and Experimentation

Being an analyst is likely to involve time in libraries, labs, and workshops.

Analyst and Other Characters

Analysts need someone to provide them with clues and information to analyse: they depend on Infiltrators to get into interesting places and get out with interesting things; on Socialites to use their social skills to get information out of people; and on Provisioners to buy, bribe, or extort secrets and treasures that can't be acquired any other way.

Analysts also often need resources — access to libraries, workshops, and laboratories. They might depend on a Provisioner to get them these resources.

And, of course, once an Analyst has a strong hypothesis or workable plan, they might need a "doer" to carry it out; this might be an Infiltrator quietly stealing a hidden treasure or dispatching a troublesome noble, a Socialite running a smear campaign or blackmailing a noble, or — last, but by no means least — a Combatant sorting an enemy out.

Combining Analysts with Other Roles

Characters with high COG might be likely to take Craft and Profession skills, and serve the party as provisioners as well as Analysts. It also makes sense that someone with Knowledge: Natural Philosophy might have a few ranks in Craft: Chemistry and Profession: Chemist, or that someone with lots of ranks in Knowledge: Military Tactics might have ranks in Profession: Soldier and Craft: Armorer.

Characters who want to emphasize the social aspects of scholarship — who might be faculty at a university, for example, or famous authors of textbooks and tracts — could also purchase ranks in social skills and serve the party as a secondary social character. Protocol is an especially logical choice here.

Characters who really want to lean into a Provisioner role might also purchase a high Wealth score; this makes some sense, as scholars can be well paid — and because it's often the wealthy who can afford to become a scholar in the first place.

All of these ideas could be combined: an Analyst character with Protocol at 60, some social and craft skills in the 50's, and wealth at least 4 could be a powerful Provisioner as well as an analyst.

Of course, characters with good COG might also take Medicine and serve the party as a healer. Or, going in a completely different direction, scholars of magic (or chemistry) can have access to the skills and resources to be quite deadly.

From world-wise benedictine monks to fastidious Belgian detectives, investigators can make great characters. An Analyst character could also purchase ranks in Search and Perception to build an investigator. The concept could be taken further bu purchasing ranks in Infiltration-related skills, to create an Analyst that can secure their own clues. Some of fictions' famous detectives where notable as much for their ability to extract information from suspects as their esoteric knowledge or problem-solving skills; mixing knowledge and social skills is another way to create an Analyst character that can, in some situations, procure their own clues.

There are two practical risks to this kind of detective character. One is that it might be too atomic and self-contained — one of the Analyst's major external dependencies is the Infiltrator, who they depend on to provide them with clues and information. If the Investigator and Analyst are the same person, they might vanish into a solipsistic adventure that barely involves the rest of the party. Another is that it presents a significant risk if an infiltration fails and the character is captured (or killed): the party's "knowledge assets" will have fallen into enemy hands (or been destroyed).

The Mystery Beneath the Ice

Fire began to chip at the wall of ice with a small, sharp hammer he'd produced form his smith's tools; Notebook turned, stepped over to her rucksack, fished out a growing arm-ful of chemical equipment, and began to set it up. After a few minutes, she stopped and listened closely; she could hear no sign of Fire. No chipping, no footsteps, no breathing in the echoing caverns.

"Fire?" she asked; there was no response. "Fire?" she asked again, fear creeping into her voice; again, there was no response from the Shifter, only the distant echo of her own voice and breathing.

She turned around; Fire was looking at her, confused. "Yes? Couldn't you hear me?" he asked.

"No," she said, still slightly rattled. "…didn't you get a sample?" she asked after a moment.

He looked down at his hands: he was holding the pick and the empty jar. He then looked back at the wall: it was barely scratched. He'd made no progress at all in the intervening minutes.

"No," he said, more curious than frightened — if only slightly.

"Fascinating," said Notebook.