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Inserting Non-Combatants Into Conflict
How do we help our newbs get messy?

During our guided discussion today, one of the key takeaways was the difficulty of new players to find their place in conflicts particularly those who are non-combatants.

Typically, I find gangs and fixers to the best entry-level opportunities for these individuals to pick sides.

For those of us veteran players, what do you recommend to these newer players and what do you think we could do to help instead of hinder?

For those of you who find yourself in this very position, past or present, what has your experience been like and where are you challenged most?

I'm by no means a vet but my first character was in a gang and as a brand new player to the game, even as a combat build, you are basically a non combatant, as I'm sure you know, and it was miserable losing all the time, so it's hard for me to suggest a gang as a way to get into anything meaningful to a non combatant in good faith.
For those of us veteran players, what do you recommend to these newer players and what do you think we could do to help instead of hinder?

Informational warfare. Hire immies to be your eyes and ears when your character is "asleep". Give them an e-note and tell them to keep an ear out for people mentioning X, Y and Z topic on SIC, or follow around Character A and write down whoever they interact with, or listen for any conversation about Character B.

Pay them to strike up conversations with people who wouldn't give your character the time of day, pay them to put up SIC ads, take photographs of events or people, the opportunities are endless.

In descending order of importance, my own experience in terms of what value I felt I presented to other players as a new(-ish) character(s), were:

1. Being active the same times as them, consistently.

2. Being also active some time before or after they were each day.

3. Having a vehicle that seats a second person.

As far as veterans roping new characters in better, I'm probably one of the worst players when it comes to this, I never really learned how to do it well (or really at all), so I am interested what suggestions come up here.

My suggestions for new players:

Be more open and comfortable saying yes. Not every job or ask is going to get you killed or aims to put you in a position to get killed.

Get yourself situated and open to being contacted multiple ways.

Remember that sometimes a smallpaying job is a pathway, a road to higher paying and more consistent jobs. Sometimes a vet is just testing your PC out (not their skillset/UE, just them) by dipping their toes into the water first.

Advice for other vets:

Don't get upset if someone who's doing work for you does work for someone else. I think the best advice a former GM with a bad reputation ever gave the game was don't try to force people to only work with you. It's okay if your PC gets upset that a PC might've went behind their back, etc, but don't go up to a PC and be like "Only do work for me, or you die." (and this isn't about taking out opposition asset RP when the time comes and you need to do that).

If an immie/new player fades out/burns out and doesn't stick around even after investments, that's okay. Yeah, it sucks sometimes, and sometimes you need a little bit to get over that sting. But just because one or two or five immies burned out or didn't work out doesn't mean the next won't. Be okay with losing some chyen and time.

{*}As a newbie, one of the biggest frustrations is that somehow you all believe that after 14 days someone will be fully developed, know literally everything needed to survive and shall no longer be considered for any sort of RP aimed towards "Immies". I'm coming up on about seven months and I'm barely understanding the mechanics still. But when people call out "I need a Runner" I immediately answer only to hear "One closer to their gate day preferred!", and I'm promptly ignored. Only to hear the same characters bitch whine and moan about how nobody wants to work anymore and how its so hard to convince people to do anything even when they offer so much money... which they never do.

So veteran players may want to start including things like "I want a runner, 5K job!" and you'll see how quick you get people lined up, instead of just asking for a runner for no amount offered, rejecting the RP of those who want to engage, and whining about how nobody wants to work.

{*} I think a big challenge right I'm facing is that the OOC information presented to the player in terms of expectations of what Sindome is is not accurate. The Archetypes, while present in the game, are not a realistic depiction of anything resembling a player's experience in the first three months of play. For the first three months of SD, someone is either a Ganger, a Medic, or a Runner. I feel that without any knowledge of the Stat, Skill, DICE, or any mechanics of how to build a character, someone is going to build something approaching a fighter, a healer, or a trainwreck of not knowing how to build a character coupled with lack of any UE.

And my condolences to anyone who chooses to choose anything other than Ganger/Medic because there is little to no support for any other job. People will make comments about respecting your hustle trying to peddle cigars on PUBSIC, but due to a lack of hunger system, and the above mentioned habit of ignoring anyone outside of 14 days, its the Runner on the side of the road selling oranges who is going to inevitably starve and booth when tolls start becoming a problem. While the other two "classes" might also feel helpless and weak, they have a social network of other gangers and EMTs to interact with and help them. Not so for the Runner/Fixer path. You're not going to have any of the connections, nor the skills to get decent prices, and be seen as active competition that should be actively attacked and discouraged from playing. Big Boot, meet Small Guy.

{*} Finally, I think my biggest challenge is overcoming the cognitive dissonance that surrounds the gun market. I'm told through flavor text that guns are seemingly everywhere. Walk down the street, you hear gunfire so often you'd be amazed if it was fireworks. Going elsewhere, bursts of gunfire fade into the silence. Sindome through description makes it sound like even though they're illegal, guns are about as easy to acquire as booze during the Prohibition. But for some reason NOBODY in the Mix uses them. For a game that puts up "Lord of War" as an archetype that a Newbie can totally just jump in and start playing, it really has been a bummer to find out that anything having to do with guns means being ram-rodded into Corpsec, which means dumping UE into becoming a combat character when I don't want to do combat.

I don't think this is a new player vs. vet problem. It might not even be a problem at all, honestly, depending on your perspective. The way I see a cyberpunk world is that manipulation more often than not trumps brute force. And 90% of the time there is someone at the top without crazy combat skills that pulls the strings. But the culture here doesn't distinguish between the two. Combat builds always take precedence.

I would think that someone with high intelligence and personal skills would be ripe for leadership positions in exactly the same organizations that we are told make this game what it is through the end-game. In reality, that rarely happens. Let leadership roles lead. Let muscle be muscle. I know there are exceptions here with syndies but they are few. Topside, your building blows up, PR wants to take control of the situation or at least play a role, and they're told to work with security. Security sidelines everything or handles it on their own.

Its a matter of the games cultural perspective of actual roles and how there's only one real archetype, the solo/streetsam (besides medics) that absorbs every role in the game. There's just not much left for noncombat roles but party planners and tailoring. If nobody sees that as a problem then it really isn't a problem. That's just my view of this topic and how I think it should change.

I do like the idea of expanding the role of public relations and I think that's a good suggestion for current security forces across all types to see done. More collaboration and coordination.
I want to pre-amble qucikly to say this is my experiences, these are my thoughts and most importantly MY CHOICES on how I want to interact with Sindome. Reflecting I have zero idea why I choose to play like this.

My take on this having played a non-combat (as in literally zero EU investment in any combat related skills) puppet string puller for close to three years now is that it is hard and incredibly draining to the point of being masochistic.

The game at a mechanics level is might makes right, so to make a non-com work you have to put in a lot of thought, a lot of time and take losses over and over. Not direct losses, but to get things done within conflict as a non-com you are entirely reliant on investing in others. I would say a majority of investment either IC resource (chy, data, ete) and OOC resource (time, writing, planning, coms and RP) gets lost by characters dying, characters leaving and so on. It can be deeply frustrating after the tenth time in a row of investing over a course of months to have little to nothing come from those investments.

The hardest part is you cannot just go and blow off steam with combat or be in the public eye laughing it up (about your puppetry and work). You either play a shadow game where no one knows what you do short of those you do work with, which likely don't know who you are anyway or you don't and end up getting caught out and have to choose between going on the run (which would be cool if an immy with a butter knife couldn't just kill you).

I believe they need more staff support to, but I have nothing really to back it up, but without being able to be directly hands on in the conflict and having to play in the shadows around the conflict it limits options considerably. You need to take someone down you have to vet every person you might try to employ, which means you do that yourself or you employee someone else to do that. Which then means you have to vet that investigator too.

I am sure many of these things any character archetype has to face, the difference is that a non-combat character has no defence short of hiding themselves and their intentions as entirely as they can. Getting caught out is basically game over, even more so given that for those that get caught out and punished or rep ground down they don't have combat skills to fall back on to continue working and earning in the game.

As for how to help those character types, I really wish I could offer what is needed. Short of playing this archetype topside where you have a personal security force ready to rock, and the WJF you are basically playing on super epic legendary hard mode. Because you have to build that sort of assured security from PC's and by the very nature of the game and theme PC's tend to sell you out and should imho, loyalty is rare.

The only thing I can really offer is that there is more balance or appreciate for those types of characters from the world in general. There are NPC's who harbour huge respect for having power but zero combat ability, why that sort of thing cannot be extended to PC's I am not sure. Is it a community thing or a world thing?

I personally would find it so much more impressive to here of someone pulling strings from the shadows for years and worthy of notice from the world and PC's than say someone who has a high combat skill.

But as I have thought many times before, perhaps I am just playing Sindome wrong. And there just isn't actually a viable space for these kinds of characters at all, and we are all under the illusion that they actually are and try desperately to make them fit.

I will say that playing the social versus combat game is hard in SD due to the fact that everyone is other players and people can OOCly act differently from characters. Unfortunately, stats can't sway someone IRL to believe your pitch unless you can IRL pitch it to the ability of your character. Same goes for intelligence - I've always had trouble playing highly intelligent characters for the same reason. Can be the highest level in the stat or skill, but if you don't do outside research to make it seem that way, you'll be ground down for it.

However, I do think that those who play the social game or non-combat game, either blatantly or subtly, are what makes the game what it is and is why I continue to play SD compared to other options. Combat is (fairly) blatant. But the amount of things non-combat wise I am continually amazed by and inspired by to pursue skills and RP because I did not know they were options until someone tried it is what makes me want to be a non-combatant more and more. Its scary and hard, but that is the rewarding gameplay I am here for. Maybe its very niche and specific to me, but I think more combat characters should open up their horizons to talk to some non-combat players - deckers, medics, chemists, cyberdocs, mechanics etc and see what opportunities there may be if they are open to different methods of testing and support. Maybe your chemist friend can't make X drug yet....but if you support them and get them the requisite materials, you'll have a boost and that is fun RP for all involved. That sort of thing.

Additionally, bring non-combatants on plots. It may seem counterintuitive but more often than not I have had various combat doorkicker plots ground to a stop because none of the meatheads could work any tech or fix a car. Foster support roles for these mission - You know you're going to be driving your vehicle into hardship, bring along a mechanic. Maybe they come in clutch when your vehicle is shot up and you need it to be limped to a garage. You need intel prior to a mission? Go above and beyond normal data collection and have a data specialist DIG for it. Get a go to faceman or cybertech or programmer or thief on your payroll to support your endeavors. The amount of times I have seen full armored solos brought to their knees by a conveniently placed pickpocket, or by their tech failing, is always enjoyable. It requires investment, of course, be that in UE or chyen, but the RP is there if people choose to foster it.

Actually I rather like that Dawnshot, and something I didn't think about. PLOTS, more plots should involve non-combat types, if you want to bring them into conflict consider bringing a non-combat medic, or a mechanic who can't fight.

And as I write this... I realise that why would anyone do that when they can just slot a skill soft to be as good a medic as most medics or good enough to not warrant pulling someone like that in, same as a mechanic same as...

See I love the idea of having that be the case, of non-combat characters being pulled into conflict and combat plot but honestly I have rarely ever seen that happen. I have seen characters with high levels in those skills not chosen over those with much lesser skills or skillsofts because they don't have combat skills.

I think some of the issue with bringing these character types in is simply mechanically why would you. Why would anyone IC or OOC take the risk. You can have a combat heavy with a skill soft be a good enough medic in almost any and all situations, why would you take a non-combat character who can do heal just a little more efficiently. Same can be said for mechanic and deckers.

This is not a complaint, this is a genuine question to those that do big plot combat jobs, is there any reason at all for you to actually take a non-combat character with you?

As for plots in general, are non-combat characters actually pulled into that sort of stuff from a GM plot run sort of deal?

Is it even considered at large that there are max level EU characters in the game with zero combat skills?

I will bring up the fact that a skillsoft does not bring with it the knowledge of someone who has been in their field and knows the ins and outs. Anyone can slot a skillsoft for a system, but not know all it can do. Even recently, I was surprised by options in a field I spent a year or two in previously all because I had never investigated a certain line of thinking which opened up a whole separate rabbit hole of uses of said skill.

That honestly is why I enjoy the non-combat game so much. Because you get to explore these things that (99% of the time) people have not explored in years and so the knowledge is lost and refound and that can be equally engaging RP with multiple people who aren't even versed in the skill but are in the room while you are troubleshooting.

Can you get that experience with a skillsoft if you decide to invest the downtime to doing so? Sure. But in the end those who spend their RP time choosing to explore these systems and make it their thing will be better off than those who do not. And including non-combatants or support roles in your plots can be easily doable. One of my favorite plots from ages ago was escorting non-combatants to a exploratory task they had to do (being intentionally vague) and assisting in collecting data. There was combat galore, but the main plot could never have been done if a bunch of doughboys slotted skillsofts.

I also invite people to think of skills that are tangentially combat related in their own light - Do you need someone who can fight AND disguise themselves, or can you get away with just a really good disguised person doing the job without anyone knowing? Do you need to actually get in a fight, or is someone who is really flighty and knows the city like the back of their hand who can just outrun all the solos a better fit for the work you need? Those are fully non-combat scenarios that even an average player could get into with less investment. Knowledge is power, and if you leverage it, you can go amazing places in this game. It just takes a want to do so, rather than bash combat numbers together because redtext is fun.

I say with some confidence that a number of people I've spoken with will almost always choose to take a technical character over a skillsoft character any day of the week. Even if the tech is significantly less able than someone with a plat soft. The only real exception to this rule is when things that require a high level of infosec, and even then - I try my best to find outside techs.

I will say, I think there's been some trends that have changed in the mix from previous years that have led to a feeling of less integration with combat-types. I'll call out a few I've noticed:

-Hire medics and take them along before going into combat and getting your shit wrecked. Showing up to a clinic 90% dead after a premeditated brawl and then screaming on pubsic is dumb.

-Involve techs from the start of a desired outcome, and put them to work. Example: You want to put a camera up somewhere around . Hire the tech to scout out all the cams in the area and make a suggestion as to where to put it. This exposes them to some level of danger - but it also gets them involved more so that they don't think their job is just plugging in a lightbulb.

-Hire your mechanic to make parts suggestions, repairs (even if purely cosmetic) paint touch-ups or to scout out for 'vehicular salvage.'

-Literally just hire riggers.

I haven't followed this entirely but my main issue with playing non-combatant characters is that when I try to provoke, I always get insta-killed through coded combat rather than confronted with poses and emotes. I suppose people are afraid of OOC abuse or powergaming but that's one of the things I miss from other communities.
One of the problems is that there is a pretty common player mentality of some players self-sorting themselves into 'support' roles from the outset, like they are thinking, okay I want to play a support character so I'll take 'support' non-combat skills that are useful to other players and they will involve me in things. This often seems to be true of some medical archetypes, which I think is probably because of MMOs making players think of medical archetypes as support healers.

The thing is though, this is not really how things end up working the vast majority of the time. If you have a skillset you need to use it yourself to the desired effect, drive your own plots with it, and take advantage of it yourself more than anything, because other players making use of you as a supporting element will be the vanishingly small minority of gameplay that most players encounter.

Even for pure combatant characters, the amount of gameplay that will come from other people hiring/telling them to do things is going to be the exception compared to whatever they are driven to do themselves, it's not an archetype specific thing. Anyone self-assigning themselves a support role is going to sit around waiting for the game to happen unless they happen to get very lucky with someone who is a great leader or idea person directing them.

Skills that are not immediately useful to the player taking them are often the weakest in the game, and skills that require niche circumstances to shine need those circumstances to be created by the player themselves. Electro techs need to be assembling their own surveillance networks, pilots need to be fielding their own AVs, mechanics need to very much create their own biz, riggers need to create their own robot armies.

I think anyone who is relying on "I Can Do X, Hire Me" for their fun is going to be left wanting for the majority of their playing experience. Players need to make their own fun, no one else can be totally relied upon to generate it for them.

Ok, take skillsofts out of the equation as it is clear this is what people have lazor focussed on what I said.

Why would someone pick a slightly higher-skilled non-combat character over a somewhat less-skilled combat character for general conflict RP?

Perhaps there are some GM-driven skill checks that need to be done by high skilled characters but I have never seen that be the case in anything I have witnessed when it came to conflict. My view is narrow sure, but I don't think it is so narrow I cannot speak make mention of having not seen that sort of thing.

"Why would someone pick a slightly higher-skilled non-combat character over a somewhat less-skilled combat character for general conflict RP?"

Players tend to involve their friends and allies in their plots much moreso than they select based on skill checks and gear scores, but any pure non-combatant is going to have some disadvantages because of how the game is designed. Extreme combat specialism is highly overrated but by the same token, a little combat ability goes a long way.

Players should be realistic that if they're deliberately avoiding the most generally useful skills (like weapon skills, dodge, driving) they will generally have a somewhat tougher road in comparison, at least until the skills they do take are improved to the point they also become generally useful skills that everyone would want in some measure.

If someone is dogmatically avoiding any combat skill investment, and they want to be involved in combat-related plots even still, then the onus is probably on them to be really great allies who can be relied upon to the exclusion of someone else, or to have really expert strategic or tactical or plotting or social intelligence, or to have a lot of personal resources to be funding the whole affair.

@0x1mm To be fair, this is kind of the perspective I was mentioning. That combat specs are the focal point for all roles which diminishes the necessity for other specs in any role. If that's by design - that's ok. But let's just say that's what it is instead of pretending its not a might=right mindset.
If that's by design - that's ok.

I think in this instance it's a consequence of the oldest and core means of conflict resolution is combat. Many of the other systems in-game don't intersect with combat in meaningful ways which leaves support often an afterthought or convenience.

Rigging and vehicle combat are amazing step in the right direction.

Yes, I don't think it's by design per se, so much as it's sort of how it is now. The aspiration I think that should be pursued is that all archetypes can access more or less every part of the game in some way or other.

The game's design space in the past never incorporated things like technical characters having special abilities to engage with this type of violent conflict in their own way (a cyberneticist can wield a scalpel in combat but they can't supercharge allies in the heat of battle while guarded by hovering shock-bots), so as Reefer says stuff like Rigging and Vehicle Combat are a bit novel in that regard since they're systems whose updates have somewhat incorporated doing red text outside of traditional weapon specs... though I'd also argue they're deliberately underpowered compared to the 'core' weapon systems so as not to really change the overall combat ecosystem and there is still a long way to go before that is going to change.

One day I'd love to see an extremely dangerous and deadly character who had none of the classic weapon skills, dominating through technical mastery or hacking or cyber-psychic electronic warfare or air-to-surface loitering munitions... but in the medium term it's hard to beat just learning how to use a sword.

0x1mm and I had a conversation about this the other night, but I'll post here as it pertains to this topic.

It's my belief that the 'crunch' or mathy side of the game was setup in such a way that almost anyone can get to a more than satisfactory level of combat skills while also being fairly advanced in a technical skill or two. In fact, some of the more traditionally thought of 'combat adjacent' skills pair extremely well with many, many technical skills.

The only exceptions to this that I can think of would be something like a cybersurgeon or some other technical profession that I'm not aware of that takes a significant UE expenditure to be able to pass their 'tech' skill checks. There's been many significant cybersurgeons throughout my time playing the game who filled hybrid combat roles in varying degrees just fine, as well.

There really isn't a reason to do what Fopsy mentioned and go zero combat skill UE with your build unless you're really dead-set on learning a bunch of technical trades, or as she said - you have a serious affinity for masochism.

That said, build your character how you want, how your RP guides your path, and how it makes you happy OOCly. Just know that AFAIK, there isn't a single 'tech' career--or even two--that restricts your ability to engage with conflict and combat first-hand. Not everyone should feel the need to be a hybrid character - however, everyone should be aware of the efficacy of hybrid characters: which is something I don't think people entirely realize.

I think we are moving away from the OP here a little here. I think the intent is to try and think of how characters who are non-com's break into conflict RP, opposed to just saying. "WELP don't play a non-com character here"
I think at its core, combat in general is a lean-to in player culture. It's also what we see in a lot of cyberpunk film. Dredd, Cyberpunk, etc. Even in Blade runner, the sleuth can kick physical ass as needed. Everyone wants to be billy badass, and smashing your rival into the pavement (or even having a rep for being able to) is the most visceral (and sometimes satisfying) representation of that.

Anyway, non-com advice? I've seen some good suggests already, and I have some thoughts on it.

Physical prowess, in a word, is convenient. It's easy to carry out. It gets results. And it can be the path of least resistance. I play a character skilled in combat, but made a shift away from using it a couple of years ago. It has been incredibly difficult, and I've on occasion wrestled with throwing in the towel to use it again. But whether you specialize in combat, or invest no UE to it at all, there are some universal things you need to do - regardless of where your skill sets lay.

1. Be an asset to people

A lot of what Fopsy has expressed in terms of non-coms balancing and carefully calculating moves is true, especially as a shot caller with little or no support, and the danger of being exposed to your enemies (and sometimes your friends too) is real. If you're attempting to manipulate events quietly, then plan for the path in which you infrequently receive credit for your actions, or build up allies that will back you if shit hits the fan.

The goal here might be to build deep rep with a few people that know you're effective at something. Teach them to rely on your efficiency, consistency, and/or dependability. This doesn't refer to your technical skill with mechanical stats. It's a reference to your character's reputation in general, and you'll need to rely on it when things go bad.

If you're an aspiring cyberdoc, secure tech, etc. seek people willing to invest in you. I actively invest chrome and advice and time into characters that seek a skillset I lack and that I want to utilize. So do a lot of others.

If you're a no-name fixer wannabe, then find the made fixer willing to mentor you. Offer to work for them, be a face, etc. Prove yourself reliable and invest in each other, build trust, and branch off into broader things as you grow under them.

You have to put in the legwork, find them, prove you can be useful, and ask. You might be surprised at the opportunities that unfurl for you. This leads to...

2. Networking

Hot Take: Someone above said deep combat is overrated, and they're right 90 or so percent of the time. Know what isn't overrated? Not having to lift a finger to a gun because your three biz partners/chums will do it for you, sometimes while you stand there and watch it happen all smug-like. Or hell, not even your chums.

I've been in a couple of situations where my general rep alone has summoned a handful or two of people to show up for me or mine just by making pubsic statements or requests in the moment.

Nobody is a one man army. There's always someone better, and even if you think you're the best, a moderately skilled group of allies can (and often will) still put you down if you're alone in a fight.

Therefore, even a deep investment in combat is unlikely to free you from the need for creating allies, networking, and being useful.

I can't stress networking enough, and it's something I preach to and foster for new players like gospel when I have the opportunity.

3. Rep

This word has popped up a lot in what I've already written, and it's crucial. Build it. Make a name for yourself as something, and do it fast. It's true that the first two weeks won't teach a new player everything about the game, and it isn't meant to. I've been playing for the better part of five years, and I still often feel like an infant in this pond. It's a brutal, unforgiving environment to RP in, there are uncountable amounts of things you could learn/know IC and OOC to inform gameplay, and there are disclaimers as to its difficulty.

Rep can take that edge off, and it goes hand in hand with the the first two points above. A budding rep can be established as quickly as the character settles on one and fosters it - even before the Immy period is over.

ICly, rep is a measure of your character's social status, and the responses it gets from people will inform/boost your RP opportunities. Build it, and they will come.

OOCly, I've concluded that your rep is how we as players determine if we want to engage in RP with you. I don't mean this in terms of "Is this baka a Cain? Yes? Fuck them.", or "Damn this femboy is the funniest decker I've ever met.". I mean OOCly, "does this person RP? Are they present at all? Are they engaging at all? Are they making some measurable effort that makes the return effort of approaching them worth my time?" Therefore, at the heart of these suggestions is this next piece of advice.

4. Be Social

It's hard to constantly seek engagement with players that are lukewarm about RP, or that don't seem to RP at all. We're playing a game here, but there's an emotional, mental, physical investment in RP, and people don't want to feel like that time is being wasted.

This is often a problem I see (I've been victim to it myself) in veteran players; we get exhausted with the repeated failures of engaging in RP, just to see people quit/give up/no sell/booth, etc. It's one of the reasons Immigration type jobs have a historically high turnover rate. (my opinion based on anecdotal evidence - no statistical backing here).

Immy characters get a pass from me, but it still takes a toll when my energy is wasted like this.

Being social as a PC tells me that you are actively seeking RP opportunities even if you don't know how you want it to manifest yet, that you are physically and mentally focused on being actually present, and that you WANT to engage with somebody.

5. Last one, and this is an oft repeated piece of advice. PICK A SIDE. Very few people can be friends with everyone and not find themselves in a gutter at some point. Maybe no one. If you're that newish non-com that gives themself on the wrong end of a pubsic exchange, receiving threats, being attacked, etc. PICK A SIDE. Find that person/group's rivals and enemies. Bargain for safety or support. Indebt yourselves to them with services provided. Anything to eek out a modicum of safety or support. Work to get even if you want to. Whatever you do, PICK A SIDE.