My last post on contacts got me thinking, and I dug back through my folio to one of my original Runners, a one-trick-pony of a gun nut from 3rd Edition. This character had three, or four, incarnations over the course of his lifetime, each slightly more fine-tuned then the last. He is still remembered fondly for glitching a climbing test, and getting killed messily in the middle of a museum. Oops. This is also the reason why everybody in my group took the Athletics skill group at a 1, or better.
Now, I'm not going to give you his stats, other than some basic information, instead I'm going to describe the scene as if I was GM'ing for a group, and they wanted to contact Mr. Doyle for some reason.
The sign reads "Doyle & Sons: Gunsmith" sandwiched in a strip mall in Renton between a discount shoe store, a mom & pop take on a Stuffer Shack. The front of the store, viewed from the street has a series of windows, covered in a fine black grill, to deter break-ins. As you push open the door a bell sounds. The front of the shop is dimply lit, a few overhead bulbs suspended in metal cages provide illumination for the racks of ammunition, and accessories, and the front counter. As you approach the counter you can't help but notice the myriad nicks, and scrapes in the wood, a sure sign of years of use. A man steps out of the back room, a sawed off shotgun dangling from one hand, along the side of the stock you can see "First Born Son" has been engraved. As he catches sight of you, and your group, he speaks. His voice is rough, gravely, from years of smoking. A fact that is only reinforced by the full ashtray on his side of the counter, and the bulge in his shirt pocket that you hope is nothing more dangerous then a pack of cigarettes. "Can I help you?"
What all did that monologue accomplish? First, I established the scene, the mood, the feeling that I'm trying to convey. The shop is older, worn, I gave away no crucial information, no sense of the security, or information about the proprietor, then the fact that the windows are covered. I ended the monologue with a query, the player, or players, must now choose to respond. I have not confirmed that the individual greeting them is their contact, nor would I, if a player knows the contact then they could ask me out of character if that's the contact, and I'd privately answer in the affirmative. However, if this is a blind meet, then it's up to the players on how they proceed.
After confirming the contacts identity, I'd say the following:
The man facing you across the counter appears to be in his mid-40s, though years of work outdoors, and heavy smoking have aged him some, so his exact age is hard to determine. His eyes are a soft blue, a well-washed denim blue, and they stare out from a face covered in fine wrinkles, and a perpetual tan that he's managed to keep in spite of Seattle's patchy weather. He places the shotgun across the table and leans forward. His forearms flex, not with the bulky muscle of steroids, but with the long lean cords of muscle earned through hard work, and harder living. His shirt, a well worn flannel button down, with the sleeves rolled above his elbows, is unbuttoned at the neck, revealing a hint of a tattooBehind him, is a rack of firearms, of nearly every shape and description, all neatly tagged and awaiting pickup.
When you describe anything, but especially a contact, you have to make them come alive. Of course, I could say that "Your contact is a white human, male, six feet tall, tanned, with blue eyes he's wearing a flannel shirt and carrying a sawed off shotgun." that conveys the same basic information, but it's dull, terribly, terribly, dull. This is a game, and what's more, it's a story. You have got to sell your characters, every person you meet, sell them.
The best advice I can give a new GM, is that you must, absolutely must, pay attention. If you're going to tell a convincing story pay attention to the people around you, what makes them unique, what little things, ticks, facial expressions, patterns of behavior, and dress, stick out? Remember them, and make note of them, and use them. Your contacts should be just as important, if not more important, then your players. Your players can sell themselves, they can describe their actions, their look, their gear, your contacts have only you, and you must do them justice.