Let’s work off a more linear pattern for background/relationships. In this way, the benefits of the relationships are flat bonuses. Every level of a background/relationship provides a simple flat bonus (one advantage granted at the beginning of each conflict for each level in the relevant background. If a character is able to draw on more than one background at the start of a conflict, they must choose which one is most relevant, and they may gain a single advantage point each from other relevant backgrounds, during subsequent turns they might gain an additional advantage point from these other backgrounds up to the point where each background has contributed it’s maximum number of advantage points). A character can easily get the first level in a relationship, but it gets harder to improve this relationship to higher levels.
The first level costs one point, the second level costs 2 points, the third level 3 points, etc. But there is no limit to how far a character might be able to go. Characters with incredible psychic potential might have spent 45 points in total to earn 9 levels of power, they’d need to spend another 10 points to get that 10th level. Meanwhile a character just starting their journey to psychic awareness might spend those same 10 points to go from zero to level 4. I’d probably apply some kind of story requirement to the acquisition of new background levels, maybe even capping it to one level per game unless a specific in game reason saw a way around this…(you ran the last mutant frog out of town, you could probably spend 6 points to take their former level 3 stronghold as your own).
For communal backgrounds, I think that everyone should keep track of how much they’ve spent on the total. The first point spent gives access to the communal background, and every point after that is thrown into a pool that improves the background in the usual manner. Improving from level 6 to level 7 might take 7 points, but two of the character’s might spend three points each, while the third character only contributes one point to it. If everyone knows how many points were spent on the total, then those who spent more points might have priority in describing the specifics of the background, or gaining access to the points it provides. Nothing formal, more of a friendly agreement.
What happens when a character dies, or leaves the story for some reason? I don’t think it’s fair to just negate all of the points that this particular character added to the communal resource, nor do I think that this character’s legacy should simply remain intact forever. Instead I’d suggest that each game, the missing character’s contribution degrades by a single point, until it is gone. Or maybe roll a die, to see whether the contribution degrades…I’m not sure, and I don’t think I really need to get bogged down in that detail while there are so many other important things about the system and setting that really need to be addressed first.
Activation Condition: You must successfully contact an ally in one scene before their points become available in a subsequent scene.
Benefit: You must name a specific ally for each point, such allies have their own statistics as though they were a character. Two ally points may be spend on a single ally to reflect an experienced veteran. [All ally points are spent permanently on specific defined individuals]
Drawback: Calling on an ally will often result in a favour that needs to be repaid; also, once an ally is killed or neutralised in the story, any points associated with the ally are permanently lost. [Disadvantages in a conflict may injure or even neutralise the ally, or may require bigger favours before they’ll aid you again]
Activation Condition: You must successfully reach one of your primary contacts before their points become available, otherwise only a secondary contact can be reached (half the usual benefits).
Benefit: You may name a specific contact for each point, where a named contact may provide an automatic success to a specific field of knowledge while you are interacting with them. Unspecified points count as generic contacts that may provide a standard d2 verb bonus when the points are expended. [Permanently spend points on specific named individuals with known areas of extensive knowledge, or temporarily spend points on generic contacts with lesser knowledge]
Drawback: Calling on a contact will often result in a favour that needs to be repaid. [Disadvatntages may lead to incomplete or out-of-date information, or may lead to bigger favours needing repayment before the contact may be used again]
Activation Condition: You must specify equipment items being carried, or be near the storage area for your equipment to gain its full benefits (otherwise you may have assorted generic items which provide half the usual benefits).
Benefit: You may specify items that exist in your equipment, where each point provides an automatic degree of success due to your familiarity with it. Unspecified points count as generic items and toolkits that may provide a standard +d2 equipment bonus when they are expended. [Permanently spend points on improved equipment, or temporarily spend points to access ad-hoc equipment of lesser quality]
Drawback: When used, equipment may become damaged (thus requiring successful actions to repair them) or may become completely broken/lost. [Disadvantages during a conflict may lead to damaged or even irreparable items when they are used]
Activation Condition: You must be in an area associated with your influence to gain its full benefits (otherwise only half benefits apply). The effects of influence are never instantaneous, they often take one or more scenes to manifest.
Benefit: Gradual accumulation of point expenditure may cause specific effects, or accumulate into wide ranging events that have significance influence on the long term narrative. [Spend points to overcome narrative obstacles where your influence might have some power, or to suppress negative effects resulting from failed actions in your influence’s field]
Drawback: Besides being slow, the use of influence might be cancelled by other people similarly using influence. [Disadvantages earned during a conflict may result in your actions being broadcast to other people with similar influences, or may see the influence permanently reduced]
Activation Condition: You must be in the presence of your mentor to gain the full benefits.
Benefit: Training from your mentor may be used to fulfil the conditions necessary to learning (or improving) abilities, your mentor may also assist in social or physical conflicts if the need arises. [All mentor points are spent permanently on specific defined individuals]
Drawback: Once a mentor is killed or neutralised in the story, any points associated with the mentor are permanently lost. [Disadvantages in a conflict may injure or even neutralise the mentor, or may require some kind of penance before they will continue their teaching]
Activation Condition: Psy is available at any time, but as soon as it is accessed, you are connected to the Dreaming (for all the benefits and drawbacks this entails).
Benefit: Once connected to the Dreaming, you may spend these advantage points to increase the effectiveness of any psychic or mystic actions. [Permanently spend points on a continued link to the dreaming focused on a specific power. Temporarily spend points to enhance any powers you might possess, or resist the powers of others]
Drawback: Excess use of psy may cause mutagenic instability, and may alert other psychics/mystics to your presence. [Disadvantages in a conflict may cause instability or direct injury, or may have some other form of psychic backlash based on the manifested effect (at the GMs discretion)]
Activation Condition: Someone needs to know you, or be associated with groups who know you, before you gain the benefits of reputation.
Benefit: Among people who know your reputation, you may spend these advantage points on social actions, or prevent incoming social actions that might impact your reputation. [All reputation points are spent on a temporary basis, to improve social standing in a given situation]
Drawback: Calling on your reputation too much may see it diminish or may see it vanish completely. [Disadvantages may see people come to question your reputation, rendering it unusable until the reputation is restored]
Activation Condition: You must be within your sanctum to gain the full benefit, if you are near the sanctum you gain half the benefit.
Benefit: When in your sanctum, you may spend these advantage points to reflect home area knowledge. [Permanently spend points to reflect traps, defences, and other features of your sanctum, or temporarily spend points to gain home ground advantages]
Drawback: Once a sanctum is compromised in the story, any points associated with it may be permanently lost. [Disadvantages may see a reduction in the sanctum quality, or may see it unusable for a short time]
Activation Condition: Status is linked to a specific group, and only members of that group are affected by it. Dealing with members of allied groups may allow up to half the usual benefits.
Benefit: Within the designated group, you may spend these advantage points on social actions, or prevent incoming social actions that might impact your status within the group. [Permanently spend points on a specific status linked to a successful action, place or event of significance to the group. Temporarily spend points to improve social standing in a given situation]
Drawback: Calling on your status too much may see it diminish or may see it vanish completely. [Disadvantages may see personal status questioned, or may see the status/reputation of the entire group diminished (which will certainly have repercussions from other members)]