Circles basically conform to a character’s lifepaths, with advantage for reps and affiliations. Pretty simple. My question is this: can you make Circles tests for settings you haven’t lived if you take Wises or affiliations (or reputations) in character burning?
For example, I’m a standard 4 LP knight. Generally speaking, I can only Circle up characters from the Born Noble, Page, Squire, or Knight lifepaths, or the Noble setting. But what if I spend a skill point on Outcast-Wise, or spend RPs on an affiliation with Outcasts of this or that province? Would this allow me to make Circles tests in the Outcast setting?
No, you need to earn a trait that opens up the additional Circles for you. Examples from BWG are Power Behind the Throne and Spartacus. You can buy these traits in Burning or get them voted on in play.
In our Grunweld game we’ve abandoned this strict interpretation - at least for people that can be met on the street (e.g. businesses). The players are among the first explorers of a country that has been cut off from their homeland for several centuries. There’s pretty much no way they know anyone at all. And yet, they need to find people all the time, and the Circles mechanic seems like the perfect fit.
Frankly, seems to me that, like Resources, Circled could be tweaked ever so slightly to represent one’s ability to find other people without complication. Finding a neutral goldsmith in a foreign town shouldn’t be outright impossible, at least if you’ve got experience dealing with goldsmiths in other parts (though at a higher Ob, given the suspicion cast on strangers in a society without decent government ID, credit ratings, cheaply enforceable contracts or insurance).
If not circles, then I suppose could use things like Streetwise (to find street-level businesses), Administration (to find professionals like clerks), Persuasion (to accost people on the street and ask where you can find a lawyer), perhaps even Disguise, Acting or Conspicuous to reach other, harder-to-reach people. Though I still scratch my head, since the Circles test modifiers still seem most appropriate.