Making mind tricks interesting.

Started by sirogit, January 23, 2008, 05:29:13 AM

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In the game I'm planning on running soon, an important aspect will be mind manipulation super-powers. There's a strong divide between what I think of when I think of such ideas (Distorted narratives ala David lynch movies, unfaithful narrator tricks, crazy conspiracy theory shit) and how I've always seen them work out in play, which always seems the same (Jedi Mind Trick - someone uses their mind power to make a storm-trooper know that 'these aren't the droids they're looking for', which is usually pretty boring.)

Most good mental dickery in films seems to be what a character does to themselves (See Fight Club, The Machinist or countless others). Is this an integral part of good mind dickery or can similar techniques reach equatable results with the ol' crazy mind powers?

My proposed fix to make it interesting would be that Mind Manipulation can't be done inside a scene, instead, mental distortions have to occur in their own scene post-affliction of the character, and those scenes have to be from the POV of the afflicted character. This fixes a few of the symptoms (A character we bother to have a scene from the POV isn't just any old stormtrooper, it isn't an instant-fix to a short-term problem, and there's incentive to put thought into it)

I'd like to hear AP reports from people trying to use similar or different solutions to the same problem.

- Sean Musgrave.


One way I've done this in the past is to retrofit the storyline to account for the mind powers...though this bring the mind powers into the focus of the storyline.

To use a specific example...story progresses with a criminal taking on  bank job and shooting some cops..but then the character realises that something just isn't right....they look more deeply into it and realise that things aren't what they originally thought because the antagonist has been using mind powers on them. They are actually a cop and have shot their partners while a robbery was underway.

Later still, the character encounters a criminal and something still just doesn't sit right with them...the criminal knows them quite well. Was the cop an undercover agent trying to infiltrate the gang?...or did the mind f%^k start when they were at the heist? Is the character really a criminal or are they a cop? This can work with small groups as well when everyone is affected by the same degree of mental manipulation.

Of course the players need to be aware that this sort of mental dickery is going to take place in the story, otherwise they can get really cheesed off, really quickly.

I've used this kind of trick in short term games, no more than two or three sessions. Dragging it our can cause some really nasty issues and put some stress on a game that can't be resolved easily.

A.K.A. Michael Wenman
Vulpinoid Studios The Eighth Sea now available for as a pdf for $1.

Bret Gillan


Fred Hicks's Schizonauts does some cool things with identity and Fight Club-esque mind tricks. You play a character whose memories have been combined with someone else's. As play went on, I found myself wondering if they weren't actually the same person and my character was insane. I know Rob Bohl wrote up some AP of that session, but I don't remember where. Anyways, AP for that game might be what you're looking for.