Author Topic: Regrouping Go Aggro/Manipulate around Coercion/Convincing  (Read 13112 times)

JasonT

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Regrouping Go Aggro/Manipulate around Coercion/Convincing
« on: August 07, 2012, 01:52:10 PM »
I've been trying to rethink some moves for my group (soon to be trying In Nomine with Apocalypse World rules), thinking about how they typically approach social situations. They absolutely love BSing NPCs, misrepresenting who they are or what their motives are; I wanted to make bluffing more explicitly part of the moves and somewhat separate from leverage/dealmaking (which has additional supernatural implications in In Nomine). Meanwhile, I think they will have a problem with Go Aggro's requirement to follow threats of violence with violence, but it'd be nice to have the option there still.

I ended up with these two basic moves as a result, and I was hoping I could run them by folks here to see whether I'm leaving open obvious loopholes or otherwise breaking how the game should work. (Versus NPC versions only so far.)

Convince Someone
When you you tell someone something they're inclined to be skeptical of, roll+smooth. On a 10+, they believe you. On a 7-9, they believe you, but the GM also picks 1 as appropriate.
  • They'll want some additional proof of whatever you claim before they tell you anything or let you do anything that could get them in trouble.
  • They decide after the fact (CD minutes) that they were right to be skeptical of you.

Coerce or Manipulate
When you use leverage to get someone to do what you want, the type of leverage determines your roll. If you're threatening with something they don't want, roll+hard. If you're offering something they do want, roll+smooth. On a 10+, if they refuse, you can choose to do them harm (if you're positioned to do so) or to get +1 ongoing against them until the balance of power changes. On a 7-9, you get the same options if they refuse, or they can choose to demand some other positive incentive in exchange for complying (like a bribe, or a promise of protection not just from your threat, but from other enemies).

The first is basically designed for the scene where angels/demons wander into crime scenes, morgues, and other places they don't belong, claiming to be with the cops/FBI/whoever. The second is basically for when the players know they have some advantage, not just something to trade. I'd appreciate any input!

(Apologies if this is in the wrong forum. Still getting the lay of the land here.)

Johnstone

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Re: Regrouping Go Aggro/Manipulate around Coercion/Convincing
« Reply #1 on: August 07, 2012, 05:51:48 PM »
(This should probably be in hacks, not blood+guts, since you're already hacking.)

Based on your stated intentions, these could probably do with some tightening up. I mean "something they're inclined to be skeptical of" is pretty loose.

When you pretend to be someone you're not, roll+smooth. On a 10+, you pass. On a 7-9, the GM chooses 1:
* You arouse suspicion unless you provide an additional demonstration of authenticity.
* Your disguise works for now but will collapse under stricter scrutiny. Better hurry.

So, still pretty much the same thing, just slightly more tailored to the situations you have in mind. I would normally name this "Master of Disguise" or something and make it a special move, but if any PC can do this, sounds like a great basic move. If you have angels/demons with even better shapechanging powers, you can have a special move that changes the word "someone" into "something."

The second is also decent, but it's still pretty much 2 moves. You have different stats and different consequences. There's no real point in mashing them together.

JasonT

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Re: Regrouping Go Aggro/Manipulate around Coercion/Convincing
« Reply #2 on: August 07, 2012, 07:46:35 PM »
Sorry for mistaken placement; I think part of why I put it here was that I thought it might link into a larger discussion of why Go Aggro ought to exist as a move. I'm a little weirded out by its "you have to shoot" mechanic and by the common confusion between it and Seduce/Manipulate. It also seems weird to me that a 7-9 "success" on Go Aggro allows targets to back away or barricade themselves, as that seems like more of a failure when what you really want is them to deal with you or get hurt defying you.

As for "pretend to be someone you're not": Maybe I was trying to do too much with one move, but I actually tried to word it so that you could use "Convince Someone" even when you're telling the truth. Yeah, what first inspired it was my players constantly claiming to be police (despite being dressed in a bizarre array of fashions and never carrying fake ID), but I figured the basis of the move simply be "I'm smooth-talking enough so you believe I'm sincere." Useful for bluffing, getting people to run away from unseen danger, and reassuring someone who feels ugly that they're really a beautiful snowflake. I figured I'd also do more specific moves for lying/disguises available to some characters, either offering additional outcomes or a simple bonus to the roll. Too much, though?

Johnstone

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Re: Regrouping Go Aggro/Manipulate around Coercion/Convincing
« Reply #3 on: August 07, 2012, 09:15:46 PM »
re Go Aggro: Sure, I gotcha.

Vincent's main example is I put my gun in your face and say like "Giff me ze mikrofilm or I vill schoot you," and on a 10+ if you don't give me the microfilm I get to shoot you. Another intention is the old if you just plain get out of my way then I won't actually kill you because I am just trying to get through you to my main goal which is actually not killing you. Of course that means you have to make up your mind whether or not you're going to do it before you threaten to do it.
(And if my main goal actually IS killing you and you don't fight back, then it's still go aggro.)

The difference is that when you manipulate someone your ultimate goal is to get them to do something. So you apply leverage and try to convince them and so on, switching tactics if one doesn't work, etc. With go aggro, you're pretty much past that point. Either they do what you want them to do or you're gonna pull the trigger. Their choice.

As to your moves:
I feel like convincing somebody of something, or just manipulating their feelings and behaviour by talking to them, is pretty well covered by manipulate. Convincing someone to "run away from unseen danger" or  "reassuring someone who feels ugly that they're really a beautiful snowflake" is manipulating them. The mention of "leverage" is just there to keep the outcome within the realm of possibility, otherwise you could convince someone they are Elvis just by rolling a 10+. But telling someone what they want to hear can definitely be a form of leverage, as can small promises for insignificant actions (like leaving a place full of unseen danger--I mean, how do they do that one? "There's an invisible monster here, we should leave?" or "This place kinda sucks, eh? I know someplace better we should go.").

So sure, maybe what you really want is one move for persuasion and one move for threatening? To be fair, I think it's possible to have moves that cover a lot of ground. You could have something like "when you exert your social influence over someone" that could cover convincing, manipulating, impressing, lying to them, etc. But I think that moves work best when the fictional trigger is pretty clearly defined, and is integral to the game's genre. Also good if it's easy for the play group to recognize and agree on what fiction actually triggers a move (but then again, some of the moves in Monsterhearts are kinda vague and might require some discussion between players and MC as to whether or not a move was triggered, but lots of people really like that game, so...). One man's opinion, etc etc.

I guess my advice would be to list out the various social interactions that happen in your game that you think would require a roll, like:
* convince someone
* get someone to believe a bunch of lies
* pretend to be someone else
* make someone feel better
* threaten someone
* manipulate through promises
etc.
and then play. When a situation comes up, decide what stat is appropriate, what the possible outcomes are, and roll some dice. If your ad hoc framework doesn't work, try something different next time. If it does, make notes, and then after a while, you will begin to see what sorts of behaviours you think should require a roll, and which ones look like the same move. I know that advice is basically "go do some work" instead of "here's a possible shortcut," but basically what you are doing is rewriting the moves so they fit your sensibilities as an MC and the things your players do, right?
« Last Edit: August 07, 2012, 09:25:04 PM by Johnstone »

JasonT

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Re: Regrouping Go Aggro/Manipulate around Coercion/Convincing
« Reply #4 on: August 08, 2012, 05:21:25 AM »
re Go Aggro: Sure, I gotcha.

Vincent's main example is I put my gun in your face and say like "Giff me ze mikrofilm or I vill schoot you," and on a 10+ if you don't give me the microfilm I get to shoot you. Another intention is the old if you just plain get out of my way then I won't actually kill you because I am just trying to get through you to my main goal which is actually not killing you. Of course that means you have to make up your mind whether or not you're going to do it before you threaten to do it.
(And if my main goal actually IS killing you and you don't fight back, then it's still go aggro.)

The difference is that when you manipulate someone your ultimate goal is to get them to do something. So you apply leverage and try to convince them and so on, switching tactics if one doesn't work, etc. With go aggro, you're pretty much past that point. Either they do what you want them to do or you're gonna pull the trigger. Their choice.

I think I get how the moves work and when to use them; what I don't quite get yet is why they work that way, and my brain is pushing back against that. "If you don't give me the microfilm, I get to shoot you" really sounds to me like it'd be better described by the phrase "Seize by Force" (I'm willing to kill a guy to get what I want from him), though that move works completely differently. To my mind, the real difference between Go Aggro and Seduce/Manipulate doesn't seem to be "when you want to get them to do something" (as they're both about using different kinds of leverage to persuade someone to do something), but what responses are available to the target of the move.

I suppose I was hoping to neaten this up for my own players, so we don't have the same Aggro/Seize/Manipulate debates that I keep seeing online as I research this stuff, but maybe it ain't broke and I shouldn't fix it. Or maybe all I need is different names for the moves that I think my group will process better.

Quote
As to your moves:
I feel like convincing somebody of something, or just manipulating their feelings and behaviour by talking to them, is pretty well covered by manipulate. Convincing someone to "run away from unseen danger" or  "reassuring someone who feels ugly that they're really a beautiful snowflake" is manipulating them. The mention of "leverage" is just there to keep the outcome within the realm of possibility, otherwise you could convince someone they are Elvis just by rolling a 10+. But telling someone what they want to hear can definitely be a form of leverage, as can small promises for insignificant actions (like leaving a place full of unseen danger--I mean, how do they do that one? "There's an invisible monster here, we should leave?" or "This place kinda sucks, eh? I know someplace better we should go.").

It's the "promise" thing that gets me. I think you're right that the "leverage" thing is in there to avoid nonsensical claims and stuff, but I have a hard time imagining how some 10+ rolls could be resolved with just a promise.

The scenario I keep coming up with is this: The PCs talk to an agent of the enemy who has something they want. They offer a credible bluff, saying they'll kill her if she doesn't hand over this thing. She says that nothing they do to her is worse than what her boss will do if she hands over this thing, and she's right, because in this setting she happens to be an demon whose boss will chew on her immortal soul after the players kill her mortal vessel. But the players rolled a 10+ and they promised to kill her, soooo ... what? That's just one example of the kind situation I was trying to account for in designing a manipulation mechanic that gives even NPCs the option to refuse manipulative bargains, and a bluffing mechanic that gives them a chance to double-check the PCs' credibility before putting their own asses on the line.

Maybe if I better understood how the "promise" works in the original mechanic, though, I could rephrase this for myself and wouldn't feel the need for a "fix."

Quote
I know that advice is basically "go do some work" instead of "here's a possible shortcut," but basically what you are doing is rewriting the moves so they fit your sensibilities as an MC and the things your players do, right?

No, I welcome the work, so thanks. (After all, work is play when you're working on a game, right?) I appreciate all the input!

Johnstone

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Re: Regrouping Go Aggro/Manipulate around Coercion/Convincing
« Reply #5 on: August 08, 2012, 06:52:45 AM »
I suppose I was hoping to neaten this up for my own players, so we don't have the same Aggro/Seize/Manipulate debates that I keep seeing online as I research this stuff, but maybe it ain't broke and I shouldn't fix it. Or maybe all I need is different names for the moves that I think my group will process better.

Well, if it doesn't work perfect, there's always room for improvement. It's possible different names could do the trick. Maybe rename Go Aggro to Coerce Using Violence or Threats, and rename Seize by Force to Take by Force, since the real trigger for that move is when they fight back to stop you from taking whatever it is you want to take, and so you end up in a fight, as opposed to just attacking someone who doesn't fight back.

It's the "promise" thing that gets me. I think you're right that the "leverage" thing is in there to avoid nonsensical claims and stuff, but I have a hard time imagining how some 10+ rolls could be resolved with just a promise.

The scenario I keep coming up with is this:

Ah, yeah, yeah, this problem. There's a couple ways you could handle it.

1) If her boss really will do something worse than killing her, then it's not leverage to threaten her with death, plain and simple! You can of course demand actual, real leverage in the fiction that both you AND the players agree is leverage, not just what the players think is leverage. That's what reading a person is for, finding out what counts as leverage to someone.

2) "Promise me you can protect me from him." It's your NPC that asks for a promise, they don't just have to accept whatever promise the PC is inclined to make. The promise and the leverage are two different things.

3) Try some alternative moves. This is from Monsterhearts:

When you manipulate an NPC, roll with hot. On a 10 up, they’ll do what you want if you give them a bribe, a threat, or a motive. On a 7-9, the MC will tell you what it’ll take to get the NPC to do what you want. Do it and they will.

And this is what I've got so far for World of Algol (a hack in progress):

When you offer someone a deal (an NPC), give them a reason to take it and roll+alluring. On a 10+, they do what they can to make the deal happen. On a 7-9, they want something more, and the GM will tell you what. If you meet the requirements, they do what they can. Otherwise, they can freely refuse or renege.

I put the reason before the roll in mine because you don't get xp for rolling moves in World of Algol so there's no point in rolling and then realizing you don't have a good reason for them to take the deal. And the cooperation you get from the NPC is within reason. If you like either of those, try them out.

After all, work is play when you're working on a game, right?

Haha! Oh God I wish. Anyway! Hope that helps.

JasonT

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Re: Regrouping Go Aggro/Manipulate around Coercion/Convincing
« Reply #6 on: August 08, 2012, 04:12:51 PM »
Well, if it doesn't work perfect, there's always room for improvement. It's possible different names could do the trick. Maybe rename Go Aggro to Coerce Using Violence or Threats, and rename Seize by Force to Take by Force, since the real trigger for that move is when they fight back to stop you from taking whatever it is you want to take, and so you end up in a fight, as opposed to just attacking someone who doesn't fight back.

The funny thing about this to my mind is that "Seize by Force" seems like a better name for Go Aggro than it does for Seize by Force (and "Go Aggro" is functionally meaningless to me as a name). Go Aggro isn't just about threatening (because it leaves no room for empty threats); it's about getting what you want or following through with violence, period. I had a real problem with the inability to back out of the move until I started thinking about your "microfilm" example: This is basically the "your money or your life" move, where what you really mean is "your money AND your life" if they say no. Seize by Force seems more like "Struggle for Dominance" to me, or something else that implies exchanging fire/trading blows. I don't want to rename Go Aggro to "Seize by Force" and confuse anybody who's played both the original and the hack, though.

I'll think on it. I couldn't help but notice that Monsterhearts ditches Go Aggro, though, which was part of why I thought I might be able to get away with it myself.

Quote
Ah, yeah, yeah, this problem. There's a couple ways you could handle it.

I like the Monsterhearts move (it was actually the starting point for my move until I mangled it until unrecognizable), though I wondered whether the 10+ option meant that the PCs could pick their own "motive" regardless of what would actually be sufficient in the NPC's eyes. That Algol dealmaking move is great, though. There is a lot of bargaining in In Nomine (demons, go figure), so I will probably try that out. I think I might still need a distinction between "get someone to believe something" and "get someone to do something," so I may still need to work on that "Convince Someone" move until it's usable.

After all, work is play when you're working on a game, right?

Haha! Oh God I wish. Anyway! Hope that helps.
[/quote]

It does help, thanks. And I have a pretty broad definition of "play" (as someone who wrote an entire doctoral dissertation on geeks and nerds), so I think I should be okay until the part where I have to start doing actual layout (definitely work).

lumpley

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Re: Regrouping Go Aggro/Manipulate around Coercion/Convincing
« Reply #7 on: August 08, 2012, 04:33:12 PM »
You might get something out of the original version of the move, which appeared in Storming the Wizard's Tower. It went a little like this:

Tell the GM what you want the NPC to do. ("Believe my lie" is a perfectly legit case.) On a 10+, hold 4; on a 7-9, hold 2.
You spend your hold not voluntarily but as the following happen, one for one:
- Something directly challenges their obedience or trust.
- You make a threatening or disillusioning move.
- They take a concrete action they wouldn't normally do.
- You make a demand on them they wouldn't normally accede to.
- Time passes.
- Maybe something else, I forget.
Once you've spent all your hold, they no longer obey.

So if you're like "I'm an INSPECTOR for LORD BAAL SHEBUB, you little worm, so MAKE READY FOR INSPECTION IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN," and you hit it with a 7-9, that means that the NPC will go along with you basically twice before wising up.

-Vincent
« Last Edit: August 08, 2012, 04:39:57 PM by lumpley »

JasonT

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Re: Regrouping Go Aggro/Manipulate around Coercion/Convincing
« Reply #8 on: August 08, 2012, 05:02:29 PM »
That sounds really handy for my purposes, thanks! I'm curious, though: Was there some issue with that move that necessitated redesigning it?

lumpley

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Re: Regrouping Go Aggro/Manipulate around Coercion/Convincing
« Reply #9 on: August 08, 2012, 05:19:09 PM »
No issue with the move, no, not at all. It worked very well in Storming the Wizard's Tower.

It makes NPCs too accommodating for Apocalypse World.

-Vincent

Johnstone

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Re: Regrouping Go Aggro/Manipulate around Coercion/Convincing
« Reply #10 on: August 08, 2012, 06:05:39 PM »
You could also ditch the Go Aggro move entirely. Use manipulate for threats (possibly rolling+hard if you like), and then use Seize by Force for all acts of violence. And if your opponent is not fighting back, you just don't need to select suffer little harm. It would probably make violence really brutal, though you could mitigate that by reducing the choices to 2 and 1 instead of 3 and 2.

Vincent's move is pretty cool. Having the hold there also means you can write special moves that increase your hold for that move. Or you can use evidence, special equipment, or magic to increase your hold, especially if you set the initial hold somewhat low (like 3 and 1).

lumpley

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Re: Regrouping Go Aggro/Manipulate around Coercion/Convincing
« Reply #11 on: August 08, 2012, 06:20:34 PM »
For all hacks, I recommend redesigning all the basic moves, but especially go aggro/seize by force and seduce or manipulate. Apocalypse World's approach to those is pretty particular, and there's no reason to expect your hack to want the same approach.

-Vincent

JasonT

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Re: Regrouping Go Aggro/Manipulate around Coercion/Convincing
« Reply #12 on: August 08, 2012, 07:00:08 PM »
Thanks again for all the input, guys. I think this helps clarify for me how to think about the issues I've been having with the basic moves from AW (and which parts I can/can't use myself). I'll fiddle with this, run some stuff by my players, and maybe post back in the hacks forum again when I have something that's closer to ready for primetime.

Daniel Wood

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Re: Regrouping Go Aggro/Manipulate around Coercion/Convincing
« Reply #13 on: August 09, 2012, 06:59:21 PM »
I think I get how the moves work and when to use them; what I don't quite get yet is why they work that way, and my brain is pushing back against that. "If you don't give me the microfilm, I get to shoot you" really sounds to me like it'd be better described by the phrase "Seize by Force" (I'm willing to kill a guy to get what I want from him), though that move works completely differently. To my mind, the real difference between Go Aggro and Seduce/Manipulate doesn't seem to be "when you want to get them to do something" (as they're both about using different kinds of leverage to persuade someone to do something), but what responses are available to the target of the move.

Well exactly -- the difference between Go Aggro and Seize by Force is that the former explicitly allows the person you are interacting with the initiative. They get to choose. Seizing the microfilm by force does not allow the guy with the microfilm to choose anything at all -- he doesn't even get a chance to be like 'ok ok here's the microfilm already jesus don't shoot me!' If there's a situation where none of the 7-9 responses even seem possible, then you probably don't need to roll at all: the guy will give up the microfilm or he will get shot.

Following up on the above distinction, the difference between Manipulate and Go Aggro is who gets to choose. The person who Goes Aggro does not get to choose anymore -- they have fully committed to a violent course of action and it is now out of their hands whether or not it will come to that point. They have thrown away their agency by taking a risk (usually in the name of either effectiveness or expediency) and now it's up to the other guy what is actually going to happen. Manipulating retains the PC's agency -- no matter what happens with the roll, they still get to decide what they do. Whether they follow through, whether they fulfill their promise, whether they back out of the deal, etc.

The reason Go Aggro and Manipulate are different moves is that violence matters in AW. The willingness to kill someone if they don't do what you want transforms the social situation, in comparison to simply threatening to kill someone but not being committed, in the moment, to following through. It may be that in your In Nomine game, violence doesn't matter in the same way -- though you probably still want to keep Go Aggro for all the other violent situations it can cover -- and so you will end up using a lot more Manipulate-moves-where-the-leverage-is-violence. (Then on a 7-9 the PCs can decide if they want to shoot the guy to get the microfilm or not; everyone loves 'concrete assurances' when a threat of violence is your leverage.)



JasonT

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Re: Regrouping Go Aggro/Manipulate around Coercion/Convincing
« Reply #14 on: August 09, 2012, 07:17:54 PM »
The reason Go Aggro and Manipulate are different moves is that violence matters in AW. The willingness to kill someone if they don't do what you want transforms the social situation, in comparison to simply threatening to kill someone but not being committed, in the moment, to following through. It may be that in your In Nomine game, violence doesn't matter in the same way -- though you probably still want to keep Go Aggro for all the other violent situations it can cover -- and so you will end up using a lot more Manipulate-moves-where-the-leverage-is-violence. (Then on a 7-9 the PCs can decide if they want to shoot the guy to get the microfilm or not; everyone loves 'concrete assurances' when a threat of violence is your leverage.)

I'm interested to hear you say that I would probably want to keep Go Aggro, given that it seems to be missing from most of the hacks I've looked at (Dungeon World, Monsterhearts, Monster of the Week, Dead Weight, Companions, etc.). Only one of those preserves Go Aggro in a form I can recognize, and that's in the way Companions combines that move's "initiative" advantage and stat into the Manipulate move (when you happen to be using a threat as leverage), but makes following through on violence an option rather than a requirement. That's the move I was trying to emulate in the move from my first post above.

I definitely do want violence to feel like it matters in this game, that there are consequences to it. Much of that comes from the fiction, given that it's a modern day setting. (Where will we hide the body? What will we tell the cops?) Some of that comes from the peripheral mechanics. (Other angels and demons in the neighborhood can hear it whenever you injure anybody or break anything.) I do want it to be reflected in the moves, too, but I want to make sure I'm not just taking stuff from Apocalypse World whole cloth if it overcomplicates things, and I'm concerned Go Aggro as written (and its inflexibility on whether you're ready to commit violence) may work better for the post-apocalypse than modern-day social interaction.