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Old 09-21-2014, 08:09 AM   #1
johndallman
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
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Default [Basic] Skill of the week: Brainwashing (and Brain Hacking)

Brainwashing (and Brain Hacking) are the skill of changing someone's motives and personality via mundane and technological means. Brain Hacking is doing this with computers, via some kind of direct brain-to-computer interface. The skill description doesn't mention virtual reality, but an immersive virtual reality, such as Transhuman Space VR, that you can't get out of, would seem to make Brainwashing much easier: that's definitely one area where Transhuman horror is justified. Changing Times and Transhuman Mysteries have some support for this. Brain Hacking in THS is only possible via a ghost editor program, although the skill also has legitimate uses in creating Ghosts.

Ultra-Tech has equipment for Brainwashing, but doesn't mention Brain Hacking. Madness Dossier, naturally , has a fair bit about both, and a character template where they're primary skills. It also has an unfortunate bit of phrasing that makes it look as if Empathy boosts Brainwashing: I've submitted errata. Social Engineering has extended rules for brainwashing and for healing its effects. Psis has benefits for using Telepathy powers with Brainwashing. Power-Ups 6: Quirks has a reminder that Brainwashing can give people new quirks, and the Residual Personality quirk.

Action, Banestorm, Horror, Reign of Steel, Space and Supers are alert to the plot possibilities of Brainwashing. Zombies covers zombies who are brainwashed rather than undead.

Brainwashing is generally considered villainous conduct, but I'd be curious to know of any cases where PCs have done it for good reasons. That's imaginable in reducing the effects of traumas, although the cases where I've seen that happen (not in GURPS) have been by making memories less immediate. What else has happened with Brainwashing in your games?
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Old 09-21-2014, 09:30 AM   #2
vicky_molokh
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Brainwashing (and Brain Hacking)

My character in Transhuman Space used Brain Hacking mostly for extraction of information from a ghosted omnihomicidal enemy astropus. Not really any edits, just info-extraction. Also to examine the Shadows of other PCs after exposure to some nasty memetic and other psychological warfare phenomena.

In the campaign I'm GMing, the party was seriously considering the option of using their defaults in Brain Hacking and Brainwashing to 'reeducate' a human-sacrificing cult leader instead of killing him (the most likely outcome would've been amnesia and other serious neurological trauma[s]). They eventually didn't go with this plan. (They also all but outright needed a field wetware kit - analogous to but weaker than the one from Madness Dossier - but the only one with the possibility of attaining one refused from the very beginning.)

Brainwashing shows up in the background of the campaign here and there, but isn't taken or rolled by or against any PCs so far except in the backstory.
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Old 09-21-2014, 09:56 AM   #3
Not another shrubbery
 
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Brainwashing (and Brain Hacking)

Quote:
Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
Madness Dossier, naturally , has a fair bit about both, and a character template where they're primary skills. It also has an unfortunate bit of phrasing that makes it look as if Empathy boosts Brainwashing: I've submitted errata.
Out of curiosity, did you just submit it?
I'm wondering if the text of Brainwashing there is meant to be setting specific.
Quote:
Brainwashing is generally considered villainous conduct, but I'd be curious to know of any cases where PCs have done it for good reasons. That's imaginable in reducing the effects of traumas, although the cases where I've seen that happen (not in GURPS) have been by making memories less immediate. What else has happened with Brainwashing in your games?
I've never used the skill in my games (I think I've mentioned that I shy away from mind control and related themes). Using it 'for good reasons' is a concept I have a hard time wrapping my head around. Wouldn't treatment like that just be done with Psychology or else move into dystopian territory?
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Old 09-21-2014, 10:26 AM   #4
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Brainwashing (and Brain Hacking)

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Originally Posted by Not another shrubbery View Post
Out of curiosity, did you just submit it?

I'm wondering if the text of Brainwashing there is meant to be setting specific.
I e-mailed it on the 13th. I tend to do most of the research for these posts straight after submitting the previous one, so that I have time to think about it before finalising the text. If Empathy is meant to boost Brainwashing in the Madness Dossier setting, then the text to say so seems to be missing.
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I've never used the skill in my games (I think I've mentioned that I shy away from mind control and related themes). Using it 'for good reasons' is a concept I have a hard time wrapping my head around. Wouldn't treatment like that just be done with Psychology or else move into dystopian territory?
If a setting had reliable technological means of, say, altering brain chemistry to fix depression, but they required skilled use of equipment, rather than prescribing medicines, then the process of using them might resemble brainwashing with good intentions. I don't think there's any analogy to this in the real world, but people create some weird settings.
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Old 09-21-2014, 02:49 PM   #5
Flyndaran
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Brainwashing (and Brain Hacking)

It's manipulation of the brain/mind. It's only "evil" if done without consent or medical necessity just like nearly every other form of coercion.
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Old 09-21-2014, 03:10 PM   #6
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Brainwashing (and Brain Hacking)

Brain Hacking is handy for Alpha Centauri Probe Teams
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Old 09-21-2014, 04:36 PM   #7
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Brainwashing (and Brain Hacking)

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Originally Posted by Flyndaran View Post
It's manipulation of the brain/mind. It's only "evil" if done without consent or medical necessity just like nearly every other form of coercion.
Now... how do you prove consent or medical necessity?
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Old 09-21-2014, 06:07 PM   #8
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Brainwashing (and Brain Hacking)

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Now... how do you prove consent or medical necessity?
Same way it's done in the real world I assume.
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Old 09-21-2014, 08:31 PM   #9
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Brainwashing (and Brain Hacking)

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Originally Posted by Flyndaran View Post
Same way it's done in the real world I assume.
Bit different when you're doing a procedure that can literally change the patient's mind I think.
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Old 09-21-2014, 09:20 PM   #10
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Brainwashing (and Brain Hacking)

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Originally Posted by Otaku View Post
Bit different when you're doing a procedure that can literally change the patient's mind I think.
Stockholm syndrome does that if you believe in it.
Normal everyday social manipulation alters our beliefs and perceptions. None of us are immune to such minor forms of brainwashing.
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