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Old 08-26-2016, 02:17 PM   #1
Night Watchman
Join Date: Oct 2010
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Default [Basic] Skill of the week: Propaganda

Propaganda is the IQ/A TL skill of persuasion through some form of medium rather than face-to face, normally targeted on large numbers of people. The defaults are IQ-5, Merchant-5, and Psychology-4, and no skills default to it. The skill covers advertising and marketing messages as well as psychological warfare, and the two kinds of Propaganda are treated as different familiarities. Naturally, the originators and opponents of this material often have rather different ideas about the truth of the issues. The skill seems to have appeared at 4e.

Propaganda is boosted by Business Acumen talent, reminding us that most of the use of the skill is advertising, and can be opposed by Intelligence Analysis when that skill is trying to discern the truth behind disinformation. It isn't noted as taking cultural familiarity or language modifiers, but I'd certainly apply them.

The basic way to use Propaganda is as an Influence skill, with a Quick Contest against a notional Will of the target audience set by the GM, depending on its composition, size and receptivity. There's obvious scope for persuading a larger fraction of the audience depending on the degree of success, for modifiers depending on the means and budget available, and so on. Propaganda normally takes a fair amount of time, but this is left to the GM: the right (or wrong) thing said on TV or radio can have very rapid effects. However, the line between that and Public Speaking is not clear at first glance.

For that, we need Social Engineering, which tells us that Propaganda is the planning skill for the campaign, deciding what to say and how to say it, and Public Speaking is one possible medium for delivery of Propaganda. OK, that makes sense. Social Engineering has fairly detailed rules for doing this within the game, including competition between campaigns, a natural part of electoral campaigns. Totalitarian governments normally run large-scale Propaganda efforts aimed at their own populations, to maintain popular support. Revolutions are normally based on Politics, with Propaganda as a complementary skill.

Social Engineering also uses Propaganda for any and every kind of media or publicity campaign that targets lots of people, such as hiring someone when you want a lot of candidates, soliciting bids for a contract, or designing tag sets for Augmented Reality. The book also explains when you don't need Propaganda, such as recruiting one person, or selling single items. When you do need the skill, it's possible to hire it; that's one of the things that advertising agencies provide. The skill also has other uses, often as a complementary skill, such as selecting evidence that suits your case, planning blackmail, jazzing up one's resume, as the skill for leading a campaigning organisation, including a trade union, and to assist Merchant skill (via advertising) in running a business.

Propaganda appears on published templates for face-men and cinematic spies, plus the (similar) kinds of criminals who run cover-ups. Action uses Propaganda for misleading radio/text/internet/etc., messages, and Banestorm applies it to missionaries. DF bards use it for advertising for adventures, selling the less desirable goods from dungeons, and blackening rivals' reputations. Fantasy bards do the same, more plausibly. Madness Dossier has lots of uses for the skill; the action-adventure of PCs is arguably only support work for the real conflict of belief. Infinite Worlds make Propaganda an appropriate skill for causing cultural changes, and gives it cross-world familiarity penalties; Britanica-6 has natives trying to change the system. LTC1 points out that Propaganda needed inventing, but isn't precise on when that happened, although it's implied at TL4. Power-Ups volumes 3, 6 and 7 have examples for this skill, and Powers: The Weird has mind-modification tricks that require it. Thaumatology provides for Propaganda in preparing stadium ceremonies, Magical Styles makes it useful for the Mind Control college, and Urban Magics uses it for mass ceremonies, affecting the soulless, and demonically possessed mobs. Transhuman Space: Changing Times deals with Propaganda and the setting's mimetics, including more restrained versions. And Zombies can be a critique of totalitarianism.

The only time I can recall using Propaganda in a game was in a THS campaign, where a journalist NPC we knew was being subjected to a smear campaign. We were able to provide some reputational first aid, and the details of what was being said about her were a useful clue.

What have you done with this skill?
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Old 08-26-2016, 05:23 PM   #2
jason taylor
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Propaganda

That's something that might be used for a Rousing Speech before battle. Other uses is in constructing protest rituals, military traditions, and anything else that depends on getting people "hyped up". Even sports chants. I remember being reluctantly impressed watching a tape of a Nazi torchlight parade. I suppose I can see why it was so good at manipulating shell shocked veterans.

Convincing someone that their party is the good guys works well. Harp on a few simple points like pride, honor, and fear. It is notable that except for the inevitable but absurd blatantly genetic racialism the Werewolves were almost a mirror image of the Maquis in their propaganda because of course both Germans and French can be made to fight for the same things.

Then too a Glamourous Wartime Singer has such just by being their and being female. But that is the skill of her sponsor. But people like Vera Lynn give the feeling of empathy that good propaganda should have.

For negative propaganda directed at the enemy the best I remember hearing about crude and to the point. Most is quite silly and hardly enough to overcome military discipline which is after all the best propaganda of all. But once in a while something ominous can strike home, something like, "Every ten seconds a German soldier dies, ten, nine, eight..."
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Old 08-26-2016, 05:32 PM   #3
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Propaganda

The Wounded Gazelle gambit is remarkably effective. Even if protesters are hired ringers, it can embarrass the government no end to be made to look like tyrants, especially if they are actually sensitive about that.
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Old 08-27-2016, 05:41 PM   #4
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Propaganda

I would have loved to use this, but I've never played in a campaign where it would have been appropriate.
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Old 08-27-2016, 11:58 PM   #5
Christopher R. Rice
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Propaganda

One of the players in my Aeon campaign has a ...well, gravity controlling lawyer. While he does do super stuff he's usually doing social stuff and he uses propaganda to counter other propaganda ALL THE TIME (He's a super's rights activist). His character can crush you with gravity itself and he's more terrifying as the guy that convinces you to do a thing because he wants you to do that thing.
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Old 08-28-2016, 04:04 AM   #6
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Propaganda

I think Public Speaking and Propaganda don't overlap. Propaganda is the content of the message where Public Speaking is the delivery.

And a whole Propaganda campaign is not likely to be limited to a "Speech" or "Presentation" but probably backed up by other sources. Posters and methods of getting word of mouth spreading to be a thing.

attempts nearly always take more time
and exposure than ordinary Influence
rolls, however; how much time is up
to the GM.
That being said, I force propaganda rolls whenever someone is trying to press an idea into a group over time. I've had people roll it trying to get NPCs to buy malicious software, had a player try to influence their classmates in a silly anime highschool campaign... there was many uses of Propaganda in my games.
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Old 08-28-2016, 05:04 AM   #7
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Propaganda

I too have used it as a part of Memetics in the beginning of the Transhuman Space campaign. There was an attempt to spread some sort of class-related hatred throughout a habitat, and my character countered it.
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Old 08-28-2016, 05:31 AM   #8
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Propaganda

It's worth remembering that in origin "propaganda" as a concept is neither political nor commercial. It comes from the Latin phrase propaganda fidei, "propagation of the faith," for spreading the Gospel to new communities. Really if you think about it it's a very memetic concept. Think of the metaphor of "sowing the seeds." So the leadership of a major church would definitely include people who had Propaganda skill.
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Old 08-28-2016, 05:55 AM   #9
Johan Larson
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Propaganda

Originally Posted by jason taylor View Post
I remember being reluctantly impressed watching a tape of a Nazi torchlight parade. I suppose I can see why it was so good at manipulating shell shocked veterans.
Yes, the Nazis, nasty as the were, were good at public spectacle. Have you heard of the Cathedral of Light? That would have been a sight to see.
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Old 08-28-2016, 12:53 PM   #10
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Propaganda

This is one of the skills the PCs in my current campaign are working hard to improve as they will need it a lot to convert people to their religion.

Basically all of them aspire to be Gods and in the setting the Gods get power based on how many followers they have and how pious those followers are, so acquiring followers is a constant struggle against the propaganda campaigns of the current Gods.
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