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Old 05-27-2021, 04:36 AM   #1
johndallman
 
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Default [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Mind Control

Mind Control [50] is an exotic mental advantage, allowing you to mentally dominate those you can see, or touch. It appeared at GURPS 4e, replacing the 3e advantages Telecontrol and Mindwipe.

To use the basic form of the advantage, concentrate for a second, and win a Quick Contest of your IQ against your intended victim’s Will. This takes normal range modifiers, ‑1 for each person you currently have under control, and time modifiers on an unusual scale: +2 for a minute of concentration, or +4 for an hour. If you succeed, the victim becomes effectively Reprogrammable, with you as their master, while you keep concentrating, and for as many minutes after that as your margin of victory in the quick contest. If you lose the contest, you cannot retry for 24 hours, and your target realises that you’re attempting some kind of coercion. On a critical failure, you also lose control of anyone else you had at the time.

This advantage does not provide telepathic communication, or anything similar. Buy that separately if you want it. Your victim is compelled to act as you tell them, but they use their own capabilities to do so; you don’t have control of muscles (that needs Possession), but of motivations. The Reprogrammable disadvantage has the rules on victims’ ability to interpret orders.

If you are forced to stop controlling a victim (knocked out, moved to another plane, etc.) or you try to get a victim to do something against their principles or sense of self-preservation (harm loved ones, kill themselves, etc.) roll another Quick Contest, and if the victim wins, they break free of your control. They may well seek immediate revenge.

Mind Control is frequently modified. It usually requires a Power Modifier, and Extended Duration, to increase your time in control after stopping concentrating, is valuable. Useful enhancements include Cybernetic (from Mind Reading, allows you to affect Digital Minds), and all attack modifiers that are compatible with Malediction. Plausible limitations include Aspected (Only on opposite sex, or only on same sex), Sense-Based and Cybernetic Only (also from Mind Reading).

Special modifiers include Conditioning (+50%) which allows you to change someone’s personality (altering mental disadvantages) for periods of days, or permanently on a critical success. Memories can be removed by adding aspected Amnesia, or added as Delusions; note that someone else with this ability can undo your work! Conditioning Only (‑50%) means you can only do that. For +10%, your victims have no memory of what happened to them while you were controlling them, and for ‑40%, your victims have no initiative while under control and are mindlessly obedient.

Powers has significant additions: Independent (+70%) frees you of the need for ongoing concentration, which has major benefits and a few downsides. Emotion Control (‑50%) only lets you control feelings, rather than actions, and Suggestion (‑40%) limits you to general suggestions. Powers also has implementations via drugs, hypnosis, pheromones and vibrations.

Psionic Powers adds more: enhancements to make the victim rationalise their memories, a straightforward way to make Conditioning last until changed via drugs, hypnotism or therapy, and a combination of Suggestion and Emotion Control. There are also lots of complete abilities built on Mind Control.

The Mind Control spell college does similar things to this advantage, but in a very different style. Bio-Tech points out that this advantage doesn’t have to be supernatural, and DF makes it an ability for bards and druids. Some DF clerics have aspected versions, and Summoners have a variety of creatures on tap with immunity, or serious resistance. DF 14 Psi has a simplified build. Horror has lots of nasty things to do with this advantage, and Emotion Control (One Emotion, ‑80%). Hellsgate demons are uniformly immune to this advantage, while Locations: Monster Hunters has the same simplified advantage as DF 14 for PCs, and variations for monsters. Social Engineering: Back to School provides Mind Control’s bonuses to Brainwashing, and Supers lets you buy your victim as a Minion Ally. Zombies provides the Zombie Command (‑25%) limitation, although many types of zombie are immune.

Powers mentions that extreme Charisma can provide similar effects. This is certainly true for the only character I’ve seen played with this advantage, who only uses it when reactions and talking won’t work. People get much crosser about having their will overridden than about being persuaded.

How has this advantage played in your games?
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Old 05-27-2021, 04:42 AM   #2
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Mind Control

Mind Control with limitations that required speech was scary enough so that an NPC with it was shot down in cold blood, unarmed and pleading for his life, because the PC had no way of knowing whether they might be trying to Mind Control people.

Well, also for other reasons, but in general, any character who is known to have Mind Control is going to have to deal with a lot of people reacting to their mere presence as someone threatening them with WMDs.
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Old 05-27-2021, 05:57 AM   #3
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Mind Control

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Originally Posted by Icelander View Post
Well, also for other reasons, but in general, any character who is known to have Mind Control is going to have to deal with a lot of people reacting to their mere presence as someone threatening them with WMDs.
To be fair, anyone with Mind Control would have access to WMDs if they had access to the right people. Securing nuclear weapons against mind control would be an issue.

Players should expect psionic Secret Service agents on worlds where Mind Control is known. Otherwise, they should pay for the surprise factor by taking Unusual Background.
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Old 05-27-2021, 07:10 AM   #4
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Mind Control

Here's a pretty benign use of Mind Control, which probably wouldn't be thought of as mind-control within a setting. That's just the GURPS advantage it is based on.

Mind Control [50], Conditioning Only (‑50%), Sense-Based (Hearing only, ‑20%), Only on those who share a language with me (‑10%), Slow and Sure Only (Psionic Powers, p. 15, +40%), Aspected (Only in accordance with the Hippocratic Oath, ‑20%), Power Modifier (‑10%). [15]

This lets you cure mental illnesses in an hour of conversation. The effects are permanent, unless interfered with via therapy, hypnotism, drugs, etc. It could plausibly have the IQ roll changed to IQ+Empathy, or Psychology (Applied), or Physician (Psychiatric), which is from Horror.

If the GM required that the subject's disadvantage total didn't change, this gets harder, because there aren't many mental disadvantages that it's ethical to give people in trade for their existing ones. Sense of Duty to family, and other culturally-specific groups, such as churches, organisations or countries qualify, as do some Codes of Honour, and Honesty.
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Old 05-27-2021, 08:36 AM   #5
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Mind Control

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Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
If the GM required that the subject's disadvantage total didn't change, this gets harder, because there aren't many mental disadvantages that it's ethical to give people in trade for their existing ones. Sense of Duty to family, and other culturally-specific groups, such as churches, organisations or countries qualify, as do some Codes of Honour, and Honesty.
Possibly a deep sense of gratitude (Sense of Duty) to the one who cured them could also work. Though, there is some room for abuse there as well, and its value would only offset a portion of the cost.

Some of the issue is that it is one hour of therapy. If the time required scaled according to the value of the Disadvantage being removed, that could be another solution. Just use the rules for learnable Advantages, and apply them to removing the Disadvantage. What is more, the character providing the "therapy" also loses that time, so it is hardly a way to cheat the system. If monetary compensation can sufficiently burden the players, that might also be appropriate as well. Certainly, the one providing the "therapy" has likely earned it.
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Old 05-27-2021, 08:41 AM   #6
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Mind Control

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Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
If the GM required that the subject's disadvantage total didn't change, this gets harder, because there aren't many mental disadvantages that it's ethical to give people in trade for their existing ones. Sense of Duty to family, and other culturally-specific groups, such as churches, organisations or countries qualify, as do some Codes of Honour, and Honesty.
I think I have to disagree with that. As an atheist since early childhood, I would call a process that turned me into a Christian, Muslim, or Hindu and that transcended the normal process of reasoned argument "brainwashing." More generally, I'm opposed to ethical indoctrination that bypasses informed consent, which the process you describe seems to do.
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Old 05-27-2021, 10:28 AM   #7
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Mind Control

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Originally Posted by whswhs View Post
I think I have to disagree with that. As an atheist since early childhood, I would call a process that turned me into a Christian, Muslim, or Hindu and that transcended the normal process of reasoned argument "brainwashing." More generally, I'm opposed to ethical indoctrination that bypasses informed consent, which the process you describe seems to do.
Technically, people can give informed consent to their Mind Control therapy.

Realistically, a lot of people dislike themselves enough so that they would probably do it.
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Old 05-27-2021, 10:29 AM   #8
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Mind Control

Does the ethical boundaries rely on the perception of the user of the power, or some other standard?
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Old 05-27-2021, 10:30 AM   #9
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Mind Control

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Originally Posted by Icelander View Post
any character who is known to have Mind Control is going to have to deal with a lot of people reacting to their mere presence as someone threatening them with WMDs.
Way back in 3rd ed we had a dubiously ethical wizard PC who was working his way up to the "Enslave" spell. When he mentioned that out loud the rest of the PCs immediately started developing plans to pre-emptively murder him - the GM stepped in to state that she was forbidding him from learning that spell.

To a very large extent RPGs are an agency fantasy - that is to say that a large part of the fun is being able to do stuff that you can't do in RL for numerous reasons. Any threat to that will likely not be well-received.
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Old 05-27-2021, 10:39 AM   #10
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Mind Control

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Way back in 3rd ed we had a dubiously ethical wizard PC who was working his way up to the "Enslave" spell. When he mentioned that out loud the rest of the PCs immediately started developing plans to pre-emptively murder him - the GM stepped in to state that she was forbidding him from learning that spell.

To a very large extent RPGs are an agency fantasy - that is to say that a large part of the fun is being able to do stuff that you can't do in RL for numerous reasons. Any threat to that will likely not be well-received.
I don't think it's something on the metalevel. It's not that players react abnormally badly to the threat of Mind Control, it's that the mere suspicion that someone is capable of Mind Control will realistically cause a very high percentage of people (including almost all the powerful and/or violent ones) to fear and even hate them. Just the chance that someone may be able to Mind Control you means that you can no longer trust your experience, memories or even that you are, in any meaningful way, still you, while that person exists.

If Mind Control powers emerged in the real world, anyone suspected of being capable of manifesting them, even if the chance was remote, would probably not have much of a chance at a life.
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