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Old 12-29-2023, 02:03 AM   #1
Deathwindfr
 
Join Date: Nov 2022
Default Voice impersonation : Acting or Mimicry?

Dear all,

I am struggling to differentiate Acting and Mimicry relative to human voice impersonation.

Acting (B P134) says it is "s the ability to counterfeit moods, emotions, and voices".

It also says in the Acting skill description that if you use Disguise and and need to impersonate, you use Acting.

Mimicry (B P210) says it is "This is the ability to imitate voices". You must specialise and one of the specialisation is Speech with which you can mimic a specific person.

Why would I want to buy Mimicry (Speech) which is a Difficult skill whereas Acting is of Average difficulty? All the more so than Acting is more useful because Acting it allows for other things than just imitate voices. Mimicry (Speech) seems to have no added value.

Could it be that Acting skill description is incorrect and that imitating voices is not really in its scope? But if I take out voice imitation from Acting, a character then needs three skills to impersonate someone Disguise, Acting and Mimicry.

Thanks in advance for your help.
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Old 12-29-2023, 04:01 AM   #2
tbone
 
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Default Re: Voice impersonation : Acting or Mimicry?

Good question. I'd say that Acting is used to act like the target (mannerisms, body language), Mimicry to sound like the person (imitate the actual voice), and Disguise to look like the person. So I don't have a problem with the idea of three skills for full-scale impersonation.

But that line between Acting and Mimicry can be vague. How about speech mannerisms, like choosing the expressions that the target would actually use? That's something a suspicious listener could pick up on. I'm not sure where that falls.

And Acting's description of "...and voices" further complicates things.

When something's not clear, it can be useful to take a look at a later rules set like DFRPG - not because it officially supersedes BS in any way, but simply because it was written later, and might indicate some deliberate clarification. In this case, DFRPG's description of Acting doesn't mention voices:

Quote:
...the art of counterfeiting emotions and pretending to be someone you are not... Examples include playing dead in combat and impersonation. Impersonating someone specific ... requires Disguise, and the roll is against the lower of the two skills.
So that could be an authorial indication of "BS shouldn't have suggested voices as part of Acting skill." (Or it might not be.)

My take is that an Acting roll alone will let you impersonate a voice well enough that listeners understand who it's supposed to be - good enough for, say, a comic performance, but if you want to truly fool people, you'll have to sell some excuse ("yeah, I think I caught a cold") or make a proper Mimicry default at Acting -6.

A Mimicry roll alone will nail the voice, but not mannerisms.

A final observation: The rules slap a -3 on Mimicry to impersonate a specific person. (So that'd be an Acting roll at -9?) It's a Hard skill, too, so that almost feels too difficult to me...
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Old 12-29-2023, 04:14 AM   #3
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Default Re: Voice impersonation : Acting or Mimicry?

See also GURPS Social Engineering, which attempts to clarify this exact issue for Acting, Disguise, and Mimicry.
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Old 12-29-2023, 06:28 AM   #4
Deathwindfr
 
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Default Re: Voice impersonation : Acting or Mimicry?

Quote:
Originally Posted by whswhs View Post
See also GURPS Social Engineering, which attempts to clarify this exact issue for Acting, Disguise, and Mimicry.
Thanks for the intel.

Indeed Social Engineering confirms the "three different skills" option.

Acting is for personality, mannerisms, conversation and body langage.
Mimicry is for the voice. If all three are required, you roll against the lowest.

Great that's sorted out, thanks to all!
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Old 12-29-2023, 07:34 AM   #5
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Default Re: Voice impersonation : Acting or Mimicry?

Note that there is also a Mimicry advantage to confuse things. And a similar ambiguity around Acting-Makeup-Disguise-Morph (though the 4e form changes the confused cosmetic morph to a subset of a more powerful ability). The whole complex, plus side traits like Fashion Sense and Performance, could stand some rewriting.

Still, if you don't want to go full house rule, my take has always been Acting or Performance is intended to be adequate to sound or look "like" someone (people can tell who you are trying to be "like") but not to actually fool anyone into thinking that you [are] that person (that calls for Mimicry or Disguise).
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Old 12-29-2023, 08:16 AM   #6
Deathwindfr
 
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Default Re: Voice impersonation : Acting or Mimicry?

Quote:
Originally Posted by malloyd View Post
my take has always been Acting or Performance is intended to be adequate to sound or look "like" someone (people can tell who you are trying to be "like") but not to actually fool anyone into thinking that you [are] that person (that calls for Mimicry or Disguise).
Dear Malloyd,

You managed to answer my next question : what is the difference between Performance and Acting?

I think you nailed it : Performance is trying to sound like or look like but people can tell the difference whereas Disguise/Mimicry is trying to look exactly like.

Thanks!
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Old 12-29-2023, 08:56 AM   #7
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Default Re: Voice impersonation : Acting or Mimicry?

Quote:
Originally Posted by malloyd View Post
Still, if you don't want to go full house rule, my take has always been Acting or Performance is intended to be adequate to sound or look "like" someone (people can tell who you are trying to be "like") but not to actually fool anyone into thinking that you [are] that person (that calls for Mimicry or Disguise).
Yeah, when I read the voices part of Acting I think of things like inflection, tone, etc. When an actor is trying to convey a specific emotion or give an impression through vocal means. Like a salesman trying to sound sincere and excited or enthusiastic when trying to get you to buy his wares. Acting vs. Mimicry is like Acting vs. Disguise. Acting lets you seem like someone you are not, the other two let you seem like a specific someone else.
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Old 12-29-2023, 01:46 PM   #8
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Default Re: Voice impersonation : Acting or Mimicry?

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Originally Posted by Refplace View Post
Yeah, when I read the voices part of Acting I think of things like inflection, tone, etc.
I think of the use of the word "voice" in the definition of Acting to have the meaning as the word is used in phrases like "the voice of a writer" -- the "stylistic mix of vocabulary, tone, point of view and syntax that makes words flow in a particular way", to lift a definition off the web -- which doesn't require being able to hear sounds from their vocal tract at all. To extend the examples, characteristics of someone's voice like vocabulary, idioms, and common Quirk-ish expressions or pauses (a la William Shatner) are covered by Acting. You could imitate those while not sounding like the original voice at all. Mimicry is the basic sound of the voice: pitch, gravelly, sibilant, details of the shaping of vowels and consonants most people aren't even conscious of, and so on.

Tone and inflection edge toward the gray area between. "Tone" in the musical sense, "timbre", would be Mimicry. Tone in the sense of word choice imparting a feeling, mood, or attitude would usually be Acting or Performance.

The kind of entertainer called an "impersonator" uses Mimicry to "sound like" some specific celebrity by imitating those features even while saying things the original wouldn't say. You can tell the original voice (in the common sense) even when they're not saying things "in the (second sense) voice of" the celebrity. Most such entertainers also use Acting to copy some of those well-known mannerisms and characteristic expressions; in fact, sometimes that's sometimes the primary means of making the impersonation convincing even though the performer doesn't actually sound all that much like the celebrity. (That's one reason that highly stylized celebs like John Wayne or Jack Benny are -- or were -- popular subjects for impersonators. You can still make the bit in your show work with Acting even if your Mimicry isn't particularly good.) Those entertainers are also using Performance to get the audience to enjoy the show, comically exaggerating their "copy" of the celebrity, and perhaps saying things that are funny precisely because it's not something the original would say.

In GURPS, it's pretty routine for most jobs or roles to need several skills, if not half a dozen or more. For an RPG character like a cinematic super-spy, it could be literally dozens. (I've recently been going through a syllabus from WW II SOE training, jotting down the GURPS skills that seemed to cover the topics the syllabus touched on. I got up to about 50. Clearly, not all SOE agents were going to have acquired those skills at even the 1-point level, but it was an impressively long list even so.)

If you want to have just one master skill to dump points into without fussing over details or worrying about distinguishing between similar characters, see the Wildcard Skills rules.
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Old 12-29-2023, 02:06 PM   #9
Pursuivant
 
Join Date: Apr 2005
Default Re: Voice impersonation : Acting or Mimicry?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Anaraxes View Post
I've recently been going through a syllabus from WW II SOE training, jotting down the GURPS skills that seemed to cover the topics the syllabus touched on. I got up to about 50. Clearly, not all SOE agents were going to have acquired those skills at even the 1-point level, but it was an impressively long list even so.
Sounds like a job for the Dabbler perk or a more generalized Professional Skill like Law Enforcement or Soldier. At the extreme end, it's a Wildcard skill.

I've got PS variants called Fire Fighter and Tradecraft. The former covers firefighter and other first responder training while the latter covers generic spy and covert operative skills.

I've also ripped off PS (Stunt Man) from some forgotten GURPS GM, which covers arranged falls, simulated injuries, stunt equipment use, and basic stunts involving cars and horses which don't fit into Acrobatics, Stage Combat or Riding.

All of them work well.

I might allow something like PS (Impersonator) to cover all the minor details of impersonating someone, like identifying the perfume the target is wearing and remembering to use it during the impersonation or getting details about the target's background and social contacts. Give it defaults to Acting, Disguise and Mimicry and it could stand on its own, but only for purposes of imitating a specific person.
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Old 12-29-2023, 04:03 PM   #10
whswhs
 
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Default Re: Voice impersonation : Acting or Mimicry?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Anaraxes View Post
I think of the use of the word "voice" in the definition of Acting to have the meaning as the word is used in phrases like "the voice of a writer" -- the "stylistic mix of vocabulary, tone, point of view and syntax that makes words flow in a particular way", to lift a definition off the web -- which doesn't require being able to hear sounds from their vocal tract at all. To extend the examples, characteristics of someone's voice like vocabulary, idioms, and common Quirk-ish expressions or pauses (a la William Shatner) are covered by Acting. You could imitate those while not sounding like the original voice at all. Mimicry is the basic sound of the voice: pitch, gravelly, sibilant, details of the shaping of vowels and consonants most people aren't even conscious of, and so on.

Tone and inflection edge toward the gray area between. "Tone" in the musical sense, "timbre", would be Mimicry. Tone in the sense of word choice imparting a feeling, mood, or attitude would usually be Acting or Performance.

The kind of entertainer called an "impersonator" uses Mimicry to "sound like" some specific celebrity by imitating those features even while saying things the original wouldn't say. You can tell the original voice (in the common sense) even when they're not saying things "in the (second sense) voice of" the celebrity. Most such entertainers also use Acting to copy some of those well-known mannerisms and characteristic expressions; in fact, sometimes that's sometimes the primary means of making the impersonation convincing even though the performer doesn't actually sound all that much like the celebrity. (That's one reason that highly stylized celebs like John Wayne or Jack Benny are -- or were -- popular subjects for impersonators. You can still make the bit in your show work with Acting even if your Mimicry isn't particularly good.) Those entertainers are also using Performance to get the audience to enjoy the show, comically exaggerating their "copy" of the celebrity, and perhaps saying things that are funny precisely because it's not something the original would say.
If you're not attempting to deceive the audience into believing you really are the person you're impersonating, it's not Acting; it's Performance.

GURPS has three distinct ways of deceiving another person. If you are trying to get someone to accept a complex system of consistent, plausible falsehoods on a continuing basis, it's a Quick Contest of Acting vs. Detect Lies. If it's a simple single plausible lie, it's IQ vs. Detect Lies (or a simple reaction roll if the target doesn't attempt Detect Lies). If the falsehood doesn't have to be plausible, you can confuse the target into accepting it with Fast-Talk vs. Detect Lies, but the confusion will clear up and then they'll figure out something was wrong.

Performance is NOT used to deceive others, though given that Acting defaults to Performance-2, I might say that a roll of Performance vs. Detect Lies that was lost by 2 or more (or of Performance vs. Per that didn't win by 4 or more) could deceive someone.
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