When I was a youngster I was part of a wargames club: the Highfield Wargamers we were called. Matt, Andy and Tony were founder members, I was an early recruit, and we had a group of friends that evolved over the years, as people went off to uni, didn’t go to uni, got jobs, didn’t get jobs: you know the sort of thing. But at one stage in this evolution we had a regular group of me, Matt, two Andys, Roger, John and Mike. John liked to play devious and untrustworthy characters, and one of the Andys liked nothing more than to outsmart the other players. It was a heady mix that led to a LOT of player infighting, jostling for power and some serious PVP action.
That was all well and good, and a lot of fun for the main part (at some point I’ll have to recount the story when Mike and I, despite lots of efforts to save him, killed Roger – one of the few good guys in our crowd – through our dastardly plan to kill John (which we did!!). But, as time wore on the appeal of always dis-trusting and always trying to out-think your fellow players lost its shine, and good old collaborative role playing became the order of the day. In our group now we have very little PVP going on, and when we have had it (for example, in Matt’s recent Fate campaign when Tony’s character was captured then impersonated by a human-eating alien, played masterfully by Tony) it’s been for the best of narrative reasons. It’s also led to some fabulous and memorable moments (like when we uncovered Tony as an alien). So sometimes it can be good to mix the dynamic up a bit, but only for a really good story-driven reason.
In the Spectral Corsair campaign, whilst we haven’t had any player verses player stuff going on, we did have a traitor in the midst of the crew. Alina Abdessalam, an NPC they met right at the start, an ally (apparently), someone on their side who has the same mission as them, someone for whom they’d risked their lives to save (although in doing so they were protecting their only clue to completing their mission, so maybe this wasn’t so altruistic after all). But we found out in the last scenario that she was playing them from the start. She was a Witchsmeller, a Zalosian fanatic out to find Resim Aldair for her own purposes.
As GM I planned this story arc from the start of the campaign, and knew that a climactic conflict was almost inevitable. I knew that the Coriolis combat system is deadly as hell, and I needed Alina to have some clear advantage against the crew or that climactic conflict might just be “one to hit” roll, one good crit, and game over Alina… (this happened to the first Witchsmeller I put up against them back in Episode 2 of the campaign – so much for my first stab at a Witchsmeller nemesis for the crew!). So I conjured up a Mystical Power, called Mind Warp, to help her. This power allowed her to subtly – and over time – exert an influence over some of the crew and take them out of the fight, at least for a bit. This, and the fact that 8 Bit was in love with her, and Paul played this really well, made this conflict everything I’d wanted it to be.
But this Mystical Talent helped me bring the story to this point. I think it has excellent potential as a tool for an NPC who is working against a group of characters. It could also play nicely into a little bit of PVP in-group squabbling, if one of your players has had enough of all that lovey-dovey “lets be nice to one another” malarkey…
So I offer it here.
MYSTICAL TALENT – MIND WARP
You have the ability to tap into the Icon’s soothing energies and gently mould the minds of others. You can influence people in your favour, through the power of your personality and mystical skills, building up the strength of that influence over time. This talent works on those who have a positive, or at least non-hostile, attitude towards you. Building your influence with a specific victim requires a private moment of quiet or intimacy: it is only in these moments that your victim’s mind is open to your suggestion in a way that allows you to work your powers without their notice. Mind Warp is significantly less effective against other Mystics or spiritual beings.
To build your influence over another you need to make an opposed MYSTICAL POWERS vs MYSTICAL POWERS or EMPATHY roll in a suitably quiet or intimate moment. If your victim feels positively towards you, you get a +1 die bonus. If you succeed the victim is unaware of your actions, and is cursed with a negative dice modifier equal to the number of overall successes you achieved in that opposed roll. Using Mind Warp to create this influence can only be attempted once per situation (and obviously costs 1 DP to do so), but otherwise can be attempted any number of times when similar circumstances occur. Subsequent successes are added to the victim’s negative dice modifier, to a maximum of 3 dice. If the victim wins any of these opposed rolls any previously earned negative dice are lost and they experience an uneasy and suspicious feeling about you and your behaviour.
This negative modifier remains dormant until you wish to activate it. It can be activated at any time when you are within sight or sound of the victim. Once activated, the victim has to make an EMPATHY test, with the negative dice modifier, or the Mind Warp takes effect. The victim always has a minimum of 1 die to resist the Mind Warp’s activation.
A successful Mind Warp has the following effects:
- The victim is free to act but cannot take any action that could be hostile to you or your interests (this may include agreeing to a course of action or point of view they otherwise might have disagreed with);
- But they will not take any action that would directly harm themselves or go directly against their personal interests;
- However, if they are conflicted between points 1 and 2 they are effectively confused into inaction for that turn;
- Each subsequent turn they can re-roll an EMPATHY test as a Quick Action with the Mind Warp negative modifier, to resist its effects;
- If they take any physical damage from any source they get a “free” EMPATHY resist roll;
- If the Mystic who instigated the Mind Warp attacks the victim themselves the influence of the Mind Warp is broken for good.