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Author Topic: [ORE Noir] What's the intellectual equivalent of a 2x4 to the skull?  (Read 2274 times)

Posts: 152

« on: September 26, 2006, 04:09:12 PM »

(This is a cross-post from RPG.NET, if you care.)

was "Good Cop, Bad Cop" and it came to a thunderous conclusion last session. (A writeup from one of the players, probably with comments from me, is impending.)

One of the features of this system is the option to make social and intellectual attacks that can drastically re-arrange a character's ability to function. For instance, it's quite possible to make an intellectual, logical appeal to someone in order to sap their courage and make them less able to go into that firefight guns blazing. Or you can make an emotional attack to make someone less able to think straight, or too flustered to lie to you, or too hot and bothered to tell right from wrong.

I'm pretty pleased with how all this worked. Emotional attacks were far more common than physical ones, and people got SMACKED UP in their SOULS. It was beautiful.

But here was the thing. I'd figured out perfectly how knives, guns, chainsaws and the like affected the physical fights, but there was nothing parallel to weaponry for the emotional and intellectual levels of conflict.

So, as the title asks: What is the intellectual equivalent of a 2x4 to the skull? What's an emotional knife, gun or full auto .50 machinegun?

The suggestion for emotional attacks, which I'm leaning heavily towards, is the use of secrets. If you reveal some relevant deep dark secret, your attacks either get extra dice or do extra damage for the rest of the scene. Noir film is always about the deep dark secrets, so that's cool.

Intellectual combat is more problematical. One good suggestion was use of social class and location: So, if you're a thug in a library, you're likely to be cowed and easily persuaded, where the same arguments would have less heft in a pool hall. Similarly, a socialite who can disdainfully overawe a drug pusher when ensconced in her lavish penthouse is going to be at a disadvantage in his opium den asking, "Can you take a check?"

Another suggestion for intellectual combat was that the weapon equivalent is drugs and alcohol -- you take that slug of gin, you're less able to compute the syllogism. OR something based on vices. When your vice comes into play, your intellect is vulnerable to attack. If you're a drinker, offering a drink screws you whether you accept (and get loaded) or refuse (and spend the rest of the scene WISHING about it). If you're a melancholic, you're particularly vulnerable to suggestions that your efforts are in vain and life itself is absurd and meaningless.

I dunno. What do y'all think?

Acts of Evil Playtesters

Posts: 569

Joe Thomas McDonald

« Reply #1 on: September 26, 2006, 04:16:46 PM »

Emotional: "You kill me, and you'll never see your precious Abby again. I'm the only one who knows where she is."

Intellectual: "But you can't kill me. You need me. You're on the outside, and I'm on the inside."

Just like with a knife, it's all about piercing their defenses.
They build emotional and intellectual barriers, and you need to find the faults and walk through them.


Posts: 152

« Reply #2 on: September 26, 2006, 04:25:53 PM »

Those are examples of plain, white-bread rolls -- the equivalent of a punch or kick in the physical combat system.  What I'm looking for are situational advantages that would alter those kinds of attacks.

One example from "Good Cop, Bad Cop" was Sgt. Jones, whose wife was jacked up with all kinds of power in the emotional attack/defense area, so she routinely mopped up the floor with his heart during their arguments.  (That's why he started beating her.)  At one point, however, they're talking calmly (though still trying to manipulate one another) and he drops his bomb.  "Is that why you're screwing Mancuso?"  The secret certainly gave him an RP edge, but I've been trying hard to totally integrate setting and mechanics with this, so I'd like it to give him some dice mojo too.

Darcy Burgess

Posts: 476

« Reply #3 on: September 26, 2006, 05:08:23 PM »

Greg -

It strikes me that part of the problem is wrapping our heads around what "hurts" us emotionally/intellectually.  That's a pretty individual thing -- you may find sarcasm particularly biting, while I could be a sucker for guilt.  On the other hand, we all bleed the same colour after a bar fight.

It's almost like they're separate fields of battle.

Why not let the players define their own weaknesses and strengths?  If anyone was going to lift from UA, it might as well be you...

Black Cadillacs - Your soapbox about War.  Use it.

Posts: 150

« Reply #4 on: September 26, 2006, 06:58:17 PM »

The most emotionally, mentally and physiologically upsetting situation is finding out that something you thought was real isn't. Reality is not a physical property of the universe. Its stuck in our heads and keeps us motivated to live our lives a certain way. Change the reality slightly and we get confused and frustrated. Alter it even more and we're surprised and angry. Completely destroy the reality and we are stunned and shocked.

While there is an emotional, intellectual and physical component of reality, the underlying base is perception and agreement. People perceive the world around them and strive to make sense of it based on previous experiences and training. Agreement on what is real satisfies most people because it takes less thought and work. "Hey, I'll just side with the majority. Yep, the world is flat."

Each individual has a reality they are taught from childhood and 99.9% of the time we are in full agreement. Its that .1% of reality that just doesn't fit right. As we become curious and discover what is real, we find that a lot of what we think happens to be unreal. The contradiction with reality creates a steady pace that stimulates us to search and ask questions.

Now, imagine learning that what you thought was real, providing you with peace of mind, security, hope and joy, suddenly is destroyed. Nothing physical happened, but the idea of a new reality and its consequences just fries your mind. Its overwhelming and hard to accept. The death of a loved one, destroyed home, democracy is dead, there is a cure for cancer, Elvis is alive, your neighbor is an alien (from another star system), you wake up from a 20 year coma, etc.

Changes in reality:
sarcasm - counters the trust you had in that person
verbal abuse - shatters the love you felt from that person
flat tire - thought you would get to your wedding on time
Abby is threatened - she isn't safe and you can't take revenge

The change in reality can be little or great, and it affects your expectations. Disappointment sets in and the next step is the key to the eventual outcome:
Accept the new reality and continue with your desires. You gain insight and new opportunities.
Analyze the new reality and operate with the old one. You live life the same way but are bothered by the news.
Fight the new reality and the person who delivered it to you. You refuse to agree and lash out. You also begin to unwittingly alter your own reality to build defenses against the reality you don't want.

Most people choose the third option. Its human nature.

I think that jarring someone's reality depends upon three factors:
1. Authority. The person delivering the new reality represents himself as a figure in control or has superior knowledge.
2. Plausibility. The information regarding the new reality makes sense based on the person's current knowledge.
3. Agreement. Other people agree that the new reality is true or display behavior that supports the new reality.

Once these three factors are satisifed then the new reality comes into play. The person will attempt to operate from that standpoint. In the case of one on one conflicts, the authority is often demonstrated through domination and threat. Plausibility involves detailed knowledge about the victim. Agreement comes from having people on your side and also using loved ones as examples in support of the new reality.

Here's a simple monologue from an older brother who is angry, is jealous of the middle brother and wants to screw with his mind:
"Mother loves me more than you. I'm her first son and you're in the middle. She gave me a PS2 for my birthday and you got a bicycle. She wants me close to her and for you to be outside away from her. Did she ever warn you not to get hit by a car?"

In reality:
Mother wants the older brother in the house so she can keep an eye on him.
The older brother is angry that he is doing more chores, although mother said that she would help him buy a car.
The bicycle is very nice and costs more than the PS2.
Mother did say to be careful and have fun.

The emotional effect can come from how intense the new reality is contrasted with the old reality. I'm not sure how to work out the mechanics for it. I'm sure it will involve some numbers and dice.


Posts: 1619

« Reply #5 on: September 27, 2006, 04:50:13 AM »

There are some books that can help you learn about the tactics and weapons that people often use when dealing with each other.

"The Games People Play" is a good introduction to Transactional Analysis, which will be helpful.

"The Gentle Art of Verbal Self Defense" is another that covers this topic in some depth.

"In our game the other night, Joshua's character came in as an improvised thing, but he was crap so he only contributed a d4!"
                                     --Vincent Baker
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