Playbook focus: The Hocus

  • 12 Replies
  • 21385 Views
*

Arvid

  • 262
Playbook focus: The Hocus
« on: August 24, 2013, 01:32:17 PM »

Now it should be crystal fucking obvious that the gods have abandoned
Apocalypse World. Maybe in the golden age, with its one nation under god
and its in god we trust, maybe then the gods were real. Fucked if I know. All I
know is that now they’re gone daddy gone.
My theory is that these weird hocus fuckers, when they say “the gods,” what
they really mean is the miasma left over from the explosion of psychic hate
and desperation that gave Apocalypse World its birth. Friends,
that’s our
creator now.


The Hocus is visionary leader of 20 or so loyal but not fanatical followers. The Hocus brings meaning to his followers, and in return they bring him profit and surplus at good times, but also wants and needs at bad times. He is a primarily Weird character.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8NysmaKig8w
Graphic content

My take on it:
First of all, the Hocus can be many things to his followers. His followers can be his cult, his scene, his family, his staff, his students or his court. Two things are for certain, though:

One, the Hocus somehow brings meaning to his followers, he explains the world and preach to his followers how to transcend their pitiful lives through him, whether it be by study, compassion or orgies.

Two, if you're one of his followers, you can't have a real relationship to the Hocus. See, whatever his followers wish for deep down in their hearts, they project onto the Hocus. The Hocus is not a real person like they are, he is an elevated symbol, he is chosen, enlightened, perfect, a vessel for their desires. When Weaver Bird meets his followers, his followers doesn't meet Weaver Bird the person, they meet their own desires, what they need him to be for them.



See, no matter what you preach to your followers, you preach to their infantile wish of the Id. You preach to the part of their psyche that are still babies, that wish to become one with you, the perfect parent, and never feel pain, fear or hunger again. And you become one by walking the path, joining the sect, losing yourself in incest, bestiality, bloody sacrifice,  singing together or what have you.

Even if you preach to your followers to embrace the doctrines of guilt, shame, transcendance, discipline, purity, perfection or holiness, that also points to the Id – Because these are exactly the things that confirm that yes, there is uncontrolled, dangerous and bad desire within you, and yes, you must control and repress it. The concept of Purity always exists in reflection to the concept of Sin. Seriously, if you tell us that your cult preach purity and abstinance, isn't your first impulse to then add ”And also, there are orgies”? It can't just be me!

I mean, just look at nun porn! Nuns are off-limits, that just makes them HOTTER!

As a side note, I see a lot of innocent (creepy!) little girls as Hocuses, is that your experience too?

Every time a player picks up the Hocus, I get giddy and anticipative to see what they make out of it, because it is so sexy. Not sexy like the Skinner that wears hot clothes on a hot body or anything, but sexy like Id and sexy like sexuality. Take the Hocus and you'll mean everything to your followers. That is raw. That is real power!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wgN1sLcAQnw
I did not get the Hocus until I watched Conan, then it clicked.

But you'll also raise the stakes like hell up. Whip people into a frenzy, and they might get out of control. Be everything for your followers and they will expect everything from you and suffer the cruellest of disappointments and the hottest of rage when you fail them. Take sons and daughters and fathers and mothers will want them back. Preach the ultimate truth and someone contradicting it will get in your way. And just by going into what  desire and humanity is, you raise the stakes, lose a little control. If the Hocus makes you feel a little flustered or nervous, you're doing it right!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yhy9--YRBD8
Stupid fucking crude Gunlugger.

Now I've only shown you videos of the Hocus getting offed, I feel bad. I can recommend a look at Kundun for some inspiring imagery surrounding a take on the Hocus that instead shows the compassion and reverence of religion: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TW2USm6wTSA

Because, you know, your cult doesn't need to be a pretext for a goat-fucking man-sacrificing club (or goat-sacrificing man-fucking club for that matter) it can also be a very loving and deeply connected congregation of believers or students. Everything I've said about desire, the elevated status of the Hocus as a vessel for his followers projections and infantile wishes for unity still applies – I mean, a wish for a loving family might be ”infantile”, but is not an ugly or unnatural thing, it is a very beautiful thing!

Where the Operator, the Hardholder, the Chopper and the Maestro 'D gather followers around them for economical reasons, band together for barter, the Hocus connect others to him on a deeper level, a level we might have a hard time to grasp as secular westerners. Whether your Hocus and his followers are a thing you consider beautiful or ugly, I'd say the Hocus is always human. It's a lonely world out there, and psychologically we are pack animals, we need close relationships to survive, we crave an unambivalent group to feel safe, we need a purpose to feel happy. Bring a Hocus into the world of the apocalypse, and you get to explore that humanity through the interactions with his followers, and the truth he preaches.

Let's go back to Apocalypse Now and see what Kurtz has to say to make sense of the world he sees around him:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxLFdJLSho8

Why the Hocus is the best playbook to play:
The power of flesh is the real power!

Also, you get a big say in what the psychic maelstrom is like with your +2weird, and you get to make big claims about the world what with your prophetic stature and all.

And, of course, you get to the wonderful needs of your followers, without which you would be nothing.

What it brings to the world of the apocalypse:
So there is the dimension of humanity, through desire, disappointment and community, I've mentioned that. Also, if your Hocus manages to touch your desires as players and make you a little flustered or lustful in some way, that can really add to the ambience. Finally, since the Hocus followers live lives integrated in outside society, that can create some really interesting PC-NPC-triangles, like maybe the Gunlugger is a follower, or maybe some of the Hardholders liutenants or the Maestro 'D staff are followers.

Fundamental scarcities of the playbook:
I honestly have a hard time thinking of one. Oh, one of my players' first reactions to reading the hocus was a straight-face ”I can't imagine how you would have any problems with a cult at your disposal?”

Don't be that player. :D Trust me, followers' expectations on you are going to get you in a world of trouble soon enough.

Oh, and try to get at least one player characters to be your follower, so you don't end up antagonizing everyone with your fucked up shit.

Moves and crap analysis:
Fortunes is the core of the Hocus. Note that you roll+1 unless you get the Commerce option for your followers. Augury and Insight are also pretty cool options for your followers. Divine Protection is good for a character that walks around unarmed in a robe most of the time. Fucking whacknut, Charismatic and Seeing souls are pretty self-explanatory. You weird, weird good.

Concerning other playbook moves, there are a whole bunch of ones that roll+weird and could potentially fit with your concept. Healing touch is a given, and Dangerous & sexy is what you need to get if you want to play Thulsa Doom. Visions of Death and Bonefeel are good moves for a spooky Hocus, and Spooky Intense if you're planning to go into danger. Unnatural lust transfixion, Casual brain receptivity, Lost, Sticky fingers and Appraising eye are great for pulling strings and getting what you want. 

The Brainer moves Deep brain scan and In-brain puppet strings and Direct-brain whisper projection are probably hella useful for you, but I would stay out of Brainer territory, I feel it would cheapen what the Hocus is.

Fucking thieves is for a gang, but if your MC allows it, it could be a fun way to scrape by with your followers. Leadership is also a gang move, but pretty freaking cool if you want to take your followers to war. Reputation could be a nice move to set you up as an essential contact people have to deal with in the hold. Oftener right is also good for connecting you with others.

Relationships and dynamics:
Some questions to ask the Hocus to nuance faith and followers: What is the scariest moment of your life, what do you fear today? What is your weakness? What is your strength? Do you believe everything you preach? What do you desire? Who is your favorite follower? Who where your first followers, and when did that happen? What where your parents like?

The Angel is a good enemy. They are a grounded character with a low weird score, and benefit from some force to combat, and not just injury and disease. Your potentially irrational and self-destructive followers could be a thankful foil to them. Likewise with the Operator, who nevertheless is a good third party to get things done for you that you cannot get done through your followers, or must be kept discrete.

The Battlebabe or Gunlugger could be a follower or an enemy. I wouldn't trust them, though. The Faceless? I would trust them as a follower, unquestionly!

The mere existence of the Brainer is likely an inconvience to you at least – Here's some weirdo going around controlling people, just like you! Only thing is, they don't claim to bring truth or meaning to their lives. Isn't that proof against your truth, if someone can twist that truth with their mind powers? If they are a follower, I would probably put them behind the curtains. Would love to hear how you did it though! The Hardholder is also a natural enemy of sorts, here is someone claiming peoples loyalty and telling them what to do – That's your thing!

The Skinner is also a potential rival in that they control people with emotional strings. Or they might the master of ceremonies at your place, with sacrifices, sex ceremonies or blood art as their art! Your cult just got twice as hot!

Consider mixing your followers with the Chopper's gang for an eventful pilgrimage!

The Savvyhead needs connections to the world, so consider making yourself dependent on them. The easy way is to have them, supply a drug or substance you use in your ceremonies. The Hoarder and the Maestro 'D can also fill this niché, the Hoarder could do real well as a local resident of your church, actually. And just like the Skinner, the Maestro 'D is potentially a hot rival for followers, might lull your followers into inaction with sex, drugs or booze.

The Quarantine and the Touchstone are to be feared or conquered.
« Last Edit: August 24, 2013, 01:41:48 PM by Arvid »

*

Scrape

  • 378
Re: Playbook focus: The Hocus
« Reply #1 on: August 29, 2013, 01:06:16 AM »
Great stuff. The Hocus in my game took the Skinner move Hypnotic, and plays it to the hilt. It gives real mechanical weight to the Hocus' charisma, and it's super fun for them. I'd recommend it to any Hocus!

Re: Playbook focus: The Hocus
« Reply #2 on: August 29, 2013, 07:49:40 AM »
I must say this isn't at all my experience with hocusii. The way I've seen them play it's pretty much Frenzy Frenzy Frenzy Frenzy which in my opinion is the most powerful move in the game. The cult gives you shit to do and is a good source of drama but isn't really what the character does (which is whipping people into a Frenzy).

*

Arvid

  • 262
Re: Playbook focus: The Hocus
« Reply #3 on: August 29, 2013, 08:21:14 AM »
I must say this isn't at all my experience with hocusii. The way I've seen them play it's pretty much Frenzy Frenzy Frenzy Frenzy which in my opinion is the most powerful move in the game. The cult gives you shit to do and is a good source of drama but isn't really what the character does (which is whipping people into a Frenzy).

Fuck! I forgot to write about Frenzy!

It was such an obviously cool move that I focused my attention on the other moves. :D

*

Scrape

  • 378
Re: Playbook focus: The Hocus
« Reply #4 on: August 29, 2013, 09:20:14 AM »
It's good for the MC to remember that "speaking truth to a mob" doesn't mean, like, you're mind-controlling any old crowd. They've got to be a real mob, a bunch of high emotions gathered for action. That often means working the crowd up 'til they're a mob, and hoping that you have enough hold leftover to send them home quietly at the end. Awesome.

Re: Playbook focus: The Hocus
« Reply #5 on: September 08, 2013, 05:42:48 PM »
Quote
See, no matter what you preach to your followers, you preach to their infantile wish of the Id. You preach to the part of their psyche that are still babies, that wish to become one with you, the perfect parent, and never feel pain, fear or hunger again. And you become one by walking the path, joining the sect, losing yourself in incest, bestiality, bloody sacrifice,  singing together or what have you.

Even if you preach to your followers to embrace the doctrines of guilt, shame, transcendance, discipline, purity, perfection or holiness, that also points to the Id – Because these are exactly the things that confirm that yes, there is uncontrolled, dangerous and bad desire within you, and yes, you must control and repress it. The concept of Purity always exists in reflection to the concept of Sin. Seriously, if you tell us that your cult preach purity and abstinance, isn't your first impulse to then add ”And also, there are orgies”? It can't just be me!

I mean, just look at nun porn! Nuns are off-limits, that just makes them HOTTER!

As a side note, I see a lot of innocent (creepy!) little girls as Hocuses, is that your experience too?

I ran a game with a Hocus that ran a death cult. The only way to make him happy, really, was to die. To him, Being alive in the apocalypse was going against God's will, we were all supposed to have been wiped out by now. Accordingly, they disdained law, peace, reason and society, which gave Surplus +violence. He also had a knack for always rolling well on fortunes, so his cult was constantly killing and destroying. I had always meant to turn this against him, but by the third session he was the straight up villain of the story, and the other PCs were all turned against him as it was. It wound up being more interesting to aim the violence of his drug-addled cult outward. They never PROTECTED him in any real way, but their violent behavior never reared its ugly head toward him.

Going off the little girl thing, he was in fact a creepy little boy, I think his age was set around 11. And the head of a death cult! I'd be interested to hear, though, how the death thing plays toward that need to feed the id?

Also, interestingly, he never took frenzy, instead opting to manipulate or intimidate his cult.

Re: Playbook focus: The Hocus
« Reply #6 on: September 08, 2013, 06:15:36 PM »
Oh, and I also meant to say, these focus write-ups are great! Keep up the good work!

*

DannyK

  • 157
Re: Playbook focus: The Hocus
« Reply #7 on: September 10, 2013, 04:43:50 PM »
The one game where I played a Hocus ended very early, but my character had already alienated every other PC in the game with a little gentle proselytizing and a blown roll.  I'm not really sure how to avoid freaking everyone out with this character -- even if they see your character sheet and hear you pitch the character concept, it's like you're only 2D6 away from becoming Charles Manson with this playbook.  I think it might have been better if I could have persuaded another PC to be in the cult during chargen, but that can be a tough sell.

Re: Playbook focus: The Hocus
« Reply #8 on: September 10, 2013, 05:31:47 PM »
Take a cue from actual religious people and do batshit insane things in private but be normal in public.

Re: Playbook focus: The Hocus
« Reply #9 on: September 12, 2013, 12:51:49 PM »

It's the apocalypse. What is this normal?

I mean, the Hocus is a pretty freaky playbook; meaning is a dangerous thing, especially when the default is abject, self-preserving nihilism. But I do agree that it's pretty hard to shake players out of their extremely modern-day wariness/irony towards communities built around systems of belief. The word 'cult' itself comes with a lot of baggage -- baggage whose presence in a post-apocalyptic wasteland often seems out of place.

Re: Playbook focus: The Hocus
« Reply #10 on: September 12, 2013, 02:29:41 PM »
Normal is not being obnoxious and in your face, being able to interact with player characters without forcing your beliefs on them.

Re: Playbook focus: The Hocus
« Reply #11 on: September 12, 2013, 07:26:18 PM »
It's good for the MC to remember that "speaking truth to a mob" doesn't mean, like, you're mind-controlling any old crowd. They've got to be a real mob, a bunch of high emotions gathered for action. That often means working the crowd up 'til they're a mob, and hoping that you have enough hold leftover to send them home quietly at the end. Awesome.
The other important thing to bear in mind when Speaking Truth To The Mob is that you have to be Speaking Truth. If you're lying, then the move doesn't kick in.

*

Scrape

  • 378
Re: Playbook focus: The Hocus
« Reply #12 on: September 16, 2013, 02:21:15 PM »
The other important thing to bear in mind when Speaking Truth To The Mob is that you have to be Speaking Truth. If you're lying, then the move doesn't kick in.

As long as the Hocus believes it, I consider it truth for the move. "This is madness, she is the real enemy here" totally works for me.