Frenzy vs. manipulate on crowds

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Frenzy vs. manipulate on crowds
« on: December 10, 2014, 01:36:28 PM »
So I have this conundrum in my game and, although I've mostly come to my own conclusions about it, I'd like to hear anyone's opinion on what the right ruling is here.

The issue is this: my PCs have found themselves trying to sway groups of people as often (more often?) than they try to manipulate individuals. The problem is, since the Hocus retired, no one has frenzy. I was on the fence about even letting them even trigger a move when they try to get a mob on their side (since manipulate is written for a single NPC) but I was at a loss for how to handle it in that case. Unlike, say, augury--it makes sense that you just don't have this capability if you don't have the move--I can't really stop the PCs from yelling at a group of people.

Now the solution would seem obvious: I should allow them to manipulate crowds because frenzy is a better move overall. It has easier trigger conditions ("truth" vs actual "leverage") and it offers up to 3 times more effectiveness with its holds. So there's the incentive to take the move and ditch the unpredictability of the basic moves. I've found that none of my players want to take frenzy since manipulating crowds seems to work just fine. Which should be okay, since they're settling for a lesser move. But...

Here's the twist: advanced manipulate offers the opportunity to gain allies (again, this move was written for individuals...). Add in the fact that allies are perhaps the single most powerful advanced move effect (IMO), and manipulate actually becomes (depending on how you look at it) better than frenzy. I don't like this.

My solution is to allow them to manipulate (and be strict about leverage) but not to allow allies even from advanced manipulates. It's pretty simple, but I feel like there's got to be a better way than to house-rule something. Should I be handling these situations differently in free-play or in terms of the moves they trigger?

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Munin

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Re: Frenzy vs. manipulate on crowds
« Reply #1 on: December 10, 2014, 02:04:03 PM »
My inclination is to limit manipulate to a single target. Groups of people are difficult todeal with. The Hocus has a special capability here - they are engaging and captivating in a way that other people are not. So I'd be somewhat disinclined to allow PCs to manipulate crowds of people willy-nilly.

That said, there are a couple of useful and important things you can do to deal with these situations. First and foremost, you can always allow them to read a sitch to determine "who is really in control?" and then manipulate that person, or even go aggro on them or seize (the situation) by force. Most mobs form around a few key rabble-rousers, so if you can identify and deal with the individuals driving the mob, you can steer the mob as a whole. Even if the group is not a mob, most groups of people will look to a particular individual for leadership, though who that leader might be could vary depending on the situation (the Datsun Cannibals look to their leader Warchest whenever bullets are likely to fly, but when it comes to matters that touch upon the supernatural, Mamma Wee is the one they really listen to). Even impromptu groups tend to exhibit a spontaneous leader phenomenon. Reading a sitch allows the players to suss out that leader and act appropriately.

And if the answer to who is in control is "no one," then maybe handle it the other way - i.e. not through triggering a particular move but through following the fiction. Ask yourself just what it is that the group is interested in or upset about and what the PCs are doing to address that. If the mob wants to lynch Damson for killing one of their own, but the PCs are preventing this because they know Damson is the only one who can fix their broken-down truck, well, there's likely to be violence regardless of what the PCs say. Conversely, if the mob feels like their concerns have been heard and addressed, maybe they disperse peacefully. And if it does come to violence, treat the mob like a gang and use the gang harm vs. leadership guidelines to see what happens next (i.e. if a gang has no leader, it'll hold together if it takes only 1-harm, but no more. So if the PCs can inflict 2-harm ("many injuries, several serious, a couple of fatalities") on a truly leaderless mob, that mob disperses. And even at 1-harm ("a few injuries, one or two serious, no fatalities"), maybe they rethink their approach.

I know this - getting one person to do something they don't want to do is hard. Getting a group of people to do something they don't want to do is like herding cats. Don't let your players take the easy way out by manipulating masses, especially considering that it's hard to get simultaneous leverage on a diverse group of people.

Re: Frenzy vs. manipulate on crowds
« Reply #2 on: December 10, 2014, 05:02:12 PM »

Yeah, like Munin my feeling is just that you can't manipulate groups of people, all at once. Besides overlapping with the Hocus' deal, it seems at odds with the injunction to 'make everyone human' -- if your PCs are constantly dealing with crowds of people, then almost by definition they are not interacting with all the human individuals in that crowd, and that's not really going to produce AW at its best.

Even just strictly applying the idea of leverage suggests that manipulating a large crowd of people should be pretty difficult, unless they are exceptionally uniform in their desires -- which, again, is quite unlikely to be the case unless the manipulation is extremely crude (e.g. violent leverage, but then you can use the violence moves.) At a minimum I feel like any use of manipulate on a crowd of people is only going to effectively manipulate a small portion of the crowd; depending on which part, or the type of group, that might be enough to get what the PC wants, but it also might not.

It may be that the Apocalypse you and your players are interested in is operating at a larger social scale, and so dealing with a bunch of named humans all the time would be unsatisfying somehow, or of insufficient scope, but if that's not consciously a goal I would encourage you to try avoiding these sorts of 'deal with them all at once' social interactions, and instead steer towards situations where you can make use of Principles and Agendas that are designed to highlight the interaction of not-so-complicated individual people.

Re: Frenzy vs. manipulate on crowds
« Reply #3 on: February 23, 2015, 07:51:32 PM »
I know this has sat a while but this specific circumstance came up in the first AW game I played in. It went like this:

There's this gang and they have a hostage. They're riding up to the hold and the Quarantine is set up in a perfect sniper position. They have a sniper on another building. Go Aggro, dead. He says with "I kill the leader" and since they don't see it coming, that guy just dies but he has to Act Under Fire to keep his precarious perch while playing Rambo. 12+ (with advanced move) and he's transcendentally in the moment, riding the wave. He stands up and shouts loud enough to be heard despite all logic "stand down! Surrender and no one else dies!". He goes for Manipulate since as long as they don't threaten their hostage, he'll let them run and he'll take their vehicle as a consolation prize. Makes perfect sense to address and manipulate them as a single group. 12+ again! The MC's call was that one of them became an ally, the first one to recover his cool enough to take charge and tell the other guys to lower their weapons.

Now in this case, there were a few specifics that I'd require be there for future use:
1. Everyone being manipulated can clearly understand what's being offered and demanded.
2. Everyone can be convinced to do something with the exact same leverage and reasonably expect it to be delivered. If you're offering to feed people, you better be able to convince them you can feed everyone. If you're threatening violence, every single member must feel like they have a reasonable chance of getting hurt.
3. Everyone is being manipulated to do the exact same thing like "go home" or "surrender".

Even then, it might be easiest to just designate someone as mob/gang leader who has enough of a handle on them that they'll go along with it or not based on him.

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Ebok

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Re: Frenzy vs. manipulate on crowds
« Reply #4 on: February 25, 2015, 04:02:45 PM »
Except, he didn't manipulate anyone at all. His shout had violence on the other end of it, and seeing as he just killed someone--its quite clear that he wasn't bluffing. Your example sniper actually triggered go aggro on the group of suckers. His following offer was roleplay, not a move trigger. All it takes is one guy in a crowd not to agree, fire a gun, and all hell breaks loose.

I think the sniper shot instant killing the guy sets a tone that makes talking from that position unwelcome. I'd go as far to say that the 12+ cool shouldve let him take another two or three down in that dumbfounded stunned second before EVERYONE scatters for cover. No body is going to stand in the open with a sniper around, and no sniper is going to give up their position by yelling unless it's game over. I mean, they're in a bad spot the second they do. Gang can rush them, cut them off, avoid line of sight, etc. >_> just some food for thought.

You cannot manipulate more then one person, you can however, get to talking to the one person that matters, and let that guy "lead" the others away. However, most manipulation should take place within deception, conversation, or another very personal exchange.

Trying to manipulate someone requires activating the phrase to do it, do it. So how do you Manipulate someone? I mean, have you ever tried to talk down a group of people? Really now, mob mentality is something that pretty much overwhelms all other logical sources. EVEN the logic of the people in the crowd itself. Too many people become a herd / force of nature / primitive actions and reactions. Even if one of them isn't so certain and might be buying into what one guy just said, all it takes is one other to fuck it all up. Even manipulating KNOWING who is in charge is nearly impossible unless you get them to step up and talk to you for a minute.

 It could be argued that a great orator can talk to a whole group of people like he's talking to each alone. Speaking directly to them, etc. This is pretty much where I see shit like frenzy coming into play.
« Last Edit: February 25, 2015, 04:18:57 PM by Ebok »

Re: Frenzy vs. manipulate on crowds
« Reply #5 on: February 26, 2015, 02:24:07 AM »
OK, let me try a different approach here because if you're talking group psychology and what people would and wouldn't do and mob psychology, you're talking make AW seem real. Which is cool and I agree. The thing is, seems real doesn't really have any bearing on what is or isn't a move. So does it seem real that when Balls the Maestro'D offers to open a case of the good stuff for everyone, that they'll calm down instead of breaking the place up? Sure, maybe. Does it make sense that they'll just mob his crew and take his stuff? Sure, maybe. Maybe the Hardholder's gang is there to keep the peace. Then people are probably going to play nice because of the implied threat, no roll. If its just Balls the Maestro, who is hot as fuck and has the hookup, though, its a maybe.

Now Balls's life is already interesting (his life has been made not boring). There's a rowdy mob in his place that might get out of control and lay waste to it if he doesn't bring it under control NOW. Now Balls is a Devil With A Blade and has a huge ass meat cleaver. He could Go Aggro the entire group, treat them as a small gang and do 2-harm if they suck it up and a bunch of people would die. If that's what he wants, grab the dice. He could Seize his own place By Force. I can't think of any reason as a fan of his character to deny him the chance to do the same thing with Manipulate. It does seem real that if everyone calms down long enough for him to get the hooch out, open the crates, pour everyone a glass and hand them out that the crisis has passed. If that's what he wants to do, if the player specifies that he's addressing the crowd and saying "hey, let's take it down a notch. I'll get out a case of the good stuff and we can all be friends," its not my job to tell him he can't. He did it so he did it. He tried to manipulate the crowd in the fiction, so now he gets to try with the dice. Maybe in a 7-9 its not that easy and everyone starts chanting "booze! Booze! Booze!" and slamming their fists and bats and herrings and machetes against the furniture, breaking shit until it shows up. On a miss, its going to get real unpleasant real fast.
« Last Edit: February 26, 2015, 03:44:35 AM by nomadzophiel »

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Munin

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Re: Frenzy vs. manipulate on crowds
« Reply #6 on: February 26, 2015, 10:57:32 AM »
I get what you're saying, but I still feel like what's really going on under the hood is a quick one-two of read a sitch ("who is really in charge here?") followed by manipulate on that individual. Truly leaderless mobs are scary and dangerous precisely because they defy all attempts at reason (and in some cases even at individual self-preservation). But very few mobs are truly leaderless. And in some sense, frenzy is about using your mojo to become the leader of that mob. That's what makes it special, and why vanilla manipulation is a different animal better suited to one-on-one interaction.

Re: Frenzy vs. manipulate on crowds
« Reply #7 on: February 26, 2015, 12:02:21 PM »
What maks it different to me. . .and don't get me wrong, I think your way is fine if its fine for your group. . .is the difference between leverage and truth, between doing one thing and hold for lots of things. It just seems anti-intuitive to me to say "you can treat a group of people as a gang, which is a single target with special details, but only for violence". Jesus (pronounced HAY-soos) Chrysler, The False Prophet (one day I will have a Hocus with this name) can convince people to break up Balls's bar, give him all the loot and go home quietly on a single good roll with some fancy words but no bribery. Balls can't convince people to attack Jesus's cult unless he offers them something that ALL of them are wiling to risk death for AND Jesus is right there for them to whack this instant. Even then, they're likely to break up and chase the bounty individually unless they're already an angry mob. If he wants Jesus's mystic Chrysler badge, that's going to be a separate deal that he has to figure out while there's an angry fuckin' mob around, one that's probably not going to stop just because Jesus died for their sins. On the other hand, he should at least be able to attempt to keep the bread line from turning into a bread riot with the promise that everyone will get fed and no one will be left out, if only because he could do the same thing with his meat cleaver.
« Last Edit: February 26, 2015, 12:07:19 PM by nomadzophiel »

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Munin

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Re: Frenzy vs. manipulate on crowds
« Reply #8 on: February 26, 2015, 12:54:54 PM »
Yeah, but I wouldn't necessarily let him do the same thing with his meat-cleaver either, and for exactly the same reason. Going aggro on someone is a very direct and immediate threat of violence, specifically violence inflicted one-sidedly upon them. But it's a bit of a stretch to me to assert that you can directly, immediately, and one-sidedly threaten 40 people at the same time with the same meat-cleaver.

I don't see a problem with treating a group of people as a gang only for the purposes of violence. It's just an abstraction that makes the harm mechanics easier to apply. Now you could say the same abstraction could apply to group psychology with a certain amount of justification. But doing so (i.e. by allowing anyone to manipulate mobs) removes one of the uniqueness of one of the Hocus' more interesting moves.

As a side note, I want to see what happens when Balls seduces the mob instead.  ;)
« Last Edit: February 26, 2015, 12:59:16 PM by Munin »

Re: Frenzy vs. manipulate on crowds
« Reply #9 on: February 26, 2015, 02:18:01 PM »
I just don't see the two as being at all similar. They're certainly not more similar than Go Aggro and a Tocuhstone's Towering Presence or Pack Alpha or even the Brainer's Puppet Strings (which "only" lets you do it with your brain instead of talking and guns). They're all "Do hard shit to make people do what you want" but their application and results are very different. Same thing here. There's a difference between "you can offer a mob just what they want to get them to do one thing" and "you can tell people what they want to hear (or don't) and get them to do any of these specific things." The leader of the mob might be an NPC. It might be a guy with Frenzy. Its never someone doing Manipulate for more than a moment. So, cool, Jesus is dead. Now the angry mob is coming for YOU because you promised the rains would come if the False Prophet were killed. Well he's dead, they've got blood on their hands, its been a whole five seconds and the skies haven't opened up yet. They did the thing now where's their pay? What else you got?

More mechanically, on a 10+ with leverage (which is its own problem since you can only leverage a mob if they all want the same thing already), Manipulate is still going to be at best as good as Frenzy on a 7+. What kind of leverage can you possibly have to make a mob bring forward all their precious things or fight for you? It has to be something worth more to them than those things. So maybe "if we don't fight to the last man, woman and child, that mindfucker and his army are going to make the survivors wish they were dead." The Hocus just has to say "Balls is using all of you! You're nothing to him but a source of revenue" which, y'know, everyone knew already but when the Hocus confronts them with that truth, he can get them pissed the fuck off enough to drag Balls out of his bar.  Of course, the Hocus can't use his hold to say "wait here" or break up a brawl without scattering everyone or get the group to form a human wall against an oncoming tank. You might be able to manipulate the right group with the right motivation to do any of those things.

As to aggro: If I'm facing a gang, I'd absolutely expect my Battlebabe to be able to say "run or die" and back it up with a grenade that puts her out of range of their weaponized herrings. That's aggro on a gang.  She's equipped to back it up with damage to all of them. They can't damage her back. And hey, if Balls runs a brothel, maybe he can seduce an entire mob. Its just that his crew is going to do the dirty work. :)

I'd agree that the vast majority of the time, these things (Aggro, Sieze, Manipulate) are one on one but specific circumstances can put a PC in  position where it makes sense for the MC to treat a group as a single target.

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Munin

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Re: Frenzy vs. manipulate on crowds
« Reply #10 on: February 26, 2015, 02:29:44 PM »
Yes, and I think following the fiction in these cases leads to in many cases to the outcome you describe. The grenade example is a perfect case in point - an area weapon allows you to target multiple people at the same time, so yeah, a threat of immediate, one-sided harm makes sense in this case. So yes, if the exact same leverage or force can be consistently applied to a group of people, them maybe the basic move is appropriate.

But I think we both agree that the trick is in finding that leverage.  :)

Re: Frenzy vs. manipulate on crowds
« Reply #11 on: February 26, 2015, 02:37:34 PM »
Yeah, its definitely edge cases where the fiction has already lead you to "yeah, that might work. OK, roll the dice and find out." Whereas the Hocus isn't really limited by that. If the mob has gathered around the Hold's walls because they want food, that's cool if you have food. If you're a Hocus, though, its not about food. Its about a group of people who are potential converts. Sure, they're starving but that's just another way of saying they need someone to take away their anxiety. Someone to turn all that emotion from resentment of the Hardholder to love for the guy who has a pipeline to the next world or a brighter future (or maybe anger towards Balls. That asshole's been trying to get you killed)! What they think they need doesn't matter. You can give them something they need in their souls.

That's a pretty big difference.

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Ebok

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Re: Frenzy vs. manipulate on crowds
« Reply #12 on: February 28, 2015, 02:45:18 PM »
If I accept your premise, then you can walk over with 1-barter using the peripheral moves, and auto-pass any manipulation roll made against that mob with a 10+. If the rule trumps real, then it doesn't matter that those oddments barter split between them is worth less then shit. In my opinion, your example and this one are made on the same merits.

If your guy goes aggro on the gang, and shit does break out, sure. He might be able to kill some of them, but he's also going to SUFFER HARM that might not go away very easily, he's probably outnumbered, if any of them got guns, you're looking at 3-4 harm fast. Not to mention damage to his bar, his reputation, and other causalities from people in the bar that weren't involved but got caught up in the middle. Being allowed to attack a group, and doing so without consequence are completely different. It isn't free, that group target move. Even if they don't force your hand with that go aggro, they're going to remember those threats. That's a good deal of animosity to deal with (and a large number of recipients to deal with it from) for a SUCCESSFUL move.

What I'm getting at is, make it seem real, is essential. You can both make it awesome and real at the same time. Manipulation doesn't carry the same... consequences as does those group HARD rolls. At BEST, they'd being doing their manipulation under fire of multiple opinions. Lastly, I agree that manipulation revolves around the concept of leverage, specifically the non-violent kind (not words backed up by guns, but words backed up by words), and what might work for one person might need to be different to work with another. If it needs to be different, then it cannot work for both. Missing that is likely to resort to violence, sure, but hitting it, even on a partial, won't. It's almost a freebie in this way, if you give it that kind of power. Although I am humored at the thought of needing to make a different promise to every person in the gang/mob present (which highlights the difficulty I'm suggesting gets whitewashed otherwise).

It would simply be better all the way around to force the person to actually read the situation correctly. Then zooming into the mob as more then one roll, but more-so as one entire scene, as they say how they get to that person, what they say to them, have an exchange and attempt to convince them to back down. It becomes personal, the mob becomes more then just a large clump of things, they become a dangerous landscape you're attempting to undermine. This is a great opportunity for suspense.

Also, the Hocus might not be about converts in his use of frenzy, no part of the move forces that to be true. That's just one possibility.