Skinner effectiveness. Your experience with the skinner.

  • 14 Replies
  • 6321 Views
*

Arvid

  • 262
Skinner effectiveness. Your experience with the skinner.
« on: June 12, 2017, 04:49:31 PM »
Trying to grok the Skinner deeper, feel free to help me:

1) I find it a bit tricky to glean the effectiveness (http://apocalypse-world.com/forums/index.php?topic=472.msg4307#msg4307) of the Skinner. All the other playbooks strike me as very clear in how they have power in the world: The Hardholder, The Chopper and the Hocus has power because they can order people around. The Gunlugger and Faceless has the power of violence. The Battlebabe has the power of starting any shit they like and come out on top. The Brainer can mind control. The Driver can go places. The Savvyhead can make anything they like, basically. Etc. From the very start, all these things provide pretty clear and direct a) motivation and direction b) ways to influence the world c) threats that ties into their stuff and/or motivations.

I don't see that to same extent with the Skinner. The Skinner instead has the indirect power to get other people to do something for them.

I think the answer is that the Skinner's a) motivation and direction b) ways to influence the world and c) threats to their stuff and motivations need to become clear in the first session, by introducing the NPCs. Since the NPCs is what are the Skinner's Crap/Stuff. And the Skinner player needs to play boldly to make the most powerful NPCs dependent on them.

Another way I can see for the Skinner to work is if the MC ask the player "What do you have that is so beautiful that everyone wants it? Your music, your voice, your body, the tattoos that you make?" And then make it a truth in the world that this is one of the few unspoilt things of true beauty, that everyone wants. So it's a leverage on basically everyone when rolling to seduce/manipulate.

I'm sure that for another breed of player, the appeal and power of Skinner is obvious, but to me it's a little bit of a mystery. Which brings me to:

2) What are your experiences when playing as a Skinner. In what moments did you feel powerful and cool? In what moments didn't you? Did you feel like your Skinner needed to be sexy? Do the Skinner have to have something that's unspoilt beauty (see above) or can it just be that "sex sells", even if it's as broken and hollow as everything else?

What was your Skinner like?

Re: Skinner effectiveness. Your experience with the skinner.
« Reply #1 on: June 12, 2017, 08:43:37 PM »
It's interesting that the character whose power is (to me) most contemporarily recognizable is harder for you to understand. It's not a perfect analogy, but the Skinner is basically the closest thing to a cultural celebrity the post-apocalypse has. People who meet them up close fall head over heels trying to do what they think they want; even people who see them perform from a distance fall in love with them, want to be them or have them or help them. Whether you imagine this to be cynical -- the result of actual hypnotism or unearned personal charisma -- or because of their legitimate role as a guardian of beauty in the world, the power seems very obvious. It's the power an object of adoration has over those who adore them.

You can imagine the Skinner's power on a continuum with the Chopper, the Hardholder, the Hocus and the Brainer. People die for the Chopper because otherwise the Chopper will kill them; they die for the Hardholder because they rely on her for stability; they die for the Hocus because of what he has taught them to believe; they die for the Brainer against their own will. But they die for the Skinner because they love them, personally, for what they represent as an individual. Of all of the reasons this one seems to me the easiest to understand.

In a lot of ways the Skinner seems like an analogue to the Battlebabe, in that they both possess outsized individual influence, without the same need for a supporting social structure. As the Battlebabe and Gunlugger are to the Hardholder or Chopper, so are the Skinner and Brainer to the Hocus or Source. The Skinner requires people, certainly, but those people don't need to be organized -- in fact, the less organized they are, the more likely they will give up everything for a moment of beauty, or take rash action on the Skinner's behalf.

I mean, saying the Skinner has indirect power... did they take Hypnotize out of 2nd edition or something? Does artful and gracious no longer allow you to literally declare people in love with you? How is this more indirect than the Chopper bullying their gang, or the Brainer trying to implant psychic commands? It's certainly more indirect than PCs who take action themselves (i.e. Battlebabe, Gunlugger), but most playbooks have a great deal of their power vested in other people. But much like the Brainer, the Skinner gets to pick and choose from all the people -- even other people's people.

Anyone the Skinner meets is theirs, if they want them to be -- and unlike the Brainer, they aren't going to get hunted down and burnt at the stake if things backfire, because there's nothing unnatural about falling in love with beautiful people, who do beautiful things.


Re: Skinner effectiveness. Your experience with the skinner.
« Reply #2 on: June 12, 2017, 09:03:42 PM »
All the other playbooks strike me as very clear in how they have power in the world: The Hardholder, The Chopper and the Hocus has power because they can order people around. The Gunlugger and Faceless has the power of violence. The Battlebabe has the power of starting any shit they like and come out on top. The Brainer can mind control. The Driver can go places. The Savvyhead can make anything they like, basically. Etc. From the very start, all these things provide pretty clear and direct a) motivation and direction b) ways to influence the world c) threats that ties into their stuff and/or motivations.

I don't see that to same extent with the Skinner. The Skinner instead has the indirect power to get other people to do something for them.

Same with the Chopper and Hardholder; they can get their gang to do violence for them or they can threaten someone with that violence to get someone else to do something.

The difference is, when the Skinner uses their power, the person they're using it on is, more often than not, happy about it.



Quote
Another way I can see for the Skinner to work is if the MC ask the player "What do you have that is so beautiful that everyone wants it? Your music, your voice, your body, the tattoos that you make?" And then make it a truth in the world that this is one of the few unspoilt things of true beauty, that everyone wants. So it's a leverage on basically everyone when rolling to seduce/manipulate.

It's far more interesting for only some of the NPCs to appreciate the Skinner's art.

Quote
2) What are your experiences when playing as a Skinner. In what moments did you feel powerful and cool? In what moments didn't you? Did you feel like your Skinner needed to be sexy? Do the Skinner have to have something that's unspoilt beauty (see above) or can it just be that "sex sells", even if it's as broken and hollow as everything else?

I'm playing Skinner for the first time in a PbP game right now. In the game, a Hardholder (PC who dropped out of the game) just got killed by one of his lieutenants, and the remaining players are thinking about trying to neutralize that lieutenant and get control of the Hardholder's former gang. First thing I did was get some "time and solitude" for the Hypnotic move with one of the other lieutenants who we believed felt loyalty to the old Hardholder. So now we have a spy on the inside who is likely to take our side when the time comes. The mechanics and the fiction of that worked very nicely together. My character was a little flirtatious but explicitly did not have sex with the guy, just had a deep and meaningful conversation. (Under other circumstances she might use sex to get what she needed, but it wasn't necessary here.) Her chosen art is singing, but she hasn't yet done it in-game.

*

Ebok

  • 415
Re: Skinner effectiveness. Your experience with the skinner.
« Reply #3 on: June 13, 2017, 02:14:46 AM »
Don't forget what a Skinner can do to the other players. Manipulate used against a PC with a +3 Hot is almost always going to hit anyway. The Skinner just has to walk up and tell them what they want them to do, and they either do it, or if they start resisting, then they make them pay in experience to avoid it.

In all the games where we had a Skinner (even when they did not take full advantage of their moves) They were always some of the most adaptive and powerful playbooks. Where their use of Hot can literally shape PCs and NPCs to their whims, they are themselves also a valuable resource. Enemy holdings that get their hands on it, aren't going to just snuff it out, they're going to try to make the skinner theirs instead. Which, with a hypnotic powerhouse, often means that holding starts to become more and more in the skinners hands, the longer they're nearby.

Skinner is probably in the top 3 strongest playbooks in the game. And of those, it's by far the most versatile.

*

Arvid

  • 262
Re: Skinner effectiveness. Your experience with the skinner.
« Reply #4 on: June 13, 2017, 05:09:40 AM »
In all the games where we had a Skinner (even when they did not take full advantage of their moves) They were always some of the most adaptive and powerful playbooks. Where their use of Hot can literally shape PCs and NPCs to their whims, they are themselves also a valuable resource. Enemy holdings that get their hands on it, aren't going to just snuff it out, they're going to try to make the skinner theirs instead. Which, with a hypnotic powerhouse, often means that holding starts to become more and more in the skinners hands, the longer they're nearby.

Would you like to share some example situations? Would probably be very helpful!

*

Arvid

  • 262
Re: Skinner effectiveness. Your experience with the skinner.
« Reply #5 on: June 13, 2017, 05:25:59 AM »
It seems I look at the playbooks' crap and go "Oooh, I want that!". The Hardholder is my favorite. But playing as a Skinner, I'm thinking I would have to allow myself to look at NPCs an PCs and their stuff and say "Oooh, I want that!"
« Last Edit: June 13, 2017, 06:23:38 AM by Arvid »

*

Ebok

  • 415
Re: Skinner effectiveness. Your experience with the skinner.
« Reply #6 on: June 14, 2017, 12:46:55 AM »
When I have more time I'll write up examples from play. However, to provide some context now:

In my games, the world is out to get you. Not specifically, but generally, the world makes the lives of its people hard, miserable, and a constant struggle. The the Skinner provides is an escape. Who the NPCs are and what they want dont matter when someone picks up that playbook. What matters is who They are, and what type of beauty do they introduce into the world.

Some questions I ask the skinner. What is your art? (the first and fundamental question.) What do you do, or have, that brings beauty into this hellish landscape. Music? Art? Comedy? Food? Sex? What emotions do you barter with? What part of the their body do you speak to?

When someone picks a skinner. All of a sudden they have the enormous power of declaring what escapes / experiences they provide that allow the masses to transcend their lot in life. Because when it comes down to it, the people love the skinner because they need to, because the skinner provides them something that just might be worth dying for.

Granted the MaestroD provides food, entertainment, but not in the same way. No one loves the MaestroD for this, it's not of the same caliber. The Hocus can move the entire crowd as a whole, but not individually. The Skinner is famous, and people, specifically any person the skinner wants, WANT him. Why is a gigantic question that can shape everything about a game.

Re: Skinner effectiveness. Your experience with the skinner.
« Reply #7 on: June 14, 2017, 12:59:53 AM »
I mean, personally I look at the Skinner and I think 'I want to BE that' -- much like the Battlebabe. Being the hottest person around, or just having a legitimate claim to artistic beauty, is no small possession -- regardless of what you decide to do with it.

In any case, I have never played a Skinner, though I have run many games with Skinners in them -- but one of my favourite 'take a move from another playbook' PCs involved a Skinner move. I was playing a Savvyhead in a fairly classic desert wasteland, albeit one with inverted hundred-story Arcologies buried in the sand. In any case, my Savvyhead's main technological interest was gardening; his workshop was a secret garden, kept secret because the Hardhold in question had a rigid caste structure, and only Farmers were allowed to grow food (he was, naturally, in the Mechanic caste.)

Anyways, having planned to do so pretty much from the beginning, after several advances I took the move Artful & Gracious from the Skinner playbook. 'When you perform your chosen art... or put its product before an audience' -- other NPCs may have grown food, in some technical sense, but his garden produced food so beautiful that it made people weep to see it, or kill to eat it again. And part of what I loved about taking the move was that it allowed me to make a statement about the world, too -- that this was a place where eating an honest-to-god freshly grown tomato was enough to make somebody fall in love with the person who grew it. That nobody, up until now, had actually experienced real food -- or understood its value. Like Ebok said: by taking this move, I made this TRUE -- that I also made it mine was almost of secondary importance.

When you play the Skinner, you get to choose one thing whose beauty is undeniable. It may be true that not every NPC will 'appreciate' the Skinner's art, but every NPC understands on some level that it is real, and that its beauty has power. Some NPCs might not react well to that realization, they might try to pretend its not true or lash out at those who say otherwise -- but they can't help but react, because in their hearts they know.

*

lumpley

  • 1293
Re: Skinner effectiveness. Your experience with the skinner.
« Reply #8 on: June 14, 2017, 12:13:31 PM »
I've also never played a skinner, but one of my favorite things to do as MC is, whenever anyone reads a situation and asks who's in control, I turn to the skinner and say "are you?"

Sometimes they say yes, sometimes they say no, but once in a while, they say "I wasn't, but now that you mention it..."

-Vincent

Re: Skinner effectiveness. Your experience with the skinner.
« Reply #9 on: June 14, 2017, 09:46:47 PM »
I think one of the issues with the Skinner's niche is that the MC and the players must really buy into it. If we're not all excited to celebrate their unique beauty (whatever that may be), they way we get excited every time we see the Skinner character in a TV show appear on-screen, it's a little less obvious. So be sure to ask questions and bring that out! The moves do a lot of it, sure, but cultivate that mindset from the start, as well.

Consider a few things:

1. In Apocalypse World, everyone is a threat. Only in very late play can you make someone an "ally", and it doesn't happen often. That's a really rare and special occasion, and memorable due to its rarity.

The Skinner can do it from the very start, with her moves! Sure, they're temporary allies, but having Hypnotic hold on a handful of key people around (including the PCs!) gives you sway over people that no other playbook can have. In the mechanical landscape of AW, that's an incredible outlier!

2. Although all the playbooks are intended to be "unique" archetypes, none (in my opinion) are as much so as the Skinner. Sure, you're the Hardholder... but there are other hardholders out there. Gunlugger? You may be the baddest, but there are others everywhere. Even the Brainer... there are probably some other wackos out there.

But the Skinner... to a far greater extent, you are truly unique.

I've yet to see a game where there is an NPC who could even aspire to be a Skinner-type walking around, and it wouldn't surprise me if it's never happened at all.

Other characters HAVE things of value - followers, equipment, skills, knowledge.

You ARE something of value: very likely the last remnant of true beauty in this world. (And that means that, as a player, you have a lot of say in *what beauty means in the apocalypse*, which is a significant thing indeed.)

In Apocalypse World, everyone is out to get you. They take what they can, hurt who they must, and only do something for you if you threaten or bribe them.

But a Skinner? A Skinner breaks that paradigm altogether.

There is no other playbook that will simply inspire people to walk up to you and offer you... anything, everything.

That's not how Apocalypse World is for everyone else. You are a magnet, you are unique, you stand for everything that was lost and everything that might once again be.

Re: Skinner effectiveness. Your experience with the skinner.
« Reply #10 on: June 15, 2017, 04:31:29 AM »
That's not how Apocalypse World is for everyone else. You are a magnet, you are unique

And, unless you are a megalomaniac or a primadonna, you probably realise how incredibly unfair that is. This is one of the ways that I find the 'celebrity' analogue helpful -- not everything people decide to do for famous people is something the famous people actually want, or actually think they deserve. Hypnotize is not in-brain puppet strings -- you don't give people concrete suggestions, you just make them spontaneously do something they think you want. One of my favourite things to do when running for a Skinner is to have people try to give things to the Skinner that either the Skinner doesn't particularly want, OR that the NPC in question very clearly needs much more than the Skinner. Like, the coat off their back, or their personal agency, or whatever. They do this whether or not the Skinner asks -- and if the Skinner does ask, you can bet it's going to be even more awkward.

Because one of the things about the Skinner living by a different set of rules is that it sets them apart, whether they wanted it to or not. It makes people unreasonable about them -- unreasonable and unpredictable. And while the PC themselves might be comfortable with this dynamic, in my experience the player may often be (or become) much more ambivalent, the more they realise how strangely easy certain things happen for them.

*

Ebok

  • 415
Re: Skinner effectiveness. Your experience with the skinner.
« Reply #11 on: June 15, 2017, 08:35:02 AM »
Quote
2. Although all the playbooks are intended to be "unique" archetypes, none (in my opinion) are as much so as the Skinner. Sure, you're the Hardholder... but there are other hardholders out there. Gunlugger? You may be the baddest, but there are others everywhere. Even the Brainer... there are probably some other wackos out there.

But the Skinner... to a far greater extent, you are truly unique.

In games where we don't have a skinner, every now and then there's an NPC that grows into something beautiful. So it's not entirely exclusive, although they do lack to moves / real power that the skinner has. One of the more interesting ventures had a Skinner competing with their Art with another NPC (granted the skinner's player created them too).

I'm wary of the whole celebrity thing. Skinners aren't celebrities, they don't have reputation inherently or anything. Nah, they're just something beautiful in a world that isn't. It's hard to understate that. That's literally the most important part of life. And the art doesn't need to be a craft either, my favorite skinner idea has always been kindness. I'm not talking demands for peace, but instead, just someone truly so good to others that it's impossible to ignore once you see it.

That can be a very personal thing, done right.

Re: Skinner effectiveness. Your experience with the skinner.
« Reply #12 on: June 15, 2017, 01:42:28 PM »
my favorite skinner idea has always been kindness. I'm not talking demands for peace, but instead, just someone truly so good to others that it's impossible to ignore once you see it.

Wow! Nice.

Re: Skinner effectiveness. Your experience with the skinner.
« Reply #13 on: June 15, 2017, 03:51:54 PM »
I'm wary of the whole celebrity thing. Skinners aren't celebrities, they don't have reputation inherently or anything.

Yeah, the celebrity analogy requires some clarification: it's not the 'famous' part, the reputation part, that I think is a useful touchstone. It's the fandom part; it's how people react to and interact with celebrities. A Skinner's reach is much, much smaller, but the way people react is still distorted in a similar way because of the Skinner's symbolic place in the world, and because of what their actual moves do.

Once someone has seen the Skinner perform, or been in their presence, they stop being an actual person in the same way celebrities qua celebrity are not actual people to their fans. This doesn't happen to literally everyone who interacts with the Skinner, of course -- but at a minimum it happens to almost anyone they use Hypnotic or Artful & Gracious around. And ultimately this distortion is not completely under the Skinner's control, in a way that I think is similar to contemporary celebrity. (And it doesn't make the connections or emotions involved false, either. Someone who loves Beyoncé because her music comforts them and her public persona is aspirational to them -- those aren't unreal things, and they're the result of genuine beauty and actions that Beyoncé genuinely undertakes. But they're still different things than admiration for your friend who you see every day.)

Sure, you can imagine a completely socially benign Skinner but Hypnotic is not really a move about the free exchange of beauty and agency, except in the most precarious of fictional circumstances. A player who is interested in playing a Skinner with benign beauty in mind is going to have a very ambivalent experience -- and that's really what I wanted to point out, bringing up this celebrity comparison. Like the Hocus, the Skinner has an intensely personal charisma, and even if they try to wield it fruitfully and generously -- the Apocalypse is going to get its bloody fingerprints all over that, and they're going to steamroll over people, and people are going to do crazy things in the name of their beauty. And dealing with that is, I think, an often-overlooked part of the Skinner -- whereas for the Hocus it tends to be pretty front and center.
« Last Edit: June 15, 2017, 03:56:31 PM by Daniel Wood »

Re: Skinner effectiveness. Your experience with the skinner.
« Reply #14 on: June 15, 2017, 04:05:24 PM »

Also, please don't misunderstand this as my Only True Take on the Skinner -- I'm just elaborating on this one specific angle, that I have found fruitful as an MC in games with Skinners. Every NPC doesn't have to treat the Skinner like an unreal projection of their own hopes and desires -- but some of them probably should. Some of them should probably gush and fall on their knees and promise everything and make huge unnecessary sacrifices that make things really awkward and even awful for the Skinner. That highly unusual form of AW awful where someone is trying to be way nicer to you than you particularly deserve.