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  • Yet another presence vs manipulation thread

    There's a few threads about this yet, and none of them solve my main gripe and problem with them. For context, feel freet to check them out here, here and here.

    In one of the threads WHW made this post

    I tried that advice, but it ended up with these roll being simply flavored by their Attribute, and offering no real (other than fluff) difference between them; it also pretty much encouraged my players to always phrase their actions so they use bigger of their Social Attributes; which is fine, but slowly starts to make clear that there is no real difference between them (as in, other than "roleplay in certain way") and it would be pretty much ok/better to stockpile points in only one and ignore the other. Which is somewhat sad to me. I want each Attribute to have a certain personality and identity behind them; you can't really use Intelligence to do Wits work, or Wits to do Intelligence's work; they have very clear images of "what they do" and their place in great scheme of things. I have problem with finding that place for Mani and Presence.
    And here's my main problem and question/reason for this thread. How do you make these two attributes distinct in your games? Why shouldn't a player just choose one, stock it up to max and leave the other one at 1? Assuming that he can explain and put the difference in his background. Is the only difference between the two - flavor in how you describe your action, while capabilities are more or less the same (except a few corner edges, but those differences are nowhere close to where Str vs Dex or Int vs Wits stand...).

    If there are no clear differences, how would you suggest going about to introducing them?


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  • #2
    Give malus and/or Remove Ten Again if Presence or Manipulation lead to a style not suited for the "audience" ? (Pnc)

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    • #3
      It'll be a difficult question to answer because it's so dependant on your style of play. Like, how often are you calling for rolls? How reliant are you on actual speech for roleplay? Do you define dicepools, or do players? How creative do you get with your dicepools?

      There's also something to be said for how your group uses their character sheet, are they just pure mechanics, or do they inform the characters they play even outside mechanics?


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      • #4
        I've always had a problem with this too. honestly, I just use manipulation for individuals. and presence for crowds

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        • #5
          To me, the two differences between Presence and Manipulation are 1) the roleplay put into using them ("flavor") and 2) the consequences for attempting to use them. Everyone seems to understand the roleplay aspect, so I'll just talk about what I mean by those consequences.

          So, a character's approach, by itself, has to have an effect (otherwise, why have different stats at all?). Let's say a character wants to not get caught by an angry, nocturnal spirit bound to the building they're in. The player is waffling between two approaches: do they quietly hide all night with a Stamina + Stealth roll (and are thus unable to sleep that night or use the night to get any work/sleep done), or do they sneak out a window with a Dexterity + Stealth roll (which has a higher chance of failing, and will anger the spirit further whether they escape successfully or not)? Bam––those approaches had consequences. If the player ever encounters the spirit again, you can pull those consequences out again.

          So, yes––Presence and Manipulation can be used for the same goals. But they have different consequences. While no one likes someone attempting to change their mind, some people prefer directness and blunt statements (Presence + Persuasion) to dancing around the point (Manipulation + Persuasion); either approach will WORK, but the character will be remembered differently (which can play into Impressions, add/subtract dice from future rolls against that person, etc.). Maybe the Manipulation user never gets credit for the ideas they seeded. Maybe the Presence user is remembered as pushy, and people literally run to avoid getting bulldozed again.

          As for introducing them... I haven't done this in the past, but in my next campaign, I plan on explaining the difference between the two Attributes like this: Presence is forceful and tends to have broader, longer-lasting effects; Manipulation is subtle and tends to have specific, one-time effects. Most of the time, Presence and Manipulation can be used to accomplish the same things––but their side-effects are always different. Having both available to you (and using Empathy on your target to help determine what side-effects there may be to each approach) will help ensure you get exactly what you want, but it is perfectly reasonable for a character to prefer (and be better with) one over the other.

          tl;dr: Presence and Manipulation are distinct in their consequences (or side-effects), and making this clear to your players is a good idea. They're still probably going to prefer (and sink Experience into) one over the other (they're human, after all), but if the situation's delicate or they want to make sure someone still likes them after they do their thing, they'll probably do some probing and risk using a slightly weaker stat.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Michael View Post
            Like, how often are you calling for rolls?
            Most significant social interactions, were a PC character wants to change/influence an NPC will require rolls.

            Originally posted by Michael View Post
            How reliant are you on actual speech for roleplay?
            I don't enforce it, but roleplaying out conversations is a common occurance.

            Originally posted by Michael View Post
            Do you define dicepools, or do players?
            I do.

            Originally posted by Michael View Post
            How creative do you get with your dicepools?
            How do you define getting creative with dicepools? I tend to try and use the dicepool which makes the most sense for the given occasion.


            Originally posted by Michael View Post
            There's also something to be said for how your group uses their character sheet, are they just pure mechanics, or do they inform the characters they play even outside mechanics?
            The char sheet should inform how the characters are played, however this is basically moot, because this problem is happening at character generation step, where a player who decides to go all in on one stat will tailor his character accordingly. My problem with that is that he doesn't really get any mechanical trade aways for it, were someone who did the same with Intelligence / Wits would mechanically be a different character.

            While storywise a character with high Presence is going to be vastly different from one with high Manipulation - mechanically they're the same. I roll <my choice of stat> + Persuasion/Socialize/Intimidate/whatever and get things I want. And that's the differentiation I'm looking for here, making Presence and Manipulation actually distinct. A character with high manipulation should be able to do different things from a character with high presence, just like a character with high Strength is able to do different things than a character with high dex.


            Miirik, Primordial newcomer, The Throne, thank you for your posts. I'm not really addressing them as I don't see much to discuss there, so I'd like to just acknowledge them (I'm not ignoring you ). I like your suggestions and I'll consider them, but for now I'm looking for more options


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            • #7
              Originally posted by Griautis View Post
              While storywise a character with high Presence is going to be vastly different from one with high Manipulation - mechanically they're the same.
              They're only mechanically the same if you allow them to be used the same way. I think you should start only allowing the Attribute that makes most sense for most social actions. Don't allow the players the choice of which Attribute to use without also having to change what action they roll for.
              Example actions for Presence: give a speech (Presence+Expression), staring someone down (Presence+Intimidation), giving a first impression (Presence+Composure)
              Example actions for Manipulation: interrogation (Manipulation+Empathy), lying (Manipulation+Subterfuge), poker face (Manipulation+Composure)

              As for which Attribute is most fitting in each situation, I just go with my gut feeling. Unfortunately not that helpful for you. Some trends I've noticed, though:
              Getting people to like you, addressing crowds, drawing attention, rousing people's feelings, etc, tends to go with Presence.
              Manipulating people, lying, drawing out information, calming the mood, etc, tends to go with Manipulation.

              There are many situations where you can substitute a Presence action with a Manipulation action and vice versa, but my point is that in those cases it would have to be an entirely different action (generally if not almost always with a different Skill) rather than just doing the exact same thing but with a different dice pool.


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              • #8
                But that's the thing, often how the action is presented can be the deciding factor.
                As an example:
                You're bartering the price of some service down.
                "Hey, just let the price down, mkay?" - Presence + Persuasion
                "Look, i'm hard strapped for cash right now and I might not be able to buy it at all. It's in your best interests to sell, right. Moneyz and all." - Manipulation + Persuasion


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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Griautis View Post
                  But that's the thing, often how the action is presented can be the deciding factor.
                  As an example:
                  You're bartering the price of some service down.
                  "Hey, just let the price down, mkay?" - Presence + Persuasion
                  "Look, i'm hard strapped for cash right now and I might not be able to buy it at all. It's in your best interests to sell, right. Moneyz and all." - Manipulation + Persuasion
                  Tessie's observed trends lend themselves to another thing that makes this substantially less complicated:

                  Ignore the names of the stats for a second and look at what they actually are in the three-by-three grid of Attributes.

                  They're Social Power and Social Finesse. The distinction between those two is fairly self-evident from how the act is presented.

                  Are you being direct and relying on the other party to be able to convince themselves to go along with what you're telling them? It's Presence.
                  Are you being subtle or otherwise trying to actively steer their impressions and thought processes? It's Manipulation.


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                  • #10
                    Satchel, your post is great and greatly explains the difference story-wise, and that's how I use them. However for this thread that's entirely besides the point.
                    I understand the difference between them and which one should be rolled in which situation. That's not my problem. My problem isn't making them different story wise. My problem is that almost any situation can be approached either directly, or subtly, thus meaning that the only difference between the two is the choice of the player, which often will be decided by the higher dice pool.
                    A choice which the player doesn't have when talking about Mental/Physical categories. If you need to move a boulder out of your way you can't easily switch from using strength to dexterity, which in social situations is easy.
                    In essence, there's no mechanical identity to these skills alone. The only reason why one would go for one or the other is when merits/power rolls get taken into account, but for vanilla skills... That's the differentiation I'm looking for.


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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Griautis View Post
                      But that's the thing, often how the action is presented can be the deciding factor.
                      As an example:
                      You're bartering the price of some service down.
                      "Hey, just let the price down, mkay?" - Presence + Persuasion
                      "Look, i'm hard strapped for cash right now and I might not be able to buy it at all. It's in your best interests to sell, right. Moneyz and all." - Manipulation + Persuasion
                      Take a step back and look at the situation from a new perspective. Simplify it. Both examples are someone attempting to haggle down the price. We'll such attempts the haggling action. What is the Attribute that most fits the haggling action? It's Manipulation, imo.
                      The two presentations are just flavouring to the haggling action, but once you've decided what Attribute the haggling action should use you're just flavouring it through the presentation. The former might be someone who has a high Presence that bleeds over into how they use Manipulation, but the action itself is still Manipulation regardless of how you flavour it.

                      There's nothing wrong with the presentation influencing the dice pool, but it should not happen so often that two traits become interchangeable. To counteract that tendency I recommend that you start by simplifying the situation to a general action, applying the most fitting Attribute to that action, and then apply your well-defined action to the situation, letting presentation become flavour in these cases.


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                      • #12
                        To me Presence and Manipulation are more about the lasting impact than the initial roll.

                        A Presence roll indicates the user is focusing the target's attention on the user, a Manipulation roll is focusing it on something else.

                        Presence + Intimidation is a roll to make the target scared of the user. If the target's fear of the user is ameliorated, then the impetus fades or goes away. Conversely, if the target is scared enough of the user then they could begin to act in ways they feel will avoid arousing the user's ire, even if the user isn't present or aware of what's going on.

                        Conversely, Manipulation + Intimidation makes the target scared of something else; "the law", "God", "ex-wife"; the target is less likely to be in a situation where they feel comfortable risking the wrath of whatever the user convinced them to be scared of, and they're less likely to remember the user, but they're also not going to try to ingratiate themselves to the user.


                        Presence + Subterfuge would be boldly and convincingly lying, Manipulation + Subterfuge would be tricking them into drawing their own false conclusions. Certain lies might be easier with the former or the latter.


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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Tessie View Post
                          stuff... simplifying the situation to a general action, applying the most fitting Attribute to that action...stuff
                          I like this for differentiation, thank you.

                          @proindrakenzoi yup, all that makes sense too, most likely falling under general "world should make sense."

                          Anyways, I'll try Tessie's suggestion.


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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Griautis View Post

                            I like this for differentiation, thank you.

                            @proindrakenzoi yup, all that makes sense too, most likely falling under general "world should make sense."

                            Anyways, I'll try Tessie's suggestion.
                            I hope it helps.


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                            • #15
                              If I'm understanding premise of the thread correctly - that Presence and Manipulation are functionally interchangeable despite being narratively distinct, while the other Power/Finesse attributes are distinct both narratively and functionally - then I don't agree with that assessment of the mechanics.

                              The problem, as with social actions in most RPGs, is that people don't often separate between the approach and the outcome with social actions the way they do with others. Yes, you can get a better price on something with either presence or manipulation, but that is the outcome. You can likewise open a locked door with either strength or dexterity, depending on your approach (picking the lock vs. breaking it). So the idea that Power/Finesse attributes other than Presence and Manipulation can't be used to accomplish the same goals doesn't hold up for me, nor does the idea that the only difference between Presence + Persuasion and Manipulation + Persuasion is flavor. Each requires a different approach to the social situation. I think, because there is less separation between describing a social action and actually doing it than there is between describing a physical action and actually doing it, people (especially GMs) have a tendency to view roleplaying social interactions as an attempt to work around the system, when really it's just a description of the character's approach.


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