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Manipulation VS Presence, an old conundrum

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  • Manipulation VS Presence, an old conundrum

    First off, I am definitely a fan of the New World of Darkness Attributes in general (and New World of Darkness was my first exposure anyways), I like the rather overlap heavy Perception being merged with wits and the rather weird placement of Appearance as an attribute being done away with, I also like willpower being split into Resolve and Composure, but one thing I have to say I always found troublesome, and in a sense more troublesome than the old definition of Charisma and Manipulation is the issue of Presence and Manipulation.

    I do get that it is a thing of Power VS Finesse, just, looking at the writing, in the basic book, it is so damn, damn vague...

    Looking at the blue corebook and the new godmachine update, there is a bit of an unfortunate trend too that, if in doubt, roll manipulation.

    To summarize it, the following things officially use presence:

    Expression (reciting a work)
    Intimidation (but it can also use Manipulation or Strength)
    Persuasion (Oratory, holding a speech, or the initial stage of seduction)
    The Inspiring Merit
    Warding against spirits (Godmachine Rules)

    Manipulation is used for the following in the rulebooks:

    Animal Ken (Making an Animal do a trick)
    Expression (The example of composing a letter to sway someone's emotions)
    Intimidation (See above)
    Persuasion (Fast-Talk, Cutting a Deal, the second stage of seduction)
    Socialize (Carrousing)
    Streetwise (Working the Black Market)
    Rolls for the Contacts and Allies Merits
    The Fast Talking Style
    Most of the example social rolls under "opening doors"

    So, without looking at all the supernatural powers, which can use both, Manipulation gets a lot more "official support", and sometimes, like in the case of animal Ken, even when it is a bit debatable if it should be used at all.

    From my active game experience, it tended to boil down to a bit of "haggling" of what to use, if you wanted to deceive, it was almost always manipulation, if you wanted to make a great impression, it was usually presence, but that aside, there was surely quite some overlap.

    I admit, I am not quite happy with those attributes, looking at other game systems, they are basically "charisma split into two".
    World of Darkness does try to give all three categories equal focus and mostly, I think it works, but I would kind alike to know what your experiences are with those two attributes.

    Do you have many situations where it is basically "you can use either" (or you can talk the game master into letting you use the prefered one), or do you find one or the other underused?
    Did you often see characters who went for a balance of both or usually one high and the other significantly lower?

  • #2
    It has always boiled down to intent for us. Force of Personality (Presence) vs. Finesse (Manipulation). We have never really had any issues with that split at all.

    The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don't just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary. - James. D. Nicoll


    • #3
      There can certainly be some overlap and that can confuse people. I put it this way.

      A beautiful woman is drinking free at the bar all night because guys keep coming up and offering her a drink - Presence

      A woman whispers words in a young guys ear and touches his knee at opportune moments to keep the drinks coming - Manipulation

      To use your examples;

      Animal Ken - Introducing yourself to a new horse before riding it for the first time.
      Expression - Singing a beautiful song to a crowd of fans is Presence. Performing burlesque while you wrap your shawl around a guy is Manipulation.
      Intimidation - Sharpening the nasty looking torture tool is Presence. Waving it in the guys face while you suggest what your going to do to him is Manipulation.
      Persuasion - This one is a bit tough since Manipulation + Persuasion is one of the most common social rolls. The example of the beautiful woman getting free drinks is a possibility.
      Socialize - Introducing yourself to a new contact. As you said, that first impression.

      You get the gist from those examples. Presence is indirect, Manipulation is direct.


      • #4
        Are you dealing with a crowd? Presence. Are you talking to an individual? Manipulation.

        Call me Remi. Female pronouns for me, please.


        • #5
          The Crowd/Individual thing tends to be how it works in my game. I do try to vary it a little based on approach. You can intimidate someone through manipulation if you do it in the right way, just as I can see Socialise and Persuasion being done with Presence using the right technique. If my player is socialising in a loud, bombastic kind of way, I'm fine with letting them roll Presence.


          • #6
            I see it as an direct versus indirect thing:

            "DO THIS!" = Presence
            "You see because of reason X and Y, you should really do this" = Manipulation

            Politeness is the lubricant of social intercourse.


            • #7
              So, a good bit of overlap with many of you as well?

              I mean, direct VS indirect DOES work, BUT...

     is, unless the situation is very clear (subterfuge is usually indirect and substituting with a direct approach would just not work that well), a problem that it is very easy to make your case for the different attribute, after all, the player can always choose his own approach.

              My main problem is that it can lead to argument (I have seen that a bit now and then) at the table and the fact that the books use manipulation a lot more does not help.

              As for crowds VS individuals, frankly, I think that is a bad idea for several reasons.

              First, it just shifts the "usefullness" of the attributes a lot, as you will not quite that often address crowds usually, secondly, it can cause rather weird situations if characters have significantly different scores ("Wait, get a few more people, then I can convince them all to help us!").

              Strength VS Dexterity is usually pretty clear cut, Intellgence VS Wits as well (though, to be fair, Intelligence, especially when it comes to supernatural powers, really gets the short end of the stick), I think it just makes an odd case when Presence and manipulation are so open to debate.
              ...and we do at least see that there is not a really clear consensus.

              And as I said, I find it a bit odd since, frankly, Cahrisma VS Manipulation in old world of darkness was rather more clear cut (and it does nto at all help that the new world of darkness Manipulation starts with "Charm. Persuasiveness. Charisma.").

              Furthermore, the corebook gives presence a rather "aggressive" interpretation, which I also think is not too helpful, as presence, like nicely illustrated in the example of the beautiful woman just sitting there and making a strong impression can be quite passive.


              • #8
                I choose whichever the player has most of/whichever will mix things up if needed


                • #9
                  My group has had exactly this problem. Manipulation gets far more use than Presence.