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  • DubiousRuffian
    started a topic How Machiavellian are your NPCs?

    How Machiavellian are your NPCs?

    My group's pretty inexperienced, and we're early in the game, playing a post-embrace night-to-night chronicle. I've been STing on the assumption that it's obvious that NPCs are going to lie and manipulate the PCs, and I've kept that information generally from the players. I have different NPCs contradict each other, but the players haven't picked up on it too much yet. I'm considering telling the players OOC which characters they can trust and letting it go from there.

    So I'm curious, how often do you have NPCs lie and manipulate the PCs, and how much do you tell the players about it? When you're playing, does it bug you to have a bunch of lying manipulative assholes for npcs?

  • Michael
    replied
    Originally posted by DubiousRuffian View Post
    Do you have anything in mind for the petty manipulation?
    Basically what you've described. Taking advantage of neonates in mild ways that will only work a few times before they wise up. Spreading false rumours to incite conflict, again not according to some kind of plan but just because it passes the time.

    Leave a comment:


  • DubiousRuffian
    replied
    I let this go too long and now there's a lot to respond to. I think I responded to everyone, so feel free to just read the stuff to you. Here's a giant post


    Originally posted by Michael View Post
    It'd be interesting to see some examples. Like, to see how blatant it is... That doesn't have to be altruistic either, giving the PCs the lowdown on Kindred politics, can itself be a pretty effective way of building trust and bringing the PCs into their orbit)
    One player's sire is a total dick and told her that the only law vampires have is the Masquerade. Now he's basically just waiting for her to get killed.

    The most common example is npcs just being like "you need to do this thing now," when there's no reason other than the npcs being entitled dicks. I expected the characters to push back more, and I suspect this is going to need an OOC conversation to clarify that /all these people are dicks and you're cheap labor/.

    As an example, one npc was like "Hey do me this favor and I'll introduce you to one of the senators." I tried (probably insufficiently) to indicate that the npc is going to dick the PC over. If the player doesn't make any changes, my plan is to have a bystander npc who will swoop in afterwards and act as a mentor/facilitator; meanwhile, the PC will gain a contact with the Senator's number 2. That way, the player gets what they worked for, even if it doesn't work out the way they expected. I'll also be making the bystander/mentor npc's intentions clear from the beginning.

    That same PC pissed off one of her vamp-sisters, while letting it slip that her bio-sister is her Touchstone. Now there's a very friendly, openly sadistic dude cozying up to the PC, asking lots of personal questions about her family. I'm not too worried about this one, because it's part of a longer game. We have a friend who occasionally plays the touchstones, and if that friend decides she wants to become a PC, the sadist is my way of turning the touchstone into a vampire.

    The other pc's sire was like "Hey you have to do this thing now," and there was no real reason, other than it served his purposes. I may change things behind the scenes so that it's not really the sire being a dick. But that would change his main character flaw.

    There also a widespread belief that all of the Nosferatu are dead. It’s wrong. My plan was to have the main Haunt try to act as a mentor/benefactor figure as a means for him to get blackmail material. But the players didn't seem that into him, so he'll just be hanging out in the background... being creepy at college bars and scaring people out of Oldtown..


    Originally posted by tsusasi View Post
    If they are new to role playing games: Do tell them outright that some NPCs are lying or trying to manipulate their characters. Don’t give them specifics.
    ...
    When everyone’s a lying backstabbing asshole, my interest in the story drops dramatically because after a certain point, I cease to care about the outcome. I don’t care about my character success or failure because it benefits some asshole and I don’t become vested in the success/ failure of characters that used me as a disposable pawn or cheated me.
    What I was considering was telling the players "Here are the people you can trust to tell you the truth," and leaving the rest to them.

    My big worry is your latter comment. It's still early enough in the game that I can decide that a number of npcs are in fact sincere. I'm not sure though.


    Originally posted by Live Bait View Post
    I'm also in the true manipulators don't make such short term plays unless they intend to get rid of you camp. Also I like having some sort of obstruction to praying on neonates that such kindred need to be mindful of such as a highly placed individual who tries to look out for the little guy or even just have their sires keeping tabs on things.
    It's also important to remember that it's rare for and "make some fledglings have a hard time" to be on anyone's to do list, if an NPC can get what they want and part on good terms everyone's better off even if some elders believe you got to run an errand for an important vampire counts as a reward.
    A lot of the "lying" in my game is probably closer to lies of omission. I expected the characters to push back more, and use that as a means of creating conflict, but it hasn't worked out super well. I think your "obstruction to preying on neonates" is probably a good idea. I might implement it.

    And it's not so much that giving the fledglings a hard time is on anyone's to do list, so much as the fledglings are a source of cheap labor. "You need to go get the drugs my mook lost. Why? Well it's suuuuuppper important to important people, and I'll tell you a bit about the city if you get them back for me."



    Originally posted by Michael View Post

    I wonder about that. I think you made an interesting distinction by saying "true" manipulators, because I could see Elysium having lots and lots of petty manipulation, basically in service of interpersonal drama rather than actual power.

    Hell, if you're the Prince, you want to encourage that. Subjects fighting each other over petty drama which you're above is preferable to them all coldly calculating how they can take your seat.
    Do you have anything in mind for the petty manipulation?

    Also, that is exactly how my city's Prince keeps power. Nearly every group has at least one person that he's compromised, and is using to fan conflicts.



    Originally posted by Craig Oxbrow View Post
    The players have to rely on the Storyteller's vocal performance for almost all the information they get about the world, so it's easy to take everything at face value. And since I don't generally do voices for NPCs, I'll describe tone rather than trying to act it out. Sometimes I'll just say they can tell somebody's lying, as a reminder that NPCs can't all be trusted.

    I try to change up how I speak, but I think adding the extra commentary is a good idea.




    Originally posted by Live Bait View Post

    I have a city I haven't gotten round to using where the Invictus Prince allowed a demacratic council to be set up (after a lot of consultation on what it should for and how it should work to show how slow it would be to do everything democratically) that works as a judicatory court to allow her to avoid the trouble of settling every disagreement and keeping the ambitious occupied while she does the actual running of a bunch of predictors.
    That's a really cool idea.


    Originally posted by Khanwulf View Post
    There are several good points here, but one way of handling the OP situation is to simply take an NPC who the PCs have reason to trust and/or no obvious motivation to lie, and use him/her to introduce the concept that others in the story may not be playing them straight. That is: either directly lying to the PCs or hiding their true motives behind a facade.

    Our very next session, I think we'll be in a good position to do unveil an NPC's dickeshness, as well as reveal something that's been building in the background for a while. I guess we'll see what happens. It's still early enough in the game that I can revise a lot of the NPCs.

    Originally posted by nofather View Post
    Please someone make a bloodline that, when embracing people, causes them to grow a chessboard out of one hand and a copy of 'The Prince' in the other.
    Literally every NPC in my city

    Originally posted by Ssudd387 View Post
    I'd be interested to hear more about the circumstances of your chronicle. In regards to telling the characters outright who they can and cannot trust, I wouldn't. Discovering the deceptive, manipulative nature of the Kindred is a huge part of Requiem's narrative, especially for Fledglings or Neonates.
    I've got a session tonight, so I ended up reviewing a lot of the chronicle's politics, and included some planning on what directions are open to us. So it's super long. If you're Zoe or Jade's player, here there be spoilers:

    The Carthians and Lancea have a bloc, and the Gangrel have been breeding like rabbits. The Carthians are basically Randian Social-Darwinist uber-capitalists (welfare and social justice are for herd animals; predators need a different form of life). The establishment is on constant lookout for Invictus spies and Infernalists. Everybody knows that the Mekhet are spies, so if you find one, you better kill it. Everyone knows the Mekhet are the ones who know shit they shouldn't. The Premier is working to hold things together, but a couple of her Senators are looking to fan revolution so they get more power. The Lancea is a weird Baptist thing, and I'm basing the head preacher on /Welcome to Nightvale/'s Kevin. He has access to Cruac and is super-brainwashed by the city's Secret Invictus Prince. One of the Clergy is aware of how fucked the church is, and is connecting the unhappy senators with revolutionary Gangrel.


    The bottom level Gangrel are whispering that the revolution was subverted by Invictus agents and they need to overthrow the current State. Maybe the higher up Gangrel really believe that, maybe they just want more respect. Whatever the case, that movement is building steam. My Gangrel PC just got an "internship" with the Gov. She'll be spying on it for her sire. I've also laid seeds for her touchstone to be haunted by a child-obsessed strix. She also fed on one of the Secret Prince's hobo-spies, and ghouled a Senator's employee after putting the employee in the hospital. The player also just convinced exceptionally succeeded a roll to get one of her friends to do some hardcore lifestyle vampire LARPing, and willingly let her drink his blood (it's /totally/ just a game). Her player wants to solve a mystery, which should work well with the government spying.

    Meanwhile, the Daeva PC was wrestling with her personal politics (Marxist), and her material needs (she basically sold out in life and became a corperate lawyer). Her sire/"siblings" work for the "Citizen Welfare Initiative", which is trying to change all the human laws that make the city hostile to vampires (no public transport, no unlit streets, very strict zoning, cops everywhere, etc). Her sire fed on her too many times at work parties and got obsessed with her. He does this a lot. He's too much of a coward to kill the women he gets obsessed with, and too weak to stay away, so he embraces them. He just wants her out of his hair, and probably to get herself killed. As a favor to a sister, she just recovered an unhappy senator's drugs, and in the process revealed the identity and location of her touchstone is to a sociopath. She also made contact with a Gangrel pack and had to promise to give my Gangrel PC a job with the State. The Daeva's player wants to get a bunch of politically radical witches to overthrow the human government. She is unaware that the Lancea exist.


    I'd originally planned for all this backbiting to be due to a secret Nosferatu Invictus Prince, who bargained with owls to keep Praxis and to keep the city cut off from the outside world. He's only Invictus in name -- he made a deal to uphold the Masqurade in exchange for full autonomy, and not going on the offensive against other cities. I'm considering revising his story so that he /used/ to actively fan the flames, but over the last thirty-forty years decided to basically retire - and now he just spills people's dirt if they become too powerful or harmful to the local kine.
    • If the PCs start working for the unhappy senators I'm going to give them a few quests to secure a warehouse, and maybe some medical equipment. In exchange, they'll get access to meals on wheels (think like insomnia cookies). All the blood comes from human trafficking, and not the Senator's legit bloodbank.
    • If the Daeva wants to organize radical witches, she'll have to find them, convince them she knows what she's talking about, find people in the city government to target, and then mobilize them. I'll probably need to make a couple witch characters, and decide on power levels -- are they just Wiccans with politics, or something more? I think I can tie a city government arc to her vampire family, because at least on the surface, the Citizen's Welfare Initiative shares a lot of the same interests (less strict zoning laws, stop bussing the homeless out of the city and put them in shelters, get some nice dark subway stations, etc.)
    • The Gangrel is a bit more difficult to plan for. I'm waiting on the player to give me slightly more direction on what kinds of questions they want to answer, and what methods they plan to use (just like, give me a topic and the first couple places she plans looking). I'm considering trying to incorporate the investigation rules from Miserable Secrets, because I'm terrible with CofD's investigation rules

    Originally posted by Ssudd387 View Post
    During solo campaigns, I tend to make sure that there is at least one NPC who will not deceive or manipulate the player. I don't tell them who this is, but it tends to be someone in their support structure who is either disinterested or invested enough in the player's success and survival that they won't actively jerk them around. They can't be too helpful, all-knowing or omniscient, lest the player solely rely on them for assistance. Likewise they have to serve some purpose to the player, lest they never be used. An NPC like this can serve as a useful tool to help the players cut through Kindred bullshit without becoming a deus ex machina.

    There's also no reason other Kindred should be the ones having all the fun stabbing each other in the back. All things being transnational among the Kindred, you could put your players in the position of being the deceivers on behalf of a potential benefactor. Thus they learn about the fundamentally Machiavellian behavior of their peers by their own actions as opposed to it being something done to them.
    I think giving the players a character they can trust is a good idea. I just haven't had the opportunity to establish a relationship like that, but I think I'll start laying the groundwork. The players should get into a position to become manipulators pretty soon actually.
    Last edited by DubiousRuffian; 06-26-2019, 03:25 PM.

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  • Baaldam
    replied
    Khanwulf's suggestion seems pretty sound a point to start from, you draw attention to the fact not everyone is really trustworthy and put the PCs on guard, while leaving any details out and it up to the PCs to draw their own conclusions, about truths, lies, motives and backstabbing potential of each individual NPC.

    Also, not everything has to be about lies - truth can be as useful, if not more so, as a tool of manipulation, as not all things that are true are exactly pleasant or something for polite company.

    Skeletons in the closet or just nasty facts out of their context, can cast an otherwise reliable ally or contact in a less than flattering light, or make one ignore the fact that even a vicious, treacherous, backstabing monster can be a necessary force for order & stability in a city, among other shades of gray and stuff.

    Leave a comment:


  • Ssudd387
    replied
    I'd be interested to hear more about the circumstances of your chronicle. In regards to telling the characters outright who they can and cannot trust, I wouldn't. Discovering the deceptive, manipulative nature of the Kindred is a huge part of Requiem's narrative, especially for Fledglings or Neonates.

    You can find ways to subtly impress this upon your players without them walking headlong into an ambush. What I have occasionally done as a ST is to use subtly evasive wording when it comes to the players' interactions with NPCs. If a player recaps what they know about a situation using information they gained from an NPC (trustworthy or not), my response would be something to the effect of, "so they say" rather than a deliberate yes or no. Used sparingly, you can inject a mood of uncertainty which can encourage players to not (always) play the pawn.

    During solo campaigns, I tend to make sure that there is at least one NPC who will not deceive or manipulate the player. I don't tell them who this is, but it tends to be someone in their support structure who is either disinterested or invested enough in the player's success and survival that they won't actively jerk them around. They can't be too helpful, all-knowing or omniscient, lest the player solely rely on them for assistance. Likewise they have to serve some purpose to the player, lest they never be used. An NPC like this can serve as a useful tool to help the players cut through Kindred bullshit without becoming a deus ex machina.

    There's also no reason other Kindred should be the ones having all the fun stabbing each other in the back. All things being transnational among the Kindred, you could put your players in the position of being the deceivers on behalf of a potential benefactor. Thus they learn about the fundamentally Machiavellian behavior of their peers by their own actions as opposed to it being something done to them.

    Leave a comment:


  • nofather
    replied
    Please someone make a bloodline that, when embracing people, causes them to grow a chessboard out of one hand and a copy of 'The Prince' in the other.

    Leave a comment:


  • Khanwulf
    replied
    There are several good points here, but one way of handling the OP situation is to simply take an NPC who the PCs have reason to trust and/or no obvious motivation to lie, and use him/her to introduce the concept that others in the story may not be playing them straight. That is: either directly lying to the PCs or hiding their true motives behind a facade.

    Let them decide how to react to that. And if asked, point out that their characters can use their own skills to discern if subterfuge is going on--or at least clues to that. Then the players can make a judgement how they want to proceed.

    --Khanwulf

    PS. Most of my NPCs are assumed to be entirely capable of lying, double-dealing and other perversions of the truth. Yet those same NPCs are either allies or among the limited contacts available to solve bigger problems. Just because an NPC *could* lie doesn't mean they will under the specific circumstances of the story, at that time. PC--and players--should be wise.

    Leave a comment:


  • Live Bait
    replied
    Originally posted by Michael View Post

    I wonder about that. I think you made an interesting distinction by saying "true" manipulators, because I could see Elysium having lots and lots of petty manipulation, basically in service of interpersonal drama rather than actual power.

    Hell, if you're the Prince, you want to encourage that. Subjects fighting each other over petty drama which you're above is preferable to them all coldly calculating how they can take your seat.
    I have a city I haven't gotten round to using where the Invictus Prince allowed a demacratic council to be set up (after a lot of consultation on what it should for and how it should work to show how slow it would be to do everything democratically) that works as a judicatory court to allow her to avoid the trouble of settling every disagreement and keeping the ambitious occupied while she does the actual running of a bunch of predictors.

    Leave a comment:


  • Craig Oxbrow
    replied
    The players have to rely on the Storyteller's vocal performance for almost all the information they get about the world, so it's easy to take everything at face value. And since I don't generally do voices for NPCs, I'll describe tone rather than trying to act it out. Sometimes I'll just say they can tell somebody's lying, as a reminder that NPCs can't all be trusted.

    Leave a comment:


  • Michael
    replied
    Originally posted by Live Bait View Post
    It's also important to remember that it's rare for and "make some fledglings have a hard time" to be on anyone's to do list
    I wonder about that. I think you made an interesting distinction by saying "true" manipulators, because I could see Elysium having lots and lots of petty manipulation, basically in service of interpersonal drama rather than actual power.

    Hell, if you're the Prince, you want to encourage that. Subjects fighting each other over petty drama which you're above is preferable to them all coldly calculating how they can take your seat.

    Leave a comment:


  • Live Bait
    replied
    I'm also in the true manipulators don't make such short term plays unless they intend to get rid of you camp. Also I like having some sort of obstruction to praying on neonates that such kindred need to be mindful of such as a highly placed individual who tries to look out for the little guy or even just have their sires keeping tabs on things.
    It's also important to remember that it's rare for and "make some fledglings have a hard time" to be on anyone's to do list, if an NPC can get what they want and part on good terms everyone's better off even if some elders believe you got to run an errand for an important vampire counts as a reward.

    Leave a comment:


  • tsusasi
    replied
    If they are new to role playing games: Do tell them outright that some NPCs are lying or trying to manipulate their characters. Don’t give them specifics.

    There’s usually at least one character actively lying or trying to manipulate them in the overarching story but not necessarily every scene and it’s not always the same character. I don’t usually tell them. I let them figure it out or not. Sometimes the manipulation is not self serving but mutually beneficial.

    I don’t mind a few manipulative asshole NPCs but they’re more fun to interact with when there are points when they are not actively trying to screw your character over or pandering for a favor. There was an NPC one of my storyteller’s turned into an on/off rival for my character that stemmed from her jealousy over my character’s success, even though for most of the chronicle’s duration, the character enjoyed higher city positions and the favor of the prince. Another time, it pissed off my character to learn she was manipulated by her grandsire, but the events ended up getting my character’s standing elevated in the city. (Which was her grandsire’s goal. Not the task she had to complete.) When everyone’s a lying backstabbing asshole, my interest in the story drops dramatically because after a certain point, I cease to care about the outcome. I don’t care about my character success or failure because it benefits some asshole and I don’t become vested in the success/ failure of characters that used me as a disposable pawn or cheated me.
    Last edited by tsusasi; 06-20-2019, 07:14 PM.

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  • Prince of the Night
    replied
    "He must learn how to do wrong, and use that k knowledge or refrain from using it as necessity dictates"

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  • Michael
    replied
    It'd be interesting to see some examples. Like, to see how blatant it is.

    The thing I keep in mind is that lying is generally bad manipulation. It means people trust you less in future, and it's easy to offend people unnecessarily. If PCs are being taken advantage of, it's not unreasonable for another NPC to step in and tell them that. (That doesn't have to be altruistic either, giving the PCs the lowdown on Kindred politics, can itself be a pretty effective way of building trust and bringing the PCs into their orbit).

    Leave a comment:

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