22 November, 2015

Mind Control: Taking a cue from Jessica Jones

The push toward story driven games, where everyone gets a significant input toward the ongoing narrative runs counter to the idea of deprotagonisation. In this style of play, everyone wants their characters to have importance, they want their decisions to matter and they don't want to lose control. The problem with mind control in a story is that it completely strips away the control that a character might have. Characters under such an influence no longer have the capacity to make their own decisions, they operate at the beck and call of the originator of the mind control.

I've seen players storm out of games when their characters have been mind controlled, I've seen dice rolls cheated, fudged, ignored, I've seen games collapse. Yet still, mind control spells and effects are a part of many rule systems.

After doing my binge watch of Jessica Jones, I can now see a way to keep the decisions of the protagonists important while making mind control an effective part of the narrative. The simplest option is to allow mind control only to work on the mooks and common plebs of the world. The protagonists have a built-in immunity to the effect.

A more complicated way to handle things might be to handle mind control as a past-tense effect. The story begins after the mind control has happened, now the characters have to deal with the repercussions of their actions under the control.

A third option makes the characters aware of the mind control effects, and they have to find a way to avoid such effects if they wish to confront the source.

The series "Jessica Jones" employs all of these techniques, making mind control an integral part of the narrative and keeping the decisions made by the characters important to the ongoing storytelling process.

I have more to ponder with regards to how I can use this. I'm thinking it might tie in well with my Tom-Waits/Crossroad-Demon setting, having players deal with the after effects of mind control while people are being manipulated around them feels very "noir" to me. 

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