This type of Dramatic Conflict begins when 1 or more characters (the Predator(s)) set out to “break” the wills of 1 or more captive characters (the Prey).
Prey Skill: Resolve (Wis). This check possesses no tags.
The Predator’s most important decision when setting out to brainwash an opponent is choosing his approach. There are two basic approaches: physical and mental.
The physical approach works by wearing down the target’s body through deprivation or abuse. This approach is time-consuming, but less likely to destroy the Prey and render him useless.
The mental approach involves chemicals and psychological torments. It’s fast but risks abrupt failure.
Once an approach is chosen, it’s difficult to change, requiring a special Strategy.The duration of each Conflict round, as well as modifiers to both participants’ opposed checks and their error ranges, are listed on Table 6.4: Brainwashing Approaches.
During a brainwashing attempt, Lead represents the Prey’s lingering resistance. Each point of Lead gained bolsters the Prey’s grit, while each point lost strips away another layer of his courage or personality.
A brainwashing attempt’s starting Lead is equal to 1/2 the Prey’s base Fortitude save bonus, or 1/2 the Prey’s base Will save bonus, whichever is lower (minimum 2). If this results in a starting Lead of 10 or more, the Prey is impervious to brainwashing and cannot be broken using this Dramatic Conflict.
Multiple Brainwashing Participants
When more than two participants are involved in a brainwashing attempt, the GC designates each as part of the “Predator’s group” or the “Prey group.” Multiple tormentors may trade off, increasing their effectiveness, while multiple captives tend to reinforce each other. Each group makes a single opposed cooperative check during Step 2 of each Conflict round.
During a brainwashing attempt, each Conflict round takes 4 hours (if a mental approach is used) or 2 days (if a physical approach is used). The Predator must be present and involved for a minimum of 1/2 this time, while the Prey is automatically present for all of it.
The most common goal of a brainwashing attempt is erasing memories and/or implanting new ones. In many cases, lost memories are merely repressed, or the victim’s belief in implanted memories is shaky and subject to scrutiny. If a brainwashed character or his teammates realize that his memories are altered, a Medicine/Therapy Complex Task may be attempted to reverse the effect. This Task involves 5 Challenges, each requiring 1 hour and having a DC of 20 + the brainwasher’s Manipulate skill bonus. With success, the character recovers his true unaltered memories. With failure, his true memories elude him and no further Medicine/Therapy Tasks may be attempted for the duration of the current mission.
Available Strategies are determined by the current Lead and each participant’s base save bonuses, as shown on Table 6.5: Brainwashing Strategies. In some cases, a participant’s choice of Strategy changes the skill he uses to make the Conflict round’s opposed skill check.
Some DCs in this section require an NPC’s career level. Unless otherwise specified, it is equal to the team’s current Threat Level (see page 423).
The Predator tries to erode the Prey’s mind or tests the limits of his control over the target.
Cling to Hope
The Prey draws strength from dreams of rescue, reinforcing his faith that his friends will come for him.
The Prey plans to give up some of his bargaining chips to gain much needed relief.
The Predator offers the Prey a moment of hope — perhaps openly, perhaps subtly — seeking a way to break through his mental defenses.
The Predator tries to trip the Prey up in his own lies, leaving him with no defense.
The Prey directly resists his captors, putting up the strongest front he can.
Nearly broken, the Prey makes one final attempt to resist his captors’ relentless assault. This can have a devastating impact upon the Predator if he realizes his control of the situation isn’t as strong as he thought. It can even convince him that a new technique is required.
The Predator keeps the Prey busy with seemingly idle chatter, killing time for some reason or trying to get under his skin.
The Prey searches for the ideal moment to reveal something the Predator wants, hoping for the chance to dupe his captor.
The Prey concentrates his remaining reserves in a powerful burst of defiance, trying desperately to prove he’s beyond the Predator’s influence.
The Predator adopts a new method or tries to rattle the Prey with unconventional means.
The Predator plays a waiting game, letting the Prey’s inner demons work on him.
Sensing that his captors may not have the will to break him, the Prey pushes the advantage, searching for a way to overcome his conditioning.
Seeds of Doubt
The Predator tries to drive a wedge between the Prey and his comrades.
Still in the Game
The Prey begins to play mind games of his own, hoping to distract the Predator from his real plan.
Turn the Screws
The Predator resorts to violence.
The Predator tries to provoke the Prey with a warning of worse to come.
There are few things quite as infuriating as cool amusement from someone who’s supposed to be terrified of you…
The Prey gains or loses all memory of 1 event lasting no more than 1 hour (chosen by the Predator). Each time this Advantage is chosen beyond the first during the same round, the Prey gains or loses all memory of 1 additional event lasting no more than 1 hour.
The process reaches an impasse, with Predator and Prey locked in the ultimate test of wills. Each participant must make a Fortitude or Will save (DC 10 + 1/2 the opponent’s career level, rounded up). Each time this Advantage is chosen beyond the first during the same round, the opposed check winner’s Crisis DC decreases by 2, minimum DC 5 (his opponent’s Crisis DC remains unchanged). If either participant fails this save, he snaps, suffering 1d3 temporary Wisdom and 1d3 temporary Charisma damage. Further, if only one participant fails this save, his opponent wins the Conflict; otherwise, the Conflict continues as standard (this is the case even if both participants snap, though such an outcome produces stranger and stranger results as the participants become unhinged). Each participant may skip this saving throw, but the Lead shifts by 3 in his opponent’s favor as his determination falters.
The duration of the following Conflict round is reduced to 1/2 standard (rounded down, minimum 5 minutes). Each time this Advantage is chosen beyond the first during the same round, the duration is halved again (e.g. if this Advantage is chosen 3 times during a physical approach, the following Conflict round takes only 6 hours).
The Lead is adjusted by 1 in the opposed check winner’s favor. Every 2 times this Advantage is chosen beyond the first during the same round, the Lead is adjusted by an additional 1 in the opposed check winner’s favor.
The Predator’s approach shifts from mental to physical, or vice-versa.
The brainwash is “put on hold.” The Lead remains the same and no steps are resolved during the following Conflict round. Each time this Advantage is chosen beyond the first during the same round, the brainwashing attempt is paused for 1 additional round. The action continues during this time (i.e. the participants continue to test one another), but no one — including the opposed check winner — makes any progress.
The opposed check winner may deliberately reveal 1 of the following pieces of information to gain 1 bonus action die.
- His organization’s full history.
- One of his organization’s goals that his opponent does not know.
- One of his organization’s Ratings that his opponent does not know (Goals, History, Image, Sites, or Tools).
- The location and nature of 1 of his organization’s Sites that his opponent does not know.
Each time this Advantage is chosen beyond the first during the same round, the opposed check winner may reveal 1 additional piece of information to gain 1 additional bonus action die.
For more information about organizations, see page 389.
The Power Rating of 1 of the Prey’s cover identities decreases by 1 (if the Prey possesses more than 1 cover identity, this affects the one with the lowest Power Rating). If this reduces the Power Rating to 0, the cover identity is blown (see page 286). Every 2 times this Advantage is chosen beyond the first during the same round, the identity’s Power Rating is reduced by an additional 1 (if the most recently targeted identity’s Power Rating is reduced to 0, this affects the cover identity with the next lowest Power Rating).
The opposed check winner gains 1 of the following benefits.
- The winner extracts 1 clue or important secret from 1 opponent.
- The winner presents one lie that is believed to be true as if he made a successful Bluff/Deception check with a penalty of up to –6 (see Table 2.26: Character Deception).
Every 2 times this Advantage is chosen beyond the first during the same round, the winner extracts 1 additional clue or secret, or increases the penalty limit of the lie by 2 (i.e. to –8 if the Advantage is chosen twice, –10 if it’s chosen three times, etc.).
During the following Conflict round, the Prey group must make a team check using its lowest skill bonus. Each time this Advantage is chosen beyond the first during the same round, this effect lasts for 1 additional Conflict round.
Each participant except the opposed check winner suffers 1d4 stress damage. Each time this Advantage is chosen beyond the first during the same round, this damage increases by +1d4. No character may recover from this damage until the brainwashing attempt ends.
The opposed check winner may use any of the following skills when making the next opposed check during the same chase: Analysis (Wis), Cultures (Int), Falsify (Wis), Intimidate (Cha), Investigation (Cha), Science (Int), or Tactics (Int). None of these checks possess tags.
The brainwashing attempt ends in the opposed check winner’s favor.
Ending a Brainwash
If the Predator wins (i.e. the Lead decreases to 0 or less, the Prey fails a Crisis-prompted check and snaps, or the
brainwash otherwise ends in the Predator’s favor), the Prey’s psyche becomes fragmented. The Prey loses all memory of the brainwashing attempt (though he may be aware of the time gap if other memories are not implanted). Further, the Predator chooses 1 of the following benefits.
- The Prey immediately and irrevocably loses all memory of 1 event lasting no more than 24 hours. He may never regain this memory, though it may later be explained or shown to him, allowing him to recall it in the third person.
- The Prey is driven to perform 1 action as if he had been targeted with a successful Impress/Persuasion check with a penalty of up to –18 (see Table 2.31: Requesting Assistance). No matter how reprehensible, the Predator cannot cause the Prey to perform an action that would result in the Prey’s exposure (see page 435).
If the Prey wins (i.e. the Lead increases to 10 or more, the Predator fails a Crisis-prompted check and snaps, or the brainwash otherwise ends in the Prey’s favor), the Prey proves impervious to brainwashing and may not be targeted with this Dramatic Conflict by the same Predator (or any member of the Predator group) for the duration of the current mission.
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