The human mind is simultaneously robust and perilously fragile. Unscrupulous individuals often resort to various physical and psychological torments to shake the foundations of a target’s mind, allowing them to erase or implant memories, or even shift cherished beliefs and convictions. Against this onslaught, the victim has little to fall back on except the Strength of his spirit and the sharpness of his wits. 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).
Predator Skill:Manipulate (Wis). This check possesses the Concentration, Grasp, Hearing, and Language tags (see page 101).
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: 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 s 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: 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).
|Table: Brainwashing Strategies|
|Chip Away||Manipulate (Wis)||Lead 1–3||+0||Alter Memory, Stress|
|False Hope||Manipulate (Wis)||Base Will save bonus 4+||–4||Haste, Revelation|
|Fluster Sense||Motive (Wis)||Base Will save bonus 6+||–2||Lead, Shred|
|Mind Games||Manipulate (Wis)||Base Will save bonus 7+||–4||Pause, Slip|
|New Tactic||Manipulate (Wis)||Lead 6–9||–6||Crisis, New Approach|
|Patience||Resolve (Wis)||Lead 3–7||–2||Lead, Stress|
|Seeds of Doubt||Manipulate (Wis)||—||+0||Lead, Splinter|
|Turn the Screws||Medicine (Wis)||Base Will save bonus 5+||–8||Haste, Lead|
|Ultimatum||Manipulate (Wis)||Base Will save bonus 8+||–12||Slip, Victory|
|Cling to Hope||Networking (Wis)||Base Will/Fortitude save bonus 5+**||–2||Lead, Pause|
|Concede||Resolve (Wis)||—||+0||Lead, Revelation|
|Hold Fast||Resolve (Wis)||Base Will/Fortitude save bonus 7+**||–2||Lead, Pause|
|Last Stand||Resolve (Wis)||Lead 1–3||–6||Crisis, New Approach|
|Misdirect||Resolve (Wis)||Base Will/Fortitude save bonus 4+**||–4||Revelation, Twist|
|Never Surrender||Resolve (Wis)||Base Will/Fortitude save bonus 8+**||–12||Haste, Victory|
|Rebel||Resolve (Wis)||Lead 7–9||+0||Haste, Lead|
|Still in the Game||Bluff (Cha)||Lead 3–7||–8||Slip, Twist|
|Worrisome Smile||Manipulate (Wis)||Base Will/Fortitude save bonus 6+**||–4||Lead, Stress|
|* None of these alternate skill checks possess tags.|
|** The Prey’s save bonus requirements are based on his Will save (against a mental approach), or Fortitude save (against a physical approach)|
Cling to Hope: The Prey draws Strength from dreams of rescue, reinforcing his faith that his friends will come for him. Concede: The Prey plans to give up some of his bargaining chips to gain much needed relief.
Fluster: The Predator tries to Trip the Prey up in his own lies, leaving him with no defense.
Last Stand: 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.
Never Surrender: The Prey concentrates his remaining reserves in a powerful Burst of defiance, trying desperately to prove he’s beyond the Predator’s influence.
Seeds of Doubt: The Predator tries to Drive a wedge between the Prey and his comrades.
Alter Memory: 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.
Crisis: 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 (see right); 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.
Haste: 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).
Lead: 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.
Pause: 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 g the opposed check winner — makes any progress.
Revelation: 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.
Shred: 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 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, page 121). 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.).
Splinter: 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.
Stress: 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.
Twist: 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.
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, page 133). 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 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.