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Stone and a Hard Place Spoiler - Plot point 4 brainwash

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  • Stone and a Hard Place Spoiler - Plot point 4 brainwash

    Hi all

    I'm getting ready to run Stone and a Hard Place, and while reading through it, one thing rubbed me the wrong way. After visiting Gettysburg and being abducted by the Agency, the characters are left brainwashed and lose their memory of the last three days.
    This feels wrong to me, and I'm not sure my players will accept it. I'm also not convinced of the necessity of it, as it feels like I'm removing player agency (no pun intended) for no good reason.

    How did you deal with this in your run? And does anyone have any thoughts on just removing this part?
    Thanks in advance.

  • #2
    Not actually brainwashed. The description talks about how the characters are subjected to a questioning that may or may not be gentle. Then they are hooded and... Time jumps.

    They don't remember the last three days because they are all under a "post-hypnotic suggestion" causing them to follow a set of instructions leading them to the bayou and ending when the driver first says "We’ve reached Girardelle Bayou Village." Even today there are stories of people not remembering being under hypnosis and doing weird things. With the addition of ghost rock and other weird stuff I am sure a three day program would not be that hard to pull off.
    I have way too much time but do not always edit myself properly. Please do not take offense.

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    • #3
      Leaving it in drives home how dangerous, powerful, unscrupulous, and resourceful the Agency is.
      They're able to abduct powerful individuals, torture them without doing permanent damage, and affect their memories.

      The Agency isn't kind, is powerful, and doesn't trust outsiders. This scene makes that clear, and sets the players up to deal with the bayou village.

      Is it distasteful? Yes. Does it say things that should be said? Yes. Are there alternate ways to handle this? Yes, but those take more work, and I'm lazy.
      I hope you find the above post useful. And not insulting, because I was trying to be helpful, not insulting; being a pedantic jerk, that isn't always clear.

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      • #4
        When our group went through it, I did a time skip. I just said you are all detained by the Agency in Gettysburg. Then just picked up with the coach stopping and telling them to get out and it was three days later. The group was obviously confused but followed the clues. Then over the next several sessions a few of them started having reoccurring dreams and memory flashbacks of those three days that were missing. It worked well since it added something else for them to sort out while running around.

        As for the Agency and the interrogation, I just did the best to assume how much the characters would have spilled under duress. For example, one of them I know would have died before talking, while the Big Mouth in the group would have spilled the beans before even being asked the first question. I used this to color in the resurfacing memories.

        If you need to sweeten the pot for the player's buy in always through them a Benny or two for loss of agency.

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        • #5
          I think I'll run it as it is.

          Ok, players will be a bit pissed, but they'll understand how ruthless the Agency is.

          And, when we got through Dead Presidents, they had no problems with being tortured in Castle Thunder,they understood what message it was supposed to convey.

          In fact, it even gave them more incentive to kill Jefferson Doppeldavis, so I think the interrogation by the Agency will make them all the more motivated to stop Stone.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Erolat View Post
            Not actually brainwashed. The description talks about how the characters are subjected to a questioning that may or may not be gentle. Then they are hooded and... Time jumps.

            They don't remember the last three days because they are all under a "post-hypnotic suggestion" causing them to follow a set of instructions leading them to the bayou and ending when the driver first says "We’ve reached Girardelle Bayou Village." Even today there are stories of people not remembering being under hypnosis and doing weird things. With the addition of ghost rock and other weird stuff I am sure a three day program would not be that hard to pull off.
            Well, in my mind "post-hypnotic suggestions" are pretty much brainwashing. I know it's possible, that's not my problem. It's more that it's kind of a unfair move by the Marshal.


            Originally posted by PEGThomas View Post
            When our group went through it, I did a time skip. I just said you are all detained by the Agency in Gettysburg. Then just picked up with the coach stopping and telling them to get out and it was three days later. The group was obviously confused but followed the clues. Then over the next several sessions a few of them started having reoccurring dreams and memory flashbacks of those three days that were missing. It worked well since it added something else for them to sort out while running around.

            As for the Agency and the interrogation, I just did the best to assume how much the characters would have spilled under duress. For example, one of them I know would have died before talking, while the Big Mouth in the group would have spilled the beans before even being asked the first question. I used this to color in the resurfacing memories.

            If you need to sweeten the pot for the player's buy in always through them a Benny or two for loss of agency.

            This might be a pretty good solution. I think I'll do that. It's more interesting to have discover something, rather than having to try NOT acting on player knowledge. Thanks.
            Last edited by tnbh; Today, 07:06 AM.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by tnbh View Post

              It's more that it's kind of a dick move by the Marshal.
              Maybe you could pull back on the reins a little bit, amigo.

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              • #8
                This was part of a much larger review on RPGnet, but when I covered Stone and a Hard Place I went into detail of what aspects of the adventure I'd change if I were to run it. And the whole Agency interrogation thing was one of the plot points which stuck out to me the most.

                In fact, I'd be much more radical in my solution to this. Italics are self-quote:

                First of all, I’d ditch the whole Gettysburg trip; Coot will say that the Doctor’s last known location was the Bayou Vermilion headquarters in New Orleans. This is conceivably closer in travel and is in an area already well-described in many Deadlands sourcebooks. The rail company in my games would be a collection of vampiric plantation owners fallen far from their antebellum prime, and sold their souls to evil to avoid divine punishment in the afterlife for their slave-holding legacy.* They view Stone and the outlaws as a useful tool in expanding their railroads, but found and safeguarded the 13 bullets as an “insurance policy.” That way, I tie in the conflict with Bayou Vermilion in the first adventures back into the later narrative, who otherwise kind of disappear once Stone shows up. Granted, this involves making some of my own material, but adopting elements from Graveyard Nights in regards to "big evil necromancer fortress."


                *This ties in to how voodoo folklore surrounding zombies was a metaphor for slavery, and how quite a few members of the Southern aristocracy feared they’d go to Hell but were unwilling to dismantle the power structure their families were built upon.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Libertad! View Post
                  This was part of a much larger review on RPGnet, but when I covered Stone and a Hard Place I went into detail of what aspects of the adventure I'd change if I were to run it. And the whole Agency interrogation thing was one of the plot points which stuck out to me the most.

                  In fact, I'd be much more radical in my solution to this. Italics are self-quote:

                  First of all, I’d ditch the whole Gettysburg trip; Coot will say that the Doctor’s last known location was the Bayou Vermilion headquarters in New Orleans. This is conceivably closer in travel and is in an area already well-described in many Deadlands sourcebooks. The rail company in my games would be a collection of vampiric plantation owners fallen far from their antebellum prime, and sold their souls to evil to avoid divine punishment in the afterlife for their slave-holding legacy.* They view Stone and the outlaws as a useful tool in expanding their railroads, but found and safeguarded the 13 bullets as an “insurance policy.” That way, I tie in the conflict with Bayou Vermilion in the first adventures back into the later narrative, who otherwise kind of disappear once Stone shows up. Granted, this involves making some of my own material, but adopting elements from Graveyard Nights in regards to "big evil necromancer fortress."


                  *This ties in to how voodoo folklore surrounding zombies was a metaphor for slavery, and how quite a few members of the Southern aristocracy feared they’d go to Hell but were unwilling to dismantle the power structure their families were built upon.
                  I got your review bookmarked, and am planning to read it after I'm done with the book. I did see your suggestion in passing and I'm considering it.
                  I'm having a bit of trouble making the BV connection interesting as well. Any suggestions on that?

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by tnbh View Post

                    I got your review bookmarked, and am planning to read it after I'm done with the book. I did see your suggestion in passing and I'm considering it.
                    I'm having a bit of trouble making the BV connection interesting as well. Any suggestions on that?

                    I'll be honest. Stone and a Hard Place is IMO the lowest-rated of the four Servitor Plot Point Campaigns for a variety of reasons. But looking at it neutrally the aspect has always been more personal: the personal revenge against Jasper Stone. Bayou Vermilion, the Laughing Men Gang, etc are but secondary adversaries in this struggle. As Plot Point 4 is relatively halfway into the campaign (with 5 and 9 less adventures and more single encounters), I figure it can be a good "last hurrah" for putting a stop to BV's machinations in the region. I recall a Savage Tale or two where they got involved, but most of Stone's sidequests are simplistic single-encounter fights.

                    Apologies if I cannot be more helpful on this, in that making SaaHP work by my standards would involve a huge amount of rewriting to the point I'd be making my own adventure anyway.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by PEGCutter View Post

                      Maybe you could pull back on the reins a little bit, amigo.
                      Sorry about that. I'll edit the post.

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