Episode 229: Mind control in RPGs

We’re back and we’re growing sleepy, sleepy, so very sleepy. We are listening to your voice. Only your voice. Yes, yes, we are under your control. We shall do you bidding. What is it you demand of us? An episode about mind control in RPGs? We are powerless to refuse…

Main Topic: Mind Control in RPGs

This episode is our discussion of the presentation of mind control in RPGs. Genre fiction is full of unnatural magic, weird drugs, and sinister devices that twist the human mind according to the wielder’s desires. Villains may plant compulsions in the heads of protagonists, twist their perceptions, or alter their memories. And, of course, this is reflected heavily in gaming. But how do we make it work? Does it have to remove player agency? And what happens when these tools and techniques fall into the hands of player characters?

We’ve paused our discussion of The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath for a few episodes. Matt has been seriously ill, requiring a lengthy stay in hospital. We don’t know how long he’s going to be out of action but we wanted to save the resolution for his return. Until then, we’ve called upon some of our good friends in the podcasting world to stand in as guest hosts.

This time, we’re joined by Keeper Murph of the Miskatonic University Podcast. There can’t be too many listeners who don’t know our good friends at the MU. If you’ve somehow resisted falling under their spell so far, do check them out. They have been our biggest influence and supporters over the years. In the decade their podcast has been running, they have won two ENnie Awards, and with good reason.

You can hear Murph’s previous appearances with the Good Friends here:

Things we mention in this episode include:


Update on Matt

As we’ve mentioned, Matt has been seriously ill recently. At the time of release, however, he is well on the road to recovery and will be home from hospital soon. We’re not sure how long it will be before he is feeling up to recording again, however, but we shall keep his seat warm for him.

A Weekend With Good Friends

The latest incarnation of A Weekend With Good Friends has wrapped up. This is the increasingly regular online gaming convention organised by our lovely listeners, taking place on our Discord server.

We spend some time thanking everyone who made it happen, from the organisers to the convention staff to the players and GMs who filled the weekend with amazing games. And we’ll repeat those thanks here! Thank you especially to Bence, Chris and Martin, who put in a phenomenal amount of work to bring the whole thing together.

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3 comments on “Mind Control in RPGs

  1. Robert McLean Mar 1, 2022

    Hi, the wrong episode has been uploaded to Overcast.

  2. Matthew Baskerville Mar 6, 2022

    Good morning chaps. New listener here.

    I am enjoying your podcast, as I am fan of all things role playing and Call of Cthulhu. Some strange, dark force compels me to comment on this particular podcast.

    I think you danced around the central issue. Mind control, violence, sex, body horror, unreliable realities, false memories, corruption/insanity spirals, being eaten by frog monsters or having your face half melted by Y’Golanac… these are all tropes that different players will react to in different ways. That is why when dealing with any new group you MUST have a session zero to make sure you have player buy in. That’s the key.

    Player reactions to a character undergoing a mind control incident will range from “That takes away all my agency and makes me really uncomfortable” to “I love playing mind controlled heroes! I love having my eyes change color and betraying all my friends, as it stretches my acting chops, and is just one of my favorite tropes.”

    The same goes for the game master, and what they are comfortable running.

    There has been a necessary movement in gaming towards listing tropes at the outset of a game and getting consent, as well as players and GM’s having the express right to drop an x card if the game is going in a direction they are uncomfortable with. Every group is going to have different dynamics, and you need to know what those are to run a game successfully.

  3. J.A. Maysonett Mar 15, 2022

    Random question: did I hear you guys thank Junot Diaz, the author, on this episode for joining your patreon? Maybe it’s just an alias, or another Junot Diaz, but his novel “The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,” while it’s mostly about the US immigrant experience, includes some very knowing touches about obscure 1980s FGU roleplaying games. I’d like to think you’ve got a Pulitzer Prize winning author listening in.

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