The Persuasion Spell

So, I had a question concerning the Persuasion Spell. I’ve seen in other threads it being discusses and compared with the ‘these are not the droids you’re looking for’ type of ability.

Im looking though for some additional insight on how its used, as I have a sorceress coming up shortly, in a new game.

Previously I used the spell to convince a player’s character to do some pretty horrible things, and Im not quite sure if I was using it appropriately. The player had infiltrated a secret cabal and had actually changed some of his beliefs to start to have his character follow the new ideals and beliefs of this sorcerer.

So, I had the sorcerer ‘test’ him. To see how truthful he was, to see how much he meant what he said about his new ideals. I honestly thought i was challenging the new beliefs of the player. It was something like: “I have waited for too long seeing the persecution of my people; I will follow the Caiaphas [sorcerer] so that the Shua may rise again.” I told myself to push him and really push to see how far he’d go.

So the player was led into the main temple where the cabal was gathered, dancing and ceremonially garbed. The Caiaphas [sorcerer] was there waiting for the player’s character. In the center of the temple was a great pyre built up, and a man tied to it. This man was a ‘persecutor’ of the player character’s, but also a friend and relationship to one of the other players at the table.

Basically the situation boiled down to the Caiaphas testing this man (the player - who had once been his enemy)to see where his loyalty lied. The Caiaphas simply asked him to set fire to the pyre and tied man, alive.
The player paused, sweat literally dropped from his brow. And his will faltered. He couldnt do it. His head held low, and his torch arm dropped.

So this is when it happened. “I can see the trouble in your eyes Gershan.” the Caiaphas said. “I know what I ask is so small matter. But this man before you is a sinner, doomed to the pits of hell for all eternity. All I ask of you Gershan is to free his soul from that torment, let the fires cleanse him so that he may enter the gates of heaven.”

I then rolled for the Persuasion Spell. Sorcery automatically explodes. I ended up with 8 successes.

I felt dirty. Like I had cheated as the NPC burnt to death. I really feel like I did this wrong.

Whats your input?

Well, if the player got a Fate point in the deal, so far so good.
I see nothing wrong with following up a loyalty test with ahem loyalty enforcement. Kinda common Evil Trope, actually.

More importantly: Did it advance the story in interesting ways; and did the player enjoy the twist?

From the Persuasion spell description from BWG

Using Persuasion, a sorcerer may offer a suggestion to his target. It must be a minor request or suggestion and seemingly normal or mundane; the sorcerer may not command his target to do anything.

I would argue that forcing a player to act against their beliefs would not qualify as a minor suggestion. However, a suitibly clever player could get around this rule by, for example, suggesting that the target merely drop the torch at a specific location; i.e., don’t tell the target to burn a man alive, tell them to move the torch to a location where it will just happen to ignite the pyre. As I’d be inclined to let the players circumvent the description in such a clever manner, I also have to allow the villians to do the same.

I would also, generally speaking, be wary about just killing off Relationships. Relationships are supposed to be safe from the GM; the players are supposed to always (within reason) be able to call on them - that’s why they spent the points in the first place. I would only put a Relationship in danger if their player has a Belief written about them, or if, due to the consequences of their actions and established details about the relationship, they would reasonably be in danger (e.g., the players actions cause a riot in a town where one of their Relationships live). Even then, I would only kill the relationship if the players tried to save the Relationship but failed (and failure reasonably meant death). If the players did not have the opportunity to help - or they decided against it - the Relationship lives. Maybe they’re hurt, or lose influence, or even harbor resentment towards the players, but they still live. In your story, if the Caiaphas got a hold of the relationship off-screen (i.e., not as a result of the player’s actions), and nobody had a belief about them, then killing off the Relationship is a bit unfair to the player who paid for the relationship, especially if they did not have the opportunity to intervene.

Ultimately, however, David Artman has the right idea: if it advanced the story, and all relevant players were happy with the outcome, then pretty much by definition you did nothing wrong.

Relationships are supposed to be safe from the GM
No! Nothing is safe. I’ll agree that you should be considerate before you injure, kidnap, or murder a relationship NPC, but they aren’t safe, anymore than your armor is safe from breaking, or your shoes are safe from getting lost in a muddy mire as a result of a failed Test.

That would all fall under the “consequences of your actions” umbrella. There’s a reason why the GM is supposed to announce the consequences of failure before a roll – the players get to decide: is it worth the risk? Trekking through the mire is the fastest way to the capitol, but is it worth the risk of losing my shoes? inciting a riot might be great cover to steal the crown jewels, but if I lose control of the mob, then innocents (i.e., Relationships of mine) might get hurt/killed, and my friends (i.e., Relationships) may no longer trust me. This is the cost of failure, however; not the cost of “the GM thought that your relationship was annoying” or “the GM thought your armor was too OP”. As a player, my stuff is mine; if the GM wants to take it away, I better damn well get to make a test to keep it (and I’d call the GM on their bullshit if they kept throwing tests at me with the same failure consequence).

And still, I’d never kill a relationship on the first failed roll. In my mind, the first failure puts the Relationship in harm’s way. The second failure is what kills them. If the player has a belief about saving or protecting their relationship, then all bets are off: by writing that belief, the player has given me permission to put their Relationship in harms way at any and every opportunity. But if there’s no belief about the relationship, and the player didn’t bring them into the situation, then why are they in harm’s way in the first place? It has to be the players’ failure that sets these stakes, not GM fiat.

Sorry about the rant.

I have objections, but let’s move that to a different thread, if that’s okay. I don’t want to derail the OP, but I think this is a good topic.

The biggest problem is that the spell completely short-circuited the point of BW. The player didn’t get to make any decision about Beliefs or relationships. No persona for embodiment, no moldbreaker, nothing, because you took choice away from the player by mind-controlling the character.

This is much the same reason that I (although not the majority of BW players, I think) never use social rolls against characters. The Persuasion spell is actually fine because it specifies that actions must be minor and mundane. Persuading (with the skill) a player character to take a major course of action is not at all okay. That decision belongs to the player, not the dice, at my table.

There’s no symmetry between PCs and NPCs. Players can use their characters’ persuasive skills to make NPCs do major, important stuff because all NPCs are peanuts compared to the PCs.

I read Persuasion very differently. You can’t get around the requirement by making the request something that could be mundane under different circumstances. You can ask someone to park a cart somewhere, but not on top of someone. This is not some kind of super-hypnotism. It does not inflict idiocy or ignorance. If a character would notice that putting a torch somewhere would cause death, the spell can’t make that character a murderer.

What you’re saying makes sense; but I think I might at least allow the players to make a Falsehood roll in order to trick the victim into doing something that they otherwise wouldn’t do, provided that the players could come up with a reasonable explanation for how the trickery worked (i.e., build a Rube Goldberg machine that’s too complicated for the victim to figure out).

“Would you mind doing this for me?”
“Sure, why not?”

If that exchange doesn’t work for Persuasion, it’s probably not a fair use of Persuasion. This is for asking people to do things that basically aren’t even inconvenienced beyond what an ordinary, reasonable person might do for a stranger on the spur of the moment. The difference is that the spell makes it so the target will do that innocuous thing.

Sure, you could trick someone into doing something that seems minor and harmless even though it’s not, as long as the character doesn’t realize it, but that requires a hefty setup for little benefit besides cartoon villainy. “Ha ha ha, you thought you just put your knapsack down on that chair, but actually it added just enough wait to trigger the mechanism released the blade to decapitate your nephew!”

You definitely can’t set it up with Falsehood, but for an unrelated reason: if you’re using Falsehood to convince someone that something is safe and innocuous, the intent’s really to get them to do that thing. So they do, in fact, do it, maybe with the spell as a Say Yes flavoring. Otherwise it’s two rolls to get someone to do one thing for you. That’s how I assess the matter, anyway.

As the others have stated, what you did was in the realm of the spell Force of Will, not Persuasion.

Thanks everyone for the answers. I do feel I understand it more clearly now. And I agree, I was a little ‘off base’ with the use of it.