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glarkhag

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This post is about the communication skill Act. We could be lovies and debate what acting actually is but I don’t have the stomach for that. I’m going to give a simple definition and one that steers away from acting as art (although art is unfortunately the next cab off the ranks in communication skills!).

Pretending.  Pretending to be something you are not. It can be pretending to be a specific person or just a different persona or in a different mental or emotional state.  Pretending to be a noble when you are common born. Pretending to be happy to see someone. Pretending to be sad about the death of your father. Pretending to be a profession you are not (augmented by professional skills). Pretending to believe something you don’t. Pretending you belong somewhere.  Pretending you are surprised when you knew all along.

Acting is a form of lying but more on lying later.

I would generally include voice mimicry (including accents) in this to avoid skill sprawl but I can absolutely see that you can be a great actor and hopeless at accents and imitation. So, if the nuance is important in your campaign split them out.

Acting can include picking up mannerisms, posture and ways of moving. This could be useful for cutting a believable figure when observed from afar, opposed against Scan for example.  It doesn’t need a full disguise attempt at distance but walking believably like someone of the opposite sex or someone of noble bearing is a part of the acting skill.

Augmentations

Act can be used to augment other communication skills, notably disguise but other opportunities exist. Acting can augment story telling (for which I use Orate or just Speak Language) but it should also augment other communication if the act is integral to the success of the venture. Pretending you are sad and contrite to convince your parents not to sever you from the family inheritance for example.

Speak Language might be a forced augmentation – trying to act like someone who has a significantly better understanding of vocabulary and grammar would be hard. Passing yourself off as Esrolian is going to be much easier if you can speak the language well. Oppose it against the language of the audience.

Skills relevant to a persona being acted out could be used. Being knowledgeable in farming would make you a more credible farm-hand - occasionally technical advisers on films end up as the roles they were advising on. Acting skill is still needed even if you are what you are pretending to be. I’ve seen people play themselves in films quite woodenly. Dropping or masking the self-consciousness and scripted nature of it all is part of acting skill. This is also at the heart of pretending to belong somewhere. If you walk into an office you are unfamiliar with and hesitate and dither you will stand out as someone who doesn’t belong there and attract attention. Acting natural takes skill and practice.

You might also use acting to put your opponents off-guard in their actions. Pretending you are mad to flush out villainous murderers, perhaps (see below on Hamlet...).

Act could be combined with Fast Talk to handle improv.

You could argue for Insight Species being both a skill to be augmented by acting or to augment acting.  An actor might be considered more astute at reading people. A sharp psychologist a better actor.

Equally Insight would be an opposing skill against acting on the emotional layer. Scan or search for physical movement. Listen for tone of voice, accent etc.

Illusion and Earth seem the most likely runes to inspire acting. Truth and Fire for opposing. However, I am sure creative players will find or engineer situations that suit their favoured runes and passions!

Sample Modifiers:

Give the audience a score for their familiarity with the person or persona and use this as an opposing roll for the Act. Alternatively, give a flat modifier – say -75% for someone very familiar to +75% for someone completely ignorant.

The longer you can be studied the easier it will be to see through the act. Duration of the act:  2-5 hours (-10%); 5+ hours (-25%).  If extending into days then make one roll per day with an ever increasing chance of being found out basically. Now, with this method it would be very unlikely to succeed at pulling off the act for a whole year. A fumble would be inevitable. People have been undercover for longer periods than that. If playing out that length of timeline then make the roll every week or even every season. If you’re not opposing the roll then a failed act still needs to be perceived and an appropriate perception roll needs to be successful to catch them out.  Whether you allow passive perception rolls is a matter for you as GM. I’ll save that debate for a later post.

Critical and special successes could negate the need for rolls for an extended period of time.

If the target/audience has their perception abilities limited in some way the actor should get some benefit.  Distance, clarity of view/sound (smoke, darkness, shimmering mirage, background noise). Distractions also will serve to reduce their perception skills.  Give anything from +5 to +50.  Beyond +50 and your probably talking about situations where perception is so limited that the acting will be all but lost on the audience!

Fooling someone’s spouse at close quarters would be Heroic, without some sort of magical support (think Uther and Igraine). Over a long period of time you’d have to be a God to maintain the deception.

Lying.

Now Acting is all about lying in many ways and as such I would use it as a skill or augmenting skill in relation to lying in certain circumstances. I think it is perfectly valid to just bundle the ability to lie into whatever communication method the character is using to convey the lie.  Bullshitting off the cuff? Fast talk. There is no need to muddy the waters with an augment. However, a gifted actor with a skill at talking fast is, in my book, more likely to get away with it. So, I would allow the augment. Equally, if the character is lying during a debate, it could for simplicity’s sake just be an orate roll.  However, a gifted actor might just sustain a supporting lie through that debate more convincingly. Barristers in the UK are sometimes given acting classes to supplement their debating skills.  Arguably the acting classes are just improving their orate skill. You choose. As I have said before though, I like the nudge to the richness of narrative that comes from blending skills with interaction or augmentation. I’ve watched barristers “innocently” needle and rile up the accused in court to demonstrate a point. Clearly not very good at acting though because the defence counsel also saw through it. The judge made no comment. No comment.

Adventure seeds:

We’ve all read or seen countless tales (truth and fiction) of people posing as something they are not (nobility, doctors, CEOs, pilots, long lost sons and daughters, criminals, heirs to the throne….) to facilitate some sort of advantage. Peter Sellers allegedly attended an audition for a part as an old man dressed and in character as an old man having failed to get the part when auditioning as himself.

Hamlet is a great example for introducing acting into an adventure.  Not only does Hamlet act mad (or does he?) but he also uses actors in a play to try to get villains to give themselves away. 

Assassins might be out to get an important hero in the community and she needs doubles to throw them off the scent or flush them out.

A spy could be sent to infiltrate a household, clan or tribe or temple. One fumbled acting roll and you’ll be sleeping with the fishes.

Being in a troupe of actors is a great cover for travelling the world and getting into noble courts and other hotbeds of intrigue.

Acting impressively in mythological plays may just bring you in contact, albeit only tenuously, with the hero plane…

Hopefully this will trigger your own creative juices in making the most of a fun skill that need not be limited to just entertainers and con artists.

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We recently used Acting for a diversion, semi-con artist "Leverage / White Collar" style, to attract guards' attentions while other party members sneaked into their warehouse.  We made up a simple scene and some lines.  The GM gave us a bonus for that, plus we added augments from either Fast Talk or Charm (player's choice, my character is rather Charming).  Good point about Illusion, perhaps I should have tried that, though the Charm roll worked frin. 

It was fun, and worked for a while, till it fell apart...  (Most of our characters are base percentage at Acting)

The scene was that Robbie had knocked up Lagertha, and Holly (a Babeester Gor) wanted him to do the "right thing" and stay by "his" woman. The shouts and curses didn't use their actual names.  Some examples:

"You got us lost again.  You men never ask for directions!"
"How do I know the kid is even mine, you tramp?"
"Well, if you could keep it up longer than 30 seconds I wouldn't have to find other men!"
"You can't just use and abandon her!"

Full episode at http://gloranthagame.pbworks.com/w/page/156263892/Sea Season 1628 Session 11

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23 hours ago, Rodney Dangerduck said:

We recently used Acting for a diversion, semi-con artist "Leverage / White Collar" style, to attract guards' attentions while other party members....

 

Yes, classic example!

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