Since we made the transition to the new system, I have been facinated by the apparent backlash I've seen to the Toreador Merit Absent Sway. Just to make sure we all know what we are talking about:
It is interesting to me because it seems to be almost universally reviled. Some of the reactions made sense to me; Mike LG reacted strongly due to a personal character history of having his emotions messed with, as an example. Some of them just seemed like they were just joining on the hate bandwagon.Absent Sway (3 point merit)
Whether you dance, paint, sing, or practice any type of art, your work invokes true emotion. When you create art or undertake a performance, you can choose one appropriate emotion or state of thought to be reflected in that endeavour. Anyone viewing the art or observing the performance feels that emotion. If an individual wishes to take an action that runs contrary to the chosen emotion, such as attacking someone in the presence of a painting that invokes calm, she may spend 1 Willpower. If she does so, she ignores all Absent Sway effects for the next hour.
The effects of Absent Sway are passive, not aggressive, and encourage observers to feel emotion or enter a certain state of mind. The emotion encouraged by the art is felt by the victim, but Absent Sway does not force the victim to act in any specific manner. You might paint a picture that provokes viewers to feel the emotion “anger.” The manner in which the individual responds to feeling anger is up to the player of that character. However, if the character wishes to act in some manner that is diametrically opposed or contradictory to the emotion encouraged by the Absent Sway, she must spend 1 Willpower. For example, if she was in the presence of the painting that evoked “anger,” she would not have to punch the person beside her, but she would be forced to spend a point of Willpower if she wanted to start peace negotiations, or announce she has forgiven her enemies for their past slights.
Absent Sway cannot affect individuals in combat and has no effect once combat starts, but the power can make it difficult for characters to start combat in the first place. Absent Sway only functions when placed on art that is of significant size or easy to observe. Only characters who can plainly see the art or performance are affected by Absent Sway.
A character does not have to spend a point of Willpower to overcome Absent Sway if acting upon the emotion caused by the art would cause the character harm or prevent the character from acting in self-preservation.
BAM ADDENDUM: Anyone with the merit can choose to include or not include the merit in an artistic piece at the beginning of the piece for free.
For performance pieces, IF they choose to include it and later during the performance wish to reverse that decision, they can by spending 1 Willpower. They cannot choose to go the other way. (Start the piece without it, and include it later.)
For Static pieces (a painting for example), it is a binary decision. It is either on or off, as chosen when the piece is crafted.
I'd like to see this trend reversed, but I am not sure how to do it. I mean, to start with - this is a 3 point Merit. It's a significant investment in Merit points and I'd like to see that that makes sense as a player choice.
But also, I think that (since this is new to us as players) we've all played it a little too blatantly. I think Absent Sway should be much more subtle than people are playing it right now. It is NOT presence; it's far more subtle than that. I do not think the intention was that it was a binary "if you view this art, you immediately feel this way" type of thing... more like "as you look at this art, the more you do, the more your emotions begin to align in this way." For example, you could walk through the room with the Statue!Jackson (Thanks Justin!) and not especially notice any change in emotion. However, if you were in the room for a little while, or especially if you viewed the statue, the Absent Sway would start to affect you. As a rule of thumb, I'd say something like 'a few minutes' with the art would cause the effect.
You could not, as an example, wear a T-Shirt that was made with the Absent Sway effect of "Peaceful" and simply cause anyone who wants to start a fight with you to have to spend willpower before ever getting a chance to get a punch off.
Characters should NOT generally be able to tell if a given piece of art has Absent Sway, unless they are either versed in the power itself, have an appropriate lore, or spend a good deal of time and repeated experiences with the art. I for one will certainly be playing most of my NPCs blind to absent sway from now on. (Victor Treabelle being the exception - he DOES have the lores appropriate.)
One other point I want to make: I know that some folks have agitated on if Absent Sway breaks the rules of Elysium. While that is certainly a point to be made in character, from my personal perspective, the answer is no. This Domain (and this game) has a long tradition of magical art in Elysia - some of which affected the user, some of which were things like soul paintings.
What do you think?