Adventure Hook: The Mental Seal

I’ve been reading through Liu Cixin’s “The Dark Forest” this week and one of the concepts in the book is a device called a “mental seal.” It seems realtively spoiler-free to talk about the device (and if it’s not, I don’t realize it because I’m only about 2/3 of the way through!). The mental seal is a device that allows the user to take any phrase or proposition and have it so firmly implanted in their own mind that are unable to view the proposition as false – even with evidence to the contrary. In fact, forcing one into contrary evidence creates physical distress and existential crisis.

I don’t want to talk any more about the concept within the book for fear of entering spoiler territory, but the idea caused me to think of a few game prompts that I wanted to get down! For me, these prompts are really flexible and could easily be used in either a sci-fi or fantasy game given how fantastical the concept is (even though the book roots it in mid-hard sci-fi territory). On to the ideas!

  • Forced Religious Conversion – This was the first idead that popped into my head: what would happen if a religious cult got hold of such a technology and used it to force belief in their diety. The seal only works on basic concepts, so they can’t force adherence to their system of belief, but those subjected to it have an absolute belief in their diety (presumably a favorable belief). This can go in lots of directions: maybe the cult ends up becoming a fring sect of the belief they were propagating, perhaps a lack of belief becomes a criminal offense, etc
  • Fanatical Soldiers – Being able to convince soldiers of the absolute virtue of their cause would absolutely improve their dedication to the cause and the lengths they might go to in order to accomplish a mission. Maybe the seal is only used on the most elite troops, creating an elite and fanatical force. Conversely, it could be used on convicts or rebels to create fantatical, but more expendable troops!
  • New Friends – But it doesn’t have to be such an overt belief. What if a rogue power used the seal to begin instilling a belief that they are benign and friendly? This is a more insidious approach that works well in democratic societies as the impacted populace takes umbrage at antagonism towards the “peaceful state.” Such an effect doesn’t even have to be so widespread! You could take this idea and apply it to create your own, more subtle version of the “Manchurian Candidate”!

These are just a few ideas that I came up with pretty quickly and it’s far from exhausive. The “Remembrance of Earth’s Past” trilogy has been a great read so far and is worth your time (not just for the great plot ideas!).

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