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I have a story involving a town in the late 90s where vampires, among other mythical humanoids, openly live amongst humans. These vampires are the friendly, pro-human sort, and thus they have a lot of rules in place to prevent vampires from abusing their inherent position of power over their human neighbors. One specific rule is in regards to vampires' ability to control minds.

All vampires have the power to send humans into a dazed, sleepy state in which they won't consciously remember anything or feel pain for a few minutes, and this is how they secure blood when they don't have willing donors. However, more powerful vampires have the ability to outright control minds, giving humans orders they have to follow, making them truthfully answer any question, and making them accept anything the vampire says as an objective fact. Skilled vampires can deliver pretty intricate instructions that can even alter a human's personality or perception entirely.

This is obviously absurdly open to abuse to commit some grotesque crimes (not to mention turn any human into a potential unwilling mole for enemy clans of vampires and the like), so the town has a countermeasure set up: they figured out a few centuries ago that strongly pushing a certain pressure point on a human's back while they're in a trance will not only snap them out of that trance, but undo all mind control any vampire has applied to them and make them suddenly remember everything that happened to them while in a trance, including what the vampire told them to do.

So every week, a group of vampires checks in with every human in town, applies that pressure point, and sees if any vampire has been abusing their powers on unconsenting humans. If the human discovers in the process that they have in fact been controlled in any way without their knowledge (there are humans who willingly go under mind control for therapeutic or recreational purposes), they can then say so, and the group doing the check will put them under a trance to make sure they're telling the truth, and if so, severely punish the vampire in question.

Sounds good, except I discovered a pretty serious flaw with this system that I decided we're going to see in action as a plot point: this only works if the human is still alive to rat the vampire out at the end of the week. Meaning it's countered by, and in fact encourages, the murder of mind-controlled victims, either right after the fact, or with for example a hypnotic command to commit suicide at the end of the week.

After the latter happens, obviously the vampires are going to decide they need a better system. But I'm having trouble thinking of one that wouldn't be a massive nuisance or invasion of privacy for the humans of the town.

How can my vampire town most effectively discover, punish, and prevent abuse of their mind control powers on humans, all while respecting human rights as much as they can in the process?

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  • $\begingroup$ Make it harder for the human to dob in whoever did it. $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Sep 10 '21 at 11:50
  • $\begingroup$ You say "plot hole" and I say "the whole premise of the story". Use that, go with it. Policy in any government system is often a source of perverse incentives. And this one is interesting. $\endgroup$
    – John O
    Sep 10 '21 at 21:50
  • $\begingroup$ @JohnO I actually never said it was a plothole, I said it was something I planned to use as part of the story. But afterwards they're obviously gonna feel like they'll need a better system. $\endgroup$ Sep 10 '21 at 21:54
  • $\begingroup$ @JohnO I thought this is worldbuilding? Why ask someone to change the story they're building the world for instead of helping them with the world? $\endgroup$
    – Henry Shao
    Sep 11 '21 at 0:39
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You could add a physical tell detectable in an autopsy

Specifically, when someone is mind controlled, their brain is put under "tension" because it is forced to be in a state it would not naturally be in. This is why the pressure point on the back works--by pressing it, blood flow is altered in the body, which gently releases the internal strain built up by being mind-controlled similar to how massages or physical therapy can work out cramped or strained muscles.

If, however, a human dies while mind-controlled and in a state of "tension", this tension is all released instantaneously on death resulting in obvious symptoms like bleeding facial orifices, burst eyes, popped blood vessels, etc. Basically, the tells are obvious enough that a "suicide" is instantly recognizable as a mind-control assisted homicide if the symptoms are present on the corpse. This makes it so that it becomes essentially impossible to fake a suicide, because anything extreme enough to hide these obvious signs would already be suspicious as hell (eg. jumping head-first into a wood chipper would work to hide the symptoms, but quite obviously still be a homicide in a world where mind-control is on the table).

It could also explain why some vampires are better at others at mind control: practicing exactly how to "tension" a human brain is difficult and precise work which requires a lot of practice. Improperly done it can be fatal, and the more complex, the more "strain" the brain is placed under. This is also why victims of vampires who aren't good at mind control or victims who are under mind-control for a prolonged period go slightly mad.

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  • $\begingroup$ That's an interesting concept! One potential issue I have with it, however, is that would mean that whenever anyone not in on the secret who was "gazed" to forget seeing something they weren't supposed to (IE evidence of the existence of vampires) later died, they'd still have those same very visible and creepy symptoms, meaning this would be a well-known phenomenon among the mundane human world that scientists would be at a loss, and on high alert, to explain. If I could address that, or somehow use it to my advantage, that would be cool... $\endgroup$ Sep 11 '21 at 13:44
  • $\begingroup$ @CyrusDrake Hmm, maybe this tension naturally releases over time as the person's brain integrates the "gazed" information and comes to accept it naturally. Small edits, like "you didn't see anything unusual here" become normalized and impossible to revert within a month or two. This makes sense, because people are just forgetful--I can't remember what I was doing day-to-day a year ago without looking at documentation just like I can't remember what my neighbor was wearing two weeks ago. Ask me if I thought my neighbors teeth were particularly fang-like at the barbecue last month? No clue here. $\endgroup$
    – Dragongeek
    Sep 11 '21 at 14:00
  • $\begingroup$ @CyrusDrake cont' This would make it so that when people die of natural causes, they are unlikely to show symptoms provided they've only been "gazed" a tiny bit over the course of their lives. Additionally, people who are "in the know" might work at nursing homes and with the elderly to press those pressure points and release any lingering mind control. This would get rid of any weird death symptoms, and if an extremely senile person starts ranting about vampires... well, not many people are likely to listen to them. $\endgroup$
    – Dragongeek
    Sep 11 '21 at 14:04
  • $\begingroup$ @CyrusDrake cont' In the case where someone who's been heavily mind-whammied, their death would warrant intervention by the people in-the-know anyways, and since they presumably have people who work in morgues and as medical investigator or police, covering up and investigating these rare cases is easily possible. $\endgroup$
    – Dragongeek
    Sep 11 '21 at 14:04
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Stories are built on weaknesses and flaws

First, I must say: do not solve a problem unless you absolutely must. On the contrary, stories are built on flaws. If you have no problems, and everything instead works perfectly, then you have no story. First rule of story-writing: you must have a hardship, a problem, a challenge for your protagonists to work against, or you have no story.

So this "problem" that you describe, instead sounds like a rich and plentiful tap for you to pour stories from! It is grade A plot hook material.

Yes, is a great enabler of abuse, but all you need to do to "solve" that is to make the vampires more noble than humans, and then you are sorted.

"But power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, and all that, right?"

No, that is a psuedo-profundity that people use when they do not want to deal with the real world, human version of The Problem Of Evil: why do people do bad things when no-one actually wants to be a bad guy? This is a hard question to answer, so people say: "Oh they just got too much power and... well, there's your explanation right there".

But in reality, it is much more complex than that. The opportunity to be immoral is not enough. To be immoral, any social/sentient being has to have an incentive that overcomes the empathy and compassion we are all born with. The creature has to rationalize breaking the ethics and morals it lives under.

So, in your fictional world, you can "fix" the Problem of Evil by simply removing the biggest incentive to commit crime: austerity. If your vampire creatures have all basic needs met, then they simply do not need to commit crime. Anyone that still does it must be severely flawed, i.e. a psychopath or a pathological sadist.


"Fine, but I still want them to try to improve the system"

Simple, this pressure point thing, couple that with a hypnotic command that provides a massive reward for the human receiving it, such as great relaxation, a boost to their alertness equivalent of not having to drink coffee for a week, or — if you dare delve into adult themes — a good boost to libido or even unintentional climaxes.

After that, simply start giving courses in this awesome new wellness massage technique, one that includes working this pressure point. Soon enough, humans themselves will be using it, making YouTube videos about it, writing magazine articles about it. It will be the new ASMR-like craze. No-one will know how it works but — by Jove — it sure as hell does work!

This by itself will give you all sorts of plot hooks to work from.


So, how can this system be improved?

  1. Preferably not too much, because as the author you want to use it as a plot device.
  2. Make massage of this pressure point beneficial, and then create a fad for it.

Best of luck!

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Changong the human culture to press the point for you

Humans are social being with many strange social behaviors. There's many levels of groups, subgroups and metagroups that have internal and external typical behaviours. It can be incredibly mundane, like drinking coffee in the morning, or whether drinking alcohol makes people more promiscuous (fun fact! A study found this was a cultural thing and not directly related to alcohol.), hairstyles, architecture, greeting methods, whether you take a water bottle when going outdoors and so, so much more.

As your vampires basically can control media, politics and even imprint some of the popular kids in weird groups, you can tack on many cultural ways of interacting. To make it simple: people can be trained to every day press that 'button' for you. This way you reduce the amount of people under long term influence by a huge margin. They don't need to know what it's for or how it works. If as part of a 'ritual', like greeting or simoly arriving home they press this area, any control is removed.

Next you can have them contact a hotline if they had any strange dreams or whatever. With enough training, no one would even question it. The vampire authorities can come round and question them about it. Find offending vampire. Sort it all out.

In short: people remove any effects for you on a possibly multiple times per day basis. The moment something is wrong the vampire authorities are contacted to rectify any bad things.

You might think the vampires would then just shorten the control time. Control until someone tries to 'reset' them. They try to avoid and suicide if failimg. But this makes the usability of each person much shorter, as well as the distance to the vampire. It'll become much easier to track someone down the shorter ago the control was.

It never will be foolproof. But currently (Western) society isn't foolproof to prevent murder for example. We do our best to reduce the chance and serve swift justice if it does happen.

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