Piercing gaze: intent of virtue

Firstly our TT group resolved the disagreement but I found it to be interesting enough to put up here to see what others think.

Scene: Proximios ex Mercere and prob next Logothete of Theban tribunal and infernal agent, is being asked for help by our characters, one of which is a Mercere magi. The Mercere magus has the Virtue Pierving gaze and was attempting to hold back information from Proximios, not because he even suspects Proximios is infernal. The Mercere is somewhat resentful of those in power, though he remains respectful of their role in the Order, however it doesn't stop him from shaving the truth.

So he purposely tries to pretend as though he does not possess a certain message from a enemy magus, which Proximios is asking to be handed over. Now as the players know, Proximios is asking this with the intent to turn it over to the Quaesitors in their investigation of the enemy magus' crime. The Mercere magus wants to keep the message so that he can take it to the ghosts of dead magi, killed by the enemy magus.

Conflicts about right and wrong and the law was very well and quite entertainingly played out.

Here are the questions: Would his Virtue Piercing Gaze be active at all times and such is a passive advantage; anytime he stares into the eyes of someone they feel it's effect? Or will this Virtue only be applied if the subject is trying to actively deceive or lie to the person with the Virtue?

I reasoned that while Proximios may not even have intentions of his own to use the message in any infernal nefarious way, he was simply following the regulations set by the Mercere house as a whole, and even though he was telling no lies at all, I said that he still must roll to not feel nervous when the Mercere magus stares at him.

The virtue states "By staring intently at people you make them feel uneasy, as if you are peering into their souls. Those with ulterior motives, uneasy consciences, or lying tongues must make rolls against an appropriate Pers trait, Guile, or whatever the SG deems apropro, to remain calm." ect ect.

I believe that Proximios was required to make the roll to simply not feel somewhat agitated or fearful that the Mercere magus might be hiding information from Proximios because he suspects Proximios is infernal. I mean that is a HUGE secrets to have within the Order of Hermes and I think something subject to the terms ulterior motives (why he wants the message) or uneasy conscience (yeah he may wholly be evil and infernal and likes it, but there must be some guilt or worry of being caught right?)

What say you?

PS. There was some initial confusion among players that I as the Mercere, was trying to use the Virtue Piercing Gaze to offset me lying to Proximios or somehow using it that way. It was finally explained that I had no interest at all in stopping him from figuring out I was lying, or even trying to make him afraid of asking for the message, however I did want him to be at risk of showing his hand when he might be doing something for the infernal.

I thought since he had something to hide then he should have to be at risk of exposing that when he begins acting in his own interests.

I reasoned that the character has no idea that they have a Virtue called Piercing Gaze, they may not even be aware that people always seem to be somewhat uneasy around them. I think they simply have the virtue by reason of how they look, the intensity of their eyes, and the overwhelming power of the personality. As I said I think Piercing Gaze is passive and something that OTHERS have to defend against, not something that the character must use.

He has ulterior motives. He feels uneasy. Nowhere does it say that the ulterior motives should apply to the situation at hand. And man, if that guy is an infernalist in your saga he DOES have something to feel uneasy about!!

In general, piercing gaze is quite good atr making people feel uneasy, since most people have SOMETHING to hide. In this case is the size of a whale in a small pond.


To me, "staring intently" means "staring with intent", which sounds like an active power rather than a passive effect.

Ah, yes. You need to be actively staring at the other guy for the power to work. You can still make them uncomfortable when talking lightly, but the power needs you looking at them with intensity to work.

In this case it seems he was staring, though

I am not sure it is a "power" though. There are people I know now who can stare at me and make me feel uneasy and I am not even sure I am a infernalist or not. :laughing:

But gerg I can't believe it is "active" except for maybe the act of staring intently. It is always on, even your loved ones are under your stare. There is no roll to make with Piercing Gaze, so it is not something you use, so I called it passive. But yeah you totally have to be staring with some emotional intent for it to have full effect.

Thanks Xavi! And meeting Proximios was such a random story element so we weren't fully prepared for the consequences of meeting him. :laughing: However we had great fun and now our covenant is on his outer radar! Yikes!

The text of the virtue says: "By staring intently at people you make them feel uneasy, as if you are peering into their souls."

By my reading, staring intently is an active action. It is different from just looking at someone. I've actually done this in real life (the folks at that branch of the bank were always very polite to me after that conversation).

Having been raised by a parent who likely has this virtue, I'll offer my 2 shillings.

The ability can be used in a manner akin to an intimidation check, as an active ability. In this manner the user is deliberately applying their will through their gaze to scrutinize the other person. In this manner it certainly applies as an active "on-use" ability.

Also there will be times when the person with the virtue should have the gaze applied even if they are trying to hold their gaze in check. The gaze is a natural part of their personality/will, and in stressful times is very likely to be applied to anyone who is interacted with. Thus it is not quite an "always on, passive" ability, but one which the character cannot turn off in stressful circumstances without concentrating.

So in the tense conversation in the OP, yes I'd rule it applied.

Yes, for the most part what I was arguing was confirmed by most of the posts.

To be clear for myself, Piercing Gaze is not a ability that you must concentrate to use or "turn on" to use, the only action required is that you stare at someone, and not even their eyes, just stare at them. Not a glance or even a scanning of a group, although you could maybe argue that with a successful Presence + Intimidation roll which you get the +3 bonus, one could argue that it would make the person you are looking for "rabbit" if they A. know you are looking for them and see you do it, and B. if they fail a Personality check.

Today in a one on one TT session, my Mercere used it on his children!!! :laughing: Boy did it straighten up those kids.

But I agree and I think ironBT made a point and worded it best, in stressful situations you can't turn the virtue on and off. I feel it is always on, though you can at times simply not be so intense in your body language to make it work. But I would think even when approaching say a clerk to buy a onion, if you are staring at him smiling or frowning, he will feel unease if he is being anything less than honest.

Ah well, thanks for some many replies

I think "staring at people" means you remind your SG your character has this ability.

This is were I don't quite agree with you. Just interacting with a clerk isn't enough IMO. You have to stare at him. Most people don't stare when they interact with someone. In fact, most people barely look at someone when interacting with them. You glance at them, the things around you, the other people. You look up in the air, down at your feet, at the thing in your hand. You very rarely fix your gaze on someone and keep it there. Staring at someone is different from a normal interaction.

That too... and yes please. Try as I might, I can rarely remember all of the various virtues, flaws and abilities of every character in my saga. "I stare at him intently... remember I have Piercing Gaze." Is a very helpful (and often heard) phrase at my gaming table (Canon Leofric with his +4 Presence, Piercing Gaze and reputation as a brutal hired killer).

We are not in disagreement, I also require the character to stare to use the Virtue. What I was saying with the sentence was that, even if it is a total stranger which you have no reason at all to think they are not true to their word, " if you are staring at him smiling or frowning", then if he has anything to hide, and fails his Personality roll then he will act nervous.

On a side note, if the total stranger murdered his brother to get the onion selling business, and thinks about that often, EVEN if my character has never been in this small town before and would have no possible way of knowing this stranger killed his brother, then would a moment of staring at this stranger by the character with the Virtue, upon failing the roll, cause the stranger to feel discomfort?

Yeah Piercing Gaze is quite useful against the weak-willed.