Yep, it is Tuesday again, and that means a new installment of Crime 101. This week, partially due to time constraints, and partially due to the fact that it has been on my mind a lot, I want to look deeper into extortion. Specifically, I want to look into a type of extortion, how it works, and all that fun stuff. On Thursday, I'll go over what you need in your game for Blackmail to work. For now though, let's take a look at just what goes into Blackmail.
A Form of Extortion
Right off the bat, let's get down to the basics. Blackmail is a form of extortion, which means that it works how I detailed in the post I put up on Tuesday of last week. So, take a moment and click right here, read the post, and then come back. Don't worry, we're not going to do anything while you're gone.
So, where is the hostage?
Like with all forms of Extortion, there has to be a hostage. Blackmail is no different here, only the hostage is a bit unique. See, with Blackmail you're not taking a person or physical object person. No, instead you are taking one of the few things that are truly important to the rich and powerful. You take their reputation hostage. You get information, and you get proof that you have information, that will ruin their public image. If they're a family man, or a politician running on a "family values" platform, then if you can get proof that they're currently having an affair, you have them. For someone with a strong anti-drug stance, evidence they're involved in drugs somehow will work. Someone looking to get married to an Imperial Princess, proof of their past indiscretions should work. You get the idea.
Now, reputation as a hostage is unique for a couple of reasons. The first we've already gone over (it isn't a physical object that you have to take). The second is that it is very hard to return the hostage. See, with current technology at least, it is very hard to unknow something. If I know that the President is having an affair with a run-away stripper, I can't really de-learn that. Once I know, I know. So all I can really give to the President after the fact is the proof. Even then, there is no way to know that I've given back all of the proof. Yes, ground can be made up for with "I'll give you the originals", but even that is a bit dodgy. As such, Blackmail is usually a bit more long term of an arrangement, and the victim is never really sure that the offender is done with them. This can lead to some prickly situations.
Targets, Targets, Targets
Targets can be a bit harder to find for Blackmail as well. I mean, sure, everyone has something they don't want to know. Sure, that is a given. However, not everyone has something that you want, and is provably doing something they don't want everyone to know. Finally, not everyone is in such a position that a reputation damning revelation is actually going to ruin them.
Sure, telling your neighbor's husband that his wife is cheating on him may make him leave her, but that doesn't mean that the adulterous spouse is going to pay a ton of money to keep it quiet, or otherwise do what you want. What does she ultimately lose anyhow? Sure, she is exposed as an adulterer, but that doesn't really cause major problems in most communities. At worst she can probably move cities and pick up fresh.
This is why blackmail is usually a game played at the higher levels of power. Yes, it does work at lower games, but it can get downright messy near the top. You need people in a position where they trade on their reputation. A politician, or public servant. Even a trader or broker for a company or other group. Anything really, as long as their reputation is a key part of their business. Do you care that your doctor slept with a nurse in the hospital? Maybe, but not as much as you might care if your marriage counselor, or stock broker did. Neither is someone who wants you to think that they can't keep a promise, and marriage is ultimately a promise.
Ransom is, generally, the usual fair. "I want x money by y time, or I tell everyone that you enjoy young boys, minister". Some people look for other things, politicians can give special deals or other perks aside from money. Some people are gatekeepers, and thus can get you in the door to other lucrative opportunities. Honestly, this is the most boring part of most forms of extortion, as whatever the road taken to get there, it usually ends the same way.
The big thing to remember though is that blackmail usually goes on longer than kidnapping. You can hold a bit of information over someone for years. You can't really hold their kids. If nothing else, it gets too expensive on you to be worthwhile.
So, come back Thursday and we'll talk about using blackmail in your game.