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Basic Information

It is - or was - relatively well known that M.I.C.E are behind the majority of betrayals, defections and general allegiance shifts. This may surprise most people who tend to think of them more in terms of chewed wiring and turds in the bread bin, but that would be because the mice in question are an acronym for the following motivational factors:

Money: (or material goods generally) the defector changes sides because their new allegiance will significantly improve their material wellbeing - this applies to those who can be bribed out of greed, but equally to those who are simply not paid (enough) in their current role. The moral character of the betrayal will depend on a lot of factors, not least the degree of neglect by the original superior.
Ideology: the defector switches allegiance to the side which matches their political and/or religious beliefs. This is particularly likely if their current allegiance conflicts with those beliefs (see also Conscience below). Ideological defections tend to favour more radical causes - it's hard to persuade someone to defect to the cause of moderation.
Conscience: the defector abandons a cause which expects them to commit acts that are antithetical to them - this is the trope of corporate whistleblowers, repentant war criminals and defectors from decadence and is often the cause of conversions from radical causes when the defector decides that the ends do not, in fact, justify the means.
Ego: the defector feels that his current superiors do not recognise his talents and/or openly despise him - in any case, he does not get the respect he deserves and will offer his services to someone who will put that right. This can also include personal conflicts with allies.

In theory these motivations should apply regardless of the context, whether civil, military or personal. Understanding them can also help prevent disloyalty amongst your own followers and help you to manage their needs better. A thorough understanding of Maslow's hierarchy also helps - many of these motivations will be related to a failure to maintain one or more levels of the pyramid.

Some authorities roll conscience into ideology and use "C" for Coercion … which can work for entry level betrayals but doesn't work for actual changes of allegiance.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • Badly written villains betray because it is in their nature to do so - a well written one betrays for a reason, which will seem justified to him even if others despise it.
  • Even the traditional "bribe taker" - someone who betrays simply because a big bag of money is waved under his nose - is probably only open to being so bribed because they have little or no attachment to their current cause as it is.
  • Useful to players analysing which of the BBEGs henchmen is the weak spot in his organisation … and for those PCs who mistreat or ignore their own followers…
  • Potential for overlap between these factors, with each making a character more vulnerable to the others. Not getting enough Money might make someone less likely to ignore their Conscience ("I have my price, but this isn't it") or Ego ("I know what I'm worth, and this is a lot less"). Ideology might make someone more resistant to Conscience ("This is all for the greater good") or Money ("How dare you think I can be bought?").
  • Has implications for designing social combat systems.
    • Money: The system might express the strength of a character's principles as a dollar value to ignore them.
    • Ideology: Characters might be more likely to abandon a cause if they have a principle conflicting with it.
    • Conscience: Convincing a character to do something they consider wrong is harder.
    • Ego: Characters lose loyalty to their causes if they feel disrespected.
  • Money doesn't need to be a bag of cash - it can be land, a marriage, access to knowledge and/or the freedom to study - or even for a third party (particularly children - education or social promotion is a significant lure, whilst John Le Carre's villain Karla was, at least partially, brought low by the prospect of medical treatment for his daughter which was simply not available in the Soviet Bloc). Protection and making enemies and problems go away can also count - enemy assets who have already annoyed their own side for other reasons (including criminals) might well be induced to defect to avoid the consequences of their actions (this can occasionally lead to a certain amount of moral dissonance at the receiving end, depending what, exactly, the defector was guilty of).
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