The Psychopathic Patron

Some patrons are more dangerous to the PCs than others.

One particular character is a patron who promises to pays well… but runs you through the wringer, making all sorts of unreasonable demands, and always had some excuse for not paying on time (or ever, if he thinks that he can get away with it.)

This is a subtype of the Psychopathic Patron. I would recommend that such patrons be limited to the more peaceful campaigns and social PC parties: military types will be sorely tempted to let their rifles — or the starship laser turrets — handle the payment re-negotiations.

(Yes, there are a select few psychopathic patrons actually will be expecting this: encounters with such folk should be treated as a climax or the boss fight of a campaign.

Most psychopaths merely talk big, and are experienced with social manipulation. When faced with men bearing guns and a really hostile attitude, they’re going to fold like a cheap suit.)

So, I’ll be raiding a Daily Mail article that is mainly angled to women who have to work for a psychopath, at least for a while.

(As psychopaths are broadly male, those women employees who not clued in how men play the social power game can use the advice.)

With some modification, it can also be useful for merchants who need to get paid from a particularly aggravating customer.

(Again, someone who is stuck in a bad deal he can’t just walk away from… at least without leaving a lot of money on the table.)

And finally, slavery is a going concern in the Empty Quarter, if not as blatant and widespread as before the Hebrin Rebellion. Slaves will find the following rules useful for life extension and generally staying out of the focus of their master’s rage.

(You can’t walk away if you are chained up… physically or otherwise.)

The psychopath does not, and never will, respect you. You are a possession who is only worth keeping around as long as you deliver value. One of the values that all psychopaths prize is the adoration of those beneath them (to them, this means everybody). A psychopath will value you more if you defer to them in every way. In their mind, you are a mindless, stupid beast ruled by your feelings. You cannot change that, but they are much happier to have you around and less likely to attack you if you acknowledge them as your superior on a continual basis. An easy way to do this without going over the top and coming off as a flattering fool (although you will be surprised how obvious you can be and still have them believe you) is to follow the rules of polite conversation.

To implement this, adhere to the rules in The Politeness Maxims and, in general, regard yourself as being in a conversation with a harsh and arbitrary old-school headmaster who will tolerate no aberrant behaviour from unruly students such as you. Never talk back! And never become sarcastic or rude. Play a completely straight bat.

Before you open your mouth in the presence of the psychopath, always ask yourself ‘Am I being polite and professional?’. Do your best to avoid unnecessary contact. This does not mean give them the cold shoulder. It just means you don’t drop by their office for a chat. Whenever you speak to them, do it within the confines of your role and for an explicit purpose.

This is also highly useful advice when talking to Nobles, as well.

And no, I don’t actually think that most Nobles are psychopaths… and those who are prefer to wear a mask most of the time. “Don’t startle the horses” and all that.

A psychopath will pump you for information they can use against you and others. You can defend against this by not disclosing anything to your psychopathic boss and making sure you understand the privacy settings on your social media. Do not discuss anything that is not entirely business related. But even when you do this, they may find something they can use. Beware of entrapment. This can, and often will, come from pawns rather than the psychopath themselves. If the psychopath suspects you are not wholly in their control, they will send a pawn in to good cop, bad cop you. Do not disclose anything to anyone at work, no matter how friendly they seem.

“Keep your mouth shut” remains remarkably useful advice!

(Also, “two can keep a secret if one of them is dead.” With certain patrons, it’s best not to know critical information, especially any key weakness that can hurt or destroy that patron.)

Always be honest even when it is against your interests. The psychopath will offer you an opportunity to fudge a bit. They might allow you to claim more expenses than you are otherwise entitled to. They may ignore you pilfering from the firm. They may allow you to take credit for something you did not do. No matter how much the psychopath makes it seem like you’re all in this together, make no mistake, they are gathering dirt on you and they will use both that dirt and the weakness you displayed to manipulate you in the future. Learn to say no – and mean it – when anything slightly dodgy is being proposed. Otherwise they will use your weaknesses of character against you.

In the Empty Quarter, you’d have to change the details slightly. It isn’t integrity and honesty and sticking to the rules that is the critical point: it’s loyalty to tribe and race and religion. The stakes are higher too: apostates are killed on many worlds, and people who challenge their clan come to sticky ends.

You can’t stop a psychopath lying to you. But you can stop believing them. Adopt the credo of the investigative journalist. Do not accept anything you are told until you have heard it from at least two independent sources. When your psychopathic boss tells you that your workmate has been seen interviewing at a competitor’s firm, he is probably trying to get you to tell him what you know. Don’t fall for it, don’t disclose any information and don’t believe the statement until you hear it from the person concerned. Your safest strategy is to assume that every factual statement the psychopath makes is a lie designed to manipulate you in some way. Your best defence is to play a dead bat and knock the ball into the pitch. Answer only the question that is asked and if no question is directly asked, say nothing. Under no circumstances should you respond by divulging any information or by acting on the basis of the lie. When you are alone write down exactly what they said. It will come in handy.

I like that part about two independent sources: that’s a really good rule of thumb, even for ordinary rumourmongers, shady contacts, etc.

The psychopath will micromanage you. They regard you as a fool who needs constant direction. They will be irrational and will ask you to do things which are the business equivalent of moving dirt from Pile A to Pile B and back again. You cannot afford to be offended by this. The psychopath will notice your reaction and will use it against you. Your response to any new imposition must always be emotionless compliance.


If your psychopathic boss wants a daily report completed in triplicate, then that is exactly what you should provide. Doing exactly as the psychopath demands and documenting those demands is one of the most powerful weapons you have against them (but more on that shortly).

Keep an eye on documentation. It’s an extremely powerful weapon in bureaucracies, if you know how to use it. (Ask your Bwap friends for details.) The right report, ‘somehow’ falling into the right pair of hands, can cause more widespread chaos than an orbital bombardment.

Do not let their display of emotion (positive or negative) influence your assessment of them or what they are doing or saying. If they appear angry with you it is because they wish to provoke an emotional response. If an empath boss were unhappy with you then this would be good reason to worry about your work relationship. A psychopath does not have a work relationship with you any more than they have one with their office pot-plant or their stapler.

Know where you stand.

There is an old concept, a warning not to get to familiar with your seniors or the customer. A good idea to keep in mind.


About Alvin Plummer

I'm working to build a better world, a world that blesses Christ and is blessed by Him. I hope that you're doing the same!
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