Created By: Xzenu on November 23, 2011 Last Edited By: Arivne on August 17, 2013

Small Steps Obedience

Get people to obey, a little at a time

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This is when one character seize control over another character by making him obey one little order, and then a slightly bigger one, escalating his control one step at a time.

This phenomenon can work frighteningly well in Real Life: The Millgram Experiment showed that a random citizen is likely to murder a random stranger simply because another stranger in a white coat tell him to - but only if the control is built up gradually. Noone would hive a lethal electric shock right away, but almost everyone would give a weak and harmless shock. Then tell them to turn up the voltage, a few volts at a time...

Compare Bavarian Fire Drill.


  • Play is about a gang of kids robbing other kids without ever using violence against them - only accusations, threats, and demands that keep escalating. They start with claiming that the victim's cell phone is stolen, belonging to the brother of one gang member. The victims are required to take a short walk to meet the brother, but they "just happen to miss him" and get a new order from the gang. It goes downhill from there.

  • In the first Slave World novel, Lady Isobel make Jenny do little things for her, subtly conditioning her to submit to her.

Live-Action TV
  • In one Happy Days scene, Fonzie takes control over a hostile gang. His first step is to order the gang leader to not follow through with a threat that he surely wasn't going to follow through with anyway. Then he order the gangleader's girlfriend to sit down, and as she complies he's effectively the new leader in the room.

Video Games
  • In Slave Maker, this trope is the basic dynamic of the gameplay: Most slaves start with a zero in the "Obedience" attribute, and you may not coerce or threaten then. The best way to condition them is to keep ordering them to do things they like: As they comply to such orders, they get used to doing what you tell them to do.
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