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Author Topic: Good and Evil in the Modern World  (Read 5472 times)
SeanStone
Member

Posts: 5


« on: March 10, 2005, 11:29:09 AM »

Hello Everyone,
I am new to the Forge Site, well as a poster anyways, and I have run into a break wall for a small game that I am trying to design.  This has nothing to do really with mechanics, though I suppose in the end I will want to have it have a mechanical effect on the characters as well as the game.  

This is issue is dealing with Good and Evil in the modern setting.  In one sense the Alignment concept of D&D and others but in another sense nothing to do with alignment except the idea of good vs evil.  

What I am trying to get is a system where characters track their character's beliefs (good vs. evil) in a non-trait (advantage/disdavantage) way.  

What I have so far is a verily decent concept one that allows players be morally ambigous most of the time, but at the same time allowing for players to be good (i mean work at being good) or be evil.  I have split this into two camps: Temptation and Redemption Points.

Being good is defined as having X Redemption Points per level, and being evil as having X Temptation Points per level.  Being good or evil is hard work as the number of X Points needed per level increases, thus expanding the space between and thus creating the Neutral Ambiguity (sp) for the morally lax.

What I am really hitting my head on is what bonus and penalities should a character receive for being good, neutral or evil especially in a modern setting (no holy or unholy powers, etc.)

In the game there are experience points, action points, heroic luck points, skill points and abilities that could be affected.  Yet, I am split on whether this is what is needed to invoke the feeling of good and evil while having a mechanical effect in a modern setting.

Help?!  Any ideas, comments, questions, concerns, rants?

Edit: I guess I am struggling with the concept of morality and making it worth while in a mechanical sense for the game.

Sean Stone
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Garbanzo
Member

Posts: 108


« Reply #1 on: March 10, 2005, 12:47:51 PM »

Hey, Sean.

Welcome to the Forge!


You implied that you've been lurking for awhile.  If that's true, you'll know what's coming...

What's your game about?  What's the beating heart of your game?  What do characters do?  Why should I play (er) Good Versus Evil, as opposed to d20 Modern?

Your approach to morality is pretty cool.  Without context, though, it's hard to suggest application.
Maybe extreme morality
--gives a reroll under certain circumstances
--brings with it certain free relationships
--allows player authorship of certain Big Things
--makes PC death a possibility
--makes PC death an impossibility
--blah blah.

It comes down to a more specific question: what do you want morality to mean?  Once you tell us that, we might be able to help you make it so.

-Matt
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SeanStone
Member

Posts: 5


« Reply #2 on: March 10, 2005, 01:11:41 PM »

Quote from: Garbanzo
What's your game about?  What's the beating heart of your game?  What do characters do?  Why should I play (er) Good Versus Evil, as opposed to d20 Modern?


I am not really looking for a why you should play my game as opposed to d20 Modern right now.  Good vs Evil is just a topic that I chose for the post, not the game title.  Currently the game is not even into the skills section, so there is nothing to really play vs d20 Modern.  I am looking for help in grabbing a hold of the mechanics behind my concept, such as it is.

Quote from: Garbanzo
Your approach to morality is pretty cool.  Without context, though, it's hard to suggest application.
Maybe extreme morality
--gives a reroll under certain circumstances
--brings with it certain free relationships
--allows player authorship of certain Big Things
--makes PC death a possibility
--makes PC death an impossibility
--blah blah.

It comes down to a more specific question: what do you want morality to mean?  Once you tell us that, we might be able to help you make it so.


Yeah I know....That is what I am stuck on.  I cannot place my finger on it exactly.

There are "trait systems" such as GURPS, TROS, and Exalted.  What I am trying to do is something of a combination.  

I want morality to mean an effort between good and evil.  And the decisions and effort between them creates the mechanic for the players involved.

As I have seen it and played it, most games that are not modern or based upon the modern context define good, evil and neutrality into absolutes.  In our real world the concepts of sin, evil and good are not so easily defined.  Rightly so, real-life has so much more "arbitrariness" to it.

However, everyone, everywhere, holds themselves to a basic set of ehtics and codes that they have developed over their lifetime.  These are smatterings of good, evil and sin.  A good person is just as likely to kill someone as an evil person is to have a moment of serenity and kindness.

In my concept, these philosophies are basic approaches for character behavior.  They are not rigid codes.  What I am sutck on is creating bonuses and penalities for begin good, being evil or being in-between.
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gorckat
Member

Posts: 39


« Reply #3 on: March 10, 2005, 03:38:04 PM »

i have a couple of questions

1) do you expect good and evil PCs in the same 'party'?

if not, then what is the significance of mechanical bonuses?

2) if the answer to 1) is yes, then what are they working towards?

i suppose the answer to your mechanical quantification comes from the premise of your idea...

it seems (as i interpret your posts, and i could be wrong) that your system will set up PCs initially as 'morally ambiguos' with no strong leanings one way or the other, and if so that doesn't seem to make much sense given the emphasis you're placing on GvE.  i think knowing a little more about your game concept, a thesis of the game so to speak, will allow those more experienced than i to lend constructive criticisms easier

Good luck and Cheers
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Doctor Xero
Member

Posts: 433


« Reply #4 on: March 10, 2005, 03:51:27 PM »

Quote from: SeanStone
In our real world the concepts of sin, evil and good are not so easily defined.  Rightly so, real-life has so much more "arbitrariness" to it.

However, your Redemption and Temptation points automatically set out sin, evil, and good as they are defined in your game world.

Whatever I earn Redemption points for must be de facto good, regardless of whether I earn them for specific actions or specific motivations for actions or specific targets of actions.  If you write a game in which a player's character earns Redemption points every time he/she kills a dwarf, you have made dwarf-killing a "good" action.  If you write a game in which a player's character earns Temptation points every time he/she kills someone out of rage but not out of fear, you have made rage an "evil" motivation but fear either neutral or "good".  Et cetera.

Even if you re-label Redemption and Temptation points as A points and B points, the gameworld impact each has will imply a morality or meaning system to your game world if you are striving for a metaphor for the fuzziness of real world morality.  For example, if A points are used to heal and B points are used to torture, most people will treat A points as "goodness" points and B points as "evil" points.

That is why I preferred the notion behind the Law vs. Chaos that D&D abandoned almost immediately.  Some acts were more lawful, some were more chaotic, but neither Law nor Chaos was colored as good or evil, just as two variant approaches to reality.  I often think TSR made a mistake in abandoning that axis so quickly.

On the other hand, if you want your game to focus on the notion that humans have to embody or enact BOTH good and evil deeds, and therefore work hard to ensure that BOTH Redemption and Temptation points are useful for "good" efforts by the player-characters (e.g. use a Temptation point to help kill a rapist attacking a child -- called "evil" by some for killing yet "good" by some for rescuing an innocent victim and thus morally ambiguous), then I think the two point pools will work out well.

Is that what you are looking for?  A game which explores the notion that humans have to use BOTH good and bad tactics and methods in this world to survive and that humans often face situations in which bad tactics have good results?

Doctor Xero
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"The human brain is the most public organ on the face of the earth....virtually all the business is the direct result of thinking that has already occurred in other minds.  We pass thoughts around, from mind to mind..." --Lewis Thomas
Simon Kamber
Member

Posts: 175


« Reply #5 on: March 10, 2005, 05:12:36 PM »

Quote from: Doctor Xero
That is why I preferred the notion behind the Law vs. Chaos that D&D abandoned almost immediately.  Some acts were more lawful, some were more chaotic, but neither Law nor Chaos was colored as good or evil, just as two variant approaches to reality.  I often think TSR made a mistake in abandoning that axis so quickly.

Just curious. How was the abandoned Chaos/Law axis different from the one they're using now?
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Simon Kamber
NN
Member

Posts: 93


« Reply #6 on: March 10, 2005, 05:16:46 PM »

I think that there are two ways of treating Morality in an rpg.

Theres the "Closed" way. Good and Evil (or Law and Chaos, or A and B,e tc.) are defined, and the players then have their fun making moral choices within those parameters.

Then theres the "Open" way, where nothing is certain, and the players have their fun agonizing over what is "moral".


Of course, the System, and the Players need to be clear which "way" is being used - Im not clear which way SeanStone wants to go.



One idea though - what if each character had their own personal moral axis, defined by the player - describing what they could be at their best, and what they could degenerate into? Eg an idealistic political activist could become a great reforming political leader...or a nihilistic terrorist. Or a legendary underground guru / corrupt mainstream sell-out.
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gorckat
Member

Posts: 39


« Reply #7 on: March 10, 2005, 05:22:17 PM »

Quote from: xect
Quote from: Doctor Xero
That is why I preferred the notion behind the Law vs. Chaos that D&D abandoned almost immediately.  Some acts were more lawful, some were more chaotic, but neither Law nor Chaos was colored as good or evil, just as two variant approaches to reality.  I often think TSR made a mistake in abandoning that axis so quickly.

Just curious. How was the abandoned Chaos/Law axis different from the one they're using now?


i think he's referring to the fact the ad&d uses a nine alignment axis (or matrix at that point, i guess) that colors law and chaos with good and evil

Quote from: NN
One idea tough - what if each character had their own personal moral axis, defined by the player - describing waht they could be at their best, and waht they could degenerate into. Eg an idealistic political activist could become a great reforming political leader...or a nihilistic terrorist.


doesn't that get a little complicated, almost requiring World of Darkness like paths of humanity?
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SeanStone
Member

Posts: 5


« Reply #8 on: March 10, 2005, 05:43:56 PM »

Quote from: Doctor Xero

On the other hand, if you want your game to focus on the notion that humans have to embody or enact BOTH good and evil deeds, and therefore work hard to ensure that BOTH Redemption and Temptation points are useful for "good" efforts by the player-characters (e.g. use a Temptation point to help kill a rapist attacking a child -- called "evil" by some for killing yet "good" by some for rescuing an innocent victim and thus morally ambiguous), then I think the two point pools will work out well.


This is the struggle that I am having.  Defining that which is evil and that which is good (which alters from different perspectives).  Currently. I am using Temptation and Redemption points as measuring sticks to keep specific bonuses and be punished by penalties.  This is having the effect of leaving those that are ambigous out of any bonuses, but also away from any penalties.

I have thought about scrapping it for a Reputation Score (Neferious vs. Upright) but I am not sure about it.

Quote from: Doctor Xero

Is that what you are looking for?  A game which explores the notion that humans have to use BOTH good and bad tactics and methods in this world to survive and that humans often face situations in which bad tactics have good results?


In one sense yes.  But yet I am beset by the problems of perspective.  

Do I, in writing this section of the game, state that all characters are good.  And the world is filled with Temptation and it is your role to 1) evade this temptation and 2) if you fall into this it is a slippery slope for your character making it easier and easier for moral corruption, this is then the problems of bonuses and penalties.  

I am blowing a fuse thinking on this, my philosophy education is going nuts with me trying to "box-in" the moral concepts of evil and good.

One concept has kinda surfaced is the idea of Good and Evil Traits.  Which characters use as a guide.  Sticking to these traits or acting or not acting on them in specific situations gives you bonuses and penalties.

Another concept is the use of these points to indicate levels of bonuses and penalties in specific situations.  35 Temptation Points has a different effect than 90 Temptation Points (meaning the more points you get the worse, in this case the more evil, you are).

I also do not want to have strict required Virtues or Vices that straitjacket a player into acting one way just to get these bonuses, which may be the very thing that I must do.

Thus I am quagmired in frustration, simply because I have no idea of what would consitute a bonus or penalty for being evil or good or more evil or more good that would have mechanical effects on the game without destroying game balance.

Thanks for the help and the questions, hopefully with more questions I can refine exactly what I want to do and bring forth the mechanic that I know is there.
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SeanStone
Member

Posts: 5


« Reply #9 on: March 10, 2005, 05:56:32 PM »

Quote from: NN
I think that there are two ways of treating Morality in an rpg.

Theres the "Closed" way. Good and Evil (or Law and Chaos, or A and B,e tc.) are defined, and the players then have their fun making moral choices within those parameters.

Then theres the "Open" way, where nothing is certain, and the players have their fun agonizing over what is "moral".


Of course, the System, and the Players need to be clear which "way" is being used - Im not clear which way SeanStone wants to go.  


Ehh....i havent decided and that's part of my problem I am not sure which is best for the modern concept.  But in either case I have this need or desire to make rules so as not to leave players and gms out in the middle of the ocean without any support.


Quote from: NN
One idea though - what if each character had their own personal moral axis, defined by the player - describing what they could be at their best, and what they could degenerate into? Eg an idealistic political activist could become a great reforming political leader...or a nihilistic terrorist. Or a legendary underground guru / corrupt mainstream sell-out.
 
I get what you are saying....but I do not want to leave it wildly open, but then again perahps that would be best and give broad definitions of such things such as:
Arrogance vs Serenity
Envy vs. Generosity
Selfish vs. Kindness
Pusillanimous vs Mettle
Violent vs Peace
Nefarious vs. Upright
Hate vs. Love

From these allow players to develop their own Moral Codes to which Temptation and Redemption points are assigned.

But then I am left with the power and type of penalties and bonuses to assign.

I think that I want more than Brave +2 or Loyal +3.  In which anytime that you are Brave you gain +2 Successes on X.  I am not in the mind set to overpower players with bonus successes.
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gorckat
Member

Posts: 39


« Reply #10 on: March 10, 2005, 06:05:24 PM »

i'm reminded of some ways the Force is presented in 2nd edtn Star Wars-

The Force is codified to prohibit certain actions.  Regardless of societal mores, any action considered to be dark or evil, out of bounds with the Force, earns dark side points.  These points can be used to powerful effect, basically doubling the user's dice pool for an action, but using it for evil will garner more darkside points.

The same with light side points- using them for good will garner more.

Note, however, that there is nothing preventing points from being used "opposite" to how they were earned- thus redeeming or corrupting their user...
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Simon Kamber
Member

Posts: 175


« Reply #11 on: March 10, 2005, 10:43:19 PM »

Quote
This is the struggle that I am having. Defining that which is evil and that which is good (which alters from different perspectives). Currently. I am using Temptation and Redemption points as measuring sticks to keep specific bonuses and be punished by penalties.

I think a better place to start would be to define what evil and good is. In D&D, Good and Evil are universal forces. If you're evil, you're evil. And it can even be detected. Is that what you're going for, or is it something that's not detectable but there anyway, like a religious viewpoint of people who sin and people who don't? Or is morality something intangible, something relative?


Quote from: gorckat
i think he's referring to the fact the ad&d uses a nine alignment axis (or matrix at that point, i guess) that colors law and chaos with good and evil

Well, he's talking about abandoning an axis. Since I only got into D&D in the third edition, I'm just being curious.
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Simon Kamber
SeanStone
Member

Posts: 5


« Reply #12 on: March 11, 2005, 11:50:43 AM »

Well....thanks for the talk.  I think what I am going to end up doing is something of a cross-breed between two ideas that I have.

First is the concept that a Character gains/loses Temptation (for being evil) or Redemption (for being good) based on their actions associated with three of seven conflicts that a player chooses to have his character adhere to.

Bonuses will be based on the number of Temptation or Redemption points a character has in accordance to his level.  Penalities will be the removal of these bonuses or perhaps a reversal of the bonuses (less XP, no or less skill bonuses, auto failure of a skill attempt)

Neutral characters will always gain one or two benefits that can never be stripped from them.  Especially if they maintain the neutral outlook of life: "Life Happens for good and evil reasons, why mess with it."

Now I need to come up with a list of Benefits.  The first is that of gaining bonus experience for maintaining your chosen philosophy.  Second, gaining bonus successes in the right situation when philosophical conflict arises....

Do any of you have any suggestions?  Generic anwsers would be okay as I think that this part of the game is generic to the genre in which it would be played.

thanks,
SS
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chadu
Member

Posts: 134


WWW
« Reply #13 on: March 17, 2005, 09:37:49 PM »

Quote from: SeanStone
Now I need to come up with a list of Benefits.  The first is that of gaining bonus experience for maintaining your chosen philosophy.  Second, gaining bonus successes in the right situation when philosophical conflict arises....

Do any of you have any suggestions?  Generic anwsers would be okay as I think that this part of the game is generic to the genre in which it would be played.


You know, you may want to look at a couple games that deal with moral topics like these. Two that I can think of are my own (Dead Inside) and a game in development here called Vespertine (do a search for the title).

That way you can see how other people have attacked the same issues.

CU
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Chad Underkoffler [chadu@yahoo.com]

Atomic Sock Monkey Press

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