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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 154 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Magic and Ethics  (Read 6248 times)
otspiii
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Posts: 67

A Very Powerful Wizard


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« Reply #30 on: February 23, 2009, 07:17:59 PM »

What do you mean by "innocent" in this context?  If a wizard kills a guard in front of a gate how is it handled?

Is the guard "innocent" if he's working for an honorable cause at the moment of his death, regardless of his life choices?

Is the guard "innocent" if he has personally lived an honorable life.  Is there some method of determining this, or is it completely based on GM snap-judgment?

Is the guard "innocent" if he hasn't done anything dishonorable in front of the player, regardless of how good or bad he's been in life?

Innocent is a really vague concept, and tends to come out as a trait that's either really situational and subjective or impractical for the PCs to actually know.  The subjective approach seems to be the standard, but it sounds like it's something you really don't want.  How are you going to handle this.

Also, I'm curious about the "sexual misconduct" section of shadows.  What qualifies sexual misconduct?  Does a wizard get shadow-points for only really harmful things like rape or does magic backfire on you for things like premarital sex, homosexuality, or getting blown by a woman on her period?  I can understand the idea of a universe getting all up on a wizard for harming others, but sexual morality tends to be a lot more culturally based rather than damage-prevention based.
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DWeird
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Posts: 75


« Reply #31 on: February 24, 2009, 02:46:22 AM »

Hi again!

When I was talking about virtues, I had in mind specifically wizardly ones - wisdom/prudence, the ability to forsee the long-term effects of your actions, curiosity, the need find out the truth about things, restraint - dealing with vast wizardly power in a proper way. Justice, ambition, gravity, discipline, yadda yadda. You could peg specific attributes of magic (uh? mana regen, number of spells that can be bound, spell duration, spell potency? Dunno.) to specific virtues virtues and these to specific schools.

That was more of a clarification of what I meant... Don't really expect you to find it useful, but one can never know.


Now, this is actually supposed to be helpful:

I think I got a grip of the main effect you want your morality system to produce in-game: and that is to make the moral grey zone inbetween two extremes more interesting to explore. Extreme good is to be ignored 'cause it's so damned boring, and extreme evil is to be made extremelly inconvenient (probably because it usually is disrupting to play?).

Does that sound right?

If so, I think we should suspend the discussion on morality as a working, coherent system ('cause that one's misleading and immensly interesting, which is never a good combination), and focus on how "cosmic justice" produces wiggle space in the grey zone.

For that effect, I think a contrived, somewhat self-contradictory system would actually work better, especially if coupled with somewhat absurd atonement rituals... A mage accidentally steps on a puppydog's tail and causes the poor creature pain - so now he has to go and give his enemies a big hug as atonement for the deed. Given the genre, said enemies are likely to be angry and armed in some proportion, so hugs'd be absolutelly impossible without first paralysing the guys in question... or something like that. Carrying out the instructions of the code to the letter, twisting them in the process would be a fairly regular event for most mages.

Not sure how far towards the absurd you'd want to push it ("You sexed up that corpse, so now you have to marry it!") - possibly not at all. However, a thing to keep in mind is that it's perfectly possible to aproach such events with some amount of seriousness (thus getting some unholy combination of Kafka and Pratchett), and pretty much depends on how the GM sets the mood.

For instance... A necromancer warden, reanimating the corpses of convicts so they could serve out their 799 year-long sentences in full could be the epitome of justice in your current system. PCs meeting such a guy can be either a sad and unsettling or cheery and creepy moment, depending on how it's played.
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Seth M. Drebitko
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Posts: 304


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« Reply #32 on: February 24, 2009, 07:11:33 AM »

You can find the free html version here [url}http://files.crngames.com/cc/paladin/paladin.html [/url] but I would suggest the free pdf version here http://www.crngames.com/crngames/store. A beta well worth tossing some money into the tip jar for.
Regards, Seth
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MicroLite20 at www.KoboldEnterprise.com
The adventure's just begun!
Bert
Member

Posts: 58


« Reply #33 on: February 24, 2009, 12:44:04 PM »

Hi Otspiii,

What do you mean by "innocent" in this context?  If a wizard kills a guard in front of a gate how is it handled?

Is the guard "innocent" if he's working for an honorable cause at the moment of his death, regardless of his life choices?

Is the guard "innocent" if he has personally lived an honorable life.  Is there some method of determining this, or is it completely based on GM snap-judgment?

Is the guard "innocent" if he hasn't done anything dishonorable in front of the player, regardless of how good or bad he's been in life?

Innocent is a really vague concept, and tends to come out as a trait that's either really situational and subjective or impractical for the PCs to actually know.  The subjective approach seems to be the standard, but it sounds like it's something you really don't want.  How are you going to handle this.

Innocence is defined as those who have violated the pillars of shadow and incurred the curse. See my earlier post. Dindenver has already got me thinking hard about this kind of thing. More to come on this.

Also, I'm curious about the "sexual misconduct" section of shadows.  What qualifies sexual misconduct?  Does a wizard get shadow-points for only really harmful things like rape or does magic backfire on you for things like premarital sex, homosexuality, or getting blown by a woman on her period?  I can understand the idea of a universe getting all up on a wizard for harming others, but sexual morality tends to be a lot more culturally based rather than damage-prevention based.

I'm surprised nobody has picked up on this one earlier. The pillars of light and darkness are based, to a limited extent, on the 5 panacsila of buddhism. More research might help me shore these up. The panacsilas include:

   1. I undertake the rule to refrain from destroying living creatures.
   2. I undertake the rule to refrain from taking that which is not given.
   3. I undertake the rule to refrain from sexual misconduct.
   4. I undertake the rule to refrain from incorrect speech.
   5. I undertake the rule to refrain from intoxicants which lead to carelessness.

I just dropped 4 and 5, but they are kind of covered under causing harm - which could be the consequence of incorrect speech and carelessness due to intoxication.

I am defining sexual misconduct as any sexual act performed without consent or due concern for the consequences - such as pregnancy or syphilis. I found I couldn't throw this one out because it seems to be a fundamental ethical concept in so many cultures.

If a PC facilitates sexual misconduct or uses magic to perpetrate it (date rape with sorcery), then yes - they will pay for it big time. However, sexual misconduct is more helpful in defining the moral fibre of evil adversaries than a general concern for magic users. Think of it as a damn good reason to take a villain down.

Its vitally important to understand that this isn't an overarching ethical code. Nor is it about what is actually 'right'. Different cultures in the game world will have different ethical systems. They might think its fine to toss sickly babies off cliffs or knock off your elders when  they cease to be useful. Different strokes for different folks.

Bert





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Callan S.
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Posts: 3588


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« Reply #34 on: February 24, 2009, 01:00:04 PM »

Can't you just play out this thing as some sort of cosmic character in itself, that dishes out whatever according to whatever it happens to think is right at the moment?

This doesn't appear to be a game system, it appears to be a character (with the power to punish wizards).
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Philosopher Gamer
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Vulpinoid
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Posts: 803

Kitsune Trickster


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« Reply #35 on: February 24, 2009, 01:49:14 PM »

This doesn't appear to be a game system, it appears to be a character (with the power to punish wizards).

Almost like paradox spirits in "Mage: the Ascension"...

If the majority of people around you think that an act is immoral, you get punished for it. And that's why most sorcerers work their craft in private.

V
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Bert
Member

Posts: 58


« Reply #36 on: February 24, 2009, 03:25:30 PM »

Hi DWeird,

When I was talking about virtues, I had in mind specifically wizardly ones - wisdom/prudence, the ability to forsee the long-term effects of your actions, curiosity, the need find out the truth about things, restraint - dealing with vast wizardly power in a proper way. Justice, ambition, gravity, discipline, yadda yadda. You could peg specific attributes of magic (uh? mana regen, number of spells that can be bound, spell duration, spell potency? Dunno.) to specific virtues virtues and these to specific schools.

Ooo. I like. More to think about for schools/sects/lineages etc. Not sure how to work them into the system though. Hmm.

I think I got a grip of the main effect you want your morality system to produce in-game: and that is to make the moral grey zone inbetween two extremes more interesting to explore. Extreme good is to be ignored 'cause it's so damned boring, and extreme evil is to be made extremelly inconvenient (probably because it usually is disrupting to play?).

Does that sound right?

On point 1, most definitely yes. Good and evil are the bookends. They define the limits of actions without consequences. It can be fun to see how far you can stretch the limits, but what's in between is also really interesting. Mix black and white and you get grey. That's the whole point behind setting up the pillars of light as justification for otherwise ethically dubious acts. That in itself gives you plenty of fun in the grey zone.

On point 2, yes - but it can be fun to play a character trying to function in a generally unethical world, where a blasphemer might get stoned to death, with an overly demanding set of personal morals.

On point 3, yes - but it can also be fun to play a character who is duty bound to perform acts others may consider evil or antiheroes who have performed evil acts in the past but seek atonement.

If so, I think we should  suspend the discussion on morality as a working, coherent system ('cause that one's misleading and immensly interesting, which is never a good combination), and focus on how "cosmic justice" produces wiggle space in the grey zone.

That sounds like a good idea, so long as there's nothing more that needs saying on tightening up the six pillars. Should 'wiggle room in the grey zone' be a new topic do you think?

For that effect, I think a contrived, somewhat self-contradictory system would actually work better, especially if coupled with somewhat absurd atonement rituals...

Yarp. I've been thinking about interlocking grey zone strictures that make life difficult for magic users and their general behaviour bizarre and wizardly
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Bert
Member

Posts: 58


« Reply #37 on: February 24, 2009, 03:54:03 PM »

Hi Callan,

Can't you just play out this thing as some sort of cosmic character in itself, that dishes out whatever according to whatever it happens to think is right at the moment?

I'd rather not pin it down to a 'cosmic character', certainly not a capricious one as you seem to suggest. Saying that it would be interesting to have various factions squabbling about which deity is behind it all. People have been personifying impersonal forces for a long time...

This doesn't appear to be a game system, it appears to be a character (with the power to punish wizards).

A d20 isn't a game system either, but it does have the power to punish wizards (and everyone else) and is innately capricious, as I know to my cost. I have lived in fear of the wrath of the Grim Icosohedron for decades. Smiley

Thanks for the thoughts.

Bert
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Bert
Member

Posts: 58


« Reply #38 on: February 24, 2009, 04:10:39 PM »

Hi Vulpinoid,

Almost like paradox spirits in "Mage: the Ascension"...

If the majority of people around you think that an act is immoral, you get punished for it. And that's why most sorcerers work their craft in private.

Now that is a nice idea...

If it was an absolute necessity I'd prefer a bunch of non-intelligent entities as the enactors of cosmic justice rather than an super-intelligent uber-being. It could create interesting possibilities for creating loopholes as well.

Bert
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scarik
Member

Posts: 11


« Reply #39 on: February 24, 2009, 04:33:19 PM »

It seems to me the Consensual Reality of Mage: the Ascension is really on the mark here.

When you work magic you suffer consequences based on what the general feeling of the locals is. Thus sexual misconduct (to pick on criterion)can be 'simply having it' if you're in an abby of pious celibates, all the way to 'no one cares' because there aren't any locals to have an opinion. The sexual habits of many animals would qualify as rape in many human societies, for instance, but out in the deep woods you have only the Lynx's morals to go by.

Points in the appropriate cultural knowledge would be tremendously important for a traveling wizard.
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Callan S.
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Posts: 3588


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« Reply #40 on: February 24, 2009, 04:41:01 PM »

Hi Callan,

Can't you just play out this thing as some sort of cosmic character in itself, that dishes out whatever according to whatever it happens to think is right at the moment?

I'd rather not pin it down to a 'cosmic character', certainly not a capricious one as you seem to suggest. Saying that it would be interesting to have various factions squabbling about which deity is behind it all. People have been personifying impersonal forces for a long time...

This doesn't appear to be a game system, it appears to be a character (with the power to punish wizards).

A d20 isn't a game system either, but it does have the power to punish wizards (and everyone else) and is innately capricious, as I know to my cost. I have lived in fear of the wrath of the Grim Icosohedron for decades. Smiley
A d20 punishes about as much as a bear trap punishes a bear. It doesn't. It merely acts according to physics. Even if pain happens, to say it punishes is to personify an impersonal force, as you mention above.

Perhaps you've personified rules and dice so much you assume the can be made to punish, rather than to merely act according to physics and logistical set up?

Or in other words, only a character can punish...

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Philosopher Gamer
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Bert
Member

Posts: 58


« Reply #41 on: February 25, 2009, 01:19:00 PM »

Howdy Callan,

Urk.

Perhaps you've personified rules and dice so much you assume the can be made to punish, rather than to merely act according to physics and logistical set up?

I? The fourteenth Earl of Wendleshire? Personify?

I'd rather not pin it down to a 'cosmic character', certainly not a capricious one as you seem to suggest.

I think not. In the post before last you seemed to be keen to personify what I was presenting as an impersonal metaphysical 'bear trap' and how to avoid it. Let me introduce you to Pot - also known as Kettle in some circles. Smiley

Can't you just play out this thing as some sort of cosmic character in itself, that dishes out whatever according to whatever it happens to think is right at the moment?

The whole 'Grim Icosohedron' thing was simply a reductio absurdam response in good humour.

A d20 isn't a game system either, but it does have the power to punish wizards (and everyone else) and is innately capricious, as I know to my cost. I have lived in fear of the wrath of the Grim Icosohedron for decades. Smiley

I mean, the Grim Icosohedron???

This doesn't appear to be a game system, it appears to be a character (with the power to punish wizards).

The moment you think about the consequences of 'bad actions' as punishment, you personify it. I intentionally based this on Buddhism because the concept of karma is just cosmic law. Nobody enacts it. Its just the way things are - from a Buddhist perspective.

In game terms, what would be the benefit of regarding the supernatural consequences of a character's actions as the actions of some cosmic being? Why does this system appear to be a character to you? Is it because you see the consequences levied in the system as punishment? Is it because there are similar systems, like mage, where the consequences of subjectively naughty actions are meted out by spirits? In what way do I portray it as a character? Do you think it would be neat for it to be a character? Would it improve the game? I'm keen to understand where you're coming from - you clearly want to make a point, but I don't quite see what it is.

Bert
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Callan S.
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Posts: 3588


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« Reply #42 on: February 25, 2009, 04:24:11 PM »

Quote
If lying, cowardice, dishonourable conduct etc. causes harm to the innocent, it falls under the pillars of shadow. Ker-slap!!! While people might read moral messages into how the cosmos works, its no more moral than gravity. There's no judgement in it.
Quote
In what way do I portray it as a character?

Are there going to be atoms, for example, which are classed as 'innocent' ones or such, then somebody could be composed of a certain amount of 'innocence'?

Or is it that rather than there being innocence, there is merely the idea of innocence? And it takes a mind to hold an idea in it. A character.

Which way are you choosing, as game designer? I can't think of a third way, so if there is one, hit me with it. Either innocence and cowardice are physical, mechanical properties in your universe, or they are merely ideas. And for some cosmic ethic system to work, there would have to be a mind holding those ideas in it. Not a justice vending machine - vending machines can only work with physical properties (which would be fine if there were 'innocence' atoms). There has to be a mind that judges, if there are no innocence atoms or whatever atoms/waveforms/whatever. The idea of innocence or cowadice doesn't just exist somehow - it only exists in someones/somethings head.

I'm not interested in personifying it, rather I see you knee deep in personifying the universe yourself and suggested using a character so you'd cut to the chase and save yourself alot of head scratching over how to make this game (and not to argue pointlessly on the net for intellectual turf. Said it to save you time). Unless A: you've decided your universe has innocence atoms and similar in it or B: there is a third method of handling it that right now I can't see. In the case of A, okay, I'd grant your not talking about a character. And in the case of B, I really can't imagine anything in that direction right now...hit me with it!
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Philosopher Gamer
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Bert
Member

Posts: 58


« Reply #43 on: February 26, 2009, 10:49:00 AM »

Hi otspiii,

Here's what I'm thinking on those questions you posed:

Is the guard "innocent" if he's working for an honorable cause at the moment of his death, regardless of his life choices?

I'd say that if he is under the shadow curse it doesn't matter if he's working for an honorable cause at the moment of death.

Is the guard "innocent" if he has personally lived an honorable life.  Is there some method of determining this, or is it completely based on GM snap-judgment?

I'd say yes - if he'd lived an honorable life and hadn't incurred the shadow curse. If things were ambigous I'd follow DWierds advice and roll a die rather than make a snap judgement. Saying that, it would be easy to just note for each NPC if they were under the shadow curse or not.

Is the guard "innocent" if he hasn't done anything dishonorable in front of the player, regardless of how good or bad he's been in life?

If he was under the shadow curse it wouldn't matter how the players percieve him.

Innocent is a really vague concept, and tends to come out as a trait that's either really situational and subjective or impractical for the PCs to actually know.  The subjective approach seems to be the standard, but it sounds like it's something you really don't want.  How are you going to handle this.

I agree that 'innocence' needs to be tightly defined.

I think the whole point with this system is that the PC's won't know if somebody is bad or good. Otherwise, what would the point be? However, there should surely be some form of magic that lets you find out.

Whatever the case with killing the guard, if the players objective in killing the guard is not to save lives, ease suffering or mete justice for known crimes, their actions can hardly be described as good. They are gambling, and dice would reflect that nicely. This kind of thinking is very similar  to Dindenvers 'who does it benefit and by how much' idea - maybe I need to revisit that.

Your questions have made me think about the idea of atonement, which has come up several times. What if a the guard had incurred the curse of shadow and the curse of light? If a guard has murdered in cold blood, but also saved an innocent life, is he good, bad or neither. More to ponder.

Bert

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Bert
Member

Posts: 58


« Reply #44 on: February 26, 2009, 01:41:41 PM »

Hi Callan,

Thanks for your constructive criticism, probing insight and positivity.

Lots of people have provided creative ideas, sage advice, valuable criticism and thought provoking questions. They've really helped me to think carefully about the kind of problems I'm going to encounter on working this into my game (plenty), but also how it might be used to provide some very interesting in-play experiences. There are some fine minds and engaging personalities here at the Forge. I think the last post by DWeird was the clincher for me and I'm pretty much wrapped up - this post is so over. I have a new found respect for the alignment system in D&D which I previously regarded as utter crap.

I won't try and explain the rationale behind the mechanistic enaction of ethical consequences. When somebody repeatedly demands that you 'hit' them with something they don't believe is possible, you know you can make them feel as happy as a proverbial pig by saying 'gosh, I'm stumped - you are so right, how could I have been so dumb'. Tongue

Interestingly, the theory of matter proposed by Leibniz in his New System, penned in 1696, was based on these little particles called monads. The monadic system was developed with the view of solving the mind body problem and providing a mechanistic rationale for morality. As this is a game set in a fantasy universe, I guess I could just assume it operates under Leibnitzian mechanics.

Thanks again for your contribution.

Bert

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamed of in your philosophy."
William Shakespeare
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