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Author Topic: Humanity as Moral Gauge?  (Read 10409 times)
Ben Lehman
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« on: June 30, 2003, 03:53:08 PM »

Hey--
I am playing around with the sorcerer rules, as I just got them.  One of the things that immediately struck me is that the Humanity gauge seems primarily designed to be used as a sanity gauge and very little else.  This is sad to me, because I don't particularly want to run a "descent into madness" game.  I want to run a game about degeneration of morality.

"Great," Sorcerer's Soul says, "just define humanity as a moral gauge and you're good to go."

But there is a serious problem with this:  The act of binding demons is, quite explicitly, the most damaging possible act to one's humanity.  Rape and Murder?  One humanity check (possibly one each.)  Summoning a demon?  Three humanity checks.  No mortal deed comes close to comparing, in terms of humanity loss.  Even a human sacrifice only adds one to the Humanity Check count.

This would be fine, if summoning demons compared with, say, mass genocide -- morally speaking.  But it doesn't.  In fact, given the description in the Sorcerer rules, summoning demons is an morally neutral act.  A maddening act -- certainly.  A damning act -- well, it's a demon!  But immoral -- I don't see it.  It might be damaging to the world as a whole (in which case it compares to, say, driving an SUV for no good reason), but it isn't tangibly bad unless you're using a human sacrifice.  Or, at least, I don't see it like that.

So -- any help here?  I have a couple of ideas, but they involve radical revisions to the system, and so I want to see if there isn't a more elegant approach first.

yrs--
--Ben
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jburneko
Member

Posts: 1351


« Reply #1 on: June 30, 2003, 04:18:55 PM »

Hello There,

I'll let Ron and others handle the more subtle specifics but I want to point out that Humanity Checks and Gains are deliberately built to be uniform.  That is, failing to visit your mother on her deathbed when she asked you to be there and gunning down 100 people in a back alley warrent the exact same roll.  The mechanic doesn't change and it's always 50% (except for Sorcery).  This, I believe, is a specfic design choice and feature of the system.

Of course, it's still up to the individual play group what kinds of actions warrent Checks and Gains but I know that the "intensity" of the check was deliberately left out of it.  I, myself, have used Emotional Sanity as a defintion with Checks coming from something as small as a private affirmation of more love for a "fake" demon son than the character's real son to violently and brutally beating a innocent sixteen year old girl.  The Checks, mechanically, were identicle.  I've also used Respecting The Rule of Law as a definition for Humanity with checks ranging from simply failing to file paper work with the appropriate authorities to gunning down a man in cold blood.  Again, the checks were mechanically the same.

I'm not 100% sure that this addresses your question since you seemed more focused on the degree of trangression for summoning a demon compared to something like commiting rape.  I've already addressed the "degree" or "intensity" issue.  For the Sorcery issue itself I'll add that "what Sorcery looks like and entails" is meant to be tied into the Humanity defintion.  So if your Humanity defintion is deliberately built to address large horrendus acts like Rape and Genocide then Rape and Genocide is what you need to DO to get a Demon in the first place.  The demons are meant to be direct metaphores for the trangressions you wish to examine.

Hope that was useful.

Jesse
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Lxndr
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« Reply #2 on: June 30, 2003, 04:21:08 PM »

IF humanity is a moral gauge, then demons are likely expressions or manifestations of immorality, or at least challenge morality.  Contacting a demon requires, to some extent, understanding them - which would threaten one's morality.  Summoning a demon is innately immoral even without the sacrifice - after all, you're conducting an act that brings a manifestly-immoral being into the world, and are intimately involved with said being.  Binding is even more obvious - you are purposefully agreeing to let that immoral thing survive, and are connecting it to you.

As a moral gauge, assuming demons and humanity relate, it seems to fit.  Granted, I'm a Sorcerer newbie so what I'm saying might very well be bunk.
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Alexander Cherry, Twisted Confessions Game Design
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« Reply #3 on: June 30, 2003, 06:07:47 PM »

I feel compelled to mention that in Charnel Gods, Humanity is exactly what Ben is describing:  A moral guage.  What's more, the act of sorcery is nothing less than mass genocide.

My take on it is this: The rule say you make three Humanity checks for Contacting, Summoning, and Binding a demon.  You're going to make those rolls any...the rules say you have to.  So go ahead and author in some content that you feel adds up to three Humanity checks.  Whatever it takes to get you there.

- Scott
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Trevis Martin
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Posts: 499


« Reply #4 on: June 30, 2003, 06:55:39 PM »

Hi Ben!

It isn't meant to be a sanity gauge in the sense of 'how sane are you'.  It's purpose is, explicitly, to determine the sorcerer's risk in doing what he does.  It is the marker of the significance of a decision in story terms.  The game is all about how far you would go to get what you want, and humanity explicitly, mechanically, provides a real risk for the characters.  Now whether that means that he's insane at 0 humanity or not depends entirely on the definition of humanity that you and your group agree upon, or develop through play, which is discussed in the main rulebook as well as Soul.

Though it is hard at first to see it this way, it isn't a guage of sanity per se in the way of old personality mechanics because your sorcerer, no matter what level of humanity they are at, is capable of any act whatever.  Assuming that your definition of humanity does involove sanity, a person with a humanity score of 1 is as sane as one with a score of 10.  He is not more or less sane. However when one of these morally significant choices comes up, the risk to the character with 1 humanity point is much greater and thus the players decision to have the character pursue that course of action has that much more weight.  It affords the player as author to make the strongest possible statement in thematic terms.

Summoning a morally neutral act? No. Whatever they may be, Demons are dangerous and should not be here.   You refer to three humanity checks here for summoning a demon.  In fact it is three because they are three seperate transgressive acts.  The first is contacting something man was not meant to know or encounter, the very act of it is a transgression of reality and requires pushing ones self far outside the normal boundaries of conciousness into the place where these things exist or originate.  This is a radically dangerous thing to do.  Think about what happens to people who are in sensory deprivation tanks for extended periods of time.  Imagine having no concrete understandable thing to orient yourself.  In my view since we define ourself against our evironment, there is a risk that the very 'self' could dissolve.  This is not merely a sanity issue.  After staring into that kind of abyss, morality, however you define it, would carry less weight because of your altered frame of reference.  The second is summoning, which is bringing that same thing, somthing terribly dangerous to others as well as yourself, here into this reality for your own goals.   The third is agreeing to facilitate this thing's existance in reality in exchange for service in pursuit of what you want, again despite the easiily forseeable risk to everyone else.

Contacting does not mean summoning.  Summoning does not mean binding (though its dangerous not to.)

All that being said, you don't have to either contact or summon to get a demon.  You might encounter one that is already here.  In my game one of my players conspired with his masters unhappy demon, to kill the master, break the binding, and then bind it himself (the fact is that the demon had already broken the binding and the murder was the new binding act, thus the humanity check.)  But the character didn't have to contact or summon this particular demon.  So, the most damaging act?  No.  But three acts which are unacceptable because of the nature of what they are dealing with.

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summoning demons is an morally neutral act. A maddening act -- certainly. A damning act -- well, it's a demon! But immoral -- I don't see it

You can think of a damning act that isn't immoral?  Consider harm to the sorcerer as part of the equation.  Is drinking yourself to death  or addiction to cocaine immoral?  Sure the person might get what they want (temporary comfort, high, whatever) but there is a cost both personally and socially.  And at one time or another, the person, despite evidence and warnings to the contrary, chose to drink or sniff.  The difference on the SUV thing is that an SUV has no independent will.  Consider it more like creating a virulent biological weapon.  It might accomplish your goals but the risk you are subjecting others to by releasing something so basically incompatable with humanity is incalculable.  Demons can't really be controlled and it is only through arrogance or denial (probably both) that a sorcerer can think otherwise.  They put the whole of humanity at risk for thier own personal issues.  I can't think of anything less moral.

Remember also that telling a story about the degeneration of morality doesn't mean that the characters have to degenerate.  If the choose to reject the degeration (by giving up sorcerous ways, making amends) that is as valid a story choice and as much a comment on the given theme as degenration is.  Especially if the characters are put in bad/worse situations. All you have to do is decide what humanity is exactly, and there are lots of good examples in the forums and in the mini-supplements as well as in Soul and the other supplements.   That you guys as a group have to decide what, for your story and your game, the concepts of Demon, Humanity, and Sorcery mean, is explicitly stated from the get-go in the main book.  The concepts are deeply connected. Demons and sorcery, by definition, will run counter to humanity, which gives you good clues as to what kind of things the sorcerous acts requre that woudl risk humanity. That part of your game must be tweaked, that is how the system works.

Was any of that helpful?

best

Trevis
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Ben Lehman
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« Reply #5 on: June 30, 2003, 08:33:07 PM »

Thanks to all who responded.  Scott -- that's an interesting idea with making the Humanity checks for summoning also reflect Dire Deeds.  I like it.  I will have more to say after I have read Charnel Gods.

Travis, sorry I picked you out to dicker with.  I just felt the need to expound upon my frustrations.

Quote from: Trevis Martin
It isn't meant to be a sanity gauge in the sense of 'how sane are you'.  It's purpose is, explicitly, to determine the sorcerer's risk in doing what he does.


BL>  Right.  And, if I want to define the "risk" as one of moral degeneracy, the system as written fails.
  Perhaps it is useful, at this point, for me to define "morality" as I see it.  Morality is, essentially, the degree to which you decide, of your own free will, to hurt other people (or other living beings, depending on your world-view.)

Quote

  It is the marker of the significance of a decision in story terms.  The game is all about how far you would go to get what you want, and humanity explicitly, mechanically, provides a real risk for the characters.  Now whether that means that he's insane at 0 humanity or not depends entirely on the definition of humanity that you and your group agree upon, or develop through play, which is discussed in the main rulebook as well as Soul.


BL>  No, it doesn't "depend entirely on" my group's definition.  There is a definitive system in the game which defines demon summoning as the Worst Possible Thing, in terms of Humanity.  If I want to define Humanity as something (say, a particular code of ethics) in which demon binding is neutral, or even a good thing, it does not support that.  I'm sure that you can think of some examples where demon Binding is a good thing but sorcerous actions are still risky, humanity-wise.  Say, a game where demons inhabit the world in physical form, and need to be bound to be controlled, but tempt their controllers.
  This, in and of itself, is not particularly bad.  What is bad is that demon summoning -- as written in the base rules -- is remarkably tame.  You might take some hits of drugs, but essentially you're just going on a vision trip.  It might be disorienting.  It might drive you insane.  But there is nothing about contacting, summoning, or binding a demon that hurts other people.  You could add it to the setting, if you wanted, but it isn't there and that possibility isn't mentioned.

Quote

Though it is hard at first to see it this way, it isn't a guage of sanity per se in the way of old personality mechanics because your sorcerer, no matter what level of humanity they are at, is capable of any act whatever.  Assuming that your definition of humanity does involove sanity, a person with a humanity score of 1 is as sane as one with a score of 10.  He is not more or less sane. However when one of these morally significant choices comes up, the risk to the character with 1 humanity point is much greater and thus the players decision to have the character pursue that course of action has that much more weight.  It affords the player as author to make the strongest possible statement in thematic terms.


BL>  I grok this.  I am asking for humanity as a gauge to track moral decisions.  I have run and played much Vampire, which handles things more or less similarly to Sorcerer, and gives me some similar issues.  I don't know what you mean by "old personality mechanics."  Perhaps Call of Cthulu?

Quote

Summoning a morally neutral act? No. Whatever they may be, Demons are dangerous and should not be here.


BL> Perhaps this is just my physicist's bias showing, but making a nuclear bomb is not the same thing as dropping it.  They are both transgressive, certainly, but the second is FAR worse than the first.
  I am interesting in character's losing their humanity through true acts of transgression against their fellows, not for violating some hoighty-toighty rules of cosmic conduct.  Show me the guts.

Quote

   You refer to three humanity checks here for summoning a demon.  In fact it is three because they are three seperate transgressive acts.


BL>  Transgressive against WHAT?
  Further, I find it strange that Demon binding is three rolls, whereas much worse thigns that involve seperate transgressive acts are not multiple rolls.  For a murder, you need to plot the murder (bad), point the gun (itself bad), pull the trigger (bad), and cover it up (bad.  see Blood Simple for details.)  Is that 4 checks?

Quote

Think about what happens to people who are in sensory deprivation tanks for extended periods of time.  Imagine having no concrete understandable thing to orient yourself.  In my view since we define ourself against our evironment, there is a risk that the very 'self' could dissolve.  This is not merely a sanity issue.  After staring into that kind of abyss, morality, however you define it, would carry less weight because of your altered frame of reference.


BL>  That's fine, but it is ultimately still a sanity-based definition.  I am not looking for the internal moral state of the character (that is up to player's sense of dramatic action, as you said above.)  I am looking for a gauge of actual immoral action taken by the character.
  There are people out there who are perfectly capable of murdering in cold blood, but manage to live totally unremarkable lives.  They are not 0 humanity -- they just have to watch themselves more closely.
  Summoning a demon is a terrifying thing, and it makes the moral slide easier.  But why the act itself, and not the aftermath?

Quote

Quote
summoning demons is an morally neutral act. A maddening act -- certainly. A damning act -- well, it's a demon! But immoral -- I don't see it

You can think of a damning act that isn't immoral?


BL>  Yes, actually, for certain religious views.  One of the characters in a fantasy world of mine (one that I am twiddling with in Sorcerer terms, actually) sold her soul to the devil in order to protect her family from being destroyed as part of God's divine plan.  Is that damning?  By definition.  Is it immoral?

Quote

  Consider harm to the sorcerer as part of the equation.  Is drinking yourself to death  or addiction to cocaine immoral?


BL>  This is actually an interesting philosophical question but, fundamentally, I don't want to run a game about it.

Quote

  The difference on the SUV thing is that an SUV has no independent will.  Consider it more like creating a virulent biological weapon.  It might accomplish your goals but the risk you are subjecting others to by releasing something so basically incompatable with humanity is incalculable.  Demons can't really be controlled and it is only through arrogance or denial (probably both) that a sorcerer can think otherwise.  They put the whole of humanity at risk for thier own personal issues.  I can't think of anything less moral.


BL>  RIGHT!  And I would rather have that emerge through play, rather than all in a chunk from an entirely internalized action.
  Metaphor:  I would rather have the of fall be from the slip, rather than from peering over the edge.
  A summoned demon is the start of a story, not the end of it.

Quote

Remember also that telling a story about the degeneration of morality doesn't mean that the characters have to degenerate.  If the choose to reject the degeration (by giving up sorcerous ways, making amends) that is as valid a story choice and as much a comment on the given theme as degenration is.  Especially if the characters are put in bad/worse situations. All you have to do is decide what humanity is exactly, and there are lots of good examples in the forums and in the mini-supplements as well as in Soul and the other supplements.


BL>  Sing it, brother.

Quote

   That you guys as a group have to decide what, for your story and your game, the concepts of Demon, Humanity, and Sorcery mean, is explicitly stated from the get-go in the main book.  The concepts are deeply connected. Demons and sorcery, by definition, will run counter to humanity, which gives you good clues as to what kind of things the sorcerous acts requre that woudl risk humanity. That part of your game must be tweaked, that is how the system works.


BL>  Yes.  But, at the same time, any definition of humanity that doesn't give demon summoning as the Worst Possible Thing is wildly unsupported by the system.
  I see demons as power.  Crazy, wild, uncontrollable power with it's own ideas, sure.  But power is only as bad as what you do with it.
  I see humanity as morality.
  Are power and morality fundamentally opposed?  That's the dynamic question of the game.
  But, sadly, the system seems to want all the characters to drop to 0 humanity just getting the theme going.

  Do you all see where I'm coming from here?

Yrs--
--Ben Lehman

P.S.  Do you think it would be possible to run a Sorcerer setting where binding a demon gives you humanity?
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Christopher Kubasik
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Posts: 1153


« Reply #6 on: June 30, 2003, 10:35:09 PM »

Hi Ben,

I get where you're coming from.

Let me run this idea by you.

When one does sorcerous rituals, one must *do* actual rituals. What these rituals are exactly are defined by the group's definition of humanity.  

So: your group's definition of Humanity is Not Harming Other People.  (If I'm getting this wrong, I apologize. Your definition in your last post was sort of a negative defintion: "A guage of how much you're willing to harm people." But I'm looking for the pure, distilled positive form of Humanity your group wants to play with. The defintion I've provided offers the best distillation I could figure out from your post.)

Now then, using this as the definition of Humanity, we define what Sorcerous rituals involve.  And this will be the *opposite* of what Humanity is.  So, anyone doing Sorcerous rituals will be harming people.  That's it.   If I'm going to summon a demon, I'm going to cut a kid, or kill an old man, or push a woman off the subway platform.  Cause the rituals are not dice rolls.  They are the results of actions of behavior designed to tap the powers of acting opposite of humanity.

One must do the actions opposite of Humanity to tap Sorcerous rituals.  This is what makes the sorcerous rituals worthy of Humanity checks.

(This use of Humanity to establish sorcerous rituals is touched on in Sorceror, but firmly established in the Sorceror's Soul.  (Yes, I know, that does you no good.  But I'm being up front about it.  Let's stay focused on the issue at hand.))

So, my first question is, "If the opposite action for Humanity was required to conduct Sorcerous rituals, would that satisify you?"
 
There are other issues at hand, but let's deal with this one first.

Look forward to your reply.

Christopher
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Trevis Martin
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Posts: 499


« Reply #7 on: July 01, 2003, 12:17:32 AM »

Hey there Ben,

No problem at all man, dickering is the point and I'll be happy to find the holes in my own arguement.  If it helps me refine my thinking then cool.

moment of sensitivity:  My name is Trevis not Travis /moment of sensitivity born of people long misspelling and mispronouncing my name.

Quote
Morality is, essentially, the degree to which you decide, of your own free will, to hurt other people (or other living beings, depending on your world-view.)


Sure, makes perfect sense.  Perhaps you might have to specify what intensity of pain to others you are talking about.  Is this physical hurt or emotional or psycological or all three and at what intensities.  The best advice I've heard on this is to come up with a specific list of actions that would incur humanity checks as guidelines for what would cause it in the game.

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There is a definitive system in the game which defines demon summoning as the Worst Possible Thing, in terms of Humanity.


No, it isn't the Worst Possible Thing.  The key phrase there is 'in terms of Humanity' Any act which violates the humanity def of the game has the same weight, thus each act of sorcery (since mechanicly it must incur a check) must violate the humanity def.   Each act (and as I mentioned all three are not always required) is something that in the terms of the game system must incur a humanity roll.  But its just as likely that you will not lose as lose humanity (i.e. 50% chance) the risk is the thing there. Its a blantant trade off between the special power and the risk...thus the theme of the game...How much would you risk (in your case) moral degeneration for what you want.  Since the definition of what Lore is and what Sorcerous rituals are is supposed to be customized in the play group and you know in the pure mechanics of the system that contact, summon and bind must incur a humanity check, if you define humanity as inflicting pain on others then each of those acts must involve an element of inflicting pain on others.  What happens when someone has hit humanity 0 as a result?  A sociopath, or at least an episode of uncontrolled sociopathy.

 While the tone of the game as written is one of degenration, it is entirely possible to reverse the humanity scale. Mechanically the only thing that's important is that the character is lost at humanity 0 (given the base rules.)  Now how about if you defined 'demons' as angelic beings and 'humanity' as ego strength.  Every humanity gain roll would involve something egotistical and thus keep you here and every humanity loss roll would be some moment when you transcended your own ego for the sake of others.  Eventually you hit humanity 0 and are released from reincarnation (if you want to go with the eastern model) humanity representing attachment to the world.

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What is bad is that demon summoning -- as written in the base rules -- is remarkably tame. You might take some hits of drugs, but essentially you're just going on a vision trip. It might be disorienting. It might drive you insane. But there is nothing about contacting, summoning, or binding a demon that hurts other people. You could add it to the setting, if you wanted, but it isn't there and that possibility isn't mentioned.


I agree that its not spelled out as easily as it might be in the base rules, and it was through reading the forums and Soul that I realized that with a humanity check in the ritual some violation of humanity is implied.  Again though, most of the rulebook doesn't deal with specific humanity def's, it spells out the mechanical formula for the game.  When I thought of it that way I said 'oh, well...contact, summon and bind all require a humanity roll, I've defined the variable humanity as x, and there is a big sign that says insert humanity def in this ritual somehow.'  Now if you get into saying why can't I have a humanity def where I gain humanity for dealing with demons?  The game is about the trade off and the hard choices it creates, that kind of change is radical because it changes the core premise of the game.

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I am asking for humanity as a gauge to track moral decisions. I have run and played much Vampire, which handles things more or less similarly to Sorcerer, and gives me some similar issues.
.

It already is a guage, given your def of humanity.  Each loss is a result of a decision on the part of the character to violate humanity and it will (sooner or later) result in either a rewrite for the worse or a retirement of the character   It is not a guage that limits what actions you can take at any given level.  Are you wanting something where murder is easier or not as much of a risk as you descend?  I think humanity in sorcerer is a meta-stat for the purpose of marking significant decisions with regard to the humanity definition in the story as well as making the risk a tangible one in game terms.

 I disagree that Vampire does this the same way.  The humanity/path scale in vampire specifically delineates what actions you are capable of before making a humanity check at each level with each level having an increasing tolerance for depravity, and if I recall correctly there was a rule about an automatic humanity loss as well in some situations.  In V:TM you could also get a humanity roll just from observing something terrible.  In Sorcerer you only get them from actually doing something.

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I don't know what you mean by "old personality mechanics." Perhaps Call of Cthulu?


Yep, that's the daddy of most of it.

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Perhaps this is just my physicist's bias showing, but making a nuclear bomb is not the same thing as dropping it. They are both transgressive, certainly, but the second is FAR worse than the first.


This is the same mistake as your ealier SUV comment.  A nuclear bomb has no will of its own, a demon does. And what it wants is anathema or at least totally alien to the nature of humanity.  Demons are active forces and worse they are intelligent ones (of course that might vary with definition).  Finally, they can't really be controlled because they, even bound, have that will.  The reason I used a virus as an example in my last post is that, at least on a primitive level, a virus has a will to survive and reproduce that is automatic.  A bomb, on the other hand, has no will to explode.

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 For a murder, you need to plot the murder (bad), point the gun (itself bad), pull the trigger (bad), and cover it up (bad. see Blood Simple for details.) Is that 4 checks


If I were GM?  It would depend on the definition of humanity of course.  If you go with the physical/mental/emotional hurt defintion I would say no to the plotting (you can come up with all the plans you want they don't mean squat until you act.)  Pointing the gun, maybe.  Depends on the strictness of the definition.  If the target were frightened by the gun being pointed then I might say yes (emotional/mental pain).  If the target never sees the gun being pointed then no.  The act of the murder yes.  Covering it up, again maybe, it would depend on play.  In my game the group agreed that a player should make a humanity role based on the fact that his masters daughter inquired as to his master's whereabouts (the character had murdered him) and he lied about it.  Another character in the game had a murder committed by an unknown party in his apartment and he acted to cover it up because he was already being investigated by police. Another humanity check was made.  We have a somewhat broader definition of humanity there involving both empathic respect for others (essentailly the same as the hurt definition) and selfishness vs. selflessness.

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That's fine, but it is ultimately still a sanity-based definition. I am not looking for the internal moral state of the character.  I am looking for a gauge of actual immoral action taken by the character.
There are people out there who are perfectly capable of murdering in cold blood, but manage to live totally unremarkable lives. They are not 0 humanity -- they just have to watch themselves more closely.
Summoning a demon is a terrifying thing, and it makes the moral slide easier. But why the act itself, and not the aftermath?


I conceed that the sensory dep tanks were a sanity-based thing.  Bad example or unclear thinking on my part.  In the sense of actual immoral action refer to what I said above again, the ritual must involve an immoral act by the standards of the humanity def.   On the people capable of murder, yes, they are verty lucky in their humanity rolls. :)  But more than that, loss of a character due to humanity 0 means, significantly, that the story of that character is over as a protagonist (at least in the original rules.)  To reach humanity zero you have to have done a bunch of things, established a pattern of action that shows the descent.  The people with unremarkable lives have no story.  A sorcerer by definition is remarkable.

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Yes, actually, for certain religious views. One of the characters in a fantasy world of mine (one that I am twiddling with in Sorcerer terms, actually) sold her soul to the devil in order to protect her family from being destroyed as part of God's divine plan. Is that damning? By definition. Is it immoral?


You answered it yourself when you said for certain religous views. If you have a narrow humanity def using the religous code then yes.  A religous view is a moral code, and can be taken as a humanity def and this situation sounds like a classic Sorcerer story.  The character is prepared to disobey the laws of her god to protect family.  Is it immoral?  By church standards, absolutely.  Check out this thread.

Sorcerer: A Catholic Roleplaying Game

 This kind of thing is told well with an option mentioned in Sex and Sorcery using dual, perhaps contradictory humanity defs.  The same act might cause both a loss and a gain check.  Pit a religous code against a family code, or a don't hurt people code.  Sounds like good story grist to me.

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any definition of humanity that doesn't give demon summoning as the Worst Possible Thing is wildly unsupported by the system.
I see demons as power. Crazy, wild, uncontrollable power with it's own ideas, sure. But power is only as bad as what you do with it.
I see humanity as morality.
are power Aand morality fundamentally opposed? That's the dynamic question of the game.
But, sadly, the system seems to want all the characters to drop to 0 humanity just getting the theme going.


I don't remember the game (and I went back to look) requiring demon summoning to be the Worst Possible Thing.  Yes, demons are power, not just with their own ideas but with thier own will.  Humanity is morality (for your definition).  Therefore Sorcerous acts are ones that require a violation of humanity to access the power, thus you must make the required acts immoral.

In game terms the question is not are they fundamentally opposed.  They are, explicitly and mechancally.  The question is what choices does one make in the face of that.  My experience with Sorcerer so far has shown me that the slide is not as fast as you might think.  Better than half of the humanity rolls my players have made they have won, but the roll itself marked where they crossed the line.

Finally, remember that those extra dice from rp bonuses and previous actions can make a huge difference in the outcomes.

I do see where you are coming from, as I said above, with respect to the system not spelling out why the humanity rolls for the rituals seem out of step with what you are wanting to do with humanity.  To me the key is that  tthe ritual actions of sorcery must somehow violate the humanity definition you are using.  If that is made to be the case then the quandry seems to be resolved.

regards

Trevis

(cross posted with chris who managed to say it more succinctly than I.  Sorry, it is late.)
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Valamir
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« Reply #8 on: July 01, 2003, 04:31:18 AM »

There is one very important point that I don't see has been made strongly enough.

Humanity is NOT a sanity guage or a moral guage.  In the core rules it doesn't gauge anything.

What's tripping you up (and I'm pretty sure about this because it tripped me up too) is seeing Humanity as a spectrum because there are high values and low values.  Humanity is not a spectrum.  Humanity is a binary condition.  You are either human or inhuman.  The number does not represent a "degree of humanness", it represents the strength of the connection.  It is, if you will, a Binding Strength to your own humanity.

Humanity is challenged by doing things that are inhuman.  By the definition of Sorcerer, demons are NOT natural creatures who just happen to live in another plane of existance.  They are by definition "things that should not exist".  Since this drifts a little bit towards Mythos, its easy to fall victim to the "sanity" angle...but that's not it.

Humanity checks for Sorcery is nothing more than "if you play with fire, you're going to get burned".  The fire in this case is the inhumanity of demons.  The burning is the weakening of your own grip on humanity.


Once you get to this point it becomes much easier to sit down and start defining Humanity.  The key is that the demons ALSO have to be defined in the same terms as you've defined humanity.  

The definition for humanity should always be the answer to the question "what makes us human".  And it really should be a complete sentence if not a paragraph.  I don't think 1 word humanity definitions are very effective.  If humanity then is "the ability to employ logic and rational thought to overcome our base animal instincts", than your demons have to be defined in terms that challenge this definition.  Sorcerous rituals MUST in this case involve catering to those base animal instincts.  

The humanity score then DOES NOT determine how rational vs how bestial your character is.  IF your character is human, he is rational -- by the very definition established.  IF your character has a Humanity score of at least 1 he is Human...therefor he is rationale.  No more no less rational than someone who has a score of 7.  If he slips to a Humanity of 0, he is no longer human.

Its a binary switch.  The number does nothing more than determine how close you are to flipping that switch.  As an analogy it is a toggle on the wall.  Your hand is moving towards that toggle to switch it off.  The score is not "how on" or "how off" the toggle is.  It is "how far away your hand is".
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ethan_greer
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« Reply #9 on: July 01, 2003, 04:52:51 AM »

Boink!  I suddenly am much more interested in Sorcerer.  Thanks, Ralph.
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Christopher Kubasik
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« Reply #10 on: July 01, 2003, 06:08:09 AM »

I normally don't do this sort of thing... But well done Ralph.
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Lemonhead, The Shield
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« Reply #11 on: July 01, 2003, 06:17:02 AM »

I think it's important to reinforce this point:

Humanity in Vampire bears little or no relation to Humanity in Sorcerer. Don't let the fact they have the same name confuse you. Everything after this point is my interpretation.

VHumanity is this thing that lets people see how good you are. It's a thing with levels, where each level is a set of behaviour that you're allowed, and where there are things you can and can't do if you don't want to lose Humanity, and there are things that you have to do if you want to get Humanity, and they're all written down at the start and they work in one way, and that's it.

SHumanity [that looks more odd than I'd intended] is fear, and story, and a whole bunch of other good things in one number that you raise and lower according to your group's definition of Humanity for that particular game. It is not a moral compass. It isn't really a measure of anything. It's sort of a probability - I am this close to becoming inhuman, but I don't need to worry about it just yet. It doesn't affect your behaviour, nor should it, at least when I'm playing. What's to fear from inhumanity? You're a goddamn Sorcerer, and you don't care about the threat of losing Humanity, because you know, know, know in your heart of hearts that you're going to make it. You'll be okay. That's the fundamental nature of at least some of your egotism. You're going to be the one who's okay. It's all those other losers who'll succumb.

[edit: Why do I only ever notice that Ralph is completely right after I've posted?]
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Ben Morgan
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« Reply #12 on: July 01, 2003, 06:36:39 PM »

I was thinking about this thread this morning, because this issue was something that I've been trying to wrap my head around for some time. It finally hit me at the bus stop on the way to work.

In Vampire, Humanity is the slippery slope that you try your damndest to crawl back up, but the Beast in you keeps dragging you back down. The rating shows you how far down the slope you are. The nature of the curve states that the further down you get, the less steep is becomes (ie: to go from Humanity 4 to 3, you have to do more depraved and sadistic things than if you were to go from 7 to 6). Conversely, you have to work that much harder to go back up from 7 to 8 than you would to go from 4 to 5.

It's nifty in theory, but in practice it doesn't quite work right. There were a couple of times in a previous Vampire game when a player did something nasty and I called for a humanity roll, and they tried to justify their actions, and I tried to explain that attempting to justify the nasty stuff is an indication of losing the point, to keep it you have to feel bad about what you've done. It's kind of counter-intuitive.

In Sorcerer, Humanity is a sheer cliff with a 1000 foot drop and a flat highway on top. The rating shows you nothing more than how close to the edge you're driving. Whether you're Humanity 5 or Humanity 1, you're still driving on a flat surface, but the Humanity 1 character is closer to falling off. And once you fall off, you're fucked. Ralph is quite right about the whole binary condition thingy.

In this respect (among others), Sorcerer has more balls than Vampire can ever aspire to.

-- Ben
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #13 on: July 02, 2003, 06:48:44 AM »

Hello,

Wow, this thread really boomed during my day off the Forge. Ben, you are stating some points that were first presented by a fellow named Craig in the old Sorcerer mailing list in some detail; see the archives at the website and look for posts by "Angel."

Quote
One of the things that immediately struck me is that the Humanity gauge seems primarily designed to be used as a sanity gauge and very little else.


Ah, projection, thy name is Sorcerer ... Ben, you're mistaking your own interpretations for what's actually in the text. Look again - you'll see that sanity is one option among several that are presented, and that even the sanity-stuff in Chapter 7 is about the human-interactive consequences of the condition. Have you read The Sorcerer's Soul? It's all about this - and about integrating the process of Humanity loss/gain with decisions and consequences, just as you are looking for.

Regarding intensity, or degree of awfulness relative to the risk to Humanity, here's a point for you to consider: it's perfectly OK for a GM to call for more than one Humanity check for a given sort of act. Slam the door in the Jehovah's Witness' face? One Humanity check. Drag him in, rape him, kill him, and eat him, not necessarily in that order? Um, take three Humanity checks, please. Some groups do this, and some don't. Your "load the gun, point the gun, pull the trigger" example is perfectly valid for three Humanity checks, if the manner in which you-all are playing treats it as three distinct moments, and subject to various local Humanity-definition qualifiers as Trevis points out.

Therefore your "worst possible thing" interpretation of the system is flawed. You should also consider that many Sorcerer games actually include very, very few Contact + Summon + Bind combinations, with ethics-based Humanity checks being far more common. This is a "group-defined" issue; the system offers an engine for that definition.

I think both Trevis' and Christopher's points so far are worth a great deal of review. I suggest printing out the thread and taking some time over it (that's what I do with a lot of threads), because a couple of key points might get missed. Trevis' virus analogy captures the key issue perfectly, in my view.

I feel the need, although I suspect it's unnecessary, to reinforce the point made so well in the last few posts. Humanity in Sorcerer is nothing at all like Humanity in Vampire. Not a whit. Vampire's mechanic is taken directly from Cyberpunk, and Cyberpunk's is directly descended from Call of Cthulhu, all of which are based on the score describing the character's current potential for behavior (see also Obsidian). Trevis has accurately pointed out (as I have in the past) that no particular Humanity score in Sorcerer requires or describes the character's current "state" or permitted range of behavior. This crucial point completely falsifies any description or interpretation of Sorcerer as a "degeneration" game.

Best,
Ron
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Michael S. Miller
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« Reply #14 on: July 03, 2003, 03:33:24 AM »

Hi, Ben.

Just two things to add. If Humanity measures anything, in my mind, it's Audience Sympathy. The "once-over" section of character creation (pp.33-34) states that a character must be a suitable protagonist--someone an audience would be willing to root for. That's not just the same, old "don't be a jerk" rule that most RPGs have. Since you're playing a protagonist in a story, the story only need continue so long as the audience is still on your side. The more stuff you do that contradicts the Humanity definition--which is to say, stuff that defies the moral code of the story--the more likely the audience is finally going to give up on you and not see you as a protagonist anymore.

Of course, even this is not entirely accurate. After all, the audience is still on Othello's side in Act V, even as he murders Desdemona. Perhaps it's better to say that Humanity 0 is the greatest extent possible of audience sympathy, and that the character is ruled a non-protagonist only after that last scene is played. Jared does that his his Sorcerer supplement Schism. That's up to the local Humanity definition, of course.

Quote from: Ben Lehman
One of the characters in a fantasy world of mine (one that I am twiddling with in Sorcerer terms, actually) sold her soul to the devil in order to protect her family from being destroyed as part of God's divine plan.  Is that damning?  By definition.  Is it immoral?


This example is a good one, and seems to have been overlooked in previous posts. Assuming that the saving one's family is in line with the Humanity definition, I'd run it like this: Contacting, Summoning, Binding happen as normal--the rituals each require some violation of the Humanity definition and each require a Humanity Check. But then, the first order given to the demon is "Save my family." That merits a Humanity Gain Roll. Therein lies the tension of "I've used power I shouldn't have to do the Right Thing."

See how the Audience Sympathy see-saws back and forth? Just imagine the movie audience watch this Sorcerer perform these nasty rituals--they're shocked, they're horrified, they're disgusted. (Let's say the rituals knocked our Sorcerer down to Humanity 1) Some of them rise to walk out of the theater and write a scathing review of the film. But just then, she says to Old Scratch "Take my soul, just save my family." The music swells. People sit back down as they watch Old Scratch face off against the legions of heaven, as Tiny Tim's life hangs in the balance. Bang! The audience is hooked into the story again. (Humanity has risen)

But that's just my take on it--I'm a sucker for tragedy and melodrama.
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