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Author Topic: Defining Humanity  (Read 3781 times)
Valamir
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« on: September 12, 2001, 01:13:00 PM »

Many different ways of defining what Humanity represents have been proposed.  How important is it to tie the definition of Humanity into the portrayal of demons.

It occurs to me that Humanity should be diametrically opposed to "demonity".  Mechanincally having a high Humanity makes it more difficult to Summon, but easier to Banish.  The implication there is that Humanity is somehow naturally opposed to whatever it is that makes a demon a demon.

This also ties in with the nature of sorcerous rituals.  Why does Humanity deduct from Summoning in a given campaign.  In a game where Humanity = morality, is it because the sorcerer has difficulty overcoming his own nature to participate in such a willing act of "depravity"?  Or is it the demon's own reluctance to come forth and serve such a repugnately "human" sorcerer.  

In a game where Humanity = Cthulhu-esque sanity, does the interference come from the sorcerer having difficulty convincing himself that such creatures actually exist; r does it represent an unwillingness "think outside of the box" in order to perform the necessary "warping of dimensions"; or does it literally mean that the sorcerer realizes that what he's about to try is "nuts" and thus his own sanity makes him hesitant to go through with it?

I'm thinking that exploring these interactions as they apply to any given campaign will provide a wealth of grist for the mill of roleplaying modifiers.

This also ties in to the concept of Need and how its determined.  Does each demon (or category thereof) have a unique Need, or is the Need determined as part of the ritual contract (i.e the negotiated consideration in contract speak)? Does the frequency or intensity of Need increase with the Power of the demon?

For example, say Humanity represents morality, and Needs are negotiated.  The penalty to summoning might then represent a Demon's reluctance to serve a high humanity sorceror on the theory that a high humanity sorcerer will be less likely to agree to a desireable Need.  One possible outcome of this is that a sorcerer might offer various other "incentives" or "freebees" or "Need Upgrade Packages" as a way to overcome the disadvantage.

One could thus easily imagine a matrix of Needs cross referencing Humanity (and what the sorcerer is willing to do) with Power (what the demon wants the sorcerer to do).  Falling somewhere on this matrix, then, is idea that the demon is being poorly, fairly, or well compensated.  It can even be seen that in such an environment the Humanity penalty might be shifted to the Binding ritual rather than the Summoning Ritual.

Similiarly by this logic, defining Humanity as the human soul, and demons as desireing the sorcerer's eventual damnation, one has some interesting possibilities.  First, if each point of Humanity represents a piece of the Soul, than one could argue that high Humanity sorcerer's have an EASIER time summoning demon's as demons rush to corrupt the most valuable souls they can find.  Alternatively if the soul is a binary thing, than the lower ones Humanity the sooner the demon will be able to collect his prize and the more likely he is to respond to the call.

As these possibilities are left intentionally open in the rules, has anyone sat down and come up with a comprehensive treatment of Humanity and Demons and Needs and Rituals in a way that ties them all together?
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: September 12, 2001, 02:49:00 PM »

Hey Ralph,

You have - in a nutshell - stated the, shall we call it, Artistic Challenge of the game's existence.

One aspect of writing the game, to me, was a cry of defiance at the entire RPG culture as I saw it around 1991. "System doesn't matter," "Role-playing isn't about anything," "It's a just a game" [in a dismissive sense toward content] ... Basically, the prevailing idea, which is STILL prevailing among most game designers, is that (a) role-playing as an activity is a broken and degraded form of bad writing, (b) any good writing or creativity in it exists solely as setting history and metaplot, and (c) that anything you wanted to do with it can be done easily with GURPS and a "good GM."

Now, I'm not too let down if someone wants to play Sorcerer for slam-bang fun and splatter. But integrating these various mechanics into actual, thematic, good-story content as a shared group activity is what I really like to see and what the game, from my viewpoint, is "for." I think I've done it myself, several times. I think it shows up impressively across the mini-supplements, although the extent of detail in each category varies a lot (few people really spend time visualizing or describing the rituals, for instance).

The more of it I see, the happier I am. But I also hasten to add that this process takes a while to develop, both as a group comes to realize that they are doing it, and as events unfold (and are birthed and then unfold) during the course of play. I've seen pretty lame, standard opening sessions for a game turn into phenomenal sagas, if they are allowed to develop and breathe.

Best,
Ron
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random
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Posts: 15


« Reply #2 on: September 12, 2001, 04:06:00 PM »

Quote

On 2001-09-12 17:13, Valamir wrote:
It occurs to me that Humanity should be diametrically opposed to "demonity".  Mechanincally having a high Humanity makes it more difficult to Summon, but easier to Banish.  The implication there is that Humanity is somehow naturally opposed to whatever it is that makes a demon a demon.


I don't think this is necessarily true.  Here's an alternate take on the subject of what humanity (and "demonity") actually are -- this is what I'm kicking around for my own game, if I manage to get a couple of players interested enough.  Apologies if this is unclear; I haven't really thought this idea through yet.

The basic idea is that demons are manifestations of psychological traumas being drawn from the collective unconscious of mankind.  This is similar to the notion that demons are projections of the sorcerer's unconscious mind, but I like the idea that mankind as a whole generates a big psychic field, and bundles of psi energy can be pulled out of that field and materialized as demons.

Humanity reflects the amount of "distance" between the sorcerer's mind and this collective unconscious.  So, when you contact, summon, or bind demons this acts to pull your mind closer to the psi field; summoning demons is harder if you have a high humanity because you have to pull the energy farther.  Demons are pulled back into the psi field unless they're anchored to a sorcerer's mind (i.e. bound) or to a physical object (i.e. contained).  Banishing demons may increase the distance between your mind and the psi field through sort of an action/reaction effect.

Running with this idea, going to humanity zero means that the sorcerer's mind merges with the collective unconscious of mankind and stops existing as an individual entity.  Or, perhaps, it gets lost within the collective unconscious and basically becomes a demon.  The body left behind is perhaps a catatonic shell, or might be constantly possessed by myriads of momentary impulses.  But humanity isn't really the same sort of thing as "sanity", at all.

As a matter of fact, a possible interesting side-effect of summoning a demon would be to reduce the amount of psychosis, worldwide:  a trauma afflicting some large number of people has been pulled out of their subconscious minds into the real world!

Demons' Needs would be tied somehow to the underlying trauma.  Suppose that the trauma you find in the psi field has to do with people's violent tendencies; then the demon might Need to fight ... that sort of thing.  (Interesting questions come up here:  what kind of Need would result from a psychic nodule of schizophrenia?  obsessive behavior? etc.)

Now ... I will freely admit that this doesn't address some aspects of the system.  Why is humanity affected by doing good or bad things?  I haven't come up with an elegant answer to that question.  If anyone has any ideas, I'd like to hear them.

Cheers,

random
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Valamir
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« Reply #3 on: September 12, 2001, 08:05:00 PM »

Quote

Now ... I will freely admit that this doesn't address some aspects of the system.  Why is humanity affected by doing good or bad things?  I haven't come up with an elegant answer to that question.  If anyone has any ideas, I'd like to hear them.


Well, one idea seems to make sense to me under this model.  If the "psi field" represents trauma, than Humanity checks would be caused by experiencing and or causing traumatic events (not necessarily good/bad).  In fact an act of heroism might actually call for a check as the implication is that heroism is responding to a traumatic situation.  In this sense 0 Humanity might in fact represent "burn out" of the sort experienced by cops, fire fighters, ER doctors, etc.  Taking drugs, drinking, gambling or other "escapes" might be used in this setting to temporarily boost ones Humanity.

The reason Humanity goes down and thus summoning demons becomes easier is that the act the character is engaged in warps the overall "field" in a manner similiar to a gravity well.  Or for an alternative analogy, picture the field as the ground and the character at some height above the ground.  Engaging or experienceing Trauma doesn't so actually move the character closer to the ground.  Rather, picture each trauma as a wagon load of dirt dumped by the character onto the ground.  This growing "pile" of trauma then gets closer to the character...and of course, with enough individuals dumping enough piles of dirt, the over all "field" gets larger and the world becomes progressively more grim.

Vacations, love, senseless acts of kindness, sharing good times with friends would all be ways of regaining humanity.

Hows that grab you?
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random
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Posts: 15


« Reply #4 on: September 13, 2001, 10:17:00 AM »

Quote

Engaging or experienceing Trauma doesn't so actually move the character closer to the ground.  Rather, picture each trauma as a wagon load of dirt dumped by the character onto the ground.  This growing "pile" of trauma then gets closer to the character [..]

Hows that grab you?


That grabs me.  That's just exactly the sort of idea I was looking for -- thanks!

Cheers,

random
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #5 on: September 13, 2001, 12:54:00 PM »

I like Ralph's diametrically opposed idea, and that is exactly what I'm doing in Sorcerer & Space. Humanity is essentially the ability to discern meaning in a universe that would appear meaningless. Demons reflect and are metaphors for acting without reason or purpose; the meaninglessness of the external universe and the void of space.

To that extent, the demons are drawn to those that are easier to bring over to their point of view (or rather lack of one). And a sorcerer's only hope of not falling into despair is to have concrete things in his/her life that provide meaning.

Mike
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