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Author Topic: Humanity checks  (Read 9835 times)
colin roald
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« Reply #15 on: January 22, 2004, 03:22:15 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
If you try to imagine "the whole game-world" all humming along operating by the rules of the game, and using "how the world would work if" as your standard for utilizing the rules ... well, that's a fast track to missing some of the real strengths of the game.

What?  Gah.   Humanity rules aren't supposed to apply to everybody?

I honestly don't know if I can accept that.  If any game mechanic has to apply to everyone in the game world, this is it, isn't it?  By definition, Humanity is what  humans have.  If the characters aren't playing by the same moral rules as everyone else, why should I care about their stories?
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colin roald

i cannot, yet i must.  how do you calculate that?  at what point on the graph do `must' and `cannot' meet?  yet i must, but i cannot.
-- Ro-Man, the introspective gorilla-suited destroyer of worlds
Gordon C. Landis
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« Reply #16 on: January 22, 2004, 04:34:38 PM »

Hi Colin,

Well, you can rationailize it with arguably-in-game-world logic if you want to - only sorcerers, who have taken steps to really put their Humanity in jeopardy, have to be monitored in this way - normal folks (i.e., not sorcerers and also not Hitler, a serial killer, or etc.) will never hit 0, and until you hit 0, Humanity means nothing in-game-world.

But the general point is (I think) - Sorcerer isn't trying to model a world, it's trying to model a story (a particular kind of story approached in a particular way, to be more precise).  Characters in a story never really play by the same rules as everyone else in the world - they play by the rules of the story.  Why should a game have to be any different?

Gordon
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #17 on: January 22, 2004, 09:30:08 PM »

Hi Colin,

Heh - that's what Jesse (jburneko) likes to call "Simulationist-by-habit" thinking.

Humanity doesn't refer to what everyone in the game-world has; it refers to the ones we the audience are concerned with.

Now, am I saying that NPCs don't have Humanity scores? Or that they wouldn't make Humanity checks if it were germaine to the conflicts in the game? Or that they have rules for going up and down that are different from the player-characters?

No. I'm not saying any of those things. I'm saying that characters whose Humanity isn't relevant to the action of what you're creating are simply irrelevant in terms of game processes. That means that if an NPC is relevant to you, if you do care about how Humanity is going for him or her, and if the NPC is tied to a player-character of some kind ... then sure, go by those processes, big-time.

The player-characters already meet all these criteria, which is why they have to follow those rules too. But remember: these rules are for you and the people playing the game with you, not "about the characters" in some kind of representational-model way.

Best,
Ron
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #18 on: January 23, 2004, 07:58:44 AM »

Hiya,

Follow-up point: perhaps an easier way to look at the issue is that changes in Humanity are only relevant for a few characters, including the player-characters and a number of NPCs.

What I'm really trying to get at is to abandon consideration of entirely irrelevant NPCs - which is to say, the imaginary world which is not dealt with in actual play at all. Say you're watching, oh, The Seven Samurai. Does it matter at all what's happening with the English and French colonists of North America, contemporary with the events of the film? Must we give any attention, notice, or worries about consistency in the course of making and/or enjoying The Seven Samurai?

It's not a matter of whether those colonists have Humanity scores, or whether they're using "different rules," or anything like that. Such a question is meaningless for story creation.

Best,
Ron
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colin roald
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« Reply #19 on: January 23, 2004, 08:31:41 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Heh - that's what Jesse (jburneko) likes to call "Simulationist-by-habit" thinking.

Is that a such a bad thing?  (Although I object to the word 'habit' -- I've given it quite a bit of thought.)   And I don't want to try to correct you of all people on what "Simulationist" might mean -- but as I understand it, it describes the goal of the game, not the elements thereof.  Just because Sorcerer's goal is Narrative doesn't mean that the rules should fail to in some fashion simulate reality (I think the word for it in literary circles is 'verisimilitude'.)  Narrativism should not be shorthand for "the world does not have to make sense".   For example, even fairy tales have rules.

Sorcerer is about Humanity, and if the rules for Humanity don't have verisimilitude for me, then I can't play the game.  By definition, Humanity is what humans have, and for me, that means every person in the game world is in principle subject to the same rules.(*)

Now, don't get me wrong -- I do not for one second contemplate mechanistically working out the Humanity of every random cab driver the PCs come in contact with.    I just need to have confidence that, if I did, the results would make sense.  I don't mean to contradict what I said earlier, but I take it as axiomatic that everyone is the hero of their own life.  I don't really want to create the kind of story where the bit characters  do not have stories of their own.


(*) I leave aside settings where Humanity is defined as something like obedience to a social code, explicitly expected only of a certain class of people.
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colin roald

i cannot, yet i must.  how do you calculate that?  at what point on the graph do `must' and `cannot' meet?  yet i must, but i cannot.
-- Ro-Man, the introspective gorilla-suited destroyer of worlds
colin roald
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« Reply #20 on: January 23, 2004, 08:43:33 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
What I'm really trying to get at is to abandon consideration of entirely irrelevant NPCs - which is to say, the imaginary world which is not dealt with in actual play at all. Say you're watching, oh, The Seven Samurai. Does it matter at all what's happening with the English and French colonists of North America, contemporary with the events of the film?

Oh, geez, no, of course not.  That's not what I'm getting at at all.  

Let's take a specific example.  Suppose the setting is modern and Humanity is something like Empathy or The Ability to Form Relationships with Others.  In such a case, all the kinds of miscellaneous assholery we all do every day to/with our family and lovers -- it's all relevant to Humanity checks.   And then I need to feel confident that whatever standard I adopt for "how big a dick does a character have to be before he has to make a Humanity check" doesn't imply that every third frat boy will have Humanity 0.  Because the frat boys are in the game -- they could end up on screen at any time.
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colin roald

i cannot, yet i must.  how do you calculate that?  at what point on the graph do `must' and `cannot' meet?  yet i must, but i cannot.
-- Ro-Man, the introspective gorilla-suited destroyer of worlds
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #21 on: January 23, 2004, 09:13:57 AM »

Hi Colin,

You wrote,

Quote
And then I need to feel confident that whatever standard I adopt for "how big a dick does a character have to be before he has to make a Humanity check" doesn't imply that every third frat boy will have Humanity 0.


Seems like you've answered your own question. As a GM, during play, call for player-character Humanity checks at a rate that doesn't violate your frat-boy-NPC standard.

... with the proviso that we're talking about actual story-relevant NPC frat-boys, not just any ol' frat boy who conceivably (when the dog howls, when it rains on Tuesday, etc) could enter play.

... and with the further point that I think that's kind of backwards - I'd start with the player-characters and front-and-center NPCs, and then let other NPCs' Humanity take care of itself as a reflection or mirror of that standard, but that's just me. If your approach works for you, then that's excellent.

With respect, this discussion has a certain timid-virgin ring to it. It's like ... um, well, say the, ah, virgin is making this big decision about whether to have sex with you or not. And (bear with me, gender assumptions and all) she is discussing all sorts of maybe's and if's and what-about's, and her examples get more and more far-fetched and more irrelevant to the moment at hand, considering that her shirt's off and all that.

After a certain point, that discussion is a smoke-screen - if you persist in answering and clarifying and soothing and all that kind of responding, guess what? She gets farther and farther away from actually buckling down and givin' it up to you, specifically. In fact, it's quite likely that nothing will happen tonight, that she'll have sex with Thor the biker guy at the next party when he flashes his teeth at her, and that she will always remember you as a wonderful friend.

So although your questions are excellent and this discussion has revealed a number of very good, experienced takes on the issue, perhaps it's time to, uh ...

... OK, that's enough of that metaphor.

Best,
Ron
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djarb
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« Reply #22 on: January 23, 2004, 09:52:31 AM »

Quote from: Fabrice G.

In the case of sumoning, the sorcerer can make a sacrifice to gain bonus dice on the ritual roll. He gains a number of bonus dice equal to the stamina or will of the victim, but also has a negative modifier on his humanity check equal to the humanity of the victim (that is, if the victim is a person). -- Sorcerer p.87


Hold on... isn't it that human sacrifice imposes an additional Humanity check rolled against the victim's Humanity instead of your own?
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Michael S. Miller
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« Reply #23 on: January 23, 2004, 09:52:32 AM »

Quote from: zmook
Let's take a specific example.  Suppose the setting is modern and Humanity is something like Empathy or The Ability to Form Relationships with Others.  In such a case, all the kinds of miscellaneous assholery we all do every day to/with our family and lovers -- it's all relevant to Humanity checks.   And then I need to feel confident that whatever standard I adopt for "how big a dick does a character have to be before he has to make a Humanity check" doesn't imply that every third frat boy will have Humanity 0.  Because the frat boys are in the game -- they could end up on screen at any time.


Okay, IIRC, the only thing the rules explicitly say about the consequences of Humanity 0 are that the player loses control of the character to the GM. In the case of NPCs, this is meaningless. In this hard, mechanical aspect, it doesn't matter if an NPC has Humanity zero or a hundred, it's still the GM's character.

Now, the game also suggests that you customize the effects of Humanity 0 to fit the Humanity definition. In your example, I figure it would be "incapable of forming relationships with others." I see no problem with every third frat boy not being able to form relationships with others. Only half kidding: Isn't that a requirement of the rush period? Since the rules leave the possiblity of returning to Humanity 1 from Humanity 0 in the hands of the GM, there's no reason your hypothetical frat boy can't grow out of his jerk-stage into a responsible adult.
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joshua neff
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« Reply #24 on: January 23, 2004, 10:25:42 AM »

Michael's got it. Theoretically, any & all NPCs have a Humanity of zero. The only really relevant Humanity belongs to the PCs. When a PC's Humanity drops to zero, does it mean the character is now an irredeemable bastard? No, it just means they've lost touch with that essential grasp on regular, not-corrupted-by-demons spark.

So, Humanity is, say, "empathy for others." A PC's Humanity drops to zero. This doesn't mean the PC (now an NPC) walks around killing people right & left, tripping old ladies trying to cross the street, taking candy from little kiddies--the character doesn't suddenly become a character in kpfs. It just means that the character has lost that empathy. They may still do good things, but not for empathetic reasons.

At any rate, you can assume that many people have zero Humanity. Or a high Humanity rating. As Ron's said, unless the NPC comes into play, their Humanity rating is irrelevant to the point of being non-existent. Humanity doesn't exist within the game world, it exists outside, defining the game world & defining the PCs & their actions.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #25 on: January 23, 2004, 10:53:42 AM »

Ah, jeez, Michael, you nailed it 100 times better than I did.

Note to self: "the rules are good, they are better than your ability to explain them, always go back and look at the rules."

Best,
Ron
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colin roald
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« Reply #26 on: January 23, 2004, 01:28:38 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
With respect, this discussion has a certain timid-virgin ring to it.

Not so much timid as frustrated.  Life keeps getting in the way of my gaming time.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
... OK, that's enough of that metaphor.

Yeah, thanks.  :-P

Quote from: joshua neff
Michael's got it. Theoretically, any & all NPCs have a Humanity of zero. The only really relevant Humanity belongs to the PCs. When a PC's Humanity drops to zero, does it mean the character is now an irredeemable bastard? No, it just means they've lost touch with that essential grasp on regular, not-corrupted-by-demons spark.

Aha!

Thanks, everybody.
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colin roald

i cannot, yet i must.  how do you calculate that?  at what point on the graph do `must' and `cannot' meet?  yet i must, but i cannot.
-- Ro-Man, the introspective gorilla-suited destroyer of worlds
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