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Re: (TFT) Man To Man & GURPS - hack/n/slash ethics

On 8/5/14 1:24 AM, Peter von Kleinsmid wrote:
It is interesting that RPG games have skill development based not just on experience, but on roleplaying and morality.

GM's and players looking at their group contracts might well ask how this should work. Should experience be based just on actions, or be influenced by roleplaying, and if so, how? Staying in character? Advancing the GM's pre-arranged plotline? Doing something that has a good result for the party? Not violating the character's morality as originally written? Not violating the GM's morality? Rewards for roleplaying that entertains the group? How ok is it for the GM, for PC's to have a morality where it's ok to kill "not totally evil" people? Prisoners? Is it ok for players to just say their characters have a morality that happens to be convenient for gaming advantages?

Dark City Games has their "karma point" system, which seems designed to provide gaming motivation to act altruistically. We were kicking around the idea of making an expanded version of this, where you could have either positive or negative karma. It would specifically make for a cinematic campaign, where you had shining heroes (with high Positive Karma scores) and utterly corrupt villains (with lots and lots of Negative Karma). That's not very realistic, but might be enjoyable to play nonetheless. We haven't ever put it into practice.

I always marvel when people talk about Dwarves having no women, either. Or the women having beards... Of course, some games actually do define their races in sexually interesting ways.
Well of COURSE dwarf women have beards! Haven't you read your Terry Pratchett?

Oh boy, something we can kill without feeling bad. ;-)

And this is why things like zombies or robots are so commonly used as enemies. Nobody is going to argue that it's morally wrong to destroy a machine, or a body that's already dead. Demons in ITL are an interesting case; in most canons, they're clearly evil and irredeemable, but ITL/AdvWizard doesn't seem to describe them as evil, so much as alien and very powerful. As far as animals and roving bandits, which are morally questionable to slay out of hand, I tend to have them run away once it's clear they're getting the worst of the fight, since after all, why would they stick around to get slaughtered? Then I give the party XP for surviving the encounter.

At 08:32 AM 8/4/2014, Tapley, Mark wrote:
"What’s the most evil creature in Tolkien’s universe that has a speaking part?"

Well there was Smaug, though I rather like Smaug. And it seems to me the orcs do actually talk when not in combat, for example in the bits where they are discussing eating Merry and Pippin, and when Bilbo is captured.
I can't recall an example of a line of dialog specifically attributed to Morgoth himself; if there is one, he would most definitely max out the evil-meter. Sauron speaks through his "Mouth" (the one that gets summarily beheaded by Aragorn), and Saruman definitely has a speaking part.

But if the world is to make sense, evil and good have to be mixed, in my NPC’s as in the party I’m refereeing for, because that’s the way it is in the real world - always has been, always will be. So, when the party muses, “What are we going to do with these prisoners? Our pet wolves could save a couple of days’ supplies by eating them…” NPC’s are going to be aghast and the experience hammer is going to be out.
Although, if the party had already specifically established itself as evil, that might apply less strongly, since they're acting in character, and good role-playing is supposed to be worth experience. I've tried to role-play "evil", though. It's not so easy. Most of us just don't think that way.

Also, just how much experience the party loses should depend on whether they slit the prisoners' throats before feeding them to the wolves or not ;-)

Conversely, when they realize they could dig a short irrigation ditch, quadruple the pig farm output, and put an end to the orc settlement’s *need* to raid, rather than simply killing all of the orcs in the settlement, I’ll reward that copiously.

With experience that they can then put into combat ability? Seems to me this is where it would be nice (though of course more complex) to have different sorts of intangible rewards and penalties for actions. Of course, there are also practical rewards and penalties from logical consequences.

I'd say, "Yep, digging the ditch solves everybody's problems - for the moment. In a generation or two, those orcs are going to have bred themselves over the new carrying capacity, and then you're just going to have more and bigger raiding parties." Of course, since the PC's don't know this, and are in fact solving the problem they're faced with in a humane way, they would probably still get plenty of experience for doing so. Which they wouldn't necessarily put into combat skills - who knows, they might buy the IQ to learn Diplomacy :)

This is, in fact, my usual in-universe justification for why everybody hates Orcs. They just have a really high reproductive rate, so they're always trying to conquer more land, or raiding other peoples because their land base won't support their population. Also, they tend to trash ecosystems, which is why Elves hate them so much. I haven't had an opportunity to use this in a game scenario yet, but Elves genociding tribes of Orcs simply to protect the local environment surely happens - and would provide an excellent moral quandary for a party of PC's to figure out.

This places some complexity both on me as referee - I have to come up with a painful situation where killing is actually the path of least evil, if I want a melee (and then I have to deal with orphans in the aftermath of the battle) - and on my players - what *do* they do with prisoners; when do they choose “subduing blows” or “Rope” instead of “Fireball”? If all that’s wanted is a hack/n/slash, hash-marks in the XP column, bloodfest, this stuff gets in the way.

I claim that’s not what a role-playing game is about.

Ya, especially when you're using the "add DX when you kill" experience system.

Seems like systems that track karma and/or inner personal conflict, as well as alienation by others, would be appropriate. And, using an alternate experience system too.
Experience points are a great motivator. I was GM'ing a campaign where the sessions were always loud and chaotic, with everyone talking at the same time. Until, that is, I started docking a few XP when the PLAYER was speaking out of turn and/or out of character. Quieted the group down pretty quick ;-)

Some people may really just want to play a hack/n/slash, although those people would probably choose a video game over a tabletop RPG for this purpose. I don't have a problem with that, as long as they keep in mind the difference between reality and their preferred bloodthirsty fantasy.

But tabletop roleplaying, somewhat uniquely among games, allows for a wide range of moral debates, dilemmas, and solutions - something you won't find in other games, whether chess or Catan or even most video games (though some do allow you to make ethical choices, your choices are always constrained by the system - pick option A, B, or C). It makes sense to embrace this as a feature, rather than ignoring it. Not all players want to spend time debating moral quandaries ("Just feed the prisoners to the wolves already!"). But these are usually going to be the same players that would be most motivated by experience points or gold pieces.

On a semi-related note, I found this article interesting: http://www.rpg.net/columns/soap/soap202.phtml

- Meg
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