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

Well, in the Silmarillion, Morgoth utters lines.  Specifically when ch
aining one of the heroes to a rock on the slopes of Thangorodrim.  But
 also in a couple of other places (mostly while in custody in the undying l
ands after the coming of the elves).

Smaug and dragons are an interest
ing case in Tolkien's works -- they truly are completely evil -- bred, like
 the orcs, by Morgoth himself in order to destroy the other races, and give
n long life and great power, though when young they are very vulnerable. 
 Tolkien doesn't spend much time on them in either the Silmarillion or
 LotR (or even, really, in The Hobbit), but from the Silmarillion we get th
at they are irredeemably evil, much like the orcs and trolls are.

In f
act, if we think about it, every race that opposes the "free peoples" is pr
etty much irredeemably evil -- orcs, Uruk-Hai, Olog-Hai, regular trolls, Dr
agons, you name it.  Presumably because they were made by Morgoth in t
wisted immitation of the creatures created by Eru, and because Morgoth (Mel
kior), their creator, himself had become irredeemably evil.  Note that
 even in the movie version of the Lord of the Rings, Jackson shows Uruk-Hai
 (and, presumably, therefore, orcs) as being "hatched" more than born. ��Based on the stuff that Tolkien wrote about orcs at various times, he ha
s some excellent grounds for showing it that way.  Perhaps Uruk-Hai me
rely get more "royal jelly" than the standard orc does....  Certainly 
having them enter life in such a way shows both their extreme alieness to t
he experience of most humans (and other free peoples), as well as removing 
any of those pesky "psychological weaknesses" like being vulnerable to appe
als to
 their better nature (after all, if they were born the normal way, their mo
mmies might have actually loved them) or threatening their nonexistent fami

And as for the humans (and the few elves) that side with the var
ious Dark Lords, they are simply misled, or perhaps ruled by a greater hatr
ed (in the case of the Dunlendings), or are the usual venal and morally cor
rupt types that throw in with the expected "winner" in expectation of some 
great reward, despite the fact that the Dark Lord is, by definition, evil (
the Mouth of Sauron). And while they do evil acts, it is reasonable for Tol
kien to explore their motivations a bit (as he does with the Dunlendings in
 the Two Towers, and even with the Mouth a bit (he was a corrupted Numenore
an from the south) in Return of the King).  Mind you, he doesn't get t
oo carried away with it, but he does point out that there might be some jus
tification, at least, for the Dunlendings wanting revenge on the Rohirrim, 
and perhaps the Mouth just WAS poorly brought up as a child.

I actuall
y think there is a place for that sort of creature (the completely twisted 
and irredeemably evil) in most games, and that's why killer robots, zombies
 and demons show up so often nowadays -- so that there CAN'T be any moral o
r ethical quandaries; they simply need to be destroyed.  You don't nee
d to really understand their motivation; they want to kill and eat you (or 
whatever) and that pretty much lets you get down to cases right away. ��Most people like a little bit of "certainty" in their escapism, a role t
hat Nazis and "Japs" played for an earlier generation or two.

Just my 
$0.02 worth....  ;-)

 Meg Tapley <barnswallow@sbcglobal.net>
To: tft@brainiac.com 
Sent: Tue
sday, August 5, 2014 3:30 PM
Subject: 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 l
ooking at their group contracts might well ask how 
> this should work. S
hould experience be based just on actions, or be 
> influenced by rolepla
ying, and if so, how? Staying in character? 
> Advancing the GM's pre-arr
anged plotline? Doing something that has a 
> good result for the party? 
Not violating the character's morality as 
> originally written? Not viol
ating the GM's morality? Rewards for 
> roleplaying that entertains the g
roup? 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 conven
ient for gaming advantages?

Dark City Games has their "karma point" sy
stem, which seems designed to 
provide gaming motivation to act altruisti
cally. We were kicking around 
the idea of making an expanded version of 
this, where you could have 
either positive or negative karma. It would s
pecifically make for a 
cinematic campaign, where you had shining heroes 
(with high Positive 
Karma scores) and utterly corrupt villains (with lot
s and lots of 
Negative Karma). That's not very realistic, but might be e
njoyable 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 d
warf women have beards! Haven't you read your Terry 

 Oh boy, something we can kill without feeling bad. ;-)
And this is w
hy 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 bo
dy that's already dead. Demons in ITL are an interesting 
case; in most c
anons, 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 fa
r 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 gettin
g the worst of the fight, since after all, 
why would they stick around t
o 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. A
nd it seems to me 
> the orcs do actually talk when not in combat, for ex
ample in the bits 
> where they are discussing eating Merry and Pippin, a
nd when Bilbo is 
> captured.
I can't recall an example of a line of di
alog specifically attributed to 
Morgoth himself; if there is one, he wou
ld most definitely max out the 
evil-meter. Sauron speaks through his "Mo
uth" (the one that gets 
summarily beheaded by Aragorn), and Saruman defi
nitely has a speaking part.
>> ...
>> But if the world is to make s
ense, evil and good have to be mixed, in 
>> my NPC’s as in the p
arty I’m refereeing for, because that’s the way 
>> it is
 in the real world - always has been, always will be. So, when 
>> the pa
rty 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 experien
ce hammer is going to be 
>> out. 
Although, if the party had already s
pecifically 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 ex
perience the party loses should depend on whether 
they slit the prisoner
s' throats before feeding them to the wolves or 
not ;-)

>> Converse
ly, when they realize they could dig a short irrigation 
>> ditch, quadru
ple 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 th
e settlement, I’ll reward that copiously.
> With experience t
hat they can then put into combat ability? Seems to 
> me this is where i
t would be nice (though of course more complex) to 
> have different sort
s of intangible rewards and penalties for actions. 
> Of course, there ar
e 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 
mselves over the new carrying capacity, and then you're just going to 
ve more and bigger raiding parties." Of course, since the PC's don't 
w this, and are in fact solving the problem they're faced with in a 
ne way, they would probably still get plenty of experience for doing 
 Which they wouldn't necessarily put into combat skills - who knows, 
y 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 r
eally high reproductive rate, so they're 
always trying to conquer more l
and, or raiding other peoples because 
their land base won't support thei
r population. Also, they tend to trash 
ecosystems, which is why Elves ha
te them so much. I haven't had an 
opportunity to use this in a game scen
ario yet, but Elves genociding 
tribes of Orcs simply to protect the loca
l environment surely happens - 
and would provide an excellent moral quan
dary for a party of PC's to 
figure out.

>> This places some comp
lexity both on me as referee - I have to come up 
>> with a painful situa
tion where killing is actually the path of least 
>> evil, if I want a me
lee (and then I have to deal with orphans in the 
>> aftermath of the bat
tle) - and on my players - what *do* they do with 
>> prisoners; when do 
they choose “subduing blows” or “Rope” inst
ead 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 kil
l" 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.
ce points are a great motivator. I was GM'ing a campaign where 
the sessi
ons 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 speakin
g out of turn and/or out of character. Quieted the group down 
pretty qui
ck ;-)

Some people may really just want to play a hack/n/slash, althou
gh those 
people would probably choose a video game over a tabletop RPG f
or 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 

But tabletop roleplaying, somewhat uniquely among games, allo
ws for a 
wide range of moral debates, dilemmas, and solutions - somethin
g you 
won't find in other games, whether chess or Catan or even most vid
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 make
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 
e same players that would be most motivated by experience points or 

On a semi-related note, I found this article interesting: 


- Meg

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