[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

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

and "Goblin - it's what's for dinner tonight"

-----Original Message----- From: Jeffrey Vandine
Sent: Wednesday, August 06, 2014 12:15 AM
To: tft@brainiac.com
Subject: 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:
�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
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
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 ;-)

ly, when they realize they could dig a short irrigation
ditch, quadru
ple the pig farm output, and put an end to the orc
�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

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

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

scribe by mailing to majordomo@brainiac.com with the message body
cribe tft"
Post to the entire list by writing to tft@brainiac.com.
Unsubscribe by mailing to majordomo@brainiac.com with the message body
"unsubscribe tft"
Post to the entire list by writing to tft@brainiac.com.
Unsubscribe by mailing to majordomo@brainiac.com with the message body
"unsubscribe tft"