Author Topic: Player Logic and Morality in Role Playing [Better Angels Actual Play Spoliers!]  (Read 7023 times)

Tadanori Oyama

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So, listening to the Better Angels playtest game I started thinking about morality in a game that involves knowledge of the ultimate destination of the soul.

It seems like something that would change the moral arguements players might normally make or consider when you add the real and certain knowledge that some individuals will be dragged to a literal Hell by a demon when they die. This, to me, vastly changes how one must weight life and death.

Specifically, from the game itself, the players go out of their way to stop Stargazer from his plan of swapping bodies with a younger man in an effort to prolong his life. Their efforts are personal in some cases, such as Jason who was being compelled by his demon to finish the old man off but individuals like Ross and Aaron had no personal stake in the event and Tom was generally an otherwise helpful person.

My basic moral question is: "Why stop his plan?"

If he had succeeded than Stargazer would have a new lease on life and been able to continue trying to find a way to escape his demon. The model would have been put into the body of a sick old man and likely lived a short time before dying. This deed is morally wrong. On the other hand, he failed, was killed, and taken to hell by a demon. The model is unaffected.

So in both results someone dies; the difference is if someone ends up in hell or not.

How do you balance that?: The death of an innoccent vs the damnation of a soul.

As a player, I probably would have ended up helping Stargazer with his plan because I consider the end results were someone is not taken to hell to be the better (but still wrong) moral choice. Essentually the lesser of the evils available.

I'm curious what others think, especially the RPPR players involved, and Caleb since I would except this kind of moral consideration will factor into the Better Angels long-term campaign.

Flawless P

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Personally I agree with you.

I would attempt to make a deal with Stargazer for all of his research on the subject. If I myself have a demon as well I would want to do what he was doing at the end of everything.

Obviously the moral choice would be to stop him so that no one innocent is harmed. However it seems to me that protecting the innocent is not exactly the name of the game.
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Cthuluzord

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You bring up an excellent point about Better Angels, and it is especially important considering how the mechanics demand a moral judgement for even the most minute physical actions.

In the GM chapter of the book, there is a list of options Stolze provides to the GM about what, exactly, the super-powered demons are. One is that they are quite literally biblical demons from Judeo-Christian faith, but there are many others provided.  He suggests they might be psychic manifestations of the collective unconscious (supervillians are Evil, and the combined psychic force of the perception of evil CREATES a demon). They might be Lovecraftian horrors or gray-liens disguising themselves as demons.

All of this is further complicated by the GM's building of the setting. There is no "canon" history as to how long super-people have been around, be it millinia or since Tuesday.

I struggled with how I was going to handle this, and I eventually decided on "Gonzosity," which is Greg's option for everything at once. I've interpreted it as "nothing at once." Demons, whether real or archetypal concept, are supposed to be liars, so I'm going to let the players describe their origins however they wish. I'm house-ruling that a Faustian pact can buy you definitive knowledge about the setting and plot from the demon's perspective (e.g. the GM tells you), but beyond that, demons can say they hail from any faith, planet, culture, or whatever.

If a definitive system of morality for the entire world gets revealed in the campaign, it will only be at the behest and design of the players. I'm uncomfortable inflicting a moralistic worldview of absolute certainty on everyone. While I briefly worried that would keep from running the game, I quickly realized that it could actually be its greatest strength. Despite having more evidence than those around them, players can still be uncertain about the moral laws of right and wrong, yet they are being judged (mechanically on their character sheets) in such a way the implies such a rigid code of ethics must exist. At least initially, I want the player to feel as if they are on trial in a foreign court with contradictory and unknowable laws.

The moral quandary then becomes do they take the burden of such a trial on themselves, trying to do what they can with it and saving someone else the pain? Or do they do the other "right" thing, which is resist temptation for the sake of their soul/essence/salvation/etc, thus passing the responsibility onto someone else?

clockworkjoe

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well, from my perspective as a player, I knew that if I let Stargazer off, I would have sinned being by his accomplice. If I sin, I want it to be for my character's reasons, not to support someone else's plan. I'm not to going to go to hell because of Stargazer.

crash2455

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Additionally, you have consider future events. Letting the model die to allow stargazer to live and steal his life is one thing, but you don't know what Srargazer's future plans are. If immortality through body swapping becomes a viable alternative to him, then what does damnation mean to him?  What is a soul? What's to say that he stops giving a shit about innocents or the like?

Tadanori Oyama

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I like the sound of the "Gonzosity" style. Making things difficult to determin is a key element for me, especially in morality puzzles. If things like Hell were known factors than it becomes easier to make judgements and I'd prefer to keep things morally difficult.


Teapot

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Introducing an absolute would be an interesting take for a one-shot type thing. But it seems to me that once you create an absolute eternity you're making everything else to be unimportant. How does the game handle all the players running off to be hermit monks?