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MidgetMarine
2012-10-25, 12:50 PM
I just finished watching a video on this topic by the ever-loud spoken Ander Wood of woodwwad on youtube. [If you want to watch it. HERE (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZjZxJCDSLPc)

Combat, and killing by proxy, tend to be a rather large part of RPGs. And yet the severity of taking another life is rarely referenced, at least in the rules. And that got me thinking.

And, in thinking about my own experiences with using the nature of killing and the effects upon my characters. I was wondering, how do you handle killing. Do you just run the "Bash em' Smash em' Move on." Or do you delve deeper into the serious nature of killing? Feel free to share stories, opinions, etc. I'm interested to hear what you think.

Coming to you live from a pile of Kobold corpses

-MidgetMarine

Kelb_Panthera
2012-10-25, 01:04 PM
Honestly, I waffle between the two extremes depending on the mood of the game.

Sometimes things have a serious tone that calls on you to think about such weighty things.

Other times you cave in the kobolds' heads without a second thought.

It's all about the mood of the game really.

The delineation between fantasy and reality is where the impact of ending another creature's life gets diluted. Sure you're smashing kobold heads, but at the same time no real people or creatures are actually being harmed.

It can even be cathartic, when the head you'd really like to smash belongs to an arrogant boss or an insufferable coworker. Though if you think those thoughts hard enough it may be wise to seek professional council, rather than mercilessly slaughter imaginary creatures.

Lord Tyger
2012-10-25, 01:09 PM
I would generally recommend against any mechanical consequences for killing except in special cases- (IE, Paladins going off on a murderspree, creatures that have abilities triggered by their deaths, etc). Roleplaying-wise, it depends on the characters and the players, but as a GM I feel I am totally within my rights to have that orc tribe include noncombatants and children who will react with dismay to a bunch of heavily armed adventurers showing up and slaughtering their spouses/children/parents.

Mark Hall
2012-10-25, 01:23 PM
Generally, we do not. I think we deal with it most in modern or near-future games, and seldom with fantasy or far-future games.

In most medieval fantasy, killing is part of life... not necessarily a beloved part of life, but chopping down goblins, bandits and the like is part of the genre. There's not many fantasy novels that deal with it as a problem... the main one I can think of is the Guardians of the Flame series, and those involve modern characters.

In more modern RPGs, I frequently deal with the seriousness of death, but largely from the point of view of the consequences of killing. In Shadowrun, we avoid killing because it makes us bigger, juicier targets. In modern conspiracy RPGs, even if you've got the proverbial "license to kill", doing so raises questions and brings down the law.

Strawberries
2012-10-25, 01:27 PM
Yes, it depends on the kind of game I'm playing.

If it's light and funny, then the only reason I need to go killing the bandits/goblins/undead/whatever, is that they're doing generically evil things, and my characters don't dwell on the aftermath too much (read: nothing at all)

If it's a bit more deep, then no, killing is serious business, no matter if the victims are humans, kobolds or whatever (mindless undead excluded, obviously). In that case, I tend to roleplay the repercussions (and if I'm playing 'good' characters, I do my best to leave killing as a very last resort).

As often happens in RPGs, there's not a singular "right" answer. It's heavily influenced by the players, the GM and the mood of the game.

valadil
2012-10-25, 01:28 PM
To be honest this is something I usually ignore.

I've made a general rule of avoiding problems with solutions that are tedious to veteran role players. For example, problems like carrying 10 tons worth of tin coins given 2 mules and an 18 strength fighter. This sort of thing is interesting once, but it remains the same problem no matter which character attacks the problem. Given that most of my friends have gamed for decades and have all probably seen this problem before.

I put the emotional consequences of murder in the same boat. It will vary from one character to another for sure but it isn't a journey I'd want to take repeatedly. For the most part I'm willing to assume my adventurer characters have already come to term with the fact that he's killed.

I have GMed a session that made death more important though. In my Gamr of Thrones campaign a friendly NPC was murdered. I wanted to show off the bleak tone of the world so I had a funeral for the NPC. One of the players took it upon himself to have a eulogy. It was actually one of te most touching game sessions I've ever played in.

Jerthanis
2012-10-25, 09:17 PM
The issue with dealing with the serious nature of killing is that most RPGs have physical challenges that manifest as combat with the negative repercussions of dying or other permanent failure conditions. If you put a person in a situation with the intent of it being a regular situation, the characters reacting to it as if it weren't regular will feel phony.

The idea of presenting more complex, interesting and unique scenarios that have multiple methods of solving, with different costs to pay and different end results is a great first step, but the other side of it is letting your character's abilities in non-combat have effective resolution mechanics behind them. If 90% of your abilities have to do with combat, and those are the flashiest and most fun, you'll probably choose combat as the problem solving method. It also helps not to have the 10% that aren't combat mechanics have fuzzy resolution or ironclad and binary results.

Water_Bear
2012-10-25, 09:58 PM
On the one hand, I really dislike the trope of computer engineers or plumbers picking up a gun and being able to casually kill people without any hesitation or emotional response other than maybe throwing up. It's unrealistic and robs the story of drama.

But in an RPG, at least most of the RPGs I've ever played, putting realistic limitations on PCs in combat would be an unbearable handicap. Even trained police and soldiers have historically been reluctant to aim and fire directly at an enemy, and can have some pretty serious traumas afterwards. And unless your doctor character is a sociopath they're going to have even more trouble actually delivering killing blows and even worse emotional results afterwards.

I'm not sure what a happy medium would be. I like nWoD a lot, and it would be the closest out of the systems I'm familiar with, but even there the Morality penalties for killing are pretty seriously brutal; if you kill even a handful of people you can end up losing your character. Even using the H;tV rules to modify Morality or allow you to keep playing Morality 0 characters, it's pretty hard to play a character who kills regularly.

IDK, maybe that's the point, but it just rubs me the wrong way.

Tengu_temp
2012-10-25, 10:07 PM
The issue with dealing with the serious nature of killing is that most RPGs have physical challenges that manifest as combat with the negative repercussions of dying or other permanent failure conditions. If you put a person in a situation with the intent of it being a regular situation, the characters reacting to it as if it weren't regular will feel phony.

The idea of presenting more complex, interesting and unique scenarios that have multiple methods of solving, with different costs to pay and different end results is a great first step, but the other side of it is letting your character's abilities in non-combat have effective resolution mechanics behind them. If 90% of your abilities have to do with combat, and those are the flashiest and most fun, you'll probably choose combat as the problem solving method. It also helps not to have the 10% that aren't combat mechanics have fuzzy resolution or ironclad and binary results.

Combat and killing is not the same. I played many characters who were experienced, badass fighters, but refused to kill sapient enemies when they could avoid it and preferred the Batman approach of beating them up and handling them to the authorities instead. When one of them was forced to kill someone, or attacked someone with the intent to kill, you knew that things got serious.

Slipperychicken
2012-10-25, 10:08 PM
My groups tend to be "Kill, loot, shop, kill". We pay very little attention to the severity of homicide, on both sides of the DM screen.



But then, very few games (or other media, like movies, books, legends, folklore, etc) involving violence bring the issue up at all. So I think it's a cultural thing. We gloss over the horrors of violence, instead emphasizing the awe-inspiring power and feeling of conquest associated with the ability to end lives. To this end, we often dehumanize (or demonize) the targets of our violence (in both cultural media and real life) to dull the emotional impact which violent death normally has on observers. That emotional impact would obviously detract from the entertainment value (or political message) of the violent demonstration, so we try to marginalize it whenever it's convenient.

It's wildly successful in desensitizing us to violence, usually by designating the targets as members of some hated out-group (masked cultists, rapists, criminals, communists, nazis, terrorists, business executives, racial minorities, etc), or simply ignoring the victims' plight by having them die off-screen (or give their death very little attention). This is part of the reason that violence is so acceptable to us in media, because we've become so adept at ostracizing and marginalizing that we don't even realize we're doing it.

Killing in that cultural context isn't seen as the disgusting, horrific crime it is in real life, but an assertion of personal strength in defending the self or overcoming an obstacle.

Mark Hall
2012-10-25, 11:05 PM
I think that, for most games, the default state for PCs is "reasonably comfortable with necessary homicide." You may not like it, you may seek to avoid it for other reasons, but you're not going to collapse the first time you kill someone in-game... either you've done it before, or it doesn't overtly discomfit you.

Many games with virtue and flaw systems, however, have "flaws" that modify this... and, usually, both directions away from "reasonably comfortable with unnecessary homicide" are flaws. In Shadowrun, you can take a flaw as a pacifist (refuse to kill), an extreme pacifist (refuse to fight), or as someone who freezes in combat. On the other hand, your character can find it impossible to break away from a fight once started, or consider casual violence an acceptable social lubricant ("He insulted me? I punch him.")

Dimers
2012-10-25, 11:11 PM
Heck, most people prefer to avoid the idea of sapients' death in real life, and we HAVE to deal with it out here. Why would I bring it into a game? -- you know, where I'm trying to relax?

(Rhetorical question. I have several reasons. And I do sometimes address the seriousness of death in games. But I sure don't make a habit of it. It's got to be just the right people.)

Unrelated point: quite a few games inherently make death less daunting or significant. If you can bring people back to life ... talk with people after they've died ... know what truly awaits 'beyond the veil' ... visit the worlds where the dead, um, live ... Then death isn't as big a deal anymore.

Jacob.Tyr
2012-10-25, 11:14 PM
I usually look at combat a little differently than other DM's I've played with. 0 and below HP represents unwilling/unable to fight anymore, not unconscious/dying. Your opponent isn't unconscious, they're just so beaten up they're no longer able to fight back. You don't actually kill anything unless you specifically say that you're going to kill it.

This, of course, makes subdual damage nonexistant, but who uses that anyway?

Jerthanis
2012-10-26, 12:29 AM
Combat and killing is not the same. I played many characters who were experienced, badass fighters, but refused to kill sapient enemies when they could avoid it and preferred the Batman approach of beating them up and handling them to the authorities instead. When one of them was forced to kill someone, or attacked someone with the intent to kill, you knew that things got serious.

True, but if a game has a lot of physical conflict with ideologically opposed groups, eventually killing will likely become a solution to something sometime. The more physical conflict, the more likely killing will become an answer eventually. The less physical conflict between ideologically opposed groups, the less likely killing will become an answer eventually.

Narren
2012-10-26, 12:38 AM
I've had players get confused when they became wanted criminals over a bar fight that someone else started. They assumed that since some obnoxious drunk guy threw a punch at them, combat had begun and it was open season to cut him open.

NichG
2012-10-26, 01:04 AM
My solution is a little weird I suppose. I run systems in which its easy to incapacitate enemies without killing, either via houserules or because thats how the system works (like 7th Sea, where basically people don't die unless you specifically decide to coup-de-gras them after they're already unconscious).

It doesn't address the seriousness of killing, but it makes it easier to have a game go by without someone going 'whoops, killed him!'. If a character chooses to kill in such a system, its by choice, not by accident or by the mechanics making it really hard to play the game without doing so.

Averis Vol
2012-10-26, 02:26 AM
interesting question. It depends on the character I decide to play. If its one of my stylized paladins, or basically any character of a good alignment, I will probably be the last person to draw a blade, BUT, If someone threatens the life of an ally or someone innocent......my characters generally have no problem putting them down.

as an example, I'm currently playing a Killoren Barbarian/paladin of freedom, and through the intricacies of plot devices, our groups goliath swordsage went a little.....well, ape **** and raised his big ass hammer to the cleric of pelor; the man who has saved his life numerous times and who has been as a brother to him constantly. So.....the rogue paladin takes the bag and basically says come at me bro, and I pop rage, charge with my recently sharpened falchion and drop him to 0 hp in 1 round. now I was perfectly willing to kill him because I know he would waste every last one of us if we took the -4 for non lethal so I did what was necessary to preserve the lives of my friends and allies. coincidentally, the rogue paladin was a fan of the truncheon, so 1 hit dropped him unconscious rather then me wasting him with one more shot.

I think what it comes down to for me is necessity of murder; of it is necessary I'm golden on it. If I can avoid it, its probably safer not to kill a potentially bad person.

Kane0
2012-10-26, 03:00 AM
In one campaign I play in every encounter has consequences, and as a result we have only been in a total of three fights (not counting the other three PvP fights)

In another many creatures are kill on sight as thats how they approach you.

My own is a mix of these two. Many are out to kill you and there are many standing in your way (and you have good reasons) but if you go using your Detect Evil spells as a reason to kill anything on your path to the McGuffin you are going to be hunted down very fast by all sorts of nasty things.
You're never safe in Planescape, Berk.

NichG
2012-10-26, 03:45 AM
The last character I played I was more or less going for 'realistic human persona, pacifist tendencies'. He was a scientist in an Adventure campaign. I think it did generally work out, up until a few really traumatic events where I really didn't have the frame of reference to portray it realistically at all.

He objected to killing, used nonlethal means even against dangerous foes much to the irritation of some of the party for whom he was providing weapons tech. When he nearly died, he was kind of walking-dead for awhile, catatonic with the shock of being in such a situation but more or less being on autopilot (and also because I wanted to actually play in game that day). Then somewhat later, he had a sort of climactic moment where he had to decide whether to kill with a really horrible weapon in order to save his life. Having been so close to death before, his resolve was worn down a bit, and so he fired. Unfortunately, he missed the shot and killed something he didn't intend to. And lost an arm. So he was pretty screwed up for awhile after that.

Afterwards he kind of snapped and got on a whole 'its okay, I can just fix the world! That will make things better!' kick. But then enough people were jerks about the whole thing that he started to lose faith in humanity, became jaded, a bit shell shocked, etc. He still avoided killing, but it was less from a strong positive outlook and more from a 'well, you just don't kill people' kind of perspective. Then he had an Oppenheimer moment. So, yeah, I had no idea what to do with that.

Before that, I played a former deity with the initial philosophy of 'killing is just cutting their souls loose so they can come hang out with me in the afterlife' who mellowed a lot when he saw that the humans he was travelling with were far more amoral. That was a pretty cosmic-scale campaign though, so 'what, you destroyed another universe?' was uttered a few times.

TalonDemonKing
2012-10-26, 03:50 AM
On the one hand, I really dislike the trope of computer engineers or plumbers picking up a gun and being able to casually kill people without any hesitation or emotional response other than maybe throwing up.

Plumbers are horrible, mass murderers. It makes sense that they don't feel any hesitation or remorse.

Yora
2012-10-26, 05:36 AM
I think the main reason enemies get slaughtered in such high numbers in RPGs is because it is assumed that enemies never attempt any action to preserve their life. If they see PCs, they attack on sight, and always keep fighting until the last one is dead.
If you want players to be more reserved about killing, have the enemies reluctant to get into fights about life and death and have them flee when they are getting significantly injured or a number of their allies have allready fallen. AD&D did have a morale system for things like that, but every other RPG I've seen never adressed the issue at all and movies and video games also never have enemies retreating. Except for bosses, who are meant to be faught again later.
Skyrim has badly injured enemies begging for mercy, but if you leave them alive they just heal a bit and attack them again. Unless you plan to run away as they are on the ground and you don't have any allies with you, it is just stupid to not finish them off immediately.

Dread Angel
2012-10-26, 08:57 AM
My personal view on it is that of many posters - depends entirely on the group and flavour of the campaign.

I recently had a gladiatorial-combat type situation, where any of the PCs could sign up if they could pass a rudimentary combat test. (Side note - ranger and oracle went through fine, cleric went into the room, and literally got hit over the head before he had a damn clue what was going on and tossed unconscious out the door, funny as hell).

Throughout the tournament, the PCs witnessed multiple matches in which the losing NPC was brutally torn to bits, and one where the winner spared his opponent's life.

After all kinds of shenanigans, the Oracle was in the final with an NPC (summoner). This NPC was a gnome done up in full plate with tower shield, and just let his eidolon fight for him. It was a bastard of a fight but forethought (in the form of a scroll of Heat Metal) allowed the Oracle to win it. The gnome was laying there having barely escaped his armor before it killed him, blistered, scorched, burned and oozing ichor. The Oracle (who is...not insane, so much as has a massive obsession with narcotics in general and hallucinogenics in particular) standing over him with his morningstar ready to splatter his face in.

And instead, the oracle drops his last healing spell to save the dude's life. Why? Because he is fundamentally a good person.

Meanwhile there's the ranger who literally would rather fire off arrows at people's eyes before they're even in shouting range......regardless of who they are or whether they're overtly hostile.

I personally make it a challenge for me as GM to make the players consider the repercussions of their actions. Attacking an orc camp? Women and children there.

The second half of my campaign (levels 12-20) will have the PCs dealing with members of a dystopian mini-society who are uniformly bred for their particular skill, literally born to be a blacksmith or whatever. And very...contemptuous of outsiders. The PCs will be forced to deal with hostiles at some points and will need to decide how to go about defeating the encounters.

If they slaughter the entire island, great. Cue them getting the attention of a death god who will attempt to forcibly convert them. Violently. Post-mortem if necessary. If they take pains to not harm the innocent (read: everyone but the BBEG) they instead garner the attention of a good deity and will begin being subtly guided towards benefits, boons and general helpfulness such as "luck" bonuses to very important rolls etc.

In-game logical rewards and repercussions are a way to make it known that their deeds do have consequences, good and bad.

Slipperychicken
2012-10-26, 10:41 AM
I've had players get confused when they became wanted criminals over a bar fight that someone else started. They assumed that since some obnoxious drunk guy threw a punch at them, combat had begun and it was open season to cut him open.

I actually was playing as a Warforged once, and managed to shatter a brawler's spine (killing him instantly) with my Slam attack (didn't have IUS, but didn't want to use my Greatsword either, compromised by fluffing the slam as a punch). Didn't regret it much in-character or out, since I knew that brawler didn't have so much as an hp total, much less a name or, visual description beyond "brawler" (Bad DMing). But it made me think a little.

GolemsVoice
2012-10-26, 10:42 AM
If you want players to be more reserved about killing, have the enemies reluctant to get into fights about life and death and have them flee when they are getting significantly injured or a number of their allies have allready fallen. AD&D did have a morale system for things like that, but every other RPG I've seen never adressed the issue at all and movies and video games also never have enemies retreating. Except for bosses, who are meant to be faught again later.
Skyrim has badly injured enemies begging for mercy, but if you leave them alive they just heal a bit and attack them again. Unless you plan to run away as they are on the ground and you don't have any allies with you, it is just stupid to not finish them off immediately.

That always bugs me in video games. I'd wager a lot of players, especially in tabletop RPGs, would be more than willing to let their enemies get away, if they can be sure they'll no longer be a threat. If they just wait a few minutes/days and come back, well, then you have the choice of either constantly evading them or killing them off for good.

That being said, a lot of things in D&D will attack you no matter what. For demons and devils, or mindless undad/constructs, that's often enough no problem. For beasts and such, well, maybe. The real problem comes with "always chaotic evil" Orcs and such, who are, technically, in full control of their actions and not NECCESSARILY evil.

Frozen_Feet
2012-10-26, 11:34 AM
My method of dealing with this is simple: I hang a lampshade on it, often in the form of assuming a role of outside observer and telling what they think. Saying to the players "you mercilessly slaughter the helpless goblins" or "the crowd look at your group of mass-murdering hobos with terror and disgust" will likely not get under their skin the first time, but after enough repetition, they will learn what is and what isn't acceptable in any particular game world, and eventually will start regarding each subject matter with desired seriousness.

Another great tool is, as a GM, to react disgusted towards unnecessary violence etc.

But as discussed, the only way to make players seriously consider non-violent options is to make non-violence a viable option. If everything tries to kill you regardless, it makes perfect sense to kill them back.


Plumbers are horrible, mass murderers. It makes sense that they don't feel any hesitation or remorse.

We are what now? Don't believe the enemy propaganda! :smalltongue: (http://pete.com/files/photos/mario-is-evil.jpg)

Eldonauran
2012-10-26, 01:18 PM
The characters I play are adventurers and are already battle hardened by the time they see play. There is little emotional fluctuation when they have to take a life simply because they are always pulled into a fight or the fight is a forgone conclusion. I do not play 'evil'.

The character can reflect on his/her actions when there is no danger. Box up those emotions, use them for fuel and keep on moving. Your comrade bites it? You shove those emotions down, finish the fight and honor them later.

ReaderAt2046
2012-10-26, 01:41 PM
The RPG I'm currently in has delt with this issue (for my character) in a really odd way. The local military general has gone off his head and framed the PCs for being spies for a foreign nation. As a result of this, my character is forced to fight his allies, which means he will go to extreme lengths to avoid having to kill them.

Water_Bear
2012-10-26, 03:49 PM
My solution is a little weird I suppose. I run systems in which its easy to incapacitate enemies without killing, either via houserules or because thats how the system works (like 7th Sea, where basically people don't die unless you specifically decide to coup-de-gras them after they're already unconscious).

It doesn't address the seriousness of killing, but it makes it easier to have a game go by without someone going 'whoops, killed him!'. If a character chooses to kill in such a system, its by choice, not by accident or by the mechanics making it really hard to play the game without doing so.

That is a really good point though; in most of the systems I've ever played, it is nigh-impossible to actually defeat someone nonlethally without some form of magic or cheesey stun abilities. Granted, a great way to kill someone IRL is to try to knock them out with a chokehold or a sap to the back of the head, but putting people in non-strangle-y submission holds is much easier here than in any game I've ever played.

PersonMan
2012-10-26, 04:16 PM
For me, it depends both on the game and the character. Some will just rip right through opposition to achieve their goals while others come from a background of mass murder and are trying to avoid further killing at almost any cost.

Zahhak
2012-10-26, 05:33 PM
I tend to run shorter campaigns with generally low level PCs. Something I've done for campaigns I expect (or hope) to go on for awhile is to include a "sanity score" which is 5xCHA (max 100). This is the percent of how sane your character is, and it goes down when certain things happen (a friend is killed, you killed a bunch of people, watched someone ritually murdered, etc). Basically, anything that would happen to a character that might cause PTSD or a similar condition.

The check is a D% vs their current sanity (meet or exceed and you lose sanity). The amount lost is dependent on the specific event and is usually a low value (d3, d4, d4+1 normally). Every time a character loses 10% of their sanity they become more unstable. Normally, by the time they're down around 60 the character is retired because they're too unstable. And usually any event that causes sanity lose causes temporary insanity, such as becoming suddenly extremely claustrophobic, which makes them enraged unless outside.

You cannot regain sanity magically, it takes a few sessions with a psychologist in a mental institution. I've actually included a mental hospital in a game in case any of the PCs got too unstable there was some place to put them.

Morithias
2012-10-26, 06:59 PM
One of the main problems I've found with this is how many DMs never have the enemies run away or surrender.

When you're playing Final Fantasy, with the rare exception EVERY monster will fight to the death.

In the real world, it doesn't work that way, a thief who just wants to eat is not going to fight to the death.

But when they do, the gloves come off. It's clear that they're not going to surrender and they would kill you given the chance, it's murdering time.

Personally I think this problem has more to do with the western world rather than the games themselves. "Someone fell over and touched a girl's skirt? 14-A! That man runs an evil empire with death camps, slavery, and violent gladiator games? Pg-13!"

It's just the way the western world is, we see violence as better than sex. Which quite frankly I find kinda stupid, but that's not here or there.

You want your players to stop killing, there is a VERY easy way to solve the problem. Do what the giant did...have their family and friends come after them.

TuggyNE
2012-10-26, 07:47 PM
You cannot regain sanity magically, it takes a few sessions with a psychologist in a mental institution. I've actually included a mental hospital in a game in case any of the PCs got too unstable there was some place to put them.

The rest of this is interesting, but I have to take mild exception to this. I can reasonably see arcane magic as being incapable of deep psychological healing (despite the existence of certain brain-poking spells in various editions), but even if divine magic is also not up to the job for some reason, psionics should certainly be more than competent at this. (Also, regaining sanity isn't "a few sessions", if you're trying to be quote-unquote realistic, it's more like "most of the rest of your life".)

Slipperychicken
2012-10-26, 07:51 PM
But when they do, the gloves come off. It's clear that they're not going to surrender and they would kill you given the chance, it's murdering time.


And before they decide to go "all in", they should have some reasonable expectation of success. As in, they think they have a strong enough advantage that risking their lives is worth it.



You cannot regain sanity magically

Heart's Ease (Clr 3, BoED) removes insanity and has Duration: Permanent. Might want to stack a few on top of each other (spell effects overlap) in case of Dispel Magic. Okay, it doesn't regain sanity points, but renders the point moot by making you effectively invulnerable to insanity.

Kelb_Panthera
2012-10-26, 08:43 PM
I tend to run shorter campaigns with generally low level PCs. Something I've done for campaigns I expect (or hope) to go on for awhile is to include a "sanity score" which is 5xCHA (max 100). This is the percent of how sane your character is, and it goes down when certain things happen (a friend is killed, you killed a bunch of people, watched someone ritually murdered, etc). Basically, anything that would happen to a character that might cause PTSD or a similar condition.

The check is a D% vs their current sanity (meet or exceed and you lose sanity). The amount lost is dependent on the specific event and is usually a low value (d3, d4, d4+1 normally). Every time a character loses 10% of their sanity they become more unstable. Normally, by the time they're down around 60 the character is retired because they're too unstable. And usually any event that causes sanity lose causes temporary insanity, such as becoming suddenly extremely claustrophobic, which makes them enraged unless outside.

You cannot regain sanity magically, it takes a few sessions with a psychologist in a mental institution. I've actually included a mental hospital in a game in case any of the PCs got too unstable there was some place to put them.

Did you port this directly from CoC? Because it's actually been printed in UA as a variant for D&D and it includes the application of certain spells to restore at least some sanity to a character. It's also on the SRD if you wanna check it out.

Zahhak
2012-10-26, 09:57 PM
The rest of this is interesting, but I have to take mild exception to this. I can reasonably see arcane magic as being incapable of deep psychological healing (despite the existence of certain brain-poking spells in various editions), but even if divine magic is also not up to the job for some reason, psionics should certainly be more than competent at this. (Also, regaining sanity isn't "a few sessions", if you're trying to be quote-unquote realistic, it's more like "most of the rest of your life".)

I would imagine that in a fantasy setting there would be magical treatment for mental health (largely replacing psychoactive drugs and treatments in this regard, but probably better). What I said was more of "There is no spells that any of the characters can get which will treat these conditions".


Heart's Ease (Clr 3, BoED) removes insanity and has Duration: Permanent. Might want to stack a few on top of each other (spell effects overlap) in case of Dispel Magic. Okay, it doesn't regain sanity points, but renders the point moot by making you effectively invulnerable to insanity.

Assuming that the DM who decides to use this doesn't go "I said there is no magical treatment for sanity. That includes losing sanity." That spell is meant for magical sanity lose, not what I have in mind.


Did you port this directly from CoC? Because it's actually been printed in UA as a variant for D&D and it includes the application of certain spells to restore at least some sanity to a character. It's also on the SRD if you wanna check it out.

More or less. Not sure what "UA" is, but I haven't bothered to really come up with a hard-and-fast rule so I'm not interested in research all that much. I might give it a look though.

Kelb_Panthera
2012-10-26, 10:09 PM
I would imagine that in a fantasy setting there would be magical treatment for mental health (largely replacing psychoactive drugs and treatments in this regard, but probably better). What I said was more of "There is no spells that any of the characters can get which will treat these conditions".



Assuming that the DM who decides to use this doesn't go "I said there is no magical treatment for sanity. That includes losing sanity." That spell is meant for magical sanity lose, not what I have in mind.



More or less. Not sure what "UA" is, but I haven't bothered to really come up with a hard-and-fast rule so I'm not interested in research all that much. I might give it a look though.

UA = unearthed arcana. It's a whole book of variants. Most of it is available at http://www.d20srd.org under the variants section. They even admit in the printed copy that they ported directly from CoC with a few tweaks. The sanity rules are in the campaigns subsection.

I presumed you were running D&D 3.5. If that's not the case, please disregard this and my previous comment for their irrelevance.

Zahhak
2012-10-26, 11:18 PM
I presumed you were running D&D 3.5. If that's not the case, please disregard this and my previous comment for their irrelevance.

We play in what can be mostly called DnD 3.5

TuggyNE
2012-10-26, 11:53 PM
I would imagine that in a fantasy setting there would be magical treatment for mental health (largely replacing psychoactive drugs and treatments in this regard, but probably better). What I said was more of "There is no spells that any of the characters can get which will treat these conditions".

... what? I don't see how you can have one without the other, unless you specifically aren't playing in a fantasy setting. (OK, I suppose if you have some sort of strict NPC-PC divide, you could do it, but I dislike any case where essentially humanoid NPCs can do something but essentially humanoid PCs are arbitrarily not allowed to.)

Also, the necessity for taking days or weeks to run through this seems rather misplaced in 3.5; you can heal cancer, complete organ failure, or loss of limbs within seconds, and even reverse death within minutes, but it takes an intensive course of multiple castings by multiple specialists over a period of days in a special facility to ... moderately improve your psychological condition?

Zahhak
2012-10-27, 12:29 AM
... what? I don't see how you can have one without the other, unless you specifically aren't playing in a fantasy setting. (OK, I suppose if you have some sort of strict NPC-PC divide, you could do it, but I dislike any case where essentially humanoid NPCs can do something but essentially humanoid PCs are arbitrarily not allowed to.)

It's an issue of specialization. Why would an adventurer sorcerer bother to learn a spell for treating natural insanity? Why would a wizard with limited spellbook pages bother to waste one on it? It's the same in my mind as the fact that there are probably spells that exist for creating light rains for farmers, but no adventurer would know it because they have zero reason to. A spell caster who does not adventure and is specialized to help out in a town would know those kinds of spells. It's the same to me, in my mind.


Also, the necessity for taking days or weeks to run through this seems rather misplaced in 3.5; you can heal cancer, complete organ failure, or loss of limbs within seconds, and even reverse death within minutes, but it takes an intensive course of multiple castings by multiple specialists over a period of days in a special facility to ... moderately improve your psychological condition?

In the games I run it tends to be an excuse for the party to rest and recover, or for someone to retire a character. Though in-game the reason could be the same why there's more money invested in treating cancer then Progeria: what's a more common occurrence? While players like to start at level 3-5, realistically, few adventurers would get there. They'll probably die or quit before then. So, you aren't going to have a lot of people coming home with PTSD that need to be treated. So, the spells will be less developed with less experienced spell casters who are focused in this area.

NichG
2012-10-27, 12:38 AM
The argument made in a campaign I was in that used sanity rules was that when a caster used a spell to fix someone mentally, what they were really doing was reformatting their mind to the caster's idea of sanity. Mechanically, any time you used a spell to heal sanity, you rolled 1d100 vs your sanity - if you failed this check, you lowered the target's sanity by the amount that the spell would normally raise it.

And the fact that a caster can trivially cure every problem known to man in 6 seconds in D&D isn't actually an advantage of the system. Many people use house rules to fix this particular problem.

TuggyNE
2012-10-27, 03:25 AM
It's an issue of specialization. Why would an adventurer sorcerer bother to learn a spell for treating natural insanity? Why would a wizard with limited spellbook pages bother to waste one on it? It's the same in my mind as the fact that there are probably spells that exist for creating light rains for farmers, but no adventurer would know it because they have zero reason to. A spell caster who does not adventure and is specialized to help out in a town would know those kinds of spells. It's the same to me, in my mind.

I'd prefer to at least have the spell laid out for NPC usage, even if few or no PCs ever see it.

Of course, that's probably just my tendency to gold-plate and over-generalize everything I implement. :smallredface:


The argument made in a campaign I was in that used sanity rules was that when a caster used a spell to fix someone mentally, what they were really doing was reformatting their mind to the caster's idea of sanity. Mechanically, any time you used a spell to heal sanity, you rolled 1d100 vs your sanity - if you failed this check, you lowered the target's sanity by the amount that the spell would normally raise it.

Interesting, and not unreasonable.


And the fact that a caster can trivially cure every problem known to man in 6 seconds in D&D isn't actually an advantage of the system. Many people use house rules to fix this particular problem.

Well, fair enough. But if you are going to fix it, be consistent and thorough.

PersonMan
2012-10-27, 04:20 AM
[...] a "sanity score" which is 5xCHA (max 100). This is the percent of how sane your character is, and it goes down when certain things happen (a friend is killed, you killed a bunch of people, watched someone ritually murdered, etc).

[...]

Normally, by the time they're down around 60 the character is retired because they're too unstable.

Emphasis mine.

You do realize that this means that everyone who doesn't have a noticeably above average force of personality is "too unstable"? If you mean "they can't continue running around killing things and need to settle down" it's one thing, but you seem to be implying that they get put in a mental institution for no longer being a paragon of mental health...

What about the people who want to run characters who would be low-Cha in DnD terms? Do they just end up having to pay for a higher Charisma just to be able to play? "Sorry, make your Charisma at least 13 or you're too insane to adventure"?

It seems like an interesting system, but I can't imagine how it works as written.

TuggyNE
2012-10-27, 04:44 AM
It seems like an interesting system, but I can't imagine how it works as written.

Wow, I can't believe I missed that. And now I'm wondering why Cha was chosen. Why not, say, Wis?

Slipperychicken
2012-10-27, 08:10 AM
It's an issue of specialization. Why would an adventurer sorcerer bother to learn a spell for treating natural insanity?


Normally, by the time they're down around 60 the character is retired because they're too unstable. And usually any event that causes sanity lose causes temporary insanity, such as becoming suddenly extremely claustrophobic, which makes them enraged unless outside.


You answered your own question. It's because you made Sanity such an extremely important measure of long-term adventuring stamina.

Zahhak
2012-10-27, 12:32 PM
I'd prefer to at least have the spell laid out for NPC usage, even if few or no PCs ever see it.

You want me to come up with a spell that none of the characters will see and few will be directly impacted by? :smallconfused:


You do realize that this means that everyone who doesn't have a noticeably above average force of personality is "too unstable"? If you mean "they can't continue running around killing things and need to settle down" it's one thing, but you seem to be implying that they get put in a mental institution for no longer being a paragon of mental health...

Woops, that "60" should be "60%". As in "60% of their starting sanity". Although my PCs tend to put a lot into Cha when we use these rules because no one likes going insane.


And now I'm wondering why Cha was chosen. Why not,
say, Wis?

Because it represents your force of personality, which our group agreed made the most sense for the basis of a sanity check.


You answered your own question. It's because you made Sanity such an extremely important measure of long-term adventuring stamina.

Do you know how long it would take for a character to get down to 60% of their starting sanity in a non-horror campaign? It's a freaking while, let me tell you.

Slipperychicken
2012-10-27, 08:43 PM
Do you know how long it would take for a character to get down to 60% of their starting sanity in a non-horror campaign? It's a freaking while, let me tell you.

Long-term threats are no less dangerous than short-term ones. I'd at least keep a scroll or two around, if I didn't have a Cleric who could cast it.

Zahhak
2012-10-27, 09:22 PM
Well, I guess you wouldn't enjoy my games.

Xuc Xac
2012-10-28, 09:55 AM
In D&D, I usually don't worry about it. In Unknown Armies, it's a big deal. The combat section of the Unknown Armies rulebook is great. It's essentially "Here are 20 ways to avoid a fight" followed by "So, you've decided to murder a human being..." and the rules for actual combat.

scurv
2012-10-28, 11:13 AM
Semi related topic.
I do award exp for combat avoided sometimes.
IF people find a diplomatic solution (exp is earned via rp on this one). Or of they sneak past the people who are just doing there job and not actually ebil onto them self
Now if you flee from the horde of skellys I homebrewed up for you...well yea that is a whole another situation.

Although I do joke about what adventures must be like if they are committed to an asylum.

Water_Bear
2012-10-28, 11:53 AM
Semi related topic.
I do award exp for combat avoided sometimes.
IF people find a diplomatic solution (exp is earned via rp on this one). Or of they sneak past the people who are just doing there job and not actually ebil onto them self
Now if you flee from the horde of skellys I homebrewed up for you...well yea that is a whole another situation.

Well, in D&D xp is awarded for overcoming a challenge rather than just grinding a specific number of mobs specifically to encourage lateral thinking. In other games I've seen you don't get xp from defeating enemies at all, just from strong roleplaying and achieving character goals.

But this topic and some of the responses here have brought a question to my mind. It seems like with Sanity meters or Morality/degeneration systems, a lot of players and game designers think that homicide isn't a legitimate tactic for conflict resolution and willingness to kill is a sign of mental imbalance. Do you think a rational character who chooses to kill an NPC to achieve their goal is "crazy"? Under what kinds of circumstances would you see killing as an acceptable tactic for PCs to use?

(Remember this isn't the D&D subforum; don't assume the PCs are necessarily adventurers, that violence is socially accepted in any given game universe, or that Good/Evil are necessarily objective forces.)

Frozen_Feet
2012-10-28, 12:00 PM
Self-defense, hunting, butchery and legally sanctioned execution are all rational reasons for killing. If you're wondering about the middle two, well, it's not given those who are about to be killed are human, and neither is PCs being humans. :smallwink:

Zahhak
2012-10-28, 01:07 PM
But this topic and some of the responses here have brought a question to my mind. It seems like with Sanity meters or Morality/degeneration systems, a lot of players and game designers think that homicide isn't a legitimate tactic for conflict resolution and willingness to kill is a sign of mental imbalance. Do you think a rational character who chooses to kill an NPC to achieve their goal is "crazy"? Under what kinds of circumstances would you see killing as an acceptable tactic for PCs to use?

I think this is obviously true, so I don't have my PCs deal with sanity if they were attacked and forced to defend themselves, but legitimacy of killing someone does not mean that there will not be repercussions. Many soldiers and Marines returning from combat with PTSD may never have even killed anyone, just watched others kill the enemy in what was in many ways a self defense situation. And killing doesn't mean that you are unstable, but it can make you unstable.

Water_Bear
2012-10-28, 01:11 PM
Self-defense, hunting, butchery and legally sanctioned execution are all rational reasons for killing. If you're wondering about the middle two, well, it's not given those who are about to be killed are human, and neither is PCs being humans. :smallwink:

A fair point, though I think some degree of human-centrism is unavoidable in these kinds of discussions. Besides, as long as the creature is a moral agent (as PCs presumably always are) a behavior being "natural" or "instinctual" shouldn't be a defense; murder, war and other fairly repugnant behaviors are frequent enough among humans and chimpanzees as to easily qualify for both of those exceptions.

I'm still curious as to what your answer to my question would be.

-Edit-


I think this is obviously true, so I don't have my PCs deal with sanity if they were attacked and forced to defend themselves, but legitimacy of killing someone does not mean that there will not be repercussions. Many soldiers and Marines returning from combat with PTSD may never have even killed anyone, just watched others kill the enemy in what was in many ways a self defense situation. And killing doesn't mean that you are unstable, but it can make you unstable.

So what would you consider a legitimate reason for a PC to kill someone aside from self defense? Would you consider killing people to prevent them from hurting or killing others as something that incurs Sanity loss? What about to advance an ideological goal? Or to ensure that a plan goes smoothly (i.e. "dead men tell no tales")? To have better peace of mind that a defeated enemy won't return later?

Part of this is me wondering where people who think murder is a sign of mental instability draw their boundaries. Is it about the circumstances, intentions of the killer, identity of the victim, consequences of the killing; under what conditions would you say a "sane" person is willing to kill another person? Why only then and not at other times?

Frozen_Feet
2012-10-28, 01:39 PM
I wasn't talking about whether any of those are natural or instinctive, nor did I make a moral judgement of them. I merely stated they can be rational. :smallwink:

MidgetMarine
2012-10-29, 03:01 PM
I forget to check up on a thread for a week, and look at what you do.


Tsk tsk tsk.

MidgetMarine
2012-10-29, 03:04 PM
But seriously, I did not expect it to go this far. I shall now go, try and read all the posts.

DigoDragon
2012-10-31, 07:34 AM
In my group, it depends on the style of the campaign we're playing.
Right now we're playing a D&D game where there is a major war going on. Killing is practically required to some degree, but my players are at least a bit thoughtful to kill only what needs to be stopped. If the enemy routs or surrenders, the party usually stops attacking. Otherwise, if the PCs run their swords through several elven soldiers, oh well. Loot and move on. :smalltongue:


Now, one of my favorite campaigns was a modern day FBI paranormal investigation game, quite similar to The X-Files. My character was a 16-year old spellcaster hired as a consultant by the FBI for related cases. To play the character realistically, she was what I call a "reluctant killer". Average (stable) people could hurt other people in a fight, but usually don't bring themselves to outright kill. Its a psycological thing most of us have.
With the other players, they were fully trained FBI agents, but also played it realistically - Don't kill unless you can't subdue. Our GM held us to realistic expectations if someone died and believe me, RPing the paperwork one fills out if we killed someone... LOL!

Also, killing was frowned upon by the agency anyway so our body count was something like Two in the entirety of the campaign and both had legitimate reasons.

GungHo
2012-11-01, 09:21 AM
Depending on the characters I play or the type of campaign I'm running, the characters may or may not care about the consequences of their killing. Typically, at lower levels, it makes perfect sense for some characters to have some reticence around killing, especially if they were killing humans or other playable races (as opposed to damn dirty goblins). Maybe they've led a sheltered life or religously consider life sacred. I've also played a few higher-level fighters and rangers who had a serious case of thousand-yard stare or who would be unable to sleep well if not in a semi-fortified condition.

However, I've only tried to introduce a mechanical "sanity"/"humanity" cost when the game actually had a sanity/humanity mechanic (e.g. WoD Vampire [and to a lesser extent, Werewolf] or CoC). I'm not big on foisting penalties on players who aren't playing people who aren't empathetic or who aren't as into the roleplaying aspect as others, and "hey, my guy is an adventurer... socipopathy is part of the job description" is not an unreasonable position. Now, if they're purportedly Lawful Good and they're torching every village in sight, then that's a whole different story and we probably need to have a "stop breaking it, hero" conversation.

I also think if you go down the road of introducing psychological consequences in the life of the adventurer, there are other considerations beyond just killing. What if you were a rogue tunnel rat who was trapped in a tunnel? How do you want to address post-stress claustrophobia or basophobia? What about a wizard who was almost killed by a trapped spellbook? Bibliophobia is an interesting excuse for multi-classing, or for another thread.

jaybird
2012-11-01, 09:51 AM
It seems like with Sanity meters or Morality/degeneration systems, a lot of players and game designers think that homicide isn't a legitimate tactic for conflict resolution and willingness to kill is a sign of mental imbalance.

WH40kRP would like to say hi. There's a reason Dark Heresy is known by the fan nickname of Catholic Space Nazis.

I feel like the killing-sanity relationship is more dependent on the table then on the actual system. Some tables want to play the drama queen thespians who want to talk about their feelings, some tables want to play the sociopathic mercenary adventurers who see NPCs as walking chunks of XP and loot. Personally, I fall under the second category, but as with most debates about gaming styles...it's up to the group to figure out what they want to do.

Strawberries
2012-11-01, 09:56 AM
Typically, at lower levels, it makes perfect sense for some characters to have some reticence around killing, especially if they were killing humans or other playable races (as opposed to damn dirty goblins).


I'm not even going to touch this one...

...actually, you know what? I am, because this argument raises my hackles a lot. Please explain to me what the difference would be between a playable and non playable race, unless the prejudice isn't merely IC.

If a character values life, then he values ALL life. Unless you aren't playing a bigot hypocrite, in which case, keep up the good work, I guess.

Frozen_Feet
2012-11-01, 10:05 AM
Why would they value all life, and not put greater emphasis on their particular species' and peoples' lives? I know we humans do.

jaybird
2012-11-01, 10:06 AM
I'm not even going to touch this one...

...actually, you know what? I am, because this argument raises my hackles a lot. Please explain to me what the difference would be between a playable and non playable race, unless the prejudice isn't merely IC.

If a character values life, then he values ALL life. Unless you aren't playing a bigot hypocrite, in which case, keep up the good work, I guess.


Sure. It's much easier, psychologically, to harm a member of a group perceived as "other" then a member of a group perceived as "self".

Strawberries
2012-11-01, 10:10 AM
Sure. It's much easier, psychologically, to harm a member of a group perceived as "other" then a member of a group perceived as "self".

Well... Depends on the character. As with anything else. Still, if a character declared to 'hold life sacred' and then proceeded to merrily slaughter people just because they happen to be kobolds or orcs, then I'm still going to say he is either deluded or an hypocrite.

jaybird
2012-11-01, 10:15 AM
Well... Depends on the character. As with anything else. Still, if a character declared to 'hold life sacred' and then proceeded to merrily slaughter people just because they happen to be kobolds or orcs, then I'm still going to say he is either deluded or an hypocrite.

Perhaps, but there's a billion historical precedents for the same declaration. Flaws don't make for a bad character. Quite the opposite, as a matter of fact.

Strawberries
2012-11-01, 10:18 AM
Flaws don't make for a bad character. Quite the opposite, as a matter of fact.

Oh, we are absolutely in agreement on that. Iwas arguing against the generalisation (and the fact that a lot of people won't consider such a character flawed). I've seen it made too many times and it never fails to make me angry.
All good, then. Glad we found a common ground.

Mark Hall
2012-11-01, 10:42 AM
...actually, you know what? I am, because this argument raises my hackles a lot. Please explain to me what the difference would be between a playable and non playable race, unless the prejudice isn't merely IC.

Not necessarily. Consider that demons and devils... indeed, existential evil made manifest... are real. The moral equivalence of races assumes that they all have similar origins, but that is simply not true in D&D-like game worlds. In many cases, races are the direct creation of evil deities and, while they may be mortal, their essential natures may be inherently corrupt. In such cases, those who are good are as insane as those who are evil in elven or dwarven society (races that are direct creation of good deities).

When you get right down to it, the story of Driz'zt is the story of severe psychosis, resulting in dangerous levels of empathy. He's an inverted serial killer.

Strawberries
2012-11-01, 12:59 PM
Not necessarily. Consider that demons and devils... indeed, existential evil made manifest... are real. (...)

Once again, it depends on the setting and its internal rules. Which brings me back to my point that


I was arguing against the generalisation (and the fact that a lot of people won't consider such a character flawed). I've seen it made too many times and it never fails to make me angry.

Zahhak
2012-11-01, 01:06 PM
I don't know if someone before my post suggested a sanity system, but a lot of people seem to think I was referring to making sanity checks after killing things. I was not. From a real-world psychological point of view, every time you take a life or watch someone take a life it has atleast temporary impacts, but that is not what I suggested as it would make gaming quickly too unwieldly.

obryn
2012-11-01, 01:08 PM
Not necessarily. Consider that demons and devils... indeed, existential evil made manifest... are real. The moral equivalence of races assumes that they all have similar origins, but that is simply not true in D&D-like game worlds. In many cases, races are the direct creation of evil deities and, while they may be mortal, their essential natures may be inherently corrupt. In such cases, those who are good are as insane as those who are evil in elven or dwarven society (races that are direct creation of good deities).

When you get right down to it, the story of Driz'zt is the story of severe psychosis, resulting in dangerous levels of empathy. He's an inverted serial killer.
Sadly, I think this is the kind of philosophy that having in-game alignments leads towards. I mean, I understand them for supernatural good or evil - like demons, angels, and devils - but extending them down to mortal races ends you up in murky ethical waters. For example, you brought up Driz'zt. If he is redeemable, then aren't there necessarily others in drow society who are, too? Is it their upbringing or actual mind-control?

D&D, at its core, started as a mini-wargame where a group of murder-hobos kill things and take their stuff. And it largely hasn't moved far from that, even though thinking and philosophizing about it has gotten deeper.

Alignments let you justify this easily - "goblins are chaotic evil, so they're fair game." (And the existence of spells to bring people back from the dead further lessens the psychological import of death.) It's part of the D&D genre, and it's not like I run a table full of pacifists.

I don't necessarily know where I'm going with this. It's one of those bits I don't think about very often, but which I kinda feel like I should. I do involve it in my Cthulhu game - and yes, I use Sanity for it.

But for D&D, if I'm honest with myself, I mostly want a fun game where we are sitting around killing imaginary bandits without repercussions. You know, without thinking about those bandits' motivations, friendships, joys, sadness, families, and the fact that they had parents and childhoods at one time. And whether or not an orc or a goblin can have a similar mental experience and whether or not it even matters if they do.

-O

Mark Hall
2012-11-01, 01:28 PM
Sadly, I think this is the kind of philosophy that having in-game alignments leads towards. I mean, I understand them for supernatural good or evil - like demons, angels, and devils - but extending them down to mortal races ends you up in murky ethical waters. For example, you brought up Driz'zt. If he is redeemable, then aren't there necessarily others in drow society who are, too? Is it their upbringing or actual mind-control?

Maybe. Are they humans who, though not born to it, can be warped into being serial killers? Because, from the point of view of an orc, that's what a "good orc" is... one who is profoundly insane, seeing the world in a way that makes zero sense to the rest of the orc world.

When you look at the cosmology and history of a standard D&D world, you really have to realize that it is not like our own. Many races are special creations of specific deities. While reincarnation can be forced, it's not a standard fact of life... an orc soul is an orc soul, incarnated in flesh that calls for blood. It has an orc mind, contained in an orc brain. And orcs... sane orcs... get their jollies off of chopping up things weaker than them. The insane orcs are the ones who shield the weak, who cultivate a little innocence. Gruumsh did not create orcs to bring beauty into the world... and if you visit him, he will tell you that. To be good is to deny being an orc, just as to be evil is to deny being an elf... for either, the condition is describable only as madness.

I also have problems with the word "redeemed"... because the alignment system is not dualistic. When an evil person dies, they may go to the Nine Hells, but they don't go there as punishment for being evil. Being in the Abyss isn't punishment for someone who is CE... it is a place where the world works the way they have always KNOWN it did. If I am chaotic evil, a world where strength gets me what I want, and the only people who will argue it are people who want what I have and are willing to contest for it... that's a world that MAKES SENSE. That's how things are supposed to work, even if those uptight Paladins were too stupid to see the brutal truth of reality. By contrast, if I (in my Chaotic Evil-ness) wound up in the Seven Heavens, that would be TORTURE. I'm supposed to HELP PEOPLE? I have to follow RULES? This is beyond hell... this is the anti-thesis of my being.

obryn
2012-11-01, 01:40 PM
That's further reason why I really, really don't like the D&D alignment system in any capacity. :smallsmile: It's an overly simplistic way to categorize pretty serious ethical questions. I mean, when you move from "an orc does evil things" to "an orc is evil" it's a big shift. And the alignment system makes this sort of thing easy, when I'm not 100% convinced it should.

But we can move on from orcs a bit and instead talk about the humans cavorting about the D&D wilderness - bandits, brigands, and the like. There's no supernatural justification there. But I've never seen them treated particularly differently from orcs, goblins, etc.

Like I said, though, in my D&D games, I'm generally not interested in plumbing these murky depths because it's D&D and it's not what I'm there for. As a parallel, I'm thinking back to Dragon Age: Origins, which IIRC keeps track of "humans killed" and I think by the end it was somewhere over 500? I mean, that's a number so high it's basically absurd. Skyrim's similar. Why? Because it's a D&Dish game and that's just what you do. You shove the deep moral questions into a closet and move on because, when it comes down to it, they're not real people and there's no real consequences.

(This dislike of D&D alignments extends, fwiw, backwards too. Because D&D alignments are so darn silly, I have to shake my head and frown at attempts to use them to categorize real people, cultures, and events in the world we live in.)

-O

ReaderAt2046
2012-11-01, 01:55 PM
But we can move on from orcs a bit and instead talk about the humans cavorting about the D&D wilderness - bandits, brigands, and the like. There's no supernatural justification there. But I've never seen them treated particularly differently from orcs, goblins, etc.


In their case, it is because they have already commited crimes deserving of death (or perhaps imprisonment) to be out there in the first place.

obryn
2012-11-01, 02:15 PM
In their case, it is because they have already commited crimes deserving of death (or perhaps imprisonment) to be out there in the first place.
...And it's the adventurers' job to do it, including killing ones who should perhaps have been imprisoned?

Or is it because it's D&D and players just don't think very deeply about being rampaging murder-hobos? Look - I'm not saying they should - I certainly don't agonize about sniping digital brigands in Skyrim, nor do I think about the social or psychological consequences of putting arrows through their skulls - but we can at least acknowledge there's weird ethical questions lurking on the fringes of our power-fantasy RPGs.

-O

GolemsVoice
2012-11-01, 02:25 PM
That's further reason why I really, really don't like the D&D alignment system in any capacity. It's an overly simplistic way to categorize pretty serious ethical questions. I mean, when you move from "an orc does evil things" to "an orc is evil" it's a big shift. And the alignment system makes this sort of thing easy, when I'm not 100% convinced it should.

But in D&D, you CAN actually say that a species IS evil. As Mark Hall said, a god could have specifically created a race to kill, slaugther and rape, and designed them so that this is the exact thing that drives them and gives them meaning in life.
You could then argue that Evil in this case is a question of free will, since these creatures could be argued to be nothing more than very well constructed automatons, and maybe you're right, but you still have a species that runs on evil in a pretty easy definition, namely violence for violence's sake.

obryn
2012-11-01, 02:35 PM
But in D&D, you CAN actually say that a species IS evil. As Mark Hall said, a god could have specifically created a race to kill, slaugther and rape, and designed them so that this is the exact thing that drives them and gives them meaning in life.
You could then argue that Evil in this case is a question of free will, since these creatures could be argued to be nothing more than very well constructed automatons, and maybe you're right, but you still have a species that runs on evil in a pretty easy definition, namely violence for violence's sake.
I think you misunderstood my point.

I dislike the D&D alignment system because it leads to these sorts of conclusions and justifications. It's like hanging a big "IT'S OKAY TO WANTONLY KILL ME AND MY FAMILY AND TAKE OUR STUFF, MR. ADVENTURER" sign on the bad guys.

It also kind of cheapens the game-world. If the reason orcs rampage and destroy villages is just "because, duh, CHAOTIC EVIL!" then that's the end of the story. And for D&D, if that's as deep as you want to go, I suppose that's fine. But it largely makes all other justifications and reasons null and void. Territorial disputes, religious controversy, competition for resources, etc. It's an overly simplistic view of motivations. Again, it's a difference between assigning alignments to people and assigning them to actions.

-O

Morithias
2012-11-01, 02:58 PM
snip
-O

Let's just agree that the alignment system is a grossly over simplification of the moral values of good and evil.

But I have to disagree to a degree. Even cartoon villains have their place.

If you don't like the alignment system and want to play a vastly complex game of moral debate, remove or rewrite it.

But if you're going to play a classic Ultima 1 style game, keep it in. Sometimes the players just want to kick Mondain's butt, rather than bother with the whole "is this right" thing.

obryn
2012-11-01, 03:18 PM
But if you're going to play a classic Ultima 1 style game, keep it in. Sometimes the players just want to kick Mondain's butt, rather than bother with the whole "is this right" thing.
That's kind of what I've been saying the whole time - I'm not saying this is how I need or want D&D to be. As I mentioned, it's not like I ponder the social consequences of sniping brigands in Skyrim.

(And funny re: Ultima, because I think it's fair to say in Ultima II you arguably do more damage than Minax ever did. :smallsmile:)

I understand and acknowledge that D&D is a game which has its roots in killing things and taking their stuff. Although there's lots of other stuff that goes on in D&D, these general activities are at the root of most of the rules. No matter what sort of D&D campaign you're running, it's likely at some point you'll be killing something, looting its corpse, and taking its magic treasure for yourself.

This is fine; like I said, so's Skyrim, and it's not like this is anything new in the history of RPGs or CRPGs. In fact, I'd say it's been the norm throughout RPG history, and it's clearly a fun and successful model.

The alignment system is part of the way the "killing and taking their stuff" is justified. It's not the only part, but it's a major one. You can hang the "Chaotic Evil" sign around an orc or a goblin, and they become killable without question.

What I'm saying is - alignment's just a diversion. The fact is, in D&D and similar RPGs, you're playing a game that involves killing things and taking their stuff. I'd rather acknowledge that we're doing this because it's a game, it's enjoyable, it's all imaginary - no real goblins are harmed, and it's more about the fun/power fantasy/leveling/finding magic stuff/etc. than about ethical questions or claiming moral purpose in punishing orcs for their orcishness. We give violence a pass in RPGs just like we give it a pass in most other entertainment.

So the ethical issues - especially alignment - are a shallow justification that's really unnecessary, and borderline self-parody. It's a game, and we should always keep that in mind. (In fact, I think it's potentially harmful when people try and take alignment-based lessons from D&D and pretend they have any meaning or application to the real world.)

-O

GolemsVoice
2012-11-01, 03:46 PM
The alignment system doesn't stop you from actually putting facetted villains in your game, you know? Lack of an alignment system doesn't mean that races can't just be evil to the core.

If you want a morally complex game, D&D can do that for you. You just don't use Orcs for it. (Orcs in this case being an example)

Now I won't deny that the alignment system can be used to faciliate the "they're mostly lawful evil, let's not think about this" type of play, which I agree, is fine. And I also agree that this could cause a problem, because mostly lawful evil isn't always or automatically lawful evil. But sometimes, there are races that ARE chaotic evil, always. I see no problem with that, honestly.

obryn
2012-11-01, 04:06 PM
The alignment system doesn't stop you from actually putting facetted villains in your game, you know? Lack of an alignment system doesn't mean that races can't just be evil to the core
It removes the easy, comfortable shorthand, though, which I think can be valuable. "Kill these guys because they are killing farmers in the countryside" is a lot more compelling than "Kill these guys because, duh, Chaotic Evil." Because then you ask, "What if these chaotic evil orcs aren't actually doing anything chaotic and evil? Is it still open season?" Again, it's a distinction between what someone is doing and what they are.

And so then - what's the point of having an alignment system at all? Why not just define everything by their behaviors and actual effects on the game world rather than this sort of lamely-justified fantasy race-is-destiny garbage?


Now I won't deny that the alignment system can be used to faciliate the "they're mostly lawful evil, let's not think about this" type of play, which I agree, is fine. And I also agree that this could cause a problem, because mostly lawful evil isn't always or automatically lawful evil. But sometimes, tehre are races that ARE chaotic evil, always. I see no problem with that, honestly.
I... pretty much do. Because it's kind of disturbing, IMO, in a way that demons/devils/angels being "always chaotic evil" isn't.

In my own games, I do basically ignore alignment. (Fortunately, 4e's mechanics support me in this by having almost nothing rules-wise that ever references alignment.) If there's elves trying to enslave you, then yeah, self-defense. If there's gith killing farming villages, they may well step in. But in neither case is the justification because of alignment reasons.

-O

Mark Hall
2012-11-01, 08:57 PM
But we can move on from orcs a bit and instead talk about the humans cavorting about the D&D wilderness - bandits, brigands, and the like. There's no supernatural justification there. But I've never seen them treated particularly differently from orcs, goblins, etc.


It's a bit older version of morality and ethics... in Iceland, they called people "outlaws", and it meant more than "They broke the law." You see, the law doesn't just punish people... it protects them from retribution. If I cut your face in a brawl, I am liable for damages. If I kill your brother, I am liable for his weregeld... the value his life has, which is set by law. Failure to pay this meant lawsuit, and that you would be justified in taking it out of my hide. But all this happens under the law.

If I make a habit of such dastardly deeds, then I become declared outlaw... which means the law no longer protects me from anyone who cares to take retribution. My kin can't sue you for my weregeld if I'm killed, I have no legal recourse if I'm injured and, if I'm not careful, all my wealth can be seized and there's nothing I can do about it (I would be wise to transfer everything to my brother, so my wife and children don't suffer).

Essentially, the people who are outlaw are no longer part of society... they have become kin to the monsters in the darkness, the reavers. Because a society is held together by laws and standards of behavior.

GungHo
2012-11-02, 08:45 AM
I'm not even going to touch this one...

...actually, you know what? I am, because this argument raises my hackles a lot. Please explain to me what the difference would be between a playable and non playable race, unless the prejudice isn't merely IC.

If a character values life, then he values ALL life. Unless you aren't playing a bigot hypocrite, in which case, keep up the good work, I guess.
I was playing off the trope that in many "standard" RPG worlds that there is such a concept of objective, "real" evil, and that many races, such as goblins or demons, cleave to that objective evil and that in such settings, even the kindest, sweetest, Paladin who kisses all the little puppies and kittens and babies on the tops of their little heads is the same guy who just left 1,000 goblin kids without daddies because Detect Evil said "You Betcha" (as Detect Evil actually works in a world with objective evil).

I am not making a statement regarding my actual beliefs about the weight of that idea in the absense of such an objective evil. However, I didn't put any disclamer out there, so I guess I can see why you might think that I actually believe in certain things as the person behind the screen. I hope that I have phrased this reply in such a way that you don't actually believe that I believe that.

I'm sorry that I took this thread out into a discussion of Fantastic Racism and the cognative dissonance therein. A seperate thread might be interesting, provided it can be done in a way that allows people to leave their baggage at the door, so to speak.


(And funny re: Ultima, because I think it's fair to say in Ultima II you arguably do more damage than Minax ever did. :smallsmile:)
And further, Ultima VI is all about the consequences of a hero going around killing everything in sight and believing in a race is objectively evil when that race is anything but.