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LeighPouse

The Morality System and my suggested fix

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Lord knows I've said my peace on Morality and how I feel it's a narrative dead end. But never one to shy away from shooting off my mouth, let me say this. . . .

 

What GM runs games in which the players do nothing? Why aren't you challenging them with difficult situations that require tough choices?

I'm torn between explaining how my out of context quote is being misconstrued, or wondering why a post from more than a year ago is suddenly worth debate.

 

 

 

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I really dislike the FFG approach to all of this. Look at the films, Anakin didn't fall a tiny bit at a time when he acted in anger or otherwise let emotions take over. It was the big things... Getting revenge for his mother's murder, killing Mace Windu, choking his wife out of jealousy. Those key moments changed him and made him fall more and more until he fully turned.

The FFG approach is the opposite. Your morality goes up and down a tiny bit at a time, it trends upward naturally unless you roll badly after getting a lot of conflict in a session. It's not set up to handle a dramatic fall to the Dark Side when a character makes a life-changing choice or action. Nor is it set up to allow a fallen character to redeem themselves after making a huge heroic sacrifice like Vader did shortly before dying. It's one aspect where they completely missed in replicating the theme of the films, honestly I felt that WEG did a better job of it. The micromanagement of conflict does fit with the bit of XP you get at the end of a session to make for a consistent, convenient character advancement, and I'm sure that's why it was done that way. But that isn't Star Wars.

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I always felt like what they should've aimed for with F&D's meta mechanic was something more like what would be called Notoriety.  Morality and immorality could be a component, but the whole idea I thought should be flying under the radar of the Inquisition.  Whether you're dark or light you really don't want to draw the attention of the Inquisitors as that's your @$$ very likely.  That could be going all choppy McChopperson in the cantina with a lightsaber against NPCs that might or might not deserve it, or it might mean something fairly neutral but more pronounced in the Force like reaching out with the Force to track someone across the galaxy or predict the future.  The PCs actions might be moral, immoral, or really neither, but they all draw attention to themselves.  I don't like the reward/penalty approach to it as it only encourages gaming the system, whereas something like simply trying to not be noticed doesn't get into morality judgments it just is what it is and frankly I think would encourage the kind of play you'd want from PCs.

 

And it would trigger just like an Obligation?  Actually the Force User in my group has just that, au lieu de Morality (It's an Edge campaign - no FaD stuff so far, for Force's sake!); the Obligation "Wanted by the Inquisitorius". Displaying his powers will increase it, lying low or diverting attention will decrease it.

 

He's more scared of them buggers than he could ever be of falling into the Dark.

 

Yah, pretty much.  Honestly I only use Obligation.  I don't really care for Morality and honestly Duty strikes me as what PCs and GMs would be doing in an AoR campaign regardless of the mechanic.

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You're probably the guy to ask, because I've scrounged but can't find a clip from Minority Report where the pre-cog drifts under water saying "Muuuurrrrdddeeeerrrrr..."  I wanted to play that at the beginning of the next session...   :)

 

 

Well, I tried - soundboards, .WAV archives, youtube - nothin'! It seems that Fox is diligent in policing the internet of it's intellectual properties. . . . .

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I really dislike the FFG approach to all of this. Look at the films, Anakin didn't fall a tiny bit at a time when he acted in anger or otherwise let emotions take over. It was the big things... Getting revenge for his mother's murder, killing Mace Windu, choking his wife out of jealousy. Those key moments changed him and made him fall more and more until he fully turned.

The FFG approach is the opposite. Your morality goes up and down a tiny bit at a time, it trends upward naturally unless you roll badly after getting a lot of conflict in a session. It's not set up to handle a dramatic fall to the Dark Side when a character makes a life-changing choice or action. Nor is it set up to allow a fallen character to redeem themselves after making a huge heroic sacrifice like Vader did shortly before dying. It's one aspect where they completely missed in replicating the theme of the films, honestly I felt that WEG did a better job of it. The micromanagement of conflict does fit with the bit of XP you get at the end of a session to make for a consistent, convenient character advancement, and I'm sure that's why it was done that way. But that isn't Star Wars.

Character development is much more realistic when done gradually. All of my favorite character arcs are done this way. Michael Corleone doesn't become the ruthless new Gofather instantly after ONE horrible descion, it's a slow decay of his character after a multitude of bad choices. Whether it's "Star Wars" or not, realistic character development is a very slow process, and it simply is ridiculous to say as a GM "You killed one dude in anger? BAM! You're a bad guy now! Deal with it!"

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Whether it's "Star Wars" or not, realistic character development is a very slow process, and it simply is ridiculous to say as a GM "You killed one dude in anger? BAM! You're a bad guy now! Deal with it!"

 

Yeah, that would be ridiculous.  But nobody here is saying that.

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Whether it's "Star Wars" or not, realistic character development is a very slow process, and it simply is ridiculous to say as a GM "You killed one dude in anger? BAM! You're a bad guy now! Deal with it!"

 

Yeah, that would be ridiculous.  But nobody here is saying that.

I guess that's how I interpreted "It's not set up to handle a dramatic fall to the Dark Side when a character makes a life-changing choice or action." but I could be wrong and apologies if I was.

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I've started my first mixed Edge/F&D campaign and the concerns voiced in this thread are at the forefront of my mind. With a mixed title game, some concessions definitely need to be made to keep game balance. The conclusions I've made thus far are:

  1. The definition of a "session" needs to fit the type of game a GM is running and should be agreed upon by the table. A Morality roll at the end of every game session in a F&D-only game seems reasonable. In a mixed game, it can lead to problems. The definition of "session" with my current campaign is "the end of the story arc."
  2. Conflict gained through a lack of action is solely the result of the PC being aware of a situation in which the PC could have made a positive difference but chose not to. Junior Jedi don't get the luxury of keeping to themselves or avoiding confrontation. Ben Kenobi might have been a "hermit" but his primary responsibility was to keep little Luke safe.
  3. From a game mechanics perspective, PC action moves the story along and keeps the game interesting for everyone. Choosing to hide behind a rock because something might be a challenge to a character effectively kills the game. In fiction, surviving and looking out for Number One doesn't earn you accolades, heroism does. In a game, action, not inaction, is what makes the game fun.
  4. The conflict-worthy actions listed in the F&D core rule book are very reasonable for the tone of a Star Wars game.

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Having had some experience with the Morality system by now, the only thing I'd change at this point is to maybe make the Morality checks at the end of each adventure (usually 2-3 sessions for my group) than each individual session. That would give everyone more time and opportunity to accumulate Conflict, and make it a little less of an "express elevator to Paragon status"-type of situation.

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I really dislike the FFG approach to all of this. Look at the films, Anakin didn't fall a tiny bit at a time when he acted in anger or otherwise let emotions take over. It was the big things... Getting revenge for his mother's murder, killing Mace Windu, choking his wife out of jealousy. Those key moments changed him and made him fall more and more until he fully turned.

The FFG approach is the opposite. Your morality goes up and down a tiny bit at a time, it trends upward naturally unless you roll badly after getting a lot of conflict in a session. It's not set up to handle a dramatic fall to the Dark Side when a character makes a life-changing choice or action. Nor is it set up to allow a fallen character to redeem themselves after making a huge heroic sacrifice like Vader did shortly before dying. It's one aspect where they completely missed in replicating the theme of the films, honestly I felt that WEG did a better job of it. The micromanagement of conflict does fit with the bit of XP you get at the end of a session to make for a consistent, convenient character advancement, and I'm sure that's why it was done that way. But that isn't Star Wars.

 

I think the system does support large drops in Morality that can make a character fall.  Murder a whole village of Tusken Raiders out of veangance?  GM could award 20+ conflict.  Kill a Jedi Master confronting a Sith Lord?  20+ Conflict, etc.

Anakin is a character that probably had slow gradual increases of Morality with some really big drops on occasion.

 

I agree that the system as written doesn't really support the Vader Light Side Redemption Bounce but I can see why they designed it that way: to prevent players from "easily" and quickly getting out of the consequences of playing a dark side character.  I think it's reasonable for a GM who knows a players isn't gaming the system and their Dark Side character had a dramatic and plot important turn towards the Light Side to award the player enough Morality to pull them out of the Dark Side threshold (but maybe still close so falling back is easy).

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I always felt like what they should've aimed for with F&D's meta mechanic was something more like what would be called Notoriety.  Morality and immorality could be a component, but the whole idea I thought should be flying under the radar of the Inquisition.  Whether you're dark or light you really don't want to draw the attention of the Inquisitors as that's your @$$ very likely.  That could be going all choppy McChopperson in the cantina with a lightsaber against NPCs that might or might not deserve it, or it might mean something fairly neutral but more pronounced in the Force like reaching out with the Force to track someone across the galaxy or predict the future.  The PCs actions might be moral, immoral, or really neither, but they all draw attention to themselves.  I don't like the reward/penalty approach to it as it only encourages gaming the system, whereas something like simply trying to not be noticed doesn't get into morality judgments it just is what it is and frankly I think would encourage the kind of play you'd want from PCs.

 

I agree that the Morality system is much more prone to being gamed but I'm glad they picked a meta mechanic focused on the character's alignment with the light/dark and their own personal strengths and weaknesses as it tracks very well with the themes of the movies and the Jedi (and force users generally).  The system could use some tweaking (like the great suggestions in this thread) but I'm pleased with the overall goals of the system.

 

And the threat of inquisitors showing up isn't appropriate for every game (whereas the themes of the light/dark side and a characters strengths/weaknesses are more universal for force users).  Obligation (or GM fiat) seems like a much better system to add the threat of inquisitors dropping in.

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I really dislike the FFG approach to all of this. Look at the films, Anakin didn't fall a tiny bit at a time when he acted in anger or otherwise let emotions take over. It was the big things... Getting revenge for his mother's murder, killing Mace Windu, choking his wife out of jealousy. Those key moments changed him and made him fall more and more until he fully turned.

The FFG approach is the opposite. Your morality goes up and down a tiny bit at a time, it trends upward naturally unless you roll badly after getting a lot of conflict in a session. It's not set up to handle a dramatic fall to the Dark Side when a character makes a life-changing choice or action. Nor is it set up to allow a fallen character to redeem themselves after making a huge heroic sacrifice like Vader did shortly before dying. It's one aspect where they completely missed in replicating the theme of the films, honestly I felt that WEG did a better job of it. The micromanagement of conflict does fit with the bit of XP you get at the end of a session to make for a consistent, convenient character advancement, and I'm sure that's why it was done that way. But that isn't Star Wars.

Character development is much more realistic when done gradually. All of my favorite character arcs are done this way. Michael Corleone doesn't become the ruthless new Gofather instantly after ONE horrible descion, it's a slow decay of his character after a multitude of bad choices. Whether it's "Star Wars" or not, realistic character development is a very slow process, and it simply is ridiculous to say as a GM "You killed one dude in anger? BAM! You're a bad guy now! Deal with it!"

Sure, if this was The Godfather: Revenge of the Cannoli then I'd understand but it's not.  (By the way, I would play that RPG if it existed. :D)  It just doesn't seem to fit the other parts of the game that fit more closely with the way that these things are portrayed in the Star Wars media.  I'm not saying that it's a bad design choice in general, but it feels incongruous and out-of-step with the rest of the way that the game works narratively.  And I wouldn't have a person fall to the Dark Side killing a single enemy out of anger, but maybe if he killed his own family or blew up an entire space station full of innocents for his own personal gain, that might do it.

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I really dislike the FFG approach to all of this. Look at the films, Anakin didn't fall a tiny bit at a time when he acted in anger or otherwise let emotions take over. It was the big things... Getting revenge for his mother's murder, killing Mace Windu, choking his wife out of jealousy. Those key moments changed him and made him fall more and more until he fully turned.

The FFG approach is the opposite. Your morality goes up and down a tiny bit at a time, it trends upward naturally unless you roll badly after getting a lot of conflict in a session. It's not set up to handle a dramatic fall to the Dark Side when a character makes a life-changing choice or action. Nor is it set up to allow a fallen character to redeem themselves after making a huge heroic sacrifice like Vader did shortly before dying. It's one aspect where they completely missed in replicating the theme of the films, honestly I felt that WEG did a better job of it. The micromanagement of conflict does fit with the bit of XP you get at the end of a session to make for a consistent, convenient character advancement, and I'm sure that's why it was done that way. But that isn't Star Wars.

 

I think the system does support large drops in Morality that can make a character fall.  Murder a whole village of Tusken Raiders out of veangance?  GM could award 20+ conflict.  Kill a Jedi Master confronting a Sith Lord?  20+ Conflict, etc.

Anakin is a character that probably had slow gradual increases of Morality with some really big drops on occasion.

 

I agree that the system as written doesn't really support the Vader Light Side Redemption Bounce but I can see why they designed it that way: to prevent players from "easily" and quickly getting out of the consequences of playing a dark side character.  I think it's reasonable for a GM who knows a players isn't gaming the system and their Dark Side character had a dramatic and plot important turn towards the Light Side to award the player enough Morality to pull them out of the Dark Side threshold (but maybe still close so falling back is easy).

 

I suppose so.  If you award someone more than 10 points of Conflict in one go, you're guaranteeing a decrease in Morality because you can only roll as high as 10 on a 10-sider.  If someone does something so heinous that the Dark Side is clearly influencing them, heaping it on them all at once might do it.  What gets me is the rolling, we have a character in our group is who pretty clearly influenced by the Dark Side (she is mentored by a Sith Holocron, is constantly lashing out in rage at enemies, uses Dark Side pips in combat frequently) but due to good luck with the rolls after the game she is rarely affected by it and even sees her Morality score improve more often than not.  And I'm not blaming the player or our GM, they seem to be doing everything properly from what I can tell.  But the way the mechanic is set up, it seems like a dark character is unfazed by it.

 

I guess I can look at it as her character is being influenced constantly but her inner spirit is keeping itself intact for now (because of the lucky die rolls), but eventually it will catch up with her if there is no epiphany or other influence.  It doesn't help that the rest of our crew is totally clueless; we all think of the Sith as a weird emo offshoot of the Jedi and don't get the significance of the red Kyber crystal she's carrying around that she plans to use for her lightsaber when she's ready to build one, or why it's a bad idea that she fights with such viciousness (because we're all pretty passionate in combat, it's natural).  The Empire works hard to keep everyone ignorant of what the Jedi really were or how the Force works, so we have no idea.  I'm a bit proud of our group properly roleplaying that ignorance despite the fact that as players we definitely know better.

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I really dislike the FFG approach to all of this. Look at the films, Anakin didn't fall a tiny bit at a time when he acted in anger or otherwise let emotions take over. It was the big things... Getting revenge for his mother's murder, killing Mace Windu, choking his wife out of jealousy. Those key moments changed him and made him fall more and more until he fully turned.

The FFG approach is the opposite. Your morality goes up and down a tiny bit at a time, it trends upward naturally unless you roll badly after getting a lot of conflict in a session. It's not set up to handle a dramatic fall to the Dark Side when a character makes a life-changing choice or action. Nor is it set up to allow a fallen character to redeem themselves after making a huge heroic sacrifice like Vader did shortly before dying. It's one aspect where they completely missed in replicating the theme of the films, honestly I felt that WEG did a better job of it. The micromanagement of conflict does fit with the bit of XP you get at the end of a session to make for a consistent, convenient character advancement, and I'm sure that's why it was done that way. But that isn't Star Wars.

Character development is much more realistic when done gradually. All of my favorite character arcs are done this way. Michael Corleone doesn't become the ruthless new Gofather instantly after ONE horrible descion, it's a slow decay of his character after a multitude of bad choices. Whether it's "Star Wars" or not, realistic character development is a very slow process, and it simply is ridiculous to say as a GM "You killed one dude in anger? BAM! You're a bad guy now! Deal with it!"
Sure, if this was The Godfather: Revenge of the Cannoli then I'd understand but it's not. (By the way, I would play that RPG if it existed. :D) It just doesn't seem to fit the other parts of the game that fit more closely with the way that these things are portrayed in the Star Wars media. I'm not saying that it's a bad design choice in general, but it feels incongruous and out-of-step with the rest of the way that the game works narratively. And I wouldn't have a person fall to the Dark Side killing a single enemy out of anger, but maybe if he killed his own family or blew up an entire space station full of innocents for his own personal gain, that might do it.
Reading my original post again it comes across as very condescending. Sorry 'bout that!

Yeah, I understand where you're coming from. I guess I prefer gradual character arcs, but Star Wars is more extreme and quick with the development, which can work depending on the execution. So I suppose in a different RPG the morality system could work well, but here it is a little un-Star-Warsy. Though by just awarding large amounts of conflict for major decisions, as others have suggested, this problem can, for the most part, be bypassed. I think the main problem is that it is fairly easy to fall to the dark side quickly, but nigh impossible to redeem yourself from it in a comparable time frame. I'm not sure what the way to remedy that is.

Edited by TheTenaciousYuzzum

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I think the main problem is that it is fairly easy to fall to the dark side quickly, but nigh impossible to redeem yourself from it in a comparable time frame.

But it's not easy to fall to the dark side. A character has to both accumulate an amount of Conflict that tips the scales toward a fall and fail a roll. There's no real way to measure how quickly one can fall because randomness is a heavy element.

 

Maybe you could award negative conflict for making the right decision? Just a thought.

The idea behind falling to the dark side is that it's a bunch of little (or major) missteps that culminate in being completely seduced. Doing the right thing doesn't erase having done the wrong thing.

 

To put it another way, I don't want to deal with "I saved the Lurmen village so that balances out me butchering a temple full of Jedi younglings" arguments.

Edited by Concise Locket

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To put it another way, I don't want to deal with "I saved the Lurmen village so that balances out me butchering a temple full of Jedi younglings" arguments.

 

In a nutshell, exactly why I don't like the Morality scale, it leads to that kind of thinking.

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To put it another way, I don't want to deal with "I saved the Lurmen village so that balances out me butchering a temple full of Jedi younglings" arguments.

 

In a nutshell, exactly why I don't like the Morality scale, it leads to that kind of thinking.

Agreed. The way the system is now, you can butcher a temple full of Jedi younglings, get a lucky roll at the end of the session, and then just not do too much evil stuff for your next couple of sessions and as far as the Morality system is concerned you're back on the Light Side again. How is that better? I'd rather have a person redeem himself with good deeds than to just refrain from being quite so evil for a while.

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To put it another way, I don't want to deal with "I saved the Lurmen village so that balances out me butchering a temple full of Jedi younglings" arguments.

 

In a nutshell, exactly why I don't like the Morality scale, it leads to that kind of thinking.

 

This is where the it takes 10 - 'atta boys' to wipe out 1 - 'oh sh^t' would be my judgement when I used Morality for that very reason.

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Agreed. The way the system is now, you can butcher a temple full of Jedi younglings, get a lucky roll at the end of the session, and then just not do too much evil stuff for your next couple of sessions and as far as the Morality system is concerned you're back on the Light Side again. How is that better? I'd rather have a person redeem himself with good deeds than to just refrain from being quite so evil for a while.

It's better because it's random but with increasing probability of failure which discourages gaming the system. It's also a safe bet that other players at the table, presumably who are also held to the same Morality rules, don't want to receive Conflict points by sitting by and watching their fellow Jedi-in-Training go full-on Darth. And will actively do something about it. That encourages action at the table which is what I want.

I don't have a rule book in front of me but committing murder gives you, what, +10 Conflict? Multiply that times the number of Jedi kiddos Player Character Anakin chopped into salami plus all the adult Jedi he ordered the 501st to execute on sight plus his already tenuous Morality rating. His player would have so many modifiers stacked onto his roll that by the time he's choking out Padme the roll would be nearly pointless.

Could Anakin's player succeed on a statistically improbable roll and get him off? Sure. Is it likely? No. But... if it did happen it would make for a really fun exercise between the players and the GM to figure out what happened and how to resolve it.

I get more excited by rules systems that throw up these kinds of generally-predictable-but-sometimes-"out there" possibilities than rules that actively encourage gamers to push up their metaphorical glasses on their noses and start rules-lawyering their way into a superior tactical position. I really disliked WotC SW (and most OGL/3.5 games) for that very reason.

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 To put it another way, I don't want to deal with "I saved the Lurmen village so that balances out me butchering a temple full of Jedi younglings" arguments.

 

Vader's player: "I saved my own son from the Emperor so that balances out killing a temple full of Jedi younglings and every other evil thing I did for 19 years."

GM: "Yep, sound good, you're now a blue Force ghost."

 

Let's face it, the Morality system was not being used in the movies.  In practice, it promotes a steady climb to Light Side Paragon and a lot of players arguments that go like, "Well *I* didn't kill those guys, that was the Gank," or, "*I* didn't steal that stuff, that was the smuggler."  I hit them with the "knowing inaction" conflict, but it's only 1 point per the rules.  If I were to hit them with lots of conflict for other PC's actions, I'd be recreating "The Paladin Problem" and we'd have all kinds of intra-party arguments, possibly even intra-party conflict.  I have literally never seen that work out well in any gaming group.

 

I'm tinkering with some house rule ideas but I have nothing I really like at this time.

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 To put it another way, I don't want to deal with "I saved the Lurmen village so that balances out me butchering a temple full of Jedi younglings" arguments.

 

Vader's player: "I saved my own son from the Emperor so that balances out killing a temple full of Jedi younglings and every other evil thing I did for 19 years."

GM: "Yep, sound good, you're now a blue Force ghost."

 

People keep referring to that, but Vader died.  It's not indicative of "paragon" status, only some kind of redemption beyond the rules.  He's effectively outside the boundaries of whatever Morality system there is.  His score doesn't matter.  Or to put it another way:

 

'E's off the twig! 'E's kicked the bucket, 'e's shuffled off 'is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisible!! THIS IS AN EX-SITH!!

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Let's face it, the Morality system was not being used in the movies.  In practice, it promotes a steady climb to Light Side Paragon and a lot of players arguments that go like, "Well *I* didn't kill those guys, that was the Gank," or, "*I* didn't steal that stuff, that was the smuggler."  I hit them with the "knowing inaction" conflict, but it's only 1 point per the rules.  If I were to hit them with lots of conflict for other PC's actions, I'd be recreating "The Paladin Problem" and we'd have all kinds of intra-party arguments, possibly even intra-party conflict.  I have literally never seen that work out well in any gaming group.

Chronicles of the Gatekeeper suggests up to 3 Conflict for PC inaction in certain situations so it seems like there's some leeway with how to apply it. 

 

At the end of the day, the PCs are still playing classic hero archetypes. Han shot first (*cough*) but Greedo was going to march him to probable death at the hands of Jabba. At the other end of the spectrum, goody two-shoes Obi-Wan, as an act of self-defense, cut Ponda Baba's arm off rather than just slicing the blaster in twain. If we're putting it on an alignment chart, post-Order 66 Jedi would be Neutral or Chaotic Good. They're definitely not Lawful Good, which is more obsessed with justice and fairness, as they're pro-democracy and pro-freedom during the time of the Empire. If the PCs want to drop Jawas down wells or steal the collection box from a Dim-U monastery, there's already a problem as that doesn't correspond to anything in the movies or TV shows.

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