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Nivrap

Help Incorporating Bendu Philosophy?

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As the title suggests, I'd like advice on incorporating the Bendu's philosophy on the Force into Force and Destiny's Morality system. Specifically, how would you as a GM reconcile the stark good vs. evil interpretation of the Force this RPG holds to with the more nuanced interpretation held by the Bendu, which as far as we know is how the Force actually works?

I suppose it goes without saying that I have a bias in this discussion. Alongside Star Wars, I also grew up with shows like Avatar: The Last Airbender, which taught me that no power is good or evil, it's in how you use it (a la Kyle Katarn). Episodes IV, V, and VI always rubbed me the wrong way with their cliched superpower morality, but I still think they're great movies in an even greater Saga.

So, any advice you can give a relatively new GM?

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I think this has been covered pretty well in some other threads. But I think the best explanation is that the dark side is fueled by emotion. And it's what you can become when the ease of emotional fueled power becomes an addiction.

 

The Jedi are right in staying far away from it.

The bendu don't. However I would say no it's like taking heroin, not many people can do it only here and there.

 

 

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Other threads may have given much to work with... but I do like taking about philosophy.

I'd say you already have a good foundation with the sources you mentioned.  My best advice would be to look at the concept that light and dark imply good and evil rather than equating it.  Yes, the darksider is more unstable, but so is there power source.  Yes, the lightsider might be more stable, but can become controlling if they get too drawn up in it.  Both must learn discipline to control their powers and themselves, and can be self-serving whether they are fully aware of it or not.

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On 3/4/2017 at 10:15 PM, Nivrap said:

As the title suggests, I'd like advice on incorporating the Bendu's philosophy on the Force into Force and Destiny's Morality system. Specifically, how would you as a GM reconcile the stark good vs. evil interpretation of the Force this RPG holds to with the more nuanced interpretation held by the Bendu, which as far as we know is how the Force actually works?

I suppose it goes without saying that I have a bias in this discussion. Alongside Star Wars, I also grew up with shows like Avatar: The Last Airbender, which taught me that no power is good or evil, it's in how you use it (a la Kyle Katarn). Episodes IV, V, and VI always rubbed me the wrong way with their cliched superpower morality, but I still think they're great movies in an even greater Saga.

So, any advice you can give a relatively new GM?

Do  you mean the Bendu in as far as the character from Rebels? Because everything we have heard him speak of doesn't really signify that the view that light = good, dark = bad isn't true. He only speaks of balance to characters who are imbalanced emotionally & are being ineffective at working as a team or trusting one another due to past mistakes & being too prideful to talk about it. He does mention that the Sith holocron itself isn't evil, since it's an object and not living but that what one does, even with good intentions, can lead to evil. Which is still very much in line with the view of light = good, dark = bad and everything George Lucas viewed the Force as. Anakin himself is an example in doing bad things with good intentions.

 

Tbh, I expected more from the character regarding how the Force works, instead we got a therapist for Jedi.

Edited by GroggyGolem

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Quite a few people have dumped the Morality system, keeping the Strain/Destiny point cost to using your non-preferred Sude of the Force. They still talk about characters falling to the Dark Side and being redeemed, but it's all played out Narratively within the story and mechanics are kept out of it. I would suggest trying that if the baked in system is not to your groups taste. 

Another option is to tweak the Morality Check at the end of sessions. If you want a more lenient system then perhaps roll 2d10 or something else to calculate the Morality change. Obviously this creates another problem of the low Conflict PC skyrocketing in Morality for doing not much. 

Alternatly you could have a Conflict modifier; subtract 5 before making the Morality check, to a minimum of 1. Allowing for more to be earned without consequence.

But simply dropping the mechanics will probably simply things much better and allow more flexibility as your group needs.

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Dropping the Morality system is the easy route, and we all know that is the path to the Darkside...

Seriously, all you have to do to make the Morality system useable is actually use it.

First, explain to your PCs how it is not a punishment mechanic - it's an rp mechanic. You are not here to play "Gotchya!" with it, it will be used to add a mechanic to the narrative theme of the Force, and that slipping up and down on the Morality scale is something every Jedi does

Second, explain how you will be focusing less on the Moral Strengths/Weaknesses that they select, and more on the very common rp/emotions of Fear and Anger and how they rp their PC dealing with them. And on how they use the Force in combat - harming and frightening (Moving) and especially killing with the Force will reap Conflict consequences regardless of whether an NPC may have instructions to kill them, or even fire first. These are the most common paths to the Darkside and things we see thematically that the Jedi avoid.

 

Edited by emsquared

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38 minutes ago, emsquared said:

First, explain to your PCs how it is not a punishment mechanic - it's an rp mechanic.

And on how they use the Force <snip> will reap Conflict consequences

This is where the system runs into trouble - if it's supposed to be a roleplaying mechanic (oxymoron though that generally is) then taking a 'consequences' approach runs directly counter to that, especially since the conflict-generating actions are all of the "you did something naughty" variety.

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37 minutes ago, Garran said:

This is where the system runs into trouble - if it's supposed to be a roleplaying mechanic (oxymoron though that generally is) then taking a 'consequences' approach runs directly counter to that, especially since the conflict-generating actions are all of the "you did something naughty" variety.

But it doesn't actually have any negative effect unless you're rping like a Darkside user, murder-hobo. Even then it has a benefit to the cost.

I have demonstrated to my players that I invoke the system primarily based off their rp, and many of them now seem to take it as a badge of honor, of good rp, when they invoke Morality. I give them choice, "You seem to be rping a lot of anger here, are you trying to invoke the Morality system?" And they ask to make Discipline rolls to determine if they succumb to Fear or Anger in an rp moment. 

And it's wonderful.

Its all about presentation, then implementation, and ultimately showing your players they can trust you with their story and that you're not there to spank them but to evoke the feeling of the lore and world.

Edited by emsquared

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Last game I played in I had a light side paragon react in a highly charged and emotional situation , use a force ability roll 2 white pips and a dark pip choose to use the dark pip because they felt that at the time it fit their characters emotional state at the time , representing their tapping into their anger at the time. I play a warden and flirt with darkness all the time as he is a righteous character and would think nothing of lying / coercing ....etc to get the job done. He doesnt see himself as a Darksider but may well end up there but after several sessions of between 3 and 9 conflict per session im at 51.

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23 minutes ago, emsquared said:

But it doesn't actually have any negative effect unless you're rping like a Darkside user, murder-hobo. Even then it has a benefit to the cost.

 

You can become a dark side user without doing anything bad (it can be done entirely by spending black pips), and even if you do bad stuff, the list allows for you to become a full-fledged darksider simply by lying to or even just insulting people once too often. You never have to kill anyone or even have a violent thought. You can say that this is not how the system was intended to be used, but it's how the system actually works.

As for the cost-benefit: it's a net negative. Strain is harder to come by than wound threshold and generally matters more, and you're slanting the destiny pool against the PCs on top of that.

 

If the system had avoided good/evil and stuck to something like passion vs self-control (without one giving you perks over the other) then it might have worked as some sort of roleplaying metric, but as it stands it not only acts as a punishment system (despite claiming not to), it doesn't really contribute anything that wouldn't be going on anyway, roleplaying wise.

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Sure it can in theory... I've never heard or seen it happen though. It's way easier to go up for "doing nothing". In fact that's by far the most common complaint about it from what I've seen.

And turning Darkside for using black pips (i.e. Anger, hate, fear, and other strong emotions) is completely thematically appropriate - that IS the Darkside, by definition. And that is why young Force users are so subject to slipping to the Darkside - it's so easy to come by those "small things".

And to go down through "minor offenses" like lieing and stealing would have to be accomplished by doing those things in a habitual, serial fashion - again, completely thematically appropriate due to the conflicting emotions they cause in ones own internal dialogue.

And if your argument is that "don't tell my PC what causes them conflicting emotions", I personally wouldn't call for Conflict as a GM unless you're doing the target/victim harm on some level (harder to achieve thru lieing than stealing), and if you are doing them harm and it doesn't cause you internal conflict - simply a moment of thought "Could this have been done another way?" - then your PCs lack of social responsibility, of balance, is just as worthy of a Darkside knock.

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I think the OP was looking to change the actual feel of the game though, they specifically don't want to maintain the current balance where 6 or more Conflict per session will lead to a fall to the dark side. The stark Light/Dark nature isn't what they want, so either dropping that mechanic or modifying it is going to have to happen. They are essentialy talking about a setting change without changing place names.

Now IMHO is that the Dark Side is fun and the PC should just play a Dark Sider if they want the best of both worlds. Its harder on the PC since all Force Use has a cost, but thats just the setting.

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If you look at the Dawn of the Jedi Legends material (which Bendu mentions aspects of), you have Jed'aii that use their emotions (which can lead to the darkside), and inner focus and peace (lightside stuff) to fuel their force powers, but that doesn't mean that they can't fall to the dark side the same as any Republic era Jedi Knight. I don't see how playing one of these types of Force users isn't supported by the morality mechanic. The biggest change I'd consider is not making them flip a destiny point to use dark side pips and just give them the appropriate conflict for using them. It would be rather easy for these types of Force users to fall to the darkside, as it should be, but you'd be free to use dark side and light side pips as you see fit.

Basically, I'd say they can use dark side pips without flipping destiny points, but they'd still earn conflict for doing so. Any egregiously evil acts would earn a boat load of conflict. If they fall to the dark side or become a light side paragon they are out of balance and you should have fun with the narrative consequences of that. If you want a mechanical representation of that inner conflict for falling out of balance you could add some setback dice when appropriate and force them to use destiny points when using dark side or light side pips, depending on if they're a lightside paragon or have fallen to the dark side, respectively. Have fun with it.

Edited by ghatt

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5 hours ago, HappyDaze said:

It could be that the Bendu is a lying liar that lies and is trying to draw good Jedi away from the Light. I don't care enough about Rebels to give two craps, but it would be pretty funny if he was actually more evil than the Sith.

I've kind of been hoping that was the truth, just to see something go against the grain in terms of not blatantly broadcasting who is evil, as Star Wars often does. I mean, he could just be super evil and super good at lying... he did open a Sith holocron after all.

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On 3/8/2017 at 5:59 PM, ghatt said:

Basically, I'd say they can use dark side pips without flipping destiny points, but they'd still earn conflict for doing so. Any egregiously evil acts would earn a boat load of conflict. If they fall to the dark side or become a light side paragon they are out of balance and you should have fun with the narrative consequences of that. If you want a mechanical representation of that inner conflict for falling out of balance you could add some setback dice when appropriate and force them to use destiny points when using dark side or light side pips, depending on if they're a lightside paragon or have fallen to the dark side, respectively. Have fun with it.

This is sort of what I was looking for, thanks for the advice. I know it can sometimes be a really controversial topic, but what I'm essentially trying to do is centralize the Force mechanic, so instead of one side being the "goal" and the other being the "penalty," have both sides offer thematically-appropriate benefits and setbacks that make them relatively equal to each other. The current state of the Morality mechanic is unfortunately the result of new stuff being added to canon that FFG couldn't foresee and the fact that FFG seems to have taken sides (seriously, three Galactic Civil War era RPGs and a First Order/Resistance Conflict starter game, but no Clone Wars era RPG?).

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15 hours ago, Nivrap said:

This is sort of what I was looking for, thanks for the advice. I know it can sometimes be a really controversial topic, but what I'm essentially trying to do is centralize the Force mechanic, so instead of one side being the "goal" and the other being the "penalty," have both sides offer thematically-appropriate benefits and setbacks that make them relatively equal to each other.

"Goal" & "penalty" are unfortunately improper views of the Conflict/Morality mechanics. Being a Paragon of Light or a Dark Side user both have benefits & penalties.

A Dark Side user has an easier time using the Force & more bang for their buck with offensive powers since you don't have to worry about flipping Destiny Points to use the Dark Side pips, a higher wound threshold which allows you to shrug off more wounds than usual & generally no sort of Moral boundary for how you go about your business. 

However, you take a hit to your strain threshold & after rolling for the Destiny pool, one point automatically flips to the Dark Side. Narratively & in-character, some groups might have some trouble with your methods. Redemption is a long struggle back to 70 Morality.

 

A Paragon has more freedom with the ways they can use the Force, can heal/protect others if the PC has the heal/harm & protect/unleash powers, gains 1 additional Light Side Destiny Point after rolling for the Destiny Pool, gains 2 strain threshold without losing wounds, has a higher chance of using more Force Points for their powers without penalty when they have a Force Rating higher than 1.

However, a Paragon has to use restraint in how they act, both narratively & mechanically in the game so that they do not lose their Paragon benefits. One big mistake can drop them to Dark Side per the rules on Murder being 10+ and the GM being allowed to award additional Conflict past the suggestions in the book. Also, if PCs in the group take actions that would result in 5+ Conflict if they were Force users this can also award Conflict to the Paragon provided that the Paragon knew about it & did nothing to prevent it. Combat, which is a major part of this game, can award Conflict quite easily.

 

If you had to view things as "one is good one is bad" then I would say that staying Neutral is bad as it offers no benefits compared to either Dark Side or Light Side Paragon.

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2 hours ago, GroggyGolem said:

However, a Paragon has to use restraint in how they act, both narratively & mechanically in the game so that they do not lose their Paragon benefits. One big mistake can drop them to Dark Side per the rules on Murder being 10+ and the GM being allowed to award additional Conflict past the suggestions in the book. Also, if PCs in the group take actions that would result in 5+ Conflict if they were Force users this can also award Conflict to the Paragon provided that the Paragon knew about it & did nothing to prevent it. Combat, which is a major part of this game, can award Conflict quite easily.

I'm in complete agreement that FFG intended Paragon to be a difficult-to-maintain position, but that's one of the problems I see being brought up a lot around here, that Morality characters are basically on the yellow brick road to automatic Paragon. I think becoming Paragon or Darksider should be difficult both to achieve and maintain.

2 hours ago, GroggyGolem said:

If you had to view things as "one is good one is bad" then I would say that staying Neutral is bad as it offers no benefits compared to either Dark Side or Light Side Paragon.

I actually had an idea about that, let me know if it seems broken to you. Since I'm trying to come up with a way to centralize the Force, how about letting Force users in the center use both pips, but not gain any stat increases? The choice of which pips they use will still influence the direction they take on the Light/Dark slider, but maybe the benefit of not getting strain for using pips would be an equal benefit to the stat increases of Light or Dark focus.

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17 hours ago, Nivrap said:

I'm in complete agreement that FFG intended Paragon to be a difficult-to-maintain position, but that's one of the problems I see being brought up a lot around here, that Morality characters are basically on the yellow brick road to automatic Paragon. I think becoming Paragon or Darksider should be difficult both to achieve and maintain.

I actually had an idea about that, let me know if it seems broken to you. Since I'm trying to come up with a way to centralize the Force, how about letting Force users in the center use both pips, but not gain any stat increases? The choice of which pips they use will still influence the direction they take on the Light/Dark slider, but maybe the benefit of not getting strain for using pips would be an equal benefit to the stat increases of Light or Dark focus.

It's worth a shot to try out. I'd be interested in hearing how it changes the balance of using the dark side, since you're making it have no cost other than conflict.

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From what I've read and seen, it seems over half the "issues" with GMs having PCs being able to sleep-walk their way to Paragon status is that the GM simply isn't putting all that many difficult choices in the PCs' paths, choices where doing the easy thing will net a not-so-insignificant amount of Conflict, but doing the right thing is a whole lot more difficult.

The other part is that PCs are too hesitant to spend dark side pips to use their Force powers, fearing that even using a single pip means that they'll be on the express path to the dark side (protip: they're not), or just simply being leery of spending the party's destiny points to convert those pips.  But then, that's a player's deliberate choice to not be effective, which carries it's own consequences.

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5 hours ago, GroggyGolem said:

It's worth a shot to try out. I'd be interested in hearing how it changes the balance of using the dark side, since you're making it have no cost other than conflict.

I've got a game going on tonight, so here's the system I'm going to try out: A scale that goes from 50 Dark to 50 Light, with new Force-users starting at 0. Between 20 Dark and 20 Light, characters can use both dark and light pips without consequence, but gain no other benefits. At 21-40 Dark or light, they gain a bonus (2 wound threshold for Dark, 1 strain threshold for Light), and suffer 1 strain for each opposite-side pip used. At 41-50, they double their bonus, but must also flip a single destiny point whenever they use the opposite side, regardless of how many pips they use. The one thing I'm not quite sure on is if 2 WT and 1 ST are equivalent. I know strain is valuable, but I don't know exactly how valuable. What do you guys think would be balanced, equivalent rewards for each side? Possibly soak for Dark instead of wound threshold?

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At this point my  best advice on how to deal with the morality system when talking about characters who have complex morality is to switch up what the scale measures so that the character's moral ideal winds up sitting at 100, as opposed to somehow trying to assign the ideal to a different number. 

So, a Bendu would simply have "Balance" instead of "Morality" and take conflict according to their own philosophy. By doing it this way the scale represents control vs. temptation for any character. 

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15 hours ago, Aetrion said:

At this point my  best advice on how to deal with the morality system when talking about characters who have complex morality is to switch up what the scale measures so that the character's moral ideal winds up sitting at 100, as opposed to somehow trying to assign the ideal to a different number. 

So, a Bendu would simply have "Balance" instead of "Morality" and take conflict according to their own philosophy. By doing it this way the scale represents control vs. temptation for any character. 

The risk with that is players deciding to come up with customized "Morality" systems that allow them to get away with all sorts of nefarious hijinks.  That was a huge problem with Vampire: Masquerade and the alternate Paths, as you had various Paths that pretty much encouraged the player to be a roaring jerk towards the other players and thus completely sidestepping one of the core aspects of the game, which was the struggle to retain your humanity in spite of being a very inhuman creature.

As I said in another thread, based upon what he's said, Bendu's advice leans more towards letting go of dogmatic believes (Jedi or Sith) and acting more in tune with the Living Force, thus being more "balanced" both mentally and spiritually.  With regards to the Sith holocron, he even says that knowledge by itself is just knowledge, but that it's what you do with the knowledge that matters.  Ezra used the knowledge from the Sith holocron to become more effective in the field but also became more ruthless as a result, putting him out of balance.  The Jedi Order preached a sense of detachment before it's fall, putting them out of touch with the people they were supposed to be protecting, and thus again out of balance.

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Yea, the alternate paths in Vampire were a bit silly, but I'm looking at this more from a perspective of your entire table wanting to play with alternate moralities that the game just doesn't effectively accommodate. If you want to play a campaign of dark siders but you don't want to just say "Ok, everyone just sits at 0 morality and conflict is completely irrelevant", and instead have characters struggle against the creeping madness and corruption that comes with giving in to the dark side using an alternate morality system makes sense for example. For a character who's aspiring to be a "gray Jedi" or something like that it's also more sensible to give them an alternate scale than to expect them to somehow finagle their morality score into the middle. The system just has too strong of a tendency to trend to the extremes to be useful as a spectrum of morality. 

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I personally feel that Bendu doesn't actually change anything in regards to the good/bad paragram, but rather what it means to be a force user. Knowledge isn't bad to have no matter the source as it can educate you on how to defend yourself against the dark side, To preach understanding then dogmatic ignorence. It was that ignorance that lead the Jedi to being wiped out because they never interacted with the repubic at large, only becoming pawns for the senate.

Edited by LordBritish

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