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Morality for Antiheroic/Villainous PCs

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There have been several threads about using the Morality mechanics, but just about all of them come from the assumption that PCs will be striving towards Jedi-like understandings of the Force. I want to look at it from the other direction: how well do the Morality rules work when the PCs are playing antiheroes or villains. In either case, this can certainly include dark side Force users as protagonists.

The first point I'm wondering about is the tendency of Morality scores to increase easily simply by refraining from doing nasty things. I've noticed that, if the dark side were a pool of water, Force users seem to have a "natural buoyancy" and float up unless they actively try to stay under. In light side games, this is the "coasting to Paragon" issue, but in a dark side game, this might have some rather unusual effects on game play. I can see issues if the calculating dark side user resists his urges to do evil and thus avoids the Conflict needed to keep him in his dark side happy place. Has anyone had any experience with this from the perspective of players or gamemasters that want to see dark side characters in play?

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16 minutes ago, HappyDaze said:

There have been several threads about using the Morality mechanics, but just about all of them come from the assumption...

Except it's not an assumption, and is all but plainly stated that the intent is that the PCs are generally playing the good guys of the story as opposed to a wandering pack of murder-hobos or grimdark refugees from 90's era of comic books.  Star Wars at it's very core is about the heroes overcoming adversity and oppressive authority, generally by doing what is right rather than what is easy.  The prequels are a prime case of this blowing up in the good guys' faces, as the Jedi Order did what was easy/expedient (accept the clone army and go to war) rather than what was truly right, and the galaxy suffered for that choice.

That it takes concentrated effort and commitment on the part of the player to have a character not only go dark side in the first place (barring the option to start play at 29 Morality) but also to stay there conveys that notion pretty clearly if one takes the time to consider the intent of the rules provided and not just what's explicitly spelled out on the page.  As well as it taking some effort but not being impossibly for redemption to occur; it won't be as fast as Vader's was, but a redemption story is possible and has occurred more than a few times over in Legends, and might even play out in Episode IX depending on where Ben Solo's story arc goes.

If your group really wants to play a bunch of edgelords, or prefer their Star Wars to be entirely shades of grey, then you're better off just deep-sixing the Morality mechanic in its entirety and just stick to the rules on Force points provided in EotE and AoR, and let the players decide at what point do they truly become dark siders and thus use black pips to generate their Force points.

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1 hour ago, Donovan Morningfire said:

Except it's not an assumption, and is all but plainly stated that the intent is that the PCs are generally playing the good guys of the story as opposed to a wandering pack of murder-hobos or grimdark refugees from 90's era of comic books.  Star Wars at it's very core is about the heroes overcoming adversity and oppressive authority, generally by doing what is right rather than what is easy.  The prequels are a prime case of this blowing up in the good guys' faces, as the Jedi Order did what was easy/expedient (accept the clone army and go to war) rather than what was truly right, and the galaxy suffered for that choice.

That it takes concentrated effort and commitment on the part of the player to have a character not only go dark side in the first place (barring the option to start play at 29 Morality) but also to stay there conveys that notion pretty clearly if one takes the time to consider the intent of the rules provided and not just what's explicitly spelled out on the page.  As well as it taking some effort but not being impossibly for redemption to occur; it won't be as fast as Vader's was, but a redemption story is possible and has occurred more than a few times over in Legends, and might even play out in Episode IX depending on where Ben Solo's story arc goes.

If your group really wants to play a bunch of edgelords, or prefer their Star Wars to be entirely shades of grey, then you're better off just deep-sixing the Morality mechanic in its entirety and just stick to the rules on Force points provided in EotE and AoR, and let the players decide at what point do they truly become dark siders and thus use black pips to generate their Force points.

Your opinions on this are well known to me,  but utterly irrelevant. As you are thread-crapping, I will be ignoring any further posts from you in this thread.

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1 hour ago, Decorus said:

Honestly the only way I've seen players lose morality is from dark side pips being used for lightside actions.

You've not had players perform Conflict-generating actions? Were they trying to be Jedi-like or were points not given for selfish, aggressive, destructive, and harmful acts?

What I'm most interested inis how the system works for dark side characters that are laying low and not being wantonly naughty. Will they start to "float" back to the light without intending to do so? 

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2 hours ago, HappyDaze said:

Your opinions on this are well known to me,  but utterly irrelevant. As you are thread-crapping, I will be ignoring any further posts from you in this thread.

You asked for thoughts from the forum community in general, and I posted my thoughts on the topic, along with a suggestion of how to best proceed for a certain style of game.

Don't want specific folks answering your threads, then I would suggest you don't post them on a public forum.  No need for you to be belligerent just because the only actual answer you've gotten thus far ran counter to your presumption.

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2 hours ago, HappyDaze said:

You've not had players perform Conflict-generating actions? Were they trying to be Jedi-like or were points not given for selfish, aggressive, destructive, and harmful acts?

What I'm most interested inis how the system works for dark side characters that are laying low and not being wantonly naughty. Will they start to "float" back to the light without intending to do so? 

That largely depends on what sorts of powers they use and how often they use them. I play as a brawly Zabrak warrior, since enhance lets me throw force pips on brawl attacks I can often do more straight up damage unarmed than what I would do using a normal weapon, it also means I roll force dice almost every fight and every turn. Which can add up quite a bit. But it depends quite a bit on how often you roll the morality dice, if you roll 1d10 at the end of every session, then it can be pretty tricky to stay down in the dark.

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The fundamental problem with the morality system is its next to impossible not to go lightside just by dice rolls.

The only thing that slows it down is forced usage of darkside pips to activate forcepowers at low force ratings.

There is a reason we call morality the slow roll to Paragon.

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1 hour ago, Darth Revenant said:

That largely depends on what sorts of powers they use and how often they use them. I play as a brawly Zabrak warrior, since enhance lets me throw force pips on brawl attacks I can often do more straight up damage unarmed than what I would do using a normal weapon, it also means I roll force dice almost every fight and every turn. Which can add up quite a bit. But it depends quite a bit on how often you roll the morality dice, if you roll 1d10 at the end of every session, then it can be pretty tricky to stay down in the dark.

The every session part is likely the source of the problem. Without extensive use of powers that generate Conflict (by the power, by the pips, or both), more of the points are likely to come from evil acts. That's where it gets tricky because some of the examples seem to go from the act itself and some care about the intent behind it. With the latter, even seemingly benevolent acts might garner Conflict if done for evil purposes. But that opens the door to having the player explain the "why" behind every character action, and that might bog down play too much. 

Edited by HappyDaze

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28 minutes ago, Decorus said:

The fundamental problem with the morality system is its next to impossible not to go lightside just by dice rolls.

The only thing that slows it down is forced usage of darkside pips to activate forcepowers at low force ratings.

There is a reason we call morality the slow roll to Paragon.

You can slow it down by murdering folks too. I was just hoping the were some good options for the discrete dark sider.

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1 hour ago, Decorus said:

The only good option is to ditch it entirely.

I've strongly considered doing that with all of FFG's mechanics, but there are a few things it does well. At the moment,  I can't really think of any though...

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in the campaign I am playing I am a player.. that at the beginning of my story was truly good but because of my hatred for my father and the manipulation of a fallen jedi hiding on the outer rim as a wealthy business owner.. I am slowly struggling but planning to drop to the dark side through evil deeds in which slowly the other ppl in the group see... I am also starting to try and sway another goody goody jedi to question his beliefs with opposed checks..LOL it is wonderful!

 

Our GM is great and maintains great rules but is also realistic!

Currently we are using the conflict/morality more for the story line and cinematic stuff... 

Edited by LordEnforcer

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What if you flipped things on their head? In other words, you get "conflict" for doing good deeds and for using light side pips, and the end-of-session d10 roll decides how many Morality you lose rather than gain. That way, it'd be a slow movement toward the dark side by default.

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38 minutes ago, SavageBob said:

What if you flipped things on their head? In other words, you get "conflict" for doing good deeds and for using light side pips, and the end-of-session d10 roll decides how many Morality you lose rather than gain. That way, it'd be a slow movement toward the dark side by default.

Would this only kick in once a character goes dark, or would you suggest this be the default for all characters? The idea that it switches when a character goes dark is appealing--it means good tends to get "gooder" and bad tends to get "badder." I do wonder how a variant could be made that by default always pushes Morality toward 50, making both extremes hard to reach/maintain.

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14 minutes ago, HappyDaze said:

Would this only kick in once a character goes dark, or would you suggest this be the default for all characters? The idea that it switches when a character goes dark is appealing--it means good tends to get "gooder" and bad tends to get "badder." I do wonder how a variant could be made that by default always pushes Morality toward 50, making both extremes hard to reach/maintain.

Yeah, it was just an off-the-top-of-my head idea, but it would need to be thought through for the full impacts. If you went with this as the default for all characters, it would represent how going light is actually quite a struggle, since characters would have to actively try to do good deeds to go LS Paragon. It would reverse the tide and make going dark much, much easier, I think, which would in a way vindicate the Jedi in their emphasis on the idea that Force-sensitives need to be brought in to the  Order as children to avoid them turning dark.

A version that flips once someone gets to LS or DS paragon status would work as well. It would, as you suggest, make it so that you have to actively try to be LS or DS once you get past the neutral gray zone.

In other words, leaving it default seems to imply that most people are generally good and will generally tend toward the light. Flipping it makes for a much tougher experience for folks who want to be LS (and arguably might fit Lucas's vision better). A version where the effects are flipped at LS or DS paragon would split the difference. The question in that case, though, would be what's the d10 indicate for someone in between the two extremes?

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We quickly discovered that our pacing was too slow for the Morality rules to work as intended, so I changed it so that I only call for Morality rolls after certain "milestones" in the story have been reached.

Nevertheless, the morality rules still work very badly for antiheroes, unfortunately. We have a PC who is very violent and prone to anger, but he is also extremely loyal to his friends, tends to protect the helpless (at least if they're children or pretty women), and has many other redeeming qualities. He's long since reached Morality 0, and it doesn't feel right at all, because he's nowhere near as malevolent and selfish as people like sith lords, inquisitors, etc are portrayed in other Star Wars media. I'm not exactly sure why the Morality rules falter here, it's just become increasingly apparent that they do.

Edited by Natsymir

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On 5/6/2018 at 5:34 AM, Natsymir said:

We quickly discovered that our pacing was too slow for the Morality rules to work as intended, so I changed it so that I only call for Morality rolls after certain "milestones" in the story have been reached.

Nevertheless, the morality rules still work very badly for antiheroes, unfortunately. We have a PC who is very violent and prone to anger, but he is also extremely loyal to his friends, tends to protect the helpless (at least if they're children or pretty women), and has many other redeeming qualities. He's long since reached Morality 0, and it doesn't feel right at all, because he's nowhere near as malevolent and selfish as people like sith lords, inquisitors, etc are portrayed in other Star Wars media. I'm not exactly sure why the Morality rules falter here, it's just become increasingly apparent that they do.

Anger and violence pay their toll. If he is already Morality 0... well, I know this is off topic and I am only answering your reply, but I think I know how to contribute with an idea to help you to make his Morality 0 something scary: be a voice in his head, the voice of his own and enormous ego tyrannizing him, a voice that tells him how soft are their friends, that they don't have the commitment to do certain things, that they are ungrateful for all the things he has done. How is that they cannot see his good intentions? How is that they don't see that all those thugs deserved to be slaughtered? And why this child he has saved looks at him so terrified? Ungrateful brat...

Throw him a battery of really nasty thoughts he has to control, and tempt him with a reward for following this voice. In fact, this happens in real life when our own levels of stress, anger and anxiety floods and a bombardment of thoughts begin to attack and we grab our head trying to shut them up.

Remember Anakin squeezing Padme's throat, accusing her of treason. She was her loved one, and she was pregnant. But something in his head told him "she betrayed you, she deserves a punishment..."

Again, I write this only with the intention to help to make this Morality 0 feel more dark and dense.

 

 

Edited by hikari_dourden

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Now to the topic, the majority of rpgs that track "morality" are not well adapted to play antiheroes, and the previous Star Wars games are no better at it. And the majority of this games use the "morality" system as a punishment more than a reward, that is, they are punitive. For example, raise Honor in Legend of the Five Rings was a thing really difficult, and loosing it was very, very easy.

Other games try to present the loosing of morality as a descending into a monster, like the ones found in the World of Darkness and Chronicles of Darkness games (specially Vampire, in all its versions: Masquerade, Requiem, Blood and smoke...). "Kindred Of The East" also had a good system to represent the "Hun" and "P'o", that is, the higher spirit and the demon inside oneself. You can adapt something from these games to make the fall feel that you are turning into a "monster". 

Personally, I use the system presented here. It's quicker and simpler.

I also only roll Morality at the end of an adventure, not a session (make them collect conflict...). I still don't have any player low on morality, but I will play as a nasty, dark, tempter and evil inner voice in the head of any player that falls below 30 morality.

Edited by hikari_dourden

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1 hour ago, hikari_dourden said:

Now to the topic, the majority of rpgs that track "morality" are not well adapted to play antiheroes, and the previous Star Wars games are no better at it. And the majority of this games use the "morality" system as a punishment more than a reward, that is, they are punitive. For example, raise Honor in Legend of the Five Rings was a thing really difficult, and loosing it was very, very easy.

Generally speaking, most RPGs are written with the slant that the PCs are going to be generally heroic, or at worst be in the lighter shades of grey.  Even though very little changes for D&D and Pathfinder if the PCs are all of evil alignment, most "evil campaigns" tend not to last very long as things have a tendency to devolve into backstabbing 'fests with these evil characters getting into a race of who can screw the others over first, or if not first do so harder than the rest of the group.

Vampire (at least Masquerade, as I've very little experience with Requiem) is another example of this, in that while the writers wanted to convey "personal horror" the fact remains that the default karma meter tends to skew towards the PCs simply becoming more monstrous the lower they go on the meter.  And with all the inherent politics, many Vampire games have devolved into backstabbing fests or have at least one of the PCs turn on and betray the rest of the group for sake of getting ahead in vampire society.

With L5R, that it's easier to lose Honor at least jives with the setting as conceived, that of an idealized version of Japan where Bushido was taken deadly serious, and that the better your Honor score, the easier it was to slip up and lose Honor, while conversely having a low Honor meant you could more easily get away with doing dishonorable things; I've been in enough games with skilled Scorpion players who've done "pragmatic villainy" well, being a reliable asset to the party while still being fairly devious and not very high on the Honor scale, but also not doing anything that would give more honorable PCs (such as most Lion Bushi) just cause to take retributive action that wouldn't get the honorable PC into hot water.  Sadly, there's been too many players that see Scorpions as a chance to be backstabbing pricks to the rest of the party, and thus only reinforce the stereotype that Scorpions are evil cartoon villains and why hasn't the rest of Rokugan wiped them out?

The link you provided is a pretty interesting house rule idea, though I suspect it's probably still too swingy (one of the major complaints of the Morality system as written) with regards to gains and losses, as it still has the issue that a high roll on the good d10 will offset a low roll on the bad d10, especially if the PC didn't do much to warrant a lot of Conflict.

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If the player isn't interested or the character isn't suited to the internal struggle that Morality is meant to represent then you simply don't use it. The character is light side or dark side and that's that. They can use obligation or duty from the other books instead - whichever is more applicable to their narrative arc.

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8 hours ago, Garran said:

If the player isn't interested or the character isn't suited to the internal struggle that Morality is meant to represent then you simply don't use it. The character is light side or dark side and that's that. They can use obligation or duty from the other books instead - whichever is more applicable to their narrative arc.

This is a nice and simple (in the good sense of the word "simple") solution if both GM and players agree. But perhaps he, as a GM, is interested in represent this internal struggle in his games with a set of rules. A fact is that besides the mechanics provide or not a good method to represent the "moral integrity" of a character, a player interested in playing this struggle will roleplay it, independent of the rules. If not, then a conversation between the GM and the player/s is needed about the mood of the campaign.

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13 hours ago, Garran said:

If the player isn't interested or the character isn't suited to the internal struggle that Morality is meant to represent then you simply don't use it. The character is light side or dark side and that's that. They can use obligation or duty from the other books instead - whichever is more applicable to their narrative arc.

And if they are equally uninterested in Obligation and Duty, they should simply not use those either? I like the concept of Morality, but the execution has some oddities that I'm wanting to work out from the direction of playing anti-heroic characters. The rules currently allow such play, but the supposedly "quick, easy, and seductive" dark side path is actually harder to cling to than becoming a light side paragon. Apparently, the road to evil has to be repaved all the time.

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On 5/5/2018 at 11:31 AM, HappyDaze said:

There have been several threads about using the Morality mechanics, but just about all of them come from the assumption that PCs will be striving towards Jedi-like understandings of the Force. I want to look at it from the other direction: how well do the Morality rules work when the PCs are playing antiheroes or villains. In either case, this can certainly include dark side Force users as protagonists.

The first point I'm wondering about is the tendency of Morality scores to increase easily simply by refraining from doing nasty things. I've noticed that, if the dark side were a pool of water, Force users seem to have a "natural buoyancy" and float up unless they actively try to stay under. In light side games, this is the "coasting to Paragon" issue, but in a dark side game, this might have some rather unusual effects on game play. I can see issues if the calculating dark side user resists his urges to do evil and thus avoids the Conflict needed to keep him in his dark side happy place. Has anyone had any experience with this from the perspective of players or gamemasters that want to see dark side characters in play?

 

On 5/5/2018 at 6:02 PM, HappyDaze said:

You can slow it down by murdering folks too. I was just hoping the were some good options for the discrete dark sider.

You keep describing your Dark sider as if they are someone who isn't doing Dark Sider stuff.  It basically sounds like you are trying to have a Dark sider, without doing the things that makes one a Dark sider.  So, what is your character doing that is bad enough to make them Dark, but not bad enough to the point you are worried they are going to slowly float up the Morality scale?  

I mean you flat out said in your OP "a dark side user resists his urges to do evil".....that sounds like a character who is pretty much going to no longer be evil.  I mean, that's just how it works.  Not only in this mechanic system of Morality, but in narrative storytelling.  The assassin who stops killing, and tries to not be evil, the Dark sider who "gives up the red" and tries to not be a massive, murderous jerk, etc.   This is a classic trope of storytelling.

So...again, what type of behavior would your PC in question be doing, that isn't already covered by the Morality chart, that would still keep them as Dark side?   Because I'm genuinely confused by how you've described him, as something that sounds like a PC who is trying to change their ways, by not doing the very things that make them Dark in the first place.

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