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HappyDaze

Morality for Antiheroic/Villainous PCs

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For what it's worth, I played a "grey" character. I didn't try and stay light side but neither did I try and become dark side. Think a "dirty harry" style character , fear is his primary weapon coercion is his social skill of choice, and while I stay above 30 morality most of the time, a particularly nasty interrogation did drop him below the 30 mark, and once you start using dark side pips by default it's easy to stay there, and all this from a character who uses violent actions as a blast resort and uses precision strike to keep as many people alive as possible, wouldn't think twice about holding someone over the edge alt a cliff to find out what he needs to know.

 

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37 minutes ago, Nivrap said:

A lack of control isn't necessary to use the Dark Side, as stated in Dark Disciple. It's possible, though incredibly difficult, to use the Dark Side without devolving into a maniac like Maul was, but the threat of one's emotions taking over is ever-present. This is why Palpatine and Snoke (and to a lesser extent, Vader) hold the positions of power that they do, because they're able to use their emotions to fuel the Dark Side without being consumed by them. The threat of the Dark Side doesn't come from the Dark Side itself, but from the potential instability of whoever's using it.

Not true. The loss of emotional control isn’t  the danger of the Dark Side. Loss of emotional control can lead one to the Dark Side, but that isn’t the Dark Side and isn’t the only, more even primary cause of someone falling to it. The Dark Side is hate. It’s cruelty, malice. Uncontrolled anger and fear can lead to hatred and that is what makes them so dangerous. However, hate, cruelty, malice, don’t require a loss of emotional control, nor do they inherently threaten to result in a loss of emotional control.

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4 minutes ago, Tramp Graphics said:

Not true. The loss of emotional control isn’t  the danger of the Dark Side. Loss of emotional control can lead one to the Dark Side, but that isn’t the Dark Side and isn’t the only, more even primary cause of someone falling to it. The Dark Side is hate. It’s cruelty, malice. Uncontrolled anger and fear can lead to hatred and that is what makes them so dangerous. However, hate, cruelty, malice, don’t require a loss of emotional control, nor do they inherently threaten to result in a loss of emotional control.

I'd like a source for your claim that the Dark Side itself is hate, cruelty, and malice.  Up until now, I've sourced all of my claims with canon material, and if there's anything I've forgotten, you're more than welcome to point it out, but I'm not arguing the philosophy of the Force, just how it's portrayal in modern canon differs from the approach of Fantasy Flight's RPG, which I believe is a problem.

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Yoda himself refers to hate as the path to the Dark Side in the prequels. When Anakin comes to him about his dreams of Padme Yoda warms him about the fear of loss being the shadow of greed. In TPM, he says “Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.” He says in ESB that anger, fear, and aggression  are the Dark Side. In RotS, Palpatine tells Anakin that in order to become strong in the Dark Side he must murder everyone in the temple without mercy. Vader says that only hatred can destroy him in an attempt to lure Luke to the Dark Side. The Dark Side is all about the negative emotions  and base desires, greed, malice, selfish desire, domination. It’s all about hate.

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2 minutes ago, Tramp Graphics said:

Yoda himself refers to hate as the path to the Dark Side in the prequels. When Anakin comes to him about his dreams of Padme Yoda warms him about the fear of loss being the shadow of greed. In TPM, he says “Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.” He says in ESB that anger, fear, and aggression  are the Dark Side. In RotS, Palpatine tells Anakin that in order to become strong in the Dark Side he must murder everyone in the temple without mercy. Vader says that only hatred can destroy him in an attempt to lure Luke to the Dark Side. The Dark Side is all about the negative emotions  and base desires, greed, malice, selfish desire, domination. It’s all about hate.

I feel like we're arguing two different points here. If you're saying that those emotions are integral parts of the Dark Side, I agree. Hatred is certainly one of the most common emotions that Dark Siders use, as there are many kinds of hate (such as Maul's hatred toward the Jedi, or Vader's hatred toward himself). But there is a distinction between the emotions used to channel the Dark Side, and the Dark Side itself. After all, we have seen Dark Siders who do not use hate to tap into it. The Nightsisters of Dathomir, for instance, use alchemy and rituals to channel the Dark Side. Count Dooku, I would argue, is a  very interesting example of a Dark Sider, who doesn't channel the Dark Side through hatred, but fear, as he feared his own destruction in the Clone Wars (which I believe was explored in the last season of the TV show, if I remember correctly).

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18 hours ago, Nivrap said:

I feel like we're arguing two different points here. If you're saying that those emotions are integral parts of the Dark Side, I agree. Hatred is certainly one of the most common emotions that Dark Siders use, as there are many kinds of hate (such as Maul's hatred toward the Jedi, or Vader's hatred toward himself). But there is a distinction between the emotions used to channel the Dark Side, and the Dark Side itself. After all, we have seen Dark Siders who do not use hate to tap into it. The Nightsisters of Dathomir, for instance, use alchemy and rituals to channel the Dark Side. Count Dooku, I would argue, is a  very interesting example of a Dark Sider, who doesn't channel the Dark Side through hatred, but fear, as he feared his own destruction in the Clone Wars (which I believe was explored in the last season of the TV show, if I remember correctly).

Yoda says in ESB and in RotJ that Anger, fear, and aggression, are the Dark Side. To quote:

"Anger, fear, aggression, the Dark Side [of the Force] are they. If once you start down the Dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny; consume you it will, as it did Obi Wan's Apprentice."

So, these emotions are the Dark Side. Hate is the Dark Side. Greed is the Dark Side. Corruption, is the Dark Side. 

The Light Side is life, compassion, altruism, peace, serenity, humility, harmony, balance.

The Dark Side is death, corruption, hatred, anger, fear, greed, arrogance,  selfishness, imbalance. 

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19 hours ago, Nivrap said:

I'd like a source for your claim that the Dark Side itself is hate, cruelty, and malice.  

I recommend you reading pages 41 to 45 of "The Dark Side Sourcebook", written by Bill Slavicksek and JD Wiker for the d20 version of Star Wars (not Saga Edition, but earlier). It seems more a psychology treaty than an analysis of the dark side of an imaginary mystical sci-fiction force

It speaks about Fear, Anger, Hatred, Suffering, Pride (and Arrogance), Aggression, Vengeance, Greed, Jealously and Love.

Give it a try, this 5 pages are a very good reading.

19 hours ago, Nivrap said:

I'm not arguing the philosophy of the Force, just how it's portrayal in modern canon differs from the approach of Fantasy Flight's RPG, which I believe is a problem.

I think it's more a problem of the interpretations that each director, screenwriter and RPG developer have on the dark side, and what they want to emphasize. And this vision also differs from GM to GM, and from game table to game table. 

Loss of emotional control not always have the result of the character screaming and spitting and having a maniac face. Dooku uses his arrongance and his hate (yes, hate, although he does not show it the same way as Maul) to fuel his powers, but he does it in a cold, controlled and terryfing manner, in a "I rule here, you all pathetic worms, you're nothing and I will demonstrate it, I am superior to you all" manner, you know, the arrogance and overconfidence of those who think that have the right to rule (in fact, it remembers me of a boss I had... ).

 

 

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From the most recent preview, it seems that Ultimate Power might be covering this topic to some degree. I'm interested to see how deeply it digs into the subject, as sometimes what is advertised is disappointingly brief so they can stuff in more gear and crafting rules.

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Recently I have been considering a more KotOR-like version of Morality rules. It produces double the amount that I as GM have to track (no random climb or descent, everything Light/Dark point earned through actions taken by players), however it would produce, what I think to be a more "balanced" Morality mechanic. Gone would be the sleepwalk to Paragon, one would actually have to go out of their way to be selfless (as the Jedi are supposed to do) to climb to the Light. This still means that one would have to take action to fall to the Dark Side, yes, but nobody in Star Wars ever sleepwalked their way to galactic domination.  

 

For the breakdown of mechanics changes, I would remove the Morality roll entirely, add in a second form of "points" called something like Serenity Points. These would take the place of the Morality roll and would increase a character's Morality. The Conflict Points would work as normal. Serenity Points would be earned based on a custom chart that for the most part could just be the opposite of the Conflict chart in the book. An example of some of that would be:

 

1 Serenity: Encouraging someone to do good when they are conflicted; Telling the truth when it means you give up something to do so or lose out on a moment of personal gain.

2 Serenity: Attempting to resolve an already violent situation with Charm or Negotiation; Emotionally support a character that is experiencing difficulty

2-3 Serenity: Charity, in the form of giving up something of yours for the benefit of another who would need it more.

3-4 Serenity: Necessary protection: the character goes to great length to protect property or items from damage, even if it means they are harmed instead.

 

etc...

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I'd go with: "Evil has standards." Playing a dark-sider doesn't have to mean "chaotic evil" or "chaotic psycho." An ostensibly evil character or darker anti-hero may have a personal code, set of standards, or oath they live by. In fact, almost every good villian has a motive and ethos that drives

The almost rules non-existant Shakespearean story game "Forsooth!" uses oaths. A character has to be built with an oath that should only be broken if it advances the theme and plot of the tale. Ergo, is it dramatically appropriate to break it. At that point the character becomes "Foresworn." Other players award "applause," which serves as a sort of scoring mechanism.

For Star Wars, awarding light or dark destiny points could be an interesting alternative. Another option for defining a characters morality would be creating Fate-style aspects for characters and having players and the GM flip destiny points as appropriate when "invoking them." That would work for light-siders, too.

Personally, I don't like affixing numbers to ethics-morality-standards. It just doesn't sit well with me. I'd rather see something that more directly impacts the theme and flow of play.  

Edited by Vondy

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6 hours ago, Vondy said:

I'd go with: "Evil has standards." Playing a dark-sider doesn't have to mean "chaotic evil" or "chaotic psycho.

The weird thing is the written rules basically do mean that you have to be chaotic psycho. Dropping to the dark side by force points alone probably would take longer than most campaigns run. Unfortunate since there are several flavors of dark siders in the canon and in legends.

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48 minutes ago, GroggyGolem said:

The weird thing is the written rules basically do mean that you have to be chaotic psycho. Dropping to the dark side by force points alone probably would take longer than most campaigns run. Unfortunate since there are several flavors of dark siders in the canon and in legends.

Which is unfortunate because Vader himself, the first and probably most iconic and representative "dark sider" we meet, clearly does have standards and perceives conflict as "needless" and paints himself as pursuing "order." Now, he's totally kill-crazy and diabolical, but I'd call him "lawful evil."

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 I almost didnt post here as these topics always seem rather acrimonious, and generate a good deal of conflict.

 

That being said, it is my belief that the force doesn't care about the intentions of the user.  Some things are demonstrability dark side, and others light side.  However it is okay to play a pc who walks that fine line, as long as the player understands the implications and embraces the up and down nature of their morality.

 

Been running an AoR campaign for the last year and a half, and have two players playing force users.  One has tried to epitomize the jedi knights of old, and has done everything in his power to try and become that ideal.  He suffered a huge setback when he was tested as he had a choice between helping defend innocents, or going to try and find a rumored jedi master on the planet they were on.  I hit him hard conflict wise for choosing to go off to find the master.  Ultimately his character has gradually grown on the morality scale, as he typically only generates a bit of conflict most games.  A year after that choice, he finally hit paragon. 

 

Conversely the Shadow in our group has embraced a more pragmatic philosophy.  She initially rose faster in her morality as she generated a fair bit of conflict every session, but has also done things that have dropped her morality as well.  Most recently she recovered a corrupted crystal and opted not to redeem it, rather to use it to help infiltrate the inquisitorum, and to aid her when she infiltrated imperial bases.  However, the crystal is more powerful than the ghost crystralthat she normally uses and more and more she has been using it in fights as well as pulling on the extra darkside pips to use.  So her morality, while it had almost reached 70, has fallen back to 50 in a relatively short time, as she uses the shortcuts the dark side provides her.  So even though her intentions are mostly good, her actions and her drawing on the darkside have caused her moraliry to fall.  

Mechanics wise.  

I made it easier to use dark side pips. Only costing strain and conflict.  For  the corrupted crystal, because the pc had another crystal, I only gave conflict when she used it  rather than just owning it.  I also gave conflict anytime they got into an avoidable fight.

 

Next game, because I want the darkside to be more compelling, I am going to eliminate the strain cost per pip, rather just costing 2 strain regardless of how many pips they use, as imnsho the dark side needs to be seductive and easy.

Ultimately though, I run the way it works for my players and game.  Run it however it works for your game.

 

 

 

 

 

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6 hours ago, Vondy said:

Which is unfortunate because Vader himself, the first and probably most iconic and representative "dark sider" we meet, clearly does have standards and perceives conflict as "needless" and paints himself as pursuing "order." Now, he's totally kill-crazy and diabolical, but I'd call him "lawful evil."

This is the same guy that butchered a bunch of children, and about 20 years later stood idly by while a planet of innocent people was wiped out by an Imperial super-weapon.  The same guy that rather ruthlessly murders fleet officers for mistakes, even if those mistakes were things that couldn't be helped (Piett got off real lucky at the end of ESB, and his facial expression shows that he knows it).

So while he might have a goal and won't just commit horrific acts for the lulz, he'll still commit those horrific acts if they serve to further his aims and achieve those goals.

With the Conflict rules, you can have an objective in mind as well as certain standards (after all, not everyone has the strength to be totally ruthless), but murdering a helpless person is still murder no matter how you spin it or what justifications you concoct.

Doctor Doom of Marvel comics (specifically the comics, not the abomination the various FF films have offered up thus far) is a prime example of "lawful evil," in that he's got a code of conduct (he'll honor debts and promises if called upon to do so) as well as a fairly noble end-goal (make the world a utopia under his benevolent dictatorship), but he still will do some pretty ruthless things in the name of achieving that goal.

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36 minutes ago, Donovan Morningfire said:

This is the same guy that butchered a bunch of children, and about 20 years later stood idly by while a planet of innocent people was wiped out by an Imperial super-weapon.  The same guy that rather ruthlessly murders fleet officers for mistakes, even if those mistakes were things that couldn't be helped (Piett got off real lucky at the end of ESB, and his facial expression shows that he knows it).

So while he might have a goal and won't just commit horrific acts for the lulz, he'll still commit those horrific acts if they serve to further his aims and achieve those goals.

With the Conflict rules, you can have an objective in mind as well as certain standards (after all, not everyone has the strength to be totally ruthless), but murdering a helpless person is still murder no matter how you spin it or what justifications you concoct.

Doctor Doom of Marvel comics (specifically the comics, not the abomination the various FF films have offered up thus far) is a prime example of "lawful evil," in that he's got a code of conduct (he'll honor debts and promises if called upon to do so) as well as a fairly noble end-goal (make the world a utopia under his benevolent dictatorship), but he still will do some pretty ruthless things in the name of achieving that goal.

Be that as it may, the RAW Conflict system does not sit well upon everyone's brow. 

Its one way of dealing with these themes in play, but its not the only way, and different methods will appeal to different people.

I, personally, don't use it.  Why? Because it doesn't work for me. If it works for you, great. Soldier on!

Our group uses both the oath rule from Forsooth! and FATE-style aspects for defining codes, motives, and personalities. 

I do impose strain and flip destiny tokens, but I don't have a light-dark sliderule I apply to the characters or story.

A definition of the character as light-side / dark-side is combination of role-play and ongoing discussion.

 

Edited by Vondy

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I use a Morality system that goes from -100 Dark Side to +100 Light Side with 0 being Grey such as it were. When a character hits -1 they are actually a Dark Side Force user but they don't cement it fully until -10. At -10 they cannot get back above 0 without a Redemption. 

Dark Side users lose points in their Dark Side Score (+ Morality) via Conflict for being Subservient, Compassionate, or Weak. They only get Negative Dark Side points awarded by GM adjudication. I like to have power Upgrades be gated by level of Force Morality, but once a character has an Upgrade I don't take it away if their Morality falls under the threshold.  

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I always felt that the Emotional Strengths and Weaknesses felt detached from Morality and the Force as a whole, so I made my own system to make them more important, as well as require less micro-managing on the player's and GM's part.

MORALITY
All characters begin at 25 Morality.
Characters may choose to gain or lose 10 Morality at character creation.

0-9 (Dark Side):      Additional +2 WT. Suffer strain and flip DP to use Light pips.
10-22:                       +2 WT, -1 ST. Suffer strain to use Light pips.
23-27:                       No stat changes. Suffer strain to use Light and Dark pips.
28-40:                       +1 ST, -2 WT. Suffer strain to use Dark pips.
41-50 (Light Side): Additional +1 ST. Suffer strain and flip DP to use Dark pips.

Characters who act in accordance with their Moral strength gain Morality (amount decided by GM).
Characters who act in accordance with their Moral weakness lose Morality (amount decided by GM).
Characters who use Light pips gain 1 Morality per pip used.
Characters who use Dark pips lose 1 Morality per pip used.

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