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KungFuFerret

Roleplaying Morality Shifting - My Thoughts

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So, a common issue that I notice, in any game that presents a morality system to it's mechanics, is people confused about what the numbers mean, and how it impacts their game.  FFG is no different, in fact, it's kind of amusing to me, how nearly identical the conversation is on this subject, when I compare them to the old World of Darkness debates about their Morality system.    What commonly comes up is some variation on "Well I don't think my PC should have to behave this way because they did an action that I personally don't think is bad, so it should therefore have zero impact on them at all emotionally/psychologically."   Regardless of the action, this is what commonly comes up.  "I don't think just because a dice came up with a certain result, that my character should behave differently."  Which I personally find odd, since nobody ever says "I don't think my PC should miss that attack, just because the dice came up with a certain result."  As if combat is the only thing that is outside of a persons control or influence.  

But anyway, I digress.   Roleplaying the change.   

A lot of people seem to struggle with trying to figure out how the number shift, positive or negative, reflects on their PC's behavior.  "My morality went from 55 to 45, am I Hannibal Lector now?!"  or "I brought my morality up from 36 to 55, am I a saint now?!"  or some variant thereof.   It's actually really simple, the mechanics are far more elegant than I think a lot of people give them credit for.  

So, you have a PC, they do something morally questionable, and thus earned conflict.  For the moment, this doesn't need to have any immediate impact on their behavior, but it can if you want.  Most don't in my experience, and play their characters as being 100% ok with frequent, and multiple deaths at their hands, when the reality is that most "normal, stable" humans do not just shrug off killing another sentient being, and it is in fact very difficult to convince them to do so without significant training.   But if you are going to try and have the PC have an immediate impact to their Conflict, just consider how most people would react, or how they are usually shown reacting in films/entertainment.   The quiet office worker, forced to shoot someone in self-defense, or to defend a friend.  The usually are in shock, hyperventilate, slow to respond to outside stimuli, maybe even throw up.  That's a visual, narrative depiction of someone who just gained Conflict for killing someone.  Have them react like that if it's their first time, and then keep that in mind for the end of the session when they roll their Morality.  If they break even, or go up in Morality, and this is the key thing I think most people mistake it doesn't mean they weren't effected, and thus don't care about their actions.   If they do something, and they don't see a problem with it, that's the LOSS of Morality reaction, or at least one way to reflect it.   

But back to the example:
Joe PeeSee, has just put a blaster bolt through a thug in an ally, to protect his best friend from certain death, and thus gains a few points of Conflict.  He's shaken, visibly distraught, and trying to come to terms with his conflicting emotions and rational brain, trying to process the events.  Then, later on, at the end of the episode, he's sitting in his room, considering what happened.  Maybe his friend comes in to talk about it, knowing how his friend would likely take killing someone.  They have a heartfelt scene, friend leaves the room, Joe PeeSee looks at his reflection in the mirror, or at some object thoughtfully....cue credits, and roll Morality.    And in this example, they happen to end up with a positive result.  Now, this isn't roleplayed as someone who isn't phased by their actions, quite the opposite.  They ARE phased, but they have found a non-destructive way to cope with it.  They perhaps try and "pay it forward" by helping others in small but significant ways in the future.  Perhaps they make a point to learn non-lethal methods of combat, so they have more options in the future.  Maybe they rededicate themselves to their personal ideal, and try and learn from how they handled it the first time.   They are still sad by what happened, perhaps even having nightmares about it with some regularity.  Maybe they even do a little drinking binge immediately after to try and "self-medicate".  But the difference is in the final result.  At the end of that drinking binge, they don't suddenly use it constantly to avoid the problem (that would be a loss of Morality option, but one of many), instead they would end up deciding the answer wasn't at the bottom of a bottle, but somewhere "out there."  And they stumble off back to the ship to sleep it off, wake up with a hangover, but a reasonably firm grasp on their identity, their psyche, and able to continue without the act crippling their life going forward.    You can see this in entertainment all the time.  Because morality stories are one of the most popular forms of storytelling in human history.    The only one that comes to mind in recent memory, is from the Avengers.  When Hawkeye finally shakes off Loki's control, and Black Widow is talking to him.  Mind control aspect aside, and the justification portion aside, I'm just talking about the actual way they talk to each other about the situation.  His immediate reaction, is to be very upset by what he might've done, and you can clearly see he's about to start spiraling into a self-destructive reaction, but Natasha cuts him off "Don't, do go down that road.  We both know it won't help."  He considers what she said, nods, and internalizes it and moves on.  He's not happy about it, but he's also not in the fetal position, crying about it.  It's effected him, he's trying to move forward about it, and try and keep doing good in the world, and work harder to not let something like that happen again.   That's an example of a positive result on a Morality roll.  Not rainbow and unicorns and sunshine pixies, but pain, sorrow, regret, remorse but also resolve and determination  

An example of a loss in Morality result:

Same situation, but instead of the friend helping them get over their conflict, the talk doesn't help, perhaps the person is too griefstricken, and turned inward, so instead, Joe PeeSee decides to cut himself on his arm, deep enough to leave a scar, to "always remind him of what he did."  Or when he wakes up from that drinking bender, instead of coming to terms with things with a clear head, he instead reaches for another bottle from the fridge, snarls at one of his shipmates, and stumbles back to his bunk.   Or, maybe he doesn't think anything was wrong with what he did, in retrospect.  And in fact, he feels totally vindicated and justified in his actions, maybe even a little invigorated.   He begins to be more short with his temper with people who behave in a way that reminds him of the thug, because "they're all the same."   So maybe he starts considering just attacking them right away, instead of his old, naive method of trying to resolve situations with negotiations first.  

He starts to redirect his emotions about the event, into behavioral traits.  Loss of hygiene (like Anakin getting greasier), or obsessive hygiene.  Heightened emotions, with fits of outbursts (again, like Anakin), or an emotional shutdown and masking.   Perhaps he is still kind of conflicted about his actions, but his internal Palpatine on his shoulder reminds him of how he felt that first time, and he tries to embrace it again, or uses that to justify his actions again, now through the colored glass of his unstable viewpoint.  He starts to avoid friends, because perhaps they remind him of the way he used to think, and it upsets him, or he's angry with how naive they are, but he doesn't want to make them angry by voicing his new opinions on things, so he just removes himself from the conversation.   

These traits begin to become more pronounced, assuming he keeps doing Conflicty behavior, and also failing his rolls, thus moving further down.  Eventually, he's just given into the new behaviors he has adopted due to his conflict, and that is his new normal.

That's all for now, as I'm a little busy at work, and can't get a solid block of time to further elaborate on this.   I'll post my thoughts on how you would roleplay someone who has, for example, begun to decline, but then starts to work their way back up.  I think it's pretty self-explanatory, and again, you can simply use films/tv/books for great examples of this kind of shift in behavior, but I'll give some more detailed methods that I personally use.

 

This is all just my thoughts of course, that I'm sharing, simply because of the common issues I see a lot of people express about this issue.  This isn't a "The Morality system sucks!" thread, and if are going to post something like that, please, kindly sod off.   There are a billion of those threads up at all times, feel free to post there.  This is a thread about trying to actually express the mechanics in a narrative way.  Something that, apparently a lot of people have problems with, because they never seem to be able to look past the numbers.  

Anyway, that's all for now, hope some people find it helpful

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Posted (edited)

I also make a note that it doesnt make the character behave differently in other situations all the time. Just because you have a Morality of 55 vs morality of 65 doesnt mean that your character now has to be 10 "decibels" more dooche  you can still behave as you think your character would in most situations, it is just the morality will reflect those actions. Your character not thinking anything is wrong with what they are doing means they wont change their behavior, that doesnt mean their behavior isn't morally wrong. That is the spiral to the dark side that allows a character to justify more and more things. Other than that actually I really want to try to implement this more in my own characters Role Play. I have done so a couple times like my character got taken into an interogation room and I failed my cool check, BAD fail + despair + disadvantage. So I acted out my character breaking into tears in the interogation room begging for leniency and spilling EVERYTHING all while sobbing like a hot mess. I didn't WANT my character to feel this way, but I knew as stoic and "do it all myself" as he can be, this is what he would be like given the roll and the situation. Once over and everything was said and done he did calm down and plays it off like nothing happened, but everyone knows and sometimes we all laugh about it much to my characters chagrin.

Edited by tunewalker

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2 hours ago, tunewalker said:

I also make a note that it doesnt make the character behave differently in other situations all the time. Just because you have a Morality of 55 vs morality of 65 doesnt mean that your character now has to be 10 "decibels" more dooche  you can still behave as you think your character would in most situations, it is just the morality will reflect those actions. Your character not thinking anything is wrong with what they are doing means they wont change their behavior, that doesnt mean their behavior isn't morally wrong. That is the spiral to the dark side that allows a character to justify more and more things. Other than that actually I really want to try to implement this more in my own characters Role Play. I have done so a couple times like my character got taken into an interogation room and I failed my cool check, BAD fail + despair + disadvantage. So I acted out my character breaking into tears in the interogation room begging for leniency and spilling EVERYTHING all while sobbing like a hot mess. I didn't WANT my character to feel this way, but I knew as stoic and "do it all myself" as he can be, this is what he would be like given the roll and the situation. Once over and everything was said and done he did calm down and plays it off like nothing happened, but everyone knows and sometimes we all laugh about it much to my characters chagrin.

So Douchibles are not logarithmic like Decibels...

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2 hours ago, tunewalker said:

So I acted out my character breaking into tears in the interogation room begging for leniency and spilling EVERYTHING all while sobbing like a hot mess. I didn't WANT my character to feel this way, 

Everybody breaks eventually.   

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2 hours ago, Daeglan said:

...Douchibles...

Wait. I thought that was the new no-gluten, vegan line of mini-lunch packets from Kraft...

...

I keed, I keed. I recognize some ppl do have legitimate dietary restrictions out there...

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On 6/12/2019 at 1:01 PM, KungFuFerret said:

So, a common issue that I notice, in any game that presents a morality system to it's mechanics, is people confused about what the numbers mean, and how it impacts their game.  FFG is no different, in fact, it's kind of amusing to me, how nearly identical the conversation is on this subject, when I compare them to the old World of Darkness debates about their Morality system.    What commonly comes up is some variation on "Well I don't think my PC should have to behave this way because they did an action that I personally don't think is bad, so it should therefore have zero impact on them at all emotionally/psychologically."   Regardless of the action, this is what commonly comes up.  "I don't think just because a dice came up with a certain result, that my character should behave differently."  Which I personally find odd, since nobody ever says "I don't think my PC should miss that attack, just because the dice came up with a certain result."  As if combat is the only thing that is outside of a persons control or influence.  

But anyway, I digress.   Roleplaying the change.   

A lot of people seem to struggle with trying to figure out how the number shift, positive or negative, reflects on their PC's behavior.  "My morality went from 55 to 45, am I Hannibal Lector now?!"  or "I brought my morality up from 36 to 55, am I a saint now?!"  or some variant thereof.   It's actually really simple, the mechanics are far more elegant than I think a lot of people give them credit for.  

So, you have a PC, they do something morally questionable, and thus earned conflict.  For the moment, this doesn't need to have any immediate impact on their behavior, but it can if you want.  Most don't in my experience, and play their characters as being 100% ok with frequent, and multiple deaths at their hands, when the reality is that most "normal, stable" humans do not just shrug off killing another sentient being, and it is in fact very difficult to convince them to do so without significant training.   But if you are going to try and have the PC have an immediate impact to their Conflict, just consider how most people would react, or how they are usually shown reacting in films/entertainment.   The quiet office worker, forced to shoot someone in self-defense, or to defend a friend.  The usually are in shock, hyperventilate, slow to respond to outside stimuli, maybe even throw up.  That's a visual, narrative depiction of someone who just gained Conflict for killing someone.  Have them react like that if it's their first time, and then keep that in mind for the end of the session when they roll their Morality.  If they break even, or go up in Morality, and this is the key thing I think most people mistake it doesn't mean they weren't effected, and thus don't care about their actions.   If they do something, and they don't see a problem with it, that's the LOSS of Morality reaction, or at least one way to reflect it.   

But back to the example:
Joe PeeSee, has just put a blaster bolt through a thug in an ally, to protect his best friend from certain death, and thus gains a few points of Conflict.  He's shaken, visibly distraught, and trying to come to terms with his conflicting emotions and rational brain, trying to process the events.  Then, later on, at the end of the episode, he's sitting in his room, considering what happened.  Maybe his friend comes in to talk about it, knowing how his friend would likely take killing someone.  They have a heartfelt scene, friend leaves the room, Joe PeeSee looks at his reflection in the mirror, or at some object thoughtfully....cue credits, and roll Morality.    And in this example, they happen to end up with a positive result.  Now, this isn't roleplayed as someone who isn't phased by their actions, quite the opposite.  They ARE phased, but they have found a non-destructive way to cope with it.  They perhaps try and "pay it forward" by helping others in small but significant ways in the future.  Perhaps they make a point to learn non-lethal methods of combat, so they have more options in the future.  Maybe they rededicate themselves to their personal ideal, and try and learn from how they handled it the first time.   They are still sad by what happened, perhaps even having nightmares about it with some regularity.  Maybe they even do a little drinking binge immediately after to try and "self-medicate".  But the difference is in the final result.  At the end of that drinking binge, they don't suddenly use it constantly to avoid the problem (that would be a loss of Morality option, but one of many), instead they would end up deciding the answer wasn't at the bottom of a bottle, but somewhere "out there."  And they stumble off back to the ship to sleep it off, wake up with a hangover, but a reasonably firm grasp on their identity, their psyche, and able to continue without the act crippling their life going forward.    You can see this in entertainment all the time.  Because morality stories are one of the most popular forms of storytelling in human history.    The only one that comes to mind in recent memory, is from the Avengers.  When Hawkeye finally shakes off Loki's control, and Black Widow is talking to him.  Mind control aspect aside, and the justification portion aside, I'm just talking about the actual way they talk to each other about the situation.  His immediate reaction, is to be very upset by what he might've done, and you can clearly see he's about to start spiraling into a self-destructive reaction, but Natasha cuts him off "Don't, do go down that road.  We both know it won't help."  He considers what she said, nods, and internalizes it and moves on.  He's not happy about it, but he's also not in the fetal position, crying about it.  It's effected him, he's trying to move forward about it, and try and keep doing good in the world, and work harder to not let something like that happen again.   That's an example of a positive result on a Morality roll.  Not rainbow and unicorns and sunshine pixies, but pain, sorrow, regret, remorse but also resolve and determination  

An example of a loss in Morality result:

Same situation, but instead of the friend helping them get over their conflict, the talk doesn't help, perhaps the person is too griefstricken, and turned inward, so instead, Joe PeeSee decides to cut himself on his arm, deep enough to leave a scar, to "always remind him of what he did."  Or when he wakes up from that drinking bender, instead of coming to terms with things with a clear head, he instead reaches for another bottle from the fridge, snarls at one of his shipmates, and stumbles back to his bunk.   Or, maybe he doesn't think anything was wrong with what he did, in retrospect.  And in fact, he feels totally vindicated and justified in his actions, maybe even a little invigorated.   He begins to be more short with his temper with people who behave in a way that reminds him of the thug, because "they're all the same."   So maybe he starts considering just attacking them right away, instead of his old, naive method of trying to resolve situations with negotiations first.  

He starts to redirect his emotions about the event, into behavioral traits.  Loss of hygiene (like Anakin getting greasier), or obsessive hygiene.  Heightened emotions, with fits of outbursts (again, like Anakin), or an emotional shutdown and masking.   Perhaps he is still kind of conflicted about his actions, but his internal Palpatine on his shoulder reminds him of how he felt that first time, and he tries to embrace it again, or uses that to justify his actions again, now through the colored glass of his unstable viewpoint.  He starts to avoid friends, because perhaps they remind him of the way he used to think, and it upsets him, or he's angry with how naive they are, but he doesn't want to make them angry by voicing his new opinions on things, so he just removes himself from the conversation.   

These traits begin to become more pronounced, assuming he keeps doing Conflicty behavior, and also failing his rolls, thus moving further down.  Eventually, he's just given into the new behaviors he has adopted due to his conflict, and that is his new normal.

That's all for now, as I'm a little busy at work, and can't get a solid block of time to further elaborate on this.   I'll post my thoughts on how you would roleplay someone who has, for example, begun to decline, but then starts to work their way back up.  I think it's pretty self-explanatory, and again, you can simply use films/tv/books for great examples of this kind of shift in behavior, but I'll give some more detailed methods that I personally use.

 

This is all just my thoughts of course, that I'm sharing, simply because of the common issues I see a lot of people express about this issue.  This isn't a "The Morality system sucks!" thread, and if are going to post something like that, please, kindly sod off.   There are a billion of those threads up at all times, feel free to post there.  This is a thread about trying to actually express the mechanics in a narrative way.  Something that, apparently a lot of people have problems with, because they never seem to be able to look past the numbers.  

Anyway, that's all for now, hope some people find it helpful

One problem with your examples. Killing someone in self defense, or defense of another person doesn't garner any  Conflict. 

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