Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Management and Role-playing II; Problems with Pure Evil Races

Continuing The use of the Art Critical Thinking in RPGs.

1. Making High-Stakes Decisions - This is the introduction to the lecture and poses to the listener how people decision and how there are techniques that improve on them. To the GM, it is how the players make decision and how to better predict them or play to their weaknesses.
2. Cognitive Biases - The list of cognitive biases, is like a list of traps. Players who are able to identify these, can spot certain traps. For the GM, his knowledge of these traps help him play to the problem solving tendencies of the player. This is where the real intellectual challenge which is fun can be found.
3. Avoiding Decision-Making Traps - The previous lecture allow for detect traps, this lecture is how to disarm SOME of them. Players might find this useful when brainstorming and interacting with each other (since the GM spreads the information among them, based on their varied perceptive capabilities).
4. Framing—Risk or Opportunity? - GMs will get a whole lot of fun out of this, as they carefully play around with the skill to confuse the player's as the best course of action. Ideally the GM's NPCs doesnt play it too thick.
For Players, this is useful when trying to reach a consensus with each other.
5. Intuition—Recognizing Patterns - Intuition: as a GURPS advantage versus what I learned in the lecture is very different and makes more sense. My new house rule, to reflect this powerful aspect of intelligence and its point cost is:
  • Intuition halves default penalties when using related skills (round down) (Ex, naturalist -2 instead of -3 for survival; Soldier -3 instead of -6 for Tactics).
  • Reduces raw default penalty by 1 (IQ-5 instead of IQ-6 for Artist)
  • Reduce margin of failure by 2, minimum of 1 with skills that are greater or equal to 12.
  • +3 bonus to highly ambiguous pattern recognition (ex. ciphering, cryptography, and some sci-fi point-defense gunnery where the gunner tries to predict fire patterns).

Objective Morality and Role Playing. Wow another Philosophical debate regarding how to play RPGs in the thread. My problem with objective morality, where the GM defines what is Good and Bad in a setting is that there is no room for free will. There is no room for choices, you will do what you are designed to do. So evil races are characterised as following the authorship of the world builder.

The funny thing about Objective Morality is that, it has no room for empathy. You cannot have the intelligence to understand choices when there really are no choices. Since there are no choices and empathy is useless: then what Role are you playing except that of a 1 dimensional automaton.

This becomes explicitly true in a deterministic setting. Another way to describe a deterministic setting is when the GM will always railroad you.

Purely Objective Morality breaks down very quickly and easily in the realm of RPG fantasy. Fantasy test all plausible limits already, the burden of this philosophy just raises more problems than it solves.

Complexity, despite how Ambiguous and Messy is better than ignoring the consequences of one's actions.


Pete King said...

Interesting points, except that some of the most popular fiction has clear cut bad guys and good guys in it. This is because, when you have a clear contrast of morality in a conflict, you have set the stage for heroics to occur. The more morally ambiguous each side in a conflict is the less powerful its heroics become. This works against you if your goal is to provide a type of fantasy like, say Dungeons and Dragons, Lord of the Rings and so on.

justin aquino said...

I don't disagree with you, Morality and Ethics are pretty touchy subjects that are best discussed in more philosophical forums.

Mailanka said...

I feel the need to take some credit for that thread, for skewering the age old "But would you kill a baby orc?" test with my "But everyone kills baby Aliens" response.

I was really attempting to show that the question only works if applied to "charismatic" races we can relate to, but the real problem with the baby orc argument isn't that it highlights a genuine moral conundrum, but that it highlights the absurdity of D&D's alignment system (and that's its original point). OF COURSE all orcs are evil, it says so in their stat block, and no further thought is given to it. They do this so you can gleefully slaughter entire rooms of them without pausing to ponder the implications of your actions.

I think it's interesting that GURPS makes this essentially impossible. There's no "evil" button. I think this is b-dog's problem. He can't attach an "evil!" tag to a template the way you can in D&D. No matter how nasty you make a race with disadvantages, someone will come up with a way to make that character out to be a good guy (Orcs have Bad temper, Berserk, Bloodlust, and ODH (Generally jerks)? Hey, so does Wolverine), which I personally find very satisfying. I have no problem with stories with black and white characters, but I do have a problem with a story that has black and white RACES or CIVILIZATIONS. Groups of people are too dynamic to assign blanket statements to.

justin aquino said...

@ Daniel, it makes me wonder if having an Evil Button is a good thing in a system. Lets say, it becomes a "feature", does that basically give gamers' the freedom to look at things black and white?

As systems go, Its interesting that the attempt to model reality has a tendency to be a bit "secular" in perspective. Since it doesn't pander to the cultural perspective of the players instead goes towards what is definitely arguable thanks to the Science of Ethics.

What is also interesting is, do we ever want people to turn off their Ethical Perspective (by ethics I mean the ability to think of the consequences of their actions and if it can do harm)?

I hear a lot of talk about Gaming Being a Problem solving endeavor where we challenge ourselves and all the altruistic attachments in the game is simplifying ethics to black and white in keeping with such altruism about the hobby?

I'm actually glad the thread went there. Its a great way to discuss such ideas without being overly philosophical relative to the game. Its like "Introduction to Ethics with RPGs".

Its also nice to know that majority of the Posters don't like the idea of the oversimplification of Objective Morality. That they want to find out if something really does harm or not, or what is taken for granted that is "good" may have some ethical implications.

RPGs as a Freethinking medium :D

Philo Pharynx said...

Objective morality does not neccesarily mean people are straightjacketed. Ordinary people, that is. In my games, people have free will. The religions also specify codes of conduct that are objectively evil and good. People choose their actions and alignment follows the actions. If you mostly do good things, you'll be considered good. If you mostly do evil things you'll be considered evil. In the real world, good people do some bad things. Bad people do some good things. Making this code an objective standard won't change this.

Most orcs grow up in evil societies and will become evil by conforming to expected behavior. Many of the ones who try to be good will be killed by other orcs. However some creatures are different. Angels and demons don't have the same kind of choice. Good or evil behavior is part of their nature. It's possible for them to go against their instincts, but it's very difficult. Aliens would be a different matter. They are following their survival instinct. Killing is instinctive. How sentient they are is debatable, but it's definitely pretty low. Neither devils nor angels nor Aliens are moral agents in my view. They don't have a choice. PC's do, and that's what makes their choices important.