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  • Surprise morality

    The blood hunt thread got me thinking about something: players tend to assume that elders are all complete sociopaths with absolutely no moral lines. To me that doesn't seem realistic, as in real life even mafioso with huge numbers of kills often have some lines they won't cross, some acts that still morally outrage them. So I was wondering: do you ever punish players for just assuming elders are pure evil? For example, do you ever have a player accumulate boons, try to use those boons to bargain for the right to diablerize someone, only to discover that the Prince is someone who genuinely, morally loathes diablerists, and won't bargain for such a thing even if the payment is outrageously good?

    It seems to me that just assuming everyone is a sociopath is just as naive and dangerous in its own way as assuming everyone is noble. It was something I was reminded of when Stannis Baratheon burned Shireen and had half his army abandon him in the night.

  • #2
    Originally posted by CajunKhan View Post
    The blood hunt thread got me thinking about something: players tend to assume that elders are all complete sociopaths with absolutely no moral lines.
    Well, that's literally impossible, unless they are all Wights. They must have some moral lines. Kinda the point of Paths.
    To me that doesn't seem realistic, as in real life even mafioso with huge numbers of kills often have some lines they won't cross, some acts that still morally outrage them.
    Most (all) people in real life lack a Beast and don't live beyond a hundred years.

    Anyway, I don't think most Elders are sociopaths. But I think there's valid reason most (especially those in power) would be lower Humanity. Survival, especially when feeding and frenzy are factored in, make some loss likely. And to get and obtain power (enough to be a figure of power) usually requires activities that also result in Humanity loss.

    That said, I think it is important to keep in mind that most Camarilla Kindred, and I think even most Sabbat members, still use Humanity. Even a Humanity 4 Prince can find Diablerie abhorrent, and likely does to some internal degree. So yes, it is naive and dangerous to think everyone is willing to do 'evil' things, even among Kindred. But I think that's more about sharing motives and goals than anything else. The risk of assuming.

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    • #3
      The important thing to consider is that just by virtue of existing for longer than a normal human, kindred gain a different perspective on things. They might be following the path of humanity, but they are going to look at behaviors in a different light, which in turn makes them alien to our modern sensibilities.

      ​Go back in time say 100 years and it would be considered no big thing to raise chickens and then occasionally strangle one to cook. Now a days if you even suggest harming an animal even if you intend to eat it, you get labeled a psychopath due to the associations of the mental condition and torturing animals. This can get hilarious if you send a modern day college student off to do a semester in a third world country where killing your food is still widely practiced.

      ​The aforementioned 3rd world inhabitants or the early 1900s residents are "moral" individuals, they just have a different perspective on what is right, what is wrong, and what was required to live.

      ​Once you bring Vampirism into the equation it gets messy due to the existence of the Beast and because morality is by definition a limiter on behavior. Which in turn means that in the dog eat dog world of Vampire politics or business, the sociopaths tend to win, and with vampires winning means you survive.

      Even if this wasn't the case, many clans tend to recruit new members from top CEOs of big businesses, which as real world studies have shown have a 10 times greater incidence of displaying sociopathic tendencies than the normal population. This would skew the vampiric population towards a more sociopathic baseline.

      ​So I would say that it is only fair to punish players for assuming that elders are sociopaths if you also punish them for not assuming they are sociopathic enough at the same time. If you want players to have a more nuanced perception of a group of individuals, then you have to show that nuance in game. Just bear in mind that even the non-sociopathic elders will be doing their best imitation of sociopathy to avoid being perceived as weak and ripe for a power play by their peers.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by CajunKhan View Post
        The blood hunt thread got me thinking about something: players tend to assume that elders are all complete sociopaths with absolutely no moral lines. To me that doesn't seem realistic, as in real life even mafioso with huge numbers of kills often have some lines they won't cross, some acts that still morally outrage them.
        It's rare to find elders with high Humanity... age, jihad and politics naturally force them to compromises just to stay alive, or follow their own dreams. They may even had good intentions at the beginning, but how they gradually lose everything that made them humans is the very core of Vampire. This does not mean, of course, that elders and princes are heartless or sociopaths, but it makes sense for them to have some quirky morality - like, the classic Tremere primogen that cares for his Clan members' lives but sees the rest of the Camarilla vampires as expendables.

        Asking for the right to diablerize is always quite risky in the Camarilla - a Prince may declare that your life boon is expended just for not staking you at the suggestion, after all. Other less important vampires may be coerced or pushed in granting something they don't like, but there's as always no telling that they might have planned a way to stop you without their direct intervention. So yes, when you make NPCs be sure to give them a personality and make them tridimensional, especially if they have a lot of power.

        It seems to me that just assuming everyone is a sociopath is just as naive and dangerous in its own way as assuming everyone is noble. It was something I was reminded of when Stannis Baratheon burned Shireen and had half his army abandon him in the night.
        That's luckily something that only happened in the TV show, that just aims to shock the audience and keep commercials. Stannis never did something like that in the books, it would be way, way too out of character.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Thoth View Post
          Now a days if you even suggest harming an animal even if you intend to eat it, you get labeled a psychopath due to the associations of the mental condition and torturing animals. This can get hilarious if you send a modern day college student off to do a semester in a third world country where killing your food is still widely practiced.
          ​I'm pretty sure that killing your food is practiced everywhere that meat is consumed, and that the majority of people see no issue with that.


          I have approximate knowledge of many things.
          Watch me play Dark Souls III (completed)
          https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLDtbr08HW8RW4jOHN881YA3yRZBV4lpYw Watch me play Breath of the Wild (updated 12/03)

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post

            ​I'm pretty sure that killing your food is practiced everywhere that meat is consumed, and that the majority of people see no issue with that.
            Mmm, I think there's a difference between consuming meat inside a package (like a hamburger or a beef) and actually going to a chicken and decapitating it with your hands or a knife. I've never *personaly* killed my food, but I've eaten a lot of meat. I think most meat eating city people would see no issue with the concept of "killing for food", but wouldn't be so fast at beheading a cute animal when they can go to the store and buy it dead, if you see what I mean.

            What's wrong it's to assume you need to go to a "third world country" to see that being widely practiced. Just go to the countryside. I live in a third would country, in a city, and have never seen someone kill a cow (albeit I've seen their beheaded corpses), and I'm pretty sure most first world countries have farms and places where the cows are killed so you can have hamburgers...so, that's where you need to go to see people that wouldn't bat an eye at decapitating a cow.

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            • #7
              Oh, the sweet hipocrisy of modern, first-world city life...

              Seriously, I know veganism is a big thing here and there right now, but assuming someone is a sociopath, because of killing for food? That's just plain stupid.

              Also, you'd have to kill anyway, you're just, for example killing plants, but that's another story.

              I'm living in the agglomeration, in Hungary. Not even far from the capital, just some 50 km afar. I'm familiar with slaughtering animals for eating, my grandparents had pigs, chicken and my cousin still have goats, poultry and so on. I killed animals myself and helped processing them. Yes, it's not a happy thing to do, but you could deal with the necessity and anyway, at least you know where the food comes from and don't look at it as just neatly packaged bits, coming from a magical neverwhere for your convenient.


              If nothing worked, then let's think!

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              • #8
                My players generally don't assume elders are "pure evil" in the first place, in fact they more often think better of them than they've been given any cause to... but yes, my elders almost all have well-developed codes of conduct that they sincerely believe and follow. In fact, almost exactly the example you cite happened in my last game, although the Prince in question wasn't a "real" elder (less than 200 years old). The coterie had a captive, a Gangrel who had assisted the Prince's rival in an invasion attempt, and they started making hopeful diplomatic noises about gaining power by drinking vampire blood -the PCs were all rather ignorant neonates, albeit up-and-comers who had proven their worth and loyalty to the Prince. They jeopardized a great deal of that good will that night, as they tried to argue the point when the Prince told them in no uncertain terms what she would do to anyone who ever turned up in her domain with a black-veined aura.

                What might be surprising for characters is how idiosyncratic these elders' morals can be, sometimes so alien to human ethics of any kind as to resemble Paths (I don't usually use the Humanity system, since it doesn't really do any of the things it's for in my opinion.) The very few complete pragmatic sociopaths are almost without exception antagonists (and most antagonists are not such).

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                • #9
                  It is kind of an aside, but I find it hard to believe many people believe or claim someone killing an animal explicitly to eat it is a sociopath. I'm not sure where you live, but even beyond farmers, hunting is fairly popular where I am. And even people who are against it don't label people psycopaths.

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                  • #10
                    Here in California there are several places where just admitting that you go hunting, can get you some nasty social and societal backlash. The less cute the prey is, the less people complain. If you go fishing, no big deal, but if you go deer hunting then you killed bambi's mom.

                    ​The whole vegan or vegetarian thing becomes a moral non issue because plants are rarely cute & cuddly, they don't seem to feel pain like animals do, and in many cases consuming the plant doesn't have to kill it or doing so actually is part of its life cycle for spreading seeds.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Thoth View Post
                      Here in California there are several places where just admitting that you go hunting, can get you some nasty social and societal backlash. The less cute the prey is, the less people complain. If you go fishing, no big deal, but if you go deer hunting then you killed bambi's mom.
                      The more I hear about some extreme social phenomenon from the US West-Coast metropolitan areas, the less inclined I'm to go there. A shame, because the cities would interest me otherwise, as well as other cultural things. My sincere apologies for everyone from there, but a lot of things are just way overboard lately.

                      The whole vegan or vegetarian thing becomes a moral non issue because plants are rarely cute & cuddly, they don't seem to feel pain like animals do, and in many cases consuming the plant doesn't have to kill it or doing so actually is part of its life cycle for spreading seeds.
                      Ah, yes, the usual hipocrisy.

                      Think about it: plants do feel pain and dread. When you kill an animal, you're usually doing it fast. When you're processing a plant, it's practically still living, when you're chopping it to pieces...

                      Crops are of course different, but those are like eggs.



                      If nothing worked, then let's think!

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                      • #12
                        One way elders defend against degeneration of Humanity or Path ratings is using others to do the dirty work. Sure, ordering an assassination or whatnot would lead to Humanity loss if your rating is 7, but unless it's super heinous, it wouldn't cause degeneration from Humanity 4 for example. For the real wicked acts, each clan and sect has a roster of expendable Humanity 2 or 3 sociopaths on which to call upon. This way, elders can engage in cutthroat vampiric politics and maintain their security while still maintaining a degree of control over themselves.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Aleph View Post

                          Mmm, I think there's a difference between consuming meat inside a package (like a hamburger or a beef) and actually going to a chicken and decapitating it with your hands or a knife. I've never *personaly* killed my food, but I've eaten a lot of meat. I think most meat eating city people would see no issue with the concept of "killing for food", but wouldn't be so fast at beheading a cute animal when they can go to the store and buy it dead, if you see what I mean.
                          ​The point is that in making the assertion, one is implicitly asserting people at large assuming that farmers and abbatoir workers are monsters.

                          Originally posted by PMark
                          Think about it: plants do feel pain and dread.
                          ​You're really begging the question there; you can't just put "think about it" in front of a statement and it automatically gains credibility.

                          ​Unless one wants to assert a metaphysical dimension to plants that can't really be proven, they observably don't even have the biological mechanisms for something like a pain stimulus, which would be useless to them anyway when they have absolutely no mobility; how does an organism evolve pain receptors when it cannot respond to pain by fighting or fleeing? A plant like that would not be able to compete with a plant that does not waste nutrients on non-functional tissues.


                          I have approximate knowledge of many things.
                          Watch me play Dark Souls III (completed)
                          https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLDtbr08HW8RW4jOHN881YA3yRZBV4lpYw Watch me play Breath of the Wild (updated 12/03)

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post

                            ​You're really begging the question there; you can't just put "think about it" in front of a statement and it automatically gains credibility.

                            ​Unless one wants to assert a metaphysical dimension to plants that can't really be proven, they observably don't even have the biological mechanisms for something like a pain stimulus, which would be useless to them anyway when they have absolutely no mobility; how does an organism evolve pain receptors when it cannot respond to pain by fighting or fleeing? A plant like that would not be able to compete with a plant that does not waste nutrients on non-functional tissues.
                            http://science.howstuffworks.com/lif...-feel-pain.htm
                            http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20170...ll-and-respond

                            Of course, one could argue about the definition of "pain", but in my eyes, if a being could sense a harmful effect to itself and is responding to it in some way, especially immediately, yeah, it "feels pain".

                            Of course plants work differently than 'us', animals, but they're alive, and they are have some sort of awareness, even if we don't understand it fully at this point. We're biased towards animals, because they're more like us (and as mentioned, we're more empathetic toward the ones which are more "cute", ie. more akin to us, than to, for example, toads or fishes). That's a natural bias, i'm biased like that too, but acting like it is some kind of ethical superiority is indeed a degree of hipocrisy in my book.

                            Of course that has nothing to do with the meat overconsumption in the West, which is, indeed a big problem.



                            If nothing worked, then let's think!

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                            • #15
                              If you're thinking about vegetarianism and what people do to live their everyday lives in terms of a morality scale, you're really testing for Humanity 10. For anything lower than that, whether you eat meat etc. is just preference. It pales in comparison to the trivial immoralities of everyday life.

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