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  • Paths vs. Roads vs. Humanity

    The discussion of Kindred morality and how it works has come up at my table. I was thinking about how to handle it at my table and was curious how you handled it at yours.

    Basically, my idea to explain it to my player is that instead of Justin Achilli's "Humanity is the real deal and Paths are evil" I'm going to split the difference by stating that Humanity is the natural Path of humans but Roads are not necessarily evil. They're actually legitimate spiritual and moral pathways (albeit some are pretty damn evil) developed over thousands of years. The Paths, however, are "The central tenant of Buddhism is every man for himself" misunderstandings of them that don't really work. The Path of Caine, for example, is something that every follower will have to learn is just warmed over Road of Blood combined with a bunch of Noddist rhetoric.

    I am very curious how the V5 system is going to affect how the Paths and Roads work, though.
    Last edited by CTPhipps; 10-08-2018, 01:23 PM.


    Author of Cthulhu Armageddon, I was a Teenage Weredeer, Straight Outta Fangton, Lucifer's Star, and the Supervillainy Saga.

  • #2
    As far as I'm concerned Humanity is a fantasy system for a fantasy world inspired by a particular articulation of morality in the West in the 20th-21st century. If the game is meant as a representation of the real world, human morality is more akin to the various paths of DAV20 and vampire morality is either an attempt to carry on with those paths after the Embrace, which in most cases is likely short lived, or new paths specific to vampires and reflecting their own issues and the beliefs that would make sense for them to hold after ascertaining that something like them exists and has a consciousness and a dilemma of good and evil as opposed to a simple inevitable 'instinct' to do evil/neutral deeds like a devil or animal might be thought to have in some beliefs systems.

    Basically I think that, among the things that Requiem (especially the second edition) got right, there is the fact that vampires are aware they are no more humans and are more likely, in the long term, to develop their own religions, philosophies and ideologies on how to be a vampire.

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    • #3
      I also question the idea that only vampires following 'Humanity' can fake life by spending blood. That's nonsense. Even someone on the path of the Feral Heart or the Beast knows the value of appearing like your prey to hunt, and there's no reason why he should be deprived of such an important hunting tool.

      I can understand a vampire with a low path score - any path - would struggle to hide the Beast, as the paths are there to keep the Beast in check as the vampire is not identified with it, even in the most feral of paths. Ultimately, the Beast is best thought of as a distinct force in the vampire, one that must be controlled or disciplined or nurtured and treated nicely or respected, an enemy or an ally, but not the vampire himself. That does not mean the vampire must think of himself as human, though.

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      • #4
        On my end, I think it's important to establish "Good" and "Evil" are real things (if debatable things) because otherwise you lose some element that vampires are the Damned. That they are fucked so to speak in terms of life.

        The great conqueror may THINK he's righteous but all his murders in life....are still murders and his control over the Beast is weak at best.


        Author of Cthulhu Armageddon, I was a Teenage Weredeer, Straight Outta Fangton, Lucifer's Star, and the Supervillainy Saga.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by CTPhipps View Post
          On my end, I think it's important to establish "Good" and "Evil" are real things (if debatable things) because otherwise you lose some element that vampires are the Damned. That they are fucked so to speak in terms of life.

          The great conqueror may THINK he's righteous but all his murders in life....are still murders and his control over the Beast is weak at best.
          But why should all characters see themselves as damned? Some may see vampirism as a blessed condition, even though not perfect. And maybe the great conqueror became such because he has an iron grip on his beast and only kills when strategy shows it better than the alternative.

          For example, take the Path of Bones. They have no moral qualms about killing. The only reason why they don't directly kill some people is to see how their death plays out without interference for scientific purposes. But for the same scientific purposes they kill plenty, to study how they die. Yet, they are not under the Beast's sway: their virtue is self-control and their values require scientific coldness and detachment to ensure objectivity, which doesn't work for the Beast. Preventing them from imitating human breathing and warm skin is just awkward. Is certainly shouldn't be because they can't control their Beast. Maybe, because they're on the Bone Path (but this would not apply to other paths), they don't imitate the flush of life because they're too busy studying death to care... but still the reason for making it mechanically impossible for them is weak.

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          • #6
            Just say that the path of humanity is just a moral code , a system of belief designed to keep sense of your own identity.The same happens with all the paths.

            Whitout it you are just a victim of your impulses and you fall in the beast.In freudian terms
            • The ID=The Beast=It is ridden by instinct and impulses ,only seeks inmediate satisfaction.
            • The Ego=The Vampire=He chooses his acts balancing the beast and the path.
            • The Super Ego=The Path you follow/humanity=The moral code and inner criticism that
            In the End the fight against the beast is not about being a good boy to not degenerate is about being true to yourself and your convictions.Those who become wighs are just beast that renounced to their identities for pleasure or his strict moral code was against vampire life style and they werent able to adapt their convictions to their new condition.

            Look at Capone and Son from Chicago by night .I doubt they had any problems managing their beast becuase despite not being good boys they had the correct mentality to confront vampire unlife.I donĀ“t like V5 but Convictions are a good idea , you only degenerate when you go against your ideals (Just ignore Chronicle tenets and make touchstones a background).

            Originally posted by Hermeticus View Post
            I also question the idea that only vampires following 'Humanity' can fake life by spending blood. That's nonsense. Even someone on the path of the Feral Heart or the Beast knows the value of appearing like your prey to hunt, and there's no reason why he should be deprived of such an important hunting tool..
            I agree , a complete nonsense in my desk vampires of all paths can fake life , vampires are predators and the blush of life is an adaptation.I always thought that if they wanted to give humanity/path a mechanical importance they should do it by making it compose the dicepool to resist frenzy and make low humanity add to the bane severity or unlock a second clan bane.

            If they wanted to make low path vampires detectable by humans they could say that they have a supernatural aura that can only be supresed by using the blush of life or obfuscate.This aura substracts dicepool for social rolls with humans equal to bane severity if not supresed becuase the survival instint of the humans yelling danger and making them feel inconfortable around the vampire.If the social roll fails and the aura is not supresed the humans knows he is talking with a vampire.Vampires can also detect others by talking for some secs if they are not supresing their auras.
            Last edited by Leandro16; 10-09-2018, 04:59 AM.


            Hunger pool

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Hermeticus View Post
              But why should all characters see themselves as damned? Some may see vampirism as a blessed condition, even though not perfect. And maybe the great conqueror became such because he has an iron grip on his beast and only kills when strategy shows it better than the alternative.

              For example, take the Path of Bones. They have no moral qualms about killing. The only reason why they don't directly kill some people is to see how their death plays out without interference for scientific purposes. But for the same scientific purposes they kill plenty, to study how they die. Yet, they are not under the Beast's sway: their virtue is self-control and their values require scientific coldness and detachment to ensure objectivity, which doesn't work for the Beast. Preventing them from imitating human breathing and warm skin is just awkward. Is certainly shouldn't be because they can't control their Beast. Maybe, because they're on the Bone Path (but this would not apply to other paths), they don't imitate the flush of life because they're too busy studying death to care... but still the reason for making it mechanically impossible for them is weak.
              It's not an issue of seeing themselves as damned. Its an issue of being damned. The "evil" Paths are embracing of their monstrous nature but they've not saved themselves from the Beast this way, just sort of stuck themselves as a permanent purgatory for it.

              There's got to be a balance between Justin Achilli's "The Paths are alien evil stupid things by monsters" and "All Roads are equally valid as humanity." Because there's going to be some Paths which are are completely vile and lead to vampires becoming twisted inhuman monsters (The Path of Evil Revelations) that are just barely above wassail-suffering vampires in terms of their actions or disgusting monsters like the Giovanni interpretation of the Road of Bones.

              While others make vampires more noble and decent but following an alternative code to Westerners.
              Last edited by CTPhipps; 10-09-2018, 07:59 AM.


              Author of Cthulhu Armageddon, I was a Teenage Weredeer, Straight Outta Fangton, Lucifer's Star, and the Supervillainy Saga.

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              • #8
                High path rating should be a coherent image of the world, even if it's an evil or depraved one. Low path rating should be selfish, destructive and bestial. This applies to all paths.

                So if you have someone with 9 in an "evil" path, they should have strong principles when it comes to certain matters. Give them a complex moral dimension.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by CTPhipps View Post
                  The Paths, however, are "The central tenant of Buddhism is every man for himself" misunderstandings of them that don't really work. The Path of Caine, for example, is something that every follower will have to learn is just warmed over Road of Blood combined with a bunch of Noddist rhetoric.
                  Under this, would Path followers be aware of the fact that they are following codes that " don't really work " ? For example : some nagging feeling, lack of understanding between Path followers and Path tutors of a given Path, inability to gain a rating of 10 in Paths ? How would the " doesn't work " part express itself and be visible ; would it be only in negatives, or would there be some benefits that Vampires following Paths would have because of this ?
                  Last edited by Muad'Dib; 10-09-2018, 10:00 AM.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Muad'Dib View Post
                    Under this, would Path followers be aware of the fact that they are following codes that " don't really work " ? For example : some nagging feeling, lack of understanding between Path tutors or exemplars, inability to gain a rating of 10 in Paths ? How would the " doesn't work " part express itself and be visible ; would it be only in negatives, or would there be some benefits Vampires following Paths would have because of this ?
                    It falls into what you consider the Paths to be and what their purpose is. My thought is the Paths are perfectly functional for what the Sabbat want them to be and that's, "We do not fall into wassail and we can justify our existence to ourselves." However, if you believe in morality as anything other than a social construct designed to prevent the failure of individuals into anarchic masses then the Paths would be inferior.

                    I'm not sure how to represent that mechanically other than the, "almost never will come up" you can never reach Golconda but I am open for suggestions.


                    Author of Cthulhu Armageddon, I was a Teenage Weredeer, Straight Outta Fangton, Lucifer's Star, and the Supervillainy Saga.

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                    • #11
                      On Path of Caine and Road of Blood and the Purpose of Roads/Paths

                      Just because one Road or Path grew out of the teachings of another doesn't necessarily mean that it doesn't work. A Road/Paths whole purpose is to keep the vampire from falling into Wassail. The Black Monastery's purpose was to craft Paths that were separate from the older Roads but kept the Beast contained. That the Sabbat continues hundreds of years after that should mean they succeeded. I would also argue that Humanity is not the natural Path of vampires, just the default first. I would argue their is no natural Path, they are all constructs to keep the Beast at bay. Humanity is the first because it is at least fundamentally based on what the vampire remembers as being human (and I support the argument that there can be regional variants of Humanity).

                      Humanity vs Roads vs Paths

                      One of the first things I consider is that Humanity is not separate from the Roads and Paths, merely one possible way. This is the first step in making a coherent understanding. Cainites/Vampires are no longer mortal and they have a Beast inside that wants to seize control. Roads and Paths are methods by which vampires keep this rapacious internal piece at bay. I like to use the metaphor of chains holding the Beast, the higher your Road/Path rating the more chains you have keeping the Beast under control.

                      Virtues
                      • Courage - This is a Virtue unconnected to the Road/Path. It's fairly self explanatory, it's one's ability to overcome fear.
                      • Conscience/Conviction - At their most basic are a vampire's ability to analyze and justify their actions.
                        • Conscience - "Is this right" is the phrase I use to describe Conscience. It is a vampire's ability to analyze something by it being right or wrong.
                        • Conviction - "I am right" the inhuman variant of Conscience, it represents a vampire's ability to say they are right in the face of doing something that might be wrong.
                      • Self-Control/Instinct - At their most basic are the vampire's ability to manage the Beast's fury.
                        • Self-Control - Held by those who believe that the animalistic impulses of the Beast are something to be contained. They see the Beast as an enemy to be held down.
                        • Instinct - The inhuman variant of Self-Control. Instinct is understanding the animalistic impulses of the Beast and being able to guide them in useful ways. The best analogy I can give for this is that an Instinctual vampire is like the alpha in a wolf pack, the must continually assert their dominance over the others in the pack (essentially the Beast) or they will be usurped.

                      Damnation

                      This is a consideration that is really up to each individual ST. As far as the books seem to go outside of the Path of Evil Revelations/Road of Sin (Path of Screams) where you offer yourself to the service of demons, the devil, etc none of the Road/Paths specifically lead to eternal damnation.

                      Mimicking Mortality

                      Personally I subscribe to the idea that any Road/Path should be able to mimic life but that it may be more difficult for those with low ratings. For Humanity being better at it just look at Bearing/Aura bonuses - Humanity is Normalcy so a Humanity vampire with a high rating is better at pretending to be a mortal than another even if both have spent a blood point for mimicking mortality.

                      Golconda

                      Much like Damnation this is going to be in the ST's hands. Whether or not non-Humanity vampires can achieve it depends largely on what the ST says Golconda is. If it's just becoming human again then it would make little sense for that to be the pinnacle of non-Humanity followers. If its a reduction of vampiric weaknesses and the unlocking of super-human (6+) stats then it is logical to assume that non-Humanity vampires could access a similar state. Metamorphosis is an especially good example of a Road/Path that has distinct logical route for superseding their current state.
                      Last edited by Cynic01; 10-09-2018, 11:32 AM.

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                      • #12
                        I'm more inclined to handle the vampires with paths through a combo of chronicle tenets and convictions. I think most vampires following a path wouldn't have touchstones, so I'd be inclined to have the vampires take additional convictions for a total of 5. These convictions would be duplicative of key tenets of the existing paths. Vampires following a path are still vampires with humanity ratings, though those ratings tend to be lower than vampires who seek to actively connect with their humanity through touchstones and more recognizable convictions. Characters who adopt a path must adopt the 5 Path Convictions; and that might mean roleplaying how the character severs his or her ties with existing touchstones.

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                        • #13
                          I agree with 11twiggins : a high path represents a coherent view of the world. More than that, I'd say that it represents a state of regularly acting in according to that worldview and witnessing positive outcomes so that we're not constantly troubled by cognitive dissonance. Conviction (which I'd frankly use in place of Conscience even with Humanity) represents our capacity to reassert our beliefs in the face of our failure to uphold them, which over time would otherwise lead to cognitive dissonance and/or a feeling that our path must be wrong because it's unsustainable, at least for us. Humanity also requires conviction because it's easy - especially at high levels of humanity - to question whether maintaining such a high standard is worth it, really necessary or it is not, in fact, an excess of bigotry. As far as I'm concerned, Conviction and Conscience could equally apply to any path, in fact. If I was an Assamite on the Path of Blood who, becoming friend with a non-Assamite who is clearly unworthy of the Blood, fail to oppose that vampire, I could well feel my Conscience prick, because I've facilitated what, in my perspective, is evil. What I'm tryin to say is that the distinction between Conviction and Conscience is subtle, arbitrary and mechanically unnecessary. Sometimes one's sins would test one's conviction, sometimes they will prick or fail to prick one's conscience.

                          Self-control and Instinct are different because they have mechanical differences that are worth keeping.

                          On the issue of Humanity as the natural path, I'd like to bring an extreme example: the Aztecs believed they had to ritually sacrifice human beings and eat them to allow the universe to continue. Failure to perform the sacrifices would lead to a weakening of the gods, which would, in turn, lead to the destruction of the universe.
                          At this point, I apologise if this explanation is reductive of Aztec beliefs. I admit having only read wikipedia pages about it. End of the disclaimer.
                          Take an Aztec human or vampire. He seriously believes that sacrifice is for the sake of the universe. It may be something he does not enjoy. Maybe he approaches it as a duty, rather than as an abuse. Or maybe he is joyful because he knows this sacrifice will serve a great purpose and be appreciated by those to whom he - and everybody else - owes his life. Maybe he is also joyful because something in his soul enjoys the sight of the blood and the feeling of power, and he is happy that that feeling, rather than being displeasing to the gods, is pleasing to them, so he's happy that his gods created him naturally in tune with their pleasure, just like a Muslim husband or wife is happy that God is pleased when husband and wife have sex for pleasure, because he does not have to curb his sexuality and feel awkward about it like in some other systems of belief. We'd call that of the Aztec depravity now, but his perspective could be wholly different, and it would not be entirely irrational if one does not question the premise itself that that sacrifice is necessary anyway.
                          Where would this Aztec man or vampire be placed in a mere Humanity scale? Or rather, how do we account in-game for the fact that he does not do what he does because the Beast tells him to, but because he believes it to be necessary to avoid a greater evil? He is not a beast. The Aztecs had arts, music, poetry and pretty much all the cultural expressions we associate to humanity. But they practised human sacrifice and cannibalism in horrific ways.

                          Second disclaimer: I do not justify human sacrifice, at all. I'm a Muslim (Sufi) and was brought up a Catholic by a Catholic mother and an agnostic father, pretty much to secular values. I believe human sacrifice to be terrible, and likewise cannibalism. But I have been interested in many cultures over the years, and I understand that the human being has gotten to do pretty horrible things under the wrong influence, and it's God's job to judge who actually knew what they were doing, who didn't know, and how they should be treated in the next life. End of the second disclaimer.

                          As far as the game is concerned, there is no major reason to assume a divine truth unless all players and the ST are cool with that. This means not making a particular Path right and the others wrong in some metaphysical-afterlifey way. After all, there are no rules to roleplay your vampire in heaven or hell. It's just this life in-game. At most, the Underworld. The Aztec vampire, who may otherwise be punished (but maybe not, or not so harshly if he was unable to escape the beliefs he was taught from childhood) by the Abrahamic God, may well be a master at controlling his Beast in the game. In fact, constant practice at looking at blood being spilt and hearts being pulled off the chests may strengthen his grip on the Beast instead of weakening it.

                          Just some thoughts to expand the discussion on the limits of the morality system of VtM up to V20. I haven't looked in depth in V5 yet but I can see they handled it differently (better, apparently) than previous editions.

                          Has anyone thought of applying the Orun/Aye Laibon system outside of Africa, btw?

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                          • #14
                            I think I'm being misunderstood but I suppose that's because I haven't put much of my opinion on the subject or the interest I have in the matter here. I'll try and rectify that here.

                            You see, if you actually want to write a story about moral truth.

                            A truth has to exist.

                            Even if it is that there is no truth.

                            This isn't Philosophy 101, so I'm going to use an example that everyone actually knows and communicate through TV tropes basically. Interview with the Vampire is all about Louis' struggle with the fact that he is a Catholic of the 17th century who cannot reconcile the fact he is a mass murderer with the fact that he doesn't want to be. He looks for affirmation of God, morality, and some purpose to undeath that he eventually comes up with nothing on. Anne Rice wrote the story with the explicit acknowledgement that Louis will never find the answers he seeks. God may or may not exist but if he does then he will not share the secrets with him that Louis seeks.

                            He is on Humanity and can't ever get up to a 10. Maybe he's stuck at a 5 forever.

                            Maybe lower.

                            However, one of the themes in The Vampire Lestat is Lestat comes across a Satanic coven of vampires and finds the whole thing fucking ridiculous. The vampires talk at great length about how they are creatures of Satan, how they are meant to torment mortals, and how they're supposed to live with their terrible curse. Lestat then DEMOLISHES all the logic behind the whole thing and tears the entire Path of Enlightenment followers' ideals to shreds. Because their beliefs are stupid. In-universe and out. Armand is the child of someone who predates Christianity and he's the one spouting all the stuff he's heard second and third hand. Lestat, ironically, eventually does meet the Devil and the response he gets is, "This stuff is stupid."

                            I came up with my beliefs about the Paths being misguided and wrong primarily based around The Path of Caine which I have always loved. It has been the number 1# Path of which my characters have followed and I have a religious devotion to. It should be the most interesting and well-justified Path in all of vampiredom.

                            In-universe, the Path of Caine is bullshit.

                            It is, as far as I can tell, the second Path of Enlightenment established as completely wrong. The other being the "False" Path of Paradox the Ravnos traditionalists ABSOLUTELY DESPISE (I'm not sure what the differences are, actually, but they hammer this is Ravnos Revised).

                            The Path of Cain, in-universe, was founded by a bunch of Assamite Antitribu who taught all of their fellow Cainites in the Sabbat a watered-down bullshit version of the Road of Blood with a find/replace for Haqim. It is a path which is all about intelligence, scholarship, and diablerie except the Book of Nod makes it clear that Caine HATED diablerie. It was the ultimate sin. In effect, their entire religion is founded on a pack of lies that leads them away from Caine and made them tools as well as cannon fodder for the Black Hand.

                            It's the version of Christianity about accumulating wealth, fighting wars, and abusing the poor. Not saying such things don't exist but it's a total misunderstanding of the concept.

                            I have a similar note for the Path of Night versus the Road of Night. The Road of Night is about being Batman. You terrify evil doers into repentance or changing their ways. You do not kill them because LASOMBRA BATMAN HAS ONE RULE. The Path of Night? The Path of Night is being an enormous piece of crap for the hell of it. The two have almost nothing in common. The religion has been completely and utterly warped into a caricature of itself.

                            This is interesting stuff to roleplay out. It actually makes the Path scholarship interesting me because you discuss and discover more about what your morality is and how you believe it. Yes, you can get a Level 10 in the Path of Caine but does that mean anything if the entire thing was a con job by a bunch of Assamites? What about the Path of Typhon? The Path of Typhon depends on the idea Set is a god, a god of corruption, and a god who will reward you for leading people away from the Aeons?

                            What if Set is a nice guy? What if Set is not a god? Hesha discovers the 2nd Generation of Vampires exists in Beckett's Jyhad Diary and you KNOW that has got to screw with his head. It might explain why the FOS are now the Ministry since they just discovered their entire religion is founded on false pretenses.

                            I'm interested in roleplaying this kind of stuff out and I like the idea that if you want to play Paths, that you're going to eventually run into the discovery that you are not actually following a religion/morality created by good actors. Because the Paths were created solely to keep the Sabbat from wassail and made from stealing from older cultures as well as faiths. It's the equivalent of techbros going to China for the weekend and explaining Buddhism to you. You may believe passionately in that version of Buddhsim but very likely it is not the "real" Buddhism.

                            I like the idea there's a substantive difference between the Paths and the Roads.

                            But it's up to the players to sort out theri feelings for it.

                            Humanity may not be "right" for vampires but there's some moralities which are objectively wrong because their premises are flat out not true.
                            Last edited by CTPhipps; 10-09-2018, 03:05 PM.


                            Author of Cthulhu Armageddon, I was a Teenage Weredeer, Straight Outta Fangton, Lucifer's Star, and the Supervillainy Saga.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by CTPhipps View Post
                              The discussion of Kindred morality and how it works has come up at my table. I was thinking about how to handle it at my table and was curious how you handled it at yours.

                              Basically, my idea to explain it to my player is that instead of Justin Achilli's "Humanity is the real deal and Paths are evil" I'm going to split the difference by stating that Humanity is the natural Path of humans but Roads are not necessarily evil. They're actually legitimate spiritual and moral pathways (albeit some are pretty damn evil) developed over thousands of years. The Paths, however, are "The central tenant of Buddhism is every man for himself" misunderstandings of them that don't really work. The Path of Caine, for example, is something that every follower will have to learn is just warmed over Road of Blood combined with a bunch of Noddist rhetoric.

                              I am very curious how the V5 system is going to affect how the Paths and Roads work, though.
                              You may very well be correct that the Paths are not as effective in helping a vampire lead a good life, whatever that may mean. I would be careful when Storytelling to not let that opinion overwhelm the way you run npcs, though.

                              For example, the Path of Honorable Accord may very well be, in fact, a pale imitation of the Road of Kings. It may have all the internal contradictions and blurriness one expects from a hundredth generation photocopy. For the npc following the Path of Honorable Accord, however, they need to wake up every night and believe this set of morals is a good choice for them even if that means telling themselves lies a child could detect.

                              The vast majority of characters in any medium do what they do because they believe it is right, or at least the best they can manage while pursuing their personal goals. If you lose sympathy for the characters' points of view, you are headed toward the depiction of cardboard characters.

                              As for the underlying reality of Paths, Roads, or Humanity being most effective at preventing Wassail... well, they all seem to work, and there doesn't seem to be any in-world discussion of "Path A has really high rates of survival, but Path B loses half their followers every year". This fact implies that all a Path really needs to do is take up enough mental space in the follower's head to crowd out the growth of the Beast, like a tree preventing the growth of smaller plants by creating shade.

                              If that's the case, then which Path works best is really a matter of personal preference and what will work well in a given environment. (eg Cathari is easier to follow in a brothel in Las Vegas than among the Amish of Dutch Country)

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