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V5 Touchstones and Humanity; Why I dislike them

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  • Originally posted by elmerg View Post

    You certainly can opt out if the ST says 'hey you can opt out, it's cool'. Yeah, it's not RAW, but holy shit is it THAT difficult to ask your ST to let you opt out of it?
    Let me reiterate what PMark was saying earlier: just because you can change the rule, does not invalidate criticism of that rule.

    We can debate the merits and flaws of the rule, yes, but citing the Golden Rule (whether by name or in spirit, in this case) proves nothing. It just serves to shut down debate.

    We're talking about RAW here. Not someone's house rules, but the rules presented (and sold) to us by the publisher. Those Rules As Written set the tone for the product and how players/storytellers engage with it by default. People are allowed to make value judgements about material they are expected to pay for.
    Last edited by Bluecho; 05-24-2019, 12:08 PM.


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    • Originally posted by Bluecho View Post
      Let me reiterate what PMark was saying earlier: just because you can change the rule, does not invalidate criticism of that rule.

      We can debate the merits and flaws of the rule, yes, but citing the Golden Rule (whether by name or in spirit, in this case) proves nothing. It just serves to shut down debate.

      We're talking about RAW here. Not someone's house rules, but the rules presented (and sold) to us by the publisher. Those Rules As Written set the tone for the product and how players/storytellers engage with it by default. People are allowed to make value judgements about material they are expected to pay for.
      I always found it weird that in a debate about the rules you are only allowed to quote certain rules. Systems and the specific rules therein are not designed in a vacuum but as a whole and in WOD you are meant to houserule. No white wolf system has ever been 100% accepted by 100% of its audience.

      The golden rule in white wolf games is not just a captain obvious style reminder it is a rule that will save you headaches, frustrations and arguments if you follow it. It is the only immutable rule. I also found it funny that, if you don't follow the golden rule you are house ruling the rules and therefore following the golden rule. Because you can't change the Golden Rule you can only follow it. but I digress.

      I do now agree with PMark that bringing up the Golden Rule creates a circular argument. Didn't see it before until now. To me, it ended the debate and gave the solution, all in one quoting of the rules. But if you view the Golden rule as a captain obvious style reminder rather than a rule in and of itself then you just change the debate and continue infinatum. But I also think this is a silly debate as both sides are valid in their opinions so it is something that could go on indefinitely anyway. So since the horse seems to be thoroughly beaten to death I will move on to something more fruitful. If anyone wants to discuss way to houserule the system to make it more applicable across the board

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      • Speaking of Humanity, shouldn't we address the fact that The Ministry has a Compulsion that drives them to violate Tenets and Convictions? How the hell does your character maintain their Humanity over the course of the chronicle, if your clan weakness forces you to constantly violate it?

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        • Originally posted by Redwulfe View Post

          I always found it weird that in a debate about the rules you are only allowed to quote certain rules. Systems and the specific rules therein are not designed in a vacuum but as a whole and in WOD you are meant to houserule. No white wolf system has ever been 100% accepted by 100% of its audience.

          The golden rule in white wolf games is not just a captain obvious style reminder it is a rule that will save you headaches, frustrations and arguments if you follow it. It is the only immutable rule. I also found it funny that, if you don't follow the golden rule you are house ruling the rules and therefore following the golden rule. Because you can't change the Golden Rule you can only follow it. but I digress.

          I do now agree with PMark that bringing up the Golden Rule creates a circular argument. Didn't see it before until now. To me, it ended the debate and gave the solution, all in one quoting of the rules. But if you view the Golden rule as a captain obvious style reminder rather than a rule in and of itself then you just change the debate and continue infinatum. But I also think this is a silly debate as both sides are valid in their opinions so it is something that could go on indefinitely anyway. So since the horse seems to be thoroughly beaten to death I will move on to something more fruitful. If anyone wants to discuss way to houserule the system to make it more applicable across the board
          It's cause neither the people who consider it an invalid aspect of a mechanics discussion, nor the people who consider it valid really thinks about its purpose and how it affects other rules.

          Something like the golden rule doesn't exist disconnected from other mechanics. And it has a specific purpose. In old school storyteller, the point was very much that the game didn't tell you how to play. It only supplied a framework.

          That's why you get something like the old school path system. 'this is something your character has to consider, it is part of his nature', but then it didn't tell you how your character approaches it or what he thinks about it. And later it gave you even more options in form of different paths.

          And then yes, some people either ignored the path system or used it poorly I suppose. That is a disadvantage of giving people freedom. They might focus on the things they like, or fail at using something as well as they could.

          But v5 steps away from that. The tenets/touchstones dictactes to you how your character approaches their Path. That makes it discordant with a "setting over rules" game design perspective. Not the only thing it does obviously, but I guess that is off topic.

          But just with the path tenet system you get something like:

          Old school:
          Disregard rules when they get in the way of the story <- narrative/setting over rules
          Here's the path system, approach it however you want <- narrative/setting over rules

          V5
          Disregard rules when they get in the way of the story <- narrative/setting over rules
          Here's the conviction system, characters must care about custom values, care about social bonds, and must care about humans <- mechanics directs how to play, ie mechanics over narrative/setting

          The first is... more in line with itself, the second contradicts itself.

          V5 is kind of a funky hybrid between "rules directs play" game design while trying to retain ye old "play directs rules" perspective of the old school game.

          I still don't mind the touchstones that much.... but it should be better setup...as I said before it's a "ceiling first" kind of way of creating a connection to someone.

          I've been thinking of how to improve it. Not sure at all honestly. So far I've considered a bunch of different ideas:

          * Have the touchstone explicitly be a 'human relationship', not a human. Ie you can care about other vampires if you want, or even places and stuff, but it has to be in a human way. Cause the entire point of them is to retain your humanity. (might not really give you that much more freedom)

          * Extend the creation process of touchstones to help construct them more organically. Scrap the ambition and desire parts of the character sheet and instead have the character define something like Attitude and Preferences and use those to base the touchstone off. (might just be extra pointless steps, but if you make it a little bit more character defining than just some morality pet your character has, it might be easier to immediately come up with ideas and have a higher ratio of them actually work in play and not get sidelined...)

          * Same as above, but instead base the presteps for creating touchstones off ye olde "physical", "social", "mental" category, to allow your vampire to define himself by whom he cares and associates with (this would be neat, because it would very organically let people create stuff like 'I'm an academic, and my peers are also academics, and they keep me sane', or you could do something like 'I'm a musclebound thug pretty much, but all my friends are nerds', but it feels a bit gimmicky, and might devolve into just a clumsier version of the background system, Though I suppse touchstones already are a very odd version of allies...).
          * Ignoring all of the above, just let people explicitly create whatever kind of touchstone they want, human, vampire, place, or object. (The lazy option)

          It's... I want to make it more intuitive for the player than just "Make up what you care about!", want to push back against the "system dictates story", want to retain "character design generates npcs", want to figure out how to handle "touchstones is clearly there as an easy way for an st to generate drama and conflict"...

          Meh, I can't come up with something I'm happy with. I'll think about it more later.

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          • One thing always bugged me about humanity in general is that it was always treated as a morality health bar so players ignore since the beginning or from the point where they are already mass murders.

            Requiem 2ED did something innovative and logic by allowing as an optional measure to not degenerate upon comiting certain actions in exchange of picking additional banes , so elders were powerful but had secret weakness that could be used against them and where also an important meassure of how much did sunlight hurt you.

            V5 could have took this further by keeping the traditional sins hierarchy but allowing the players to get tenets/convictions in exchange of extra banes or compulsions imitating paths but with more customization , they could also have made humanity more important by it also decide bane severity as the more powerful the beast becomes the more of the antediluvian personality and curse filters trought the vampire body.

            COULD


            Hunger pool

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            • Originally posted by Nyrufa View Post
              Speaking of Humanity, shouldn't we address the fact that The Ministry has a Compulsion that drives them to violate Tenets and Convictions? How the hell does your character maintain their Humanity over the course of the chronicle, if your clan weakness forces you to constantly violate it?

              I feel like a better alternative to this would be to only have the compulsion apply to manipulating other people into violating the Tenets / Convictions, rather than have The Ministry be vulnerable to it as well. That way, they can still be dedicated to the corruption of society, without placing their character on the fast track to becoming unplayable!

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              • Originally posted by Nyrufa View Post
                I feel like a better alternative to this would be to only have the compulsion apply to manipulating other people into violating the Tenets / Convictions, rather than have The Ministry be vulnerable to it as well. That way, they can still be dedicated to the corruption of society, without placing their character on the fast track to becoming unplayable!
                Funny you should say that because that is the Compulsion as it stands - as soon as someone, either the serpent themself or someone else, has broken a chronicle tenet due to the Minister's urging, the Compulsion ends.
                (It's also unclear whether the created stain can be canceled by a Conviction, but that's presumably something for groups to discuss.)

                CoriolisEffect
                I disagree. I think the difference between the editions is that V5 now knows what it wants to be and supports that with its mechanics. That of course creates problems for those who want it to be something else, but I assume the compendium that Modiphius announced will provide a few system hacks to tweak it in other directions.

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                • Originally posted by Cifer View Post
                  Funny you should say that because that is the Compulsion as it stands - as soon as someone, either the serpent themself or someone else, has broken a chronicle tenet due to the Minister's urging, the Compulsion ends.
                  Ah, I see now. My mind kind of glossed over that part. So it's not quite as self destructive as I thought?

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                  • Originally posted by Cifer View Post
                    CoriolisEffect
                    I disagree. I think the difference between the editions is that V5 now knows what it wants to be and supports that with its mechanics. That of course creates problems for those who want it to be something else, but I assume the compendium that Modiphius announced will provide a few system hacks to tweak it in other directions.
                    At first, I was trepidatious about the player's guide but now I am looking forward to seeing the optional rules in writing and seeing what they thought needed to have options.

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                    • Originally posted by Nyrufa View Post
                      Ah, I see now. My mind kind of glossed over that part. So it's not quite as self destructive as I thought?
                      Yeah, the goal is corruption rather than degeneration. The whole seductive-corrupting-temptation thing the Ministry does.

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                      • Originally posted by CTPhipps View Post
                        So why are Touchstones a problem other than people hate having relationships with icky mortals?
                        Because they force you to have said relationship regardless of character concept. Make Touchstones a merit that allows you to roll to recover a point of humanity lost that session (and whose death would cost you a point of humanity) and they would be great. Forcing it runs into the same problem that has plagued VtM for a long time; a forced moral system that doesn't function all that well.

                        Honestly, I wish that White Wolf would take the time to write advanced rules for creating individual moral systems and generally have every vamp make use of them. Have broad Roads that provide a framework and let the player tailor a path inside that framework for their character.

                        For example, you have a Road of Humanity with a laundry list of potential sins and some mechanical benefits. Maybe for one character killing people in combat is a level 8 Sin but killing an innocent is a level 1 Sin and stealing is a level 3 Sin, and then you have another character for whom killing regardless of circumstances is a level 4 sin but stealing might only be a level 8 sin.

                        You create a path that fits your character, get ST approval for it, and away you go. If you manage to fall to level 3 then you can potentially create a new path on the same road that is more inline with your characters views and switch to that by burning a point of permanent willpower and succeeding on the appropriate roll. If you want to switch Roads though, it is the same thing but you have to be at level 1 on your Path and thus the check is harder.

                        So a Path on the Road of Humanity is never going to allow, for example, wanton murder or rape but a Path on the Road of Dominance may well actually have a potential sin be to have a consensual sexual relationship. Or the Road of Blood might have one of its Sin's be not killing someone every day.

                        Ultimately the whole, in story, justification for humanity is to be an internal code to strengthen your ability to resist/control the beast. And as paths prove, what that code is is largely immaterial. What matters is how strongly you hold to it and how committed you are to whatever your code may be. So write the rules to actually express that.

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                        • Mind you, I think the Paths are mostly nonsensical and I'm not actually a huge fan of, "Everything is completely relative." Dark Ages did a semi-decent job of it but I have a lot of expeience with, "The Path of Whatever I want to do."

                          Which makes a mockery of any game that focuses on morality.

                          Which I do a lot of.

                          Moral dilemmas are one of the big things of Vampire for me.


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

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                          • Originally posted by CTPhipps View Post
                            Mind you, I think the Paths are mostly nonsensical and I'm not actually a huge fan of, "Everything is completely relative." Dark Ages did a semi-decent job of it but I have a lot of expeience with, "The Path of Whatever I want to do."
                            Originally posted by CTPhipps View Post

                            Which makes a mockery of any game that focuses on morality.

                            Which I do a lot of.

                            Moral dilemmas are one of the big things of Vampire for me.
                            Oh no, Path's and player created morality can be so much better for a story than humanity ever manages.

                            You are reborn and sometime relatively quickly it hits you that you are no longer human. Perhaps your sire fires half a dozen bullets through your chest or stabs a pool cue through your heart and leaves you there for a day or two to make the point sink home. You aren't human and trying to delude yourself into believing that you are or that you can live as one is virtually guaranteed to doom you to the Beast inside a decade as the sheer hypocrisy of your existence under human moral codes will become too much for you to stomach.

                            Your sire tells you that if you want to survive the decades, centuries, and even millennia that you could theoretically see then you must develop some code that 1) you can live with and 2) accepts that you are a vampire and what that means. Role-play in story the agony of the character falling down the humanity ladder as she gets a first hand look at just what being a vamp night after night means, realizing that their sire is right and that if they want to escape devolution into a raging beast of no intelligence then they must come up with something else; and that it is probably a good idea to figure out this new code before they become too jaded to even recognize their human self's morality/ethics.

                            What separates the newborn from the neonate and singles that they are ready to face the Court is when they successfully make the jump onto their chosen Path. Most vamp's will fail but some succeed. Then the character must live their newly created code until it becomes not just comfortable but something that is so fundamentally them that they don't even have to think about it any more. Someone who is Path 10 doesn't regularly fall not because it is hard to fall but because they only reached that point by internalizing their code to the point where it is simply how they are and they barely conceive of not following it.

                            Your new code might see no problem with killing those who threaten your survival but when you start on that path you are still human in thought and morality. Role-play the character coming to grips with that difference, and have them roll when the situation comes along not to fall but to succeed. Say that the level 1 sin/tenet on your new Path is "I will not kill anyone who doesn't threaten my survival." Well when someone does threaten your survival you have to roll on your path to kill them and/or after you do to see whether or not you internalize that point. Failing the roll doesn't cost you a rank on the Path but it does bar you from improving it until you pass said test and you are expected to role-play the internal conflict and agonies as you not just become steadily more of a monster but do so intentionally, knowingly, and of your own free will in an effort to preserve some fraction of your sanity and those truths you consider most important to the core of who you are.

                            Now you can still choose humanity but this truly is the path of the saint. You are going to have to be more human than human because simply going with the flow of being a vamp is going to have you are humanity 3 in very short order (relative to your lifespan). I mean breaking down a door or slashing the tires on another vamp's car to make him late to a meeting are rank 5 sins (intentional destruction of property) while killing someone in a frenzy is a rank 4 sin. You won't survive the Court in the long term if you can't carry out planned murder or similar violations, because someone else hungry for your position will come along and take you out while your moralize. And that is a rank 3 sin. And then, one day, you backhand some neonate out of your way with potence for leaning on your car or talking back to you or whatever; a rank 2 sin.

                            Not being able to tell good, interesting, and fun stories on the "Path of Whatever I want to do" has much less to do with the path than it does with you and your story teller missing the point of the game.

                            I mean take Path of Blood, that is widely considered to be about the top of the "whatever I want". Not eating your enemies is a level 2 sin. It doesn't matter that the prince is sitting right there, his Sheriff stopped you from completing your mission and so he is your enemy. You can't simply walk away or move on, you need to at least be actively planning how to eat the Sheriff if not simply attacking him outright on the spot. Do you attempt to eat him, and in the process mark yourself as an enemy of the Cam with everyone out for your head? Or do you refuse and risk your path?

                            The paths of whatever you want tend to deeply and fundamentally conflict with the Camarilla's views on proper vampire conduct and vampire society. And the Camarilla's response to things that publicly conflict with their rules is to destroy the offender. It's actually easier in a Cam game, in a great many respects, to play a low humanity Vamp than it is to play a path. Of course, that has its own issues.

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                            • Honestly, there's no such thing as the "Path of Whatever I Want to Do."

                              Every path the game has to offer all have a philosophical reason for justifying why they behave the way that they do.

                              Yes, there are Paths which encourage the vampire to be a horrific monster, but they always carry out their acts with some kind of purpose behind them.

                              The Beast is a mindless creature. It doesn't give the faintest shit about politics, or religion, or morality, or societal norms. The only thing it wants to do is indulge itself without cease, until something finally manages to destroy it.

                              So long as you focus your behavior on achieving something greater than satisfying your base impulses, you can fend off the Beast.

                              The Path of Humanity is simply not the best fit for the majority of older vampires out there, who have become desensitized over the decades of existence as a blood sucking monster.

                              That is what the Paths of Enlightenment are there to help solve. They give the vampire a new sense of direction, than clinging to a system that is fundamentally impossible for them to hold on to.

                              Anybody who thinks following a Path of Enlightenment is just an excuse for the character to behave like a monster is missing one very important piece of knowledge... you ARE a monster!

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                              • Yeah, I disagree and bluntly think that leads to players not ever having to worry about losing their humanity or failing to live up to the ideals of their morality.

                                Anybody who thinks following a Path of Enlightenment is just an excuse for the character to behave like a monster is missing one very important piece of knowledge... you ARE a monster!
                                And once you accept that, then you're an NPC doomed to become a feral thing that will die quickly.

                                The importance of the game is trying NOT to be a monster.

                                That's the central tenant of the game.

                                You are cursed and can never be anything but a thing you do not want to be and hate.

                                But you struggle anyway.

                                The Sisyphian Boulder.


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

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