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[4e] Humanity and the Virtues

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  • [4e] Humanity and the Virtues

    Looking at the matter of Humanity and the Virtues from the perspective of the Virtues:

    • Courage lets you resist the Beast's fears (as well as your own); that is, it lets you resist the flight impulse.
    • Self-Control lets you resist the Beast's compulsions (as well as your own); that is, it lets you resist the fight impulse.

    Between these two, you have both intimidation and temptation covered. What else is there?

    Conscience is an odd duck. It's not a roll to avoid doing something foolish as Courage and Self-Control are; instead, it's a roll to avoid the personal consequences of having done something wrong. In its case, “doing something wrong” is defined by the Hierarchy of Sins, and the personal consequence is losing a dot of Humanity. This inversion comes from the fact that “doing the right thing" is often foolish in the World of Darkness, at least in the short term.

    Frankly, if 4e is going to change somethng pertaining to Humanity and the Virtues, I'd want it to be how Conscience works. I'm not quite sure how I'd want it to be done; but consider some possibilities:

    • What if Humanity loss was done as a voluntary player choice? That is, you don't lose Humanity by violating your Conscience; that hurts (in a mechanical way that needs to be specified — something painful but temporary), but doesn't cost you Humanity. But any time you suffer from violating your Conscience, you can choose to never again be bothered by that particular sin. Your Humanity drops by one, but you never again have to worry about violating your Conscience in that way. This keeps the notion that the lower your Humanity is, the fewer Sins bother you; but instead of a rigid Hierarchy of Sins, you decide the order that things cease to be sinful.
    • What if the Conscience roll has a variable difficulty, based on the severity of the atrocity involved?
    • What if Conscience rewards you in some way for doing the right thing, instead of or in addition to punishing you for Sins? That is, when you do the right-but-seemingly-foolish thing, you get some sort of reward (e.g., restored Willpower) to help you get through the trouble that you're letting yourself get into.
    • What if the Conscience trait has nothing to do with what happens when you commit a Sin, but instead plays some sort of role in a subsequent act of contrition?

    Synthesizing some of these into a different take on Humanity and Conscience:
    • Committing a Sin exposes you to Guilt, a penalty that serves as a sort of mental counterpart to physical injuries. If you want to differentiate by the severity of a sin, do so by assigning a more severe Guilt penalty for a more serious Sin. This Guilt hangs around for the rest of the scene. Note that the human Virtues do not mitigate this Guilt: Self-Control and Courage deal with other things, and the last thing your Conscience is going to do is to let you off the hook.
    • At the end of any scene where the vampire has Guilt, the player has three choices: he can simply remove the Guilt; he can choose to Degenerate (his Humanity drops by one, the Guilt goes away, and the Sin that caused the Guilt gets crossed off the list of Sins, never again to cause further Guilt); or he can choose to Atone (the Guilt sticks around for at least another scene). Possibly make it a binary choice on the player's part: make a Conscience check (success puts you on the path of Atonement, failure releases the Guilt, a botch causes Degeneration) or release the Guilt without a roll, so that the player never has to deal with persistent Guilt if he doesn't want to.
    • If the vampire chooses to Atone, he continues to hold onto the Guilt until an opportunity to atone presents itself, or until he changes his mind and lets go of the Guilt (you can only Degenerate during the scene when you acquired the Guilt). Assuming the vampire succeeds in atoning, the Guilt goes away and the player rolls Conscience to see what benefits were gained (e.g., regain a dot of Humanity).
    • Whenever Humanity goes down, cross off an appropriate Sin. Conversely: whenever Humanity goes up, add an appropriate Sin to the list, as you now hold yourself to a higher standard.

    Paths of Enlightenment would work in a similar fashion, but with inhuman lists of Sins, with one or both of Conscience and Self-Control replaced by Conviction and Instinct, and without many of the benefits of Humanity (e.g., the ones that involve interacting with ordinary humans). Conviction would differ from Conscience in that it can be used to suppress Guilt right off the bat (treat like a Soak roll); but doing so usually eliminates the subsequent potential for atonement (no Guilt, no Atonement). Instinct would differ from Self-Control in the same way it currently does.

    Another possibility would be to give both Self-Control and Courage “Instinct counterparts” that don't let you resist the way Self-Control and Courage do, but do let you “ride the wave”, maintaining some semblance of control during the episode. Maybe “Caution” as the counterpart for Courage…
    Last edited by Dataweaver; 11-14-2015, 02:32 AM.



  • #2
    I'm not sure I like this. The whole point of Humanity/moralitt is that it is simething both under your control and also outside of it. That is, ultimately you always choose to do the things that risk your moral degeneration, but no matter how you rationalize it or try to hide it, even from yourself l, you cant control how you feel about things or deal with them afterwards.

    I don't really see a need for a change, especially as the mechanic functions just fine to represent the slow fight against the decline of your morality.

    The more often you do things you don't feel right about, the more likely it is you will become jaded towards those things. Its not assured, but it shouldn't be 100%. Its a gamble.


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    • #3
      Originally posted by Beckett View Post
      I don't really see a need for a change, especially as the mechanic functions just fine to represent the slow fight against the decline of your morality.
      While I'm on a very different conceptual idea of how to address these things (shameless plug for my own thread on this!), I don't see how you can really defend this statement.

      The function of Conscience is one of the biggest issues with the VtM Humanity system. Consider that in the current system (baring ST fiat), the Humanity 10, Conscience 5 vampire rolls the same exact thing for purposefully blowing up a hospital as they do for having a selfish thought. There is, in the RAW system, no difference in difficulty, or dice-pool, between these two acts. That is not the mechanic functioning just fine to represent the slow fight against the decline of your morality. It's a mechanic that shoves you into Humanity 3-5 unless you want to jump to a Path or want to make high Humanity a central aspect of your character.

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      • #4
        Exactly.

        FWIW, I didn't start this thread to discuss the last part of my original post, where I outlined one possible solution to the issues; rather, I was hoping to get a discussion going about the first part of my original post, where I addressed what the issues are as well as other posters' ideas about what needs fixing and how to go about it.


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        • #5
          Well what I think needs fixing:

          1) Conscience/Conviction. Set difficulties against any and all sins makes the system unfun and less likely to be engaged in. Rolling after the fact is also problematic. These traits are supposed to help you navigate your moral path, but you never get to roll them to get an idea of if something is a threat to that path or not.

          2) Dropping the hierarchy of sins. They're overly simplistic and often nonsensical. If you want to keep some sort of scale like this, examples are fine, but the logic of what is a sin and what isn't a sin against Humanity/Path should be evident from the philosophy of the ethical code in question. Hierarchies also impart extremely specific interpretations. Humanity's sins aren't really about enforcing being human, or being a good human in general. They just operate on a fairly Christian influence heavy vague humanist code of conduct.

          3) More incentives to engage and invest in the system besides role-play. The benefits of high Humanity are minimal (which is understandable form a thematic perspective, but there are limits to how far you can make the "right" way punishing before it's just pointless). Humanity/Paths and Virtues should be something players want to have because they do things, not because without them they get barred from doing things.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Heavy Arms View Post

            While I'm on a very different conceptual idea of how to address these things (shameless plug for my own thread on this!), I don't see how you can really defend this statement.

            The function of Conscience is one of the biggest issues with the VtM Humanity system. Consider that in the current system (baring ST fiat), the Humanity 10, Conscience 5 vampire rolls the same exact thing for purposefully blowing up a hospital as they do for having a selfish thought. There is, in the RAW system, no difference in difficulty, or dice-pool, between these two acts. That is not the mechanic functioning just fine to represent the slow fight against the decline of your morality. It's a mechanic that shoves you into Humanity 3-5 unless you want to jump to a Path or want to make high Humanity a central aspect of your character.

            Add to that High conscience allows one to more readily commit wicked acts(because you won't mechanically suffer) it creates an odd mechanical insentivization the sociopath walks the straight and narrow while the person who feels every murder as if it were hisown can go on killing sprees with greater impunity.

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            • #7
              Yes, though at least that is somewhat tempered by the fact that Humanity below 5 will reduce your Virtue dice pools. If you have Humanity 4 and Conscience 5, you roll 4 dice.

              I'm also a bit hesitant to call a Conscience 1 character a sociopath.... which actually leads me to:

              4) Decouple Derangements from bad Degenerate checks. While on occasion it might make sense, it is in general a bad idea to have "bad actions lead you to developing mental diseases." This is actually a great place to replace the vague, "High Humanity vampires look human, and low Humanity vampires look not," with something more concrete like having a list of traditional vampire weaknesses that manifest instead. This lets you explain more than "just because?" for a lot of supernatural Flaws at creation (lost some Humanity in backstory and lost my shadow in the process). And generally speaking results in less human vampires more naturally.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Heavy Arms View Post
                Yes, though at least that is somewhat tempered by the fact that Humanity below 5 will reduce your Virtue dice pools. If you have Humanity 4 and Conscience 5, you roll 4 dice.

                I'm also a bit hesitant to call a Conscience 1 character a sociopath.... which actually leads me to:
                There aren't alot of other words for "person without a conscience" my point is mechanically the person with conscience can and does get away with being a much worse person vs someone who feels nothing.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Dataweaver View Post
                  Frankly, if 4e is going to change somethng pertaining to Humanity and the Virtues, I'd want it to be how Conscience works. I'm not quite sure how I'd want it to be done; but consider some possibilities:
                  Interesting debate. I feel like the “roll after the fact” aspect was made with player agency as a major concern in mind.

                  I’d likely opt to make the mechanic of rolling for Conscience take place before the fact, whenever confronted with a momentous decision that would go ostensibly against a character’s personal ethics at their given level in the hierarchy of sins (properly loosened up as per Heavy Arms’ suggestion?).

                  If you pass, you rationalize; if you fail, you deter yourself from doing it. After failing the roll the player can then accept a permanent reduction to their morality rating to go ahead with the deed anyway, thus preserving player agency.

                  Edit:

                  In light of later responses to this thread, one could also switch the "rationalize" and "deter yourself" results around, to better simulate the concept of Conscience. Also, instead, of an outright permanent reduction, could go with a standard Degeneration test instead.

                  Originally posted by Dataweaver View Post
                  • What if Humanity loss was done as a voluntary player choice? That is, you don't lose Humanity by violating your Conscience; that hurts (in a mechanical way that needs to be specified — something painful but temporary), but doesn't cost you Humanity. But any time you suffer from violating your Conscience, you can choose to never again be bothered by that particular sin. Your Humanity drops by one, but you never again have to worry about violating your Conscience in that way. This keeps the notion that the lower your Humanity is, the fewer Sins bother you; but instead of a rigod Hierarchy of Sins, you decide the order that things cease to be sinful.
                  Sapping Willpower seems like an apt way to represent a violation of conscience.

                  That said, I find the idea of “edit your own grab-bag of sins” to be problematic if not downright irrealistic. The rigid hierarchy (well, if it’s not rigid, no sense in even calling it a Hierarchy at all) is, I feel, adequate at conveying moral decline… you just don’t find many cases of “killing is well within my moral purview but stealing is certainly not”.

                  Similarly, actively choosing which sin to be bothered by as one refines one’s ethics is something just begging to be abused and when coupled with the tenets of Paths of Enlightenment it could get downright ugly.

                  Originally posted by Dataweaver View Post
                  • What if the Conscience roll has a variable difficulty, based on the severity of the atrocity involved?
                  This one makes the most sense and is the easiest to port into the existing rules.

                  I already implement this as an (untested) house-rule: Sinning at your morality level is a roll of difficulty (4-5-6, adapt to suit your style of play), with further descent on the chart implying a +1 diff per step. I felt like the players were slipping down the slope much too soon and this is an easy on the book-keeping method that will still ensure some degeneration over time (rolling at 3-5 dice is harsh!) while preserving the players from that initial big dip from 7 to 4 that comes in the early stages of play that we’ve all experienced.

                  Originally posted by Dataweaver View Post
                  • What if Conscience rewards you in some way for doing the right thing, instead of or in addition to punishing you for Sins? That is, when you do the right-but-seemingly-foolish thing, you get some sort of reward (e.g., restored Willpower) to help you get through the trouble that you're letting yourself get into.
                  Could work in theory: If a character abstains from committing a sinful act (that was deemed “necessary” and/or would net him significant advantage) the ST might grant a Conscience roll at variable diff. to restore Willpower or, in the case of multiple successes, even a Humanity dot.

                  In practice, I’m not too sure that it would work or make for good drama to have characters being rewarded for abstaining from action. Open to some jarring exploitation, too.


                  Subterranea
                  Last edited by Subterranea; 09-27-2015, 04:00 PM.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Heavy Arms View Post
                    ...This is actually a great place to replace the vague, "High Humanity vampires look human, and low Humanity vampires look not," with something more concrete like having a list of traditional vampire weaknesses that manifest instead. This lets you explain more than "just because?" for a lot of supernatural Flaws at creation (lost some Humanity in backstory and lost my shadow in the process). And generally speaking results in less human vampires more naturally.
                    Very much this.

                    I've long flirted with the thought of associating certain physical and supernatural flaws to age, generation and morality. As pertains to this discussion, presuming morality is where best to chain these flaws, I would follow through on this suggestion and point to this, possibly as a substitution for the bearing modifier:

                    - High rating in Humanity allowing for points in merits that simulate life.

                    - Low rating in Humanity or any rating in a Path imposing points in flaws that single out the PC as unnatural. This could be used to drive home the otherness of kindred path philosophies while turning them into less of an obvious choice vs. the "humanity is a sucker's game" thing we have going on now.


                    Subterranea


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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Dataweaver View Post
                      Exactly.

                      FWIW, I didn't start this thread to discuss the last part of my original post, where I outlined one possible solution to the issues; rather, I was hoping to get a discussion going about the first part of my original post, where I addressed what the issues are as well as other posters' ideas about what needs fixing and how to go about it.
                      Well, no offense, I'm not trying to be argumentative, but I disagree with your premise. Particularly in regards to Conscience. I mean this as criticism, and for discussion, not an accusation.

                      Conscience isn't the roll to avoid personal consequence, but rather balance between higher ideal and pragmatic necessity. It's the part about how you feel and cope rather than how you tell yourself to think. Self-Control and Courage, in a lot of ways are the resistance against "the other guy", but Conscience is the resistance against your true self.


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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Heavy Arms View Post

                        While I'm on a very different conceptual idea of how to address these things (shameless plug for my own thread on this!), I don't see how you can really defend this statement.
                        I don't see how I can, or need to without much more information. . .

                        Originally posted by Heavy Arms View Post
                        The function of Conscience is one of the biggest issues with the VtM Humanity system. Consider that in the current system (baring ST fiat), the Humanity 10, Conscience 5 vampire rolls the same exact thing for purposefully blowing up a hospital as they do for having a selfish thought. There is, in the RAW system, no difference in difficulty, or dice-pool, between these two acts. That is not the mechanic functioning just fine to represent the slow fight against the decline of your morality. It's a mechanic that shoves you into Humanity 3-5 unless you want to jump to a Path or want to make high Humanity a central aspect of your character.
                        While that's true, on the surface, or on paper, you are also forgetting some very important facts, too. 1, while the High Humanity/Path Vampire does need to generally roll the same thing as the Low Humanity/Path Vampire for a particular Sin they both commit, you are ignoring that the High Humanity Vampire is going to have to do so, (in general, not for that one particular Sin) a lot more often, and that means there is a lot more opportunity for them to loose their Humanity and Virtues. Those two things are not Static, they do decline over time, which is kind of the point of the game. A higher Humanity Vampire is going to encounter a lot more circumstances that will potentially degrade their morality, and so needs to be a lot more careful about what they do and how they do it.

                        Having a High Virtue is not is a assurance, but rather a temptation to overstep. It's a false sense of security, not a safety net. And there certainly is a RAW system for handling players that try to abuse it. The ST has every right to apply a penalty to the roll or outright reduce their Humanity or Virtues based on their actions and intentions. It's note codified like the original nWoD system, but it's pretty clearly there and understandable. And remember, the Conscience roll is a Diff 8, and you can not use Willpower (or anything) for it. A Botch means you loose both Humanity and Conscience. A character "purposefully blowing up a hospital" is pretty clearly not terribly remorseful, so by RAW, the ST could easily make that a Diff 10.

                        Also, the point of Conscience isn't that "doing ____ means you become more of a monster". Rather it's "If I do _______, I RISK becoming more of a monster", and so like I said, in my opinion, it works pretty much perfectly. Especially because neither the individual Character or Player needs to fully agree with it to loose a portion of their soul to the Beast.





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                        • #13
                          If a 10 humanity vampire succeeds on a Conscience roll after blowing up a hospital, I would be strongly inclined to give that vampire a derangement. If doing something like that doesn't break your humanity, it sure as hell will break your mind. Like, you refuse to believe it happened, you insist it's a lie or a bad dream, and if someone confronts you over it you have a serious risk of frenzy.

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                          • #14
                            I like the idea of tying the difficulty to just how far below your own Humanity rating an action is. Make it 7+difference, for example. Something two steps below your current rating would be difficulty 9. Anything worse and you'd have to use the thresholds rule from Mage, with the player required to roll multiple successes. It certainly makes more depraved acts more likely to result in degeneration.


                            Writer, publisher, performer
                            Mostly he/his, sometimes she/her IRL https://adam-lowe.com

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Beckett View Post
                              1, while the High Humanity/Path Vampire does need to generally roll the same thing as the Low Humanity/Path Vampire for a particular Sin they both commit, you are ignoring that the High Humanity Vampire is going to have to do so, (in general, not for that one particular Sin) a lot more often, and that means there is a lot more opportunity for them to loose their Humanity and Virtues.
                              I didn't really forget this. This is why I said the system does more to shove you into 3-5 Humanity (depending on how ready you are to kill really) than it does to really represent a slow decline. Humanity 8-10 have such trivial sins that you could drop from 10 to 7 on a bad day without ever doing anything on purpose. Dropping to 5 is slowly, but still not something that's just waiting to happen because it can happen through unintentional actions that result from things vampires have to do (vampires have to feed, so there's always a risk of over feeding by accident). All Humanity sins at 1-3 are a matter of purposeful action, so you're never at a risk of falling to these farther unless you choose to. There's zero risk (well, until your ST decides to force your low Humanity vampire to violate Humanity to create risk if you don't do it yourself, while also not coming off as trying to cheat you out of Humanity dots... such a marvelously contradictory cluster of advice there).

                              A higher Humanity Vampire is going to encounter a lot more circumstances that will potentially degrade their morality, and so needs to be a lot more careful about what they do and how they do it.
                              Ok...

                              But that's why I said the system pushes you into the Humanity 3-5 range, unless you want high Humanity to be a specific focus on your character. High Humanity requires a large investment of both XP and in-character resources to maintain that is so controlling it becomes absolutely central to what you do.

                              And there certainly is a RAW system for handling players that try to abuse it. The ST has every right to apply a penalty to the roll or outright reduce their Humanity or Virtues based on their actions and intentions.
                              Sorry, but this is a flat out Rule Zero Fallacy. "The Conscience mechanics work fine because the ST can fiat results that make sense," means the mechanics are not working fine. If they were working fine, the ST wouldn't need to fix them in play.

                              As far as I'm concerned, it is flatly admitting the RAW don't work. If the RAW worked properly, the ST shouldn't have to toss Golden Rule based penalties on rolls, or declare them auto-fails/auto-botches. The mechanics should have these variables built into the system so the ST doesn't need to override the system to get the desired results the game says are supposed to happen.

                              A character "purposefully blowing up a hospital" is pretty clearly not terribly remorseful, so by RAW, the ST could easily make that a Diff 10.
                              Except, of course, since you roll after you sin, regardless of your mental state before hand, whether or not the character was remorseful is dictated by the results of the roll. Saying, "you aren't remorseful because of the atrocity of your action, +2 difficulty to the roll to determine if you're remorseful or not for doing it," doesn't make any sense. What happens if they succeed... which means they were remorseful all along?

                              Also, the point of Conscience isn't that "doing ____ means you become more of a monster". Rather it's "If I do _______, I RISK becoming more of a monster", and so like I said, in my opinion, it works pretty much perfectly. Especially because neither the individual Character or Player needs to fully agree with it to loose a portion of their soul to the Beast.
                              The point of Conscience isn't either. "Doing ____ and becoming a monster," is the point of Degeneration checks.

                              The point, according to the books, is, "Conscience is a Trait that allows characters to evaluate their conduct with relation to what is 'right' and 'wrong.'" and mechanically (besides degeneration), "Conscience factors into the difficulty of many rolls to avoid committing a transgression." The first part there is zero system for (again, you roll after you do things to feel remorse/justification, not to evaluate your actions), and the second part only really applies to the frenzy mechanics.

                              And it's pretty hard to take your opinion seriously when you've completely dismissed or skipped all the criticisms levied at the RAW. If the best response you have is, "ST fiat patches the holes," you're acknowledging the holes exist. You need more than that to explain why the holes are acceptable (since no system is 100% perfect, there are going to be holes in them, but there's no reason to accept a 50% good mechanic over a 75% good mechanic if the better one exists)..

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