Monthly Archives: March 2014

Sickness and Morals and Iconics, Oh My!

So, last weekend was a killer. Promptly after reading an article about not allowing distractions to keep you from writing, I was forced to allow distractions to keep me from writing. Sort of.

Friday had me doing a little yard work while I babysat my mother and then waited for her to come back from dialysis. Saturday was D&D for Kids and our regular home game. Then Sunday, I ended up sick as a dog, again after yardwork. There was no relation between the yard work and the illness, I’m sure.

The stomach flu was pretty nasty, and while I was really sick only Sunday night, I was in pretty bad shape Monday, and basically laid around and recovered. I worked Tuesday through Thursday (which means I got some good thinking/writing time in, while the past couple of days were pretty much social and chore time.

Tuesday, something made me remember a class I’d had in college regarding morality systems. Maybe later this week I’ll write an article I’ll stick up on my LiveJournal on morals and politics that I owe a friend, but I was thinking about these systems in relationship to the philosophies of the mystic Orders of the StarSea.

I haven’t cared for the alignment systems of D&D for a long time. The original Three Alignment System, which became the Nine Alignment system, has been problematic for me, and especially so after said class (in fact, at that time, I was playing World of Darkness games). The original system was obviously based on Moorcock’s Lords of Law and Chaos (since those early alignments were named “Lawful” and “Chaotic”) with “Good” and “Evil” being added later. I found eventually found the systems flawed and too dependent on DM definitions. For example, I always hated “Chaotic Neutral” or at least the way most people played it (as an excuse to behave in a random manner). My definition of Chaotic was always as a counter to Lawful’s “society first” orientation. Chaotic alignments are very individual oriented in my mind, which I think was supported in Second Edition. Admittedly, there’s going to be a bit of DM/GM with any morals or philosophy system, but I’m hoping to define things in such a way as to make it easier for prospective DM/GMs.

The book we used in the class, Applying Moral Theories by C.E. Harris, Jr., puts forward the idea that all morals systems can be boiled down into one of four basic systems: Self-Interest (or Egoism); Natural Law; Utilitarianism; and Respect for Persons.

  • Egoism is based on the standard that what is moral is what is good for the individual acting. Thus, morality spawns purely from the individual.
  • Natural Law is a moral system based on the idea that people are naturally inclined to do good, and not following this natural inclination is immoral. Most religious systems have some variation on this, such as attributing the aforementioned inclination as god-given (whether Yahweh or another such god).
  • Utilitarianism is can be summed up as “the Good of the Many outweigh the Good of the Few.” An example of this in the book is the justification of torture to get information to find the location of a bomb, as the torture would save the most lives, while potentially destroying the body of the tortured and the spirit of the torturer.
  • Respect for Persons is based on the “Golden Rule” idea: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” By this system, living creatures (and especially human beings) should have their lives treated with respect, and not as a means (as in “the ends justify the means’). In other words, the person behind the counter should be treated as a living being, and not a robot taking your money for goods, and they should treat you as more than the source of their paycheck.

The book examined each moral system, and how it worked, and whether it was internally consistent, as well as how it appears in the real world, with real world examples from the headlines of the times.

So, the other day, I started a bit of codification of how I thought of each Order in respect to these four systems, and as I write up the Orders and their codes, I will be referring to these notes to keep the codes in line. For example, the Jedi Order of the Star Wars movies seems to be fairly utilitarian. The Jedi are expected to give up their emotions to protect the society around them, and the use of their mind control powers on criminals (in the Jedis view) seems pretty casual (for example, when Obi-Wan Kenobi mind controls the barfly trying to sell him thermal detonators in Attack of the Clones). The Sith in those same movies are very much followers of a Egoist moral system: only they seems to know what is good for anyone else, and their personal pleasure takes precedent over the injury they might cause to another. Any cutthroat tactic is allowed to achieve they ends the Sith wants.

Finally, I also got a really solid concept for at least one of my iconic characters for the StarSea. Iconic characters have become a mainstay of gaming since White Wolf Games Studio started using them in the World of Darkness games in the ’90s, and I have to say that I like them myself. It gives the author a way to really direct the future DM/GMs and players as to how the setting works and feels. I figure I need a number of these guys, so that I can give my audience a feel for four or five different factions. I’m sure as I get to firming up my ideas, the iconic character concepts will flow a little better.

Anyway, I have to get up and drive in the morning and it’s getting late, so I need to cut this short. Later.

Again, I haven’t netfaded…

The past couple of weeks have had their ups and downs. After my last real post on February 25th, I found myself distracted, both by real life and just a variety of things. Car issues, family issues, handyman duties, etc., all found a way to draw me away from focusing on other things, like reading, writing and being creative.

I managed to finish the Kobold Guide to World Building, but the last article was a bear, as I’m not especially interested in licensed work (AKA playing in other people’s sandbox) right now, so I found the article a little boring. But there were definitely other articles that garnered my attention, such as the articles on organization building and bible creation. Sound articles with lots of good ideas and methodologies.

Last week, I got the FATE Freeport Companion, and read the crunchy bits, only skimming the rest as I’m neither a Lovecraft nor a pirate fan. For all of that, it has pretty well solidified my decision to use FATE to run the StarSea. I generally liked the d20-to-FATE “conversion”, so much that I think it will shape at least some amount of what I create for the StarSea. There are parts I’m not a fan of, such as the D&D attributes as the skill base, or the way weapons and armor are stated, but I can see reasons to do both, especially the Six Stats as Skills for my game. It gives players who are more familiar to D&D a base of understanding for their game. I think the weapons and armor rules were an attempt at simplifying similar rules presented in the FATE Core Toolkit. But these are more bugaboos for me, and I’ll be taking their intent into account as I do my own writing.

Some of my thoughts on magic are needing to be rethought, as some of my reading pointed out an internal inconsistency I want to resolve. It’s nature versus it’s use are presently a bit at odds, so I need to take some time to tinker with things to resolve the issue.

I haven’t done any work on the “galactic” map since I created it. It’s been percolating in the back of my mind as I’ve been looking at images of the Milky Way Galaxy (or Earth’s viewpoint of it). It’s very much in the air right now, so I’m not particularly worried about details right now.

Friends and I watched Thor: The Dark World again last week, and I was reminded about how much I liked the battle scenes in Asgard, and how I want it to be able to point to those scenes as examples of play. It also helped me resolve an issue; part of me as thinking I needed fighter ships, like X-Wings. Nope, that part can be played by “skiffs” with weapons.

The Boy hasn’t pushed on the Warcraft rip-off I was doing, but we did download the WCIII Demo so he could get a feel for it. However, because he hasn’t pushed on it, I haven’t really done any work on it, except making a list of monsters to serve as “creeps”, as WCIII calls them (“wandering monsters” to us Old Timers). I plan on dividing them up into rings, so that some of the critters make more sense around the center of the map, where my Most Evil Enemy lies in wait. They’ll essentially be a 5th army that the Boy will have to face, which will be easier if he makes as many allies as he can before he faces them.

Well, my eyes now feel like gritty little balls again, so I think I’m going to call it a night. Later.

In honor of GM’s Day

I wrote this filk of Shakespeare’s Henry V “St. Crispin’s Day” speech when Gary Gygax died in 2008. I thought I’d repost it here.

To misquote the Bard:

He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say ‘To-morrow is Game Master’s.’
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say ‘These wounds I had on Gee Em’s day.’
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall their names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Gary the King, Arneson and Stafford,
Jackson and Miller, Rein-Hagen and Perrin*-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Gee Em Gee Em shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that rolls his dice with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That gamed with us upon GM’s day.

*Gary the King = Gary Gygax
Arneson = Dave Arneson, Gary’s co-author
Stafford = Greg Stafford, creator of Runequest
Jackson = Steve Jackson, creator of GURPS
Miller = Mark Miller, creator of Traveller
Rein-Hagen = creator of the Storyteller System
Perrin = Stafford’s co-author