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.