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Idea: Super Hero "Morality scale"


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Re: Idea: Super Hero "Morality scale"

 

Would it work better if we called it "Moderation" rather than "Morality"?

 

Your campaign, your call as to what it's called. :)

 

Personally, if I were doing something like this (which I might for a fantasy campaign, or in a Supers game but without in-game effects), I'd just make it non-circular. If I had to have "Excessive" Good, I'd use the example of Monks who withdraw entirely from society, refusing to intervene in any way in order to avoid doing harm, even unintentionally. "Excessive" Evil would be violence and selfishness that directly harms the actor; examples might include murder-suicides. A group like the Authority becomes a group of people taking objectively Evil actions for what they consider a Good cause.

 

However, that's just my view of Good and Evil; in your campaign, objective Good and Evil are whatever you choose to make them.

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Re: Idea: Super Hero "Morality scale"

 

I've contemplated something similar - I called it a Humanity Rating (not really familiar with the White Wolf system). I haven't really fleshed it out, but I envisioned it was a measure of how much the character concerned himself with individual people as compared to looking at the "big picture". I find the Watchmen, the Authority, and Miracleman as being models of low "Humanity" characters, i.e. they are so interested in making things better en mass that they will eliminate any individual who interferes with their plan. They may have the powers of God, but they don't seem to have the wisdom of God. Superman and Spiderman are going examples of high "Humanity" characters - they are involved with saving the world on a regular basis, but they feel concern themselves with the lives of individual people and continually struggle with the dichotmy. Batman and Iron Man would be examples who are in between. So in my mind the rating was a measure of how much godlike powers resulted in an aloofness and separation from humanity ala "For what shall it profits a man if he gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul".

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Re: Idea: Super Hero "Morality scale"

 

 

The scale should read Good > Neutral > Evil. It should NOT be circular.

 

 

I agree that good, neutral, evil, etc. should be on a straight line.

 

But if we're going to have a truly radical, never-before-done way of measuring the morality of player characters, we would need to measure another trait. As others have hinted at, there are different outlooks of both good and evil. For some, the greater good is what matters most, while others are more concerned with protecting the rights of the individual.

 

Perhaps if we called these traits something like, oh, I don't know, "lawful", "neutral", and "chaotic"...

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Re: Idea: Super Hero "Morality scale"

 

The way I was going to do this was to have a Humanity rating similar to the Sanity Rating except everyone would start at 99. The characters could lose humanity by ignoring individuals for the group as a whole, embracing more and more power, buying off disadvantages, or anything else which seemed to link the character to the rest of humanity. Conversely, characters could gain humanity by making efforts to stay in contact with the common man, which is why Superman would have a higher humanity than Batman. As the character's humanity decreased, I figured he would start to have minuses to perceive the average person's plight, penalties to conversation and persuasion rolls, but he would receive bonuses to deduction rolls for mastermind's plots (if I were Dr. Destroyer, here is what I would do), bonuses to oratory, fear/impressive based presence attacks, etc. Basically as a character became less human, he'd have difficulty noticing and relating to average joe (ala Dr. Manhattan), but he would become more impressive and fearsome as well as be able to better piece together grandiose plans (e.g. Would Superman even consider emergency protocols to defeat the rest of the Justice League?). I haven't fully developed it and it would be a GM aid to roleplaying not an alignment straightjacket. Just my 0.02.

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Re: Idea: Super Hero "Morality scale"

 

Over time, characters will gain the equivalent of zero point disadvantages for one reason or another.

 

In practice, I think the "Humanity" thing would be a function of roleplaying, and the equivalent of a Reputation. (And Hunteds!)

 

I wouldn't be terribly keen on applying blanket "penalties to conversation and persuasion rolls" and the like if characters had spent points on buying them up in the first place.

 

In general, this kind of approach is still a GM imposed constraint on how the character is played. It would only make sense in the case that a player wasn't abiding by the disadvantages that their character had, and wouldn't necessarily be the best approach in this case.

 

I don't like it, in other words. YMMV.

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Re: Idea: Super Hero "Morality scale"

 

Stellar Games Nightlife did something similar with Humanity. Powers ("Edges") were purchased with Max Humanity points; use of Powers cost Short Term Humanity points, as did violent actions. Short term humanity points could be regained through healthy social interaction. Lose enough Short Term Humanity and your Max Humanity would drop; gain enough and it would rise. If your Max Humanity hit 0, your character became an NPC. Humanity increases and decreases also affected your appearance and your physical disadvantages (a Vampire with high Max Humanity no longer needed to drink as much blood and didn't take as much damage from sunlight or holy objects; a Vampire with very low max humanity could no longer pass for human, and would need to feed more).

 

It didn't work all that well mechanically, but it was appropriate to the setting. White Wolf borrowed a lot of ideas from Nightlife, or from the same sources the Stellar Games guys used.

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Re: Idea: Super Hero "Morality scale"

 

Nightlife was a very interesting game, in that regard.

 

I think Dead Guy On Tab has an interesting idea. Although its not something to be introduced to a game after the fact. Id only be comfortable with a set-up like that if I knew it was in place from the very beginning.

 

Honestly, I dont really think such a scale is really "needed", except perhaps as a method of helping a GM keep track of how the NPCs are supposed to function. Most Players build their characters to reflect how "in touch" they are, and decent RP can cover the rest :)

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Re: Idea: Super Hero "Morality scale"

 

Over time, characters will gain the equivalent of zero point disadvantages for one reason or another.

 

In practice, I think the "Humanity" thing would be a function of roleplaying, and the equivalent of a Reputation. (And Hunteds!)

 

I wouldn't be terribly keen on applying blanket "penalties to conversation and persuasion rolls" and the like if characters had spent points on buying them up in the first place.

 

In general, this kind of approach is still a GM imposed constraint on how the character is played. It would only make sense in the case that a player wasn't abiding by the disadvantages that their character had, and wouldn't necessarily be the best approach in this case.

 

I don't like it, in other words. YMMV.

 

Well,

I think the usefulness of this approach depends on what you want out of the game. Why are you running a Champions campaign? If you are looking for some role-playing/defeat the bad guys/social statements it may not be needed. I have been interested in the changes people go through when they obtain powers, what makes a hero a hero? His fancy powersuit, strength, etc. How does Average Joe react to becoming/being superduperman? Does power corrupt or is it a tool depending on how you use it? I think these sorts of questions - one's where you are looking at how the power's impact the character bring up the concept of a humanity rating? I think in a genre like Cyber Punk it is almost core to the genre (i.e. how much technology to do you absorb into your body before you're more machine than man?). The execution of course is where the difficulty lies. Just my 0.02.

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Re: Idea: Super Hero "Morality scale"

 

Well,

I think the usefulness of this approach depends on what you want out of the game. Why are you running a Champions campaign? If you are looking for some role-playing/defeat the bad guys/social statements it may not be needed. I have been interested in the changes people go through when they obtain powers, what makes a hero a hero? His fancy powersuit, strength, etc. How does Average Joe react to becoming/being superduperman? Does power corrupt or is it a tool depending on how you use it? I think these sorts of questions - one's where you are looking at how the power's impact the character bring up the concept of a humanity rating? I think in a genre like Cyber Punk it is almost core to the genre (i.e. how much technology to do you absorb into your body before you're more machine than man?). The execution of course is where the difficulty lies. Just my 0.02.

 

I disagree. If you to examine any sort of issue like the corruption of power or humanity/cyberware, then any sort of rating is defeating the point. It means that you've already decided on those issues and are simply grading characters based on your interpretation. Is what makes a hero a hero really something that abstracts itself into an easy 10 point scale? Especially since a mechanical scale lends itself to gaming the system.

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Re: Idea: Super Hero "Morality scale"

 

I disagree. If you to examine any sort of issue like the corruption of power or humanity/cyberware' date=' then any sort of rating is defeating the point. It means that you've already decided on those issues and are simply grading characters based on your interpretation. Is what makes a hero a hero really something that abstracts itself into an easy 10 point scale? Especially since a mechanical scale lends itself to gaming the system.[/quote']

 

Only if the player knows the system and the effects of action A or B. However, as a guide for a GM to introduce plot points reflecting a characters descent I think it might provide a useful plumb line. As far as deciding whether a hero is being heroic, I would submit that is some of the GM's perogative. The character/player may disagree/be in denial.

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Re: Idea: Super Hero "Morality scale"

 

I see the point, but I don't agree that what you're describing is going too far towards "Good" (and I don't say your point has no merit just because I don't agree). I'd say that, if there is Good and Evil, then Evil actions remain Evil, even if the actor believes them to be Good. Ethnic cleansing mobs may believe that the minorities they're attacking deserve to die; that doesn't make the actions of the mob members "Good", unless you're running a world where that kind of murder has been declared objectively good by the powers that be (you and your fellow GMs).

 

So, getting back to the original idea, I don't think I'd play in a campaign with an absolute scale of Good and Evil, unless I agreed with the scale.

 

Yeah, but would you open fire on the mob to defend their victims - even with non-/less-than-lethal weaponry?

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Re: Idea: Super Hero "Morality scale"

 

Yeah' date=' but would you open fire on the mob to defend their victims - even with non-/less-than-lethal weaponry?[/quote']

 

If a reasonable person would conclude the victim(s) would be maimed or killed and the mob did not respond to a clearly stated warning - hell yes.

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Re: Idea: Super Hero "Morality scale"

 

I got sent a private tell asking me a couple of questions. As I assume that the person who asked did not wish to do so publicly, I shall refrain from giving you their name. However, I think the questions asked were valid, and I want you to see my response.

 

The message asked why I feel that the so-called "Iron Age" was so bad. That "killing, and imposing values, is accepted in every other genre". That the hereos of action movies, horror movies, and even some supers movies (like the Tim Burton "Batman" movies) kill people. The poster asked me why "they should be able to do this, and yet comics heroes should not?" "Why are Silver Age fans so arrogant, insisting on their double standard, and saying that the Iron Age fans are sociopathic "

 

 

(Point of order: I am a Bronze Age fan. I hate Bat-Mite as much as the rest of you)

 

My response:

 

The simple answer to these questions is that all other genres are concerned with "Heroes".

 

Comics are concerned with "Superheroes".

 

Its not the powers that make them what they are. Achilles was invulnerable. Herakles was supernaturally strong. Finn McCool was able to access vast supernatural wisdom and knowledge.

 

What makes them "Superheroes" is this: Adherance to a higher moral code.

 

Your point about "original Superman" being willing to kill is as appropriate as those people who point out that Batman carried a gun for the first several issues of his existence.

 

Meaning, not at all. And Ill tell you why.

 

Superman's original appearances, and that of Batman not long after, back in 1938, were the spearhead of a new genre. Those early footsteps were a bit shakey, as the writers and artists tried to find their footing in this new kind of heroic storytelling. The adherance to a higher moral code is what seperates Superman and Batman from earlier masked adventurers and Pulp heroes like The Shadow, Spyder (Master of Men), and Doc Savage. All of the pulp-era heroes were willing to plug a mook or throw an anarchist off a cliff. They were hard-boiled, tough, no-nonsense types.

 

Were they heroes? Yes. Were they superheroes? Not....quite.

 

Not yet.

 

Rebel soldiers, even the Jedi, are Heroes. Not superheroes. Action heroes, horror movie main characters, and all the rest you mentioned arent -supposed- to live up to a higher moral code, because its not an expected part of the genre.

 

And non-comics readers who direct superhero films, like Tim Burton, dont understand that. Burton -bragged- that he had never read a comic book in his life. THATS why he got it wrong. His "Batman" can drop people off rooftops because hes NOT Batman.

 

Adherance to a higher moral code is, plain and simple, HARDER than just killing your opponent. Anyone can do that. But a superhero HAS to find another way. A better way.

 

Thats what defines them.

 

If you see this stance as "arrogant", Im sorry. But its what I believe. And Im not alone. The so-called "Iron Age" grates on so many of us because we have a long tradition that was, basically, spat upon. And is still being spat upon by things like "One More Day", and "Civil War".

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Re: Idea: Super Hero "Morality scale"

 

Personally, I like all the "ages". I think they have different types of stories to tell and have their own positives and yes, their own downsides and excesses. My personal preference is for late Bronze and Iron Age style stories and what Oddhat dubbed "adult audience" style comics (which unfortunately carries connotations of porn).

 

I don't feel that the superheroes that kill or perform other questionable acts are "wrong" but they are are different style. If they are heroes or not depends on their reasons and reactions to what they do. Warren Ellis' inital 12 issue run on The Authority illustrates this for me. The character were heroic, the goal was a noble one but yet they did kill but in situations that warranted (saving millions of lives or the existence of the Earth) and didn't pleasure in it beyond maybe a grim satisfaction about doing the right thing. Later writers turned them into sanctimonious holier than thou psychos. Those excesses of the Iron Age mentioned earlier.

 

Modern Superman is a good example as well. He has killed. It's troubled him greatly and its his LAST option, but he's willing to do it if he MUST, sacrificing part of himself for the greater good. That and resisting what would be an incredible temptation of power, makes him a hero and a great one, IMO.

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Re: Idea: Super Hero "Morality scale"

 

I got sent a private tell asking me a couple of questions. As I assume that the person who asked did not wish to do so publicly, I shall refrain from giving you their name. However, I think the questions asked were valid, and I want you to see my response.

 

The message asked why I feel that the so-called "Iron Age" was so bad. That "killing, and imposing values, is accepted in every other genre". That the hereos of action movies, horror movies, and even some supers movies (like the Tim Burton "Batman" movies) kill people. The poster asked me why "they should be able to do this, and yet comics heroes should not?" "Why are Silver Age fans so arrogant, insisting on their double standard, and saying that the Iron Age fans are sociopathic "

 

Personally I haven't seen allot of people labeling Iron Age fans as "sociopaths" but that the stories themselves often delve into juvenile violence soaked revenge and power fantasies. Some of the more, I guess, passionate rants in their defense have colored others view points. And frankly, there is arrogance but that's hardly unheard of among fandoms.

 

On the other hand, there is more than a little arrogance on the other side of the fence too. "Iron Age" fans insisting their favored style is more "realistic" and the older books are childish prattle only fit for immature minds not ready to deal with the edgy new "real world".

 

There's also an excluded middle issue. Apparently it's either The Superfriends or The Authority at it's worst/Brat Pack and nothing else. One True Wayism exists on both sides.

 

Input Jack is right. There is a tradition, partially created by the Comic Code and creative agenda (writing a new villain every arc is tough), partially a "moral" one. That tradition should be respected, which is one reason the Civil War and One More Day story lines (among others) didn't entertain me.

 

They forced values and attitudes on characters and their setting that were at odds to their nature and did so in a forced and heavy manner. Tradition shouldn't be a straitjacket but there was no evolution or development in those stories. I like the idea of different continuities for different types of stories. That way everyone gets to enjoy the sort of superhero tales they want to read.

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Re: Idea: Super Hero "Morality scale"

 

 

 

 

What makes them "Superheroes" is this: Adherance to a higher moral code.

 

 

I'll be up front and say that I don't care for most iron age comics, either. The reason isn't that there are deaths, but because the authors don't understand the emotional basis and assumed moral position of the genre they are imitating. As a result they frequently miss the point and devolve into juvenile violence or patently immoral decisions. Some are readable, but on the whole I agree with you about "iron age" comics. That's why I don't call my games "iron age" or "superheroic." They're gritty pulps where people have powers.

 

At the same time, the part of your post that you quoted above is one of the biggest problems I have with "superhero morality." I don't believe their is a higher moral code. Moral is moral; immoral is immoral. We might argue that the subjective ethics of being a superhero is different than the ethics of being a hero because of the extraordinary powers a superhero is imbued with, but I don't by into the notion that superheroes face different moral choices. Its the means they have at their disposal, not the choices they face, that makes them different.

 

In fact, this notion has led me to have the same problem with superhero comics that you (we?) have with iron age comics. Superhero morality is, often-times, misguided and, more to the point, sometimes immoral in its propositions. A superhero has more options than the man on the street, and his powers should abate the need for potentially lethal force significantly, but I don't accept the notion that he's a god who forms a moral exception in the universe.

 

Faced with a situation where his powers don't provide him with a non-lethal option to save an innocent the superhero is faced with the exact same moral equation as the mere mortal who doesn't share his vast powers but could theoretically save an innocent from harm if lethal force was employed. If he fails to make the same decision they would then he's not moral, he's not an exemplar, he's a psychotic, narcissistic madman who puts others in danger because he lives in an ivory tower and won't accept that he's down here with the rest of us.

 

Superheroes are only able to live according to irresponsible (im)moral positions such as "heroes never kill" because they are molly-coddled by their writers and given the greatest super-power of all: writers fiat. I don't think writers need to create situations where a hero, lets say superman, has to kill, but the notion that there is a false moral dichotomy between supers and heroes needs to go. Maybe, instead of risking all existence on an immoral absolute, superman should just be thankful and say: "I'm grateful I've never been faced with a situation where my powers didn't give me an out. I pray to God I never have to make that choice. Those men and women who don't share my abilities and have been confronted with that choice humble me."

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Re: Idea: Super Hero "Morality scale"

 

Faced with a situation where his powers don't provide him with a non-lethal option to save an innocent the superhero is faced with the exact same moral equation as the mere mortal who doesn't share his vast powers but could theoretically save an innocent from harm if lethal force was employed.

 

Well heck, any time you kill a dangerous criminal you could theoretically be saving an innocent from harm. He might kill someone later and you'd be precluding that possibility. The thing is, pulp heroes and Iron Age heroes like the Punisher didn't necessarily restrict themselves to killing bad guys because the alternative was the bad guy killing some innocent right then and there. They'll kill bad guys because they are bad or because they're probably going to get away. This is not something that Joe Random Citizen can generally get away with. It's not even something a cop can get away with. A police officer is not (at least in theory) allowed to shoot a fleeing suspect in the back but Batman could and did shoot down a criminal's plane as he tried to escape in the first year when he was still in transition from pulp hero to superhero.

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Re: Idea: Super Hero "Morality scale"

 

 

Superheroes are only able to live according to irresponsible (im)moral positions such as "heroes never kill" because they are molly-coddled by their writers and given the greatest super-power of all: writers fiat. I don't think writers need to create situations where a hero, lets say superman, has to kill, but the notion that there is a false moral dichotomy between supers and heroes needs to go. Maybe, instead of risking all existence on an immoral absolute, superman should just be thankful and say: "I'm grateful I've never been faced with a situation where my powers didn't give me an out. I pray to God I never have to make that choice. Those men and women who don't share my abilities and have been confronted with that choice humble me."

 

A well written Superman should say exactly that. Still can't rep you, though.

 

As Trebuchet and Mentor often posted, Superhero is a compound word. To me, Super refers to the amazing skill levels and powers of the characters, Hero to the decisions I hope to see them take.

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Re: Idea: Super Hero "Morality scale"

 

Well heck' date=' any time you kill a dangerous criminal you could theoretically be saving an innocent from harm. He might kill someone later and you'd be precluding that possibility. The thing is, pulp heroes and Iron Age heroes like the Punisher didn't necessarily restrict themselves to killing bad guys because the alternative was the bad guy killing some innocent right then and there. They'll kill bad guys because they are bad or because they're probably going to get away.[/quote']

 

While I might enjoy a well done Punisher story (or the stories of many hard boiled heroes) I wouldn't consider the Punisher to be as heroic as a character that did not choose to kill when there were viable alternatives. Crappy punisher stories, where he ends up gunning down jaywalkers and similarly non-violent law breakers, are pretty clearly not "Heroic" stories at all.

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Re: Idea: Super Hero "Morality scale"

 

Well heck' date=' any time you kill a dangerous criminal you could theoretically be saving an innocent from harm. He might kill someone later and you'd be precluding that possibility. The thing is, pulp heroes and Iron Age heroes like the Punisher didn't necessarily restrict themselves to killing bad guys because the alternative was the bad guy killing some innocent right then and there. They'll kill bad guys because they are bad or because they're probably going to get away. This is not something that Joe Random Citizen can generally get away with. It's not even something a cop can get away with. A police officer is not (at least in theory) allowed to shoot a fleeing suspect in the back but Batman could and did shoot down a criminal's plane as he tried to escape in the first year when he was still in transition from pulp hero to superhero.[/quote']

 

First, I think its a mistake to confuse pulp and iron age heroes. I say this because, and the punisher is the perfect example, iron age writers are trying to write hard-boiled pulps without comprehending the morality that drove the pulps. While the pulp era was a different time and the sensibilities in terms of dealing with bad-guys were different, it nonethless had a consistent, essentially moral point of view. That's not really the case with the iron age.

 

I was being specific to situations where there was an immediate fear for the life of an innocent on the spot with no other options. I said nothing about other situations as their powers should give them an out if the threat isn't an immediate split second scenario. Those issues could come up, but its fairly far fetched by comparison. It only really becomes an issue for people who don't have significant powers - but most of them are more like pulp heroes who operate in a superhero world than actual superheroes.

 

While I agree some pulp heroes took a broad brush in terms of who deserved it (the assumed moral position I mentioned), I think you might want to look up state codes before making statements about what private citizens and police officers can and can't do. Its wholly tangential, but most states do have a short list of violent-heinous crimes / situations where a police officer can use lethal force on a fleeing suspect, and most states give private citizens more latitude in defining fear for their life or grevious injury than police officers are given. No, they can't execute someone "for being bad," but there are situations beyond immediate threat to life and limb where lethal force is considered legally justified.

 

And, in terms of different times, several gangsters in the 30's were gunned down to public applause with no consequences for the officers who did it. Tennesee Vs. Gardner wasn't until 1985 (it was only then it became constitutionally mandated that felons be given a chance to surrender before deadly force was employed, or that the requirment of immediate threat to life and limb became a national rather than state policy). Two of the most famous cases are John Dillinger and Baby Face Nelson (both killed by Melvin Purvis of the FBI). In Nelson's case, he had been wounded by a sniper. Purvis questioned him about the Kansas City Massacre while he was down and then shot him dead. No joke. There are also questions about Dillinger's death. He was shot in the back and was unarmed. The gun in the FBI museum (even today) that was said to have been dillingers was manufactured three years after his death.

 

A classic example of a questionable decision by a super-hero is batman. He has refused to kill the joker in clear cases of self-defense - or even let him die through inaction - despite the fact that repition of this decision has resulted in repeated instances of mass murder on a grand scale. I can understand not killing him in cold blood, or not killing him because you could stop him via other means and handing him over to the police, but saving him when you could have walked away and let him perish (as a result of his own mad scheme to boot)? I'm not sure - given the record - the pulp heroes would have been wrong in terms of the Joker. Admittedly, this is an extreme example - most criminals don't rise to even close to his homicidal glee - but its a pretty good example of a super-hero shedding the blood of the innocent on principle. I'm not saying batman should kill him, but does he really have to save him, either?

 

Its not so simple.

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