Getting away from the Seven Deadly Sins / alternate moral framework


Advice


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Not that there's anything wrong with the SDS! I always thought it was a clever idea to hardwire them into Golarion with the Runelords and all. But they're not the only game in town.

Moral philosopher Jonathan Haidt has six "moral values", each of which has an opposite. If you google Haidt you'll find a lot more detail, but here's the short version: the more or less "positive" moral values are

Care
Fairness
Loyalty
Authority
Sanctity
Liberty

A couple of details: People sometimes balk at "authority" as a positive moral value, but the idea there is that almost everyone recognizes that there are some sorts of legitimate authority that should, under normal circumstances, be respected and/or obeyed. Also, "sanctity" includes a lot of religious values but goes further -- it includes things that we consider precious or important. If you're unhappy at the idea of chopping down a grove of redwoods, that's probably coming under "sanctity".

Okay so: each of these has an opposite.

Care --> Harm
Fairness --> Cheating
Loyalty --> Betrayal
Authority --> Subversion
Sanctity --> Degradation
Liberty --> Oppression

Most of us view the second column as negative moral values -- we don't want them to be directed at us, and we usually don't want to think that we're engaging in them, and if we do engage in them we usually try to lie to ourselves about them. 'Authority / Subversion' may seem odd here, but remember that Haidt is talking about morally legitimate authority; if you acknowledge the government as a legitimate authority, then you probably pay your taxes and resent people who don't.

Anyway: it seems like this could be an interesting / fun framework to build into a game. Actually, I half wonder if anyone out there has tried already...

Thoughts?

Doug M.


Can't really follow degradation opposed to sanctity ( the latter is specific while the former could be addressed to different subjects )

Apart from that,

Authority/subversion could be interesting in contrast with some paladin oaths.

Quote:
You don’t consider evil dragons to be legitimate authorities, even in nations they rule.
Quote:
You don’t consider undead to be legitimate authorities, even in nations ruled by undead.

Or

Quote:
You don’t consider fiends to be legitimate authorities, even in nations ruled by fiends.

Eventually combined with

Quote:
in the incredibly unlikely event you find a good fiend, you don’t have to banish or kill it.”

Would then being subversive an evil act?


People always go straight to paladins for some reason.

I was thinking more, could you build a set of bad guys around these six characteristics, Runelord-style?

Doug M.


People go straight for Paladin/Antipaladin is because what you described is a lot like 1e Paladin Oaths. Care = Oath of Charity; Loyalty = Oath of Loyalty; Authority/Liberty = Oath of the People's Council (fight against abuse of authority); Santity (Purity) = Oath against Corruption; Fairness = Oath against Savagery;

Having said that, it would be very hard to make a Runelord style group with your values as the Runelords are very specifically: Wizards (a specific class) who studied one school of magic (a specific game concept) above all others (makes a specific wizard ability much worse).

So you would need to find a set/subset of 6 abilities belonging to 1 class that would represent your 12 values (1 ability for 2 values). Introduce the reason why they flipped. And make sure they all fit with the overarching history of the world. For example the reason why there is no Runelord of Divination is that during their time, it was not recognized as it's own school of magic.

***************
Side note: I cant wrap my head around what would be good abilities.


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Bad guys don't have to be Runelords. After Blood of the Coven came out, I once built a town run by coven of witches, from CR 7 to CR 12 or so... give me a sec. [rummage, rummage] Okay, here's a sketch.

* * *

OPPRESSION:

The Silver Witch [LE Middle-aged human Witch (Dimensional Occultist) 12]

The Silver Witch is a respected citizen, a merchant and landlord who's also the Treasurer of the city government. She's also the founder and seniormost member of the coven. That doesn't mean she's in charge -- it's a rough democracy -- but does mean the others usually defer to her.

The Silver Witch wasn't always a witch. Many years ago there was a young silver dragon who, in her pride, thought she could outwit the powers of Hell. In the end Hell took its due and she tarnished and fell. As punishment for her wickedness, the powers of Law and Good forced her into human form, where presumably she could do no harm and might in time repent.

This presumption was terribly wrong. The transformed dragon walked away from her previous life and made a new pact with the powers of darkness. Today she hardly remembers her original shape. She does still retain a number of draconic characteristics, though: she's proud, fierce, territorial, highly intelligent, and does not suffer fools gladly. Oh, and she likes being surrounded by nice things. Her house is full of lovely items -- expensive but tasteful carpets, paintings, sculpture, silver... a hoard, you might say.

CHEATING:

The Grey Witch [NE Middle-Aged Gnome (Bleachling) Witch 4 / Rogue 3 / Arcane Trickster 3]

The Grey Witch is Witch Town's crime lord. There's only one Thieves Guild in town, and she runs it. As one of the rare gnomes to survive the Bleaching, she seems dreamy and a bit distracted. In fact she is an absolutely ruthless, emotionless killer who has ruled the local underworld with an iron fist for many years. Unlike the Silver Witch, she’s a hands-on manager who regularly accompanies her minions on missions. She’s not foolish or reckless, but she’s pretty completely without fear, so she has no objection to mixing it up in a fight; if things go bad, she has a couple of fast-exit spells prepped, just in case.

The Grey Witch has kept an odd, bleached version of the gnomish obsession with novelty: she finds new things interesting, but almost always very briefly. So, she’ll go to some trouble to acquire an interesting art object or magic item, but after a few moments of examination she’ll shrug and toss it aside.

The Thieves Guild does a fair amount of thieving, but the biggest parts of their business are a protection racket plus gambling -- formally illegal, but there are several dens in town. The games are rigged, of course.

Nothing really makes the Grey Witch happy, but watching fools get their well-deserved comeuppance can bring the faintest hint of a smile to her pale lips. (Note that in her world, anyone who believes in rules or fair play counts as a fool.)

BETRAYAL:

The Blue Witch [NE Half-fiend (erodaemon) Bard (Court Bard) 4 / Witch 3]

Half-erodaemons (it turns out) can, with a fairly modest disguise check, appear pretty close to human. The Blue Witch looks like a half-elf with rather lovely pale blue skin. In fact she's a sadistic serial killer who enjoys taking the form of a dear friend or loved one. She's compulsive about this -- she considers herself an artist, and it's actually difficult for her to kill someone *unless* she's gotten emotionally close to them first. The other witches use her as a spy and assassin, but are often impatient with her psychological quirks.

DEGRADATION:
The Green Witch [CE Green Hag Druid 3]The Green Witch spends most of her time in the woods outside of town. She's the weakest of the coven, so might be the first one that PCs encounter.

The Green Witch is horrible in the usual hag ways, but with two more thrown in. First, she likes altering her form to go seducing and killing good-looking young people (far beyond the usual minimum required by hag reproduction). She occasionally has gone cruising with the Blue Witch (and if you run that sort of campaign, the two of them could make a memorable encounter) but they're really not looking for the same thing -- the half-fiend wants to build an emotional bond with her victims, while the hag wants a spasm of satiated lust followed by the delight of the victim's shock and horror when the truth is revealed.

(Most green hags kill their partners. The Green Witch usually does too, but will occasionally go "traumatize, mutilate, release" instead, because it's fun. The other witches would very much not approve of this if they knew about it.)

And second, the Green Witch loathes clerics, especially clerics of good or lawful deities. She'll stalk these. She might attack if the chance arises, but first she'll try either to seduce them into some wicked act or, failing that, to frame them for various petty or loathsome crimes. She's about hatred, not murder per se; her goal is not so much to kill the good-hearted as to destroy what they are.

SUBVERSION:
The White Witch [NE Old Human Witch 10 / Souldrinker 2] Like the Red Witch, the White Witch is a well-respected member of the community: she's the sweet old lady who runs the Magic Shoppe. She specializes in potions but sells other magic items as well. Everyone knows she's a spellcaster, but most think she's a midlevel wizard -- she's careful not to let anyone see her cast spells above third level.

The White Witch is the most social of the witches, and has friendships and contacts at every social level of the city. She makes sure that no guild or group can arise to challenge the authority of the city's secret rulers. At the same time, she's the only one of the coven who'd readily turn on the others; she's very old (much older than she looks), she could move on to another town any time, and she chafes at the thoughtless arrogance of the Silver Witch.

HARM:

The Purple Witch [CE Annis Hag Brawler 4] -- If the Blue Witch is the coven's spy and assassin, the Purple Witch is their brute muscle. Under the Silver Witch's influence, the town has legalized slavery for criminals and debtors; the Purple Witch oversees the town's slave market and work gangs. She's got a Hat of Disguise so that she looks like a hulking half-orc rather than the monster she really is. She's not very bright, but she enjoys the many opportunities that her job provides for breaking bodies, minds, and spirits. She's as loyal to the Silver Witch as a chaotic evil hag can be.

Phew. Thoughts?


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Haidt's* sins remind me of an old RPG tips list of villain tactics. The concept was to move beyond "Harm", the most prevalent tactic, and to the more subtle actions that build deeper story lines.
In turn, it becomes harder for heroes to respond since while Harm elicits harm, is lethal force appropriate for cheating (etc.)? Depends on context, though it makes for richer plots.

As for thematic villains, I'm not sure how well one could advertise a Cheating, Betrayal, or Subversion mastermind villain without spoiling their ability to dupe the PCs. PCs are already paranoid enough without being told to have their guards up against such things.

*He has YouTube speeches too, if any are interested.
Note that he's measuring morality as practiced more than defining it. So some concepts may not mesh with your morality, but they're still prevalent among the world's cultures.


Castilliano wrote:


As for thematic villains, I'm not sure how well one could advertise a Cheating, Betrayal, or Subversion mastermind villain without spoiling their ability to dupe the PCs. PCs are already paranoid enough without being told to have their guards up against such things.

That's an issue. OTOH mapping Lust and Sloth onto villains is kinda tricky too.

Doug M.


Walter the Vagabond wrote:
Castilliano wrote:


As for thematic villains, I'm not sure how well one could advertise a Cheating, Betrayal, or Subversion mastermind villain without spoiling their ability to dupe the PCs. PCs are already paranoid enough without being told to have their guards up against such things.

That's an issue. OTOH mapping Lust and Sloth onto villains is kinda tricky too.

Doug M.

Lust can use Enchantment magic, though yes the implications plus actual content may be too awkward even w/ adults. And philosophically, is lust even sinful w/o harm? If so, it's not the lust itself that's sinful, rather another sin corrupting lust.

Sloth I find funny because while there are mechanical ways to inflict slothfulness, what's actually motivating the villain? Sloth? Okay, I guess we'll just give him lots of distractions and some comfy pillows...victory!


Castilliano wrote:
Walter the Vagabond wrote:
Castilliano wrote:


As for thematic villains, I'm not sure how well one could advertise a Cheating, Betrayal, or Subversion mastermind villain without spoiling their ability to dupe the PCs. PCs are already paranoid enough without being told to have their guards up against such things.

That's an issue. OTOH mapping Lust and Sloth onto villains is kinda tricky too.

Doug M.

Lust can use Enchantment magic, though yes the implications plus actual content may be too awkward even w/ adults. And philosophically, is lust even sinful w/o harm? If so, it's not the lust itself that's sinful, rather another sin corrupting lust.

Sloth I find funny because while there are mechanical ways to inflict slothfulness, what's actually motivating the villain? Sloth? Okay, I guess we'll just give him lots of distractions and some comfy pillows...victory!

Depends on the definition. Lust is defined by some as desire for... Well you know what. Other people argue that lust refers to toying with people's emotion, treating them as things, in which case lust would be inherently wrong.

Heck, some define greed as just wanting things you don't have. Others are like "no, no, greed is wanting to acquire things without working for them," and still others are like "no, greed is wanting something so badly you'd kill for it."

Similarly, A slothful villain could also be someone who acts from behind the scenes bossing people around without actually doing much himself. He won't get off his LaZ boy of evil. Even when the heroes storm his throne room he animates it so he can fight them without getting up.


Yep mapping out the 7 sins works because what is important is not directly showing it, but how the abilities are used for it.

An easy case is the Runelord of Sloth, as a master Conjuerer it's very well expected that he would spend a lot of his resources creating and summoning things to do work for him.

Spoiler:
He even decided to put himself asleep and just ordered his followers to wake him 1 century later preferably when they have a kingdom for him to rule.

***************
After taking some time to think, the reason I was having problems was that half your negative traits have the same/similiar core. Cheating, Betrayal, and Subversion are all forms of Dishonesty; The biggest difference being their intention. There is also the fact that betrayal encompasses both cheating and subversion.

So character styles/roles I think fit:
Harm = any martial
Cheating = illusionist, mesmerist, and rogue
Betrayal = illusionist, rogue, enchanter, mesmerist and bard
Subversion = rogue, bard, enchanter
Degradation = any class (just got to be sadistic enough)
Oppression = enchanter, necromancer, bard, barbarian (hyper intimidation).


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Pathfinder Starfinder Society Subscriber

Honestly, the 6 "moral" values themselves directly result in interesting (and generally dystopian) villains.

Care is the overprotective AI/superbeing that never wants to allow its charges to make any decisions for themselves because they might get hurt.
Fairness is the monster-race warlord who sees razing human towns to be justice for the genocide inflicted on her race.
Loyalty is the unstoppable underling with an unimpeachable code of honor who nevertheless follows the evil tyrant.
Authority can be a LG demigod who has gotten tired of protecting sentient races from their own evil and is now directly controlling them, perhaps even at their own request.
Sanctity is the valiant protector of nature that wants to bring about the downfall of civilization in order for the wilderness to return.
Liberty is the freedom fighter whose end game is anarchy.


Castilliano wrote:

Sloth I find funny because while there are mechanical ways to inflict slothfulness, what's actually motivating the villain? Sloth? Okay, I guess we'll just give him lots of distractions and some comfy pillows...victory!

You'd fight that boss armed with hammocks, which per Jim Gaffigan are just giant nets for catching lazy people.


I think the Gray Gardeners of Galt are a good model for a betrayal-themed villain. They constantly are executing revolutionary leaders whenever those leaders are inconvenient, then letting someone else take command of the will of the people and lead for a bit before being executed once more. Perpetuating a cycle of empowering a leader, turning the mob against the leader, and executing the new tyrant indefinitely.

The Technic League and the Maurya-Rahm both could be used as models of how to do subversion villains. They get their authority from their respective monarchs, but only perform token efforts to actually enact those monarchs' wills. This is public knowledge, but the instability of deposing them is too much for most people to want to stir up, and the monarchs don't care as long as they stay appeased.


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Douglas Muir 406 wrote:

... great stuff...

Phew. Thoughts?

Yes.

I demand you be my GM. Right now.


Pathfinder Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I have to admit at first I thought you were talking about replacing the existing alignment system with something based on this. [given, it is what I think of with respect to moral/ethical framework for the game at present]

However, from a story standpoint, and categorizing NPCs for understanding of motivations, this does sound like really interesting pieces of information to fill out. It might also be interesting to have settlements generally value a certain positive or negative trait. It might also be interesting to have a settlement or culture that doesn't pay attention to one of the axis. As they don't value its importance. This could all make interesting shifts in cultural norms.

Thanks for sharing!

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