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Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Are goodness and honour their own reward?

I just posted on the Big Purple, detailing how I see my honourable PCs. Because some people seem to think that being good should be just as optimal a choice. Obviously, the GM is looking to make a narrative point otherwise...
(For those that don't know me, I seldom if ever am trying to make a narrative point. Following the events as they develop is good enough in my book).
So, here goes the post.
"KK, this is possibly the greatest mismatch between our gaming styles, though far from the only one!
It seems you're expecting good choices to be an equally useful option, including tactically.
I'm wondering, if we assume this to be true, why all those people would say that the path to evil is easy, while the path to goodness is hard?

Hence, I'm expecting that the universe is being as uncaring as it actually is (as an aside, any GM I'd call "good" provides an uncaring universe, barring some narrative games that request otherwise). In this case, being good and/or honourable means taking the suboptimal option!
(I'm going to mostly use combat examples, because immediate consequences for failing to win are obvious).
What does being good and honourable entail?
It means you don't poison the wells of your enemies with slow poison, so they only find out after everybody has had some water. Although that would be solving the issue with an invasion with minimum expenditure of resources.
It means you don't just wait for your enemy to fall sick and then shoot him in his bed, because you're better than killing the defenceless. Although that means risking that the next fight might not go your way.
It means you don't hire thugs to break the hands of a good shooter that you need to duel the next morning. Neither do you run, for it is beneath you! Although this might mean him shooting you, you stand there, and try to aim faster and better than him. Or, if you're taking turns, when he shoots wide of you, you don't return the favour by shooting him in the heart. Because it would remove a political rival, but it would mean shooting a defenceless man who just spared your life.

But the more convenient option, in all of these cases, is to poison the wells, to kill him in his bed, to hire the thugs, and to use the fact that he didn't shoot at you to kill him.
So, yes, good isn't optimal. It's wasting resources, skipping opportunities, and taking the hard path to victory generally.

Why bother? Because you don't want to stoop to the level of the guys you're fighting. But you also know well that honour is something you do for yourself, not for others. So you put yourself at disadvantage, and fucking well hope the opponent would actually use it!
Because it means the opponent is beneath you, and if you win, the better man won. If he also doesn't, whoever wins, two honourable men had to fight and one of them died because of their differences - but nobody could claim being more honourable than the other. So, despite winning, you'd know you have killed another honourable man.
If he takes the unfair advantage you gave him, it would be so much easier being in peace with yourself afterwards!
That is, if you win. Because honour is something you do for yourself, you also don't expect it to grant an advantage - except with other honourable persons, and only a social one. But because honour and goodness are also the harder path to take, you know you stand a sizeable chance of dying for your ideals, in that very instant!
And you take that risk, or you don't and play as dirty as the next guy. That says nothing in particular about you.
Until you face someone that never tried cheating, even after you did. Then, after you defeat him, you might want to consider whether the better man won this time.
It would have been so easy if you haven't used your tricks, long ago.

But that's my point. Being good and honourable often puts you at tactical disadvantage while giving you a psychological bonus after the fight (to the Self roll, if you were using Unknown Armies... and if not, you should import the stress meters anyway). OTOH, being the meanest bastard out there means you've got better chances to win.
Pick one, and stick to it, because you aren't getting both. Doesn't work like that, neither in life, nor in my games.
And if you want to call that "my narrative choice", then I can only shrug. I've got enough reasons to believe that it's how things work in reality (and yes, that's not a concern for some players - more ou, either). But even if it was a narrative choice, it's still one I like. And I don't see it as an inferior one. In fact, I prefer it, because I see it as being by far a superior choice narratively as well - but that superiority is probably just my bias speaking. So I'm willing to settle for them being equal, but different options."

Yeah, I know this is just something I posted on But I put some energy and emotion in it, unlike most of my posts, and it would help explain my approach to many games (that is, to all games, unless the ones that I have to play/run differently).
Besides, it might be a good starting point for a discussion.