Morals in gaming?

Balor_roar

 

So, I have had a recent discussion with a friend about playing games that I find morally objectionable (at least I have religious conflicts with). I don’t like invoking demons and devils in my games. Personally I think that it is playing with fire. I don’t dislike people who play with them or use them in games, I just don’t. It does bring up a good question, how do we, as gamers, determine what is objectionable to us? 

For me the answer to the question is if it conflicts with my morals (rape being a great example) or religious leanings (demons/devils in that case). Other gamers will find things objectionable in other ways. Good. Some things, I think, are universally distasteful. The Game that Shall Not be Named often brings these things to the front (rape, racism and misogynistic statements abound in it). Finding elements distasteful is easy, but is it enough to toss the whole game?

Dungeons and Dragons tossed demons and devils from 2nd edition for that very reason. They were giving in to religious bullies (and they wanted to expand their market share). Some games have elements that can’t be excised (Demon: The Fallen, anyone?). Those games are the ones that I won’t play (if the elements are objectionable). Can a game be good even if it conflicts with my values though?

Sometimes I think they can (D&D being a good example) and sometimes they can’t (Demon). So my penultimate question is what kind of material do you find objectionable? How do you handle games that have elements that you find distasteful?  

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13 thoughts on “Morals in gaming?

  1. I have the exact problem, and I agree whole-heartedly, and have the SAME exact problem. However,you may wish to keep this in mind; there are two kinds of demons: The first is the spiritual being of Christian theology, which is invisible and completely spiritual, and messing with these folks is like playing with fire. The second is the creature of Japanese mythology, which is an entirely physical entity of great (physical) strength. And I feel that this second kind (which is the kind encountered in such games as D&D) is relatively harmless. Although I still don’t use them (there are many other more interesting creatures to use that are far less cliche), I feel that they are just like creatures borrowed from Norse and Greek mythology. You are free to disagree, but I have found that that can help me tolerate them as a player, if not as a GM.

  2. Generally speaking, I avoid “evil” campaigns – a lot of RPG players I’ve encountered love to play the bad guy, and I feel that “playing the bad guy” is potentially a “bad thing.” I also avoid any kind of sexual content in my games; anything more than a passing innuendo or a one-sentence “we go to the bedroom” is too much for me.

    So long as the players are attempting to be the good guys, help people, fight evil; “invoking demons” is not a concern, to me. That is superstition; there are no such things as angels, or demons, not in any provable sense.

  3. Have you at least read the introductory stories and premise of Demon: the Fallen?

    Although it -can- be run as just a murder hobo game (most games of any system -can- be ran that way) in which recently freed demons run amok in their new human vessels, after their eternity in the Abyss. Or, depending on the Storyteller and the players, it can be run as something much, much more.

    Demons, for the purposes of the game and, by extension, the rest of the old World of Darkness (Dark Ages, notwithstanding, as it has imps and other dark summonable beasties labeled as demons), are fallen angels. The reasons they fell are as varied as the number of angels who fell (a full -third- of the host of heaven).

    The original reason given, which led to the rest joining out of a common cause or at least as the enemy of my enemy is my friend reasons, was that one of the oracles foretold a great catastrophe for the humans (at this point, still just Adam and Eve) looming on the horizon. Although they were manadated to love humans as they loved God, and given the seemingly contradictory mandate of never reveal themselves to humans, they had tried to teach them in secrecy: Painting beautiful sunsets or landscapes.

    With the catastrophe looming, though, they were left with only two choices that they could see: Do nothing and hope that it could still be averted once it began, or to intervene, by revealing themselves to the humans, and educating them in all things. Lucifer, God’s second in command (and the only angel with God’s entire plan in his head) chose action over inaction.

    This lead to the proliferation of the human race, the rise of civilization, the rise of early technologies, and other untold progress, all in the span of a night. When the morning rose, Michael was sent to put a stop to it. Battles ensued, but never actual killing, until Caine committed the first murder (and becoming cursed with vampirism, in the meta story), opening up the option of murder to the angels.

    Eventually, the war came to an end, and the fallen were punished. All of them cast into the pit, except Lucifer.

    Many were angry, and that anger only festered in the pit. Others were remorseful or since have grown that way, seeing the error in their ways, or at least seeing that they acted too rashly. The five generals of Hell had been summoned long ago into reliquaries, as Earthbound, revered by massive cults, and working their wills upon the World from secret.

    So, as a player, you can take several approaches: Nihilistic destruction, furthering the plan to elevate humans in knowledge and power, acts of redemption to protect humans from the ills of the world, taking down an Earthbound and disbanding its cult, etc. They may have fallen, but they are still angels.

    • I have read the intro stories to Fallen. I do not agree with their take on the Christian/Jewish fallen angels. They were in open rebellion against God and not doing it for some crusade to save humanity. I think that they over reached and offended many people with that take. Nothing against anyone who disagrees.

      • They were tying it together with their longstanding Vampire mythos as well as their Hunter line as a move towards Gehenna, the Apocalypse, etc.

        The elevation of humans, the “Great Experiment,” was very much in keeping with the paradigms established in Mage.

      • And, yes, some of the angels were in open rebellion, even in White Wolf’s take on things, much like militant man-hating lesbians circumventing the Feminist movement towards their own agenda, or staunch racists using Patriotism to justify their dislike of the President and immigrants.

        Sometimes, all it takes is a banner to rally behind.

    • Situations that are intentionally cruel and go on and on offend me. Players who use their characters as surrogates to punish or abuse other people’s characters and those players by proxy. Any behavior that is non-consensual between players. While I don’t have problems with rapey story lines, I have seen it universally offend at least one other player each time so I don’t support it.

  4. As God and the rest of the heavenly host turned their back on this world after casting the fallen into the pit, all of the entropy and destruction has gone unchecked, with humanity at the whims of the various supernaturals who populate the World of Darkness.

    [Some of the heavenly host, the so called “Messengers,” has disobeyed this directive, thus imbuing Hunters with their powers, so that they might combat the supernatural.]

    As the more repentant fallen leave the pit, tempered with the memories of their human hosts, seeing such desolation and decay, it pains them, as they were sure the world would improve in their exile.

  5. Mummy, third edition, uses a very similar premise, but with portions of Maelstrom blasted Egyptian souls merging with human souls to patch whatever holes of addiction, depression, etc., that made them fit vessels for these spirits.

    The players guide expanded the options a bit, but for the most part, stories could really only take place in the Webs of Faith found in Egypt and the surrounding Middle East, South America, and China (where mummies were historically found).

    As for the most prevalent, the Egyptian mummies, they were charged with restoring Ma’at, or Balance, to the world. Quite a mighty undertaking, and certainly not one suited to many groups’ playstyles. As such, they often went unplayed, or, at best, were mere NPCs in campaigns.

  6. I have yet to run a game of Demon, as I have not found a group I’d feel comfortable running it with, but I have played two Demon characters in mixed campaigns.

    Both of my demons were based on a real world story, but, in game, that dichotomy is reversed, with the real world tales being originally based upon collective unconscious memories of my characters.

    One character is modelled after Kali. As an angel, she was of the Sixth House, the Rabisu (later deemed the Devourers), devoted to shaping the beasts of the wild. Her actual purview was creating the predatory creatures of the seas, specifically sharks. So she worked very far from Humans and very closely with the Lammasu (Defilers), whose domain were the seas and inspiration. This caused some bitterness and animosity in her, as she was compelled to her very being to love the humans, yet she had so little time to see them, and it came so difficult to her, compared to the ease with which the Lammasu did so. Her personal fall was this animosity, coupled with her blind devotion to them.

    She did many things during the war that were orders given to her under the guise of “it’s what’s best for the humans” and her own “Why won’t you love me?!” longing for human contact. It’s also why I placed her more powerful Apocalyptic Form abilities on the Tormented half, punishing her with memories of the atrocities she commited as she strives to overcome them.

    As I played the character, and fleshed out her story more, I added more backstory that she had very nearly become an Earthbound, being worshipped as Kali by so many in India.

    My second character was based on Colossus from the X-Men. He is an Anunnaki (later the Malefactors), or angel of the forge, tools, and the earth. During the war, he forged weapons and armor meant to protect the humans, but they still inevitably fell in battle. Eventually, he forged Mjölnir and headed off to do battle, personally.

    I’ve also drafted up a third character that was based off of the Hulk, but it was just an exercise in character generation, to see how effectively I could capture that character within this rules set. Putting Hulk’s get angrier, get bigger and stronger on his high torment side was very apropos.

  7. Well, what I find distasteful in games is usually what I find distateful in life. Murder, rape, misogyny, corruption, amoung many other things I find not tastey.

    Ironically enough though, I like to feature those things in my games, mostly to be able to disscuss those nasty things that we deal with in real life. Or to smash them, if my players don’t feel like discussing them. Essentially, if I think it is evil, shouldn’t my bad guys (when they are genuinely bad) be doing it?

    Sometimes, though, if the mood should take me, I will craft my stories to avoid some or all of the darker aspects of humanity. I have run stories in which no one died, was raped, or even commited crime. Others have been continual examples of the depravity of humanoids, with either a darkly comic or sober mood.

    So, to answer your question, I basically handle the bad by throwing it at my players and seeing how they handle it.

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