Monday, April 11, 2011

Situational Ethics

Dennis, our Deadlands DM has had a couple of encounters now where the villains have pulled the "what makes your morality better than my morality" card.  And as a player who is attempting to sometime earn enough bounty for a Arcane Background:Blessed, I've been trying to find a good answer to that card.  I know it's horribly wrong, but have been having trouble putting it into words.  My only response has been to simply kill those that try to play it, as though a bullet was the only answer that they deserved.

But there's really a good answer to it, it's just that standing around with everyone with their guns drawn always seems like the worst time in the world to get into a philosophical discussion.  In fact, it always seems to me that it would be a tactic for the bad guy to use to buy time while he surrounds you.  Or a way for him to try to sway others to his side, thereby tipping the scales against you.

What goes through my mind is:

"You are either prevaricating in the hopes of convincing the weak minded that slaughtering innocent men, women, and children is somehow morally equivalent to shooting a dangerous animal that is threatening those same innocents.  You are trying to argue that it is simply self defense to take whatever you want from whomever you want and to slaughter whoever gets in your way.

You and your ilk [always a good word with high negative connotation] are a threat to everyone who has something that you might want, while I am a threat only to those who would seek to do harm to me and mine.  If you walked down the street laden with gold, jewels, medicine and trinkets, you would need have no fear from me, unless and until you were a threat to others.  In fact, I would be more likely to come to your defense at mine own peril than I would be to attempt to take by force that which is yours. 

I have given food and weapons and supplies that I could ill afford to give to others without talk of price or payment for the simple reason that those people were in need, and I was in a position to try to help.  Those same people would be your prey, and would be sacrificed to your convenience. 

The difference between me and thee is that by your actions you have shown yourself to be a threat to me an mine, and the simplest way that I can end that threat is to end you.  And in the time it would have taken me to tell you why you must die, you would have had the opportunity to do harm, time which I will not allow you to have."

This is one of the reasons that in just about every game I've been in, I've argued for a feat or an edge or a perquisite along the lines of:

Interrupt Monologue
Benefit: Once per encounter, you my make a charge or ranged attack or other purely offensive action to interrupt the monologue or diatribe or box text of any evil boss.  This will count as your first action of the encounter, and and will replace the first action you would normally have.  If two characters of equal speed or initiative have this feat, they may make an initiative or quickness check to determine who acts first.  You may not use this feat to make non-attack actions.


  1. You could always have a business card made with that speech on it. This would actually serve two purposes. Not only would you not have to repeat the same speech, but on the off chance that you and your companions all get killed, the bad guy might read the card, see your point, and have a moral conversion on the spot.

    So even if you were all dead, you could look down on the scene with a sense of pride, knowing that you made the villain a better person.

    Or you could shiv him as soon as he starts reading the card.

  2. "The wolf kills the sheep for his own purposes. The sheepdog kills the wolf to protect the sheep. That's the difference. If you can't see it, this is one sheepdog that's about to bite some wolf."

  3. I like that, Sons.... I might just steal it.

  4. Sons, good and simple. Sort of reminds me of "The surgeon does not argue morality with the cancer as he excises it to save the body."