Moral and Ethical Ambiguity, Part 3 of 4 – Virtue
Ok, so we've chatted a bit about Morality and moral codes (back in part 2).…
As I said in Part 1, this series deals with Morality and Virtue as we define them for the Moebius Adventures games. But as with many things, I think it goes beyond the system of rules and provides more food for thought when looking at alignment.
So let’s talk a bit about Morality. Every time I hear that word, I think of the Animaniacs and their “Wheel of Morality” – “Wheel of morality, turn, turn turn… Tell me the lessons that we should learn…” Yes, I am warped.
Anyway… Morality… As I said last time, Morality indicates roughly how a character views right and wrong. And morals are principles or standards relating to a system governing right and wrong behavior in the universe. Codes of morality provide frameworks that benefit an individual or group if used properly.
In terms of the rules for Moral Alignments, “Moral” is 10 to 6, “Gray” is the 5 to -5 range, and -6 to -10 is “Immoral.”
An individual’s morality may differ from that of society, and both may differ from the morality of higher beings.
There’s also a difference between the morality of a character and the player or GM as a person. As a player, you concentrate on what your character understands as right and wrong. For example, let’s take a character in the thieves’ guild. In the real world, the player would (probably) never steal from another person. However, the character has his own reasons for stealing and therefore a different morality from the player.
We found that there are some general, high-level categories of moral codes – Nature, Animals, Man, Society, Thought, and Time. The sum of these define the overall morality of the universe.
Nature’s moral code defines how the elements (fire, wind, earth, water), plant life, and geological events work in the universe. Nature’s moral code is structured to ensure its own continuity. It often does this by cycling through periods of creation and destruction – lightning starts a fire, burns dense forests, and thus provides room for new growth; floods redistribute rich new soil for growth higher along the flood plain.
“Survival of the fittest” is a basically the moral code for Animals. Only the strongest and most able animals are able to perpetuate the species. Often, this moral code is in conflict with Nature. However, animals are more able to survive the effects of Nature because they can adapt.
Mankind’s moral code represents all individuals and genders and their struggle to survive in the world of Nature and Animals. At a basic level, the Human moral code is “might makes right.” To survive, one must live within Nature and control a portion of the Animal kingdom (through the domestication of animals) to improve their quality of life.
Society’s moral code represents groups of individuals brought together to ensure protection of all those in the group. Society requires the participation of its members to succeed. Where conflicts arise between the moral codes of Man and Society, Society should win more often than not. People typically recognize that they have better lives within properly functioning societies than without.
The moral code of Thought includes those individuals capable of reasoning what’s best for Society, Man, Animals, and Nature. The responsibility of Thought is to manage all the lower moral codes to they might all peacefully coexist. Intellectuals recognize that they must minimize conflict between moral codes to obtain a better life for all.
And Time has the highest moral code of all. Like Nature, Time continues marching on.
So what happens when there are conflicts between moral codes?
Let’s go back to the fire example with Nature. Fire cleanses the forest for a new cycle of life. But this may seem cruel to Man or Society to kill life. Nature knows it’s necessary to sacrifice some of the forest so the rest can thrive. Without it, life cannot exist.
However, when a fire threatens a city and its inhabitants, a conflict arises between moral codes. Which moral code should prevail? A character with a “Gray” level of morality at 1 would probably try to stop the fire to protect themselves and their family, thinking more of themselves than Society. Characters with a higher moral alignment, around a 4, would also try to save the city, but because their goal was to save everyone within it, not just themselves.
Examples of Moral Alignment:
When a course of events favors two or more moral codes, no conflict arises. When events don’t favor all participants, conflicts arise. Following the morality of the universe, the right thing to do is to favor the higher moral code.
When two different moral codes conflict, you must weigh them. It is morally just to place Time over Thought, Thought over Society, Society over Man, Man over Animals, and Animals over Nature. A character with a moral alignment of -3 might side more with Animals and Nature than Society and Man. This might make him believe it’s morally right to kill poachers in the forest because they are upsetting the moral code when they kill healthy animals instead of the old or sick ones.
Obviously there’s more to discuss for Morality, but we’ll leave it there for now.
Next time we’ll discuss Virtue.