The Middle Way: Another Go at Star Wars Morality

After playing some more Force and Destiny, I’ve come to realise that whilst I stand by all the criticisms I had of the rulebook’s Morality system, I don’t like the rules hack I suggested last month much better. Too complicated, too time consuming, too pedantic… and too unbalanced. Balance issues could be resolved by spending the next few months of play tweaking, until I work out exactly how many Evil Points stealing is really worth, but I have zero enthusiasm for doing that. So I decided to start from scratch.

Happily, this post is much, much shorter than the last one, so we’re already off to a good start. This game replaces Force and Destiny’s rules for rewarding Conflict based on “evil actions”, but supplements the existing rules for Dark Side pips on Force dice and Fear. Fear was a big balance problem in my last hack, but I think the book’s rules are fine as they are.

At the end of each session, any player can suggest how their character acted to bring about peace, harmony, serenity or understanding that session. If the GM agrees, the players roll a D10. This increases to 2D10 if their actions resonate with the character’s Emotional Strength, or if their actions are judged to be especially attuned to the Light Side. Add up all dice, and increase the character’s Morality by the total.

At the same time, the GM should tell the player if they think there was a moment that session where the character acted out of fear, anger, hatred or suffering. If so, the GM rolls a D10. This increases to 2D10 if their actions resonate with the character’s Weakness, or if the evil committed is especially strong with the Dark Side. Add up all dice, THEN ADD CONFLICT POINTS the PC gained for using Dark Side pips on Force dice and failing Fear tests. Decrease the character’s Morality by the total.

In practice player’s will probably find it easiest to do both sets of rolling at the same time, and adjust the character’s Morality by the difference.

SPECIAL: Some acts are so reprehensible that they have special resonance with the Dark Side: taking a life in anger, needless destruction of a hated foe, delighting in physical suffering. If PCs indulge in this kind of behaviour during a session, you should automatically reduce their Morality at session’s end by 3D10 plus the amount of Conflict points generated by Dark Side pips and Fear. In addition, the player cannot roll any dice to increase their Morality with emotional strength that session, as their embracing of the Dark Side shrouds all such good intentions in shadow.

See! Much simpler. But it still addresses my intended design goals: it requires proactive action to attain Light Side Paragon status, makes falling to the Dark Side possible without repeated serial murder, does away with the checklist of evil to measure every PC action, and doesn’t require GMs to design every scenario with a convenient theft or torture opportunity. First game using that system is tonight, so let’s see how it goes.

2 thoughts on “The Middle Way: Another Go at Star Wars Morality

    • It did work, yes! Ended up running with this system for around 40 sessions. It prompted some really interesting discussions about morality, motivation and the nature of The Force at the end of sessions, which grounded the game in a spiritual component we really dug. And it overcame many of the problems we had with the core book’s Morality system: no more napping to the Light Side, no mid-game checklisting of everything bad a PC did, less trivial penalties for Dark Side actions (like physically assaulting people for no reason).

      That said, it is much less forgiving than the core book’s system, and people should be aware of that before using it in their own games. One of our PCs fell to the Dark Side – she had been deliberately “edging it” for the sake of drama, but the moment it came was an abrupt surprise. She did eventually redeem herself (before dying tragically, inevitably), and we got a lot of good roleplay out of her fall in the meantime – but if having a random dice roll determine such a key fact about your character doesn’t appeal, I wouldn’t recommend using this system, nor the system in the core book either.

      Between several different Star Wars RPG systems, and the house rules that accompany the release of each, there must be hundreds of systems for Morality in Star Wars out there… And increasingly I wonder if we should scrap the lot of them, and just make the rule be:

      “When you feel like your character has turned to the Dark Side… your character turns to the Dark Side.”

      Like

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