Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Sense of Duty in my DF games

Sense of Duty (Companions) isn't a required disadvantage in my DF game. It's common, since it's an easy disad to roleplay and it's got a nice upside (+2 reactions in danger when it's known, great for hireling morale.)

But it's not automatic.

Something Doug wrote yesterday about it triggered a thought. It seems like some people regard the world as a two-way split:

Those with Sense of Duty (Companions).
vs.
Those who'll backstab you for your stuff in a heartbeat.

I see a three-way split:

Those with Sense of Duty (Companions).

Most people.

Those who'll backstab you for your stuff in a heartbeat.


The Sense of Duty folks will stick by you even when leaving is a better option for them - and maybe for you, if "come back and retrieve my corpse" is a viable option. For that and other reasons SoD ends up being an eventual death sentence for characters. At some point, it will come to pass that the options that'll keep you intact are off the table because your character has an inner feeling of duty to his or her buddies.

The "most people" may or may not. They might make the rational choice. They might suck down the last potion and not give it to you because, well, it's better if they drink it. They might backstab you for your stuff - but probably won't. They'll stick by you most of the time, but they don't feel compelled to do so (unless they have other disads that do so.) They have other disads that limit them, or perhaps annoy you, but it's just a normal sense of loyalty, not a strong and option-limiting one.

The others are the ones who lack SoD and take unfriendly disadvantages that place something else of value over their companions. Greedy, Loner plus some other social disads, Callous; Selfish, Jealousy, Paranoia, etc. are all good choices for this kind of guy.

Pretty much, my players are in category 1 - they take SoD often. The ones that don't are more pragmatic about saving their buddies, but aren't therefore automatically your secret enemy. They're just not internally compelled to help you or help their NPC companions. The fact that so many take SoD (or Code of Honor that doesn't allow for abandoning comrades) is why some fights that could easily have ended with "leave that one guy to die" because near-TPKs or turned into epic swingy fights that the PCs pull out of their collective rear ends. The option to take off just wasn't there for many of the characters.

It's an easy disadvantage to play, and it's mostly positive, but it does put some restrictions on your actions. It doesn't mean that if you lack it, though, you lack any moral sense or any loyalty. You just have a normal, not inflamed, sense of loyalty and obligation to your buddies.

22 comments:

  1. Doug's post got me wondering if a simple guide to disadvantages for DF (or Action, or MH) would make life easier. As in, "Wingding the Wizard has taken Curious. Self control rolls are needed in these common situations."

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    1. That seems really useful. Hmmm.

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    3. As an example from my own game, Aner the swashbuckler has both Impulsiveness (12) and Overconfidence (12). His player has been AWOL, so he's an NPC needed for muscle. At the start of a fight, I make a self control roll for him (he has the highest Basic Speed, so he's usually first) to see if he just rushes headlong into the fight at the first bad guy whom he sees.

      Now, I'm still puzzled how to handle his Compulsive Vowing (12), aside from Stubbornness with a self-control roll and not a reaction penalty.

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    4. Make a self control roll. When it fails, somebody says the first fives vows that come to mind, and someone else chooses one from those. Then keep track of them. Maybe there is a food they no longer eat. Maybe they are wearing an ugly hat as a political protest. Maybe they have promised to do certain things, and one checks them off if they are done. Maybe they pick up additional disadvantages. Maybe when when they have 1X or 2X cost in disadvantage vows, they are wise enough to quit vowing.

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    5. A cheat sheet for the GM or players not used to their own disads is handy.

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    6. qins: that isn't anywhere close to how the book presents Compulsive Vowing, and doesn't answer the big question: in what situations do I roll? As I'm dealing with someone who is now effectively an NPC, I'm treating this like Stubbornness with a self-control roll, no reaction penalty, and a mental note to think twice about allowing this disadvantage.

      Peter: I have the disadvantages summarized on the character sheet.

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    7. When I demo GURPS, I generally put a quick summary of that character's ads and disads on the notes section of the sheet, just so that people have some idea of what they're aiming to achieve. Not sure I'd see the need for it for experienced players, though.

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  2. Your three way split is generally accurate, but I have three thoughts to add to it:

    If you are not in the first category, it is hard to tell which of the other two you are. A public commitment is useful here.

    GURPS characters often acquire a broad and interesting array of mental disads - too many to easily keep track of all the ones in the party, any one of which might suddenly push you to start stabbing. A conflicting disad to make sticking with your fellow PCs a better RP option is useful here.

    In many groups, there are those guys. You know who I mean. I prefer not to play with those guys, but sometimes the other option is not to play. An option to reign them in helps in many borderline cases. (Hardcore those guys will stick the knife in and twist regardless.)

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    1. Right, but I don't play with those guys.

      Actually, make that "won't" instead of "don't."

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  3. I'll probably take a quirk of "Face" -- Mo does not have SoD, but he would not commit treachery on companions or the weak. It could probably be folded into a "Code of honor" that already exists, like biker or pirate. He'd steal from the civilized but not a fellow traveler, laws are cute words that do not apply to him, he'd backstab a rich snake cult priest but not someone he's traveled or had a drink with, etc.

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    1. 'had a drink with' sounds like some sort of hospitality code. In the real world, this isn't a rare way to expand the definition of 'people' beyond blood relatives. Are Code of Honor: Tribal or Code of Honor: Barbarian taken? (You see it in citydwellers less, because you get a more functional city state with other mores.)

      As far as not treating the weak as targets goes, there are warriors that fight for prestige, and do not count the weak as worthy targets.

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    2. Code of Honor sounds right. If it's minimally restrictive, it's a quirk. "Only sticks it to those what have it coming to them" is a quirk-level CoH.

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  4. I like it that in DF, groups with SoD: AC seem to fight harder. In the real world, that sense of fraternal dedication seems to be important to actual military success, at least that which relies on shock infantry.

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    1. They fight harder but not necessarily better, heh.

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    2. I agree with the three way split--SOD is a bigger commitment, one that could potentially get you killed. There's no question that if Bjorn didn't have SOD, he would have bailed on the fight that killed him once he woke back up, but...there was no way he was doing that with SOD (especially after the cleric risked his life for him--he was fighting to the bitter end). And that's a good point--he fought harder, but definitely not better. For those who watched Season 2 of the Walking Dead, #3 definitely comes up in Episode 3 (spoiler-free here)...but that doesn't mean that everyone else had SOD; most fell in category #2.

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  5. The other tricky element to this scenario is that those who lack SoD(AC) may not backstab you, but may still rifle through your backs for things you wont miss.

    Or equally wont ever steal your stuff, even going as far as burying you with all your goods, but wont hesitate to run away leaving you to die to save their own skin.

    Or equally wont abandon you in a fight, or take your stuff, but if they've reason to hate you or are provoked, will quite happily cut you down where you stand for the insult of it.

    The trick of the matter is that no matter which sort of person you are, the third category is a little fuzzy around the edges with the second sort.
    You might look like the second sort of person for a long time, even, or at least one that can be comfortably lived with (minor theft of food from other peoples plates, say). The problem is that you never know if lurking under all of that is the one set of conditions where they put on an entirely in-character jerk-hat, and do something you'd rather they didn't.

    That lingering doubt is what makes SoD such a comfort blanket for some, it ensures they wont ever have cause to put on any sort of jerk-hats, ever. Well, unless you're using the rule that any disadvantage with a non-variable self-control roll has a one at 12, which you can roll against if it conflicts with another disadvantage you own... in which case it just makes it less likely, rather than out-right forbidding it.

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    1. Where is that rule from, the default roll at 12 for disads without self-control rolls? Basic says the default is 12 for ones with a roll, not for all. Was that a later add I've overlooked?

      I play "no self control roll" = "always on."

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    2. I think it's one of those Kromm quotes that has just become a standard rule in my game without really needing to reference back to the source material at any time.

      I'd point out that it's only used when you have two disadvantages in conflict with each other, and you need to see which one "wins" as it were. You'd still suffer the backlash of ignoring the other one, but you'd act as if you didn't have it for the purposes of acting "in character" and coming to a decision. If your self control rolls still put you into conflict (both fail by the same margin, for instance) then you spend your turn Doing Nothing as you try to wrestle your mind into a decision and roll again next turn.

      It does a very good job of modelling moral conflicts and people with Cowardice and SoD (AP) for instance, where they both want to run, and want to help their friends.

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    3. I recently designed a brute henchman (wirh dueling halberd mastery, he is in the Deepguard ) who has both Greed and SOD:AC, meaning that he will gleefully steal, but not from his allies.

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  6. I wondered why higher purpose didn't come up in this thread.

    One level probably isn't going to make much difference when the other PCs go down, but something like leveled higher purpose: healer doesn't overlap too much with sense of duty but is giving a useful +x to every roll to keep the other PCs in the fight and then some.

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    1. Probably because it's hard to get a Higher Purpose that isn't pretty tightly focused. So what you end up having a Higher Purpose for doesn't always directly translate to helping your friends so much as defeating specific enemies. That's probably why. Although, there is the Last Ninja Rule in a certain issue of Pyramid . . .

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