A Moral System

The backbone of role playing – the moral system. Most moral system, be it fictional or real, are usually built on the premise that there Is good and evil . The premise is not necessarily wrong it is just that it comes from our own history, a history that we have never been able to change or affect in any effective way.

The moral in Good vs Evil comes from our religions and mostly from Christianity with Jesus Christ having the highest virtue of good. Jesus seemed like a nice guy but for me he is not particularly interesting, neither is the whole “philosophy” of chrstianity. It is therefore my intention to go away from that point of origin when creating a moral system and instead of basing it on religion it will take a stand in philosophy.

What is more, apart from good vs evil, is that moral systems usually are based on What we do as defining the moral good. The proverb “What we do is what defines us” is commonly accepted. However, it is not necessarily true and neither is it for certain that it explains the whole of an individual or a group. You can instead turn the proverb around and say “Who we are defines what we do”. It is with these thoughts in mind that the following Moral System is shaped.

Two Axises
What defines our moral world view and our moral actions is broadly defined by two different axises. The first axis goes from Autonomy to Allonomy. Where an autonomous person relies on his own convictions and beliefs and is quick to question where he does not understand, for it is the highest degree of autonomy when he acts on a law the he has created for himself and that must come from an understanding of the law, be it conscious or not. Allonomous, then, describes the opposite, where a person is dependant on external influence and rules and laws created by others. A soldier in a troop would best be allonomous in order to be of most benefit for the troop as they are all dependant on the sargent’s orders. To some extent, the allonomous is more of a tool/vehicle for moral actions rather than the moral actor. It is easy for this person to avoid any moral responsibility, however the person has to deal with his own conscience which is where the subjective moral consequences take place.

The second axis goes from Judgemental to Non-judgemental. To judge another person, whether it is upon his actions or his character, one has to realise that you are referencing to something, often to a moral system. But where does that moral system come from? Is it subjective or objective? Can one be sure that the moral system you judge from is the same moral system that the one you judge is in? All in all, the one who judge another’s actions is equally immoral for you are acting against a particular moral system, namely the system of the one you are judging.

So, whether you are judgemental or not towards others describes how and why you act, be it moral or immoral.

The system might look something like this:

Autonymous/Non-Judgemental    Autonymous/Neutral    Autonymous/Judgemental

Neutral/Non-Judgemental        Neutral/Neutral        Neutral/Judgemental

Allonymous/Non-Judgemental    Allonymous/Neutral    Allonymous/Judgemental

Where Neutral and Neutral meets I would like to add that you have the choice of being true neutral, Variable or Amoral. Where true neutral always takes no stand in a conflict, the Variable takes the side which seems best for the moment and the Amoral is indifferent to which side he is on.

All questions are welcome!

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6 Responses to A Moral System

  1. Jensan says:

    I’m not going to comment on your philosophical view on the moral system, but rather general about the game mechanic behind that a game designer have to decide between.
    As you stated early on, there’s two ways to express it:

    1. “What we do is what defines us”
    2. “Who we are defines what we do”

    In role-playing games I would say these two translates into two different systems (rules mechanically):

    1. I don’t pick a moral view at the start of the game, but rather my actions are rated as we go along. My “moral score” are measured afterwards and tells everybody about how I played my character
    2. I pick a fixed moral view at character creation (given by a list of choices from the game rules), which states how I must play my character.

    Now when I’ve gotten this far in the post, I’m not really sure what I wanted to say with it… I guess I’m curious which one of 1 and 2 above you’re going to go with in this system, rules wise? Do the player have to pick an alignment at start (nr 1), or will they get an alignment during the course of their play (nr 2)?

  2. anteolsson says:

    You described it well but in this system there is no need to choose either or.

    Let us say that a character has an upbringing the first 17 years of his life that unavoidably gives him a certain view of life. He then leaves his upbringers and find new experiences. At this point he must be able to choose to act from what his upbringing thought him or from what his own experiences has thought him, or a mix of both of course.

    A practical example, and let’s say that the two axises go from 0 to 100 in terms of a value indicator:

    I play a character called Nisse. Nisse is at the time being of a Non-Judgemental Alignment (value 0). He sees his smaller brother Bosse steal an apple from their neighbours apple tree. This day, Nisse woke up on the wrong side this day and he goes to Bosse and tell him that “Bosse, you are a Bad bad boy!” and looks at him condescendingly.

    Here Nisse has not acted according to his alignment so he should get +5 to his Judgemental alignment.

    So, in short, it is both “Who we are that defines what we do” and “What we do is what defines us”, at the same time, they are really never seperable.

    In a gaming system this makes perfect sense to me. When you first create your character you also decide where he is in the Moral System described above. Then through playing, the acts he does and the text lines that he choose he will then change his alignment within the moral system. It is then the player’s choice to decide if his character should act on his accumulated world view or if he wants to choose differently. The alignment this character then has should be reflected in the moral system.

    It actually works the same way in D&D 3.5, only difference is that the axises are between Good vs Evil and Order vs Chaos.

    Do I make sense?

  3. anteolsson says:


  4. Jensan says:

    Lasse has only one axis: Calm fnys / Full fnys

  5. anteolsson says:

    True that! A topic that will still be relevant when we are 80

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