Over the decades, I've run several times into disagreements about whether or not some circumstance excuses a sin on the hierarchy, or whether inaction leading to a a sin-like event occurring indirectly is grounds for a degeneration roll (e.g. whether refraining from touching the infamous trolley switch should cause the degeneration check for 5 deaths).
These disagreements are of course a result of the fact that some players and GMs view the sin hierarchies through deontological eyes, and others through utilitarian eyes. There's also the suspicion that this may have been influenced by people being introduced to the mechanics through different editions, which may or may not have leaned in different directions on the matter.
- Do any of the books indicate which of the philosophical stances is assumed or at least leaned towards for the purposes of applying the degeneration mechanics?
- Are there differences in the stance between different editions of VtM, or between VtM and Chronicles of Darkness?
Are there indications of contradictory stances in different books (or even pages of a book!) within an edition?
'Edition X and Y book texts do not indicate a stance, leaving it up to the GM' is a valid answer to this question if it is based on actual knowledge and not a guess.
Since the above may be unclear, here's a typical simplified structure that demonstrates the possible different approaches. Imagine a situation similar to the infamous trolley switch case, where the default outcome is an event that is similar to a path rating N sin (e.g. someone gets killed etc.), but it can be prevented by actively performing a path rating N+1 sin (i.e. 'flipping the switch' requires committing a 'milder' sin). This is a classic dilemma. Which of the ways of resolving the dilemma, if any, has any support in the letter of the rules:
- (a) flipping the switch results in a degeneration roll for a rating N+1 breach, doing nothing leads to no degeneration because there is no sinful action (deontology-leaning interpretation);
- (b) both choices lead to degeneration rolls, but whether one flips it determines the breach level (N or N+1), because both are sinful choices ('damned if you do, damned if you don't');
- (c) flipping the switch results in no degeneration roll because it's a net increase in utility; doing nothing leads to no degeneration roll either ('soft' or 'carrot' utilitarianism);
- (d) flipping the switch results in no degeneration roll (as above); doing nothing leads to a rating N degeneration roll because it's still a sinful choice even though it requires no action ('hard' or 'stick' utilitarianism);
- (e) some other resolution?