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We were being hunted by (what we suspect is) an angel. We entered a room with no way back and there were two figures in front of us, shoveling dead bodies into a machine. My character couldn't know that they were normal humans, so I assumed they were some sort of fellow monster (or at least some "things" that were no longer human). Calling the police would have taken too long and my character knew he was too bad at sneaking to get past them unnoticed, so he shot them instead of talking and risking being attacked first.

Of course it turned out that they were normal humans. They were God-Machine cultists who had been murdering people and hiding the bodies in the cellar.

I had a discussion with my fellow player about whether this killing should impact Humanity. Did it count as an Impassioned killing to eliminate those worshipers or not? The motive was to avoid being attacked by these people who were obviously not above killing to keep their secrets, so I felt it was self-defense — Where does premeditated killing of humans end and Impassioned self-defense start?

Does it really make a difference if you don't know its a real human or not? It sounds like, smells like, feels like a human and even dies like a human. Even if you don't believe it that it was a human (or at least tell yourself repeatedly it wasn't) does it make a difference there if you think it was a human or not? (to me the "it was not a human" justification sounds like a few examples in the old wod for how characters justified things on a successful humanity roll)

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    \$\begingroup\$ Don't mind if I question the concept of "preemptive self-defence". I think it's an oxymoron at best. \$\endgroup\$ – El Suscriptor Justiciero Jan 4 '19 at 12:23
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Probably depends a lot on the Storyteller, but my take is that doing something for a good reason is irrelevant to the subject of losing Humanity. The "impassioned" vs. "premeditated" thing is really about whether you made a decision to do it or if it was an accident/physically unavoidable. There's no "pre-emptive self defense" here.

So your example sounds premeditated to me...the horrible things the cultists are doing doesn't mean you don't lose Humanity, it means you've decided that losing Humanity is a price you're willing to pay.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Exactly: you decide to do something immoral (kill), instead of i.e. reporting it to the authorities. Fact that you feel self righteous about stopping evil cult doesn't change the fact, that you are willing to take with premeditation someone's else life \$\endgroup\$ – Yasskier Feb 10 '15 at 22:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ The OP posted some clarification in an answer (now deleted because that's not how things are done), which I've edited into the question. It looks like the original implications of the question (that the motive was moral indignation) wasn't actually the motive. Could you review the question and revise this as necessary? \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 11 '15 at 0:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ Vampires don't have stat call morality in 2e. I know integrity works significantly differently from morality. I can't really recall how humanity has change (other than touch-stones). Are you certain this applies still in 2e? and if so, edit out references to Mortality. \$\endgroup\$ – Lyndon White Feb 11 '15 at 4:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ Premeditated killing is a Breaking point at Humanity 2, there's also related at 3 and 4, this is definitely a breaking point in 2e p107 \$\endgroup\$ – xenoterracide Feb 11 '15 at 14:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the heads-up, Oxinabox. The question was tagged inconsistently at first so I tried to answer vaguely enough that it would apply in most possible cases. \$\endgroup\$ – Polisurgist Feb 11 '15 at 14:42
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AS Plisurgist mentioned, killing humans "for greater good/justice" is still immoral and is potential humanity loss and definitely doesn't count towards "Self defense". But what happens when you don't know that you are fighting with mortal? In that case the ignorance is blessing - if you don't know what are you killing, you shouldn't loose humanity. BUT when you find that you've indeed killed normal mortal (even after a while), you are at risk of loosing humanity.

Think about it as an internal court system (which in fact morality is): when the dust settles, at the end of day you still committed murder in cold blood.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The problem with not "knowing" what you kill that I see is: It looks human but hey there are angels in the building we are in. They surely are no humans but angels (was a comment from one of my players when he said what his char thinks the technicians/cultists are). Thus not knowing is a problem there as after a few God machine encounters characters can begin to think all their opposition are angels/spirits that are hiding in humanlike appearances and not believe anyone who tells the opposite. \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas E. Feb 11 '15 at 6:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasE. breaking points are on p107 VtR2e, a characters motivations are irrelevant, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, applies. Also worth noting that you can think about these things as a guilt check. Most non sociopaths feel guilty about killing people even in self defense. Passing the roll means you feel something and don't become more of a monster. \$\endgroup\$ – xenoterracide Feb 11 '15 at 14:36
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Vampire: the Requiem 2nd Edition actually has a unique way of looking at this compared to VtR1 and the various editions of VtM. Most importantly,

In VtR2, losing Humanity over time represents the Kindreds' alienation from human existence.

Humanity isn't morality

Unlike other Vampire games, Requiem 2nd Edition doesn't have a true morality stat. Humanity in the game represents alienation. Likewise, Chronicles of Darkness 2nd Edition (a.k.a. The God-Machine Chronicle) doesn't have a true morality stat; the game's Integrity stat models psychological strain and trauma.

C.f. BITE ME! How to Write Vampire by VTR2's lead designer Rose Bailey:

Humanity is a vampire’s remaining ties to the mortal emotional experience. It’s the ability to empathize with people, and to act like one of them. […]

The Kindred lose Humanity through self-inflicted emotional trauma. Things that create stress and denial and alienation in normal people drive a vampire closer to relying purely on her basest urges, her Beast. The Beast is dependable. The Beast never makes you feel guilty.

Take a look at the breaking point chart in B&S/VTR2 book — if you're used to the chart from VTM, you'd expect it to list "sins" like lying and stealing; but it doesn't. Instead, you could face a breaking point for joining the Ordo Dracul, or getting hit by a car, or visiting your dad's deathbed to say goodbye. There's a ton of stuff about hurting people on there, too, because a central part of the game is that hurting people is part of your vampiric nature.

The game gives you a good bit of leeway on why exactly violence is so firmly tied to breaking points on a chronicle-by-chronicle and character-by-character basis; generally I emphasize Southern-gothic horror of your darkest passions running wild, or the sense of inhumanity that comes with realizing that, huh, actually that horrible thing you did was easy, casual, comfortable.

There's no special exception for self-defense because the mechanics aren't handling "Was it justified?" — only "What happened and how does it affect you?"

(Where morality and remorse come into it is that they serve as excellent pretexts for spending XP to buy back some Humanity — your Kindred character is actively trying to stay connected to human feelings and values, even though it hurts.)

Breaking points aren't punishments

Breaking points are dangerous. They represent potential loss of yourself — to the Beast, for a vampire; or to the weight of trauma if you're a mortal with Integrity. However, facing breaking points in the game isn't a universally bad thing.

For starters, you gain XP: an immediate Beat for the detachment roll, and most likely a second one later when you resolve whatever Condition you picked up as a result of the roll. (Frenzy is, likewise, worth a Beat now if you fail, or a deferred Beat in the form of the Tempted condition.) These payoffs make up a significant portion of the overall XP cycle creates an incentive to push your character towards a bit of trauma, to ride the edge. Losing Humanity or Integrity is usually worth avoiding, but risking it time and again? That's highly rewarding.

Beyond that, breaking points are an indication that your game session is actually going somewhere. The game wants your character to face this kind of situation in play. Think of breaking points as dramatic beats and roleplaying guideposts — a little attention-grabbing pin to remind you that something important just happened in play.

The example: murder by ambush

In the example, the protagonists ambushed and killed some people they ran into, because they seemed like (supernatural) threats. Assuming your Humanity isn't already at animalistic/monstrous levels, that's going to prompt a detachment roll.

Mechanically, it doesn't really matter whether your character attempts to justify it. VTR2 is never going to ask you to jump to any "objective" moral conclusions about that kind of thing. All the Humanity sub-system says is that this experience was traumatic or revealing in some way.

Whether it's "impassioned" or "premeditated" mostly depends on the situation at the time: was it a thoughtful calculation (however quick it happened to be) or a snap reaction based on some emotional reality of the situation (desperate to escape danger, &c.)? That's all you really need to worry about — and, honestly, if you don't get this distinction down perfect every time, I don't think it'll totally ruin your session. (I also don't think it especially matters if the group forgets to do a detachment roll here or there, as long as the overall flow is working for you.)

How does this mean in-character? Well, if nothing else, the way the kine you stumbled onto died so easily is a pretty strong reminder that you're not quite one of them anymore.

When your character doesn't care anymore

If you're very certain that the experience shouldn't emotionally affect your character at all, you've got two options to represent making their peace with it:

  • Keep riding the spiral of Humanity downward until it doesn't matter anymore. Basically letting your character's Humanity catch up to their mindset.

    For example, a pretty natural consequence of joining the Impaled is that you're going to push down to about Humanity 4-5, where "surviving an experience that would put a human being in the hospital" is no longer a breaking point. Because that's what you do for fun now, all the time. Your character may have higher Humanity now, but it's not likely to last long.

  • Take a Bane to become immune to that specific breaking point. You gain a new supernatural quirk and the breaking point just doesn't affect you anymore, at any level of Humanity.

    This is a good fit for your "sacred assassin" type characters who do nasty things as part of their calling but otherwise strive to maintain their connection to their mortal lives.

(For a discussion of coping strategies employed by mortal characters who routinely undertake violence, see the CofD2 Hurt Locker book.)

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Yes.

Check Humanity:

Humanity Rating - Moral Guideline

Humanity/Threshold/Sin/Dice Rolled

10  Selfish thoughts (e.g., hurting someone's feelings) 5 dice
9   Minor selfish acts (e.g., cheating on taxes)    5 dice
8   Injury to another, accidental or otherwise (e.g., physical conflict)    4 dice
7   Petty theft (e.g., shoplifting) 4 dice
6   Grand theft (e.g., burglary)    3 dice
5   Intentional mass-property damage (e.g., arson)  3 dice
4   Impassioned crime (e.g., manslaughter)  3 dice
3   Planned crime (e.g., murder)    2 dice
2   Casual/callous crime (e.g., torture, serial murder) 2 dice
1   Utter perversion, heinous acts (e.g., combined rape, torture and murder; mass murder)   2 dice

If your Humanity is 5, intentional damage to a PROPERTY impacts your Humanity. planned violation (outright murder, savored exsanguination) impacts your Humanity if it is as low as 3 To start killing with no impact on your humanity (If it was not your fault, for example: self-defense), you must have a REASON to kill and a Humanity of 2. Besides, no reason would save you from having your humanity hurt if you won't stop ("serial murder").

Vampire was always a game about personal horror and how to fight the beast.

So assume the worst before assuming the best scenario. The character can always have the amount of successes they need, feel bad, mourn and think: "There was no other way". That's what the dice roll is for. But the crime is there and he knows he didn't do a good think because his beast wanted out.

Edit:

From the discussion in the comments, I think I should add this:

When I GM Vampire, I always ask: "was that the only way?". If the character has the successes he needs, he feels like: "THERE SHOULD HAVE BEEN OTHER WAY" if if there wasn't. He will mourn. He wasn't a killer. He didn't want to do that. And if he is a killer, we know the beast will claim him sooner or later. Probably sooner. If he fails the test, I'll fill the player's mind with things like: "You liked it, didn't you? You felt powerful. You ended your problem in such a simple way. He will never be a problem again". I am mean when I GM vampire

Considering that there's nothing between accidental injury and intentional injury in the Humanity Moral table:

Maybe they didn't really want anything between those two. As a matter of fact, right now I fail to find something in between those two. You have to consider that the table is not about morals but about what the beast sees as an opportunity to claim its host.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I agree about assuming the worst due to the nature of the game. But killing in self-defense is not a crime at all. Shooting someone who has never threatened you, because they happen to be in your way, isn't self-defense (the Trayvon Martin case notwithstanding). It's up to the Storyteller of course, but in genuine cases of self-defense ("a cultist leaps on you, you're fighting for your life") I think it's entirely reasonably to rate killing at level 8 (injury accidental or otherwise), or 7 for the extreme nature of the injury, not 3. \$\endgroup\$ – Steve Jessop Feb 11 '15 at 9:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ ... that said, the fact that there's nothing between "accidental injury" and "manslaughter" is a flaw of the table, and something Storytellers might want to fill in for themselves rather than following the slight guidelines :-) In that case, house-ruling "killing in self defense" somewhere between 8 and 4 would seem sensible. \$\endgroup\$ – Steve Jessop Feb 11 '15 at 9:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ Agreed. But when I GM Vampire, I always ask: "was that the only way?". If the character has the successes he needs, he feels like: "THERE SHOULD HAVE BEEN OTHER WAY" if if there wasn't. He will mourn. He wasn't a killer. He didn't want to do that. And if he is a killer, we know the beast will claim him sooner or later. Probably sooner. If he fails the test, I'll fill the player's mind with things like: "You liked it, didn't you? You felt powerful. You ended your problem in such a simple way. He will never be a problem again". I am mean when I GM vampire but I understand your point if view. \$\endgroup\$ – Davi Braid Feb 11 '15 at 9:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ Actually, maybe they didn't really want anything between those two. As a matter of fact, right now I fail to find something in between those two. You have to consider that the moral table is not about morals but about what the beast sees as an opportunity to claim its host. Sort of \$\endgroup\$ – Davi Braid Feb 11 '15 at 9:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ Please integrate this discussion into your answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Feb 11 '15 at 10:04

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