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Old 11-01-2019, 03:10 AM   #1
johndallman
 
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Default [Basic] Disadvantage of the Week: Pacifism

Pacifism [-5 to -30] is a mundane mental disadvantage, with no self-control roll. You are unwilling or unable to use violence against people, either on principle, because of psychological factors, or a mixture of the two. This disadvantage first appeared in GURPS 1e, and has several variations:

Reluctant Killer [-5] means you aren’t psychologically adjusted to harming people. This is fairly normal behaviour for humans without combat experience or training. You can attack monsters or vehicles, launch missiles against targets on a screen and the like without problems, and you can assist or encourage allies happily. But when it comes to shooting or striking recognisable people, things get harder for you. You’re at -4 to use deadly force on a person whose face you can see, and cannot Aim (or, presumably, Evaluate). If you can’t see their face, you’re only at -2. If you kill a recognisable person, you have a severe reaction to it, and are depressed and incapable for 3d days. During this time, you need to succeed in a Will roll to use or threaten any kind of violence to anyone.

Cannot Harm Innocents [-10] is more like a Code of Honour. You’re unwilling to use deadly force if people who are innocent bystanders might be affected, or on enemies who aren’t using it on you. You can’t use it on people who are only attempting to capture you without deadly force, unless you’ll be executed after capture, or have principles that require you to kill yourself if captured. You’re quite willing to use non-deadly force, which makes this disadvantage more suitable for settings, such as supers games, where that is more readily available.

Cannot Kill [-15] seems to be more a psychological trait than a principle. You’re unwilling to kill anyone, even through omission, or to have comrades who kill people. You can participate in or start fights, if they present no risk of killing. If you feel responsible for a death, directly or indirectly, you react in the same way as a Reluctant Killer (above).

Self-Defence Only [-15] is usually principled. You use violence only to protect yourself, and those you’re responsible for, and to the minimum degree necessary. Pre-emptive strikes are not permitted. You also do your best to discourage others from violence.

Total Non-Violence [-30] is the extreme case. You will not use violence against intelligent creatures, even in self-defence. You try hard to discourage others from violence. You can still defend yourself against animals and other unintelligent creatures.

In GURPS supplements, Reluctant Killer and Self-Defense Only are common options on templates for ordinary people, and Cannot Harm Innocents for people with some power or authority and a conscience. Aliens: Sparrials are prone to the quirk “Cannot Kill, Except in Self-Defense,” and some Banestorm monks have a Major Vow to use force only to protect themselves or others from immediate harm. Bio-Tech has a combat drug that mostly suppresses this disadvantage, although there can be problems after it wars off, and “Wetware sub-personalities” that can negate mental disadvantages in general. Horror: The Madness Dossier is more about inflicting disadvantages, in this case via implanted microchips, while Locations: Hellgate and Magic have a -50% limitation for demons’ Cannot Harm Innocents, limiting it to truly good or holy people. Power-Ups 6 has several quirk-level versions, and Space applies Pacifism to all intelligent beings at base cost. Ultra-Tech robots can readily have species-specific Pacifism, but in a Zombies game, it depends on if zombies are still “people.”

The Basic Set suggests that characters starting a high-realism campaign without combat training should have Reluctant Killer (or even Cannot Kill). I’ve played such a game, when some quite normal students volunteered for drug trials in the 1960s, and found they’d acquired psionic powers. There weren’t many guns around at first, but there was an enemy with pyrokinetic abilities, after which we were allowed to buy off Reluctant Killer. Social Engineering suggests that Reluctant Killer becomes common at TL5+, when police and military organisations mean most citizens don’t have to deal with violence regularly. Modern tactical training tries to remove Reluctant Killer, as per Tactical Shooting.

I’ve seen a character in a Norse-flavoured D&D game try to use Total Non-Violence: he was an evangelistic cleric who was sure that he could convert an encampment of giants to his religion (I think the player was just trying to subvert the game). He said we “weren’t allowed to rescue him unless he got into serious trouble, which won’t happen!” He didn’t define “serious trouble” but we reckoned he was there once he’d been swallowed by a giant worm.

How has Pacifism complicated your games?
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Old 11-01-2019, 06:07 AM   #2
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Default Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the Week: Pacifism

My main thought on the subject is that Reluctant Killer doesn't really belong under the same heading as the other variations; it's a psychological limitation, and really ought to take a self-control roll, whereas the others are in the Vow/Code of Honor continuum. This has required a little bit of verbal contortionism when writing rules material.
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Old 11-01-2019, 06:58 AM   #3
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Default Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the Week: Pacifism

Oddly enough, I think one might make a case that playing enough realistic video games might remove part of Reluctant Killer for the specific purpose of reluctance to take a shot at something that looks like a person. But judging by reports you'd still get the depression afterwards once the subject realises what they've done.
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Old 11-01-2019, 07:20 AM   #4
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Default Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the Week: Pacifism

Quote:
Originally Posted by RogerBW View Post
Oddly enough, I think one might make a case that playing enough realistic video games might remove part of Reluctant Killer for the specific purpose of reluctance to take a shot at something that looks like a person. But judging by reports you'd still get the depression afterwards once the subject realises what they've done.
You could make the same argument for seeing lots of violent movies.
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Old 11-01-2019, 08:24 AM   #5
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Default Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the Week: Pacifism

The pacifism spectrum is crippling and awesome, which makes them great disads.

Taking these really rubs a player's face in how often they solve RPG problems with murder, and forces them to be more heroic.

I have often regretted having pacifism in the heat of the moment, but I have never regretted having it after the game.
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Old 11-01-2019, 09:23 AM   #6
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Default Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the Week: Pacifism

Quote:
Originally Posted by RogerBW View Post
Oddly enough, I think one might make a case that playing enough realistic video games might remove part of Reluctant Killer – for the specific purpose of reluctance to take a shot at something that looks like a person.
Not really. For the same reason that the Army has found that training using silhouette targets doesn't actually prepare one for being able to fire on other humans.

Or target training for hunters. If you've ever trained to hunt, you know what I'm talking about. Many simply assume that the 'squeamishness' is something that only children 'have to get over', but if you've never acted to kill another creature, there's a decent chance you'll have to steel your nerves to make those first several kills. And you might also face the same depression (if you weren't starving, being terribly hungry helps get passed that PDQ). The more you identify an animal with 'human behavior' the harder the killing and getting over it is. The farther from 'human' the easier it is.

The only thing that gets you over it is doing it. And the only thing that helps with that is training (muscle memory reflex) and need. And probably some counseling afterwards.



Quote:
Originally Posted by martinl View Post
The pacifism spectrum is crippling and awesome, which makes them great disads.

Taking these really rubs a player's face in how often they solve RPG problems with murder, and forces them to be more heroic.

I have often regretted having pacifism in the heat of the moment, but I have never regretted having it after the game.
I've never taken the disads... but I very often play pacifists. And I agree, dealing with a problem without 'resorting' to violence in game is often very satisfying.
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Old 11-02-2019, 06:55 AM   #7
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Default Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the Week: Pacifism

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Originally Posted by evileeyore View Post
I've never taken the disads... but I very often play pacifists. And I agree, dealing with a problem without 'resorting' to violence in game is often very satisfying.

That's a pattern I see in a number of players. We want to play heroic types (and we don't want our buddies playing thoughtless murderers), and that involves some sort of restraint when it comes to noncombatants. On the other hand, everytime I read the disadvantages I think "I'll pass on this", even though the character is highly unlikely to ever break those restrictions.
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Old 11-02-2019, 07:40 AM   #8
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Default Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the Week: Pacifism

I've seen Reluctant Killer and Cannot Harm Innocents taken by players before. The rest of the party acted as if they were crippled, far more so than they did (and do) towards the Truthful and Honest characters. Mind you, that could well be because the person who was willing to take Pacifism disads was also happy to play them, whereas the ones who take Honest & Truthful rules lawyer very hard when they might suffer from them, so the former probably seems worse to them than the latter.
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Old 11-02-2019, 07:47 AM   #9
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Default Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the Week: Pacifism

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Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
Locations: Hellgate and Magic have a -50% limitation for demons’ Cannot Harm Innocents, limiting it to truly good or holy people.
Incidentally I think this is was a mistake. This is a new sort of limitation, not a variation on Cannot Harm Innocents. Innocent in this, and a few other legalistic contexts, retains its original meaning. It's the antonym of noxious, not of evil. Or guilty for that matter. And it certainly doesn't mean uninvolved, which is another way people sometimes misread CHI.

CHI is essentially a superset of Self Defense Only, one allowing force to defend not just yourself but others as well. It doesn't allow you to use force against people who are not an actual threat, regardless of their crimes. Conversely it does allow you to use force against people who are trying to harm you even if they are saints, hence the bit about it being OK to fight off law enforcement in places the law really is seeking to harm you.
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Old 11-02-2019, 09:20 AM   #10
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Default Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the Week: Pacifism

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Originally Posted by malloyd View Post
Incidentally I think this is was a mistake. This is a new sort of limitation, not a variation on Cannot Harm Innocents. Innocent in this, and a few other legalistic contexts, retains its original meaning. It's the antonym of noxious, not of evil. Or guilty for that matter.
Yeah, that would read better as "Cannot Harm Holy", and then include some explanation as to the meaning of "Holy". The point value of [5] is probably correct.

Quote:
And it certainly doesn't mean uninvolved, which is another way people sometimes misread CHI.
eh, the description of CHI uses the word "uninvolved", so that's a hard sell. And it does actually specify that the harm must be directed at you, not at others in order for you to use lethal force. And if you're not using lethal force you need either the right setting or overwhelming force to be effective.

I do think there is room for a version that allows lethal force on "wrong doers" but not "innocents". Which is at least by strict RAW not what CHI is, regardless of what it should be. the current version seems a little too rooted in an old style of the superhero genre. That version is arguably [5] points. And arguably something OTHER than pacifism.
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