#RPGaDay2021 – 10 – Conscience

For today’s entry in the beautiful obsession that is #RPGaDay2021, I will forego the attractiveness of trust and light as prompts, and likewise bypass advantage, to focus on the prompt ‘conscience’. This is a fantastic prompt for me, a player who prefers to trust in the richness of operating on the character level, and who appreciates a subtle mechanism in a game’s system which helps to reinforce the experiences of the character in meaningful ways.

Track 1, Cryptic Writings

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A few years ago, I got to read Paul Wade-Williams’ (Wiggy) manuscript for Leagues of Gothic Horror well before publication. This sort of thing is one of the advantages of being an editor, but it often comes with the price of not being able to talk about the contents of what one is working on. In that expansion for Leagues of Adventure, Wiggy put forward a simple yet powerful mechanism to shed light on the effect of villainous action on its perpetrators.

Reinforcing and helping to define the difficult and oppressive society in which the game line is based, the way this method rises to meet the player, the way it models the slide into corruption and guilt, and the way it offers a difficult and life-altering road to further degradation or tenuous redemption is, to my mind, very satisfying and a reason on its own to play the games in addition to all the other reasons.

How do villains get that way?


Stripped of its system specifics, this mechanism is a way of measuring the frequency and degree of vile action, as measured and understood by the people of the setting. It is more than just a mechanical way to give a player pause before choosing a dramatic shift in their portrayal of a character, it is a way to alert them to the seriousness of that action in terms of the setting so that they can be fully aware of it and fully appreciate the course that play is taking.

If that vile action is ultimately taken, provoked by external forces or internal motivations, it will leave its mark upon the character in three ways.

The first way is that the character sheet will gain notation of the growing influence of corruption upon the character. It is something that people notice, and are made uncomfortable by, as if they can hear the whispers of the character’s guilty conscience and see the signs of past battles with it written on the character’s face.

The second is that the character gains a new quirk in their behavior related to their villainy. It informs play moving forward by serving as a reminder of the moment of villainy and how it preys upon the character, but also in that by representing that flaw, mechanical rewards will come into play which help further the character’s goals. The more obvious and limiting that quirk is demonstrated to be, the more able the character will become at accomplishing their ends. Of course, those ends will start to be defined by these marks of conscience and corruption…

Finally, the character, though on a dark and destructive road, can still seek redemption. The true sign of the bite of conscience is to seek to perform reparations and to erase the stain one has allowed to spread across one’s soul. Such a pursuit is not easy. Backsliding and a return to villainous form is far easier and more common. To achieve it, the character may find they need to act not just because of conscience, but with conscientiousness as well.

In Our Play

2 Responses to “#RPGaDay2021 – 10 – Conscience”
  1. Nevander says:

    I wish sooo badly I could get into a campaign of this game. I have almost the entire line of books for it sitting next to me right now at my desk.

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