D&D 5E About Morally Correct Outcomes in D&D Adventures [+]

The-Magic-Sword

Small Ball Archmage
Notably, a kantian would probably lament how other violations of the moral rules create such situations in the first place-- e.g. part of the goal of lying and cheating being firmly unethical, is so you as a person living in a world where people try to be good, aren't lied to or cheated.

Kant is much more compelling in a world that acknowledges systemic consequence and externality, in which his moral imperatives are accepted and imposed widely across a culture.

RPGs do tend toward deconstructing Kant by demonstrating the inability to ensure that others acknowledge the imperative, making it an unsatisfying solution.

In game theory terms, it primes you to be a sucker (in the formal, game theory sense of the word). This makes it difficult to write a satisfying victory in a conflict franework that is also ethical.

I suppose one could frame punishing wrongdoing itself as an imperative.
 

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Anon Adderlan

Explorer
Which is why the only moral framework should be the one provided by the players, in accordance with the characters they have created.
I'd argue it's the only framework which can be applied where endings are concerned.

Friendly reminder that this is a +++++ thread, which is experimental and means a lot of things, including positive contributions to the "What if"? hypothetical premise in the OP.
No amount of +++ will prevent criticism of a nonsensical premise though. And it cannot even be addressed until you explain how such endings can be enforced outside of player actions.

Holy sh*t

This is what the AI said:
In other words you need a well defined moral framework in order to present a moral ending. And even then it assumes no dilemmas and depends on player choices.
 

Shadowdweller00

Adventurer
The way I look at things is not from an ethical standpoint, but a character development and reward standpoint. On my own, I tend to favor gritty, grey-on-grey morality settings. But as DM, I consider it to be my duty to help facilitate personal goals for every player character.

That is to say, if a player is playing a con artist, I make sure there are occasional opportunities for bamboozling NPCs. If a character is a Big Damn Hero, I make sure to introduce opportunities for heroics. If I've got a cynical, noir-esque type, I offer some honor-fulfillment with a slice of bitter reality. Most of all, I try to show appropriate consequences for PC's personal choices.

Heroic options are important for heroic characters. But so are less-than heroic options. And they should be tailored to the PC's choices.
 
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EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
I'd argue it's the only framework which can be applied where endings are concerned.
Not entirely sure I understand this. It seems to mean "what is moral is whatever the PCs decide is moral" and that's...I mean technically it's a moral standard, in the sense that a refusal to choose at all is still a choice. But it's a null choice and I don't really see that as a "framework" in any meaningful sense.

No amount of +++ will prevent criticism of a nonsensical premise though. And it cannot even be addressed until you explain how such endings can be enforced outside of player actions.
Because a prewritten adventure is authored, just as a book or film is authored. A book can have a message or inherent moral compass even if individual characters do not act in accordance with that message or compass; generally, this will result in those characters becoming (or staying) unhappy or being punished (whether in a very practical way e.g. legal consequences or in a more symbolic way e.g. enduring preventable suffering.)

Vader turns evil, and suffers for it. His return to good requires a heroic sacrifice, which kills him, but the act allows him to obtain some measure of absolution, almost totally separate from Luke's own actions. (Heck, Luke briefly does embrace the dark side and then stops himself.)

In other words you need a well defined moral framework in order to present a moral ending. And even then it assumes no dilemmas and depends on player choices.
I dunno. I think it's quite possible to have "you need to resolve this dilemma in order to earn a happy ending" as a story element. It's a motive to induce people to Take A Third Option. Finding a way to save MJ and the busload of orphans.

And sometimes it will fail. Returning to Vader, you could argue that Luke "failed" to resolve the dilemma of stopping the Death Star and saving his father. He got the warm fuzzy consolation prize of his father redeeming himself, but not actually saving his life. There's even an alternate timeline comic where Leia went up to the Death Star with Luke, and things play out differently: they're able to save Anakin, but at the cost of failing to kill the Emperor, thus allowing the civil war to continue for longer. That pretty clearly paints this as some kind of dilemma, of having to choose what victories are worth seeking and what you're willing to accept imperfect or symbolic victory on.

Finally, D&D often includes actual deities, sometimes ones that are genuinely transcendental moral paragons. If Bahamut is a transcendental being literally made of pure Justice and Mercy and Goodness, then him telling you something is morally wrong is...kind of hard to argue with, within the premise of the story. Either you must reject that the story is what it claims to be, or you must somehow argue with (effectively) Goodness Itself embodied and conversant.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Because a prewritten adventure is authored, just as a book or film is authored. A book can have a message or inherent moral compass even if individual characters do not act in accordance with that message or compass; generally, this will result in those characters becoming (or staying) unhappy or being punished (whether in a very practical way e.g. legal consequences or in a more symbolic way e.g. enduring preventable suffering.)
A book can have these things because the author gets to present not only the moral compass but the characters' interactions with and-or reactions to it, and also controls the consequences.

An RPG module is a different matter. Here, while the adventure author can certainly (try to) write a message or inherent moral compass into the adventure, that author has no control over a) how the DM interprets and-or presents any of it and (more importantly) b) how the players will interact with it and-or react to it in character. The author also has little control over how - or if at all - the DM assesses consequences within the run of play.
Finally, D&D often includes actual deities, sometimes ones that are genuinely transcendental moral paragons. If Bahamut is a transcendental being literally made of pure Justice and Mercy and Goodness, then him telling you something is morally wrong is...kind of hard to argue with, within the premise of the story. Either you must reject that the story is what it claims to be, or you must somehow argue with (effectively) Goodness Itself embodied and conversant.
There's this, too: D&D's alignment-tied cosmology system strongly implies some sort of universal definitions of what comprises Good, Evil, Law and Chaos that the characters would likely know (if not necessarily adhere to); which while fine with me might not be fine for all.
 


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