Ethics as provocative question fodder.

  • 3 Replies
Ethics as provocative question fodder.
« on: August 22, 2012, 10:49:04 PM »
My technical communication class briefly reviewed ethical considerations today (as they pertain to making recommendations in analytical reports, but who cares?) and a couple things lit up my brain parts about Apocalypse World so here it is:

When making decisions we weigh priorities in three categories,

  • Anticipated Consequences
  • Values/Convictions (independent of consequences)
  • Obligations

Each category can hold all kinds of ideas, specific or abstract. The key word in all this is priorities. We may all value safety, prosperity, and personal freedom, for example, but we might prioritize them differently.

For asking provocative questions, this comes in pretty handy. If I'm stuck for ideas I can just pick two categories, or two ideas within one category, or two ideas within different categories (the boundaries are blurry anyway), and ask the character which is more important. Note that I can ask provocative questions implicitly by putting someone in a spot or offering a hard bargain, or probably other moves I haven't thought of, which is to say I misdirect as instructed by the principles.

Example? OK.

Does Boxer prioritize Lala (his lover to whom he is obligated) over his oft-stated conviction that everyone must pull their own weight around here (a value)? Does he prioritize Lala's happiness over that of Shazza, his chief lieutenant (conflicting obligations)? Does he prioritize Lala's safety over preventing a neighboring hold from attacking (obligation vs. anticipated consequence)?

For some of you this may seem obvious, and we probably all do it intuitively anyway. Yet here I am posting about it just in case.

Summary: when asking provocative questions, sometimes try to clarify the character's competing priorities and make him choose between them. The closer they compete, the better.

Re: Ethics as provocative question fodder.
« Reply #1 on: August 25, 2012, 10:40:41 PM »
This is a good angle to approach the questions from, I'm glad you brought it up. My initial reaction is, this might be a useful tool also for analyzing your PC's reactions and decisions (one who tends to be logical and consider anticipated consequences, may be offered (a different) hard bargain or put someone in a spot than someone who's more focused on his principles).

Re: Ethics as provocative question fodder.
« Reply #2 on: August 28, 2012, 11:44:14 PM »
Excellent point; I hadn't considered that.

This mostly came about in response to my need to cut right to the chase for con demo play at PAX. I needed to think up questions that help me bring situations to a boil much quicker than I'm used to*.

I like that it also works for evaluating player/PC tendencies.

*For example: "Whom do you care about most, and why? Whom do you rely upon most, and why? Who (relies on|cares about) you the most, and why? What do you think about that person? What conviction do you demonstrate/enforce despite taking heat for it, and why? Who gives you heat for it, and why? What do you do that you're kind of ashamed of, and why? What can't you stand about (important NPC|other PC), and why? What should (you|important NPC|other PC|everyone) (avoid|pursue) at all costs, and why?" Normally I'd suss these out spontaneously over several sessions, but for Games on Demand I plan to spread these questions around at character introductions. Also this awesome trick:

Re: Ethics as provocative question fodder.
« Reply #3 on: September 05, 2012, 10:40:30 PM »
OK, I went into PAX with this in mind and found that it was useful, but only if loosely adhered to. Rather than treat it as a checklist, like "make sure all this crap gets asked," it ended up being more about "OK, Dust won't let Paul take Enough-to-Eat back to Longview even though the alternative is walking miles with her through the barrens. He's expressing a value here that's more important than the consequences."

So, Yarrum, you were spot on. It's a sweet analysis tool when I remember to apply it.