Monday, July 18, 2011

Situational Ethics: Team Rocket, Slavery, and the Pokemon RPG

I’ve talked a lot about the Pokemon RPG I’m running now, and I think after this I will hold off for a little while, but it was suggested that I should write about the ethics of the game, and I think it could be interesting.  If nothing else, it will be a nice summary for the players.  The campaign has taken the party to each of several groups involved in the greatest conflict ever to hit Kanto (remembering that this is 700 years before the adventures of Ash Katchem).  The debate over who to side with raged so violently within the party that we have had to split into two groups just to accommodate the results of their decisions.  So, I would like to tell you just a little bit about how this conflict has shaped up, so you can decide which side you would come down on.  I’m not sure where I would side if I was playing, to be honest.  Prepare for a deluge of Plot!

A few years prior to the start of this campaign, Vincent, current leader of the Ground Gym, discovered the existence of Aprikorns, mysterious nuts from the west which, when used properly could control a Pokemon and cause them to serve you.  Unhappy with the poor standard of government exercised by the Elite Four and the very disparate Gyms, he decided that Kanto needed uniting under a single banner – his, naturally – and he now had the tools to succeed.  So he created an army in secret, giving each of his gym members Aprikorns to train their own servants with.  Believing in order at all costs, he recently sacked Cerulean City with this half-human, half-Pokemon army, capturing two Gym leaders and cutting Brock off from the world.  The world trembles as they await the next actions of the most dangerous force in the world, united under the new banner of Vincent’s family – Clan Rocket.

Image by TheDarkHell - DeviantArt

As for the Pokemon, by far the most intelligent and the most powerful is Alakazam.  He has been the secret force behind the strange conflict-free zone around Celadon City, created in response to the Grass Gym’s vow of pacifism.  On the other hand, he also organized and permitted the haunting of Lavender Town by a horde of Ghost Pokemon, forcing the entire population to evacuate.  Most terrifyingly, he is currently in sole control of the Psychic Gym, being the only being capable of understanding and containing the tragedy which befell the gym’s members when they abused their power and lost their minds.  Even Sabrina is little more than a soulless husk, after trading her own soul for more power.  Alakazam keeps the members contained, to prevent them from harming the populace.  All of this has been to create a single political statement: Pokemon are intelligent, powerful, organized, and can be negotiated with.  If he had simply shown up on Brock’s doorstep asking for an audience, he would have been hacked to pieces.  Now, he has the respect required to negotiate a permanent peace with the governing bodies of Kanto.  He is also, however, somewhat distracted by Vincent’s army, as are the rest of the gym leaders.

So, here are the sides:  Vincent and his Pokemon army sitting in Cerulean City, with Koga on his side, but too far away to be much help.  He has a few other allies, but I can’t mention them just yet.  On the other side, you have Brock, Blaine, Gaston (Misty’s replacement), and Sabrina (emissary for Alakazam) gathered in Vermillion City.  Vincent is seeking a new world order, where people no longer fear Pokemon as they are controlled and servile.  Alakazam is seeking a respectful peace between humans and Pokemon, where neither harms the other, and also wants the Aprikorns destroyed.  Brock, Blaine and Gaston just want the war to be over, Vincent to be stopped, and the world to return to normal.

The party on the Vermillion side of things just visited Cerulean City to see what Vincent was up to.  They left somewhat confused as to which side they should be on.  Vincent is treating the people well and rebuilding the city conscientiously.  He is though, also creating siege weapons.  Out of character, the players are realizing that for the world of Blue and Red Version to exist, Vincent must logically win, because Pokeballs do exist, and they are made from Aprikorns.  But Vincent is from the Ground Gym, and is the head of Clan Rocket, which must be the predecessor of Team Rocket.  So for the future to occur, Team Rocket has to win.  At least, that’s how they are beginning to see it.

I’m quite proud of this campaign to be honest.  It’s complicated, and there are a lot of players (NPC and PC) moving about the place all the time.  I have to keep track of the movements of at least 20 NPCs to know what is going on in the world.  I understand if this summary wasn’t very coherent, but I am keeping it as condensed as I can.  But yes, where would you stand?  Vincent is a little dictatorial, but still polite and has a good point to make.  So too does Alakazam.  The Vermillion Army seems to just be trying to keep things safe.  At least, these are the positions as they are appearing to the party at the moment.  They may well change over the weeks to come.

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