Monday, November 11, 2019

Wiki Showcase: Dark Communion revisited

The second form of Communion I wrote back in Iteration 4 was Dark Communion, my stand-in for the "Dark Side" of the Force, and the "Id" gestalt.  This facet of Communion focuses on selfishness, primal urges, and the dissolution of social structures. You can see the updated version of Dark Communion on the wiki here.

Is Dark Communion Evil?

As with True Communion, I get a lot of nudges and winks when I talk about my attempt to keep Psi-Wars free of moral judgment when it comes to Dark Communion.  "Clearly," people say "where True Communion is the Good side of Communion, Dark Communion is the Evil side of Communion."  Is that so?

"Yes, Dark Communion is Evil Communion"

Where True Communion is "vanilla" Divine Favor, Dark Communion is based on the suggestions of an Evil flavor of Divine Favor from the book.  It draws a lot of its miracles from Antoni Ten Monros' evil miracles from various Pyramid articles.  It has themes of deception, destruction and empowering yourself at the cost of others. It even has the "Dark Contract" rules from GURPS Magic, which is meant to handle demonic magic.

I've tried to deliberately evoke "evil" imagery with Dark Communion, but it's a "teenager satanist" sort of evil. It wants to take down authority, it wants to strut and swagger and get all the girls. If True Communion is "civilized," Dark Communion is "barbaric." We tend to teach that sort of selfishness and dissolution of society is "evil," and Dark Communion certainly fits the bill. It's also meant to be deliberately tempting, offering you the ability to be powerful now instead of powerful later, and it seeks to make you powerful. But if you follow it, you'll eventually become addicted and trapped by it.

It's clearly meant as the Dark Side of the Force, with the serial numbers filed off.  It gives us our Sith lords and our Sith assassins who contrast with the noble Templars of True Communion.  I've seen a lot of people treat it that way, and that's perfectly fine.

"... but Really, Is Selfishness Evil?"

"Greed, for lack of a better word, is good." --Gordon Gekko, Wall Street
On the other hand, Dark Communion isn't really about evil so much as it's about the Id. It's about selfish, primal drives, and those drives exist for a reason.  They desire to survive keeps you alive.  The desire for acclaim ensures your acceptance by the tribe.  The desire to make ensures the continuation of your lineage.  The desire to kill ensures nobody will mess with your other desires.  Animals follow Idic urges, and people don't call them "evil."  They're dangerous, for sure, but they're not "evil."

True Communion and Broken Communion seek the dissolution of the self; only Dark Communion embraces the self. Many of its miracles seek to protect the user, to help him survive and continue on.  Is a force that keeps you alive really "evil?"  Self-sacrifice isn't necessarily good: sometimes it's foolish, and sometimes those who ask it of you don't have your best interests at heart.

You can build entire societies off of selfishness. The Super-Ego must be trained and taught, and the specifics of it vary from culture to culture. The only things you can be sure of to motivate humanity are primal urges, and most well-written laws and resilient societies acknowledge this. Free-market capitalism is based on the notion that you can harness greed and hook it up to the engines of society: that if you reward selfish people for serving society, and punish them for letting those selfish urges harm society, you can get a functional society.  And, complaints aside, that's powered some of the greatest expansions of humanity in the whole of human history.  In principle, if I worry about me and mine, and you worry about you and yours, then you can create a fabric of society.

As one reader, a big fan of Dark Communion likes to point out, Dark Communion is only harmful to you if you let it use you, rather than using it.  It itself is like a beast, and it tends to push towards certain things.  If you can control those passions and channel them, Dark Communion can empower you.  If you take the Freudian imagery to its ultimate conclusion, the only piece missing is the "ego," or you.  Your id lies below you, your super-ego above you, and your psychosis as a dark shadow over your shoulder. You decide how you interact with each aspect of your self and its reflection in the universe.  Like a martial artist channeling his anger into a burst of power at just the right time, or an artist turning his grief into a beautiful work of art, you can turn your baser urges into an ally.  Those who follow the Path of the Rebellious Beast and remove themselves from the world they care about are free to rage and rampage against their enemies in relative safety; those who follow the Path of he Beautiful Fool and embrace chaos see no real downsides.

Finally, Dark Communion rejects social convention in favor of the self.  "Why should I have to do this?" it asks.  This can corrode society around the character, but it also challenges it.  If a particular tradition demands self-sacrifice, and the character demands to know why he is expected to make such a sacrifice and rejects "because that's how we've always done it" then he can enact social change.  Progress can arise from the rejection of social convention.  By rejecting Tradition, Dark Communion paves the way for new social orders (though, it must be said, it is profoundly unlikely to forge stable social orders itself, beyond the "Law of the Jungle" social orders).

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