Moral Conflicts

I’ve been working on a session that revolves around a moral theme, with the climax of the idea ending with the player getting rid of the presence of the Empire, or getting rid of a syndicate via bioweapons in a town. (basically a “choose one or the other, no going back” sort of thing) I’m having trouble coming up with some ways to make the players want to keep one over the other, for either side.

So far I’ve got things like:

  • Protests/Riots about the Empire’s presence.
  • A beggar telling the PCs about how the syndicate ruined their living situation.
  • And a Sheriff who is conflicted about which side he should choose.

The players currently work for the syndicate, and I’m thinking they’re probably gonna get rid of the Empire at the pace we’re going at. I want it to feel like not even I know what they’re gonna choose, with a huge choice ending the session.

That said, has anyone done something like this? How did it turn out? Any tips on making it feel real? Any ideas for reasons for one faction or the other to stay?

Thanks for your time,

So, to clarify, it’s a choice between letting the Empire take over, or letting the Syndicate take over?

The central conflict is to choose which is better. In order to not make the choice obvious (the Empire has an evil factor of 5, but the syndicate has an evil factor of 7), you need to have different effects between the two. Is the loss of freedoms worth the higher crime of the syndicate? Or is a loss of freedom a worthy exchange for security?

Once I know more, I can give you a more complete answer. The other important factor is how dark you are willing to get in theory, and how dark you are willing to get in terms of what you actually portray at your table, ranging from PG (remember, Death Star was PG) to R.

Basically, how vivid and nasty.


On a movie scale, probably PG-13.

Could you clarify what you are wanting to know? I’m a little confused

Okay, so some darker themes, but more alluded to than outright shown.

Ah, I should have been more specific. The motivations (small m “motivations”) and/or allegiances of the PCs, conditions on the world, current level of Empire or Syndicate activity, the culture of the world in question, etc.

I know it seems extensive, but you don’t need to give all of it. However, the more information you give me the better able I’ll be to help you. If you just want generic answers, I can give some, but I can more precisely tailor them to your needs with more information.


The PCs are just trying to make their way in the galaxy and were hired by the syndicate to work for them. Their allegiance is not really to anybody but themselves.

The World

The world in question is Antar 4, right before the Antar Atrocity which is planned to happen in 1-2 sessions. the atrocity is going to be like the last straw for the syndicate and they will unleash the trump card that the PCs will be taking into position, to ultimately eliminate one of the two factions, chosen by the PCs.

Evil Activity

The Syndicate is more of an insurgency sort of thing than anything (comparable to the activity of the Republic on Alderan during TCW). They actively protest the Imperial presence and are working to make the Empire angry, to say the least.

The Empire is starting to get fed up with the rebellious activities and has called in special ops forces to get rid of the syndicate leaders. They’ve found a few but the rest are in hiding. Because this is right before the Atrocity, they have a huge base with loads of vehicles and troopers ready to be unleashed on any rebellion, which if the tensions keep rising with the syndicate, the army will be unleashed on the town soon.

Culture-wise, they’re about as advanced as any other planet in the Inner Rim. They’ve got the tech that just about anyone else would have. (speeders, ships, blasters, etc.)

Feel free to ask more questions, this helps my world-building a lot. To be honest I didn’t really think about this sort of stuff before this.


I’ll try to answer you either tonight, time willing, or tomorrow.

Yeah. My bad. It’s been a while.

Alright, thank you for your assistance.

First, the most important question: What do you want the PCs to choose? If you don’t care and you really just want them to make a choice between two equally (but differently) evil evils, then you have to try to make them equally detestable, and that’s difficult.

The second-most important question: Is there a third option?

As for direct advice…
Rather than just having people tell them why they don’t want the Empire or the Syndicate in charge, you need to show them the realities of the situation as it is, and what it will be like when one or the other has total control. What kind of crime does the Syndicate commit? Just stuff like protection, casinos, etc. or darker things like trafficking? What kind of effect does the Empire have on the planet? What are the cons of either outfit having control?

If you have a territory where the Empire is in “full” control and a territory where the Syndicate is in “full” control, you can show the differences for compellingly, and what a victory for one or the other would cost the world. Similarly, show them victims of both. Depending on the type of crime the Syndicate commits, this could feature some pretty serious moral outrage and/or prompt emotional reactions.

Another tack to take is to portray the Syndicate as “better” than the Empire, but with a caveat: If the Syndicate takes over, the Empire might come down like a ton of bricks and all of a sudden you have some serious conflict. Is it in the world’s best interest to give it “peacefully” to the Empire rather than to fight to keep it?

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It’s entirely up to my PCs. I want them to feel like they’re making an important choice, so I don’t wanna tip the scales in one faction’s favor.

Now that you mention it, the only third option I can think of is that the players take the weapon and destroy/get rid of it. I don’t know if that will happen though.

Are you meaning something like in the KOTOR game, where the gangs rule the undercity and the Sith Empire rules the aboveground cities of Taris? The ghettos during the Holocaust come to mind as well.

This is all good food for thought. Thanks, P-47. When I have more questions you’ll be the first to know.

Oh, the bioweapon you mentioned. Can you tell me any more about it? Will removing it from the scene shift the balance of power, de facto enabling one of the two factions? Or perhaps lead to outright conflict between the two, placing the civilians in further danger?

Something like that. Also comparable to the MMORPG trope where each “clan” has a “base” which is their territory, and then there is “contested ground” in-between.

So maybe the Syndicate has “liberated” a couple cities/towns or the Empire has left them behind, and then there is the “capital city” or whatever where the Empire is in full control (aside from maybe some covert cells).

I’m glad to help. :)

Of course.

Mechanically, I took your Night Breath stuff (I hope that’s alright) and changed the colour of it. That’s pretty much the only difference. There’s also no way to stop it from getting into your bodily systems. (If that wasn’t already a thing)

Removing it from the equation will get a result I haven’t thought about until now. If the PCs choose to get rid of it, then it will certainly make more enemies than friends, probably turning the Syndicate against them.

When you say, “Put the civilians in danger” that is a good conclusion to jump to if the bioweapon is destroyed. With the plan to eradicate the Empire thwarted, there will definitely be some politics happening as the Syndicate tries to find another way to win.

Now you’re speaking my language lol

I have planned for the PCs to go to a space station to pick up enough Feedback (the bioweapon) to gas the Imps straight to hell. With these new ideas, I’ll probably do something in the station showing the Pros of being under the Empire’s roof.

Once again, good food for thought.

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Ah, yes. Absolutely! I’m glad you liked it enough to use it.

The thing is, it doesn’t need to get “into” your bodily systems. It just needs to touch you, anywhere. The only way to “keep it out” in its gaseous state would be a vacuum-sealed suit of armor. Then the dust-like byproduct is inert.

I do have to wonder, though: Since it’s basically a poison gas, how will they use it? How will they prevent collateral damage? Bioweapons are notoriously indiscriminate.

Am I to understand that this is the Syndicate’s plan to eliminate the Empire, and the PCs have the chance to help or hinder the attempt?

As in, show the cons of having the Syndicate in control?

Understood. I’ll try to remember that.

The Syndicates plan is to unleash the gas through the air vent systems throughout Imperial bases. Using their double agents that have infiltrated the Imperial ranks, they have set up their plan (I still need to figure out how it works in detail, but that’s the gist of it).

The PCs, yes, have the chance to either give it to the Syndicate, or use it on said Syndicate, or the new third choice of doing something else with it.

If I’m understanding correctly, yes.

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Ugh, I phrased that poorly. To clarify, you don’t need to breath it in, or let it get into your eyes, if it touches your skin it’ll get inside your system, similar to how radiation isn’t breathed in, but penetrates any exposed skin.

Makes sense. Even though that won’t take out everyone (you’ll still have patrols, bureaucrats implanted in civilian office buildings, etc.), a synchronized attack would eliminate the Empire’s C&C and leave the survivors weakened and vulnerable. If they can take out planetary interstellar communications at the same time, all the better since the survivors can’t call for help. Also gives the PCs a good adventure hook if they “side with” the Empire, but fail to stop the Syndicate (“get the uplink online”).

That’s fine, I understood it pretty well but thanks for the extra clarification anyways :slight_smile:

Exactly. That was the entire goal. As you mentioned, there are still going to be the remnants of the Empire, but that shouldn’t be as hard to take down as the main facility.

You mention that plot hook and I think I know what I’m gonna do now.

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Glad to be of service. Best of luck!

Thanks man, have a good rest of your day.

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