WWVD - What would virtue do?

I’ve been coming to Empire one or two events a year pretty much since the beginning. But there’s an aspect of the setting that I’ve never really had a strong handle on: I don’t get the virtues. I can (usually) name them, but I don’t really understand them or how they would be used to inform your roleplay.

My reading is that they’re all so vague that they could be understood to mean pretty much anything. Usually when I try to discuss this, I hear one or both of two responses:

Feature, not a bug. I think when people say this they mean that the virtues being open to interpretation is a positive for roleplay. And I kind of see where they’re coming from, but there’s a difference between reading something two or three ways and being so open as to be meaningless.
(This was a problem I had in Maelstrom when I played an eidolon. I was given instructions that were hopelessly vague, but that was supposed to be the joy in them)

DO THE THING!!! I do understand that the idea of the virtues is to encourage action as opposed to inaction, but I don’t see how to use the virtues to favour one action over another.

Unfortunately neither of these really help my understanding. So I’m opening it up to the group. What helps you understand the virtues and how they inform your character’s actions? Can you give examples (real or hypothetical) of where considering the virtues has directed a character one way or the other.

TL;DR - What would virtue do?

ps - Bear in mind this is an OOC place to discuss the setting. I would actually really like to hear “there is a debate between Interpretation X of this virtue and Interpretation Y of this virtue”, and for those interpretations to be summarised, but not for the debate to be had here because that sounds like a discussion worth having on the field.

The first half of this podcast might be relevant http://shoutengine.com/Empirepodcast/empire-podcast-religion-73077


I don’t think the virtues are supposed to be so flexible they can mean anything you like. That podcast is excellent listening for anyone who wants to play the virtue game because PD explicitly tell you what the intent of the virtues are and how to create game with them. People who don’t pay any attention to what the virtues are supposed to mean and think they’re more flexible than they are tend to misinterpret them in ways which makes the game less fun for everyone else.

“Do the thing” and “support other people doing the thing” are good rules of thumb. If you think virtue says you or they should not do the thing, check what that virtue actually says really really carefully. It may not say what you think it does.

Finally, note that there is a difference between “unvirtuous” and “heretical”. The Venn diagram has a large overlap, but not 100%. There have been successful clemency pleas for heresy, so sometimes the answer to “what would virtue do?” Is “be a heretic”.


My character is a lackadaisacal sort, and because of that, they’re religious when it suits them. If one of their friends has plans that they happen to agree with, they might encourage them by pointing out that it’ll be a wise/ambitious/courageous course of action. There are some virtues they take seriously in some regards - their loyalty to certain people and things, the importance of their pride, etc. - but mostly they think of themselves as, y’know, not exactly Paragon material. They’re doing their best, but it’s just not the first thing in their mind.

Any level of dedication to virtue above that and I think you have to start making decisions about what your character thinks the Way is for, exactly. Is the point to become a Paragon? With that in mind, the next obvious step to me is to acknowledge that there are no Paragons of the Way (probably), so dedication to a single Virtue is the logical course of action (not to the exclusion of the others, of course, simply a sharp focus, and not necessarily a capital-D Dedication). Is your character merely seeking to accrue virtue in the hopes of spending as little time in Labyrinth as possible? Or is virtue’s effect on the material world the real reward of the Way? In effect, those two ideas represent the difference between believing it is virtue itself that matters (I will act Virtuously because Virtue is inherently good) and a more consequentialist morality (I want to improve the world, and Virtue is the way to do it).

As for interpreting the specific virtues, again, I think your character just has to make some decisions. Everyone has Opinions about what real wisdom is, when something is courage and when it is foolishness, when pride becomes arrogance, etc., and if your character can’t or won’t formulate an opinion of their own, it’s time to look for some priests until one of them says something that sounds right to you. After all, there’s a lot of debate in real-life theology, but the average religious person most likely comes up with or borrows one interpretation of the faith and then runs with it until they find something better.

And, to come full circle, if you want your character to simply be doing their best to be Virtuous, keep the tenets of each virtue noted down to hand and consult them regularly. I think a surprising number of people on the field probably couldn’t tell you all the tenets of more than a single virtue.

Don’t know if any of that was helpful, I think I mostly just rambled.

PLEASE do not just make up opinions on Wisdom without looking it up. I have seen more bad priests of Wisdom ruining other people’s games by assuming it means caution than people being wrong about any other virtue. There are some areas open to interpretation, but if you don’t check the wiki first you may be significant drain on other people’s fun.


I find it helpful to take a single Virtue and back that one virtue to the hilt. With my last character, after she found her feet, it was Loyalty- she was willing to do anything to further the agenda of her subject of devotion. A mantra she picked up from someone else was “it’s not how far you’re willing to go for someone, but who you’re willing to go all the way for”- she committed a large number of crimes not limited to assault and heresy for the good of her subject of devotion, to support and build up at every opportunity. It was big things like making a contract with an eternal for their safety, it was small things like helping explain the latest news on the war fronts.

Originally my character had goals in a very different direction, interested in trade ties with Faraden and getting revenge on the Lasambrian orcs. She wasn’t especially big on the virtues (although Justice certainly appealed, given her background), but she was shown an act of kindness by someone with power. She decided to try and repay that kindness however she could- and from that learned of that person’s goals and intentions, and was led down a path of building friends up rather than destroying foes. She read up on the Virtue of Loyalty and realised how much that applied to what she wanted for this important figure, and decided to live her life by working by those morals, and by the morals of her subject of devotion.

So, in conclusion, my advice is to find a Virtue whose tenets apply to your playstyle, and your goals, and live your character’s life by those guidelines, rather than just trying to apply the virtues to everything you do anyway.

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WWVD is so broad a question as to be virtually meaningless. The fundamental point is that there are seven of them, and they will quite often be encouraging different actions. (They should all be encouraging you to do something though, even if not necessarily in every scenario.)

Ambition says “Pick a goal. Do the thing. It’s okay to be ruthless in Doing The Thing.”
Courage says “Find a scary thing. Do it anyway. Yes, even if (especially if) it is really scary. Fear is useless and temporary. Your scary thing DOES NOT HAVE TO BE PHYSICAL. Holding controversial opinions can be scary.”
Loyalty says: “Pick someone/something else. How can you be helping them right now? Go Do That.”
Pride says: “Do cool things, tell people about them. Make cool stuff. Embody neat parts of the brief. Be interesting.”
Prosperity: “Cool things exist to be used. Get more cool things, use more cool things, give your mates shiny things. GRENADE SYNDROME IS BORING.”
Vigilance: “Pick a person/thing (this can be you.) Find threats to this person/thing, render them not threats, possibly by stabbing them.”
Wisdom: “Find Stuff Out. Tell People Things. Ask Questions. DO NOT BE BORING OR PRUDENT. Wisdom lies not in saying ‘this fizzy potion looks dangerous’ but in saying ‘so lets feed it to someone we don’t like and see what happens.’”

Any situation you find yourself in, you should be able to look at your chosen virtue, and use it as a tool to decide what to do. Even (especially) if you end up disagreeing with others.

For example, two Loyalty devotees can fundamentally disagree on a course of action depending on which group it screws over.


In a slightly more concrete example, I was once in a situation where I was wavering on what to do if a particular quest went badly. A friend spoke the Loyalty maxim “Know your heart, and what commands it above all else”, and it snapped into clarity that if it came to it, I would murder every other person on that quest to defend the civilians. Thankfully, I didn’t have to in the end, as it all worked out, but it did prove a powerful decision-making tool.

Similarly, a previous character of mine was once in a situation where a group of individuals was causing huge issues to the entire Empire (from his perspective). They needed to be stopped ASAP. There was the slow, careful way of doing it, and the quick, decisive way of doing it. As a priest of Vigilance, I went for the quick, decisive method. It worked, but there was big fallout for my character (and the first accusation of Abuse of Priestly Powers in the system!). The Vigilance mantra of “Neutralise the threat before it becomes a bigger threat” was always in my mind during the whole process.

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An interesting situation I had more recently goes thusly: “There is an orcish bandit. They have a hostage. They are executing them. Your soldiers, if they charge, will not arrive in time. You have a crossbow. It’s a bit windy. The shot isn’t certain. What do you do?”

I was later accused by an unhappy Freeborn of a lack of Vigilance. I argued that the only Vigilant thing to do was to pull the trigger. The Virtues provoked action, then debate. Working as intended. :slight_smile:


It may (or may not!) help to consider that Virtue is manifested in a person’s* mind during the process of choosing and executing an action, not in the nature or outcome of that action.
Essentially, it’s impossible to observe an action and declare it Virtuous: you need to understand what was in the person’s mind at the time. Most of the time when people say “that was a virtuous action”, what they are actually saying is “that was an action that I approve of, and it looked superficially like something I could describe as Courageous/Loyal/whatever”

The issue of Virtues appearing so broad as to be meaningless comes, IMHO, from this widespread practice of treating Virtue as an observable ‘thing’ rather than an intangible thought process. Sure, anything can be spun as an example of the Virtue you pick - but without some talking there’s no way to know if it was. It’s all about what motivates you, and reading the common maxims of each Virtue should give some idea of how they seek to do that.

Wow, I find this stuff waaaay too interesting…

*I use “person” herein to mean human or orc rather than in the increasingly complicated Constitutional sense :wink:

1: Write the tenets of a virtue down in the book.
2: Write the Auras of a Virtue down in the book.
3: If a PC argues something is in line with the Virtue and it plainly isn’t, check the book.
3a: Carry a second larpsafe book and throw at the person who is wrong.

The tenets and auras descibe specific actions that are, by definition, Virtuous. Earlier this year, my PC pulled off a successful Vigilance Defence for Heresy. The guilty PC got a quite large fine, but lived.

I did this largely by going down my list of Auras and sayings, noting all the ones that applied to the situation and then telling the Magistrates things like “This was literally the only way they could have done this, specific Vigilant thing, and any other choice would have passed up a once in a lifetime opportunity”.

Generally how I priest is I spot actions that fit the description of a Virtue aura or saying, tell someone well done, then offer them encouragement of a shiny Hallow that says MORE OF THIS SORT OF THING.


As a decent rule of thumb, whenever someone calls someone else “disLoyal”, they are horribly mistaken about how Loyalty works. :stuck_out_tongue:


“You betrayed us!”
“‘Know your heart and what commands its devotion above all else’. Spoilers: It’s not you.”


An example, experienced in-play:

  1. First sight: They’ve decided to reward me with a little something
  2. Second thought: “…claim the just rewards of your labours”, “…all that is worthwhile is shared with those who deserve it”
  3. Third action: “Thanks everyone, this is great, let me know if you ever want to borrow it”

Unvirtuous thoughts that also happened, to illustrate the steerage provided:

  • Well, I was just about to quit helping them, so it’s about time.
    • This is an interesting one, and possibly shows the compass the clearest. The virtue of prosperity would have you shift endeavours, demand your rewards up front or curse the heck out of them. When my character’s second thoughts realised he was about to quit, it told him “Oi, no! Make it obvious how pissed off you are”. There is some vaguery because that lists three virtuous options to the one unvirtuous option.
  • My precious…
  • Nope, not here, don’t put me in the limelight.

Virtue as a rudder.

My character carries a poppet, always has, and has developed a nervous tic around this. Whenever he is in doubt as to a course of action he will stroke the poppet and think for a moment on Prosperity. The mantra inside pretty much says “strive, reward, spend”. Whenever he is having second thoughts, he tries to make them Prosperous thoughts.

The Virtues vs A Virtue.

  • “The Virtues” are quite vague, there are seven of them adopted by the Imperials, that often contradict, and only really have one common bias, which you’ve identified as “Do the thing” and the podcast identifies as “Don’t be boring”. Remember that in drawing this conclusion you have looked at seven different moral compasses and concluded that they point in more than one direction.
  • “A Virtue” is, by definition, more specific, but still has a bunch of wiggle-room. If I continue the moral compass for a moment, it would only have the four cardinal directions. A bunch of directions would point North, a bunch of directions would point South and a bunch of directions wouldn’t really be either.

A final note… this is an excellent thing to take to the field, it really is! If this thread shows anything, it shows that there are a bunch of people for whom “how does virtue steer decisions anyway, it all seems vague” is a topic they love opining on! I suggest that you would improve both your fun and the priests’ fun by making sure to ask this next time your feet are muddy.

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Come to Highguard. Find any 2 priests, get minimum 3 opinions, plus at least one onlooker with another view.

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Extra points if you start an argument that draws in other priests and bystanders :slight_smile:.

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Extra points if you start an argument

Debate. The word you are looking for is debate. Because we’re all reasonable people here. :wink:


“Extra debates if you start an argument”?
“Extra points if you debate an argument”?
Not sure what you mean.

Wait, is this a “Robust Theological Debate” or a “Vigorous Theological Debate”?
I keep getting my euphemisms mixed up…