“An innocent life versus the future of all mankind. We have 45 minutes to decide.”

decisiontimeThe crux of ‘Kill The Moon’ is the ethical decision whether to kill the moon dragon or let it hatch, possibly destroying the Earth.  This can provide drama and some interesting ethical discussion in an adventure.

The basic situation is that the main characters only have a choice between two possible outcomes. In this case either they nuke the moon or they don’t. It is the consequences of these actions that add weight to the decision.

Another element is the time limit imposed upon them. It is long enough for them to have some debate but not too long that they can delay making a decision. The longer they debate it the less time that they have.

Clara, Courtney and Lundvik don’t have all the facts makes the decision more difficult. They don’t know for sure that the moon dragon will adversely affect the Earth but they also don’t know that it won’t.

Such dilemmas can create feelings of guilt since those making the decision will determine who lives and who dies. In their minds they will be responsible for those deaths. In truth at least one option would happen anyway if they weren’t there.

In order to make the decision participants have to weigh up the pros and cons. They have to argue their case and try to convince others. When only PCs are involved in the decision making process such scenes should just be roleplaying. When NPCs are present Presence could be used to sway them, Ingenuity used to present clever solutions or Resolve to resist their own arguments.

Clara attempts to let Earth has a say in the decision, setting up a rudimentary voting system in which people can turn their lights on or off to show whether they want the moon dragon to die.

PCs might not want more people knowing about the decision, especially if it could cause panic. They’d have to make sure that if they do tell people that they are given accurate information. They could also find that answering questions takes up what precious time they have left.

As time ticks away those who feel that the wrong decision will be made can take drastic measures. If Lundvik had a different temperament she might have held the time travellers at gunpoint or just shot them if she felt strongly enough that the button should be pressed.

Clara decides to take matters into her own hands, ignoring Earth’s population, and shutting the countdown off. This shows that ultimately it might not matter what is said during the debate, only who gets to push the button.

Mindful PCs could take steps to stop such a decision arising. If those involved can’t be trusted to agree to a vote then they might agree to an arbiter or an impartial figure not affected by outcome.

There are many variations to the debate featured in ‘Kill The Moon’. Examples include:

  • There is only enough medical supplies for 1 of the 2 neighbouring space colonies. The PCs must decide who gets them. This could involve weighing up the qualities of each colony.
  • 2 alien species are stranded on a planet about to be bombarded with a solar flare. With their oxygen supplies running low only the PCs can save them but not only are the races hostile to each other they can’t share the same environment once brought on board. Only one group can be rescued. With the races of the aliens affect the PCs decision?
  • A TARDIS is discovered at the heart of a sun, orbited by a human colony. Inside the TARDIS is a trapped Time Lord, who could possibly free Gallifrey. Helping the TARDIS emerge from the sun would cause the star to explode, destroying the colony but if they don’t act in the next hour the TARDIS will be destroyed.

The quality and/or quantity of the lives saved or destroyed can be an important part of the debate. In ‘Kill The Moon’ it is the perceived innocence of the moon dragon as a baby (and the last of its kind) versus the whole of the human race.

In other scenarios it could be the value of a child’s life versus that of a surgeon, political leader or technical genius. The PCs could have to decide whether a young criminal deserves to be saved so he has a chance at redemption or if he should die to allow an old war hero to survive (for however long he has left).

There could be an investigative angle to the debate, with the PCs using what time they have to learn more of the facts before they make their decision. This could throw up all types of revelations about who they are trying to save and what the consequences of their actions will be.

PCs might decide that they aren’t the right people to make the decision. Clara argues that it should be the President of the United States that makes the decision but the Doctor points out that the President isn’t there, they are.

Not long after the Doctor departs because he doesn’t feel that he can make the decision. After all he isn’t human so what right does he have to determine the future of Earth? Interestingly he does let Clara and Courtney make this important decision even though they are time travellers potentially changing history.

If PCs do decide they can’t make the decision who do they give the responsibility to? This could lead to a race against time to find worthy candidates and brief them on the situation. They could also have to prevent the wrong people from making a decision before they can arrange this.

Having PCs make really important decisions can help them shape your campaign world. Further adventures could take them into the future they’ve created. This can help them explore whether they did make the right decision.

Once they have made a decision their adventures and problems aren’t over. There could be those, with hindsight and plenty of time on their hands, who think that they made the wrong decision. Worse the PCs could be viewed as monsters or criminals.

This can be part of the burden, knowing they had to make a tough decision when no one else could.

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