"It seems as though the floodgates are beginning to creak open on InFamous, including the revelation of ;Karma Moments; - a tracked morality system with effects on player progression. It wasn't meant to be funny, but for some reason we found it very funny, because like many mechanisms of this kind your choices tend to come down to being an omnibenevolent supercherub or the Goddamned devil."
Some games employ a type of morality in their gameplay. Actions taken within the game affect the player, and sometimes how the player is treated by the plot and NPC
. This happens even if there were no witnesses to the action and no circumstances that point to you. Some games will make it impossible for one to continue if their Karma Meter is too low, or give a bad ending
. Others will simply result in the character having an "evil alignment
" and playing this way.
In some games, it doesn't matter whether you're good or bad but how far you lean to one side is rewarded — there are bonuses for being very good or very evil but not moderate
. This has the annoying side effect of rewarding if not forcing
the doing of completely pointless acts of malice, killing beggars and robbing empty houses just to be "more evil"
, and punishing an evil player for doing good quests or deeds (depending on how harsh the meter is) and vice versa, stifling real choices altogether.
To undermine the concept even further, games with a Karma Meter often include a Golden Snitch
decision that will heavily push you towards (or even lock you permanently
in) one extreme of the morality gauge regardless
of your actions up to that point. This means that in a game with Multiple Endings
, your ending is decided more by that one single choice rather than an accumulation of all of your deeds and misdeeds
Except for the Golden Snitch
event, typically no act is more than three to five times more evil or good than any other. This leads to the odd situation where a character with a perfect record of finding lost pets and helping old ladies with their groceries can bludgeon a school bus of Girl Scouts to death and pour napalm on their corpses while singing hymns to Satan and scarfing down a stack of Kitten Burgers
and at worst go from "saintly" to "very good" on the Karma Meter. And unless the Karma changes are limited to plot events, go right back to "saintly" by killing some monsters or giving money to beggars.
Occasionally the Karma Meter isn't visible in the stats screen, making it difficult to assess grayer actions. May be paired with Videogame Caring Potential
and/or Video Game Cruelty Potential
, making players more inclined to select one side.
Compare Relationship Values
and Alliance Meter
. See also Character Alignment
, Sanity Meter
and 100% Heroism Rating
open/close all folders
- Perhaps surprisingly for a game where the entire premise is being evil, Overlord has a karma meter in the form of the "corruption" meter, which essentially gauges whether you're a totally self-serving, Ax-Crazy, 0% Approval Rating madman or a Noble Demon Villain with Good Publicity who helps out the public to earn their support while on your quest for revenge.
- Overlord II switches over to a Tyranny system with the extremes of "Destruction" and "Domination." Destruction is Ax-Crazy mass murderer again, but Domination is less Noble Demon and more cruel slavemaster, treating those around you as tools and pawns — while using mind control to ensure they love you for it.
- In Samurai Warrior: The Battles of Usagi Yojimbo (based on the comics), there was a literal karma meter on the top of the screen that could be increased by, among other things, bowing to those of a lower social class than you. It could also be decreased by, among other things, killing people unprovoked. If your karma falls below zero, you commit seppuku.
- It had a useful effect. When you died and started a new game, the meter allowed you to start further into the game. In fact, it was possible to manipulate it high enough that you could start a new game at a point you hadn't reached previously!
- Negative karma in The Adventures of Robin Hood gives you the bad ending as villagers beat you to death.
- The Dantes Inferno game (loosely based on Dante's The Divine Comedy) has a gameplay mechanic that lets you absolve or condemn most demons you fight or lost souls you come across; Absolving grants you Holy XP, which powers up your Cross, while Punishing earns you Unholy XP, which gives you more Scythe moves to buy. Neither choice has any effect on the story. In fact, in order to get the most out of your abilities, you want to do both holy and unholy actions so you can unlock all of your moves, cross and scythe.
- Starting at the end of the second Quest for Glory game, there was a special class (Paladin) instead of the standard three (Fighter, Thief, and Mage) for individuals who made the right decisions in previous games and transferred their Old Save Bonus. Notable in that there's really no evil ending. Honor for the paladin was simply a matter of, well, honor. Killing an unarmed opponent was a hell of a lot easier, and faster (at a point in the game where you're running out of time very quickly), than letting him pick up his sword to continue the battle, but it sure wasn't honorable. Also notable in that the Paladin wasn't more powerful than the Fighter, just different, and usually with an assortment of quests or choices that weren't available to anyone else. Screwing up or refusing these quests degraded the Paladin to a weaker version of the Fighter. Of course, in every game except the first, losing meant The End of the World as We Know It, so it's not like siding with the villains is really an option.
- The adventure game adaptation of I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream has the "Spiritual Barometer". Keeping it high by performing good deeds (or at least not performing many bad ones) allows you to end each character's scenario on a relatively high note by dealing with their personal demons, dying with dignity, and frustrating the efforts of Master Computer AM at torturing them.
- The PC game Secrets of da Vinci: The Forbidden Manuscript assigns not-entirely-heroic protagonist Valdo a good and evil meter. The white angelic meter monitors how good you are; the red devilish meter monitors how bad you are. Actions and dialogue choices throughout the game will affect one or the other, but you can also spend experience points on raising the bar of your choice. Although this has little impact on the ultimate outcome of the game, certain courses of action will not be available to you if one of the meters is too high; for example, being too good will render you incapable of knocking out a character and stealing his uniform to wear as a disguise.
- the white chamber, an indie adventure game, has an interesting karma meter that isn't actually explicitly noted as such. In the lab, there is a blackboard, with chalk lines on it. The number of lines depend on your character answering three particular questions in certain ways, and your character's actions regarding three other things. A blank blackboard gets you the worst ending, one or two gets you the slightly less bad ending, three or more gets you the "good" ending... Getting the max of six? You get a damn hilarious bonus ending where everyone lives. Sorta...Rock Falls, Everybody Dies.
- In the Interactive Fiction game Metamorphoses, you play as a slave girl who needs to complete a series of tasks to obtain a MacGuffin for her master. Each task has multiple solutions, and the hidden Karma Meter is based on whether you choose to solve them by destroying things or placing yourself in harm's way, or in more creative ways. The Karma Meter doesn't really affect any of the Multiple Endings, but it does noticeably change the tone of these endings, as well as the girl's overall attitude after claiming the ultimate MacGuffin: a girl who solves all problems in non-destructive ways is happy to return home to her master and travels to other places only because of wanderlust, a girl who solves some (but not all) problems with violence and/or self-harm is more conflicted between returning home to her master or flee to a place where she won't be a slave, and a girl who uses destruction all the time hates having to return to her servitude and is all too glad to escape to another world or even commit suicide.
- In Epic Mickey, acting heroically will maintain Mickey's modern form, while acting like a Jerk Ass will cause him to revert to his original design... at least, that's what would have been. Instead, Mickey will attract "Guardians". A sort of Fairy Companion. Mickey will also become more blotty and drippy if you work toward the "evil" side of the Karma Meter, and will drip less if you work toward the "hero" side. The characters walking around also change mannerisms depending on how "Good" you are.
- The ancient (CGA-graphics ancient) Interactive Fiction game I, Damiano has a meter always present at the top of the text field labeled "good" and "evil" at opposite ends. This also functions as your Hit Points bar and is affected by things that would reduce that; taking too long or being injured by wild dogs pushes you towards evil, and if you become too evil, Satan claims your soul. This is probably the least common way to die, and it's definitely better to ding your Karma Meter if the alternative is death.
- In Tin Star (Choice of Games), there are three separate Karma Meters regarding different aspects of a Marshal's duty. Order represents how firmly you keep the peace in Lander County. Honor represents how fairly you deal with others and whether you refrain from creaming off money for yourself. Law represents how closely you stick to the law.
Beat 'Em Up
- Kenka Bancho has an alignment meter in the form of Shibui vs Shabai. It is really easy to enter Shabai status as you beat up other folks with weapons, destroy property, and cause terror to the average joes, and just attacking without warning will make you hated quickly. It also determines which peons you can use in the 3rd series. The 4th game allows you to call any peon regardless of alignment. Also, of the two Sukebans you can hire, the cute one is the Shabazo while the more traditional female Bancho is more honorable.
- The first Guardian Heroes features a karma meter that decides whether you'll get a "Light" or "Dark" version of certain endings. Karma is gained for not harming civilians, allowing fleeing enemies to escape, and beat up bad guys, but you can lose karma for attacking civilians or fleeing enemies, destroying inanimate objects like barrels of produce or chairs, or attacking a fallen enemy.
- In a rare sports game example, NASCAR 2005: Chase for the Cup has a career mode with a Karma Meter ranging from Hero to Villain. Where you land on the scale depends on your actions during races — for instance, deliberately crashing other drivers will move you to the Villain end. This has the effect of royally pissing them off and making them want to take you out when they get the chance. However, if you can win enough races, the fans won't care whether you're a Hero or a Villain.
First Person Shooter
- In Jedi Knight, your Karma Meter results in an either-or ending. You either resist the urge to kill Jan, your best friend, with no goddamned prompting whatsoever, or you do kill Jan, your best friend, with no goddamned prompting whatsoever. After that point, the path is fixed no matter what you do. You either preserve the Valley of the Jedi or take over the galaxy, becoming a new Emperor. One of those endings, by the way, isn't canon. There aren't many ways to affect your Karma Meter negatively; you're relegated to either selecting Dark Side powers (which unless you do so exclusively generally won't turn you dark), or killing every civilian and noncombat droid you come across, or some combination of both. Believe us when we say that not killing every civilian in the game is harder than it sounds.
- Jedi Academy, meanwhile, seems to have a karma meter, based on what Force powers you pick — after each "upgrade" between chapters, Luke Skywalker muses on your future — but even if you go all Dark Side, it comes down to a single choice — whether or not you decide to kill The Scrappy.
- In BioShock 1, if you manage to take down a Big Daddy that's guarding a Little Sister, you can chose to either kill the Little Sister, or "rescue" her by removing the symbiote that allows her to harvest ADAM. The first option earns you twice as much ADAM from each Little Sister, but the second option nets you occasional gifts from a benefactor who wants you to save them, in the form of ADAM and special plasmids. Whether you save or harvest Little Sisters also determines which of the Multiple Endings you get. This meter is terribly unforgiving: harvest just two of 21 Little Sisters and you earn the game's opprobrium.
- There are two v/o files recorded for the bad ending in Bioshock. Both have the exact same text, but the tone of voice is entirely different; if you only gave in to your lust for ADAM once, Dr. Tenenbaum sounds weary and resigned when describing your descent into evil, but if you've killed multiple Little Sisters, she's filled with righteous fury at you.
- The aforementioned gifts actually render the karma meter meaningless, because it actually makes the choice mathematical rather than ethical — killing the Little Sisters gets you more ADAM now, but freeing them gives better rewards in the long run, in the form of more ADAM, plus plasmids and tonics you either no longer have to buy, or couldn't buy to begin with.
- In the sequel, BioShock 2, your Karma Meter gets a bit of an upgrade. Your ending/alignment is determined by your decisions with the Little Sisters (whether you saved them all, killed them all, or mixed) and with several key NPCs. Rescued Little Sisters will provide gifts similar to the first game, while only one of the other NPCs will give you a (comparatively minor) reward for sparing her. Your karma ends up affecting not only the player character, but Eleanor as well.
- This also affects Sophia Lamb's fate, as it will determine if Eleanor will rescue her mother or drown her.
- Red Faction 2 has a morality system of sorts. The only impact it really has is allowing you to get 4 slight dialog changes during the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue. Completing hidden bonus objectives helps boost the meter up, but accidentally (or not) killing civilians spikes it down a bit.
- Galactic Civilizations II features a unique example of a Karma Meter in a 4X Game, with a 100-point scale measuring alignment (0 is Evil, 50 is Neutral, 99 is Good). Each race starts out with a default value (although this can be adjusted by the player in the Expansion Pack), and throughout the game, the player's choices in random events will allow him to "tweak" it towards his alignment of choice. Eventually you're able to choose your ultimate alignment permanently from among the three options, with each one receiving its own unique bonuses as well as boosted relations with other races of that alignment. You can choose your alignment no matter what actions you've taken. However, choosing an alignment contrary to your actions costs more. Interestingly enough, most players will pick Neutral or Evil, as the Good choices in the random events are always painful, and Evil grants access to the Mind Control Centre and Psionic Beam.
- The Reputation meter in Pathologic is an interesting and realistic variation on this. It's actually, for all intents and purposes, another health meter, and one of the most important ones at that. If you squander your Reputation, an already Nintendo Hard game will become even more difficult, as important NPCs will refuse to help you or provide shelter, most likely resulting in your unavoidable death.
Hack And Slash
- Dynasty Warriors 5: Empires has the ability to use certain cards to do good or evil. Giving money to the people or at least going around listening to their concerns makes your character good, while taxing them excessively makes your character bad and unlocks further bad options like robbing graves. If you are attacked and sufficiently good or evil, peasants will rise up to protect you if you were good to them or help your attacker if you were bad to them. This doesn't affect gameplay much, since the peasants are weak and most of the player's battles will likely be on the offensive where it is the other side's good or evil that matters. This is also played on smaller scales at various points in the games, with generals betraying you if you perform specific, horrible actions during missions. This also comes into play during modes like DW4's Xtreme Mode. It does take a somewhat larger amount of bad acts, but constantly doing things like capturing girls to be taken as sex slaves, or randomly killing your allies (that usually don't do any fighting anyway), will cause your recruited party members to gradually lose respect for you, until they eventually get sick of you and turn. Of course, saving peasants from monsters and generals from bandit raids will make them love you, and it's generally it's these good deeds that nab you more party members and good items to begin with.
- City of Heroes has Fame Points as part of its Going Rogue system. Characters receive fame for completing tip missions, and each point of fame pushes them toward one of the four alignments (Hero, Vigilante, Villain, or Rogue). Upon accumulating 10 points of fame toward an alignment, one can complete a morality mission to finalize the change. Interestingly enough, contacts have no effect on alignment. A Vigilante can team with a villain and run Westin Phipps's story arc without a blip on his alignment meter, despite the fact that he's poisoning children and murdering school teachers.
- The canceled Ultima X was planned to use an eightfold karma system similar to Ultima IV (see below in RPG) where the different morals would frequently conflict. An example the developers gave is a quest where you are tasked with hunting down a thief, and learn that he stole to buy food for his starving family. You could then follow Compassion or Justice by letting the thief go or having him face the punishment for his crime. To further muddle the issue, if you returned the stolen item, you would learn that the quest-giver is not the legitimate owner, which in turn gives the choice between Honor in sticking to the original agreement or Honesty in delivering the item to its proper place.
- Star Wars: The Old Republic, much like its predecessors, allows players to play light, dark, or grey, with each karmic alignment allowing the players to equip certain kinds of gear, as well as showing that the Republic and Sith in this world have Grey and Grey Morality at best.
- Each level in Shadow the Hedgehog has its own Good, Neutral, and Evil goals, and which you complete determines your path through the game and your ending. Also, there are power meters for good and evil that fill depending on which enemies you defeat in the level, and once they are totally filled, Shadow will be able to use a special ability (Chaos Control if the good meter is filled, Chaos Blast if the evil one is.) Not only that, but there are separate point scores for each alignment- when you reach the good or evil goal, that side's points are added to your score, and the other side's points are subtracted from it.
- The kill counter in Iji has some elements of this, given that it affects some events in the game. Also, unlike the other counters, there is no unlockable reward associated with it, aside froma few friendly Tasen and an entire level of not getting shot at, with bonus stuff accessible in that level.
- The online escape-the-room game Diversity gives you a number of different ways to complete certain actions. While the actions yield the same result, the selected one will cause a shown Karma Meter to slide towards the white (good) or black (bad) end. Not only does the meter determine the final puzzle and ending you get, it also increasingly affects the look of the rooms you encounter: if you perform enough good actions, the rooms remain bright and clean, but if you become bad enough, the rooms become progressively darker with furniture tipped over and plants dead.
- In Catherine, you have a meter that swings between Order/Commitment and Chaos/Freedom. It changes based on how you have Vincent answer his text messages in the Stray Sheep and how you answer the questions in the confessional between stages of each level. It mostly only affects Vincent's inner thoughts, but it also affects which of the eight endings you get in story mode.
Real Time Strategy
- Medieval II Total War gives a Karma Meter to each general in your army. The good side, Chivalry, is cultivated by things like freeing prisoners and keeping cities happy. This is rewarded by increasing happiness and population growth of a city when the general is managing it, and increasing the morale of all soldiers under his command. The evil side, Dread, comes from executing prisoners, excessively taxing populations, arranging many many assassinations, and more. This increases public order when garrisoned in a city and decreases the morale of all troops fighting against him. Given that soldiers that flee are likely to be captured and executed when facing an evil general, you'd think it would be the other way around...Unfortunately, Dumb Is Good is in effect here. "Chivalrous" tactics seem to consist of sending your army head-first against the enemy, but if you decide to skirmish, out-flank, or God forbid attack your enemy from the rear, your generals will quickly pick up "Cruel and Cunning" or similar traits. And for some reason, using Spies to keep tabs on your enemy's movements is also evil. Even more annoying is how your diplomatic reputation works on the world map — you can go the entire game without starting a single war, but if you fight back against your enemy or take their cities in retaliation, you'll quickly be saddled with a reputation as an untrustworthy monster.
- Dawn of War II: Chaos Rising had a Corruption meter, which allowed you to use certain Chaos-tainted equipment and would rise depending on fulfilling actions in certain missions. It also affects the ending you get in the game. Each of your fellow Space Marine also had their own Corruption meters, which also granted them access to Chaos-tainted gear and Chaos powers. Failing to take them along on certain missions or failing to fulfill certain mission objectives would also increase their Corruption, such as with Cyrus if you left him behind when the chapter's scouts were being attacked (since he personally taught most of them). The one with the highest Corruption score would also turn out to be a traitor and have to be fought before the final boss. If everyone was entirely pure the traitor role was dumped on Martellus.
- Knights of Honor has Kingdom Power, a scale that roughly translates to your reputation, popularity with the people, and the grasp you have on your kingdom. Actions like breaking alliances (both political ones as well as ones formed through marriage), attacking nations with the same religion, and spies being found out have a negative influence. Increasing your Kingdom power is only possible by spending gold and piety on it. If your Kingdom Power is very low, rebels will emerge, marshals will revolt, and if it's low for a long time, entire provinces can declare independence or join other nations.
- NetHack uses an odd variation where the meter doesn't measure how lawful or chaotic you are, but rather how well you're doing at being lawful/neutral/chaotic. While there are some actions that affect the meter differently based on your alignment (chaotic characters get a bonus for sleeping with succubi and incubi) and role (knights get a penalty for attacking fleeing or sleeping monsters), the biggest impact is the same for all characters: killing hostile monsters usually boosts (and never penalizes) the meter, and killing peaceful monsters always penalizes it. That's right, the game considers a chaotic character bathing in the blood of innocent bystanders a bad thing (since letting chaotic characters get away with killing peaceful monsters would break Competitive Balance with regards to players choosing which alignment to play).
- Ancient Domains of Mystery has a Karma Meter that is only partially visible — your alignment can change and the game display will reflect this, but unless you have the (otherwise useless) Law skill at a fairly high level, the game won't tell you whether a certain act was considered lawful/chaotic... and that skill only informs you after you've committed the act. Shuffling around within an alignment (for example, NL to N+ to N= to N- to NC are all considered Neutral) isn't much of a problem, but woe betide the player who accidentally changes alignment (such as from NC to CN — you're now considered Chaotic) late in the game... because the nicer you've been to one god, the more the other two will hate you. There is also an artifact which is only granted to players that reach the bottom of the Caverns of Chaos without ever committing one chaotic act OR letting one lawful creature die. Since there is no indicator for this, the artifact is nearly impossible to get.
- Lords Of The Realm 3, a real-time strategy game, introduced three types of karma meter: chivalry, Christianity, and honor. Using knights, building churches, and fighting honorably will build the meters, allowing you to attract champions, templars, and even four archangels to your cause. Using mercenaries, burning churches, and executing captured knights will make the meters plummet, allowing you to recruit various villainous types, and eventually some friendly chaps named Pestilence, War, Famine, and Death. Do try to go one or the other, because being neutral gets you nothing.
- Elona has a visible Karma Meter explicitly named "Karma". Positive karma reduces the monthly taxes you have to pay, and an extreme enough negative karma will cause the City Guards to attack you on sight. You gain karma by completing repeatable Irrelevant Sidequests (even helping a farmer gather the harvest or cooking food for someone increases your karma), and lose it by failing on delivery and escort sidequests, attacking talkative neutral NPCs (murdering silent NPCs is fine), or from pickpocketing.
Role Playing Game
- The Ultima series, beginning with the fourth game, codified and popularized this concept for Western RPGs. In Ultima IV, there were eight Karma Meters, one for each virtue. The Path of Virtue was a type of Secular Humanism. Remarkably, this first use of a karma meter is still one of the very few where the choices are not just between good/evil, but also between different types of good, as all virtues weren't entirely compatible with each other. The later games in the series played around with this concept some more, introducing alternate virtue systems that were incompatible both with the original one and each other, yet still all being good.
- Becoming an avatar was extremely hard for some virtues, as fleeing even one battle was considered a cowardly act (hurts courage meter) and looting killed monsters was considered bad as well!
- The only option to earn cash quickly was to die on purpose, take the default amount of cash Lord British gave you to buy a sword, die again, and repeat. When all your character inventories are filled with swords, sell them all for cash. You can further increase benefit from method by killing yourself using the stat increasing orb that killed you for using it.
- Honesty was hard to maintain because some of the character "tests" given to you were yes or no questions worded so oddly that trying to give what sounded honest was really a lie. Then again, once you figured out what the game considered to be the honest answer, you could just answer that over and over again until you were considered a paragon of honesty.
- Lampshaded in Nakar's Let's Play when someone asks his character "Are you the Avatar?" causes his character to note that saying yes was honest but could be considered a prideful boast, while lying and saying no was considered to be showing humility but was not being honest.
- Dragon Slayer II: Xanadu is another early example of the Karma Meter, released at around the same time as Ultima IV. Xanadu, which codified and popularized the trope among early Japanese RPGs, was also the first known game to refer to it as "Karma", possibly making it the Trope Namer. Each enemy killed is either good or bad, and if the player kills too many good enemies, the Karma statistic will rise, at which point the temples will refuse to level up the player.
- Hydlide II is yet another early example of the Karma Meter, released in the same year as Ultima IV and Xanadu (in Japan only). In Hydlide, the player can be Aligned with Justice, Normal, or Evil. Killing humans or good monsters can lower the player's morality, while fighting only evil monsters can help them increase it. If the player has an Evil alignment, the townsfolk will ignore the player, denying access to certain clues, dialogues, equipment, and training.
- The sequel Hydlide 3' also featured a Karma Meter and was released as Super Hydlide in North America.
- Fable has your character go "light" or "dark", depending on their choices. (Including their choices of wardrobe!) However, unlike most of the other examples, the meter doesn't actually do anything to affect the game, and is actually quite uneven in its distribution (for instance, marrying someone and then killing them only netted you around 60 evil points; marrying and then divorcing them gave you a whopping 600 evil points). Somewhat annoyingly, your alignment had absolutely no effect on gameplay, except to allow you to use certain spells. This is particularly grating when Twinblade's bandits send assassins after you late in the game, whether you spared his life or not.
- In Fable II, purity versus corruption are added on. Based on the foods you eat and the rent you charge... okay... It gets sort of odd when you own all the property in Albion, though — essentially running a feudal state. Not to mention that, ironically, it got there because of your capitalist supremacy.
- It gets interesting in Fable III when you become the ruler of Albion and get to make decisions that affect the entire country. Given that the shadow-army of an Eldritch Abomination will invade in a year's time and you need to finance your own army to save the lives of its people, those decisions are closer to being Idealism vs Pragmaticism; you can either keep your promises to the people who got you into power and make life better for your people, but deplete the treasury in doing so, or break them and install immoral but lucrative policies that will fill the royal coffers. The game still sees these choices as Good and Evil respectively, so you can end up with odd situations where people will worship the ground you walk on if you've ensured their annihilation, yet loathe your guts if you've done everything in your power to save their lives no matter the cost.
- Knights of the Old Republic features a Light/Dark side meter, influenced by specific choices you make over the course of the game. Being Light or Dark changes which Force powers you can use most effectively, as well as you appearance and the way your crewmembers treat you. However, regardless of your Karma Meter, your final side is chosen in one action right near the end of the game, as is rather typical for SW games.
- Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords was on the whole a lot more ambiguous than its predecessor with the Light Side/Jedi = Pure Good and Dark Side/Sith = Pure Evil dichotomy. While in the first game you were pretty much either a paragon of virtue or a complete monster, it was a lot easier to play a flawed, almost anti-heroic light side character or a dark side character who was closer to being a Magnificent Bastard. Or really pretty much anything on the scale. It also features a mild deconstruction: On Nar Shaddaa, a beggar approaches you, and asks for a few credits. You may choose to give him a small amount of cash, or threaten him note . A brief dialogue with Kreia about unintended consequences follows; if the player chose to give the beggar money, the player sees the price of his benevolence (the beggar is now a target for a mugging). You still get light side points for giving to the beggar. A similar scene, in reverse, plays out if you threaten the beggar; he's frustrated by the way you treated him, and when another beggar talks to him, he snaps and attacks the guy. Additionally, your crewmembers have their own Karma meter that is influenced by the protagonist's own... with special events unlocked for pushing theirs to the extremes. The funny thing is that if you make them hate the protagonist, their karma meter pushes to the opposite extreme of the protagonist's, which can ALSO unlock the special events... i.e. Force sensitive characters like Atton Rand can be trained to be Light Side Jedi if you're Dark Side, or vice versa... which allows for a much more varied array of skills in the party.
- The Mega Man Legends games have Mega Man turning light or dark through certain actions. Kicking pigs and donating to the church were the biggest ones. It doesn't affect the plot, except for some dialogue and weapon opportunities. This was later elaborated on in the Mega Man Battle Network games, where "evil" Battle Chips darkened MegaMan's soul and lowered his HP.
- Valkyrie Profile had a Seal Rating and an Evaluation Rating that affected certain aspects of Lenneth's personality. While the Evaluation Rating didn't have any major effects, having the Seal Rating at a certain level at a certain point in the game unlocked the best ending, if certain other actions were also done. This was so specific and non-intuitive that many complained that one could only get the best ending by reading how to do it. However, this has less to do with good and evil and more to do with how subservient/rebellious Lenneth is to Odin.
- The sequel, Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume, is entirely based around a much more straightforward karma meter based on how many of your teammates you're willing to sacrifice for power. Sacrificing even a single one after the tutorial, though, makes it impossible to get the best ending.
- Jade Empire had "The Way of the Open Palm" and "The Way of the Closed Fist" stand in for good and evil. They were presented as based on more subtle moral principles: the Open Palm stood for harmony, accepting one's position in life, and helping others accept theirs by supporting them, while Closed Fist stood for chaos, seeking to rise above one's station, and encouraging others to do the same by teaching them self-sufficiency (harshly if necessary). However, with a few exceptions, this still comes down to being a goody two-shoes or an amoral bastard. Not to mention that your final karma score depends on a single action near the end of the game...
- Skies of Arcadia has the "Swashbuckler Rating", which measures not just your karma in the traditional sense but also your adventurousness and leadership skills. The rating was underused in the game itself, as it only affected one or two sidequests. It's an interesting example even though it's underused, as it's not really a decision between "good" and "evil" so much as "good captain" or "bad captain". The game encourages a balance between daring and consideration of your crew. — you have to consider each question carefully because too far along the scale of "bold and daring" becomes "foolish and reckless", but too cautious becomes "cowardly".
- The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion features both a fame rating and a notoriety rating for the player. The former is increased by doing deeds that make you popular, and NPCs tend to like you better the higher it is. The latter is increased with doing crimes and getting caught, and by completing theft and assassination quests. Though it makes no sense, NPCs will dislike you for doing these quests even if you were never caught or even seen, because they somehow know that you are a criminal even if you have never been arrested or even implicated in anything. Although there is a way to remove all infamy (it's necessary for a certain quest chain) as well as an item that gives you a new identity, preventing you from gaining any for real if you're wearing it, although it does set your infamy to 250 while you're wearing it, and all guards attack you on sight.
- Fallout only offers a general karma meter. Fallout 2 has the karma meter, plus an Alliance Meter. They also feature a series of status elements such as "grave robber", "child killer", and "slaver", depending on the choices made. Certain characters will react differently to different combinations of these — for example, some stores will only sell to people with negative karma, but still balk at selling to a child murderer. The only truly bad effect of negative karma turns up in Fallout 2, in which towns will pay for bounty hunters to attack the player — but killing bounty hunters results in a further drop in karma, creating an unstoppable downward spiral...
- Fallout 3 has drawbacks for both negative AND positive karma — Talon Company Mercenaries will begin randomly spawning to attack you if your Karma hits Very High, while Regulators will start gunning for you if your Karma hits Very Low. Talon Company mercs are rather nasty, spawning with energy weapons, Combat Armor, and high-quality assault rifles, even if you're level 4. If there's a single subversion in Fallout 3 of this trope, it's the Impartial Mediation Perk that offers +30 Speech...so long as you are Neutral. This is the only benefit offered in the game for staying Neutral, if you don't count the ability to recruit a few Neutral-only companions and avoiding energy weapon rape at the hands of Talon Company Mercs or Peacekeepers.
- Fallout: New Vegas retains the karma meter from 3, and it adds a faction system similar to 2. The karma meter, however, really doesn't do much; one companion will leave you if it gets too low, and it influences the ending, but that's it. It's also nearly impossible to drop below Very Good, since killing feral ghouls and Powder Gangers who attack you regardless of alignment give you good karma.
- Baldur's Gate has reputation. A higher reputation results in some stores offering discounts, while a sufficiently low reputation might result in the random appearance of guards to hunt you down. Reputation also determines which sidekicks would stay on your team and which powers you develop (healing or damage-based). If your reputation drops below 10, you also become Fallen if you're a Paladin or Ranger. It's also possible to change your alignment without altering your reputation, in the Hell demiplane you go to at the end of the second game, which may exist primarily in your own head. For example, yelling at Sarevok that you'll transform into the Slayer turns you evil - even if you don't actually do it. And this doesn't have the same effects as reputation. You can spend the entirety of the Throne of Bhaal as an officially Lawful Evil paladin, retain all paladin abilities against the rules of the universe, had a reputation of twenty, and have never really done anything evil.
- Throne Of Bhaal also has another, minor karma meter going on when the Solar tests you in the demiplane and the sum of your answers to her determines what one of your two alternative ending options means in practice.
- Planescape: Torment has a two-dimensional meter based on the Dungeons & Dragons alignment concept (the familiar Good-Evil scale and the Lawful-Chaotic scale). The hero begins as a True Neutral and adjusts depending on your actions. The most notable feature in Torment was perhaps that dialog options had such diverse elements as "Truth: Tell me, or I'll kill you!" and "Bluff: Tell me, or I'll kill you!" which would affect alignment differently, but NPCs similarly. The next-most notable feature was how evil you could actually be.
- Shin Megami Tensei I and II had a Order Versus Chaos Karma Meter that affected how the story unfolded and which demons you could recruit. Later games in the metaseries tend to either only keep the latter aspect or a variation thereof, or drop the Karma Meter entirely.
- Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne had five endings, each based upon a different philosophy. At certain points in the game, the main representative of each philosophy straight-out asks if you agree with them, and later asks for a confirmation. Answering in the affirmative twice locks you into that ending, unless you do it with more than one path, in which case the game looks at how you answered certain questions posed throughout the game and tallies up your affinity score for each philosophy. There is also a sixth ending that you get locked into if you complete the Bonus Level Of Hell.
- Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey returns to the classic Order Versus Chaos Karma Meter, though it only affects how easy it is to recruit certain demons (it is no longer impossible to recruit demons of the opposite alignment, just harder) and the Demon Co-Op feature. If you're heavily tilted towards Law or Chaos, then you're locked into that ending; otherwise, you get some questions at the end of the game to determine your ending (which basically boil down to, "Hey, you want this ending or what?").
- Mass Effect included a clever reconstruction on the karma meter with the Paragon/Renegade system. Rather than good and evil, the meter represents idealism and cynicism. As Yahztee put it, Paragon represents Captain Picard and Renegade represents Dirty Harry. Certain actions and dialogue choices can gain you Paragon points or Renegade points. Depending on where you are, you're given points in either the Charm or Intimidate skills, and your choice towards the end of the game affects what ending you receive. Mass Effect is unique (so far) among the Bioware games for having a Karma Meter where the meter's opposites do not exclude each other: you can be both Paragon and Renegade to a separate extent. Individual choices will still either advance your Paragon or Renegade status alone, thoughnote . Although "playing both sides" leaves your character weaker overall in the Charm and Intimidate departments than if you'd specialized, the choice is there, unlike the games which effectively penalize you for not picking one side all the way.
- Paragons tend be rather nice people. They seek diplomatic and peaceful resolutions to situations, save innocent people whenever and wherever possible, even if it means letting the bad guy get away, and they believe in co-operation with alien races and the Council. However, Paragons show little mercy to corrupt or brutal individuals.
- Renegades tend to be more edgy, tough, and morally ambivalent, preferring to go in all guns blazing, and a "humans come first" view to galactic politics, favouring the Alliance and Cerberus. Renegades are ruthless, pragmatic, and they get the job done no matter what.
- Mass Effect 2 does away with non-combat skills and makes your ability to intimidate or charm people based entirely on your Renegade and Paragon points, respectively. This has the unfortunate side effect of penalising you heavily for not always picking the same thing, or even taking a more neutral approach. It still does mean, though, that unlike most other games, you can take occasional opposite-alignment action without any problem whatsoever. Dedicated Paragon players, particularly, tend to have a few favorite Renegade choices that are just too satisfying to miss.
- In Mass Effect 3, Paragon and Renegade occupy the same meter, unlike the previous 2 games. This allows morality choices to be made purely based on situational personal preference without penalisation. However some scenarios, especially late in the game, require that you've filled the meter to a certain extent to access the paragon/renegade responses. In essence, if you haven't done enough missions, the meter sometimes won't be high enough for you to talk your way out of trouble.
- The freeware RPG Wilfred The Hero divides spells into the ethical and unethical categories. Ethical spells increase your morality when used and require a sufficiently high morality rating to learn, and vice-versa for unethical spells. Unlike most examples, this has no effect on the plot.
- Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magic Obscura has a Karma Meter ranging from -100 to 100, with the protagonist starting out at 0. Many different things within the game affect this meter, mostly your actions in regards to quests and other similar things, like killing evil monsters or going on a rampage through some town. Depending on the value, certain characters might want to (or refuse to) join you, you might get offered different responses in dialogue, and if you commit certain acts (such as attacking a Good aligned creature with a Good character in your party), it may result in them getting upset and eventually leaving the group. For some reason, evil actions include killing people in self-defense, fighting dirty cops who just murdered a civil rights activist, and honoring a demon-possessed man's request for you to kill him before he goes on another homicidal rampage.
- The original Avernum trilogy has "reputation". Performing quests and other good deeds would raise it. Stealing or killing friendly people would lower it. Having a good reputation results in some NPCs being more helpful. There's no benefit to having a low reputation. But then, you start the game with a fairly low reputation and are almost certainly going to end the game with a high one.
- Nethergate had a few spots where you could perform good or evil acts and eventually be granted a reward based on your choices.
- Geneforge has a karma meter that determines what the factions think of you based on your words and actions. It essentially comes down to whether you support creation rights/the Rebels or creation control/the Shapers. Factions that share your view will be helpful to you and let you join them. Factions that don't will distrust you. This interacts with the Sanity Meter in interesting ways as well. The Shapers are opposed to shaping yourself and using the Geneforge or canisters, and although the games give them reasons to come to an accommodation with your protagonist, some of them will still treat you with loathing, disdain, or fear if you show up with the characteristic Glowing Eyes of Doom of a canister user.
- Neverwinter Nights has a two-way Karma Meter to fit with the Dungeons & Dragons Character Alignment system. However, the main campaign focuses exclusively on good vs. evil choices; acting purely lawful won't do a thing to Always Nonlawful bards and barbarians, whereas behaving like a full-bore rebel won't make a paladin lose their abilities.
- Neverwinter Nights 2 fixed this problem in all three official campaigns.
- There's a slight Karma Meter in Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World. Throughout the game, there's a few choices, and choosing wrong nets you points on the meter. 9 points and you can't get the "Good Ending". Of course, there's other ways to get points added... like getting hit with lightning in the temple of lightning. You'll know if you can't get the good ending if Lloyd gets a core besides Lumen. You can always get the "Bad End" though.
- Might and Magic has this, ranging from Notorious to Saintly.
- Demon's Souls doesn't just have a Karma Meter for your character, but for each region of the game world. Pushing either in one of the directions will alter character stats under certain circumstances and trigger events. In addition, altering an area's Karma Meter has an influence on enemies — pushing it towards the good end will weaken them, while pushing it towards evil will strengthen enemies and cause new types of enemies to appear... but will also increase the amount of Souls enemies give you, which act as both the game's currency and Experience Points.
- Dragon Age: Origins is one BioWare game that notably doesn't apply a Karma Meter. While certain events will only happen if you've picked "good" or "bad" choices, the game still doesn't actually track your morality visibly. The closest thing it has is a friendship meter for each party member. Doing bad things will gain the approval of the more evil-inclined party members, and vice versa with the heroic ones.
- Dragon Age II also has a Friendship/Rivalry gauge for your party members, and getting far enough along either side grants a bonus for them.
- Uplink has a 'neuromancer' rating, which starts at neutral and ranges from revolutionary (the best) to morally bankrupt (worst), and are analogous to Playful Hacker and The Cracker, respectfully. Actions that destroy or steal data will push you towards Hacker, while actions that hurt people (especially fellow hackers) or mess with their personal data push you towards Cracker. The meter has little actual effect on the game itself, beyond affecting how clients think of you (people interested in data theft won't hire Crackers, while people interested in hurting people won't hire Hackers). There's also one action you can take (stealing the data containing the identities of your fellow Uplink agents and selling it) that will mark you as a Cracker no matter what actions you take thereafter.
- Space Siege sets this up as something of an Emotions vs. Stoicism meter, with emotions as "good" and stoicism as "bad." You start at full emotion, and drop downwards as you get more cybernetic augmentations.
- Romancing SaGa uses a Karma Meter to determine one of the three area before the final dungeon you can access. Being good locks you with the Trial of Elore. Being evil lets you get to hell. And being neutral sends you to a giant village.
- Romancing SaGa 3 also had a Karma Meter, but this one was blatantly unfinished — it only affected the availability of a single side quest and had no other purpose in the entire game.
- In Deus Ex: Human Revolution, an invisible, completely secret karma meter (based on how many people you killed) will flavor Jensen's ending monologue along good, neutral, or evil lines. For example, if you did a Pacifist Run (or killed very few enemies besides the bosses), he'll say something about how he resisted the urge to abuse his power. The kill count will also affect some NPC dialogue and actions throughout the story.
- In Fallen London, the Magnanimous and Heartless quirks sort of function as this with certain actions/choices raising one of them at the expense of the other. It's not a complete black-and-white meter, however; the description for the Magnanimous quirk acknowledges that it's perfectly possible to do good deeds for selfish reasons, and it's the very rare Magnanimous player who hasn't nonetheless done something morally questionable at some point in the Grey and Gray Morality-filled depths of the Neath.
- This was a large part of the mechanics of Black & White: your actions towards your villagers and your Creature affected the Creature's powers and behaviour. Even the landscape changed to match: light and bucolic for good treatment, dark and blasted with gnarled trees for evil.
- Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War has a literal Karma Meter in the form of a sliding gauge (called your Ace style) depicting you as one of three types of aces: Knight, who faces combat honorably and protects the innocent; Soldier, who can adjust his flying and combat strategy according to the tides of battle; Mercenary, an ace who flies solely for money. In game terms, this means the Knight will never attack yellow (neutral or fleeing) targets, while the Mercenary will always attack them, with the Soldier striking a balance in between. Your wingmen and enemy pilots will have various things to say about you depending on your position on the gauge, certain missions have different ace enemies based on your Ace style, and it's even given a nod in the New Game+ by your first wingman commenting on your Ace style at the start of the first mission.
- Darkstar One rates you on trader vs. smuggler, bounty hunter vs. pirate, and so forth. In a strange way: it's possible to be a pirate (i.e. criminal) and a bounty hunter (i.e. criminal hunter) at the same time, depending on your reputation with specific factions and your actions. There were bonuses for maxing out your rating in a particular field, however, and it's not possible to do so at cross-ends (i.e. you can't max your pirate and bounty hunter rating at the same time). In reality, it's possible to max out three of the six available ratings, but you can choose which ones, resulting in the incredibly unlikely pirate-smuggler-protector, for example.
- MechWarrior IV: Mercenaries has "nobility" and "infamy" scores for your company, representing your reputation as honorable warriors and cut-throat lowlives, respectively. It's virtually impossible to get through the game with no infamy (or no nobility, for that matter), and it affects only a few optional missions, but it was still nice to know. They also kept track of your recognition by the two major powers. While the nobility and infamy ratings played this trope straight, the faction ratings were actually subversions. Technically, it is possible for players to lock themselves into one faction or the other a mission or two "early" if certain missions are played in a specific order, however on the vast majority of play-throughs, the player will have one specific point where they choose which side to join for the rest of the game, regardless of their prior approval ratings.
- Princess Maker has both a "Sin" and a "Faith" meter (among many, many, many other stats), though events that raise your Sin ranking tends to diminish Faith and vice versa. Being too high in one or the other locks you out of some of the endings and makes it more difficult to complete certain types of jobs.
Stealth Based Game
- The main focus of Splinter Cell: Double Agent, where Sam Fisher had to curry the favour of both his native NSA and his target organization, the JBA. Interestingly, it was neither difficult nor time-consuming to gain 100% favor with both the JBA and the NSA through 90% of the game. As seems to be the case with a lot of these games, your "good and evil" rating ended up depending on one action: whether you kill your old friend and handler Lambert or the somewhat sympathetic but still entirely evil new friend in the JBA. This is not possible in the Xbox 1 version of the game, which has a "classic" tug-of-war meter, meaning you can't please both the NSA and the JBA. Also one of the few examples which discourages playing to extremes, since doing so means that you're either "in over your head" or in danger of blowing your cover and being exposed as a double agent (i.e., complete a loyalty test within a time limit or you fail the mission).
- The Hitman games have a notoriety meter, which is filled up whenever someone sees you commit a highly suspicious act and gets away to tell someone. Filling it up too much will make it easier for random people to recognize you and call for help, and in Hitman: Blood Money, the newspaper report you get at the end of each level will slowly start to build up a description and composite ID picture of Agent 47, becoming more accurate the higher your notoriety is. You can bribe people to lower your notoriety, though.
- Manhunt 2 focuses not on whether you kill, but on how sadistic you are in your killing. Being professional in your slaughter leads to a Battle in the Center of the Mind, while killing in more sadistic ways results in a Split Personality Takeover.
- The Silent Hill series has always had multiple endings (Known as Good+, Good, Bad, Bad+, and an extra, silly ending). In the first game, which one you got was based on your choices in two key scenes, one of which required an unintuitive Side Quest to achieve the Good endings. In later games, it was based on your performance throughout the game.
- Silent Hill 2 took into account a number of factors during the game to deduce your ending, including (but not limited to) how often you ran around injured, how long you stayed around Maria, and whether or not you looked at certain items. It is the only game in the series that lacks a Golden Snitch event that will push you heavily towards one of the endings.
- Silent Hill 3 introduced an event that would more directly affect your Karma Meter: Forgiving the confessor in the church is considered a severely bad thing. If you so much as spat on a demon afterward (or before), you were pretty much guaranteed the evil ending.
- Silent Hill 4 has two conditions that determine your ending: how infested Room 301 is, and whether or not Eileen dies during the final boss battle.
- Silent Hill: Homecoming has three yes/no events that determine your ending.
- Silent Hill: Downpour continued this, with scenes offering a choice of whether to behave kindly or cruelly towards other characters. The player's responses combined with the number of enemies killed during the game determined which of four endings you'd get (with a fifth silly ending unlocked by finding hidden items throughout the game).
Third Person Shooter
- The Third-Person Shooter The Suffering has a Karma Meter which depends on whether the main character, Torque, helps the less hostile NPCs he encouters or guns them down in cold blood. This rating determines which of three endings (Good, Neutral, or Evil) you get. While the meter isn't shown explicitly, the player can to some extent gauge their karmic state by the reactions that the ghost of his wife and children have to his actions. Not only that, but the player can see what their karma is at any time in two ways: looking at Torque, and looking at a photo of his family. If the player is good, Torque is nice and clean (save for the blood he got on him from previous fights) and looks fine, while the photo is fine. If the player is neutral, they are a bit dirty and have a couple scratches on them, and the photo is somewhat damaged. If the player is evil, Torque is covered in scars and sores, and the photo of his family is burned or something. Torque will also change appearance based on your actions. A third way to tell is to listen to the Infernas the several times you meet them before they start showing up as enemies. If you're on the good route, they'll be relatively friendly and compassionate. If you're on the evil route, they'll be insulting and mocking, pretending to be afraid of you. The sequel, The Suffering: Ties That Bind has a similar system, though this time actually visible in the pause menu and having concrete bonuses, and even includes an Old Save Bonus that changes the opening depending on which ending you got in the first game.
- The original game also has a ghostly NPC symbolizing each of the possibilities on the Karma Meter: Horace, the electrified ghost of a minor convict that was driven insane by the mundane horrors of prison and supernatural horrors of Carnate and killed his wife in a psychotic episode, and wants to stop Torque from succumbing like he did for Good; Projected Man Dr. Killjoy, a deranged psychiatrist dedicated to "helping" his patients no matter the cost and who has adopted Torque as his latest project for Neutral; and Hermes, a sadistic executioner who eventually killed himself in the gas chamber so he could see death from the other side, and who sees a possible kindred spirit in Torque for Evil.
- In the Oddworld series (except for Stranger's Wrath), "Qarma" has only one variable - whether or not you save the NPC Mudokons, Fuzzles, etcetera. Its only plot impact is on the ending, but in the later games, Abe would act and sound depressed if he'd failed to save enough of them.
- Reservoir Dogs has a meter that determines whether you're merely an amoral, businesslike Professional like the movie's Mr. Pink, a Career Criminal like Mr. White, or a psychopath like Mr. Blonde. This is affected by whether you shoot people at random or try to take hostages and escape peacefully. While all the other characters' fates are sealed, the karma meter determines what happens to Mr. Pink - psychopaths get shot by the cops, career criminals get arrested, but professionals Know When to Fold 'Em and escape scot-free!
Turn Based Strategy
- Ogre Battle has three Karma Meters. One is the standard good-vs-evil Alignment trait, and each soldier has it. Each soldier also has Charisma, which represents how Badass they look (kill enemies above your level, you look awesome, kill much weaker foes, you just look like a thug). These traits are used to determine what classes a unit can change into. The third meter, called Chaos Frame, is your revolution's reputation as a whole, is affected by a whole raft of things, and determines what characters will join you and what ending you'll get.
- Tactics Ogre averts this for characters, replacing it with a Law-Neutral-Chaos system of Character Alignment that doesn't use a meter, but has a quasi-visible Chaos Frame that only affects which way you get screwed over in one ending.
- Nippon Ichi games (La Pucelle Tactics, Disgaea, Phantom Brave and Makai Kingdom) have invisible Karma Meters that are affected by killing off your own teammates, an action that can easily be accidentally done, and a source of "easy" experience. This affects the ending in some of the games. The latest game allows you to follow a different path of the story after beating the game to be a bad guy. (Oddly, only demons are actually punished by the plot for doing this; humans get power-ups.)
- The turn-based strategy game Shattered Union features a "political rating" that fluctuates based on how much collateral damage you cause while conquering territories. Both the good and evil ends of the meter offer various special abilities. Being the good guy earns you the ability to spawn commandos and cyborg soldiers, heal and repair units, and temporarily make units faster and tougher. Having a 0% Approval Rating, meanwhile, gives you access to things like artillery strikes, biological weapons, and nukes. Your political rating also affects the ending you get. If you're good, America is peacefully reunited, and everybody lives happily ever after. If you were evil, you become the new fascist dictator.
- Might and Magic: Heroes VI uses a blood/tears alignment system, where a hero earns blood points if they use aggressive tactics, overwhelm opponents with sheer force, and solve problems with violence whenever the opportunity arises, while tears points are earned for showing mercy, using diplomacy, and endeavoring to keep the soldiers in their army alive. Eventually, a hero will be offered the chance to devote themselves to a philosophy, which will earn them unique abilities; for example, a warlock who pursues tears will become a demonist who can support their army through summoning, while a blood warlock becomes a pyromancer who gains unique destruction spells.
Wide Open Sandbox
- In FAMOUS. As the recipient of electricity based superpowers, Cole has to choose whether to use them to help others, or help himself. Notable in the fact that helping people will usually hurt you, with a long (but temporary) effect. Hurting innocents will still give you negative Karma, but it's possible to be extremely evil just by looking out for number one. Early examples include scaring off citizens to secure a supply drop all for yourself or letting them take their fair share, attacking police on your own or inciting a riot to let bystanders take some of the heat, and turning off a water supply valve which poisons you or getting some hapless oaf to get poisoned for you. Generally speaking, evil equates to "selfish", and good equates to "selfless". Your karma directly affects how your powers develop, and each karma-side has an exclusive power, as well.
- Like several other games listed here, your final karma, as well as the ending received, are determined by a specific choice just before the final boss. There's an interesting spin on it, though; the story event involved in taking the evil choice can leave absolutely no doubt about Cole's malevolence. Even if you make this choice with full positive karma, the karma meter locks.
- True Crime: Streets of LA has a karma meter that plays on the concept of Good Cop/Bad Cop. Simply arresting random criminals (you may incapacitate them to make it easier) will raise it towards the "Good Cop" side, while shooting them dead leans you towards "Bad Cop"note .
- Somewhat annoyingly, in order for you to advance beyond a certain point, you needed to be at "Good Cop", which meant there was no separate path or ending for playing as a Bad Cop. Not to mention that if you got carried away, it would be almost impossible for you to return to good cop without grinding for arrests in order to score some Good Cop points.
- Red Dead Redemption uses the Honor Meter, which starts in the middle and gets filled to either side, depending on the deeds you do. Disposing of rustlers (be it by leaving them tied up for the sheriff or shooting them dead) and helping people out (in and out of missions) raises your Honor, while committing crimes decreases it.
- The rewards for being fully good or evil are a bit skewed: Bad Marston gets the fastest horse in the game (pointless, since the 2nd fastest can be gotten relatively early in the game regardless of karma and the DLC demon horses come with Status Buffs) and attacked by posses on occasion, while good Marston becomes fucking Immune to Bullets and gets showered with gifts by NPCS.
- For extra fun, John's interactions change depending on his Honor; being Good means he'll greet people politely when they pass on the street, while being Evil means he'll insult and threaten them.
- The game also has a Fame meter which goes alongside the Honor meter.
- In Scarface: The World is Yours, the "Cop Heat" and "Gang Heat" meters gauge Tony Montana's congeniality with the police and enemy gangs. Filling either one (or both!) too much brings about various negative effects. Some of those, however, can be mitigated with upgrades or careful play.
- Spore has a kind of karma meter for each stage based on your species' behavior. Typically, the green choices are "friendly/social", the blue choices are "flexible/mixed", and the red choices are pretty much "aggressive/violent", depending on how the player decides to reach the goals for stage completion.
- In cell stage, you start out as either an herbivore (green) or carnivore (red). Later, by using both herbivore and carnivore mouths or an omnivore mouth, you can become an omnivore (blue) creature, or you can switch to the other extreme.
- In creature stage, the choices are social (green), adaptable (blue), or predator (red).
- In tribal stage, the choices are friendly (green), industrious (blue), or aggressive (red).
- In civ stage, you start out defaulting to whichever color you had at the end of tribal stage, and can shift up or down to the other ones from there — an aggressive civilization can become religious simply by capturing a religious city and using religious vehicles to convert other cities. The choices here are religious (green), economic (blue), and military (red).
- Upon arriving in space stage, a species "archetype" is chosen for the species based on the previously-made choices, resulting in a different special power for each choice (for example, a pure or majority "blue" run would give you the Trader Archetype, and the ability to instantly make alien planets with which you have a trade route available for purchase, while two greens, a blue, and a red would give you the Ecologist Archetype, and the power to automatically snag samples of each kind of life-form found on a planet).
Non-video game examples:
Anime and Manga
- This is a plot point in Yureka.
- ½ Prince mentions this, but it does not seem to mean anything.
- In Trinites: The Mana of the game is called Karma. It basically corresponds to either of your Archont (dark Karma) or Deva (light Karma), strength. Having a higher dark Karma doesn't make you necessarily evil, as the opposite doesn't make you necessarily good, but blatantly evil acts might raise your dark Karma dots, as the archont within the player rejoices. Played more straight for Incarnate Devas and Archonts, who only have light or dark Karma, respectively.
- The pen-and-paper Star Wars RPG uses Dark Side Points - as soon as they equal your Force-sensitive character's Wisdom score, you go completely off the rails. For a non-Force-sensitive character, your DSP score is just a measuring tool for how big a Jerk Ass you are.
- The first version of the Tabletop Games Vampire: The Masquerade gave each vampire a Humanity score, rating how much he still acts and thinks like a normal human being; inhumane acts decrease the Humanity meter, and if a Vampire runs out of Humanity, he becomes little more than a feral beast. The video game adaptation, Vampire: The Masquerade — Redemption uses the Humanity score more as a standard Karma meter: your score at the end determines whether you join with the Big Bad as his minion, kill him and take his place, or kill him and are reunited with your lover.
- In the New World of Darkness, every character type has a variation on the Morality rating (Morality being the human version). What happens if it hits zero depends on the character type; for a human, zero Morality is absolute, cold-blooded sociopathy, usually accompanied by insanity (since losing Morality often causes the character to develop Derangements). In Vampire: The Requiem, the moral standard is still Humanity, and zero renders them unthinking monsters, as before.
- Werewolf: The Forsaken has Harmony, which determines the situations in which a werewolf enters "Death Rage", where he or she turns into a ferocious monster who kills foes and friends nearby or runs for a safe location. All werewolves risk it during combat, but those with lower Harmony risk the violent version every time they are insulted, have their authority challenged, or even if they burn themselves on the stove trying to cook.
- Werewolf: The Apocalypse and its Rage metric could also be seen as this, although while it punishes you for being too violent, it's also an important attribute to not let fall too low. 10 points of Rage might result in a character killing and cannibalizing allies, but 0 points means that the character's healing ability and ability to shapeshift is minimal.
- Mage: The Awakening has Wisdom, which reflects how prudently you use your magic. Using magic to harm a sentient being is actually a pretty bad sin, as are the standard murder, mind control, and soul theft. Oddly enough, you can actually get slightly dinged for Mundane Utility, because bending the very power of the cosmos in order to boil an egg is selfish and just plain lazy.
- Promethean: The Created has Humanity, like with vampires, with the inversion that Prometheans are trying to ape humanity, which they have relatively little experience with, rather than trying to cling to old memories of morality.
- Changeling: The Lost has Clarity, which officially isn't so much a Karma Meter as it is a Sanity Meter, representing how easily you can keep yourself centered and distinguish fantasy from reality after getting the mother of all mind rapes from The Fair Folk. Murder and theft are still sins, but so are things such as taking psychotropic drugs, spending too much time away from humanity, and experiencing unexpected life changes.
- Hunter: The Vigil has Morality, the standard mortal measure. However, hunters can alter their moral thresholds to be more in line with the Vigil. They'll just have to take a penalty to social actions that mounts the more their moral code skews away from the norm.
- Geist The Sin Eaters uses Synergy, a measure of how well the Sin-Eater and their geist get along. Acts such as murder to restore health and consuming ghosts for Plasm ding the meter, as well as dying and coming back more than once. If you reach 0, you become a soulless creature cowering in fear at the sights of the Underworld.
- Sin-Eaters have it even worse than most. If they die, they come back to life, but lose one point of Synergy, and two points of maximum Synergy. If their maximum Synergy is reduced to 0 by this, they're either subject to Final Death, or go through the above, but worse; a geist who chooses to linger in its host body after the Sin-Eater's soul has been shredded is sooner or later invariably driven homicidally insane by the tortured remnants of its former host's soul — and given that they're already Anthropomorphic Personifications of Death fused with human ghosts, this is a very, very bad thing. For some reason, both these and the more moderate version above are referred to as "The Wretched."
- Mummy: The Curse has Memory, a measure of how much of their self-identity and past existence a mummy recalls. In addition to the standard mortal sins, a mummy must avoid destroying evidence of their mortal life and of the culture they came from, and must protect their tomb and the relics they're charged with guarding. Compared to other supernaturals, a mummy's Memory starts much lower, reflecting their limited self-knowledge (the standard rating is 7; starting Memory is 3). They can bounce back after hitting Memory 0 by dying and coming back again, which resets them to Memory 1.
- "Minor" supernaturals, like Psychics, Thaumaturges, and Immortals, also use Morality. This is not good for Blood Bathers, one of the forms of Immortal — their method of immortality, at best, with a particularly forgiving and not especially vile Blood Bathing ritual, involves being permanently camped at the low end of the Morality Meter, just waiting for a really atrocious act to send them into sociopathic depravity. More commonly, it sends them unavoidably screaming off the Evil end of the Karma Meter, sooner or later. Unsurprisingly, the game recommends that Player Character Blood Bathers be constructed so they're at the former end.
- Fan-made game Genius The Transgression has Obligation, representing the Genius's personal connection to "normal" humanity. Treating humans as disposable or replaceable (Mengele gets quoted) damages it; at the highest levels, surgery calls for a check. Hit zero and you start cackling.
- For completion's sake, it's worth mentioning Demon: The Descent, which has a truly bizarre variation on the nWoD Karma Meter — instead of representing karma, sanity, or any more standard facet to be measured, it covers the demon's ability to hide from the God-Machine and convincingly appear to be an ordinary mortal. As such, hitting zero with it doesn't mean the character is automatically forfeit, but it is extremely dangerous, and a demon that can't establish a new cover quickly probably won't survive. It's also mechanically based on Integrity, as introduced in The God-Machine Chronicle, rather than Morality, leading to it functioning substantially differently in important ways.
- Interestingly, of the above, only werewolves, demons and sin-eaters have Blue and Orange Morality, with all of their karma meters being notably different in terms of sins to the standard set by Morality. All other supernaturals have basically a few added sins (and slightly different rationalizations as to why various acts are immoral) to humans, and that's it.
- Dungeons & Dragons
- In 1st Edition the Dungeon Master was advised to keep a Character Alignment chart for each PC showing how Good/Evil and Lawful/Chaotic they were. Each time a PC committed a Good/Evil and/or Lawful/Chaotic act, they would be moved appropriately within the chart. If a PC ever changed their alignment due to such drift, they would lose a level of experience. Certain character classes (such as Lawful Good paladins) could lose their powers if they changed alignment. Magic items, spells and creatures of a specific alignment would react negatively to characters of an opposite alignment (e.g. Chaotic Good vs. Lawful Evil).
- 2nd Edition loosened these restrictions somewhat. Instead of losing a level of experience, it just took twice as many Experience Points to reach the next level. Also, the penalty was no longer automatic: it only occurred if the Dungeon Master didn't agree with the change and the change was completely voluntary.
- The Ravenloft campaign setting has a variation in the form of Dark Powers Checks: If you perform an evil deed that the Game Master feels deserving, he rolls a percentage die to judge if it attracts attention from the Dark Powers, and, should the Random Number God dislike you, they start turning you into a monster. Should you perform a deed of exceptional evil, you may eventually find yourself a darklord of your own domain-too bad in both cases it's a true curse. Also rather unforgiving-although it has reservations for Pay Evil unto Evil, there are just some deeds the baddies don't deserve.
- 3rd Edition book Unearthed Arcana was full of rules variants, including alternate Karma Meters. Honor was one, where you could cultivate a good score by acting honorably regardless of your personal inclinations. Reputation was another, though less reliant on morality and more on the scale and perception of your deeds.
- White Wolf's other main game line Exalted has a variant of this: acting against your Virtues costs willpower and gives you Limit which when full makes you go crazy for a little while. However as the virtues don't really correspond to modern morality, and resisting magical Mind Control also gives you limit, it almost doesn't count as this trope.
- The old Marvel Super Heroes RPG has Karma points. The main problem with this is that it rewards Honor Before Reason almost obsessively, and saving a life is worth only 20 Karma, while knocking down a given area of city is worth -5. So if you save a life by knocking down four squares of city, you come out even. It essentially made a Punisher character unplayable, because you lost all your Karma if you killed, even to save lives. You also take a Karma ding for mind control, owning a gun, jaywalking...
- It was worse. There were karma penalties for missing press conferences, and letting crime go unpunished. You were better off making that date at the Town Square. Oh, and villains naturally had their own Karma system.
- Shadowrun uses a Karma Meter as its Experience Points — performing good acts of significance earns you (Good) Karma, which is used to advance your character. You explicitly can't get Karma for evil acts, no matter how grand or significant, and evil characters instead need to "buy" Karma with cash, representing philanthropy and good works to "buy off" their evil actions.
- Revised in recent editions. Karma isn't awarded for being a good character, but a good player. That is, a gamemaster is instructed to award karma for good roleplaying, being funny, driving the plot along. So if someone makes the game fun, they get rewarded for it. There is a notoriety attribute, which you increase by failing or being a dick. It contributes to intimidate and penalizes negotiation.
- Deadlands has a Karma Meter that works in a largely negative fashion: committing certain, well-defined horrible actions nets certain Player Characters "Corruption" points. Once you have a number of Corruption points equal to your Spirit die type, you're in danger of losing your character to The Dark Side. This is meant to shepherd the PCs into the appropriate side in the settings' Black and White Morality.
- A literal one in Tenra Bansho Zero: It goes up whenever you do certain things, and goes down only rarely, when you willingly give up your character's Fates. If it goes above 108, you become an Asura.
- Dead Inside has Soul Points and their generation or decay. There were five major Virtues and Vices to track behavior against, and acting in accord with Virtues generated new Soul Points for you while indulging Vices caused decay. If you indulge your Vices too much and completely decay your soul, you "husk" and become an Eldritch Abomination (and thus unplayable). However, Virtues and Vices aren't mutually exclusive, they're just how often you've acted in accord with one or the other, and so your Soul Point total is an imperfect reflection of morality, especially since you can steal Soul Points from others. The ultimate result is a setting where Power versus Karma is on a bell curve, where the least and most powerful people are the most horrible ones. Truly good people rarely graduate out of the middle ranks of power because they're just not ruthless enough to deal with the big players.
- The animated webshow Unforgotten Realms has "Sins of the Unforgotten," which the main character, Sir Shmoopy of Awesometon, gets two of. The secret behind them is that he gets one for every time he cheats. Whenever Rob (the person controlling Sir Shmoopy) cheats in the game, his character has a heart attack and a mark is made on his wrist. After three marks, his character dies.
- In Pact, many practitioners use some sort of implement to measure their karma.