Sunday, March 17, 2013

PVP

Waaaaay back in January 2012, I started writing this particular post on PVP. For various reasons I shelved it. Now I feel compelled to bring it out again. Why? F'ing Alexis, that's why. Jeez, seems like every third post I write these days has to mention that guy and his blog.

Alexis recently posted a 10,000 word essay on how to play a character (mainly with regard to D&D, but there is good stuff in the essay for other RPGs). If you haven't read it, I suggest you do...it echoes a lot of the same things I've been saying over the years (like being proactive and its effect on the DM), but he does it in a much more concise (yes, for 10K words, it is concise) and elegant fashion then myself. But then Alexis is a writer...I'm just a dude with a laptop.

[he also has some good bits about untwining rope and using your shield straps for something other than carrying your shield on your back...something for everyone!]

Even for DMs (which is the seat I find myself in more often then not) it has good stuff to say, and it is pertinent whether or not you choose to run a campaign world as detailed as Alexis or not. Really. I can use the stuff in this post and the mile-by-mile detail of MY campaign worlds (any of 'em) is haphazard at best. "Nonexistent" would actually be a better term.

So, yeah, a good read. Of course, I didn't it myself till tonight, and only because I was intrigued by someone getting so bent out-o-shape over it that they'd...well, you can read his other post about that if you're interested. Still it got me curious enough to read the whole thing (I was at the bar eating my corn beef and cabbage solo tonight anyway...family's still out of town)...and having read it, put this whole other post (which I did read) in a different perspective, and raised a very significant question for me:

WTF?

I shall now quote from Alexis's original essay (there will be some editing):

Winning 

…We want to win the game.  Or we would, if this was monopoly, and a 'win' was something as clearly designed as a goal post.  It isn't in an rpg.  Winning is this fairly amorphous quality that means different things to different people.  For some, just gathering all the money they can in the shortest space of time defines a win.  For others, having a good time is the measure.  For still others, challenging themselves, either by overcoming the odds or 'solving the problem' is the ideal. 

…three or four generations back, the business of winning was obvious.  Make money, use it to make more money, use the massive amounts of money you've gained to build a personal world of power and triumph, use that to beat back the other fellow and - if you're really successful - use it to tell the state and the other fellow what to do.  You know you're winning when everyone around you is clearly on their knees.  If you're still on your knees to someone ... you're not there yet. 

That doesn't allow for a win for very many people ... but in a strongly heirarchical society, everyone understood that humbling yourself before authority was expected and ultimately  unavoidable...  

The roleplaying game has a lot more in common with the old heirarchical system than with our modern avoidist philosophy.  You're not only awarded for increasing your abilities and influence ... you're positively punished for not taking the power-acquisition path.  How?  Well, the game is boring…If you're not fighting ... and thus increasing both the level of your danger and the potential reward from the risk you're taking, it's just a dull, dull game.

Whatever your personal motivations - coin, fun, challenge - you must first and foremost recognize the social structure surrounding your eventual achievements:  right now you are nothing.  With time and effort and perseverence, you will be something.  To be something requires acquisition - of power or wealth - and that acquisition will come, must come, from someone or something else.  There's nothing to be done about it.  You may be a nice person.  You may have no personal desires for global domination.  But someone has, and your meager acquisition of wealth and power (in the beginning) is, at the very least, an annoyance to someone.  Eventually it will become an annoyance they can't ignore, and in the interest of keeping all the wealth and power they already possess, they will have to put a timely end to your existence… 

So where it comes to the subject of winning, we can at least acknowledge that you will have to be taking something from someone.  Who you take it from is up to you.  Your gamemaster is probably going to make this very convenient for you, nicely standing up strawmen you can beat into submission easily with your pain stick ... but if you have any influence on the decision-making process at all, you really ought to sit down and think.  "What is it that someone has got that I would really like to have?" ... and ... "Who is it that has things that I think really ought to have nothing?" 

Those are two very simple questions, and they will greatly help in establishing a purpose for your character. In the greater sense, they will build up those goal posts we were saying earlier didn't exist.  The questions are open and non-moral in structure.  The who and the what could be anything, after all…[cheat edit]…So first and foremost, go get the thing you want.
[the cheat edit is one where I have deliberately removed Alexis's context; in context, he's saying "go get the thing" from the (presumably NPC) target and its "minions." But for the purpose of this post, I could give fuck all about such boss monsters]

We shall now return to my post on player versus player conflict that I started writing well over a year ago. I will leave out the opening paragraphs about a trip to the dentist and the cutesy-ness that I was able to incorporate with dental puns. You folks don't need that anyway. SO, picking right up:

One of the things that got me in trouble with Alexis’s campaign yesterday [note: 14 months ago], was my stated willingness and/or intention of instigating an intraparty conflict. I had previously read his post on the subject of PVP (to sum up: he doesn’t allow it), but I had completely forgotten about it by yesterday morning; after all, at the time I read it I had not been preparing to play in his campaign, and since it didn’t fit with MY way of running games, I had dismissed it from my mind after perusal.

Needless to say, when I read his post yesterday that linked to that earlier article I felt even more silly…not only had I been a heel, I’d violated a cardinal mandate of the DM!

But as I said, it wasn’t in my mind because that’s not how I run my games.

If you look over to the right of my blog, you’ll see some “badges” (whimsically placed by Yours Truly, not awarded by any neutral panel). A couple of them are the typical “old school cred:” random dice rolls governing cause and effect and regular player character death. Personally, I’ve never been big on “fudging” for a better story/game…in games where heroic success is supposed to be a regular occurrence, designers inevitably include rules for “hero points” or “drama chips” or whatever, and that’s totally cool. And along similar lines, I generally give the benefit of the doubt to game designers that they are making games exactly as deadly as they are supposed to be, with no “fudging for life” needed. Intellectually, I know this isn’t always the case, but I generally prefer life and death struggles with a high body count…makes victory for the survivors all the sweeter.

The other two badges I would consider matters of GM philosophy that might flip either way. The mirror indicates I will mirror back what players give me…that is, player input (if any) will go into the design of an on-going game. Some DMs don’t operate this way, or don’t make it a large part of their game, instead focusing on creating the setting and scenarios for players to which players react. I prefer proactive players, myself…but especially when starting a new campaign (or a new group of players with a fresh and fragile social contract) this is trickier to get as everyone (including the GM) is still “learning the ropes.” Or, at least, tightening the knots.

The last badge…the little stick figure with arrows in his back…indicate I allow, and often welcome intraparty conflict, or PVP (“player vs. player”) as it’s known.

Not everyone does PVP in their games; a lot of experienced DMs (like Alexis) have decided that the cons of players attacking each other far outweighs the pros. And it’s easy to see that point of view:

-        Role-playing is a cooperative exercise and party conflict drives a real wedge into players cooperating.
-        It’s easy for some players, especially those who’ve invested a lot of time and emotion into a character, to get upset (and want to stop playing).
-        Party conflict can derail the “adventure at hand,” sidetracking the party and stopping the whole “fun thing” we’re doing.
-        It’s easy for random dice rolls or unbalanced class abilities to prevent any type of level playing field for actual PC conflict. Unlike, say, a PVP Arena in World of Warcraft, there’s no artificial “Thunderdome moderation” that occurs in an RPG. The magic-user casts power word: kill or the cleric casts harm or destruction, or the fighter uses a vorpal sword , or the assassin auto-kills someone when he’s not looking, or multiple PCs gang up on a lone PC…none of these things are “fair” to the victim.
-        Grudges and vendettas between PLAYERS can spill over into the game leading to all the bad things in bullets 1, 2, and 3. “You killed my elf so my new fighter is going to kill YOU.”

All very valid reasons to NOT allow PVP conflict at one’s table. Long-term, one has to decide what the game is about; once PVP begins to occur, there’s the possibility that this is ALL your campaign will be about…assuming it doesn’t simply dissolve entirely.

And don’t tell me it’s necessary for “realism” to the game…there’s a lot of things in D&D that are unrealistic. Vancian magic. Talking swords (do they have mouths?). 15th level master thieves unable to hide in shadows (Mentzer’s BECMI edition only). Grell. In a world where many “unrealistic” things are real, it is perfectly acceptable to say, “player characters have a bond of camaraderie such that they would never EVER attack each other.” Kind of like telling the cleric he would never pick up an edged weapon.

Having said all that, I STILL allow player versus player conflict. I welcome it in my games; to a certain degree, I’ve been known to encourage it.

Why, JB, why would you do such a thing?

Ahh, that’s the part I’ve been trying to sort out into words. Let me start with a couple of real examples.

#1 (from many, many years ago): My character, a lightly armored swordsman, encounters a hulking barbarian (the other PC) on the road.  The barbarian immediately begins talking smack to me because he is so much bigger and stronger (18/90+ strength). I draw my sword and tell him he should be more polite or he’ll regret his words. He insults me further. I roll to hit…and miss. “That was just a warning shot,” says I. The barbarian guffaws and makes some more ill-conceived remarks; he may also have attacked me, but I don’t recall. I roll to hit and this time succeed, doing maximum damage and killing the lout. The player is upset; the DM asks why he antagonized my character, instead of just “partying up.” I believe I then bound his wounds (he was only at “death’s door”) and we continued on to our adventure, none the worse for wear.

#2 (from last year): Play-testing DCC, my two 0-level characters ambush our two (cowardly if well-equipped) NPC companions, murder them, and take their gear. Later on, one of my two characters dies in combat. A little while after that, another player in the group decides to attack and kill my remaining PC. When asked why, he explained my character had proven to be a loose cannon, and it was only a matter of time (he felt) before I turned on the other party members. Combat ensued, one of his PCs fell on his own knife (dying, as is a not uncommon experience in DCC), and the other mortally wounded my PC. When I brought a new PC to the table, he (I) did not hold a grudge against the other guy.

These are examples of PVP play in which I’ve been involved as a player. I could cite other examples…a time when another player “lightning bolted” my PC for calling his character by the wrong name one too many times (“That is NOT my name!”), and an instance when two PCs (mine and another) was attacked (from stealth) by a third for a grudge he carried based on treasure distribution. In instances where I was a DM/GM, I’ve had PCs bushwhack each other or plot against each other, and times when a PC simply stood by when another PC was in mortal danger due to a prior slight or argument.

Some will say I’m stupid and/or destructive to allow this behavior at a game table. Some will say I’M a jerk for participating in this behavior at all. As wiser, cooler heads have pointed out:

The character is an avatar of the player. The player is directly responsible for the character’s choice of behavior. It is not a defense of “jerk” behavior to say, “I’m just playing in character;” as the person making the character’s choices, YOU are responsible for your character’s behavior.

[that is a paraphrase and, no, I am not taking it from Alexis, but from a different arrogant intellectual I respect: Ron Edwards]

But there IS a real, down-to-earth reason that I have allowed (and have participated in) PVP conflict over the years and it is this: it drives home, more than anything else, the consequences of one’s actions.

Players DO act like douches from time to time, for a whole helluva’ lot of reasons, justified or not. Sure, as a DM or GM I could “hit them with a lightning bolt from God” or some other type of Divine (DM fiat) Karma. I'd guess many DMs have tried this approach in the past…I know I did on one or two occasions as a kid. But while I take my role as rules arbiter and referee seriously, biased fiat justice of this type just doesn’t sit right with me. It breaks the suspension of disbelief that the game is a game (it IS a game, but we’re using it as a fantasy escape for awhile)…it also gives a feeling of DM “playing favorites” (even if the “favorite” is the DM himself!) by taking a side.

I could also just boot players from the table. That depends on your tolerance level for miscreants. Personally (and I realize this is personal) I prefer a little drama and conflict so long as it is “in character” (that dreaded term) and in the spirit of the campaign…and my long-term games tend towards a darker tone to them. At least, my AD&D games always have in the past.

So for me, the best way to drive home the point of consequences is to allow other players to administer the beatings. Or (as a player) to administer the beatings myself.

[now, that's all stuff I wrote back in 2012. Here's the new bits...]

Engaging in PVP behavior is one form facilitating the gamist creative agenda...of providing an outlet for players to indulge in the mini-game of "who's the biggest swinging dick at the table"...and if you'll pardon the gender specificity of the expression, I've found female gamers fond of the same indulgence from time to time. Part of a game like D&D is showing off "how awesome" your character is...your creativity in designing the character, sure, but also your effectiveness within the game. Your tactics, your strategy, your acumen when it comes to kicking ass. And simply kicking the ass of the DM's "strawmen" does eventually (as I think Alexis implies) wear thin. 

Now creative agenda (showing whose sword is bigger) may not be enough to put PVP in your game, but how about when intraparty conflict is appropriate based on your character's objectives? What happens when the thief wants to fence the loot and party when the paladin wants to give it all to the poor? If you're a proactive player, one not afraid to establish your own goals and agenda, sometimes that agenda doesn't jibe with those of the other players at the table.

So what do you do then? Give up your f'ing goals for the sake of "getting along with everyone?" Based on Alexis's later post, yeah, that's exactly what you should do...because D&D is a group activity, and if you're not "flexible enough" to play nice, then your option is the highway. Even, apparently, if the players at the table are all insipid knuckleheads.

See, I don't agree with that...as a player OR as a DM. I do agree with most everything in the 10,000 word post, including the parts about the psychology of a DM and the need for "self respect;" though in place of the latter term I'd probably use something more prosaic and floofy like "being true to yourself" or something. And if I a player character IS "self respecting" and has an agenda that breaks with the rest of the party, I think that should be allowed and, yes (often), encouraged. Because otherwise you're doing a couple things that I'm really not a fan of:
  1. You (the DM) are breaking the illusion of the reality of the game ("why can't I stab Jimbo?" Because you can't, jerk-face)...which interrupts the whole escape portion of the game (i.e. the third foundational pillar on which the game is built).
  2. You (the DM) are supplanting the player's own objectives and expectations of play. It disempowers (or "deprotagonizes") the player...and that's as likely to break the player's drive to creatively engage and participate proactively as anything else.

I realize that for some DMs, their attitude towards #1 is "it serves the greater purpose" of facilitating a game that involves a group activity, and the attitude towards #2 is "so the fuck what...I don't want 'em in MY game, they can go play elsewhere." And I also realize that my little post here probably won't change any DM's mind about whether or not they include PVP-type action in their campaign. My point here is to explain my perspective, and why I allow intraparty conflict in my own games. Hell, I have an expectation of party conflict within a game when it's appropriate...and part of that expectation comes from my same reasoning about how to play a character as Alexis outlines in his essay.

To me...well, I guess I only really know how to do this from my perspective. I can "turn it on and off" when it comes to gaming...I can be very in the moment, living vicariously through my character when we're playing, and yet be detached enough outside the game to not let another character stabbing mine in the back irritate me too much, so long as its justified and appropriate. That part is where I see the DM having a role in the issue: as a referee and arbiter.

I'd never shut the door on PVP completely. I'd much rather see PCs administer their own lumps (and suffer their own consequences) then have to "force" cooperative behavior (said force being accomplished in any number of ways). Besides, to me it is totally (forgive the term) "unrealistic" to think that a band of rogues (the typical D&D party) is going to get along all the time or always have the same agenda. In the military, yes, you put your lives in the hands of your brother (and sister) soldiers and trust them implicitly, have been trained in point of fact to lay down your lives for them. But a D&D party is no such Band of Brothers...while they might experience horror and combat and traumatic experiences together, they are still a group of independent mercenaries and sell-swords with grand ambitions and monstrous egos...the kind of Type A personality that drives a man to go brave a dragon's den instead of minding the shop or plowing a field. These are folks with agendas...and agendas that don't always synch neatly with the other characters. Thinking otherwise is just too fanciful for my brand of fantasy.

So, yeah, players should have a mind for what "winning" means to them (and their character)...and sometimes, that means taking it from someone else, even a fellow player character. The way I see it, that's part of the nature of the game, and it's up to each individual player to decide how far they want to push it and risk the wrath of their fellow players; you never know when you might get taken out for being a "loose cannon."

To me it makes for an interesting game. But then, I am kind of an ass.
; )

[and BTW, none of this is meant as a retraction in any way of my earlier post. If you agree to play in another DM's world, you agree to abide by the DM's rules. I'm just talking 'bout how I roll, dig?]

11 comments:

  1. I've had some great experiences with PvP in my games, actually. Assuming that you play with mature and relatively drama-free players (and if you don't, you should) then PvP can be a lot of fun. Cooperation to have a good game is largely a matter of PLAYERS cooperating, and that doesn't necessarily mean CHARACTERS cooperation, if inter-group conflict is exciting and interesting.

    To me, it always has been. But it also occured to me many years ago that I approach the game from a kind of "collaborative authorial stance" and I see the game as the development of an improvisational story of sorts where my input is specifically limited to what my character does. Because of that, I don't feel an overly strong sense of attachment to my character--I'd rather see him do something interesting, or have interesting things happen to him, than I would see only good things happen to him. How would that be interesting?

    If you watch any ensemble type TV show, which I think my goal is that my D&D campaigns loosely resemble in many ways, it's unheard of to think that the protagonists of the ensemble cast would all get along with each other all the time. That would be boring as dirt.

    My favorite campaigns, looking back on them, are the ones where my players (or fellow players, when I'm not in the GM seat) are a bunch of rather ne'er-do-well Cugel the Clever type folks who wander around from one disaster to another, frequently of their own making. They don't save the world (once they even basically destroyed it; kinda by accident, but since they were so narcissistic, they didn't really think that it would have any impact on them personally, and didn't really care.) They don't really amass a lot of wealth or power. They aren't necessarily very successful at accomplishing any of their goals in game. But holy crap, they have a lot of fun getting there by being the most entertaining bunch of miscreants you can imagine.

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  2. PvP has been rare in my campaigns. When you've been playing with the same guys for 30 years (when we can get together, averaging once annually for the last 2 decades), it's tough to split the party. The people get along so well that intraparty conflict is rare. Occasionally, I tried to spice things up by creating scenarios that place PCs at cross purposes, but they decline to take the bait and always find a reasonable way to work it out.

    It was more fun when we were kids. When we first played Descent into the Depths of the Earth, using the pregenerated characters, the traditional party leader (Mike, playing Beek Gwenders of Croodle, the ranger) made a rare misstep, leading to a challenge from Brian (Fonkin Hoddypeak, the elf fighter/magic-user). All of the PCs and NPCs supported Fonkin as their new leader and went off with him. Beek quit the party with his sole supporter, NPC Keek Breedbate of Nithe (gnome fighter/thief). Incredibly, Fonkin's party got rolled by the troglodytes, and Beek & Keek rescued them, forever solidifying Mike's s leadership of every PC group ever since.

    Beek's gratitude toward Keek--his sole consistent supporter--proved short-lived. When the party caught Keek pocketing gems rather than sharing them with the party, they strung him up, took his magic items, and left him to mercy of the Underdark.

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  3. "I'm backstabbing because I'm accurately roleplaying my Type A character" will mostly come off at the table like justification for obnoxious griefing.

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  4. @ Joshua: I have to admit, I'm not really one for "collaborative authorial stance." It's certainly appropriate for some games, but I don't really feel D&D is one of them...D&D is much more PERSONAL for the player in set-up and design. And part of its fun comes from that intimacy...leaving that out (and you wouldn't be the first person I know that did) is cutting out part of what makes it such a fun and intense experience. IMO.

    Of course, because it IS so personal that might explain why PVP conflict can cause such grief in groups (i.e. "another reason not to allow PVP"). I can't really say much to this except A) originally, this was considered an "adult fantasy game" (put on your Big Boy Pants, folks), and B) have the brains and maturity to not let it affect you terribly outside of the game environment because it's simply part of the game.

    But maybe I'VE just been desensitized to intraparty violence over the years by my own experiences.
    ; )

    @ Brian: It's funny, the folks I've been playing with recently (the last 2-3 years) are NOT much for PVP conflict...they bend over backwards to find ways to "get along" with each other more often than not. For folks who don't like PVP conflicts in their games, they're a dream to play with...I suppose.

    IN MY EXPERIENCE (and this may not mimic that of others), I've found the people who engage in PVP are more often people who've been gaming together for long periods of time (like years)...and also between players who have been friends OUTSIDE the game for a long period of time. They're "cool with each other" and so they can do PVP and no one has serious hard feelings. Someone says "you ass!" but as long as it's justifiable action in the context of the setting, it's part of the game. Familiarity (between players) brings a level of...what? Patience? Acceptance? Maturity? I'm not sure the exact word I'm looking for, sorry.

    Maybe a lot of these days are just ultrasensitive and/or self-conscious about being judged "a bad person."

    @ Fumers/Luke:

    Sure it can come off like that...and sometimes it IS that. But personally, after doing this thing for 30 years I can usually tell the difference. And if I CAN'T tell the difference (because the person hides their griefing under a veneer of sincerity or even an amusing justification)...well, generally I'm willing to err on the side of allowing the conflict, rather than kicking someone out of the group.

    Or maybe I should say: "not all griefing is obnoxious in my book."
    ; )

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  5. And here I read the whole post because I thought you were going to change your mind about something.

    Here's a point. If I had simple allowed the process to continue in my campaign that day, the higher level party members whom you were joining would have pounded you into the dirt. I wouldn't have had to help. So what then? Either a) I let you roll up another character, when there were others anxious to play the game; or b) I don't.

    If I let you roll up another character, you will either a) work with the party or b) you won't.

    If you do work with the party, what did fighting the party prove? If you won't work with the party after two starts, what does allowing you to roll up another character accomplish?

    This is all nice and pretty, but I still haven't seen any answer to either of those questions except, "I want to be a dick."

    I played football once upon a time (however briefly, I grew into a big guy by high school). And there was something funny about the team. We weren't allowed to fight each other. There's a lot of aggression, a lot of violence, a lot of jealousy and testosterone. What point do you think the coach was making when he said we weren't allowed to fight? That he wanted to make the small world of football unrealistic? Or perhaps he had some other higher purpose in mind.

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  6. @ Alexis:

    Nope, your post just set my mind a turning and thought I'd spew my thoughts into the void.

    As I said: I don't think you're way of handling things was wrong. I was being a jerk (as I've already admitted). But I handle things differently in my own games...and the reason I do has somewhat to do with the things you outlined in your 10,000 word post on playing characters. Reading that post, along with your later post registered a disconnect for me (the "wtf?" moment) which made me come back to my own thoughts on the subject.

    And, for the record, I wasn't just "wanting to be a dick" (unless we have different definitions of what being a "dick" entails)...my behavior was not good, but I wasn't just trying to monkey wrench the game for the hell of it (or for the sake of wrecking/derailing it).

    As for football, I don't think that's an apt comparison. The individual goals in sport (stats, etc.) generally don't trump the team goal (winning)...whereas individual goals are of paramount importance to long-term role-playing and development, and often the individual goals of a character's class/race/alignment is at odds with those of other PCs. Role-playing is a different animal.

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  7. Okay, I rescind the dick comment.

    I wasn't actually thinking of the past there. I'm just trying to identify the visceral pleasure that comes from attacking other people.

    Okay, competition. But its not like its an example of the old comic book trope, "the deadliest game." It just seems like aimless hack and slash to me.

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  8. *sigh*

    Yeah, I suppose it can.

    I probably need to reflect more deeply on the subject and write a newer, better post. I don't know that I CAN come up with more of a plausible reason FOR engaging in PVP (what I've posted here is more of "why I don't outlaw it"). My gut feeling is that there IS, that it's not just about one-upping your buddy by knocking his imaginary avatar into the dirt, that "visceral pleasure." But I don't have the words for it at the moment.

    I'll have to think about it.

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  9. i think inter-party conflict can be a great source for roleplaying, but it should rarely (if ever) come to physical violence. you summarised some of the negative effects of "pvp" quite nicely.

    if a character is at such odds with the party that cooperation isn't possible and violence a likely option, my guess is they would part ways long before any problems can lead to violence.

    sure, some characters are jerks. what does it add to the game to play such a character?

    i'm also interested in your motivations, cause i don't really understand where you are coming from. even while i played an evil character that could have one-shotted most other characters in the party i never would have. they served my interests better alive. ;)

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  10. Sorry; I think I might have inadvertently used loaded language to describe my position. When I say that I approach the game from a "collaborative authorial stance" I don't mean to imply any of that kind of "storygames" type of approach. I'm not sure I understand what that term means, and I suspect that it's either to describe games that are very different from what I play, or (more likely) it's simply an attempt to marginalize and exclude playstyles that are out of fashion with a certain group of role-players. I assure you my approach works just fine with D&D, since it's mostly D&D (or its derivatives) that I've played in my role-playing "career."

    What I mean by that is that my level of commitment to my characters (as a player) and what I hope to see for them isn't driven by anything other than what I think will lead to interesting and entertaining scenarios. In that sense, bad things happening to interesting characters is the essence--the definition, even--of entertaining drama. Pvp, or conflict between group members of an ensemble cast, is one of the best kind of entertaining dramas you can have.

    When people have problems with Pvp, when they call it "griefing", then that is either acting out player boredom or immaturity, OR, it's displaying a level of personal attachment to the characters that is completely foreign to me.

    To me, RPGs are most fun when mature people who are collaborating to create a fun scenario. The most entertaining games I've ever been in are ones where the players were not only willing, but even eager to allow bad things to happen to their characters, because--otherwise, the the game is incredibly freaking boring. Collaboration and teamwork as attributes of the RPG hobby is not something that is necessary at the characters level, it's really something that's important at the player level.

    With that approach, conflict--even armed conflict--between player characters can be the highlight of a campaign. It's not something to necessarily be encouraged, but I strongly and vehemenently disagree that it's something to be discouraged or explicitly disallowed. To me, that's a red flag of either over-controlling on the part of the GM, or the GM proactively being worried about immature behavior on the parts of one or more of the players. Either situation is likely to lead to a game I don't want to play in, so I take a very long, hard look at groups that make a point of disallowing it up front.

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