Friday, January 30, 2015

Pig-Headed Stubbornness

Things are starting to calm down around here and I'm getting a chance to get back to the computer. Spent a lot of time catching up on my blog reading yesterday, and saw a couple articles I wouldn't mind piggy-backing on (specifically regarding incorporating alternative counterculture in gaming and the effects of a game mechanic like comeliness). BUT...Alexis devoted a lot of word count to his views on Player-versus-Player ("PVP") conflict (to sum up: really bad for the game) and, well, I guess I have some more words to say on the subject.

[if you're interested in what Alexis wrote, check out this, this, and probably need to read the comment interaction as well to get the full effect]

I articulated most of my thoughts (i.e. opinion) on PvP and its place in the D&D game back in 2013, again prompted in part by my interactions with Alexis (that guy!). Suffice is to say that at the time I had a fundamental disagreement with Mr. Smolensk regarding the value of the inclusion of the option of intra-party conflict. However, I had difficulty coming up with a real, true justification for actually engaging in what is basically disruptive, anti-social behavior. In a way, I was mostly going on gut instinct...and my instinct was that it should be available for mature, consenting adults.

"At the time." That's the main phrase to take away from that paragraph.

While my "designer plate" seems perpetually filled with half-worked (and half-baked) projects, the desktop of my computer is mainly devoted to three game designs at the moment. One is the rebuild of Cry Dark something far different from a "Shadowrun knockoff." One is a rebuild of Basic D&D that casts characters as true "heroic" heroes with concrete, heroic objectives and a "win" endgame. One is a superhero game based off my DMI system. All three have are designed with a true TEAM concept in mind, such that PvP is the antithesis to much so that in-game PC conflict might as well be outlawed. In different ways, all three games are being designed such that cooperation - learning to work together in-game - reaps tremendous benefits.

[well, maybe "tremendous" is an exaggeration, but certainly "benefits"]

The reason I'm designing this way is to emphasize the cooperative aspect of RPGs. Not because this aspect is the only thing that sets RPGs apart from other games, but because it's ONE of the things that does, and encouraging teamwork and social bonding between players...well, that's a good thing to emphasize. It's a positive... why not emphasize the positive?

Not a "merit" badge.
So...why even bother keeping PvP in an RPG? Why have the (fairly silly) badge on my blog? When those badges were first designed (not by me), bloggers could use them as a means of distinguishing their preferred style from other bloggers. But at this point, they seem rather redundant.

[hell, they're not even that descriptive...I allow the dice to fall where they may? Why wouldn't I? Fudging dice rolls basically renders a game "something else:" an exercise in DM fiat/"story-telling"]

No, I've just been pigheadedly stubborn about own thoughts and ideas on PvP have changed. There are RPGs where PvP is integral to the game, where it's appropriate and acceptable, and part of the game's very fabric; some examples include Blood Red Sands, My Life With Master, "blood opera-flavored" TROS, and Amber ("throne war" scenario)...but all of these are RPGs where the PvP is right up front and presented from the get-go. There's no idea of "cooperative play" (except cooperation to get an edge over another player)...which is one of the foundational pieces of a game like D&D, where the characters are reliant on others to provide assistance and skills not possessed by all members of the adventuring party.

[western RPGs like Boot Hill and Dust Devils often devolve into shoot-outs between players...but these are genre appropriate for folks familiar with some of the darker Spaghetti Westerns. Even if they're nominally cooperative ("Let's fight the bandits!"), the scope of exploration is much more limited compared to delving the fantasy unknown...and the skills and talents possessed by all PCs are pretty much interchangeable, so self-reliance is easier]

SO...since I'm not designing games like these, nor playing them regularly (one thing about PvP style RPGs: almost by definition, they're NOT conducive to long-term cooperative play), I might as well drop my "PvP allowed" attitude. Certainly, I'll be removing the badge from my blog (probably a couple moments after posting this), seeing as how it is not descriptive of my current attitude and, as said, a bit of an obsolete (visual) statement anyway. Leaving it there is just pure stubbornness on my part.

Time to evolve a bit.

By the way, this is not my absolute last word on PvP with regard to D&D and games like D&D. For the most part, Alexis has swayed my mind on the subject. That is, I'm on board that it causes more problems than "value added" and thus should be excised from most games that seek to create a healthy, cooperative player dynamic/environment...hopefully an objective of most RPGs of D&D's stripe, as well as most non-asshole RPG participants. There is only one quibble I have, but it is with regard to "high level play" of a type that is not seen in most folks' campaigns and, truly, hasn't really been a part of the D&D skein since TSR folded-up shop.  Since it is such a minor quibble (I'm not going to go into it in this post), I'm going to choose to ignore it at this time and henceforth outlaw PvP conflicts at my gaming table, except in rare instances where it is part of the game concept or play objective (one-off, story-type games, for example). I've been stubborn on the issue long enough.

In other news, it's The Day Before The Day Before, and I'd be lying if I said I haven't been a bit distracted by the impending event on Sunday. I'm hoping for a good game (i.e. one in which the Seahawks lay a severe beatdown on the dark elves), but I'll be happy with any shape of Seattle win, provided no players come away with career-ending injuries. Really.

Later, gators.


  1. I've never felt the need to ban PvP because my players were never the kind of immature sociopaths who would attack each other once a long term campaign was underway. Our group tried a few experimental one-off games involving PvP, and while they were exciting in a way the typical game sometimes failed to be, we recognized that they wouldn't mesh well with the superior typical campaign type, where PvP would disrupt long term progress and make players upset.

    I haven't understood why there would be a need to create a rule against something all my players have intuitively avoided, and some people have mistaken this for me advocating for PvP, but I think the arguments against PvP are actually fairly strong. If I ever run another campaign, I'll consider explicitly banning it as well.

    1. @ Ozzie:

      It's not a bad idea to set expectations and ground rules of play, even when there's no perceived need. If players are aware of such limitations from the outset, it can head off potential conflicts "down the road," especially in moments when tempers are running hot. It can save YOU (as a DM) from potential trouble...especially the perception (should an incident arise) of "taking sides" or favoritism.

  2. One way I incidentally discourage PvP is by making my adventures so deadly that the PCs will all die if they don't cooperate (and maybe if they do). But that's not the actual reason I do it. I'm just an asshole.