Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Lurkers' Corner ~ PvP

Recently, one of my regular readers, Carl Olson, was the guest on the Whose Podcast Is It Anyway? podcast of May 5th.  His participation was excellent and I would strongly suggest for any reader of mine that you tune in and give it a listen, particularly after minute 30.  Chad, the podcast host, launches into the argument that role-playing is "communal storytelling" and Carl digs in and goes toe to toe with him on this.  Great stuff, don't miss it.

There is a moment where Chad responds to an argument that player-vs-player is wrong by answering, "What's wrong with that?  Now that's fun!" (39:05)

And I want to ask my online players, in this Lurkers' Corner ~ does anyone want to have a go at each other?  At all?  Wouldn't it be fun to kill one of the other players?  Have you even considered the question?  And if not, why?

I believe that something about my game completely suspends the motivation, but I could definitely be wrong about that.  Let me know.  Obviously, anyone with a point of view should jump in here.

15 comments:

Pandred said...

I could conceive of a game in which player-versus-player conflict was present and enjoyable, but I haven't participated in one.

I've only ever seen it used as a way to control other players behavior.

Theoretically, we could make Juvenis the One True Party by hunting down our Senex counterparts. There could be all kinds of cat-and-mouse, betrayals from among our own (I fucking KNEW Lothar was a Senny Sympathiser!) and all sorts of shenanigans. It might be an absolute blast.

But I simply can't conceive of partaking in such a game without the express consent and desire of the other players, and anyone attempting to engage in that kind of behavior just wouldn't be invited to partake any longer if they couldn't straighten up their act post-haste.

It's a team game, and when two teammates fight, they get benched. Seems pretty straightforward.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Sure, but how do you feel about it? Don't want to just stab Lothar in the back, out of the blue?

Sofia Viktorova Koleva said...

To me D&D is a cooperative game. My joy comes from a plan coming together and a party being in harmony. PvP is the antithesis to that and I've never seen it work well. I have zero interest in the Senex vs. Juvenis scenario Pandred describes above, and can't imagine how it would happen without resentment and hard feelings or how a DM could fairly arbitrate such a thing.

You must understand that I'm very, very competitive in games designed to be so. Board games, strategy games, card games... I'm pretty cutthroat. D&D is a different animal.

Lothar Svensson said...

I have no desire to fight any of my fellow party members. Look askance at a suspicious comment, perhaps, but never to slip a stiletto between the ribs of anyone in the group. When you first started running online, way back long ago and one of the players decided to murder the simpleton servant in the woods outside the silversmith's valley, I was appalled. Senseless violence against a completely inoffensive NPC to absolutely no end, and arguably very possibly to the party's own detriment. I have the same kind of reaction to PvP. It solves no problems, creates more than you think it might solve, and is most often used as a dick-waving display of empty bravado (in my experience, anyhow). I used to play with a group that was about half arrogant bastards (small town, limited options - not playing wasn't an option for me then). Most of the game for them was making sure that their characters would be able to absolutely murder any of the other characters (and each other) if they ever felt like it. I don't care for that kind of person, and will not play in that kind of game now.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Heh.

So, not actually fun.

Lothar Svensson said...

No, not at all.

Baron Opal said...

I was involved in a game where there was enjoyable player conflict, but it was definitely an edge case.

There were 12-15 players with usually 6-8 present at any once time. Conflicts between players were political in nature, as different characters developed conflicting goals. (One group wanted to strengthen the old Elven kingdom, others wanted to establish a new one to supplant the old, &c.) As I remember it, it settled out into New Order, Young Turk, Old Guard, Magic Mercs, and the Indifferent. I was a Merc.

New Order and Old Guard had conflicting short and long term agendas. Young Turks were most about carving their own city-states out of the wilderness. There was a system of "favors" that kept the balance of power between the characters and tensions down between players. The New Order came up with it, and it obviously worked to their advantage.

I think that the part that made it work for as long as it did is that there was almost never direct PC vs PC violence. There were ambushes and such, but it was done through NPC proxies. PCs set it in motion, but they weren't directly attacking. The characters were also of a level of experience and wealth that revivification was always an option. There was also no strife in the middle of an adventure; only after or between did this higher level of conflict occur.

I think what made it fun for me was that it never felt personal. The other guy wasn't moving against you just for grins or to see you sweat. As an example, my character was really good at summoning elementals, The Old Guard was having a full moonritual and I was going to use my gnomes to help out, or something. The New Order had me targeted so that I would not be able to participate due to post-raising recovery, and the ritual would go poorly or even fail.

Drain said...

Like Shelby, I've heard of cases of whole parties kept in perpetual nuclear stand-off. Was never a part of that, so can't comment further.

PvP's problems are manyfold, as I see it:

1) It breaks the social bedrock of the game. Not that D&D cannot be competitive in one or more senses, but not in the player versus player one.

This feeds directly into...

2) The rules are not structured to support directly competitive play to a meaningful extent: the abstraction simply does not reward player skill without - always subjective - meddling arbitration by a third party.

Imagining the two players go at it, it all boils down to a matter of matching Char.build vs. Char.build & being plain luckier at rolling dice.

The feeling you'll get out of it, if you're a mature person, ought to be the same as that of the card game "War".

3) It saps or outright destroys group cohesion and egotistically hijacks the session time, also opening a dearly wasteful precedent for repeat-business. It brings egos to the forefront and acts as a death-knell to campaign play.

4) It is unrealistic unless the characters were designed as yeast for trouble. Think: when was the last time you pointed a knife at a erstwile childhood companion over a disagreement - no matter how serious - rather than just leaving the scene?

Ultimately, the whole debacle feels like getting involved with a coworker: sure, it might work beautifully for a handful of people, but the odds are that you can't really handle the fallout and complications and you'll be riding a wave of regret until the final drifting apart.

Drain said...

Baron Opal:

Mind you, I'm talking PvP in the most unabashedly direct and visceral way. Conflict as war, not sport.

You lose? Your character is ended, no matter how cherished by you and others. You can have a sweet go at rolling up another and starting to dream up a flimsy excuse for why he'll be so doggedly hell-bent on revenge against the winner of the PvP.

Character vs. Character, I can endorse. I still consider it tricky and liable to devolve into Player vs. Player, but I find it doable, altough you'll be sailing at your own peril.

This means that ritualistic duels, practice-fights and games of skill (like having the characters face each other over a game of Chess abstracted into rolling opposed INT checks) can all be wholesome options for table time.

The thing with PvP is that it is only and just a symptom of something rotting in the social dynamic. Identify the troublemakers and do away with the rotten apples, before they spoil the remainding bunch.


Embla Strand said...

I have never wanted to kill someone else's character, nor have I wanted someone else to try to kill mine. D&D is at its best when everyone is working together.

My only personal experience with PVP was when I was running a game and decided to test that hypothesis by letting one of the players betray the rest. It was one of the biggest mistakes I've made as a DM. The group never recovered. We played for several years afterwards, but no one felt safe trusting the others again.

Baron Opal said...

Drain,

I don't disagree. I think one thing that made it acceptable was that character death was a significant inconvenience, but not an end. And, most importantly, it was a unique situation. Every other time I have seen or been involved with PvP at the gaming table it has been destructive.

Oddbit said...

I've had one session of actual PvP, an arena was set up, new characters rolled, and the melee worked out for one evening.
It was meh.

Coming from someone who usually has 3 or 4 character concepts lined up in case the current one dies...

No, I see the path PvP goes down, it's just kill, then be killed by the new character, then kill the new character....

Or even, don't do anything REALLY dangerous, because nobody wants to be so low on HP their 'friends' kill them.

Sorry, but if I want to play Mutually Assured Destruction, there's WAY better competitive games. Like tabletop war gaming. Not everything's a hammer, and not everybody likes Monopoly.

I'd rather take on the threats that I KNOW will tax the party down to a oouple hp, but we'll win and make great gains from it.

Our sparring match in Alexis' game was just an in character way to get back into the groove of combat, we could have just as easily hand waved a dream sequence with the dm and beat up on a couple orc punching bags.

Oh and then of course there's the social element. Getting 5 people into a room to play DnD and then having everyone REALLY be in agreement they want to play PvP doesn't sound likely. There will be sore feelings.

Drain said...

Oddbit & Embla:

"Rogue/Traitor PCs", that is the other, even more insidious face of PvP, the one that some would argue involves some skill: getting into a fight the other side is not aware he's in and sweep it all in a big dazzling display of preparation and commitment to anti-social behaviour.

For a display in widescreen, I point you to the monumental EVE-online sting from a few years back.

It all came about because people were not really playing under the same principles.

The short of it: a group of players organizing an in-faction coup outside of virtual space (social networks, irl meetings, the whole nine yards) and coordinating other players into a massive conspiracy that played upon the trust deposited in them as faction members, using it to rob the faction's finances to the point of blind bankruptcy, something everyone agreed entirely transcended the game's boundaries and was never to be expected.

I'll take the time to tip my hat at the fact that, to the extent of my knowledge, they at least performed the whole thing flawlessly... how difficult that was to begin with, that I do not know.

(I wonder how it all shook out in the end, if redress was ever given... I believe at least the company behind the game was fairly delighted with the publicity)

Oddbit said...

Yah that Eve stuff is pretty regular actually. There's a lot of stories like that and a lot of paranoia in Corp interaction because of it.

Maliloki said...

I've only done it once because of the player completely ruining our chances to do ANY of the things we came into a relatively hostile town and needlessly damaging party members while killing people we shouldn't have been fighting to begin with.

We ended for the night with his character knocked out while I wrestled with trying to find any reason to not kill him (the character was only with the party for about a week...maybe).

I work with the player (and most of the group) and talked with him/them about it sporadically throughout the week.

The player was unrepentant and blamed the entire situation on other characters.

Despite that, I decided to try to keep him alive (but unconscious until we could talk), but we ran into trouble in our escape from the city and I punted the little Gnome at the guards and we left him and ran.

Never actually killed him myself, but it was still something I'd never done, felt needed doing, or have any desire to do again.

So, no. It wasn't fun.