PVP is cool. …I mean, NOT cool.

 Posted by on January 29, 2011  Filed as: Better Gameplay?  Add comments  Topic(s):
Jan 292011

When I sit down at a gaming table, I want to crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women… err I mean, I just watched Conan the Barbarian and felt tingles in my wingles.  What a great movie, right?  And the music, inspiring.

Anyway, as I was saying, when I sit down at the gaming table, I want to have a good time.  I want to play a character that is independent, charismatic, strong, fun, and allllll mine.  I want to pick up those pretty polyhedrals, toss them on the table, and hope they obliterate whatever challenge the GM throws at me.

…whatever challenge the GM throws at me…

In my old (first) group, player characters would occasionally try to force other player characters into taking certain actions (or inactions).  They’d try to use Diplomacy-type skills sometimes, but more often than not, they’d try to use Intimidate.  Then there were those times that one player character would physically try to stop another player character from doing something, or even outright attack another player character.  This is all called PVP, or Player vs. Player.

  • Player 1: “I take the +1 sword.”
  • Player 2: “No, I said that I wanted the sword.  I take it from his hand.”
  • GM: “Ok, roll to hit.”
  • Player 1: “My character has a 20 Charisma.  You can’t help but be attracted to me.”
  • Player 2: “Just because I play a female character and your character has a Charisma of 20, doesn’t mean shit.”
  • GM: “Make a Diplomacy/Seduction roll.”
  • Player 1: “We need to handle this diplomatically.  I ask the Baron for his h…”
  • Player 2: “No you don’t! We need to keep our mouths shut.  I make an Intimidate roll against Mike’s character to keep him from speaking.”
  • Player 1: “You almost got us killed.  I slap your character across the face.”
  • GM: “Ok, give me an attack roll.”

And on, and on, and on…

Anyone been there?  This was a staple in my first gaming group.  I didn’t know any better, so I didn’t say anything.  I didn’t like it (of course), but I was the new girl in the group.  So I had no real say in the matter.

Well, I guess I do have a say in the matter, because I got up and left the group.

Fast forward to my current group.  I’ve learned a lot from this group, and then learned a lot more.  They play more my style, and I feel more at home.  So, I’m no longer the new girl in the group.  I can shout out my opinions and expect for them to carry at least some weight.

“No, you can’t make an attack roll against another player character.  We’re fighting monsters; not players.  The moment we start rolling against each other, the fun ends and the unfun competition begins.  There is no PVP at this table.”

Because here’s the thing: I want to play a character that is all mine.  I want to face challenges brought on by the GM, not my fellow players.  Because if someone wants to try to take my control of my character away (other than the GM), I might as well simply hand over my character sheet to them and say, “Here you go.  Have fun playing my character.”

I am woman, hear me roar, if you try to bully me, I’m out the door.

What about you?  Show me a time when PVP is a good thing.  Perhaps it can be (I just haven’t seen it).

Charisma Keller

Charisma is a self-proclaimed Gran Tourismo champion, and swears that it’s official (or that it should be). She loves strength and beauty, so she usually tries to combine the two. Her characters are confident, humble, foolish, and heroic, and has named at least two of them after her favorite drink, the Lemon Drop. Oh yeah, her favorite muscle car would be the 67 GT-500E.

  16 Responses to “PVP is cool. …I mean, NOT cool.”

  1. It depends on the style of the game being played, but PvP can be fun….but only in the context that everyone at the table is OK with it. I don’t really encourage it in my D&D and heroic type fantasy games….but in story heavy games like Vampire: The Masquerade (and Requiem) or anything with a heavy “Feudal Court” political feel, it can be a pretty rewarding experience to have inner-party conflict. I’ve had players whose rivalries spanned sessions, and involved a lot metaphorical chess playing moves and waiting for that right moment to strike.

    Again though, it’s all about the context of the game being played and that everyone is cool with such playstyles. D&D characters beating the shit out of eachother to see who gets the +5 phalic symbol of justifcation, on the other hand, is utter tripe and not tolerated at my table.

  2. You should play Paranoia. 🙂

  3. PVP sucks, but Character vs Character can be truly awesome as long as the terms are understood by the players and they are having fun with it. Basically, character vs character action has to be expected and understood by the players and they have to have agreed to it in their “social contract”.

    Paranoia, as mentioned above, specifically has it in the social contract that the players will be shooting at each other as part of the fun. But “fun” is the key word. If the players won’t enjoy shooting at each other in “fun”, then they probably shouldn’t be playing Paranoia.

  4. I haven’t yet played this, but Mouse Guard and Burning Wheel are actually two systems where conflict between players is -encouraged-. I think the problem with PvP in many games is that they don’t cover it very well.

    The examples you cite, well…the main problem there is that they’re not very built-up, and mostly boil down to “I want your character to do something, because I can make them.” In a game like Burning Wheel, it’s characters’ beliefs that are at stake. Player A is opposing Player B because Player B has just looted the sword which Player A has an ancestral claim on. And the gameplay doesn’t boil immediately down to “roll to hit”. Rather, the players might get in an argument, or try to intimidate each other away, or the like.

    I’ve also played in a World of Darkness campaign where there was conflict between players as to the goal. I tried to use force against another character who was torturing a supernatural for information. He beat away my attacks…and then went back to torturing.

    I think that’s another piece of the puzzle–goals. If a conflict is to be fruitful, players have to realize that the goal is not to dominate the other player. The goal is, in fact, not against the player. The conflict with the player comes as secondary to the goal. If players are squaring off over a weapon, the conflict is about the weapon, not about the players killing each other. The conflict should be determined at some point before things escalate too much.

    That help?

  5. There is no need for a game to be a love fest between the characters. One of my longest running campaigns was constantly filled with one character taking another one out. It can be quite annoying for the both the dying and the GM. Shift past the annoyance and understand why the player is going so, within his role, and it can also be great fun.

    I wouldn’t make a staple of it but its a viable situation within a game.

  6. At my table my players know I will never stop them from fighting. If someone decides its time to stab the druid, then so be it. You may think this would encourage them to fight, but it actually has the opposite effect. Everyone knows they can do it, and everyone knows they don’t really want to die. As soon as someone makes the first swing, unless they were really justified, the rest of the party is probably stepping in against that person. No one wants to go to bed next to the guy who stabs other party members.

    I think this creates a very really dynamic between characters. We have a band of mercenaries who basically make money by killing stuff. Even if you know the other characters well, there’s always going to be something tugging at the back of your mind to be careful. The characters in the second Conan movie weren’t exactly hugs & kisses.

    It also prevents characters from being a dick. In one of the rare moments where the players killed another PC intentionally, the party cleric got himself into a tight spot with a blue dragon. As he bargained with the dragon he offered up the other party members in return for his safety. The other player heard, and ran while they could.When they met up again later the cleric was slain. Seems quite reasonable to me.

    In our new secondary campaign there’s a much darker, not at all heroic feel. I spoke to all the players ahead of time about how grim and untrusting this world is, and that they should not be surprised if theres more PVP than usual. There was. This time I pretty much encouraged it. While some players have really enjoyed it, others have like it less so. Now I’m working on a plot revision so that its more survival based and killing another PC could really ruin your chances at living to the next session.

  7. I house rule in all my campaigns that as soon as a player attacks another player with intent to kill or without motivation his character is going to lose something vital, be it a leg, arm, his eyes, whatever. I do this because I’ve seen player v. player and it sucks. However, I ran an adventure this week that practically encouraged PvP. The characters were looting an old magic school when they become subject to the magic that ended the school’s rein in the first place. This drives them insane and they start mistrusting one another. I would hand them pieces of paper with something on it, if they failed their save they would believe that another character was a coward, or was dangerous to the party, or something. This led to one character charging another and the defending character tripping him and pinning him. This was PvP, but it was understood and fun. Plus I told them that while they had motivation, they still could not kill one another, so all of it was with non-lethal force. Nobody was swinging swords. It turned out to be a very interesting session that was fun for everyone.

  8. I think a lot of this comes down to the players’ and GM’s expectations of the campaign. One of the things I’ve been focusing on in my campaigns is making sure everyone is on the same sheet of music about what the campaign concept is. We’ve also been putting much more effort into creating the party-concept, and then making sure that every character has a solid connection to this concept and each other. That’s not to say that party tension doesn’t exist, in some campaigns it may be the focus. Hell, look at the Warhammer RPG’s party Tension Track.

    Things brings up another point; does the game you’re playing support the kind of PvP that may occur. I have much less problems with PvP if the game supports good “fist fight” rules or the ability to knock someone out (in less then 10 rounds) or solid mental conflict (arguing rules).

    As any of our regular readers know we’ve been playing a lot of FATE around here and it supports this fantastically. I could easily see a cleric with an Aspect like, Doesn’t trust Malik. Or maybe a fighter with an Aspect like, “Amaris screwed me over.” When or if actual combat occured it could be arguing (Mental Conflict) or a fight (Physical Conflict). Consequences inflicted could stick aroud awhile (Afraid of Amaris), and since most conflicts end with a Concession (not death), this could result in a new Aspect on the conceding character (“Don’t turn your back on me Malik!”).

    Anyway, so long as you have the right players, the right expectations, and the right game; go for it.

  9. To my mind, the only instance in which PvP would be cool is if I were running a game with two groups with opposing agendas – in that the two parties, possibly without even knowing each other, get to shape each other’s worlds well as their own.


    Character conflict can be a good thing, if played properly, but generally? It’s a no from me too.

  10. So – what is your solution for situations where the players disagree on what they should do. Or who gets the sword? Or whether they should use diplomacy or force on the Baron.

    Because is you are going to walk out the door the second you aren’t allowed to do exactly what you want without consideration for what the party wants to do, PVP isn’t the problem here.

    Granted PVP is bad. But that doesn’t mean mechanics for resolving interparty conflict are automatically the same as PVP.


  11. Like most of these issues, it comes down to 2 things:

    Group Maturity
    Player Desire

    In our game we have a group of people who have been brought together by fate/fortune/The Draconic Prophecy. They all have different reasons for being on these path that at times as caused tension. Fortunately, I have a great group of gamers who do not balk at playing their characters, but are mature enough to want group drama without group violence. During character creation, they build in Aspects and quirks that will allow for disagreements, arguments and frustration between characters without needing resolution by stabbing.

  12. @ Rev. Lazaro – Thanks, now I have to go find a Vampire: The Masquerade game… [stupid “time” concept and therefore lack of].

    @ Rafno – See my comment to Rev. Lazaro, and you’ll see my frustration.

    @ Dyson Logos – I agree. Players agreeing to the terms beforehand can have loads of fun with PVP.

    @ Andy – Ah, the trick is to be mature about it. I don’t think I’m there yet – I’d just cross my arms in a huff-n-puff defiance. 🙂

    @ Mark – I can see your point only so far. If I were on the receiving end of the aggressor, I could only take so much before enough was enough.

    @ Brian Liberge – I’m sorry Brian, but I just can’t see it. No, I take that back: that was funny about the cleric getting what he deserved.

    @ The Wizard – I can totally embrace the PvP using non-lethal force (fist-fights happen in real life, right?).

    @ John Lewis – Sure, as long as everyone knows and understands the expectations ahead of time, there can be no faults.

    @ Tom – Thanks Tom! And good luck with your Overhaul (looking forward to it).

    @ Syrsuro – Fair enough. If the PCs can’t solve an issue with some sort of fair conflict resolution, then I think it’s time for the GM to step in and say, “No, I’m not running a game if you guys are going to act this way. If you, as players, can’t figure this shit out without making it personal, then I’m not going to run.”

    @ Colin – Sounds like a game I’d like to play in. 😉

  13. Just to clear things up here… are we talking PvP or CvC?

    Fortunately, (what’s left of) my group are pretty mature and capable of playing out CvC conflicts – and dealing with annoying PCs/NPCs – by roleplaying… it’s all part of the fun. This, I it seems, is not the same as the PvP mentality Charisma’s talking about here.

    I feel PvP is bad for the same reasons PvGM is bad: it’s not a competition. Although we did make rolls once to see if any other PCs noticed one of the party pushing an old lady down a flight of stairs…

    @ Charisma – Thanks, the overhaul seems better on paper than in practice – I knwo what I want to change, but not what I want to change it TO.

  14. The way I see it, the PvP problem is a particular case of the “players doing things other players dont want” problem.

    One of the ways I handle this is with the following “house-rule” : Every attitude(by a character) that may be considered anti-game must be discussed with the group.

    What I mean by this is that whenever someone is about to take an action that might bring a problem to the fun of the game, we will pause the game and discuss the action.

    For example, If John wants to attack Smith for some reason, I ask John to speak to Smith off-game and if they both agree it will be fun for the game for this to happen then there’s no problem. If Smith really doesnt want to be attacked then it would be better that John find a motive for his character not to.

    You might think that a rule like this will slow down your game(and maybe it will) but it hasn’t slowed down my games. I actually say the rule before we start playing and the players will generally agree to what kinds of actions they can take beforehand.

    I recommmend Paranoia, because a well played Paranoia game will teach your group how to cooperate in uncooperating.(And cause its fun as hell)

  15. @ Rafno

    I only WISH that I can get into a game of Paranoia at DunDraCon. I been wanting to try it out for several years.

  16. I’d want to preface just about everything I say with, “This is how I feel, not how I think you should feel,” but that’s just a reflection of my own aversion to conflict, even conflict in comments. I play for cooperation, to be part of a group of disparate personalities working together toward a common goal. I enjoy the “coming together,” not the “tearing down,” and my favorite stories from the earliest versions of D&D (when racism was built right into the game, what fun!) was when two characters built for opposition forged a grudging alliance to accomplish some impossible deed and came out the other side as friends.

    This is why I play, and you suggest that the architecture of conflict in Paranoia or Burning Wheel or Mouseguard or even Eberron might not be for me, I’d agree with you.

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