Flagged for PvP

Well, my Sydney trip is almost over. Too soon again and it is hard to tell when I will be up here again. Between the late nights and later mornings, it’s been hard to get to a computer so I’ll let you in on a post that I have been planning for a fair while now. One that I began writing on the train.

When I look back on the encounter with the dragon, the last gaming session I ran in-person, therewere quite a number of things that went badly. Perhaps the first thing that went wrong in a string of things that went wrong was that player versus player had been allowed. It is still my opinion that if this had not been allowed, that if the players had simply split into two parties for expediency purposes and then worked together on the final encounter, they would have managed to beat the dragon. I know that I was not exactly nice either when I was playing the dragon, but players slugging each ohter overthe gaming table is not nice either.

Besides, dragons are not meant to be nice. What they are like is part of their very nature.

Nonetheless, this experience has only made me even more firmly against the entire affair of player versus player. I firmly stated my own protests on the night, in the presence of the players. But as it had been okayed by my fellow DM I could not so easily take it away.

And I am getting the impression I am starting to have reputation of the DM who says “No” in the group.

So, what exactly is wrong with this then? I know many players may shout me down in my condemnation of the idea of players fighting each other, but there is a method to my madness.

Looking at the Whole Table

While a player’s focus is on their own character, a GM has and needs to think about the whole group. It’s said that one of the most important goals a GM can have for a game session is to make sure everyone at the table to have fun. And this means not giving in to the demands of a few players. The game is, or is supposed to be, about every person at that table. You start to wonder who is running the game when things like this happen.

If a player wants to take the game in a direction that goes against what the rest of the group decides to do, this might not be able to be resolved. Sometimes it is and the GM can make a compromise that will settle (hopefully) the needs of everyone. Or at least postpone the needs that can’t be reconciled until a later date. That’s another trick I have picked up: if you can’t say “Yes” and don’t want to say “No”, say “Yes, but not right now”.

Targetting Your Friends

But group dynamics go a lot further than this, and for the simple reason that players get close to their characters; to their characters and to other characters in the party. Not to accuse gamers of being the people who confuse fantasy and reality that they are often reputed to be, but things like this can get personal. Particularly if real-life resentments and grudges translate to the gaming table.

That person there? Your friend across the table that you are giving a ride home after? Well, they just attacked you for the simple reason that they wanted to. And it hurts, doesn’t it? Particularly atfer that encounter last week when you saved his hide. You can bet that this little episode will stick in your mind for quite a while, particularly as it was for none of the right reasons.

A Contraversial Mechanical View

This is something that I will probablybe  unpopular in stating, but I’ll say it anyway. Players attacks and abilities are usually not meant to be used against each other. I discovered this quite by accident in the above mentioned encounter with the dragon when I noticed just exactly how much hit points were lost when players attacked each other. It’s not just because players usually attack mooks in appropiate-level encounters cooked up by the GM. With all the buffs and bonuses a player character has, targeting another player on the same level as you can seriously hurt.

Think of that when you next read through the various attacks your character has, and imagine those being used against you.

And it’s worse than stupid when you are doing this in the same room as a dragon, let me add.

The Right Circumstances

But do not misunderstand me, I do not outlaw player versus player altogether. In fact, I was the first in the group to allow it months ago. Player versus player can work in a GM’s favour as long as it is played in the right circumstances. I have two suggestions how these might be met.

Firstly, all of the players must agree on this. Even if one player is against fighting against their fellow players, don’t go there. Such an action could ruin group dynamics.

Secondly, take meaures to make things less personal. This means that maybe one or allof the players need to play temporary expendible characters. It could even extend to settling some house rules around the table of what is allowed and not allowed when the player versus player mode is switched on.

Do these sound a bit harsh? Maybe, but they need to be. It is a game, after all.


~ by katanageldar on April 12, 2010.

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