If this is old hat to you, then please indulge me, but I know some players I write with have little or no experience of Player versus Player role playing in a free form environment. I was thinking about this, and after a brief discussion in the GM lounge, I decided to post this new thread to give some hints and tips regarding PvP play.
This post originally appeared as a GM Info post in the OOC thread of a group game I'm running. I will try and remove any game-specific references, but if I miss any, please point them out.
This topic is open to people to discuss the "dos-and-donts" of freeform PvP, give examples both good and bad, and to offer suggestions that might be better than my own.Please note: This thread is NOT for the discussion of SYSTEM PvP combat. This is an entirely different subject and is touched on purely to highlight the differences.
First of all, let's define exactly what PvP means:
Basically any situation in a game where one player controlled character (PC) is in competition or conflict with another player controlled character. This is in contrast with PvE, Player versus Environment, where you are all on the same side and fighting against the GM.
Note that Competition or conflict can involve combat or it can mean a sporting event, or it can simply mean two characters rubbing each other up the wrong way! It can also, in the context of this web site, refer to sexual encounters!
PvP in a freeform game differs markedly from PvP in a system game.
In a system game, the system itself is used to determine the results of any PvP encounters. The outcome is often decided on the roll of a dice (or random number generator serving in that capacity). In a freeform game, the players themselves must decide the outcome.
Now, this can obviously lead to an IC conflict spilling over into OOC. I'm always reminded of the wargames that I used to take part in at school when I was about 8. (I was always a tomboy...) Basically you pointed your toy gun at another kid and yelled "BANG, your dead!" And they would say "No I'm not, you missed!" "No I didn't", "Yes you did", "Didn't", "Did", etc....
Now we are all adults here. None of us are eight years old. (I hope? If anyone is, then the approval process has failed dramatically!) The whole point being that if you are going to cheat, you should be in politics, not playing games
! PvP in a freeform game requires everyone to behave like adults.
Now, I have two rules for PvP in MY
1) All PvP must be at the consent of ALL players involved. This relates directly to my Golden Rule of non-consensual role play, that non-consent applies to the character, and not the player.
2) All PvP (except sexual encounters) MUST be cleared in advance with the GM. I will most likely allow them but I will require to know the justification for the conflict/contest, the method of execution and the intended result before I allow it. The reason, obviously, is to avoid disrupting the game. Sexual encounters need not be cleared with me in advance, but should be at times and places appropriate to the game in question.
I have left that bit in, rewording it slightly, because other GMs may wish to adopt the same rules.
How to go about it:
Having a fight in a freeform roleplay is actually a lot more difficult than it sounds, if you want to make it believable. there are a number of possible routes that such an encounter can take, only one of which actually works:
1) Player A beats the crap out of player B. This can also describe a certain type of sexual encounter. *snigger*
2) Player A and Player B trade blows indefinitely, neither successfully landing a blow on the other, or ignoring the blows the other inflicts. This is basically twinkish or noobish behaviour, and is most closely related to the eight-year-old wargame.
3) Both players dance around each other and nothing happens - most likely because they have in the past experienced 1) and 2) and are over-compensating.
4) players trade blows realistically, and the blows that land have a realistic effect. This is the ideal. This is the one that works, but as you can probably tell, it requires a measure of cooperation.
So, getting down to cases, how does one go about the actual fight scene?
Well for starter, a fight scene requires players to post short posts. (This is another reason why I like people to clear them with me in advance, as a fight can disrupt the flow of the game, and might be better placed in it's own thread).
There are two ways to throw a punch in freeform PvP: A right way and a wrong way.Wrong:
Jack swung his fist at Bill's jaw, smashing into it and breaking it in three places, making Bill fall to the ground crying like a baby...
That is, basically, God-Moding.Wrong:
Jack punched Bill in the jaw.
Still God-Moding, just less descriptively. Why? Because the punch landed.Right:
Jack snarled with rage and drew back his clenched fist, then launched a mighty punch at Bill's jaw.
Note: he launched the punch at
bill, he didn't say it connected.Technically okay but frowned upon:
Jack launched a punch at Bill's jaw. If it connected, it would break it in three places and cause Bill to fall to the ground crying like a baby.
The result has not
been dictated, but the consequences of the punch landing have been. This is frowned upon simply because a player could use it to dictate all possible outcomes to his/her advantage.
The correct way to engage in a PvP conflict of any sort is to end your action just before it begins to dictate what the other player must do. Now, there is an obvious exception to this: If the situation and PC A's actions leave Player B with only one course of action or one possible result,then that result may be dictated by Player A.
For example, PC A puts a gun to PC B's head and says "On your knees or I will shoot you"; Assuming Player B wants to continue playing, and as long as the action comes within the agreed course of play, Player A may actually post as follows:Jack put his gun against Bill's head and pulled the hammer back. "On your knees, or die, Bill". He smirked as Bill sank to his knees.
Obviously that is an extreme example, but you get the picture?So, if I am not allowed to say whether my blows/shots/attacks hit, what is to stop my opponent avoiding them all?
An obvious question, and the answer, sadly, is "Nothing". That is the thing about freeform RP, you are entirely at the mercy of your writing partner(s). If you partner simply avoids every blow you swing at him, what you have is a Route 2) from the above list. My advice would be to drop the game if it is a one-on-one or appeal to the GM if it is a group.
Good freeform PvP requires a great deal of player co-operation. The fight or contest needs to be carefully choreographed. Not to the extent that every single blow is mapped out in advance, but you need to know, at the outset, who will win and how; how long the contest will last; and what, if any, damage will be inflicted on the characters.
With that in mind, you may then proceed to trade attacks, knowing that at some point, as agreed, one of you will loose the fight.Communication Is Key!
Keep talking all the while. If you don't understand the other player's post, ask them to explain and/or change it. If you don't agree with their post, do the same. The eventual winner probably shouldn't come out unscathed, but reversals of fortune need to be agreed by both players, not necessarily in advance, but it would help.
Finally, here is a little example, that AurelieCatena and I did a while ago that I think works particularly well.The Mud Pit
is an extreme one-shot about a mud-wrestling match.