Wednesday, July 14, 2021

PVP in Real D&D [Theory]

Player Vs Player (PVP) is a big point of contention for many players of D&D and other Table Top Role Playing Games. (TTRPG). Some players love it and enjoy being the PC who flips the script on the campaign by cheating another PC out of something, or directly attacking them. Some players hate it, claiming D&D is meant to be co-operative. 

Both can be correct.

Alexander Macris, in his stellar work "Arbiter of Worlds" classifies TTRPG Campaigns into "three basic social dynamics[...]: Collective, Competitive-Collective, and Individualist. Each of these social styles has its own implicit rules that govern how the players behave towards each other." 

These rules can be unspoken with friends who have gamed together for years and are simply understood implicitly. Or perhaps the players all sit down and discuss how they prefer to game. Macris correctly states that most big arguments between players and/or DM during a TTRPG campaign are because different players prefer one of the below styles more than the one being run by the crew as a whole. If you ponder your own campaign (and I hope you have one running rn.. if not stop reading and go text your friends to schedule some gaming) you'll realize it fits into one of the below pretty neatly.

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Here is my paraphrase of the social rules he outlines for each:

Collective: Each player will make a PC that fits in, is entitled to enjoy the game, and decisions will be made democratically. In such a campaign loot would be shared equally and PCs would go through pains to assure everyone gets an equal amount of magic items, or something.

Competitive Collective: Each player will make a PC that fits in, though they need not be friendly to eachother. No one is entitled to enjoy the game except by virtue of his character, and decisions will be made democratically. In such a campaign treasure wouldn't be equally disbursed and there may be arguments in character about small elements such as which NPCs to work for or something.

Individualist: Each player has his own PC and accepts the consequences of running an anti-social one, no player will get assmad (my word) if PVP erupts on their PC, and decisions will be made in character in game. In such a game there'd likely be a great deal of private messaging with the DM about how PC1 is pickpocketing PC2 etc. If you make a PC that doesn't fit in with the group you can and perhaps should expect to have your PC killed or not brought on adventures.

Macris's descriptions are more expansive and very useful. I recommend you read his book asap. He's the best RPG thinker out there right now. A quick and dirty rundown is all that's needed the purpose of this blog.

So I'm sure you're asking? "What kind of social system does Dubs prefer? Which of the above does his amazing ACKS campaign run as?" 


It seems a mad claim but it's not at all.


When the main adventuring PCs of my ACKS Campaign are delving a dungeon together they are obviously running a Collective effort. In my campaign the PCs are all sharing an equal cut of all treasure. It was never discussed, they just fell into it. Additionally, it seems they are deciding their group goals such as which mission to try each week, based on a democratic vote. I'm not privy to all these discussions (they're done in private so I won't spy) but it's what I'm gathering from context clues.

They'd never have been able to tame a giant crocodile if they were not working together in tandem to achieve big Wins for the group as a whole.

Competitive Collective

My campaign, just like Jeffro's legendary 1e AD&D sessions, are Competitive Collective thanks to Jeffrogaxian Time Keeping and Downtime. In that campaign I played Chaz the Elf Thief. He was an elf supremacist and despised humans. During downtime he would rile up all the fey in Trollopulous (the main city we were all based in) to riot and destroy things. This would often put the party or other PCs at odds with the authorities or what missions we could try and do in session. Other PCs did the same, in their own less Chaotic Neutral way. But when session time rolled around Monday Night, Chaz was there to help out his homeys. It wouldn't make sense for him to backstab the fighter in front of him that's holding off a throng of orcs from killing the back ranks (including Chaz), right?

PC's in my campaign have similar stuff going on. Yllmeeton (Deceased PC Shaman Level 3) was gathering a cult in Turos Tem which angered the local Temple Authorities. Mandonio (Deceased PC Fighter Level 4) really wanted the major NPC Priestess in town to ally with the Party but Yllmeeton's behavior angered the Priestess and it gave a major negative to the Reaction Roll Mandonio and other PCs would have when dealing with her. "Hey Priestess Genelen can we have a healing potion for our next delve?" "Not as long as that shaman heretic is in your party!"

Yllmeeton wasn't trying to PVP the party or get them killed. Quite the opposite he was a fantastic healer for the party before some Hags ate him. He was just running his character in a way that seemed true for him during Downtime. The rest of the party wasn't helping him gather cult members, that was his gig not theirs. It was handled almost entirely off stage in downtime. Jeffrogaxian Time Keeping made this more feasible than Variable Time Keeping.

Individualist (PVP)

So I've shown that a Real DND campaign is Collective and Collective Competitive. What about Individualist (also PVP). That's what Chantsonian Patrons are for!

The Patrons are full on Individualist. If you follow the weird tw1tter LARP + mass combat campaign Jeffro's Trollopulous game has become, that's self evident. Let me give you an example from my campaign.

On July 1st Inthorn the former Bandit King was being put on trial in Siadanos for his brigandage. Legate Valerian, who has been run as a patron for about a month, was at the trial as a character witness. It was Valerian's belief (thanks to the PCs, most especially Mandonio) that Inthorn was ensorcelled by Dairin the Mage. This was the reason for Inthorn, a retired Lawful General, turning brigand.

Well thanks to some luck and oracular dice, Dairin the Wizard (also run as a Patron) was in Siadanos the week of the trial. It was the talk of the town so of course he knew it was going down. Well Dairin's player decided he would ATTACK THE TRIAL WITH A MASSIVE FIRE ELEMENTAL. So suddenly on July 1st I have a PVP game going on with a power fighter and commander of a platoon (Legate Valerian) battling in the streets with a mad wizard (Dairin) who summoned multiple magic beasts to cause havoc and hopefully kill Valerian and Inthorn. 

Full on PVP. Full on Individualist. 

Eventually Dairin summoned a Nightmare and flew off away from the town before he was surrounded and killed by the Lawful forces nearby. Legate Valerian and Inthorn survived the battle with the elemental and Inthorn was cleared of all charges. But the damage to the city was massive and authorities are angry. A reward for Dairin's capture or execution is being posted for Adventurers to try and claim.

But perhaps a Patron will claim Dairin's head sooner? This is a type of PVP where another party of PCs or a Patron could swoop a mission or prize the main PC's are interested in. It's a much gentler and natural version of PVP than just "I attac my party member".

Or perhaps Dairin is simply too powerful and clever for any of them and will continue to menace the region. I've no idea. But there's no doubt this type of gaming has brought full PVP to my campaign in a way that hundreds of TTRPG game theorists wish they could pull off.

If they read this blog and follow the #brosr on tw1tter perhaps they'd learn how.

You don't have to choose between Macris's three approaches. You can have it all if you just embrace the madness of Real D&D. 

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