How do you keep "interesting intraparty conflict" from becoming "obnoxious PVP?"


Advice


I've got a longer write-up on the subject beneath the comic over here, but I find myself stymied by the question. I enjoy the idea of party members with conflicting agendas, but watching it boil over into petty loot disputes and "oops, I guess I caught you in the AoE" behavior can get old in a hurry.

So my question is this: If you want to include storylines that place PCs in conflict, how do you set the ground rules for healthy PVP?


DRD1812 wrote:
So my question is this: If you want to include storylines that place PCs in conflict, how do you set the ground rules for healthy PVP?

In my experience, there is no such thing as 'healthy PvP" in these kinds of games, except in some specific 'tournament style' games (which is outside the normal expectation of team play) or when the players are working 'together' to handle the specifics of the conflict and are both mature enough to handle the issues.

If this happens to be an 'evil themed' game where players can get a bit tempted to turn on each other simply because of the content and motivations of their characters, I nip the entire concept of turning on each other completely off, usually by binding the characters in a magically enforced contract that will simply ruin each of them if they should turn on each other.

If you want to explore that kind of gameplay, expect the worst unless you know your players VERY well. I've had players that did not get along after such an conflict occurred and it is not worth the drama.


Set ground rules before you start your first game and make sure your players understand and agree to them. Have specific consequences for failure to abide by said rules aand make sure your players understand and agree to them. That's pretty much it.


In my personal experience, it isn't possible.

If things aren't "fair and equal" somebody tends to get upset (justifiably so) and things can go south quickly.

The sort of thing the wizard is doing in the comic you linked is a good way to get that character killed or kicked out of their adventuring party, and their player uninvited from gaming.

About the only way it can work at all, is if the player is open and honest about their intentions out of character. Such as saying "My wizard is lying about the staff being magical because he wants it" and allowing the other players to react to that. It's usually the deception that's the most hurtful part, not just between characters but between players. The honesty can help prevent any bad feelings, and allow other players a chance to object. And if you want things to be harmonious you listen to the objections and then don't do it.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

In my experience, if the inter-character conflict is at the level of greed or preventing another character from reaching a personal goal, it almost always leads to PvP or at least bad feelings between players.

However, if the characters are disagreeing over deep philosophies, religions or other in-game metaphysical questions that do not impact directly on the practical goals of the characters, even when things get heated there is less likelihood of degenerating into PvP. Finding something that the characters can disagree over without impacting each character's immediate practical goals can be difficult sometimes.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

You must have all the Players involved in the conflict be willing to keep it interesting instead of obnoxious. In effect they must all agree to the conflict.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Only game with people who have a minimum level of social skills and maturity. Seems to solve it.


If you're playing with murderhobos, lootninjas, and "come fite me bros", then you may need a new group of friends... /shrug. I was in this exact situation about 4 years ago and I did exactly that, I made new friends. And I'm better for it because the group I play with now is phenomenal.

If "make new friends" isn't a good solution for your current situation, then I recommend setting up playstyle rules and DM loot distribution.

What I mean by DM loot distribution is that when the Clericy Mace of the Clerical Cleric drops, the DM just hands the cleric PC a notecard with the item that just dropped and it's automatically his, basically solving the loot ninja issue. Scrolls, wands and whatever else are up for grabs with a dibs system - I put it on a google drive spreadsheet that they all have access to, and then notify them all when the loot is up - first come first serve. Anything not "dibs'ed" gets sold and the gold is divided equally throughout the party.

And by playstyle rules, you can simply tell your players the issues that you have with intraparty backstabbing and in-fighting, and as long as everyone is in agreement then it should be fine. Punishment for repeated violations should be removal from the table, unfortunately.

That's my 2 coppers on that...

Anywho, encouraging healthy PvP is a matter for the DM to create situations with multiple ways for the PC's to solve an issue. A BBEG who killed one of the PC's family probably wants to put his head on a spike, but the Paladin or Cleric of the group might try to place this person on trial or even have the BBEG seek repentance/atonement. Or a small forest infested with an evil plaguebringer, one PC might want to burn the forest down and the Druid of the group may want to drive out the evil guy and heal the forest.

Shadow Lodge

I'd say the only solid rule is that you have to have all the players on board.

Different people are looking for different kinds of things out of their games. Some kinds of PvP might interfere with those individual player goals while others may not.

For example, I know people who are perfectly fine with having another PC interfere with their PC's personal goals. I am usually not OK with that kind of PvP.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Weirdo wrote:

I'd say the only solid rule is that you have to have all the players on board.

Different people are looking for different kinds of things out of their games. Some kinds of PvP might interfere with those individual player goals while others may not.

For example, I know people who are perfectly fine with having another PC interfere with their PC's personal goals. I am usually not OK with that kind of PvP.

I agree that this is probably the only way that it can work.

One of the most memorable roleplaying sessions our group ever had included some light PvP:

Storytime:
One of the PCs was a dhampir, but none of the other PCs knew. As players, it was a huge table joke that the rest of the party had suspicions that the dhampir PC was, in fact... a werewolf.

So one session, the party rogue gets it in her head that she's going to "out" him as a werewolf. At a fancy dinner party, she pockets a silver table knife. Once she gets the party alone with him, she brandishes the knife and demands that the dhampir allow her to stab him with it. Her logic being that if the knife injured him, then he's *obviously* a werewolf (yes, ignoring the fact that a normal human would also be injured if they were stabbed by a silver knife).

A small chase/skill challenge ensues, at the end of which, the rogue throws the knife at the dhampir bard. Natural 20. Deals MASSIVE damage.

The party helped him up, cleaned his wounds, and told him they'd do whatever they could to help him with his lycanthropy, and that they understood why he was scared to come out to the party.

You have to understand that the entire time, the whole table is practically rolling with laughter, including - and most importantly - the player that was attacked.

Those are the only kinds of situations we've had PvP come into play; when all the players are involved, everyone is on-board, and it's almost always played to comedic effect.


Gulthor wrote:
Those are the only kinds of situations we've had PvP come into play; when all the players are involved, everyone is on-board, and it's almost always played to comedic effect.

My own attempts at outing a werewolf PC were more successful and less fun:

Story below the comic.

The old standby of "discuss this stuff in session zero" is a good answer, but your table's ability to read the room and realize that everyone (including the attacked player) was into the interaction is also an important skill. I wish I had that ability back when I was a goblin cabin boy.


A mature understanding of the IC and OOC boundary. As stated above, sometimes its necessary to OOC explain what your PC is up to IC, so that other players can buy in and RP their IC responses accordingly.

I hope that's enough initialisms for you.

Community / Forums / Pathfinder / Pathfinder RPG / Advice / How do you keep "interesting intraparty conflict" from becoming "obnoxious PVP?" All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.