On death in RPGs

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Mikel
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On death in RPGs

Postby Mikel » Sat Mar 15, 2014 1:16 pm

Hosts, if you feel this treads into political/religious territory, please delete it, but I think, while it deals with morality and the effects of violence, it can be discussed in a way that doesn't necessarily cross those lines.

Fred Hicks posted a link to this today:
http://mykecole.com/blog/2014/03/on-killing

About how killing alters the person doing it, as well.

There are plenty of games where people play murder-hobos, and that's fine.
But there are also plenty of games where people try to play something approximating the real world (even if it's in a fantasy game---where people act more 3-dimensionally and consequences are explored as they would be in real life).

How have people tried to emulate the real world consequences of violence in their games?

We have PCs who'll kill without giving it another thought or who never have their characters hesitate when it comes to violence.

Has anyone tried to emulate how difficult it is for most people to kill or to live with the consequences after?
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Lord Foul
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Re: On death in RPGs

Postby Lord Foul » Sat Mar 15, 2014 3:08 pm

Put simply, I doubt most people would have a clue how to role-play such a thing authentically. Unless you have actually been there and lived it for real, how can you possibly know what it is like?

Also:
Game = fun
This = not fun
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Re: On death in RPGs

Postby Knaight » Sat Mar 15, 2014 3:23 pm

Lord Foul wrote:Put simply, I doubt most people would have a clue how to role-play such a thing authentically. Unless you have actually been there and lived it for real, how can you possibly know what it is like?

Also:
Game = fun
This = not fun

This sounds like it could be fun, and I have seen role playing games which modeled it to some extent - obviously not super realistically, but to some extent. For instance, Nemesis (a horror game) has four madness meters, which measure a character's psyche. These receive 'notches', in two varieties, one of which is basically straightforward psychological damage, the other of which is hardening. One of these madness meters is Violence. A character with enough hardened notches can be a hardened killer, and casually gun people down with no problem. They can also see all sorts of horrors without it affecting them much, and be shot at and reliably not panic.

Without those notches? Less so. If somebody starts shooting at someone with no notches (or worse, with previous failed notches that came from being exposed to violence and not processing it all that well), they won't keep their cool. If they shoot somebody, they have a decent chance of coming out of that traumatized, and even if they don't they won't be the person they were before, having moved a step psychologically towards the hardened killer end of things. That doesn't mean that they won't be affected again, particularly by things that rank higher on the VIolence meter (just because they can shoot someone without panicking doesn't mean they could get involved in an up close machete fight with no issue, escape a massacre alive without trauma).

It's worth noting the genre here though. Nemesis is a horror game, with a focus on psychological horror. It's the sort of game that will generally end with the characters all either dead, insane, or so psychologically numb they can't interact with society anymore, and the only consolation is that they will go down fighting both the parts of the world that are against them and their inner demons. The madness meters are entirely appropriate for Nemesis then, whereas they would be horribly out of place in something like D&D.
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Mikel
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Re: On death in RPGs

Postby Mikel » Sat Mar 15, 2014 4:22 pm

We play things we haven't actually been involved in all the time. We try for the right feel but if you have an expert at the table, they'll likely be able to add depth. Otherwise, we're playing with what we think it is, which is fine.

And I think it'd be fun. I'd play Jesse Pinkman. Violence fucked him up.
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Re: On death in RPGs

Postby VaMinion » Sat Mar 15, 2014 4:59 pm

I've done it once and it was interesting because it made sense in that context: a wizard mechanic who never killed when he could avoid it, but did one day purely by accident. The character ended up terrified of using magic on people until necessity forced him to do it again.

But, and this is the big but, that was in Fate, a game where non-lethal solutions are an option. In something like 3.5, where non-lethal is difficult at best, it would become extremely tiring to deal with someone having a meltdown after every combat.
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Re: On death in RPGs

Postby goatunit » Sat Mar 15, 2014 5:15 pm

While there are lots of ways to go about it, and I can see how many of the options would be fun for a lot of people, to me the appeal of having consequences to violence is in preventing the characters from performing it casually.

The idea would seem to be that it makes the game about something other than violence, rather than that it makes the game about violence and its consequences.

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Re: On death in RPGs

Postby Wayne » Sat Mar 15, 2014 5:22 pm

Mikel wrote:Hosts, if you feel this treads into political/religious territory, please delete it, but I think, while it deals with morality and the effects of violence, it can be discussed in a way that doesn't necessarily cross those lines.

Fred Hicks posted a link to this today:
http://mykecole.com/blog/2014/03/on-killing

About how killing alters the person doing it, as well.

There are plenty of games where people play murder-hobos, and that's fine.
But there are also plenty of games where people try to play something approximating the real world (even if it's in a fantasy game---where people act more 3-dimensionally and consequences are explored as they would be in real life).

How have people tried to emulate the real world consequences of violence in their games?

We have PCs who'll kill without giving it another thought or who never have their characters hesitate when it comes to violence.

Has anyone tried to emulate how difficult it is for most people to kill or to live with the consequences after?


I had a character who was perfectly capable of killing in combat, but when he was pushed into killing someone innocent in cold blood he went over into a corner and threw up. I gave him nightmares and the character was never able to act as care free as he previously was. That is the only time I can think of where it came up in game for me. I've played characters willing to kill, characters unwilling to kill under any circumstances, and various in-between.
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Re: On death in RPGs

Postby goatunit » Sat Mar 15, 2014 5:35 pm

I had a fighter in an AD&D game back in the day who came up as a caravan guard and had never had to kill anyone as of the start of the game. His first kills were against goblins and kobolds and the like, and didn't bother him at all. When he finally had to kill a human brigand, I made a big deal out of the brutality of the violence. He was disarmed and had to do it with a length of chain.

Making violence visceral often involves less gore and flash, and more humanity. You can learn a lot from watching movies. The scene in The Talented Mr. Ripley where Jude Law gets hit in the head with a boat oar is a great place to start. The strangling scene in No Country For Old Men is another place to look.

Spoiler alert for Game of Thrones:

Despite what people say about their being upset that a certain character died, I think 80% of the despair people felt about the Red Wedding scene in the show was the terrible realism of the stabbing of Robb's wife. It was a real, gruesome, hateful act of violence and it was shocking.

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Mikel
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Re: On death in RPGs

Postby Mikel » Sat Mar 15, 2014 5:44 pm

A History of Violence is a good one for brutal violence that's painful to watch. It also makes it deeply disturbing when the kid comes home and mom is holding a gun.... It's an invasion. They're being threatened. In most other films, you wouldn't feel it as acutely.

While I think the death talked about in the spoiler worked well, as I recall it's not in the book. The final death at that part is the knife twist.
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Re: On death in RPGs

Postby okeefe » Sat Mar 15, 2014 8:13 pm

Lord Foul wrote:Put simply, I doubt most people would have a clue how to role-play such a thing authentically. Unless you have actually been there and lived it for real, how can you possibly know what it is like?

Also:
Game = fun
This = not fun

Fun is relative and personal. We can still imagine such things and roleplay according

Burning Wheel's Steel mechanic comes to mind. It can cause characters to panic when certain experiences happen.
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