Why are we okay with violence in RPGs? - Page 2
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  1. #11
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    Most of us play RPGs for some kind of adventure. Adventure requires some kind of dramatic potential. Dramatic potential comes from conflict. And for most people, violence is the simplest form of conflict to model and relate to. It’s a universal theme.

    Theoretically, someone could do nonviolent RPGs based on being successful stock brokers, venture capitalists, rival art schools, or plants seeking nutrients in a certain strip of land.

    But those would all be very difficult to model in an accessible and engaging fashion. And their appeal would be very narrow. Hard to see how they’d be profitable.

  2. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by lowkey13 View Post
    There's a fine line between fun happy combat and ... um ... uncomfortable colonialist massacre of women and children, if you catch my drift
    IMO there are fine lines on some axes, and wide gaps on other axes.

    I've enjoyed sparring, which is a form of violence, though intentionally and drastically limited violence; we were trying to *hit* each other, just not for significant damage. It was fun happy combat. It was different from colonialist massacre of women and children.

    I've used physical violence once in my adult life, to stop a man who was holding a woman down on the sidewalk, and repeatedly punching her. That was not sparring; it was the real thing. I used minimal force, enough that she could get away, without doing him any permanent harm - but I had accepted non-zero risk of permanent harm to myself, had certain factors turned out differently, and if I'd been unable to limit how far the situation escalated. (Fortunately for me, he turned out to be unarmed, mentally disorganized, and smaller than me in both reach and mass.)

    Again, that was real violence, and it was NOT "colonialist massacre of women and children". He and I were both white men; no one died; I did not subsequently take his hunting grounds and turn them into a plantation.

    During the Third Reich occupation of the Warsaw ghetto, there was mutual violence between Jewish civilians and German soldiers. There is a TRPG, in which the PCs are members of the Resistance. It has a grim tone, but the players may reasonably consider (some of) their PCs to be heroes (of a sort). I am not aware of a published TRPG in which the PCs are soldiers in the German army, assigned to crushing resistance in Warsaw. (Though I am aware of white supremacist TRPGs.) It's as if though both Jewish snipers firing at German soldiers, and German soldiers firing at Jewish volunteers, are both practicing violence, many players see a *moral* difference between one side's use of violence and the other side's use of violence. More or less the same applies to "Golden Age Champions"; the setting book assumes that the PCs are on the side of the Allies.

    So there's a valid general question about why so many of us, play so many games with *any kind of violence*.

    There is also a MUCH more specific question about why so many of us play - or have played - games which specifically include colonialist massacre of women and children (whether human or humanoid). In AD&D, high level PCs don't just slaughter orcs without second thoughts; PCs even exterminate "monsters" in a designated territory, so that human or demi-human farmers will arrive, build farms on the land, and then pay taxes to the PC, so long as the PC builds and maintains a keep. Yup, there's specific rules for that process.

    When did non-colonialist games emerge (that is, games *without* built-in rules for the endgame of becoming a tax-collecting, monster-eradicating plantation overlord), and to what extent have some players preferred those games, specifically on that basis?
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  3. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dannyalcatraz View Post
    Theoretically, someone could do nonviolent RPGs based on being successful stock brokers, venture capitalists, rival art schools, or plants seeking nutrients in a certain strip of land.
    I've played Fiasco once, at a convention. No fight scenes, no chase scenes. Conflict, but at other levels. I suspect that we actually *could* use the Fiasco rules set for a fun session about rival venture capitalists (some of us cutting more corners than others). IMO a game of plants competing for nutrients - or perhaps exchanging nutrients sometimes, via interconnected root systems - would require difficult role-playing expression for those of us without lived experience as plants; but if we were willing to employ Pixar levels of anthropomorphosis, it could be both engaging and hilarious.

  4. #14
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    When did non-colonialist games emerge (that is, games *without* built-in rules for the endgame of becoming a tax-collecting, monster-eradicating plantation overlord), and to what extent have some players preferred those games, specifically on that basis?
    Pretty early on, actually. Boot Hill hit in 1975. Traveller In 1977, as did Superhero 2044. Champions in 1981. All still had violence, of course.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Riley37 View Post
    I've played Fiasco once, at a convention. No fight scenes, no chase scenes. Conflict, but at other levels. I suspect that we actually *could* use the Fiasco rules set for a fun session about rival venture capitalists (some of us cutting more corners than others).
    Never played it, seen it, nor heard of it, to the best of my recollection.

    IMO a game of plants competing for nutrients - or perhaps exchanging nutrients sometimes, via interconnected root systems - would require difficult role-playing expression for those of us without lived experience as plants; but if we were willing to employ Pixar levels of anthropomorphosis, it could be both engaging and hilarious.
    The devil, as always, is in the details. A simulationist version of it would be extremely difficult to design...and probably enjoy. (But might work just fine as a boardgame.)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dannyalcatraz View Post
    Never played it, seen it, nor heard of it, to the best of my recollection.



    The devil, as always, is in the details. A simulationist version of it would be extremely difficult to design...and probably enjoy. (But might work just fine as a boardgame.)
    I dunno, I spent hours playing both Sim Ant and Pandemic. I'd suspect a plant/forest simulator would play similar to pandemic coopting the mycellium networks for love and lemons.

    Anyway as a indigenous minority in a former British colony, I've always been acutely aware of the 'problem of DnDs' fantasy foundations essentially being the glory of Europe and Empire over the 'savage other' (ie Orcs, goblins).
    Its probably what pushed me more towards playing non-human characters (half orcs, gnomes) in non-combat orientated classes (thief-acrobats, alchemist, clerics) or monk-assassins (strike back at the establishment!!).

    That said a bit of violent play isnt so bad, especially if put into a justifiable context (killing zombies and soulsucking fey is okay - killing innocent orc babies is bad - goblins are annoying scavengers but they have rights too!).
    I'd say the sport analogy is apt, Sport is controlled violence and the controlled violence of RPGs is sport.

    That said I do like newer approaches that focus on "overcoming a challenge" rather than killing things, so that whether you choose to Kill it, Talk to it, Trick it or Sneak around it, you will be rewarded
    Last edited by Tonguez; Wednesday, 12th June, 2019 at 09:27 AM.

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    I think Riley made a good point: violence is too broad of a term to simply say that using it in RPGs is more or less moral by itself.

    What we have to take a look at is both story/setting and context.

    First, story and setting. Someone already mentioned John Wick, wich is, in my opinion, a totally enjoyable over-the-top franchise. I can imagine playing a John Wick RPG and it would be completely violent, as you'd expect from a setting in which assassins are a huge, organized thing. But I guess that a John Wick game would never give you any XP for killing (defenseless) noncombatants and neither would the setting's tone encourage you to do so.

    Another example would be an evil fantasy campaign (and I know they're kind of en vogue now) where the players are obviously playing the bad guys. Again, violence would be expected, but thins time, it could happen to anyone for any reason. Which is why a good evil campaign needs a strong session zero in advance or else people can be pushed over the lines of what's acceptable in their games.

    Other kinds of story or setting would involve PCs trying to avoid violent situations at all.

    Then there is the context of violence which is more or less the ages old question of whether or not a violent act is justified. I imagine most games and players will be okay with using justified violence against their opponent, in example for self-defense or to protect others from being harmed. Because that's what heroes would do, y'know?

    Murderhoboing, on the other hand, means that every NPC out there is a potential source of loot and XP to be harvested. Which isn't really justifyable violence or proper conflict resolution. In most cases, killing everyone and stealing their stuff is solely motivated by pure and simple greed.

    The question is where we draw the line when it comes to violence. And how we design certain games to encourage or discourage certain modes of using violence as a tool for conflict resolution.

    For example:

    - does a game award XP for killing, no matter who or what you kill?
    - does a game award XP (more, less?) for subduing opponents after you defated them?
    - does a game award XP (the same amount? more? less?) for finding a non-violent solution instead?
    - does a game reward you more for killing people than for not killing them? (i.e. do you get "loot" for peacefur resolutions?)
    - does a game award XP for killing, but only when you kill a certain type of opponents? (i.e. opponents of roughly equal level, monsters, evil people...)

    As long as killing people and taking their stuff is the most efficient and rewarding way to progress through a game, players will be really tempted to use murderhoboing as their preferred method.

  8. #18
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    Why are we okay with violence in RPGs?

    Because it isn't real.

    Why are we okay with violence on TV? Because it isn't real.
    Why are we okay with violence in cinema? Because it isn't real.
    Why are we okay with violence in books? Because it isn't real.
    Why are we okay with violence in plays? Because it isn't real.

    Why are we not okay with violence in reality? Because it is real.

    I know that is a really simplistic way of looking at it, but it is the core difference.


    Edit: Before you respond to this, read my later posts where I expand a bit.
    Last edited by Bagpuss; Wednesday, 12th June, 2019 at 03:30 PM.
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  9. #19
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    @Tonguez

    I’ve played Sim Ant (and other early Sim games) and Pandemic- they’re not RPGs, so I’m unclear as to your point.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Spaztian View Post
    While I think it always depends on the group-think of the table as to how murdur-y they get, in your case, I think The Caves of Chaos offer PLENTY of opportunities (if the group chooses) to role play through encounters... possibly convincing different groups to go at each other.

    I think a case can be made to show enough of a threat that creatures can be convinced to leave rather than dying.

    I understand you are talking about d&d in general, but I did want to bring that up.
    I played through the caves of chaos a few years ago and my impression is the presence of the children and women were actually great RP opportunities.

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