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General Violence and D&D: Is "Murderhobo" Essential to D&D?

Phion

Explorer
Modern Monopoly has taken an educational game, and stripped it of its context and debrief. It is the equivlanet of using a dining room chair as a long-term office chair. The chair isn't bad for what it was intended - that you use it for the wrong thing is hardly the chair's fault, now is it?
Fair point. I wonder if the message was removed because the context/ debrief was off-putting or if it was removed because the owners did not want it highlighted that they have the monopoly on that type of gaming system? Questions for later
 

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Circling back around, I understand why we want to have moral absolutes in D&D. If there is something that is evil, irredeemably and unalterably so, then it makes sense to kill it. There can be no argument, no quarter given, no moral qualms whatsoever about the just use of violence.
Only the Sith deal in absolutes.

To use the easiest example, if there is a demon that is unalterably evil, then destroying that demon must be good.
False logic. Slaughtering a Demon is only Good if you define 'Good' as 'the slaughter of Evil creatures.'

Thats not how I define moral goodness, it's not how the world generally defines moral goodness, and it's not how DnD has defined moral goodness for some time now.

DnD tends to define morally good as 'altruism, charity, mercy, compassion and self sacrifice'

Given D&D is a game that is inextricably tied into violence, then, there might be some questions raised when it is not a demon, but a human or humanoid; perhaps it is as simple as an 80s film, and in this fiction, by opposing the protagonist, they must be put to the sword. Or perhaps not.
DnD is a game of violence for sure.

But there are no 'questions raised'. If your PC are slaughtering things because they're there, or for no other reason than on the grounds of different race or ethnicity or social status or sexual orientation or differing cultures or gods (even evil ones), or killing out of fun or profit, then your PCs are evil.

PCs of Neutral and Good alignments should only ever be resorting to violence when in self defence (collective or otherwise).

Seeing as nearly all monsters dont just sit there and offer PCs a cup of tea when the PCs encounter them; they tend to charge in breathing fire, swinging swords, trying to eat brains or otherwise kill the PCs in one of a billion horrible ways, this makes self defence a no-brainer.
 

The dark powers who rule the demiplane of the dread love the hobomurder, and these are welcome to their domains.

Seriously. They are lots of villains from fiction who believe they are beyond good and evil, but they are totally wrong. Nietzsche with his ideas about the Übermensch and slave-master morality was a j**K and maybe a psycopath. Morality isn't subjetive, and I don't mind authors of World of Darkness could say to me. The characters from G.R.R.Martin's "Games of Thrones" and Garth Ennis' "The Boys" (an acid satire against the superheroes) are good examples of how would be the Übermensch's behavior.

The true key about this matter is the coherence with the Natural Law, with eternal and universal ethical values as the respect for the human dignity, the basis of our rights as people and citizens.

What is evil? Causing a seriou injustice willing and without mitigating circumstances of guilt, or too serious actions against the human dignity even against no-innocent enemies.

* Hasbro published a socialist Monopoly. You can find it in internet.
 

Saelorn

Hero
If it looks like, talks like, and largely acts like a person, claiming it isn't a person becomes difficult to make plausible.
That's a pretty significant conditional. There's no reason that the opposition in a D&D campaign needs to look like, talk like, and/or think like a person would. We have constructs, aberrations, and actual demons we could be fighting.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
1) Conflict is necessary to adventure fiction. The DM creates imbalances in the world which trigger potential adventures.

2) D&D has always had Morale rules. Fleeing, surrender and negotiation with the opponents are a thing in my campaigns. This is a roleplaying game after all.

3) Senseless hack & slash killing is boring. Play a computer game instead.
Agreed on all points. The only things I would add:
  • It is possible to have conflict without combat,
  • Combat doesn't necessarily need to end in death, and
  • Senseless actions (violent or otherwise) should have consequences.
 

I don't know. I have never tried hobomurder before. Are there any hobo camps near where I live?

But seriously, I have not enjoyed the stereotypical murderhobo adventure since I was a teenager, over 30 years ago. I am not sure the hobo part ever applied even then, as I think all the adventuring parties from all my past campaigns have always had a home base/city of some kind, so they were never just randomly traveling around and killing for XP.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Thrall of Coot.
I don't know. I have never tried hobomurder before. Are there any hobo camps near where I live?

But seriously, I have not enjoyed the stereotypical murderhobo adventure since I was a teenager, over 30 years ago. I am not sure the hobo part ever applied even then, as I think all the adventuring parties from all my past campaigns have always had a home base/city of some kind, so they were never just randomly traveling around and killing for XP.
I tell ya, there is nothing worse than hobomurder gentrification!

I much preferred the old neigborhood, with wandering murderers. Nowadays, all those murderers are buying up the real estate, driving up prices, so that they can claim some type of "home base" that they can use to venture forth and commit murders.

It's the Williamsburg of hobomurdering. Pretty soon, we are going to get rid of Ye Olde Hobomurder and Rumour Inne and replace it with a high-end cocktail lounge.
 

shesheyan

Explorer
I've also found that changing to ACP rather than XP dramatically changes the tone of the game. When RP is equally valued as combat for purposes of advancement, that changes things. Yes, there are people that still like combat. I enjoy combat. But your advancement is no longer tied to how much murdering and violence you do, nor how much coin you acquire (in past editions).
Bad game design: I was talking about Monopoly. Not D&D. ;)

But I agree with you. Since the second half of 2e I've been handing out XPs based on the number of hours played. That changes player behaviour completely.
 

shesheyan

Explorer
Agreed on all points. The only things I would add:
  • It is possible to have conflict without combat,
  • Combat doesn't necessarily need to end in death, and
  • Senseless actions (violent or otherwise) should have consequences.
That is also what I believe in and apply in my campaigns.
 

MGibster

Hero
I can scarcely envision a D&D campaign which fails to include a liberal application of violence. The game is simply built with the premise that characters will be engaging in violence and each of the character classes reflects that. I don't see that changing any time soon.
 

dave2008

Legend
I don't thinks that the purpose of the CR system though, although it can certainly be used like that. The purpose is to balance encounter difficulty. We can use the phrase balanced encounters though, instead of CR.
I would argue the purpose to so that you know what a balanced encounter is. There is no requirement in the system to provide a balanced encounter.
 

TaranTheWanderer

Adventurer
Why society's focus on violence?

Humans have been competing for resources since the dawn of humanity - either against other apex predators or against other tribes or civilizations. Civilizations invented their own heroes of Legend and today's Superheroes are just an extension of that. It glorifies the ideal Warrior. It gives a civilization something to be proud of and aspire to: the ideal protector. As mentioned previously, play hones ability and survival instincts. Strategy games hone strategic thinking and D&D was born out of a strategy military game.

It's fun to pretend to kill dangerous things from the safety of your own home and live out the 'violent survivor' story when you have nothing to worry about. I doubt that, in any country where there are mass genocides and atrocities, or civil war that people are sitting in their house role-playing. They're living the violence and trying to survive. (but maybe I'm wrong - I'm just making an assumption).

So, we in our first world countries, (-mostly, on the whole - to avoid a broad sweeping generalization)are far removed from actual violence. Playing it out and murderhoboing is exciting and fun when the reality of violence is, in actuality, pretty terrifying.

It would be easy for D&D to put in a 'Take Out' mechanic that lets the victor of a combat narrate how an enemy is defeated. The final blow of the sword cuts the person's belt and their pants fall down. They've been utterly humiliated in front of their peers and surrender. Honestly, it would be easy to do and much more interesting than flat out killing everything. Also, DMs have enemies fight to the death. Weird.

It would be interesting to give enemies a threshold of hit points. Once you go over the threshold, the enemy will surrender. Clever, careful or fearful enemies have bigger hit point pool over the threshold, giving them more opportunity to surrender in a combat. While things, like undead, have a threshold total of 0. Meanwhile, those hit points over the threshold are used as a bonus for things like social conflicts and negotiations. I mean, there are options for social conflicts in many games. D&D could easily incorporate them or create their own - even if it was as an 'add-on' rule in the DMG.
 
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Alzrius

The EN World kitten
There's a quip to be made about what the lessons of D&D's history can teach us here. Prior to 3rd Edition:
  1. Monster listings (which included NPCs such as bandits) had morale scores, allowing for checks to see if/when they'd quit the fight instead of just fighting to the death as a default presumption.
  2. Most XP was gained for recovering treasure, with only a little gained for killing things.
  3. An emphasis on resource management (including greater limits on recovering hit points and spells) and greater degree of lethality in challenges meant that risk was weighed more carefully before initiating violent conflicts.
So clearly, the solution is for everyone to go back to playing AD&D 1E.
 
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Although I dismissed the slippery slope arguments in the two closed threads, in this case I do suspect in the dark recesses of my mind that if we follow this line of thinking to its ultimate conclusion the only true moral answer will be that while killing can be justified, there's something deeply wrong about about a game that makes killing fun, and even glorifies it. Even if we're talking about killing demon lords.

But I don't think I really want to explore that because, for now, I kinda like the killing.
 

toucanbuzz

Adventurer
I didn't start playing D&D because I wanted to hug orcs and explore my feelings with murderous yet ambiguously-aligned, ethnically non-offensive kobolds and convince myself to see the errors of my ways once I understand their perspective of being taunted and oppressed by gnomes, who get away with this oppression and have deities that trick kobolds because they're a PC race and kobolds just never got their chance.

I played it to escape real life in a medieval fantasy world like the ones I read about in books. You know, the ones where Drizz't kills a lot of creatures, where there's a continent-wide war in the Dragonlance books, where Frodo doesn't wonder if his sword needs more "subdual" options when he stabs an orc. Or, like the "Alien: the Roleplaying Game" advertisement that pops up on this screen. I'm pretty sure there's going to be violence.

Years later, this hasn't changed for my gamers. And I remember one day, one of my players, a female gamer in her 40s, came to the table early. She said "today, I just want to kill some stuff." I said OK. She'd had a bad day. She wanted some escape. And it wasn't random killing. She wanted to punish some bad guys. So that's what we did.
 

I played it to escape real life in a medieval fantasy world like the ones I read about in books. You know, the ones where Drizz't kills a lot of creatures, where there's a continent-wide war in the Dragonlance books, where Frodo doesn't wonder if his sword needs more "subdual" options when he stabs an orc. Or, like the "Alien: the Roleplaying Game" advertisement that pops up on this screen. I'm pretty sure there's going to be violence.
I'm trying to think of an instance where Frodo stabs an orc and can't think of one. Troll, yes. Nazgul, sorta. Orc...no?

And even more to the point, the evolution of Frodo's feelings about the morality of killing Gollum are one of the core themes to the story.
 

Mistwell

Legend
Only the Sith deal in absolutes.
I always found that a silly claim, as the Jedi were constantly spouting absolutes. In particular, they seemed to think once you did anything involving the dark side, that was it for you, forever would it dominate you. How was that any less absolute than what the Sith believed? It was pretty obvious the Jedi DID believe in absolutes of good and evil, and very clearly felt the Sith were evil.

Luke was bucking the system against them when he kept insisting there was still good in his father. Rey, Han, and Leia were bucking the system when they insisted there was good still in Kylo Ren. It's people who are neither Jedi nor Sith who believed there were not absolutes of good and evil, and I think even they thought the Emperor was irredeemably evil.
 
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FaerieGodfather

Aberrant Druid
Supporter
Your proposed solution (if your violence is justified, then the issue goes away) doesn't work if you're part of a society where violence is never justified. Hundreds of countries have moved past capital punishment, and some even have most of their police forces without lethal weapons.
This would be a concern if such a society ever existed-- if you believe that any given society has forsaken the use of violence, simply do something (non-violently) criminal and then attempt to decline arrest. Do not lift your finger against the police, but tell them resolutely that you refuse to accompany them to the courthouse or be locked in a cage.

Hundreds of countries have moved past employing capital punishment on helpless prisoners-- good for them!-- and (all but) disarmed their police forces, but they still have police forces and they still have militaries whose members are expected and required to employ violence in situations that have absolutely nothing to do with self-defense. Armed forces and law enforcement: their function is in their name,

Claiming that "violence is never justified" if more often than not an excuse to feel morally superior to the people who perform violence upon your behalf... and the people upon whom they perform it.
 

Mistwell

Legend
Agreed on all points. The only things I would add:
  • It is possible to have conflict without combat,
  • Combat doesn't necessarily need to end in death, and
  • Senseless actions (violent or otherwise) should have consequences.
What if you don't want to play a game like that, but want to play a lighter shootem-up type game without consequences?
 

TaranTheWanderer

Adventurer
I'm trying to think of an instance where Frodo stabs an orc and can't think of one. Troll, yes. Nazgul, sorta. Orc...no?

And even more to the point, the evolution of Frodo's feelings about the morality of killing Gollum are one of the core themes to the story.
Gollum wasn't absolutely evil. He was a hobbit that had been twisted by Sauron. That was a story of redemption and forgiveness. I'm not sure those themes extended to orcs. But that's probably beside the point.
 
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