Why are we okay with violence in RPGs?

Riley37

Visitor
AD&D, while lethal at low levels, was not particularly dangerous at higher levels.
Nit-picking: do you mean that AD&D *across the board* was less lethal at high levels, or do you mean that *combat* was less lethal at high levels? If exploration remains lethal at high levels - traps, random diseases, and so forth - while combat drops in lethality, then that might shift the relative proportions of player interest in the three pillars. "If I solve this puzzle, then we can bypass the guard barracks!" is a bad deal, when the puzzle has a significant risk of "you pushed the wrong button, so you die" and fighting through the guard barracks has no significant risk of lethality (and also scores a few XP). Better to just turn away from the puzzle, and activate your +5 Chainsaw. This gives the DM reduced incentive to put any puzzles in the next dungeon - why bother, if players have learned to stick to combat?

My observations indicate that "we've moved farther and farther away from the whole "murder hobo" approach to the game" is true both within D&D, and also across the genre, with some games going much further than others. I played the current Doctor Who game at a recent con, and though we rolled a lot of dice for action resolutions, it was 100% investigation and interaction, with no one so much as throwing a punch. (There was a scary monster; it was stuck in our dimension, we freed it, and it went away.) Are there also, on the other end of the spectrum, TRPGs which are even more kill-and-loot-oriented than D&D? Hackmaster, perhaps? Is reversion, away from negotiation, back to kill-and-loot, part of OSR's appeal?
 

Bagpuss

Adventurer
Sources or not, though, @Riley37 does - somewhat obliquely - raise an interesting point: reward mechanisms in RPGs have changed over the years, and it'd be interesting to know if there's ever been any competent research done on how playstyles adapt and morph as a result of these changes both within successive editions of a game and across the hobby as a whole.

An easy example of what I'm talking about: early-days D&D was very risky for the PCs and gave x.p. for treasure recovered. This put a strong focus on looting every shred of valuable material from the dungeon ("Greyhawking" was, I think, the term for this), and so the foundational goals of play were to a) survive and b) get rich.
Exactly in the early days avoiding conflict to gain treasure was one of the better ways of getting XP, because of the risk vs reward, was significantly less than getting into a fight. I remember scouting was a very popular strategy in those days.

A pushback aginst this trend has seen the development of non-x.p.-based levelling and-or 'milestone' levelling, core in numerous systems and now an option in 5e D&D. For many reasons I'm not at all a fan of this and will never ever use it in any game I run, but I can appreciate it as at least an attempt to solve a legitimate problem.
I'm curious as to why you wouldn't use it, what problems do you feel it doesn't address or it creates, in comparison to monster slaying for XP.
 

Sadras

Adventurer
I'm curious as to why you wouldn't use it, what problems do you feel it doesn't address or it creates, in comparison to monster slaying for XP.
I'm not [MENTION=29398]Lanefan[/MENTION], but the obvious limitation is that it removes XPs as Reward. Milestone seems to negate individual creative/smart efforts by characters, moving from individual level progression to a party-progression paradigm.

Milestone certainly has its uses. Personally I would use that style of progression in more linear/railroad-y games which have a strong storyline buy-in.
 

Lylandra

Explorer
I'm not @Lanefan, but the obvious limitation is that it removes XPs as Reward. Milestone seems to negate individual creative/smart efforts by characters, moving from individual level progression to a party-progression paradigm.

Milestone certainly has its uses. Personally I would use that style of progression in more linear/railroad-y games which have a strong storyline buy-in.
mh, but should or could the reward for creative and smart solutions not be positive in-game consequences? Could be loot, could be a new ally, could be a favor, good political standing or some unforseen twist.

Individual XP seem to be shunned upon in most groups I've played in as it discourages newbies or tends to be unfair or biased. In addition to setting unhealthy risk-reward incentives for players to "go solo".
 

Hussar

Legend
Exactly in the early days avoiding conflict to gain treasure was one of the better ways of getting XP, because of the risk vs reward, was significantly less than getting into a fight. I remember scouting was a very popular strategy in those days.



I'm curious as to why you wouldn't use it, what problems do you feel it doesn't address or it creates, in comparison to monster slaying for XP.
See, I've never understood this.

Like I said, sure, in the early levels, say 1-3, I get it. You want to be pretty careful about not biting off more than you can chew. But, after that? Why would you avoid a fight? You were almost always guaranteed to win. The odds of losing a fight were pretty darn slight. And, even then, by 9th level, you have access to raise dead, so, big deal, you can bring anyone back other than the cleric. Really, even before that, raising a PC wasn't exactly complicated. The odds of failure were extremely low.

Sure, Res survival and all that, I get that. But, it's not like you were dying that often. We never bothered running from fights. We went room by room and killed everything that moved. Again, it wasn't until 3e that we actually started getting even remotely tactical in our thinking.
 

Sadras

Adventurer
mh, but should or could the reward for creative and smart solutions not be positive in-game consequences? Could be loot, could be a new ally, could be a favor, good political standing or some unforseen twist.
100%. 5e adds to all those positive in-game consequences with mechanical positives too, as you likely know, like Inspiration points and in the DMG you have Faith, Faction progression...etc
So yes, there is plenty to use as a substitute for XP.

Individual XP seem to be shunned upon in most groups I've played in as it discourages newbies or tends to be unfair or biased. In addition to setting unhealthy risk-reward incentives for players to "go solo".
Sure, XPs has its 'negatives' too, although not everyone sees all of that as bad. Having read many of @Lanefan's posts about the table he and his group run, I'd say they're ok with much of it. They easily run disproportionate leveled characters at their table with no worries, and have a lot of fun doing so. The higher-leveled characters shielding the newbies, with character death being a certainty.:D
 
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Bagpuss

Adventurer
See, I've never understood this.

Like I said, sure, in the early levels, say 1-3, I get it. You want to be pretty careful about not biting off more than you can chew. But, after that? Why would you avoid a fight? You were almost always guaranteed to win. The odds of losing a fight were pretty darn slight.
That's not my recollection of early D&D, there were a lot of "save or die" type creatures about, and there wasn't much guidance in the way of balancing encounters. I suppose it depends on the DM you had. I remember that certainly once you got past a certain level you didn't worry about hordes of goblins and the like, but you had a healthy respect of monsters and undead, particularly those that might paralyse or have level drain.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
In which case, feel free to never hit REPLY to anything I write, ever again, starting now.
If I ever need lessons in how to be a pretentious jerk I'll be sure to keep you in mind.
Really. Both of you.

@Riley, ordering people not to reply to you is not how to handle a disagreement. Either politely disagree, or use the block function.

@Immortal Sun, calling people names is DEFINITELY NOT how to handle a disagreement. I will also add -- if you report a post, and then immediately respond to it with namecalling or insults, we are *not* going to look
favourably on it.

Neither of you
post in this thread again, please.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
I'm not [MENTION=29398]Lanefan[/MENTION], but the obvious limitation is that it removes XPs as Reward. Milestone seems to negate individual creative/smart efforts by characters, moving from individual level progression to a party-progression paradigm.

Milestone certainly has its uses. Personally I would use that style of progression in more linear/railroad-y games which have a strong storyline buy-in.
Individual level advancement started to be seriously problematic with 3e. In AD&D, advancement was less regular in general for things like the to-hit tables and saves, plus monster vs party balancing was less granular. The game tolerated having PCs at varying levels in the same party better.

3e and 4e both regularized advancement and had more precision in encounter design (4e more than 3e, in this factor). Characters who lagged more than about a level were put, relatively speaking, at more of a disadvantage. Ultimately, the tighter the design, the more it makes sense to advance them all as a group than as individuals.
 

Sadras

Adventurer
Individual level advancement started to be seriously problematic with 3e. In AD&D, advancement was less regular in general for things like the to-hit tables and saves, plus monster vs party balancing was less granular. The game tolerated having PCs at varying levels in the same party better.

3e and 4e both regularized advancement and had more precision in encounter design (4e more than 3e, in this factor). Characters who lagged more than about a level were put, relatively speaking, at more of a disadvantage. Ultimately, the tighter the design, the more it makes sense to advance them all as a group than as individuals.
Good point! Never thought about it before from this perspective. Thanks.
 

Elfcrusher

Adventurer
3e and 4e both regularized advancement and had more precision in encounter design (4e more than 3e, in this factor). Characters who lagged more than about a level were put, relatively speaking, at more of a disadvantage. Ultimately, the tighter the design, the more it makes sense to advance them all as a group than as individuals.
One thing I really appreciate in games is the extent to which they support/tolerate mixed levels.
 

GrahamWills

Adventurer
The scientific community recognizes "good" and "evil" as human concepts, not natural states of the universe
Absolutely; but the theological community tends to believe they are natural states. I was drawing a parallel between the theological community's age-old search for an answer to the theological question "is humanity naturally good/evil?" with the scientific question posed by this thread. In general using theology to inform science works poorly, so I definitely wasn't suggesting that!

There's a problem with discussing our "default state" ... There are no humans in the "wild" state - where "wild" is "without human influence". We are social animals, so our natural state is *with* human influence. Our "default" is "adapted to live within a community of other humans".
I am not sure why you conclude that there is a problem -- in fact, on the face if it, you seem to be supporting my conjecture. I stated that research indicates that humanity is innately social -- and you confirm that "Our default is adapted to live within a community". Isn't that the same thing -- or at least close enough for internet conversation?

Your statement equating "wild" as "without human influence" seems a rather odd statement. Would you consider ants as not being "wild" as they are rarely found "without ant influence"? Or are you asserting that the default state of a species is that state when they are not in contact with humanity, specifically -- so that, by definition, humanity cannot be in a default state?

If the latter, then we can bypass that objection by looking at research on "wild" apes, specifically chimpanzees, which have murder rates closer to humanity than to the average mammal. They, like us exhibit both social and territorial aspects. I cannot find a good paper on the subject, but investigations into the causes of ape murder seem rare ...
 

Kaodi

Adventurer
The scientific community recognizes "good" and "evil" as human concepts, not natural states of the universe. The question of whether we are born good or evil makes little sense, when we *define* good and evil only after we are born!
Ethics: What is good and bad?
Meta-Ethics: What are good and bad?
 

Kaodi

Adventurer
Tangentially I wonder how normal play is differentiated from irregular play in various systems. We can ask if certain play styles become more prevalent in chat or PbP games. And I wonder if there is any meaningful way to play solo other than as a murderhobo (maybe as a novelist, I suppose).
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I am not sure why you conclude that there is a problem -- in fact, on the face if it, you seem to be supporting my conjecture. I stated that research indicates that humanity is innately social -- and you confirm that "Our default is adapted to live within a community". Isn't that the same thing -- or at least close enough for internet conversation?
You aren't the only one in the thread that has tried to refer to something like the human "natural state". I was speaking to the entire concept with your post as merely a jumping off point, as it was the most recent to use the concept.

Your statement equating "wild" as "without human influence" seems a rather odd statement. Would you consider ants as not being "wild" as they are rarely found "without ant influence"?
No. Just as a wild cat is not "without cat influence". Wild is variously, "in a natural environment" or "undomesticated" - which I restated as 'without human influence" (which isn't the entirety of it, but was enough for my point). Ants living in a human building are not in a natural environment, so may not behave or develop in ways other members of the species that are in natural environments do.

I'm basically suggesting that all humans are, for our purposes, domesticated.

If the latter, then we can bypass that objection by looking at research on "wild" apes, specifically chimpanzees, which have murder rates closer to humanity than to the average mammal. They, like us exhibit both social and territorial aspects. I cannot find a good paper on the subject, but investigations into the causes of ape murder seem rare ...
Well, that'd be cherry picking.

Researchers complied data from some 426 combined years of observation of chimpanzees, across 18 different chimp communities - a total of 152 killings were reported.

When the did the same for bonobos, a combined 92 years of observations - just a single suspected killing.

Similar behavior is not generally seen in gorillas, unless they are forced into large groups with 3+ potential breeding males, not the natural state for the animals.

So, chimpanzees murder at human rates. Bonobos and gorillas don't. From this larger view, violent behavior does not seem that great apes, in general, are particularly violent. Jumping to the conclusion based on chimpanzees alone seems questionable in the larger context.
 

GrahamWills

Adventurer
I'm basically suggesting that all humans are, for our purposes, domesticated
I guess that if you define "humans living with other humans" as not in a natural state, then, yes, you come to the conclusion that humans do not have a natural state. It seems a bit extreme to me, honestly, but OK.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I guess that if you define "humans living with other humans" as not in a natural state, then, yes, you come to the conclusion that humans do not have a natural state. It seems a bit extreme to me, honestly, but OK.
I think you are missing the point a bit.

Folks are asking whether "violent" is the "natural state" for humans. They then have to turn and look for what the "natural state" for humans actually is... and wind up reaching for straws, because they want to find the thing analogous to the feral cat, when no such thing exists.

Basically, "natural" human behavior is everything we already see. There is no *other* natural state to look for. All the wide variability we see in human behavior is, in effect, natural for us. Some of us are violent. Others of us aren't. Whether you call humanity a violent species perhaps depends more on what the threshold you set for being a violent species - and thus says more about the person setting the threshold than anything else.
 
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