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Why are we okay with violence in RPGs?

Bedrockgames

Villager
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.
Some of those AD&D monsters were brutal and the only guideline I remember using was monster HD and eyeballing things like damage output.

My recollection of AD&D (both 1E and 2E) was it could be quite lethal. 3E could also be a lethal system, but there was a lot of ink spent dealing with things like Encounter Levels and having GMs pace encounter levels. So my experience with 3E involved a lot less character death, though it did still happen. I think it does boil down to the GM and to the playstyle.

Also worth mentioning that 2E did have XP guidelines for non-combat.
 

Lanefan

Hero
[MENTION=29398]Lanefan[/MENTION], I'm not sure I agree with your premise. AD&D, while lethal at low levels, was not particularly dangerous at higher levels. Granted, save or die effects might have made it more dangerous, but, most save or die effects are not a result of combat - poisons, traps, that sort of thing. By the time the PC's were about 6th or 7th level, they were among the most powerful combatants in the game. By double digit levels, they were competently taking on unique monsters.
My experience shows the kill rate to be more or less the same across the levels (except 1st level, which is higher); the difference is that higher-level types can either afford revival spells or have them available within the party, meaning that while the kill rate is the same there's much less actual character turnover. The cause of death changes - less come from direct combat, more from save-or-die effects and spells - but it's still deadly, and survival remains a key goal.

And, really, to me, the shift from 1e to 2e wasn't all that great. We killed everything we could in 1e because, well, why wouldn't you? Outside of dragons, there was virtually nothing that could take on a PC one on one and the group of 6-8 PC's plus a few henchmen and whatnot could mow through a LOT of combat.
That was your approach, and the game could handle it, but by RAW you'd have got the same xp for intentionally bypassing or avoiding an encounter as you would have for beating it up. More to the point, if the published modules are anything to go by combat only accounted for a small percentage of the available x.p.; with the vast majority of potential x.p. coming from treasure. (a long time ago a poster named [MENTION=3854]Quasqueton[/MENTION] ran the numbers on this, if you feel like digging through ENWorld's dusty archives)

I found 3e a LOT more deadly than AD&D to be honest. The massive increase in monster damage while the PC's didn't actually get a whole lot more HP's than in AD&D meant that I was killing PC's straight up in combat pretty darn often. It was hard not killing PC's, to be honest.
3e was a different breed of animal in a few ways:

First, because of the steep (and open-ended) power curve it heavily relied on the DM to make sure encounters were more or less level-appropriate; where earlier editions with their flatter power curves could get away with a wider variance.

Second, both the monsters and the PCs had a lot more going for them above very low levels/HD which tended to force a certain degree of character optimization.

Third, while 3e was about as lethal as the earlier editions, various other nasty effects had either been nerfed (level loss made temporary; item saves much less frequent) or removed (no permanent penalty on revival from death)

And, you're ignoring the fact that from 3e forward, the game codified non-combat Xp awards. Plenty of 3e and later modules have text to the effect of, "convincing so and so to do such and such grants a CR X xp award." Something you rarely, if ever, saw in earlier editions.
True, this does appear more often in the more recent editions - but even there, what %-age of the total x.p. available in the module do these type of encounters represent? With rare exceptions, not much. :)

If anything, I think as time has moved on, we've moved farther and farther away from the whole "murder hobo" approach to the game. At least the modules have gone this way.
Again true, though I think this is an odd case where the underlying system design and the published modules are in conflict: the system wants to reward one aspect of play (combat) while the modules want to reward other aspects (exploration, social interaction, or whatever).
 

Lanefan

Hero
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.
Agreed. Still is.

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.
A number of reasons, mostly revolving around not wanting characters getting rewards they don't deserve. Milestone levelling brings everyone up no matter how much they did (or didn't) contribute, where I much prefer the reward be more commensurate to the individual risk taken.

Lylandra said:
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".
I've used individual x.p. forever and I've yet to see it as discouraging newbies. If anything, the reverse is true: it makes them more gung-ho than the veterans!

And your choice of words regarding risk-reward incentives for going solo is perfect: "unhealthy". Going solo is high risk high reward, and is much more likely to adversely affect the character's health (if death can be assumed as a negative health effect) than staying with the party.
 

Lanefan

Hero
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
In fairness, I think [MENTION=6816692]Lylandra[/MENTION] was referring to newbie players rather than characters.

But yes, and back to the theme of system flexibility, 0-1-2e are far more flexible as regards in-party level variance than either 3e or 4e are; 5e has trended back towards this flexibility which is excellent. (EDIT: [MENTION=3400]billd91[/MENTION] got to this ahead of me, upthread)

And that brings up another issue I have with milestone levelling - lower level characters can never "catch up". Also, how does one ever introduce items or events that give an individual character a level - or take one away? What happens if a character gets a wish and wishes to go up a level - does the whole party get dragged along for the ride?

In a long-term campaign things like this will happen, and level variance is thus inevitable unless the DM does some very arbitrary forcing of things.
 
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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
And that brings up another issue I have with milestone levelling - lower level characters can never "catch up".
The thing about milestone leveling that breaks the association of levels to combat is that it gets applied when you reach the milestone, *however* you reach the milestone. It doesn't have to be "you gain a level when you hit a milestone." It can be, "you gain some number of XP when you hit a milestone." And I think that fixes all the issues with milestone leveling you mention.

People who are behind still catch up - they gain the same XP as those at higher level. Items or wishes that add or remove levels are then of no difficulty, as you still refer to the XP chart.
 

hawkeyefan

Explorer
I’ve found that if the game in question has non-combat mechanics that are as engaging as the combat mechanics, and non-combat rewards on par with the combat rewards, players are much more willing to seek other solutions to in game challenges.

Many games have an imbalance between those two elements leaving combat as the preferable method for a variety of reasons. Early editions of D&D avoided this by granting XP for treasure. But as the game shifted away from dungeon delving as its primary focus, this became problematic in its own way. Then 3E came along and things shifted even more toward combat.

So the reason that violence is so prevalent is due to genre and the roots of RPGing. But I think it can be changed pretty easily when needed. You just need to figure out your play priorities, and then adjust the XP/Advancement system to more closely match them. Find a system that serves what you want rather than a system that dictates how you play.
 

Bobble

Villager
A FAR better question, "Why would we NOT be okay with violence in RPgs?" given the nature of humans and the fact that the VAST % of people who play RPGs like some or a lot of violence in their games.
 

Bedrockgames

Villager
A FAR better question, "Why would we NOT be okay with violence in RPgs?" given the nature of humans and the fact that the VAST % of people who play RPGs like some or a lot of violence in their games.
Personally I am totally fine with violence in RPGs and fine with hack N slash style campaigns. I think it depends on what you want though. If I am in a Noir Campaign, I expect more focus on role-play and solving problems in ways that don't involve combat. But nothing wrong with being Conan or Bruce Lee either.
 

Bobble

Villager
Yes, of course. The genre will greatly influence the amount and frequency of any violence. But, the original question is somewhat odd IMO.
 

Bedrockgames

Villager
Yes, of course. The genre will greatly influence the amount and frequency of any violence. But, the original question is somewhat odd IMO.
Different people have different preferences in gaming. The OP indicates he doesn't seem to mind if other people engage in that kind of violence at the table. He just is personally uncomfortable with it these days. I think there are different cultures of play as well. In the groups I run things with, no one cares about violence, and no one is concerned about stuff mentioned in this thread. But I've met players who are troubled by it. Just like I've met people who don't want to watch movies like Commando or 300 because of issues with the violence or political messaging in the violence (personally I love these kinds of movies, and can separate the message of the film from my own beliefs--I am the same with gaming). But when I first started, I came from a religious household, and I remember the idea of characters worshipping a pantheon in a setting where there was no Christianity, bothered me (obviously my views on this changed as I got older). I think where this stuff becomes a problem is when people shift from it being their own preference to telling other people they need to game differently and in a more wholesome way. That is where I tend to stop listening.
 

Tony Vargas

Adventurer
I’ve found that if the game in question has non-combat mechanics that are as engaging as the combat mechanics, and non-combat rewards on par with the combat rewards, players are much more willing to seek other solutions to in game challenges.
That sounds a reasonable observation.
Many games have an imbalance between those two elements leaving combat as the preferable method for a variety of reasons.
Can't disagree...
Early editions of D&D avoided this by granting XP for treasure. But as the game shifted away from dungeon delving as its primary focus, this became problematic in its own way.
That hardly seems to follow from the above. Early eds gave exp for combat & treasure, not for non-combat, and had detailed, elaborate rules for combat (many of which were summarily ignored) and far fewer, less consistent, and less engaging rules for other tasks - they also 'niche protected' a lot of exploration abilities in the Thief class.
Exp for treasure did nothing to mitigate that - you got more Exp for killing monsters for their treasure type than for sneakily stealing said treasure, and the combat engaged the entire party vs the Thief pulling a lone Bilbo v Smaug burglary.
Then 3E came along and things shifted even more toward combat.
By bringing in an exhaustive skill system including non combat skills from blacksmithing to playing the kazoo? By giving quest-based exp as well as combat? That also doesn't sound right.
 

lowkey13

Exterminate all rational thought
Different people have different preferences in gaming. The OP indicates he doesn't seem to mind if other people engage in that kind of violence at the table. He just is personally uncomfortable with it these days.
Well, I wish I was that enlightened! As you can tell from my other threads* I enjoy violence as much as the next person.

It was more, "Why?" And specifically, "Why so much in the RPGs?"

The predicate was, as I mentioned, re-visiting B2, which not only allowed a particular strain of hobomurder that was common in the late 70s and early 80s ... it encouraged it. Even to a "realistic" extent that you wouldn't see in other modules. (...and this is the part where you have to exterminate the grieving kobold women and children ... and this is the part where you can decide to kill the mentally ill hermit for his stuff ...).

Which is to say, I was trying to understand why:

A. I can be bothered by this; yet...

B. Not be particularly bothered by the "generic" D&D setting (go to monster's home, see monster, kill monster, take monster's stuff, repeat until you get more powerful in order to kill more powerful monsters in their homes).

And I was also reflecting on the broader cultural tendencies, especially in America (United States) that have allowed from such easy acquiescence to depictions of violence.

It's odd, because I can remember parents being concerned in "Ye Olden Days" (70s and 80s) about what I consider truly bogus concerns (SATANIC PANIC!) but no one was ever like, "Hey, they are playing a game of invading people's houses and killing them and taking their stuff."

I don't have any answers here, by the way, and I am not suggesting that there is anything wrong or bad, I am just curious if anyone else has thought about this, and what they thought.

And a lot of the replies have been really good- from, "Yes, it really has bothered me because of X," to "What, that's crazy talk, it's just a game."







*For example, why John Wick 3 is the greatest movie of all time and deserves to sweep not only this year's Oscars, but should be retroactively awarded the Academy Award for all prior years.
 

hawkeyefan

Explorer
That sounds a reasonable observation.
Can't disagree...
That hardly seems to follow from the above. Early eds gave exp for combat & treasure, not for non-combat, and had detailed, elaborate rules for combat (many of which were summarily ignored) and far fewer, less consistent, and less engaging rules for other tasks - they also 'niche protected' a lot of exploration abilities in the Thief class.
Exp for treasure did nothing to mitigate that - you got more Exp for killing monsters for their treasure type than for sneakily stealing said treasure, and the combat engaged the entire party vs the Thief pulling a lone Bilbo v Smaug burglary.
I mean in the broad sense of XP for GP; you could still gain a lot of XP by tricking the dragon or stealing from it as opposed to fighting it. The treasure was the goal, so you were heavily incentivized to get the treasure.

So when the game shifted away from dungeon delving more toward heroic mission type of adventures, treasure was less of a motivation. Instead it was about stopping the bad guys, or about saving people....from the bad guys. And you dealt with bad guys by killing them.

By bringing in an exhaustive skill system including non combat skills from blacksmithing to playing the kazoo? By giving quest-based exp as well as combat? That also doesn't sound right.
Well, this is all based on my personal experience, so I wouldn’t expect it to he universal.

That being said, I wouldn’t describe 3E’s skill system as exhaustive. It’s pretty basic. I think they divided the necessary skills more than needed, so it seems like a bigger deal than it is. But it was certainly an improvement over Non-Weapon Proficiencies, for sure, and the protection of the Thief/Rogue as the only skilled character. It was a step in the right direction.

And I’m not blaming the introduction of a skill system for the increased focus on combat in 3E. It was more about the codification of everything, and challenge rating and XP budgets and all of that. In the 1E era, when faced with an encounter, a party of PCs wasn’t always sure if it was a winnable by combat. I think this was less so in 2E, and then even less true in 3E. Challenge rating and encounter budgets and the like really reinforced the numbers game. Encounters were expected to be within a range of difficulty, but never truly beyond the party’s ability.

And yes, there were more options for task based XP, but I found those in published modules to be nominal when compared to the XP gained through combat. Especially since you could still get the mission based XP by slaughtering all who opposed you.

It’s why my group essentially adopted the milestone leveling model (though it wasn’t called that yet) in this edition. It helped mitigate some of the problems we found with the design versus play expectations we had.

Ultimately, violence is so prevalent in RPGs because it (a) is baked into the most frequently used genres for games, (b) is the most obvious expression of the core of all drama: conflict, and (c) lends itself to mechanical expression for games.
The tropes that tend to be present in many genres, and also the gaminess itself, helps to abstract the violence in a way that makes it much easier to gloss over.
 

Tony Vargas

Adventurer
I mean in the broad sense of XP for GP; you could still gain a lot of XP by tricking the dragon or stealing from it as opposed to fighting it. The treasure was the goal, so you were heavily incentivized to get the treasure.
Especially the magic items, sure. But, if you killed the monster to get it's treasure, you also got the XP for that - and, everyone got to play, the "More engaging aspect" as well as greater incentive. Trying to trick or steal treasure was probably going to involve just the theif, just the talkiest player, or just the caster using just the right spells.

That being said, I wouldn’t describe 3E’s skill system as exhaustive.
What's a task it didn't cover?

But it was certainly an improvement over Non-Weapon Proficiencies, for sure, and the protection of the Thief/Rogue as the only skilled character. It was a step in the right direction.
Yes, the direction of making non-combat more engaging, so a more viable alternative to combat...
And I’m not blaming the introduction of a skill system for the increased focus on combat in 3E. It was more about the codification of everything, and challenge rating and XP budgets and all of that
Codification should help, so long as the systems are functional, but I can see how CR & EL could improve combat challenges as an option from the DMs point of view.
Of course, the solution to that would be to provide equally (or preferably, more) workable guidelines for non-combat.

And yes, there were more options for task based XP, but I found those in published modules to be nominal when compared to the XP gained through combat.
Still, a step forward, not back.

Especially since you could still get the mission based XP by slaughtering all who opposed you.
Just like you could get the treasure-based xp by killing the owners.

So, yeah, I think you have a solid idea: a game that makes combat the most rewarding aspect of play, both in terms of player engagement, story success, and character advancement, encourages "violence" in that game.
I just think old-school vs WotC era is a better example of a game getting /less/ combat centric, for those reasons.
3e added a viable system for resolving a wide range of out of combat tasks, instead of a narrow ate locked into class features, and XP for quest awards (if small relative to combat). 4e expanded on that with a codified system for non-combat challenges that engaged the whole party and carried the same XP awards as combat, 5e retained some of that in its exploration mode, and added a downtime mode.
 

Bedrockgames

Villager
Well, I wish I was that enlightened! As you can tell from my other threads* I enjoy violence as much as the next person.

It was more, "Why?" And specifically, "Why so much in the RPGs?"

The predicate was, as I mentioned, re-visiting B2, which not only allowed a particular strain of hobomurder that was common in the late 70s and early 80s ... it encouraged it. Even to a "realistic" extent that you wouldn't see in other modules. (...and this is the part where you have to exterminate the grieving kobold women and children ... and this is the part where you can decide to kill the mentally ill hermit for his stuff ...).

Which is to say, I was trying to understand why:

A. I can be bothered by this; yet...

B. Not be particularly bothered by the "generic" D&D setting (go to monster's home, see monster, kill monster, take monster's stuff, repeat until you get more powerful in order to kill more powerful monsters in their homes).

And I was also reflecting on the broader cultural tendencies, especially in America (United States) that have allowed from such easy acquiescence to depictions of violence.

It's odd, because I can remember parents being concerned in "Ye Olden Days" (70s and 80s) about what I consider truly bogus concerns (SATANIC PANIC!) but no one was ever like, "Hey, they are playing a game of invading people's houses and killing them and taking their stuff."

I don't have any answers here, by the way, and I am not suggesting that there is anything wrong or bad, I am just curious if anyone else has thought about this, and what they thought.

And a lot of the replies have been really good- from, "Yes, it really has bothered me because of X," to "What, that's crazy talk, it's just a game."







*For example, why John Wick 3 is the greatest movie of all time and deserves to sweep not only this year's Oscars, but should be retroactively awarded the Academy Award for all prior years.
I made that post because when I challenged the notion a few pages back, people took pains to explain the thread wasn't about eliminating violence from RPGs or eliminating a certain kind of violence from RPGs. If you are advocating for a shift in gaming culture when it comes to violence, let me know because I want to make sure I understand the thread's intent. And I think I am not 100% clear now after this clarification.

In terms of what you brought up. I think it is actually pretty undesirable to return to that 70s and 80s period of being concerned about this stuff (especially the emphasis on pablum and wholesome entertainment that reached an apex with 'the very special episode of X'). I remember those days. I mean my parents were very strict about violent content growing up. I was not even allowed to play with GI Joe. And they were concerned about it in movies, in RPGs, etc. However, eventually I realized, and so did they, that this is much too repressive an approach to entertainment. At the end of the day, you can discourage violence in RPGs, in movies, in books....but there is something in us that wants to see this and wants the catharsis it provides. I think with D&D it is the same. You can strip out the murderhobo stuff, but I think, like with any other form of repression, you will just see ugliness emerge elsewhere in other areas of behavior.
 

lowkey13

Exterminate all rational thought
I made that post because when I challenged the notion a few pages back, people took pains to explain the thread wasn't about eliminating violence from RPGs or eliminating a certain kind of violence from RPGs. If you are advocating for a shift in gaming culture when it comes to violence, let me know because I want to make sure I understand the thread's intent. And I think I am not 100% clear now after this clarification.
?????

I don't have any answers here, by the way, and I am not suggesting that there is anything wrong or bad, I am just curious if anyone else has thought about this, and what they thought.
Um ... maybe it's because I use a lot of words and stuff, or maybe it's because you don't read the footnotes and/or have not seen the greatest movie of all time, but I don't think I could have been more clear.

Sometimes, I just like to see what people are thinking. In fact, that's almost all the times I start a thread. I'm more curious as to what other people think, because I know what I think.
 

hawkeyefan

Explorer
Especially the magic items, sure. But, if you killed the monster to get it's treasure, you also got the XP for that - and, everyone got to play, the "More engaging aspect" as well as greater incentive. Trying to trick or steal treasure was probably going to involve just the theif, just the talkiest player, or just the caster using just the right spells.

What's a task it didn't cover?

Yes, the direction of making non-combat more engaging, so a more viable alternative to combat...
Each system has pros and cons in relation to combat versus non-combat solutions; I didn’t mean to sound like I was advocating one system over another in that way. 1E Made combat costly and potentially very dangerous, so clever play was often expected in order to avoid combat. The drawback here is that the game mechanics for non-combat options were minimal at best.

My criticism of 3E’s skill system is not so much that it was limited in what actions it covered, but more that its resolution of those tasks was pretty bland compared to combat. Most actions involved a DC and a skill check and little more.

This is not to say that this basic system couldn’t be built upon or tweaked to produce something a bit more meaningful, just that as presented, the system was pretty basoc, and only seemed like such an improvement because of what had been in place before.


Codification should help, so long as the systems are functional, but I can see how CR & EL could improve combat challenges as an option from the DMs point of view.
Of course, the solution to that would be to provide equally (or preferably, more) workable guidelines for non-combat.
My experience is that 3E tried for a very scientific approach to crafting encounters and adventures. There was a budget calculated in order to keep things within the expected range and that’s what it did. And players became very aware of that. After playing 3E for a time, my players almost never hesitated to enter combat. I had to actively alter the system in order to make them think of combat as the last option. I find this to be true of 5E, as well, although it’s easier to adjust.

Still, a step forward, not back.
In the sense that now there were at least rules in place, yes absolutely!


Just like you could get the treasure-based xp by killing the owners.

So, yeah, I think you have a solid idea: a game that makes combat the most rewarding aspect of play, both in terms of player engagement, story success, and character advancement, encourages "violence" in that game.
I just think old-school vs WotC era is a better example of a game getting /less/ combat centric, for those reasons.
3e added a viable system for resolving a wide range of out of combat tasks, instead of a narrow ate locked into class features, and XP for quest awards (if small relative to combat). 4e expanded on that with a codified system for non-combat challenges that engaged the whole party and carried the same XP awards as combat, 5e retained some of that in its exploration mode, and added a downtime mode.
My experience with 4E is pretty minimal, but the Skill Challenge system seemed to be an attempt at what I’m describing. I think that games that make non-combat challenges more engaging will wind up seeing them come up more often...nothing surprising, really. If sneaking into a lair is as much fun at the table as killing the monster would be, and equally rewarding for the character....then it would happen more often. Especially when, as you say, everyone can be involved and not just the Thief.
 

Bedrockgames

Villager
?????



Um ... maybe it's because I use a lot of words and stuff, or maybe it's because you don't read the footnotes and/or have not seen the greatest movie of all time, but I don't think I could have been more clear.

Sometimes, I just like to see what people are thinking. In fact, that's almost all the times I start a thread. I'm more curious as to what other people think, because I know what I think.
I read it all and have seen the John Wick movies, but I just was confused by the wording of your post I think.
 

Bobble

Villager
So the reason that violence is so prevalent is due to genre and the roots of RPGing. But I think it can be changed pretty easily when needed. You just need to figure out your play priorities, and then adjust the XP/Advancement system to more closely match them. Find a system that serves what you want rather than a system that dictates how you play.
If one actually reads the earlies of the genre it was clear that XP was to be given for accomplishing the goal. Not necessarily killing anything. If one bested or overcame, by whatever means, the bad guys and saved the Princess XP was awarded. Whether out fought or out thought.
 

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