Drawing The Line At Character Conflict
People fight, it’s a fact of life. Sometimes, even made up people fight. We, as gamers, put so much work and effort into our characters, that sometimes arguments are bound to come up. These can be a lot of fun, and can create a great deal of characterization, as I have discussed before, but doing so can cause problems. How long can characters fight before the players start to feel the heat, after all?
Everyone is different of course, so there is no definitive answer to this question. The best you can do is play it by ear, and make sure that there is a steady line of dialogue between you and the player whose character yours is having difficulties with. Its important to let it be known that all conflicts going on are not between the two of you, but purely between your characters. Failing to keep this dialogue open can lead to unintended hostility between you. It can also lead to feeling like being bullied if one of the two players is the clear aggressor. If you are a Gamemaster, make sure to remind your players to do this if you see them. Games should be fun and relatively lighthearted, after all. There should be no place for bullying at a game table.
So what should these disputes between characters entail? Well, its best to leave in-character conflicts to verbal discourse. Why? Because if it comes down to a character vs. character battle, then you are letting luck and skill at character building rule over which is in “the right,” and this is not always fair. Not to sound cruel, but some players no know how to take every advantage out of a character generation system while other players are more spontaneous with t heir builds. Both are perfectly viable in terms of how fun they can be, but when it comes down to pure mechanics, one has a great advantage over the other. If players just want to test their character builds against each other, that is fine, but you should not let that dictate the outcome/resolution of legitimatize character conflicts. After all, pitting a character that is built to be a shrewd negotiator armed with nothing but a pocketknife against a virtual living tank armed to the teeth with assault rifles, grenade launchers, and more is a bit of an unfair contest.
So that means that the real question is why should you have your characters fight. Well, there are lots of answers to that one. Why does anyone fight? The only real exception to this is that the game is not solely about your character and the one you are fighting with. There are other players as well. Players that, likely, do not wish to have the entirety of their game session spent listening to your characters dispute ideals, morals, philosophy in warfare, your favorite chocolate bar, or whatever it is your characters are having a dispute over. Thus, I find that it is often best to handle most of this sort of character interaction outside of the game, over Facebook, over lunch, or just when the two of you hang out apart from your game. Sure, this means that you will likely lack Gamemaster moderation, but you should not require it for character dialogue.
Characters fight. It happens. Have fun with it, but do not let it dominate the game and take away from the fun of other players, or each other.
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