PvP In A Table-Top RPG (Part 2)
As I discussed last time, when done well, having conflicts arise between player characters can be a great source of drama and excitement within a game. It makes the stakes very personal and lets players personify their characters in whole new ways. As a player and as a Gamemaster, I have seen just how amazing this sort of character/character interaction can be. Unfortunately, I have also seen just how badly it can go.
The worst example of how bad I have seen character disputes go, I have already talked about in my article on my worst experience at a game. Now, as it should be quite obvious, this is an extreme example. Things at a gaming table can go bad in less severe ways than having a knife drawn on you. In most cases, it amounts to little more than having someone’s feelings hurt, though I must point out that to have this happen in a game is a good way for people to lose interest in the hobby. If you aren’t having fun at a game, what’s the point in playing? This is where understanding the boundaries between a player and their character are incredibly important. As mentioned previously, I recommend all arguments between characters be done purely in-game aside from the occasional reminder of the fact that it is being held in game. When things get tense, it is okay to pause in order to say “Hey, this is just my character talking,” as this should reinforce the boundaries. It should not, however, be used as an excuse to try and hurt someone’s feelings. That’s when it goes beyond “its just your character talking” to “you’re just being an ass.”
Again, this is where the job of the Gamemaster as moderator comes into play. The Gamemaster should remain unbiased on character vs. character arguments, accepting that the party as a whole could go either way. It then becomes the Gamemaster’s job to make sure that things are staying in game and that none of the players are feeling either ganged up on or belittled. Its’ fine (sometimes) if their characters are having this done to them, but it is never okay for this to happen to a player. It is a game, after all, and games should be fun for everyone. Take it from someone who was bullied a lot as a kid, being picked on is never fun. Admittedly, it can be hard to remain unbiased, but that comes with the job of being a Gamemaster. Don’t support one side of a character vs. character argument, as that just gives apparent validation to the one you side with and will further alienate the other player from the game. Either support both sides evenly or stay out of the in-game argument altogether.
This is why I recommend being very careful in dealing with in-game player character vs. player character arguments. They can add a lot to a game, but they can also tear a gaming group apart. Be fair and handle with care. Don’t pick favorites. Remember, as Gamemasters, it is our chosen job to provide a fun and interesting gaming experience for our players. Above all, it’s always a good idea to remember that in the end, no matter how much we devote ourselves to it, it is just a game and games are meant to be fun for everyone.
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