PvP and/or CvC? Intraparty Conflict

Although Player versus Player (PvP) seems to be the accepted term among a large proportion of gamers for conflict within the party, the broad use of this term can cause enough confusion that discussion of the outcomes of intraparty conflict can become unproductive. This entry chooses to focus on two types of intraparty conflict: Player versus Player and Character versus Character.

  • PvP conflict is here defined as two or more players at the table being in actual conflict with one another for in-game or out-of-game reasons. This is a personal issue, with real-world emotions, for the purpose of resolving an interpersonal problem.
  • CvC conflict is here defined as two or more characters in the game being in conflict with one another for in-game and in-character reasons. This is an aspect of the story, with roleplayed emotions, for the purpose of drama and entertainment.

Spotting it in the Wild

Not all GMs and groups know how to discern instances of PvP conflict vs CvC conflict before they erupt. Usually we know our groups well enough to prevent incompatible gamers from being in a game likely to set them at each others’ throats, but not everybody can always be in tune with everyone at the table to forestall personal disagreements or divert the insertion of time and scene stealing “friction” between two characters which unchecked would run at the expense of the story and its players.

It is generally considered wise to prohibit PvP in gaming much as it is wise to make peace between warring friends in daily living. When we do this without regard to the shades of meaning related here, we can unintentionally cause the prohibition to extend to the legitimate and entertaining possibility of two or more characters displaying friction or personality differences during the natural course of the game.  Jettisoning real and disruptive interpersonal conflict is a no-brainer. Who needs that? Accidentally or intentionally standing in the way of character interactions, however, strikes me as a potential loss.

People are People

I have heard it argued that providing everyone at the table is mature, that player versus player disagreement is not a problem and can even be incredibly entertaining. Counter-arguments make mention of this sort of thing requiring a group made up of a certain of person, well-used to more aggressive personal interactions among equals. It strikes me that even among the very thick-skinned who love to tease and torment each other with impunity for the health, improvement, and enjoyment of the ‘pack’ there are lines which are not be crossed. Experience tells me that these lines often get crossed by accident, and sometimes get crossed intentionally when blood starts to boil for real. Play fights sometimes wind up with real punches thrown.

We can’t successfully stay on our best behavior all the time. Sometimes things bleed across the lines of fiction we are playing with and we drag a bad day at work into a scene in the game, or we take personal offense at an in-character action from across the table.

Do you enjoy competitive, aggressive and/or challenging banter with the people you game with? At the end of the game do people walk away from the table cheerfully vowing vengeance for something that happened in-game – actually mad, but in-control and partially appreciating the balls of their victimizer? If so, what does it add for you?  If not, what do you do when this sort of aggression appears at the table?

Characters are Characters

Not all players define a line between what they feel and what their character feels. Some prefer to run avatars through the game world while others prefer to explore a different personality at the same time they are exploring the game world. Some fall somewhere in between these two extremes.

When two characters should, for purely in-character reasons, enter into some sort of conflict, is this something which needs to be avoided? Is it something which should be encouraged?

Obviously, in a group running avatars of themselves, CvC has the possibility of being PvP in disguise, or erupting into open and actual unpleasantness. Likewise, even in a group with many layers of fiction between their own emotions and their characters’ emotions, the concept of bleed can muddy these waters and lead to unintended friction. The translation of strong emotion in the player to action in the character, or resonance in the player with the perceived experience the character would be having were they real may have some intense and unexpected results which go unnoticed at first, or at all. It’s all just a game right?

Do you enjoy roleplaying in emotionally and/or idealistically challenging environments? At the end of the game is everyone able to shuffle off the perspective of the character and depart unchanged and unaffected? If so, how do you maintain focus on the character as a person in play but still retain distance enough to leave it at the table? If not, what do you do when these scenes arise naturally in play?

It’s out there…

Try as some might, conflict cannot really be escaped lest the resulting peace kill us all with its boring placidity. Something is always out to get us, perhaps just to keep us from such a fate. Why does the universe hate us all? If it didn’t we’d all be flaked out on the universe’s couch, sighing. From that perspective it is a little hard to blame the universe, even though things like earthquakes really suck.

Sometimes we rise to the challenge, and sometimes we don’t. How do you deal with intraparty conflict in your games? How do you manage it before, during, and after it appears?

Inquiring minds want to know~

  • Pvp (bxblackrazor.blogspot.com)
Comments
6 Responses to “PvP and/or CvC? Intraparty Conflict”
  1. Tim says:

    I guess I was usually lucky with the groups I played with. I hung around with artists, writers and actors who could divorce themselves personally from their character and immerse themselves in this alter ego persona they have chosen. Their characters could behave in a certain way and everyone afterwards would talk about how they could expand upon their in game personalities in the next session. It never spilled over into the outside world and the outside “real” world never encroached.

  2. BF Wolfe says:

    You’ve brought back a wonderful memory of an D&D game back in Halifax. We often hid the fact that a new character was a PC for the initial scene to get a more realistic introduction (“Hey, this stranger has a nice smile. Lets invite him into our inner circle!”). I was introducing a ‘wild elf’ and challenged the party on a mountain pass. In the wild elf language, of course. Tom, perfectly in character, threw him off the cliff without a second thought with words ‘good enough for his epitaph!’. It was a running (falling?) gag for sometime after that.
    More smiles come to mind when you used to ‘introduce’ different groups in the same story.
    Oddly enough most player conflict and frustration seems to have come from game mechanics, while in character conflict has been accepted for just that. Like Tim’s comments above then, just lucky with our group of players.

    • Runeslinger says:

      Ah, Tom~

      There were more than a few…explosive introductions when I “introduced” groups in ‘The Lie in Belief’ Chronicle, yes, indeed. Lots of smiles, and one or two rueful grins.

      I can remember times when players got on each others nerves, but as far as intraparty conflict goes, I am hard pressed to find examples in my gaming past where it was anything more than a part of the tale.

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