Faction-Based Villain Policy Idea



  • I don't know if this has been done or not, but the idea came to me and I wanted to share it before it was lost on me:
    What if on games where characters can choose to play villains (Star Wars comes to mind), an option were made available to flag the character as a villain? What if doing so meant the player of the villain character consented going in that the intention of the character is to -provide- antagonistic roleplay against the protagonist characters? This would mean that the focus of the character is to give other players a PC to defeat/capture/kill, and when this happens the character freezes and any xp gained goes towards a new character, especially on games where new chars have to start fresh? Who knows? Maybe the character gets captured and later on there is a jailbreak, but pre-consent to eventually being DEFEATED and inserting new villains, or giving other villains the chance to villain, will keep cycling a game around.

    I remember my old SWRPG MU days and there were so many "villain" chars that would only really come out and RP or risk being taken down unless they felt going in that they had some unbeatable gambit(it seemed). Villain chars are the lifeblood of genres such as Star Wars, and even making a really dangerous TIE pilot, battleship commander, or KnightOfRen/Sith with the known intention of giving the heroes something to blow up would really spice up RP and support the game, IMO.

    Maybe give an extra alt slot JUST for villains? Ideas. Ideas.


  • Pitcrew

    Inigo Montoya


  • Politics

    @Ghost said in Faction-Based Villain Policy Idea:

    Maybe give an extra alt slot JUST for villains? Ideas. Ideas.

    On a game designed for clear antagonist lines, I think it's not a bad idea, especially where one may be limited to one or two alts.



  • @Ghost

    It depends on the kind of villain. If @Ganymede is some Super Secret Robo-Genius that is manipulating a bunch of people behind the scenes, having him wear a flag announcing his villainous may unravel that. Unless of course his role is more ST, than PC.

    Whereas if others are more In Your Face level villains, it makes perfect sense.

    Long Live Darth Jar-Jar.



  • I've probably said this a dozen times, a dozen ways on different threads, but I think the ultimate killer of faction based games is the "never-ending stalemate" factor. Protagonist players don't want to lose their chars to PC death. Antagonist players don't want to lose their chars to PC death. It becomes two opposing forces circling each other and...nothing really changes unless staff railroads something.

    So I guess the thought behind this idea is to find creative ways to get players to loosen their death grip on their characters, provide some hard-earned IC victories, and suspend the disbelief that the dual tommy-gun and katana wielding villain/hero survived another nuclear detonation, got away, and the player base will inevitably groan going into next time...knowing that there's only a 1% chance they'll be allowed to defeat the bad guy.


  • Politics

    @Ghost said in Faction-Based Villain Policy Idea:

    So I guess the thought behind this idea is to find creative ways to get players to loosen their death grip on their characters, provide some hard-earned IC victories, and suspend the disbelief that the dual tommy-gun and katana wielding villain/hero survived another nuclear detonation, got away, and the player base will inevitably groan going into next time...knowing that there's only a 1% chance they'll be allowed to defeat the bad guy.

    Based on whatever system, I would recommend double the advancement award for the party that fails relative to the award received for the party that prevails.


  • Admin

    @Ghost said in Faction-Based Villain Policy Idea:

    I've probably said this a dozen times, a dozen ways on different threads, but I think the ultimate killer of faction based games is the "never-ending stalemate" factor. Protagonist players don't want to lose their chars to PC death. Antagonist players don't want to lose their chars to PC death. It becomes two opposing forces circling each other and...nothing really changes unless staff railroads something.

    I think the problem there isn't in the stalemate, it's in the setup that necessitates any degree of winning to be exclusively marked by PC death.

    It's a poor way to do it because relatively few people actually want their characters to be permanently removed - and that's something games need to take under consideration in the design phase.

    Unless the MU* is specifically meant to be a PvP one there should be other paths to victory.


  • Coder

    Protagonists who are unwilling to risk character death, aren't fucking protagonists. They're couch warmers.



  • @Lithium

    That. 100%. I wish it were everywhere, from WoD/CoD and onwards. Fuck, I wish most authors would understand it a bit better.


  • Pitcrew

    The stagnation is resolved by scarcity of resources. They either continue to fight and the paradigm is kept dynamic, or both their sides will start failing by default, allowing a third faction to swoop in and start becoming aggressive and expand at the cost of the other two.

    It also helps if there is a player's guide of a sorts on the wiki to give incentives for people to lose their characters or accept their loss more gracefully. Maybe an understanding that no matter how good the RP is between you and Lyn the Twi'lek with curves that would drive a Corellian smuggler crazy, there are bigger things in the universe at stake, and who's to say your character's sacrifice will not give your side the oomph necessary to push back the enemy fleet?

    A second edit to say: I would also give villain players the chance to 're-imagine' their characters. The best villains are persistent threats that once thwarted, go into the background, but then come out with full force. Or even villains that are likeable/relatable because there are human elements to them. I'd refer to Brandin of Ygrath for an example of the second (Tigana) and maybe Morgoth/Sauron for the first.



  • While I think players should be willing to risk a character's death, I worry about the focus on it. Namely, this seems to come up all the time as the one risk out there and all scenarios boil down to life or death, which is not only grossly lacking in nuance, it's wearying and generally tiresome and just plain limited.

    I prefer to think of it this way: players should consider what their character is, or is not, willing to risk their life for. It's a good list to make in one's head when making a character, and generally, that list is going to evolve over the course of play.

    Players creating characters who are not willing to risk their life in every scenario seem to be frowned upon, or looked down upon, when frankly, that's realistic, sensible, and utterly reasonable.

    I know, for my real self, what hills I'm willing to die on, and I make a point of understanding these motivations and drives for my characters as well.

    I wouldn't charge into a hail of bullets over nothing, and I wouldn't play a character that would do so either.

    That's not cheaping out, nor is it IC or OOC cowardice; it's realistic and creates even more opportunites for story. Story over pointless/wasted glory, y'know?

    Fiction is full of protagonists who pick their battles. Everyone does this.

    Why, in this hobby, this is considered the equivalent of a party foul is simply beyond me. Have we really dumbed ourselves down that far? No offense intended on that; that binary is something I view to be an oversimplification to the point of gross reality distortion. Why, in this hobby, does every battle have to be joined? Why does every battle need to be a hill to die on? It's worth considering how everything somehow, ultimately, boils down to this these days in the hobby. It's so starkly devoid of nuance it's made a lot of games focused on this thinking lack any and all appeal.



  • I am such a whore for genre. So whenever I run a tabletop game IRL (using Star Wars as an example), I try to make my protagonists feel Star Warsy. So, for example, Star Wars has a small range of antagonist tropes:

    • Throwaway redshirt bad guys (queue Wilhelm scream!)
    • Mid-boss thugs that die over the course of a trilogy (queue Grievous, the Fetts, Jabba the HUTT, Darth Maul)
    • Power players that are defended by a gauntlet of either of the above, or defended by political power/intrigue (Dooku, Palpatine, Thrawn, Vader). These guys are the major boss fights who don't often risk themselves to get the job done. They have mid-bosses who can Wilhelm scream
    • Villains who are intetended to have turncoat/double agent storylines, who may or may not join the protagonist pool (Ventress, Former Sith, etc)

    So, in my head, the thing to remember is that DEFEAT doesn't equal char death, but it does equal defeat that your protagonist players can celebrate, which means (rough math here) for every 25+ redshirts defeated, eventually a midboss gets killed/captured, and after doing that enough a good assault on a big boss makes sense. People love a good campaign, right?

    And let's not stop at the Empire, for example. Antagonist/Villain could also be applied, as needed to Rebellion type characters because really, the Empire bad guys, they're just striving for ORDER right?

    Anyway, just still spit balling ideas, but my overall point is still "how do people who run games FAIRLY (and by fairly, I mean both realistically via story and fair to each warring faction) create an environment of warfare/competition and incentivize players to roleplay risk, without requiring it be some unrealistic Mary Sue waltz through a nuclear explosion with no ICC?"

    If players aren't willing to pony up on the death/capture/defeat, then the STs have to put the weight of this on NPCs, but the problem is that if your PCs are running the show (being mid-bosses and big bosses) and if neither side can ever score a victory against a PC, then the faction-based genre of MU fails.


  • Admin

    @surreality said in Faction-Based Villain Policy Idea:

    While I think players should be willing to risk a character's death, I worry about the focus on it. Namely, this seems to come up all the time as the one risk out there and all scenarios boil down to life or death, which is not only grossly lacking in nuance, it's wearying and generally tiresome and just plain limited.

    I think the willingness is overrated. While yes, some people have no issues (and in fact volunteer to get their characters killed for story purposes) and others are mature enough to deal with the fallout of a dead PC, it's not unreasonable for players to expect such a demise to hold some meaning.

    What I mean is, although PvP isn't that frequent on most games I've played, the usual way it happens is quite unsatisfactory; between the infamous telenukes - what is less anticlimactic than your character dying in a +job? - and randomly meeting a psychopath at a bar who throws a bunch of dice for no reason than that he's a psychopath until the PC's health boxes are full of damage, that's just not fun. And for something that can be as disruptive as character death the least we can expect is to make it at least somewhat entertaining for everyone involved, not just the psychopath's player.

    I think what's more worrisome than PvP is the pre-emptive expectation of it. Being so paranoid They Are Out To Get You that OOC communication breaks down, They are villainized in your head and people break down into camps opposing each other as players - once the antagonism crosses the IC/OOC line and begins to spread even in the absence of actions, only based on what is perceived or might happen, that's when things really get toxic.



  • It definitely is a tenuous balance isn't it? I've seen the IC stalemate at its worst from two different poles on SerenityMush. There was a "Space Pirate" faction that openly had the best weapons, armor, and highly xp-dumped chars, to the point that no one ever really challenged them unless they were also from some kind of UberOrg with questionably easy access to the best weapons and equipment. Then, at some point, Jade and Frost had a showdown, which on an OOC level was the equivalent of racing for pink stripes. Both players consented to PK and IIRC it was a 2-3 hour fight scene that ended with a really dramatic, really Tolkein-long death moment for Jade, who lost.

    I'm not a fan of PK-lust, because all too often it becomes a bullying system for god-level characters, and their players, to consolidate power (COUGH REACH COUGH). But I am a firm believer that, like the Walking Dead, if players have to arrange to be defeated or their characters die, then the suspension of disbelief breaks, the fourth wall crumbles, and the game is no longer about the characters and story, but about the players.

    So IMO, it doesn't have to mean death, but I think it is very important to have policies or systems in place, as well as mature rpers, so that someones wings can get clipped or tickets can be punched from time to time. Not necessarily death, but at the least, a Player vs. Player situation where someone is going to lose, and the rp AND dice are going to help decide it.



  • It's definitely necessary for players to have a mature attitude about this; I just don't personally see (sorry to single out your comment here, @Lithium) comments like "Protagonists who are unwilling to risk character death, aren't fucking protagonists. They're couch warmers." as being demonstrative of that.

    Most fictional protagonists I find compelling are not throwing themselves into a meat grinder at every possible opportunity. They have things they're willing to die for, and things they are not. They're picking battles. They are having actual cowardly moments and learning from them. Sometimes they realizing running for it and living to fight another day when they're properly prepared is the wiser course of action, or 'get the message out to our allies that the bad guys have more than we knew about' is more important than dying on that hill.

    We don't call the people willing to die for every possible cause protagonists, we call them crazy.

    This is an example of what I mean: 'Hide in the bushes, wait for the bad guys to pass, sneak into the building, get the info for our scouting mission' isn't something I see much of any more, no matter how realistic or sensible it is. Nope, it's 'kill all the bad guys and storm the building, then get the information'. Both are viable story mentalities. The latter is a first person shooter mentality.

    It's a concern that the hobby is veering sharply toward the latter, and losing viable stories in the process. I don't MUX to play a FPS game; bringing the FPS approach to MUX and 'one true way'-ing it turns MUX into something other than a story medium.

    This is very different from players being willing to let go of their characters -- which is necessary -- but the two are frequently conflated or confused and it's something I think is pretty reductive and ultimately damaging to the hobby. It isn't about 'I have to consent before you can kill me!' -- it's about the fact that countless compelling heroic characters do not treat themselves (or those around them on their side) as canon fodder out for the kill alone.


  • Pitcrew

    I guess my thinking is that if what you really want to do is /kill or destroy/ a PC and NPCs aren't enough for you or good enough for you, then honestly you too should have to risk your PC.


  • Admin

    @mietze I like limited consent systems for that alone; you can go after people but it specifically means you are vulnerable as well.

    In fact I've seen more PC deaths on at least partially consensual systems than non-consensual ones, possibly because the shock factor is limited; you have more control over your character's fate, and somehow that translates to being more willing to relinquish it.


  • Pitcrew

    Agreed, @Arkandel. What I have seen though too is some players really get their jollies less from story and more from destroying another player's PC. They think they are not having any impact unless they get to do that. Oddly most of those folks I've seen only want to do that if they're sure they won't risk the same. I think most antagonistic stories that I've seen sometimes end in PC death but people take their time and often avoid it by doing other terrible (and sometimes more rewarding) things to each other IC.

    When someone implies the only satisfying and impactful way for their PC to live in the mush is to hunt down and kill other pcs, then I kind of get red flags raised about that player, mostly for lack of creativity.

    I do think having rosters or villains for hunt and destroy might be a good idea if people need to kill things to stay engaged. Any St can grab/puppet one for awhile, use them in stories, the PC still gets their jollies. If people want to play antagonists for the same purpose then I think why not. I do usually hope tgat PC antagonists are more nuanced or can offer pcs a greater variety of growth/challenge than seek and destroy but I admit that may be totally appropriate in certain genres.


  • Coder

    @surreality You're missing my point and kind of making it at the same time.

    There are already so many people who WILL NOT participate in something if it risks the loss of character. Worse is when they will lose their character and then whine, bitch, moan, and throw such a tizzy it gets retconned or devalues the whole thing by default.

    The problem is they aren't not picking their battles, they're /choosing/ to fight in /every/ battle and /not/ accepting the consequences if they should lose their character or the ST's will run something that is uber violent, but lo and behold, nobody is ever at risk.

    I also am not saying that EVERY GAME should be a life or death situation, just that in some games, especially 'horror' games such as any version of WoD or Cthulhu or several other horror based games then 'Death' needs to have teeth. Conflict /needs/ to be scary because if it's not, then it loses all meaning and we get super hero Deux ex Machina type of stories that have little to no real reward because there was no risk. It's just: Let us bloat up some sheets, for no good reason at all.

    The reason WHY you see so many FPS mentality players now is because of the lack of character loss. This is why having character death /matter/ is so important.



  • @Lithium There's another answer, there, though, and it's the reality answer. It's the actual good fiction answer.

    When every struggle is life or death, that cheapens it considerably to the point of making it utterly meaningless.

    It should mean something when it happens. It should be dramatic, surprising -- and yes, scary.

    That typically and realistically and sanely means it should not be commonplace.


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