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Good mechanics for non-violent roleplay?

ArtonaArtona Member Posts: 1,073
This is a thing that I find particularly bothering. I think some people on this board would agree that violence is treated too lightly in many cRPGs. Some time ago, I had discussion about Corwin (with @Woolie_Wool, I think), where he pointed out, that from *her* point of view, Charname is crazed murderer, regardless of him alignment. I argued, that in Baldur's Gate world everyone is so prone to violence (hello, Marle), Charname is basically normal, perfectly adjusted member of society.
I believe the problem is that both of us have a point. Baldur's Gate usually doesn't allow to resolve conflicts in any other way. It's not *built* for that, as every character in a game is described from combat point of view - how many hit points they have, what are their saving throws, how hard they can hit, and so on.
It's not exclusive to BG, of course. In Mass Effect, our Shepard will be probably more murderous than Pablo Escobar. Hero of Neverwinter also does little else than killing. Dragon Age? The same. IWD don't even mention it. There is storytelling conflict, when game wants to be serious, to tackle on things like death, responsibility, morality, etc., but *forces* you to be Mr MurderMan. You can't have it both. You can't reduce murdering people to everydays chore, and then talk about ethics. I scoff a little everytime Baldur's Gate gives me possibility to accept someone's surrender. Oh, so I can not murder Tarlesh? Cool, I'll have 345 victims instead of 346!
Recently I started playing Planescape: Torment: EE, and there are indeed more options to talk your way out of trouble and avoid bloodshed, but it's based on very limited mechanics (from what I can observe; I did not finish the game and use P:T:EE as an example) - you have enough Wisdom, or Intelligence, or whatever, you get additional lines of dialogue you can click. That's it.
Meanwhile, Deus Ex: Human Revolution uses additional possibilites of conversations differently. It's based in cyberpunk world, and your character can have implant of sort, than analyzes *techno-bla-bla* of people you are talking to, to figure out what personality they have, and approach them accordingly. If they are Omegas, they can be easily threatened, but don't try that with Alphas. You can even release some pheromones to make them find you more convincing. Also, you can play stealthy and knock people out instead of killing them. During my first playthrough, it felt *heavy* when I decided for the first time that *this guy* has to die.

I'm not saying there is better writing in DE:HR than in P:T:EE, or that it's deeper, or better - but it has more interesting mechanics of non-violent problem conflict. And it's not what I see often in cRPGs. Even if you can be silver-tongue devil, you'll still just be clicking things in dialogue box. Meanwhile, combat will offer you countless possibilities: spells, feats, special attacks, potions, and other stuff. To put it differently: fighting Aec'Letec has much more replayability value than, let's say, convincing Marle not to attack you.
And this is my problem. I'd like to have a cRPG where I can be sneaky diplomat, but I'd like some exciting gameplay to that diplomacy. Something more than clicking high-Int option, like in Neverwinter.
So the question is: how do you thing you can make talking to people as exciting as fighting them? Have you played a game that explores some mechanical possibilites than negotiations, bargaining, threating offers? What "diplomacy gameplay" options you would like to see? :)



  • KamigoroshiKamigoroshi Member Posts: 5,816
    D&D's usual bluff/diplomacy/intimidation routines do indeed get old. Not just for good alignmented pacifist runs either, mind you. Something more unique would be welcome for a change.
    • For instance, I could certainly see casters using some of their mind affecting or illusion spells within dialogues to gain the upper hand at negotiations. Same for bards with their songs.
    • Or have rogues investigate the weaknesses of specific NPC's in order to blackmail them. Needless to say this would require actual investigation, not just picking an intimidation line from the dialogue window. Such non-violent methods for evil alignments really need to become a thing already.
    • Priests who actually appease/force the walking dead rather than spamming Turn Undead is another thing I'd like to see. Far too many games glorify the mindless destruction of the un-living after all. IWD2's Hotel Ghost quest was a read for sore eyes in that regard.
    • An alternative of battling outsiders, such as demons or celestials, would be to use True Naming mechanics. Both PST and HotU had this within a limited scope. A more fleshed out and improved implementation of that could assure non-violent methods when encountering such beings of the Planes.

  • ArtonaArtona Member Posts: 1,073
    Those are fine ideas, @Kamigoroshi. I like class-unique approach to that matter - battles goes differently if you are priest rather than mage, why would negotations be the same. I'd like to see someone convince NPC using their authority as a cleric, let's say, or paladin.
    Using True Names to extra-planar beings would be neat. Hell, I think every supernatural boss kind of creatures should get some distinct non-violent ways to solve conflicts. Remember Bilbo and Smaug? ;)
    Like liches, let's say. They are supposedly super-skilled mage who managed to transfrom. They shouldn't just charge into combat like mindless mooks from Bond movie.

  • Balrog99Balrog99 Member Posts: 6,305
    Better writing would allow more flexibility in the encounter. In the BG games, most of the enemies attack you with no recourse other than to kill them or run (if you can). It would be more realistic if not only were you not a homicidal maniac, but also most of your encounters weren't with homicidal maniacs either!

    That would be a very interesting game, but a Hell of a lot of writing would be involved. I suspect that's the main reason why it hasn't been done satisfactorily yet...

  • ThacoBellThacoBell Member Posts: 11,425
    It's not quite what you are looking for (being more of a jrpg hybrid than a crpg) but this is a major reason why I love Undertale. It harshly deconostructs the "protagonist is a mass murderer" trope in rpgs.

  • Yulaw9460Yulaw9460 Member Posts: 634
    edited November 2018

    Post edited by Yulaw9460 on
  • SquireSquire Member Posts: 512
    This is actually one of the things that's started to bother me more and more about these types of games (probably my age talking now ;) ) - how irrelevant life generally is (not just in RPGs but action movies and things like Star Trek (with the infamous "disposable redshirts") - if they don't have names then they're worthless), how quickly everybody resorts to violence, and how every fight must end in a death. No running, no yielding... even a mugging attempt gone wrong must result in the mugger's death, when in reality, most muggers would run as soon as the person drew a weapon.

    I can believe a bunch of bandits, suitably emboldened by numbers (and probably drink) will shoot first and ask questions later - same goes for a bunch of mercenaries who are being paid to "kill everyone who sets foot in this place!" or whatever - but surely if they start to lose the fight, they'll think "oh crap! I'm out of here! Screw Tazok!", or if they start to win, surely they're going to think "hmm, prisoners, probably worth money!"

    The reason, I think, is that the "murder method" is easiest to program: drop a bunch of monsters with the usual "attack until dead" script and you can instantly create a dungeon full of encounters. If each one has to be separately scripted to not attack on sight but make suitable demands, followed by an escalation of violence, as well as scripts that allow for possible de-escalation before, during, or after, combat, it'd be a hell of a job to write, and to be honest, it's something that only a small minority of players would enjoy.

    Anyway, ranting aside, I think the best way you'd get something like that is on a Neverwinter Nights 2 server I used to play on called Tales of Moonsea. It's an online persistent world type server, like WoW but with a smaller and more intimate player base, and with GMs who regularly engage with the players and give life to the NPCs. With servers like that, it's quite possible to react to players' decisions to attempt to subdue rather than kill, or demand a character yield, etc. I've been in situations where, when we were "killed", they were revived as prisoners in a kobold camp which we then had to escape from. I've seen PCs on trial for murder because they accidentally killed a random civilian with a spell. I've been in plenty of fights where we were able to take prisoners, and I've seen fights de-escalated. This is possible because there's somebody around to take control of a hostile NPC and make him act accordingly. This is an online game, though, rather than a single player game.

  • ArtonaArtona Member Posts: 1,073
    @Yulaw9460 - trust me, I agree with that. :) Thing is, the more violence there is, the less impact it has. Violence can be like punch in the gut - but when you have control over it. If it's the most basic way to affect the world, then it's as impactful as walking.
    This is, btw, one of the things I really appreciate in SoD - there are many occasions where you can decide how much blood you spill. It made big difference in my good and evil playthroughs. Other games - eh, not so much.

    @Balrog99 - yeah, true that. I wish they were putting more time in writing than in graphics, tho. Give me ugly game, but make every creature that attacks have reasons for aggression. Pretty please. ;)

    @ThacoBell - Undertale may be the best attempt at what I want I've seen, but it falls little too much on the other side of spectrum. Instead of punishing me for choosing violence, I'd like to be offered with other options to solve conflicts, that are more exciting than just choosing dialogue option.

    @Squire - I can only agree. :) And that Tales of Moonsea sound very interesting.

  • DreadKhanDreadKhan Member Posts: 3,859
    I think you'd get a real kick out of Thieves' World's d20 stuff. The game brutally punishes you for unneeded violence by making combat gritty and realistic; you can expect to get maimed if you get in a lot of fights, and infected wounds sre standard. Even a high level character is best off avoiding unnecessary fights vs low level mobs. 3.x/d20 are able to handle non-violent resolutions pretty easily, 2nd ed requires more ad hoc work. Imho, if fighting was more realistic, players would benefit from some subtlety.

    I hope to put some serious time into PST this winter, and look forward to it for just these reasons.

  • SquireSquire Member Posts: 512
    edited August 2017
    DreadKhan said:

    Imho, if fighting was more realistic, players would benefit from some subtlety.

    You're right. This is one reason I like the Warhammer FRP system most of all the ones I've played (1st and 2nd edition, not 3rd which is bloody awful). The combat system is quite nasty and gritty - characters (and NPCs) both have between 10-15 "wounds", which is kind of a HP buffer (this number never really changes - having more than about 15 is practically unheard of), and once your wounds are gone, you take damage to whichever location was hit. You could suffer long term, or even permanent, injuries if you take critical damage. Healing is also rare. It makes players think twice about whether they really want to get into this fight or not.

    That reminds me, availability of healing is another one, and this is the reason I hate most modern RPGs which insist on regenerating health mechanics, or allow instant free resting and full recovery of hitpoints... no effects of attrition, meaning you don't need to think beyond the current fight. No risk of lasting/permanent effects either... because who wants to deal with that when there are bigger, fancier, monsters to kill? :angry:

    Of course, in tabletop, whatever the system, it's down to the GM, as well as the players. If you have the kind of GM who likes to kill things, it doesn't matter what rules there are for diplomacy etc if he makes everything shoot first and talk later. Same goes for players who like to create a bloodbath. But if you have a GM and group of players who are of one mind, you can create plenty of options for de-escalating violence whatever system you're running. Some systems are better designed for it, but you could apply the same ideas to any system.

    eta: just to give you an idea, I'm running Traveller currently, and my "bad guys" always try to run if things start to look bad. I also allow them to take prisoners/bounties if they can convince somebody to surrender, and because the players run with it, it works. I've also ran the D&D5e play test, in which I've had the goblinoid tribes hating each other, giving the players plenty of options to turn their enemies against each other. :smiley:

  • FardragonFardragon Member Posts: 4,511
    Science fiction rpgs tend to be less focused on combat and killing for resolving conflict. In addition to Traveller, already mentioned, FASA Star Trek generally only had combat when the players fail to resolve the conflict peaceably. I don't know if you can still get it though. The Numenera PnP game I haven't played, but is supposed to be combat lite. Also Call of Cthulhu - if combat happens it's probably the players who die, not the monsters.

  • ThacoBellThacoBell Member Posts: 11,425
    West of Loathing has a multiple ways to resolve about 99% of all situations. Many many of which involve no combat. Its an rpg/adventure game hybrid so it is dependant on the right stats and having the right items. But its pretty interesting for what it is.

  • deltagodeltago Member Posts: 7,478
    You can also attempt a pacifist solo run in Baldur's Gate.

    You'd be surprised how many people and creatures you don't need to kill with a little stealth, pickpocket and lock picks to complete the game.

  • Balrog99Balrog99 Member Posts: 6,305
    deltago said:

    You can also attempt a pacifist solo run in Baldur's Gate.

    You'd be surprised how many people and creatures you don't need to kill with a little stealth, pickpocket and lock picks to complete the game.

    What if you don't want to play a thief? I guess you could do a Khalid and run from most encounters. Hmmm... A Bhaalspawn coward run? Might be interesting if you're up for the challenge!

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