Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Do GMs let PCs kill other PCs?

This awesome cover comes from here.
Does this happen in your games?

Do your players have their PCs willingly kill other player PCs for any reason (and we're excluding Paranoia games here for obvious reasons)? And do you, as GM, step in and stop it?

In an old AD&D campaign I was in, almost every character was evil or chaotic neutral. I was one of two good alignment PCs. I was the neutral good elven fighter/thief who sometimes sided with the bloodthirsty lawful good paladin. We worked together, but sometimes some folks were cut out of the loop out of selfishness or sacrificed willingly.

Which is not the same as killing another PC directly.

No, that happened in Champions, of all RPGs. Players would have their 'superhero' PCs kill other 'superhero' PCs because the concept was stupid, or because the player was bragging, or because of sheer spite, or because of sheer idiocy. Here are some examples with names and concepts tweaked to protect the guilty and remorseful:
  • U.S. Secret Agent Alan Blackbird kills a new hero inspired by a Zulu warrior and a prophet (because the player doesn't like the hero's name and character concept). And so Shaka Jesus dies without having thrown a single punch, or even managing to turn the other cheek;
  • The player of the mutant alien soldier Ranger is so ticked off at the player of electrical superhero Tesla Ivanovich's constant belittling of his character, and gets treated to a headshot through the eyesocket in the middle of the game, killing him instantly;
  • Once again, Alan Blackbird kills a powerful fire based hero. This time, at the insistence of the player -- to show the other PCs just how tough his character is, he tells Alan Blackbird to shoot him in the chest. Alan Blackbird complies, but all Fire Laddie's defenses are based on activation rolls (there's a chance that the each of the defenses won't activate), and none of them activate. Fire Laddie dies, in game, to a sucking chest wound.
We always let these things lie, as the dice and the choices were considered sacrosanct. And the GMs in our group did too (though they would sometimes fudge if the heroes were acting particularly heroic when fighting villains).

In our defense, we were young and foolish and insecure and teenagers at the time.

How do you handle situations like this, if at all?

5 comments:

  1. I usually step in and explain what kind of consequences might be expected if such an action were taken and then ask the player if they still want to go through with killing the other PC.

    If the choice is made, the world that the player exists in reacts in an appropriate manner.

    For example, (in your case) I'd ask for the player's character sheet and add/replace the disadvantage Hunted: Place your favorite police force here 14-.

    Then, the PCs have to deal with the fact that their main opponents are now the good guys and that they may very well end up in jail with a bunch of super villains for aiding and abetting a murderer if they don't turn in their murdering friend.

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  2. Let me apologize in advance for the length.

    --

    My first major Champions game as a player was all but destroyed when one character tried to kill another...and accidentally killed a different one by mistake.

    In-Game Version:

    Strong Brick Guy hated Nimble Corsican Twin Swordfighter(s) Guy, in part because NCTS gave SBG crap because SBG constantly ingored all the team's meticulous planning and just went willy-nilly into EVERY fight.

    SBG finally snapped, grabbed one of the Twins, and tried to break said twin over his kneee. I, the Hydro-Man knockoff, intervened, blasting SBG in the face in attempts to distract him and get everyone to chill out.

    SBG pretended like it worked, but then proceeded to pick up NCTS' electrical stabby-sword and run the OTHER twin through while he wasn't looking--yes, a true backstab maneuver. My water guy stepped between the sword and the victim, thinking everything would be fine because of my high PD and ED scores...

    Except two problems.

    1) I took x2 STUN and BODY from electrical attacks. I was watery, so that made sense, but I was sure I could take the damage...
    2) ...except this was in the old 250-pts era, and I completely spaced on purchasing RESISTANT Defenses.

    Crazy strength + Pushed HKA + Linked Electrical No-Range RKA = me getting stabbed AND shocked to death, into the -50 BODY range.

    Dead. Dead. Dead.

    --

    Out-Of-Game Version:

    SBG's player was a showboating gloryhound, and one of those guys who made every session about his PC. (And he was an even WORSE GM, as his NPCs were the stars of the show.)

    NCTS' player was a decent guy who tried to be the voice of reason in almost every situation, but ended up coming across as strident and whining, even when he was in the right.

    TERRIBLE COMBO.

    --

    When all was said and done, all the players were just shellshocked by what happened, and we all went home. The GM was just as stunned as everybody, but he wasn't apologetic:

    "What else could I have done?" he said. "I can't stop players having their characters doing stupid or terrible things."

    He was utterly disappointed in how the game went, but stood by the dice. No GM fiat saved the day.

    (Except that it was a funnybook game, and it turned out my character had been previously replaced by my alt-earth clone. But that's not the point....)

    --

    Since that game over 20 years ago, I announce to ALL my superhero players that stuff like that isn't in genre. And I tell the story as a warning, to try to prevent anything similar.

    But if they did do it...? I'd probably have to let the dice lie, like my old GM did. But I'd be cranky.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Good advice, and interesting stories! It seems that there's a strong bias towards letting choices and consequences and dice rolls stand, but to warn -- if possible.

    I know the original Marvel Super-Heroes had in-game rules penalties for killing. So did Mayfair's DC Heroes. It's interesting that Champions didn't.

    ReplyDelete
  4. As long as it is in genre, I usually let it stand.

    In those supposedly superheroic examples, warrants, arrests and being hunted by superteams would soon follow such actions.

    But recently, in a Shadowrun campaign, one of the characters was killed by the others in a dispute over money, which is perfectly in genre.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I've never seen anything good come of inter-party fighting, and especially PC's killing other PCs. I've seen it happen many times, and almost without exception it created long term problems. The only exceptions would be in games where that behavior's part of the system- Paranoia offers a kind of safety valve, but even there I've seen people get upset.

    ReplyDelete

That's my side of things. Let me know what you think, my friend.

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