Role of Conflict on CoA

  • Disclaimer: These are the opinions of DM Ponies. How much they represent the opinions of other dms, or even players of CoA is suspect. But I ask you read this post regardless, and consider its message. Offering feedback, and views of your own in return.

    Its often stated, that conflict is what drives stories on CoA. To a large extent this is true, but is often misunderstood.

    My most enjoyable characters have all been heavily embroiled in intrigues and conflicts with other player characters, and its been that interaction that has kept me logging in again, and again, even when DM plots had died, or grown stagnant.

    That said, there are fewer things that have made me want to log in, then characters intent on creating conflict, for conflicts sake. Who have played avatars to push conflict oriented goals IG, to facilitate the conflict (pvp) they desire.

    Conflict for conflicts sake is bad, because it overlooks a key element of the CoA experience. "The Human Element". Characters, with personalities, goals, desires and traits that exist outside the realm of "dm plots" or "server altering goals". Characters that pursue their own agendas, reacting realistically and naturally to the setting, and allowing conflict to spring up, naturally.

    Why then is this "Human Element" so important to the CoA experience in my opinion. To answer that, I need to return to the statement of it being conflict that drives stories. When I said that it is in large parts true, that conflict drives stories, but also misunderstood, what I meant was that conflict, is not a desirable end in and of itself. What is desirable, and what truly creates and drives compelling stories is uncertainty coupled with a healthy emotional attachment to the characters and plots involved. Conflicts role in this, is that conflict is a very effective way to create this state of uncertainty.

    When players are invested in a healthy way to characters. When they are more then empty avatars, then conflict creates a state that compels progression of the story, to resolve that state of uncertainty. But this requires both parties of the conflict to be respectful of this mindset. The pursuit of meaningful conflict and when warranted meaningful pvp.

    This is not to say that if you are playing a villain, and heroes oppose you, that you could not, or should not kill, or otherwise harm them if they don't leave you alone. I feel very strongly that to be a hero, there needs to be risk of serious consequences of aspiring for that mantle. I only ask, that in a situation like this, the villain, and heroes that rise up to oppose each other be more then empty avatars, with real goals beyond furthering conflict.

    A man that sold his soul to a devil to be able to strike out at a noble that killed his wife will almost certainly come into conflict with team "good", but the character was created with the intention of playing out a story, not stirring up conflict, or engaging in pvp.

    So, all said, what do I feel is the role of conflict on CoA?

    Its a tool, to facilitate meaningful stories. When used that way, it makes CoA really shine. Even when corpses, and ended player stories accompany it. When used to facilitate OOC desire for adrenaline rush, not so much. Even if no one dies.

  • I like the distinction made between "Conflict" and "PvP" here. The former is CoA's catnip and makes the server explode with player-generated activity. The latter has a chilling effect on the activities of players (not all - as IRC shows, there are some who relish the high-stakes PvP lifestyle).

    That is not to say characters should never die, or just endlessly engage in rivalries. It just means be more restrained if you play - by a significant margin - the more mechanically capable character. There is no prize for being the last one standing in CoA.

    As an example, these might be responses to capturing a Wyrmguard trying to hunt down your criminal. In increasing order of those which focus on generating Conflict rather than fulfilling PvP.

    • Killing the Wyrmguard to gain some respite and his loot.

    • Sacrificing him to your diety will send him off with a bang and net you some juicy notoriety as well.

    • Making a public announcement of your intentions before taking him down to the ruins in binds and pumping him full of bloodstones will generate public outrage and get an army down on your back. The Wyrmguard will get rescued, and if you're lucky you'll escape with your life.

    So why would anyone do the last option? Knowing your luck, you'll get captured as he's getting rescued. I can pretty much guarantee you that it won't last for long, though. You'll be sitting in your prison cell when Demogorgon will turn up, tell you you've got balls and blast you out and deck you with phat lewt and warlock powers, telling you to keep up the evil work.

    And then you play the guilt game with this Wyrmguard you forced to devour innocent souls. Goody priests who normally hate PvP get involved and plot redemption missions with him. You become Public Enemy #1 and they make a set of gallows especially for you.
    A DM won't even get involved until after you're captured and can easily handle logistics through the forums to make things work.

    The biggest reason for doing the former options is that at one point, that is what was promoted by DMs in the heady days of 55/55. Being smart got you places rather than being flamboyant. And it was fun, it was mentally stimulating, it got the heart racing, and it was choc full of betrayal and sudden death. It was something everyone could comprehend - be as exhibitionist as you want, but for your own sake, don't be caught out when the music stops.

    In today's player count and with the time and effort it takes to create a character - let alone what it takes to create one that is mechanically capable in a setting which places a horrendous degree of importance on loot and gear - this seems an outdated mode of thought. It is more important (and therefore, the new route rewarded by DMs) to pursue activities that don't start the stakes of the game at "duel to the death" but generate rivalries and hatch schemes to achieve objectives that are bigger than any one character involved: rather than a pitched battle between Tychean and Banite PCs, they can both attempt to garner greater support from the population through feats of derring-do that highlight their absolute devotion to their ideals. And then maybe, somewhere down the line, there will be a pitched battle outside the Lady's House as a Banite mob descends upon it, saluting the Lord of Darkness' chosen son and attempts to desecrate the temple house.

    But that won't happen if on Day Two, the Banites successfully catch the Tychean high cleric in the Haunted Halls and decapitate him.

  • Collaborative storytelling died years ago in lieu of constant DM team changes, the demonisation of PVP, perceived elitism, and an exodus of players be it for whatever reasons they may have had at the time. Now that a seemingly consistent team is in place and a former understudy of mine is here, making topics such as these and being the hero that CoA needs (but doesn't necessarily deserve imho), I can foresee these ideals coming back into the limelight. It's an idealistic mix of characterisation and the rush of PvP with stakes that transcend loot or gold; a skill that I felt a few players here absolutely nailed back in the day, like Lizardman here. In fact, a lot of the players who do this well are still kicking about somewhere, save for maybe Hinx, he fell short of expectations placed upon him at a young age under the pressure of his alcoholic friend, Tom. Sorry bud.

    The part on healthy attachment is highlighted for a reason here. Those who are familiar with my teachings will catch on to this pretty quick as Savn did here, he was after-all, my finest pupil. I digress, healthy attachment brings out the very best in players. It is a form of care given to your particular avatar that motivates you to characterise the emotive qualities of your character to a point where they are believable, they are clearly crafted, and are made for the CoA setting with the Human Element in mind. However, they are not so overly attached as to constantly resist the consequences of their actions which may inevitably lead to their creations death. It may seem pessimistic but the mind set of playing the game with the idea that your character will eventually die allows you the freedom to play your character to his/her limits. This is, what I call in my scriptures, the Equilibrium.

    Players accepting the consequences of the actions of their beloved characters is key here, don't let the possibility of death detract you from enjoying a good story but don't let the idea that a good story has to last months upon months poison you with the idea that every death has to have some sort of symbolic speech or hour long DM quest attached to it either. No ones going to give a shit when you're pushing 40 something and your only accomplishment is being the most feared Hero/Villain in a shitty multi-player game that died decades before.

  • Much love for all the above posts.
    I'd like to add, as someone who plays very-longterm characters, and rarely initiates mechanical PvP myself (as opposed to conflict PvP) it may be thought that myself and people with similar habits get overly-attached and will complain/bitch/moan if they are killed in PvP. (As differentiated from random griefing).

    That's not necessarily the case (I can only speak for myself). I -KNOW- I'm gonna lose that eventual PvP, (unless I stick close to powerful friends) cause I suck at it. I still try and generate the conflict, because, characterlife + conflict -> excitement.

    If I'm evil, What goes through my head is usually not "I hope I don't die due to this", but rather "Why the f* have they not come after me yet? "
    Just an example of how those who play loooong characters doesn't necessarily mean they expect they wont die.

  • I myself am very new to the PvP thing. Mechanically I am not even in games class.
    There is no doubt in my mind that if I don't maintain a carefull watch on Artio's back she is going to be found in a ditch somewhere. probably with dark circle stamped on her forehead and an Eldreth Veluuthra
    arrow sticking out of the center of that stamp. Thing is, I really did not create Artio with this
    level of conflict in mind. Certainly never expected her to wind up where she is. But it has been the conflict
    that has shaped Artio, from the very beginning. So much happened in game to her, because of her decisions if she did NOT change, it would have not felt real. Heh, Artio was an App char who's App got turned down, but I decided to bring her in any way with out any changes to her stated ideals/goals, just no perks from the App. It is possible that the turn down was the best thing that could have happened to Artio as a PC. It allowed her to grow in ways I could not have predicted.

    I gotta say Im not too fond of the PvP. It is the conflict that keeps me coming back though.

  • BG hits it on the hammer as usual especially with "No ones going to give a shit when you're pushing 40 something and your only accomplishment is being the most feared Hero/Villain in a shitty multi-player game that died decades before."

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