Nature of Conflict on CoA
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Alot of players have asked me opinions on pvp and conflict, and how to handle it in v5. I made this post a couple months back in General, but reposting it here, for easier access at the urging of another dm.
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 few things that have made me want to log in less, 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.