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Askatla

Conflict

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I'm working on an article regarding conflict. I know it's a tricky subject, especially when we're in a situation where we all want to play in a game that is shared and requires cooperation. We cannot play if we don't have people to play with -- but we also cannot have engaging roleplay without conflict. Conflict is what gives us the goals to work for, the people to gossip about, etc.

One thing that I'm addressing in it, but wanted to also call out specifically in a separate note, is negotiation.

People often get afraid that if they play an antagonistic character - a bitch like Cersei, as an example - they won't get roleplay. It's a very valid concern that people will conflate the player and the character - which is not at all accurate. That fear of conflict and no one wanting to play with them (or hurt someone's feelings) can make people less inclined to conflict roleplay. Please remember that if you have a goal you want to work towards, and/or you know you're playing an antagonistic type (or one who would be the subject of antagonism, like a bastard), go ahead and talk OOC, via pages or the OOC channel, with people to discuss the scene. It's totally okay to work out an end goal in advance.

Also remember give-and-take: don't always have your character win. We root for the underdogs and a victory is more savoury after it's been snatched from your grasp, so be willing to negotiate the failures that make for good story in order to earn your victory down the road.

An example:

Sarra Hill is a bastard daughter of House Lydden, and is in King's Landing to try to catch some kind of match and earn respect rather than distaste and slander. The player wants to have part of Sarra's story be overcoming adversity and earning respect slowly but steadily. In her first scene with new players, the player explains that she's totally okay with her character being badmouthed and won't be upset with the other characters treating Sarra badly - and encourages it! - especially if people will be open to helping out with a 'redemption' storyline down the road. Everyone is on board with it.

Another example:

To gain sympathy from a lady he's been admiring from afar, Squire Joss wants to take a fall in a tourney. He wants it to look serious, but not actually be that bad. In lieu of running code for the joust, Joss sends a private message to his opponent and asks if they can script their bout instead. His opponent agrees, and the two of them work out their poses so that Joss is thrown from his horse by solid blow, and Joss breaks his arm in the fall (which could have been much worse).

-Missandei-

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I agree with you that player characters can better the story and their own storyline by failing at times, heck even a character that is constantly failing can be a great character in my opinion. It makes it that much sweeter when the character actually does win at something. I think the main problem is that when players aren't experienced in roleplaying games they are stuck in video game mode. In video games if you lose a fight or fail at your quest, the storyline for you as the player can not continue, but in a roleplay game, the story continues win, fail, or even if you refuse to participate in a scene. Just my two cents.

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I think the issue is that people are afraid of conflict, even in RP. We're always told 'if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all'. While that works in RL, it's not especially compelling in this shared story we are writing.

Also, I think people don't want to hurt their characters! They spend so much time building up their characters, developing relationships, establishing position in the various heirarchies and so on that to enter into confict or hurt their character in some way (physically, socially, or emotionally) just doesn't feel right for a lot of people (or so I believe). This is why people are shocked and even sometimes offended when characters in books are hurt or die... the author spends time making us emotionally invested in a character and then does something horrible to them. GRRM is a good example, but of course I won't expand on that so as to avoid spoilers. Cabin in the Woods? Best movie ending ever. :)

I'm of the camp that RP doesn't have to be all happy and fun, because I RP to feel the emotions of my characters and explore things I don't normally get to experience. So when my character is sad, angry, wounded physically, feeling betrayed, or even (*gasp*) happy... this is all cathartic to me.

We shouldn't be afraid of our characters failing. I know we're all trying to play characters that are different than ourselves (this is a fantasy, of course), but not everyone can win all the time. Part of this collaborative storytelling we call RP is that someone has to win and someone has to lose... so someone has to be willing to help other people have fun by not succeeding once in a while.

That said, I wish there was a way to better reward players who further their own and other's plots/RP/story arcs by these sorts of losses. "XP", one might say in response. True, there is that, but a an XP or so is hardly worth the loss of real or perceived loss of status to some people. That is not a criticism of anyone's RP, I want to stress.

How do I think we can encourage people to be willing to fail? I don't have a good answer at this point. I guess we need to foster an RP culture of collaborative storytelling rather than the attitude GRRM has created for the setting: 'you win or you die'. That might be fine for our characters to belive, but as players we have to be willing to take work together to further our own characters' plots and storyarcs as well as everyone else's. It's a difficult thing to pull off and even harder to be willing to sacrifice for what seems to be no reward, but by doing so we make the game better. It is very easy for a game to become a cycle of new-player enthusiasm creating bursts of RP which then fades away because noone else is working with them, causing these players to leave for greener pastures. Of course, this game has a core of very good players who have been here for many years (obviously I am not one of them) who are in the game for the long haul and that mitigates the potential problem somewhat. Still, I think it will be healthier for the game if we all try to take the long view and tailor our RP to think about what's best for the game and for other players rather than only (or even mostly) about our own characters.

Easier said than done, I know. Still, I think we can.

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Well, I'm not one of the ones who has a problem hurting their characters or having bad things happen to them. In fact, I think I might have a problem letting good things happen. Poor Ammon. But I look forward to this article to figure out more ways to screw the poor guy over.

( That said, if anyone wants to let Ammon win at something, let me know on the game ! )

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Hey, Janden's had a fairly good run of things lately so the way I figure it, it's only a matter of time before something bad happens. Just need to get betrothed first, or something. ;)

Or maybe, losing the betrothal to Aurana and the Kingswood job was the bad thing and some of this is balancing it out for now!

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Yeah it really does need everyone involved be willing to take some hits for the sake of the RPs.

As for Luthor himself let me put it out there I will be glad to take on some conflict. For the first time in a long time L is without a position at court and if that's not enough he seems to be going down his father's path by focusing on his sellswords. So if there was ever a time to knock everyone's favorite bastard down a peg it's now, and personally I'd be happy for the RP that would generate.

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I could go through and quote all others who mentioned points similar to this, but I won't because I am a lazy sack of shit.

Rant on.

I hold the belief that roleplaying should never be about winning and losing. Yeah, it feels good to win a few jousts in a tourney or the tournament itself, but if it does not advance your story, what good does it do? None. Many times, roleplaying your characters failings can advance your story more than just roleplaying their successes. I believe many players fear creating antagonism, because they fear other characters not liking them. They see being not being everyone's friend as a loss. They see the negative rumors created about them as a loss. But, everyone assenting and agreeing is completely and utterly boring.

One suggestion I can give to create some subtle, but compelling conflict is reexamining what chivalry and honor mean to your character. Now, I am not asking you to start believing whole-scale slaughter is okay or changing your whole character concept, but GRRM in his create universe leaves a lot of interpretation of what honor means. Characters like the Hound think its a sham. Characters like Jaime justify their actions with what they believe is “right” while much what do seems or is actually dishonorable. Characters like Ned are honorable to a fault and it gets them trampled in court politics. Examine smaller questions too. Is it honorable to respect bastards? How dedicated to the faith do I need to be? Can executing prisoners ever be justified? Consider how your character concept would answer similar questions not clearly defined anywhere in GRRM's canon. He purposefully created a very gray world: it would be blasphemy to make it black and white.

When answering these questions, try to stray from answering how everyone else would answer, but how your character concept would answer. Undoubtedly, recurring themes will emerge. But, every character like every person should have a unique view on the world generated from their past experiences.

We all have different backstories and unique worldviews, so we are going to clash inevitably. When we do, conflict arises. When it does, do not be shy to act how your character would react due to fear of disdain or hatred. We should and ,I believe, already do encourage this.

We are telling a story through our play. In a good novel, the characters argue and fight with each other all along the course of the story. If everyone got along, it would not be a very good novel and we most likely would stop reading. No one wins in a novel. At the end of the story, the main character may achieve certain goals, but in almost all cases, those goals only come about after stepping on quite a few toes and creating swathes of conflict and antagonism. The character most always will fail along the way to reach that aforementioned goal. So, as we write our own stories, I believe it would be helpful to keep such thoughts in mind. Conflict drives story, it does not stifle it.

Rant Off.

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I do <3 Andred's answer. One thing we want to look at separately is character development: people often place quite a bit of their own behaviours and preferences onto characters and can sometimes feel as if an attack on the character is an attack on them; an attack on a belief is an attack on their belief. I used to do that waaay back when I started RP, and grew out of it - and now have an RP practice of building characters that include something I love, something I want to learn more about, and something I hate - just to make sure that it's not a clone of me by accident. It's been hard not having a multilingual linguist character! ;)

What was said earlier about fostering a communicative and collaborative culture of RP is critical. Our characters can certainly feel that it's a case of "You win or you die" -- but everyone should have a chance to work together and coordinate to get those wins so that there is a sense of give-and-take, and that sense of winning is all the greater for the losses. :)

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Something else has come to my attention through roleplay that I thought should be brought up here. We all do it from time to time. It is not bad, but it does not help with story driven conflict.

I am going to call it “mob conflict”. This conflict occurs when someone does something that disturbs the natural progression of things in scene. I will preclude anything extreme like waving about a sword or something else that would canonically elicit generalized disdain. For the sake of explanation (and my own amusement), I will use someone farting in a classroom for my example.

I will give a single scenario with two outcomes. One that is conducive to story, one that is not.

Johnny came to school today with a bad case of gas. Despite his valiant efforts, he was unable to hold it in. When he released that aforementioned gas, he hoped for it to be silent, but it was not. Rather, it was loud, very loud. The whole class heard. There is general eruption of “Ewwww” 's from all the children and a stern look from the teacher.

A ) Instead of confronting Johnny, they talk in whispers about how much of a doofus and a bozo he is. The snickers eventually die down and Johnny is ignored as a social pariah.

B ) A bigger kid in the class swaggers over to Johnny and pushes him down calling him a stinkwad. Feeling sorry for the kid, a girl comes to his aid defending him (all the while holding her nose as it still does stink).

Now, first off, scenario A is perfectly reasonable. No one did anything wrong. They just reacted. With “mob conflict” however, no one wishes to break the natural flow. They make insults only when others do. The insults are muttered and fleeting, nothing of real substance. Rather than becoming a part of the scene by messing up, Johnny's player becomes ostracized from the scene, because he broke the natural order.

What scenario B does that A does not is that players engage Johnny. Rather than just becoming an object of muttered ridicule, he engages in personal interactions with other PC's. These interactions are not confined to the vacuum of this single scene. Johnny may become more timid when the bully enters the room for now on. He and the sympathetic girl may become friends. He could even hold a grudge against possibly the worst teacher ever who does not interfere when he is pushed down. All this story has been caused by a little bit of gas!

However, it should be mentioned that Scenario B would not have worked if everyone gets up to push the farter. Some people obviously have to stay back to mutter in quiet whispers. What I am encouraging with Scenario B is more interaction. Rather than always reverting to quiet whispers in the crowd, do not be shy to stand up and do or say something that disrupts the natural progression of the scene. Do not be shy to interact and create memorable relations. Do not be shy to advance your story along with another's.

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