PvP in D&D
I’m going to continue doing some articles hitting on lesser talked about things in Dungeons and Dragons. There’s a lot for building your character and campaign and I’ve talked a lot about them as well. There are less articles talking about things like death of a D&D character or, today, player versus player in Dungeons and Dragons.
Now, Player versus Player (PvP) is something that might never come up in your game of Dungeons and Dragons. There can be moments that make it worth it for the story to have some PvP, but that’s not that norm.
So, let’s start out with some reasons that you might have some PvP in your game?
A lot of the reasons that you might have PvP aren’t good reasons. The players out of game (or in game) might not like each other, so they might fight. This happens when you have an unbalanced party, when you have a chaotic evil wizard and a lawful good paladin, you might end up having PvP in the game. You can also run into it when you have a rogue or greedy character who is stealing from the players or is hording the good loot because, even though they can’t use it, they want to keep it because it’s pretty.
You might also get PvP, and this is a good reason, when there is a tournament. Maybe there is some sort of challenge that all the players enter into and in the end they have to face off against each other. This is something that works best when you have players who really want to show off their characters mechanical abilities for a session or two.
Finally, it might be a turn, to borrow a wrestling term. When someone turns, it means that they are going from being the good guy and helpful part of the party to possibly becoming the BBEG or some level of villain. This one is neither good or bad because it could be a really cool moment for the players if it’s done correctly and planned out. If it just comes out of nowhere and there’s no reason for it other than the player got bored, then that’s considerably less ideal.
How do you then deal with it these are some of the reasons.
If it is for a “bad” reason, I think you have to deal with it differently than you do with a “good” reason. With the some of the “bad” reasons, I’d start with an above table discussion. Take it out of the game and figure out how you can avoid conflict against two opposing characters for whatever reason that might. Odds are in those situations, one person is going to end up feeling like their character is being picked on in the game by the other character, and that can lead to issues outside of the game. But it is always possible that these players have been intentionally playing their characters in a way to build to that moment. If you don’t know as a DM, you should take that conversation out of the game for a moment before you sit back and watch them go at it.
If it is one of the “good” reasons, try and make it feel unique. If it’s a tournament, make it some reward that all the characters would want to win or need to win for their party so that they can continue going forward with their quest and the story. Or if it’s a turn, make that moment as rewarding as possible. Build to it slowly, pass a note to let the player know when it’s the right time, and then spring it on the other players. Hopefully it’ll be a shock and a good shock, and then let that combat happen. However, if you are doing this and you want that character to end up as the BBEG, give specific instructions when to run and get out of the combat, because up against a single character, the party is probably going to make quick work for them. Or give them something that will allow them to put up a better fight that the players don’t know about. I would also recommend, after that first encounter, you take over the BBEG, former player character, in any of the combats, and let the player roll up a new character.
For both of the good reasons for PvP, I would use them sparingly as if it draws out too much, you are likely going to lose the focus of some of your players at the table. When you are doing PvP with a group of people at the table larger than two, that means that you are going to have some players just sitting around and watching, and unless it’s compelling for the reason for it, or if it’s the whole party against the one character who has turned on them, So keep things moving, keep it interesting, and create some sort of countdown for the players so that it doesn’t end up being a long and drawn out slug fast, though, I doubt it will be. Also, try and avoid fatalities, unless it’s supposed to be a a situation where, going to the example of the character who turned, that they are not the BBEG, but have just been giving information to the BBEG. Then see how many of the party members they can take out before they are taken out.
Overall, I think that PvP in D&D is something that can work sparingly. And I think that’s something that needs to be done carefully. There are plenty of ways for it to go bad, particularly above table that you don’t want to create resentment at the table. You are going to have to get the buy-in from the players to make it really work. Like I’ve already said in the article, keep it moving as well, don’t let it drag out too long, because you might not have the whole party involved in it, and you don’t want them to be bored at the table.
Have you run into a situation where there was PvP at a table that you were a player at or that you were running the game? How did that work for you?
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