Almost forgot to share this, it was a rush, but I go through nine different level 1 characters for Dungeons and Dragons. I was hoping that I could knock them out fast, but it took a little bit, but I got them done. And I…
You’ve had a long running campaign. The players were really into the story. They’d spent a bunch of time planning on how to infiltrate this tower. You’d told them the wizard in it was too powerful to fight. Everything is going to plan… LEEEEEEROOOOOOOOOY JENKINS!…
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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We’re onto the last column of alignments, and we’re looking at those chaotic characters. I think, and on the Total Party Thrill podcast they talk about this, chaotic good should be the default position for most adventurers.
When you think about it, most adventurers don’t have the law in mind when they are doing good, and they don’t do good because they are altruistic. They are going to do it for fame and glory and hopefully some money along the way. And, that is pretty chaotic. They are also going to sometimes do what they think is right, sometimes that the law or a deity says is right, but they are going to do the good thing, but it just might not be in the expected way.
This also makes it easier on the DM, because I know that I can throw out a plot hook where someone is clearly bad, but I don’t know what you are going to do. That’s going to make it more fun for me as I don’t know what is going to happen. That randomness might bug some DM’s, but as they DM more, it makes it easier as you go along. It also keeps it feeling fresh, because the players working in a somewhat random way means that I can’t fully plan for it, and I can’t fully predict what they are going to do.
And, again, I think that this idea of rewards and treasure, those are things that as the players we think about, but also, that then trickles into our characters as we divide loot and try and mechanically make our character as awesome as possible. Now, that might not seem like it’s good, but in your normal campaign, the bad guy is probably very bad, and the good guys are probably pretty good. The characters that we’re playing are those in the middle who are good, but aren’t just good for good sake and are willing to get their hands dirty taking down those who are bad.
As for what class works well, I think that the answer is any. Cleric and Paladin might lean more lawful, but there is no reason that they can’t be chaotic. The ones that jump out the most that do easily slide into this category are going to be your sorcerer, warlock, and rogue. All of them, seem to have class features that would make them more chaotic. But, like I said, this should be the default for adventurers in a good game, and you should explain your way off of it in your back story, if you want to be a different alignment. It is very similar for an evil game with the Lawful Evil alignment should be the default for an adventurer there.
I think that we all have a decent idea of what good is now, from the previous two articles, and the chaotic piece means that your motivations aren’t law or altruism. I don’t know that I have a ton more to say about this. So short article today.
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We’re starting in the top corner of the alignment matrix. Just a quick reminder, the alignment matrix goes from Lawful to Chaotic on the horizontal axis and Good to Evil on the vertical axis. So let’s talk about what a lawful good PC is like, and why you might be out adventuring as one of them.
If you’re lawful that means that there are some set of rules that you follow and you want to follow them closely or perfectly if you can. In the case of a lawful good character, you’re going to most likely be following the rules of someone or something that is known to be good as well. This can be the laws of the land, but it’s more often the rules of a good deity, since humans, elves, dwarves, etc are all fallible creatures. That means that sometimes you might not even follow the laws of the land if you believe that they aren’t just.
The good piece just means that you’re not going to do something that’s evil. It seems pretty simple that way. But to go along with that, it doesn’t mean that you don’t do anything. If there’s something that seems like it’s for a righteous and just cause, you’re going to do that or at least be inclined towards that quest line. Good also means that you might not want to be a party to when the other PC’s from the adventuring party are doing something questionable. We’ll touch on some of that earlier, but a lawful good character might see how something can be useful, but wouldn’t ever take part in it themselves because they won’t do something that isn’t either ideally good and lawful. An example of this might be torturing a goblin to figure out what the giant goblin horde is up to. While it might be a goo thing because it would save a lot of people and the goblin is an evil creature, and even the rules of the land might allow for torture, it’s possible and probable that a good character wouldn’t want to be party to that. But they might also understand why other player characters would be, and leave so that they can do what they need to.
Now, when playing a lawful good character there is a chance it could fall into what is called lawful stupid. This is most commonly a trait for paladin or clerics where players lean too heavily into the lawful and good tropes. It’s going to be the case where a paladin sees someone stealing something, and because stealing isn’t lawful or good, run them through with your sword. The king insults you, that isn’t good, run him through with your sword. It’s the simple reaction to everything that can be scene as not lawful, but in particular not good. If it’s not good, that means death. But that doesn’t seem all that lawful or good in and of itself. Killing someone for stealing because it’s evil is an extreme reaction, which really doesn’t keep you in the camp of good. Capturing them and taking them to the city guard, now that makes a lot more sense. Less violent example of something similar though is a lawful good character who refuses to go into an inn because they serve alcohol and drinking is a sin. Even though they just saw the bad guy run into there.
But beyond the reaction of violence for an insult, lawful stupid can also mean that a character is too trusting and naive. Just because you are good and lawful doesn’t mean that you think everyone else is going to be. This can be equally as harmful as it’ll cause strife in the party when the lawful good character just asks someone a question who is clearly hiding something but doesn’t disbelieve them. Especially if you’re dealing with the face of the party or a split party for some reason so that you’re going to be missing information that you would otherwise want to have readily available for the party.
So how do you avoid this as a characterization for your PC? I think it’s just adding in some dimension to your character. I talk in the first article of the series who your alignment isn’t how you only run your character. It’s a framework for developing a well rounded character and for not spending too long while making a decision. If you find it taking too long, just make that decision based off of the alignment for your character. I gave an example for the thieves stealing bread. But for the Kings insult maybe you don’t trust them more. For the Inn and you don’t approve of drinking, you don’t have to have your PC drink. Being suspicious of people isn’t anything that goes against lawful good either. It allows you to have a more developed character if you don’t just treat them purely as in the tropes.
But let’s talk about why a lawful good character would go adventuring.
I actually think that this one is pretty easy to come up with reasons for going out. You can go with the story where something really bad is going to happen, that will motivate a lawful good character to go out and stop it. The adventure might also be something that a good character gives to the player characters. But if you’re playing a heroic campaign, it’s most likely that you’ll have quest givers that are good or that will want something good done. Now, it can be interesting as a DM to subvert that sometimes. Maybe you’re “good” quest giver has given out a quest that on the surface seems good, but is actually something the actually evil quest giver needs done to complete their plan. Or maybe the actual quest itself isn’t good when you get down into it. I will say, don’t do that all the time though, or your players will never trust you again, and yes, I mean players, not player characters.
So what classes work for lawful good?
The two people will think of right away are Paladin and Cleric. Both of them are tied to a deity of your choice, so it would be easy to pick lawful good ones and a lot of the deities are. But I think that there are some other interesting options, you can even play against type with something like a rogue. A rogue assassin who only kills evil people who are above the normal law, that makes a lot of sense for a lawful good character. Warlock is probably the trickiest as your patron almost has to be lawful good. Something like Hexblade might work. Final question for classes would be if a necromancer wizard would work, and I think that it could possibly. It is a little bit trickier, because you have the lawful good wanting to raise not good undead, I think most of them are evil, and that might be a conflict for you depending on how you play it. But there are necromancy options that aren’t just raising the dead which might work.
So, now that we’ve delved into this alignment. Would you want to play a character with a lawful good alignment? If you have, how have you avoided the lawful stupid trope?
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