What Is It?
When you think about conflict, what sort of image does it conjure
in your head? Conflict can take on many different forms and plays
an important role in our lives. Without conflict we have no reason
for change or betterment. Conflict provides the means for us to evaluate
who and what we are and by working through these issues we grow.
Conflict can be something as simple as a differing of opinions
between your character and another, or it can be some long lasting
and intense deep hatred of another's character. Dealing with the
conflict in any case is something that takes practice and discipline.
If handled properly and from the right perspective, playing through
all degrees of conflict can be very rewarding and entertaining.
Something we hear a lot when players get into an argument is, "Let's
take it to the arena." This really isn't how someone in ancient
greece would deal with it. The arena is meant for entertainment
and sport, not for bar brawls and revenge. Sure, in Rome the arena
had a grislier function, but our's is fresh out of lions and Christians.
Try to resolve conflict without resorting to "my dad can beat
up your dad" tactics and you'll find you have a lot more fun.
How To Handle It
The first thing to remember, and this holds true in all aspects
of role-play, is that you need to constantly remind yourself that
people are role-playing with and reacting to your character... not
you, the player. This is a difficult thing for many people to wrap
their head around and it is when we forget this that role-play can
go too far or become unpleasant. Once you can accept that people
are in conflict with your character and not you then dealing with
the situation becomes easy. You as a player can now take part in
the exchange from a level of detachment that allows you to have
fun and continue to play out the fantasy.
The next thing to remember is that everyone in the game has their
own goals to achieve within the game. You need to be sure that the
people you are role-playing with are comfortable with the interaction
that is going on. A person who is playing the game as a place to
come and sit happily with friends and chat is likely not looking
for conflict. You need to be able to read the people you are playing
with, to judge whether or not they are willing participants in role-playing
conflict. If you are uncertain, sometimes a casual whisper confirming
that role-play is your goal can go a long way in making the experience
enjoyable for all.
Conflict is something that must be handled delicately. Before entering
into any situation with another character it is often wise to ask
oneself a series of questions. It may sound flaky but doing a quick
"Who, What, When, Where, How and Why" process goes a long
way toward avoiding real problems. Ask such questions as:
"Who am I entering into a conflict situation with and are
they a willing participant? Can they handle it?"
"What are my goals by participating in the encounter?"
or "What is the desired outcome of the situation?"
"Is it the right time for this conflict to take place?"
Timing can be everything.
"Is it the right place for this to take place?" A personal
situation between you and a loved one may not be best played out
in a crowded room.
"How is the conflict best handled? And preferably how can
it take place so that all parties walk away from the experience
with a positive feeling of the role-play."
"Is this scenario in character for my character? Why is
This latter one is the most important of all the questions. Too
often people create conflict for entirely the wrong reasons. They
do it out of boredom, or perhaps out of a need for attention...
or maybe they had a bad day and just want to ruin someone else's
fun. These are all very bad reasons to enter into conflict because
they are one-sided and do not lend themselves to interactive role-play.
Conflict for the sake of conflict is not entertainment, it is merely
annoying and tiresome.
This is an important question. You really need to know the person
you are dealing with before you attempt to engage in conflict. This
doesn't mean they need to be your best bud, or someone you've known
for months, but you do need to take what you do know about them
and adjust accordingly. Here are a few examples.
If the person you are dealing with is a fresh face, straight out
of the character manager, you're obviously very likely to be dealing
with someone who is lost and doesn't really know what they're doing.
You don't want to make it harder by attempting to engage this person
in conflict. Often a new player will give you plenty of chances
to do it, too, but this is usually because they don't know any better.
Teach them in whispers, don't just play dumb or poke fun at them
with sarcastic jibes... or find them a mentor.
If you know this person is notorious for getting hurt feelings
and/or making frequent use of chide and report verbs then you need
to be very careful. Let them know far in advance what you are planning
and even suggest how they can deal with it. Make sure it is something
they are comfortable with and that you reach a mutual conclusion
that you both can enjoy. Don't avoid conflict with them just because
of their tendencies, just approach it differently and maybe they'll
learn from you as well and grow from it.
If you know someone has had a situation in real life that might
make them more vulnerable or hurt by a certain situation, you are
best to avoid it. You don't want to start insulting someone's parents
who just attended their mother's funeral. Sure this is a game, and
you're insulting their character, but some things are just too big
to detach yourself from and you need to be aware of this and treat
it with tact.
This question is important just for the simple fact that you need
to know what the conflict is about. If there is no "what"
then you're likely just inventing conflict for the fun of it and
this is not a good thing. You need motivation, you need to let the
other people know your motivation and you need to decide what you
want to get out of the situation. Engaging in conflict with no clear
goal is a wasted effort.
This is another good time to know a little about your intended target.
If they are going through troubling times at work or at home then
they might not be in the mood for conflict in-game as well. A good
example of this from a GameMaster point of view would be when Kevin
Smith (the actor who played Ares) died. It would have been pretty
heartless of us to bring Ares in and have him get killed or otherwise
abused during an event right after that happened. You just need
to use common sense here.
You don't want to start a ruckus in the middle of a wedding or a
play being performed at the local theater. Be mindful of your surroundings
and try to have a little respect for your fellow players. Sure,
you might think the play stinks and would rather tackle your unsuspecting
friend out of his seat and proceed to pummel him in the aisle, but
others are enjoying the show so don't do it.
Also in open forums or other Out of Character events you want to
watch conflict, because then you are dealing with the player rather
than the character. Feelings can get hurt and insults are taken
a lot more personally in these venues since this is no longer the
game, but real life. This includes the Bulletin Boards as well.
Remember, there are people behind those letters on your screen and
they have lives and feelings just like you. Keep that in mind the
next time you feel like tearing into them.
As was mentioned before, if you have a lover's quarrel in the middle
of a crowded area you're going to have to expect people to butt
into your business. If you don't want someone else adding their
two dinars, then you're best to find somewhere with nobody else
there. It is the nature of people to want to get involved, and they
aren't just going to stand by and ignore a situation, whether or
not you've asked them to. In fact, they'd be more likely to get
involved just because you asked them to stay out of it, I know I
And when people do get involved, remember that while you might
be following these good rules of thumb, others in the area may not.
People are bound to get into a situation they are not fully aware
of, especially if they see a friend or someone they deem unable
to take care of themselves being violated. If this happens you need
to let them know the situation as soon as possible in whispers.
Invite them to play along, but make sure they know you are role-playing
so they don't take it personal. Whispering and communicating in
these situations are key.
This is something you want to decide with your partner in the conflict.
Decide in advance how this situation will be handled and resolved
and stick with it. Don't throw them a curve ball at the last minute,
because they're not going to be likely to want to role-play with
you again if you do. It's not necessary to sit there and plan these
things for days in advance, but at least huddle for a couple seconds
in whispers and get a game plan down before jumping into it.
This, even for the most seasoned of role-players, is one of the
hardest concepts to grasp and deal with consistently. Why does my
character want to do this? Remember, this is your character, not
you. If you have some aversion to people with tattoos in real life,
don't force that on your character as well. You need to decide what
your character's um... characteristics... are in advance and use
those consistently to resolve situations and make decisions for
Here's a good example that almost everyone either ignores or doesn't
take into consideration. You're sitting at the gate, minding your
own business, watching people come and go as you chat about who
likes who and who dumped who and who's wearing who's socks and...
ahem, any way... so you're sitting there and all the sudden POOF!
there's Discord. You, the player see this bit of text and think,
"Ugh, not her..." but your character probably should not.
This is ancient Greece, your character is living in fear of this
goddess. She's the embodiment of evil and she just APPEARED right
in front of them! They aren't going to smirk and say, "Hey
there chicken-lips." unless they have a death wish (yes, death
hurts even if it isn't permanent.. another faux pas everyone makes).
Sure it's fun to jest with her a bit, I mean it would be kind of
boring for the GM if everyone got up and ran away when Discord showed
up, but try and remember what your character is seeing and experiencing.
Would a tiny country girl just off the farm who has never lifted
a sword in her life see Discord and start insulting her? I wouldn't
think so. She'd be cowering, paralyzed in fear... maybe even in
shock at having never seen someone appear out of thin air like that.
A burly warrior might have the guts to fling the chicken jokes,
but some characters just shouldn't... whether or not you, the player,
One more small example. You're the proud owner of a pointy rock.
There are no other in-game items called a pointy rock in existence.
You drop this pointy rock and someone picks it up and refuses to
give it back. To your character it's just one of a thousand pointy
rocks they could pick up anywhere. To you, it's a unique item. Your
character wouldn't duel this person to the death for that pointy
rock unless they really have some sort of sentimental ties to it.
It might be hard to give up that unique item, but in this situation
your character really should not make a huge deal about it.
By asking the above questions and doing your best to communicate
with the player with whom you desire interaction in a touchy situation,
you will find that you will have a lot more fun in these situations
than you might otherwise. It's much more satisfying to get a whisper
from someone you just insulted congratulating you on your latest
witty retort than it is to get a chide and find yourself alienated
as a snert by the general populace. But most of all, have fun with
it and make sure everyone else is too.
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