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Forbidden tropes that "players will refuse to play"?


Spence
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So, I have been pondering a few recurring points I keep reading on the boards.   

 

While there are many variations they all boil down to:

 

1) Players completely dislike and will not play in a game where Player Characters are captured.

 

2) Players completely dislike and will not play in a game where enemies and villains return after the players thought they were dead.

 

3) Players completely dislike and will not play in a game where captured villains escape or get released from prison.

 

4) Players completely dislike and will not play in a game where the villain will threaten innocents with death or dismemberment to force the PC to allow them to escape or capture the PC’s.

 

5) Players completely dislike and will not play in a game where an NPC friend/subordinate will turn out to be a betrayer or enemy.

 

Now in many cases I can see or understand the view point from people who came to RPG’s from video/computer games or the D&D/Pathfinder type of game.   Most RPG’s do not allow for combat that does not kill.  Many have “nonlethal combat” crudely pasted on top of the existing system, but not integral to it.  Hero System is one that does.  In fact, Hero is one of the only systems I know that has a unified system that handles physical, mental and magical abilities in it core system.  Most other “universal” systems address things by adding additional books. 

 

But enough rambling, here are my thoughts on the five items.  I am not wanting to convince anyone of anything.  Instead, I would really like to hear others thought.  For, against or other. 

 

So, I’ll begin.

 

1) Players completely dislike and will not play in a game where Player Characters are captured.

 

I don’t understand this one. Almost all of the action adventure books and even movies have this as a central trope.  How can a PC make a daring escape if no one is ever captured?  How can the players ever get to make the daring rescue?  For sword swingers (what I call D&D, PF etc.), capture has to be shoe horned in because those systems really do not have integral options for being knocked out vice killed.  Hero has this as part of the core mechanics.  In fact, for supers games I have always played with all the players having stables of characters.  You can only play one PC at a time, but you will always have another PC to play if one of your PC’s is captured or hospitalized for a while.  I thought that this was “normal” for super’s RPGs.

 

2) Players completely dislike and will not play in a game where enemies and villains return after the players thought they were dead.

 

Again, this is a common.  A very common trope in the genre.  Doc Savage, the Spyder from pulp books.  Comics had this as well.  Literature and movies also have these.  I love to used this is an ongoing campaign.

 

3) Players completely dislike and will not play in a game where captured villains escape or get released from prison.

 

Again, why hamstring the story.  The idea of a powerful enemy escaping is pretty much a core part of crime-based stories.  The crook gets off on a technicality and the Heroes/Police know he is evil but cannot prove it.  This is especially a part of more gritty street level campaigns with Drug Lords and such. 

 

4) Players completely dislike and will not play in a game where the villain will threaten innocents with death or dismemberment to force the PC to allow them to escape or capture the PC’s.

 

I meet this with a Huh?  Have they read a comic?  Have they watched a crime drama?  This is a normal ploy.  Plus, it adds to the intensity of the chase and make the PC’s plan for the next time.  Just how do we capture the Blastmaster when he plants bombs as a diversion to enable him to escape?

 

5) Players completely dislike and will not play in a game where an NPC friend/subordinate will turn out to be a betrayer or enemy.

 

I don’t use this one often, but it is an awesome way to insert drama and danger.  Most of the times I have used this is with “mystery disadvantages”.  A Mystery Disadvantage is when a player decides they will take a disadvantage such as Hunted but do not want to define it.  They would rather be surprised like some in some stories.  My usual method is to hold the points until something happens, then I use the points.  After a super-battle where the team defeated the villains but there had been civilian deaths, I used 10 points of Mystery Hunted to make two 5-point Hunted’s which were competent normal NPC’s that blames the Hero for the death of their loved ones and plotted revenge.  One was a reporter that gave the players heck and the other got themselves hired as staff at the team’s headquarters and fed intelligence to villains.  The revelation of the spy was just awesome!  We never got to the point where the reporter was discovered.  

 

So, what are your thoughts?

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1. Being captured: If you are going to have your PCs get captured, make sure they are have a chance to escape. The players won't like it if they can't find a way out; feeling helpless is not fun. That happened to me when my group was captured. We weren't allowed to escape, and I tried to at least get information and got no straight answers. That left me extremely frustrated with the game.

 

2. I don't get this one either. If the PCs can't find the body, there's a chance the villain isn't actually dead. If they do find the body, a clone may still be running around.

 

3. This one makes for good drama. Escaped villains have a vendetta against the PCs. However, some people don't like recurring villains.

 

4. Villains should act like villains. The players should expect this sort of behavior from their foes.

 

5. I have to admit this is a great plot point for the GM but horrible for the player. I once did this to a player, and he was really shocked and angry in real life. This was just at the start of the campaign. Can you imagine what his reaction might have been if trust had been broken after several sessions of building that trust?

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  Here comes a bold thought....Maybe players should try running something once in a while!
 

   I’m not saying that players should have no say in the games they play in, or opinions about what has gone by.  But much like having a group of friends that you make dinner for every week they will be much more appreciative if they have to do the cooking sometimes.
Whether It’s an episode in the same game or something new of their own, nothing shows players the difficulties of running a “tropeless” game better than trying to do it themselves.

 

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1 hour ago, Spence said:

So, I have been pondering a few recurring points I keep reading on the boards.   

 

While there are many variations they all boil down to:

 

1) Players completely dislike and will not play in a game where Player Characters are captured.

 

2) Players completely dislike and will not play in a game where enemies and villains return after the players thought they were dead.

 

3) Players completely dislike and will not play in a game where captured villains escape or get released from prison.

 

4) Players completely dislike and will not play in a game where the villain will threaten innocents with death or dismemberment to force the PC to allow them to escape or capture the PC’s.

 

5) Players completely dislike and will not play in a game where an NPC friend/subordinate will turn out to be a betrayer or enemy.

 

 

 

The first thirteen years of my role-playing experience took place primarily in one gaming group, under--with rare, short-lived exceptions--one GM. Said GM was a huge fun of pulp fiction (SF, fantasy, all of it). Every player had several characters to choose from, and we mixed and matched them from one adventure to the next.

 

As such, getting captured and escaping were staple plot elements. As were recurring villains. And most of the time we went along with it. But not always.

 

Occasionally, one or more of the players would decide, "not this time." Death before capture. And we would follow through, doing our damnedest to win, or die in the attempt. We didn't always succeed--we weren't playing Hero System, it was homebrew system, but being rendered unconscious and not killed was always possible. So sometimes we all got beaten down and woke up in a dungeon. But usually the GM would see the rebellion brewing and back off on the taking captives things for a bit.

 

Ditto for recurring villains. I've always disliked this more than being captured in a pulp-style game. On one notable occasion, a recurring villain came to the PCs to ask for aid in a bigger fight against a much worse villain. Thing is, I didn't believe it. My character didn't believe it. And I refused to go along, to the extent that the other PCs concocted an excuse to get my PC out of the room while they negotiated with the villain. In response, I blew a hole in the wall with a grenade and went in to do my best to murder the NPC villain, and nearly killed another PC in the process. I failed. I also made the player of the nearly-murdered PC (the GM's then-girlfriend and late wife) very angry (she was very attached to said PC), and the GM had to talk her down out-of-game from hiring an NPC assassin to kill my character. (Those two PCs never adventured together again after that.)

 

On another occasion, my character was killed and resurrected as a zombie by the Big Bad of a particular adventure. (To be fair, the GM knew--and I knew--that my character would eventually recover from this due to magical preparations I'd made against dying earlier in the campaign.) Eventually my PC realized he was dead, and a zombie, which broke the spell. He fell over dead, and was magically resurrected by the spell I'd prepared earlier. We fought the bad guy and stopped his evil plan, but he escaped. End of session.

 

On the drive over to the GM's house for our next session, another player and I discussed this state of affairs and found it Completely Unsatisfactory. We arrived at the game and announced that, no, we were not embarking on whatever adventure the GM had planned for us that night. Our characters were setting sail in pursuit of the bad guy (who'd sailed away last session), to capture and execute him. No quarter asked or given. We would chase him "through Perdition's flame" if necessary to get our revenge. The other players happily joined us in our stated mission. To his credit, the GM rolled with this change of plans and we did, in fact, chase down the bad guy and defeated him in pitched battle with him and his men, before putting him to the sword. And he never returned to trouble us again.

 

My point? I think player dislike of being captured, or of recurring villains, and the rest has more to do with how heavy-handed the GM is about using those tropes than the tropes themselves. As I say, our GM loved him some pulp adventure tropes, and mostly we rolled with it. But occasionally we got tired of endlessly getting captured and escaping, or of fighting the same villains over and over again and never getting a real win. And we rebelled. And our GM generally saw the writing on the wall and eased up on such things for a while.

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57 minutes ago, tkdguy said:

1. Being captured: If you are going to have your PCs get captured, make sure they are have a chance to escape. The players won't like it if they can't find a way out; feeling helpless is not fun. That happened to me when my group was captured. We weren't allowed to escape, and I tried to at least get information and got no straight answers. That left me extremely frustrated with the game.

--snip--

5. I have to admit this is a great plot point for the GM but horrible for the player. I once did this to a player, and he was really shocked and angry in real life. This was just at the start of the campaign. Can you imagine what his reaction might have been if trust had been broken after several sessions of building that trust?

 

@1

I totally agree.  IMO there are only # reasons for a capture.  1 - Facilitate the opportunity for the daring rescue, 2 - Facilitate the opportunity for the daring escape or 3 - 1 or 2 with the addition of information about the villains plans.  It sounds to me like the GM in your description was either new and inexperienced or maybe just a bad GM.  I like to think I am not that bad. 

 

@5

Well you do have to be very careful and be sure to remember that what plain to see by the GM will be a hard to notice mystery for the players.  In my example I had to make sure the players realized that there was a spy in the woodwork before advancing that particular storyline.  My idea of a GM's job in a supers game is to provide a nefarious plot that allows the Heroes to perform dazzling and daring acts of heroism.  Not to mention that it is usually based on the players own Disadvantages. 

 

 

15 minutes ago, Tjack said:

  Here comes a bold thought....Maybe players should try running something once in a while!
 

   I’m not saying that players should have no say in the games they play in, or opinions about what has gone by.  But much like having a group of friends that you make dinner for every week they will be much more appreciative if they have to do the cooking sometimes.
Whether It’s an episode in the same game or something new of their own, nothing shows players the difficulties of running a “tropeless” game better than trying to do it themselves.

 

 

I agree with the sentiment of a world where all player also GM, but I don't think we will ever see it. 

 

I will say that back in the day when I had a steady Champions group we regularly rotated GM duty and it was a blast.  I wish I could find that again. 

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1 hour ago, Spence said:

So, what are your thoughts?

 

 

Seems like a reasonable thing to discuss.

 

Let's play!  :)

 

1 hour ago, Spence said:

1) Players completely dislike and will not play in a game where Player Characters are captured.

 

 

 

Before starting, I'd like to point out that "completely dislike" and "will not play" are two different levels of rejection, and the subject you're leading with is a great example of that.

 

My own players, at least the majority, _dislike_ a game where PCs get capture (with some "buts" here and there), though they _will_ play in them.

 

What they don't mind at all is when a capture is integral to the plot-- not when it's just something that happened, and now they have to sit on their rear ends until something happens to get them sprung.  They enjoy having to figure out there own escape, etc, etc.  They have never minded it when _the party_ gets captured.  They absolutely _detest_ when one or two of them gets captured.  It's weird to me that while they will endlessly split the party regardless of how difficult that makes things on me, having the party split forcibly drives them into wild fits of paranoia.  Beyond that, there is the issue of one player or subgroup of players effectively "not playing" while I work with the other group.  From the players' perspective, they've only got so much time available for the game tonight, and they are going to spend a chunk of it being "forced" to not play.

 

Oddly, this is _never_ a problem when they yell "Hey, let's break up into little groups and run all over the map for the next eight sessions!"  It's only a problem when it is something that _happens to them_.

 

Yeah; from the GM's chair, it's one of the more annoying double-standards.

 

 

 

 

1 hour ago, Spence said:

 

2) Players completely dislike and will not play in a game where enemies and villains return after the players thought they were dead.

 

3) Players completely dislike and will not play in a game where captured villains escape or get released from prison.

 

 

[Lumped them both together since they are essentially the same in-game problem]

 

I couldn't answer about their refusal, but I can tell you they don't like too terribly much of it.  Fortunately, they don't get too terribly much of it, because this GM does refuse to play in such a game.   I mean, I've done it-- and let me stress:  SPARINGLY-- over the years, as a call back to this or that plot or character, but at the end of the day, Arkham Asylum is stupid.  They should build a new asylum-- one with like... walls or something.   The major difference between an RPG and a comic book is that comic books, for whatever reason, are like action movies:  the status quo must be maintained at all times.  The popular characters must be the characters we work with most regularly.  Thus, the Joker walks through the front doors of Arkham Asylum, realizes that the wall with that door is the only actual wall on the property, so he just keeps walking until he gets home.  That way, the audience gets to see the super-popular Joker all over again in a few more issues.

 

It's stupid in an RPG.   First, in an RPG, there is no audience.  Seriously-- if they can't show up to watch us play, screw 'em.  They don't get a say in what characters we have to play with.  The players, as the characters, put a lot of work and a lot of effort into finding, tracking down, and thwarting the villain.  Maybe we even played out a trial; who knows?!  Perhaps the villain has tormented them for months worth of sessions, and even attacked their loved ones or private lives.  When the moment comes that the PCs are able to finally defeat and capture that villain, it is _glorious_, and it is an occasion for celebration and to savor victory.

 

So we should just let the Joker walk out through the missing walls and resume his crime spree, undercutting _everything_ the players have done for the past several months.   Sure?  Why not?  After all, this should get them really angry, and make them hate that villain even more, forcing them to redouble their efforts, so that when they capture him _again_, it should be even _more_ satisfying, right?  And you know what they would probably like even _more_?  Well, imagine if he was to escape yet again!  Ho-yeah!  The players should be _thrilled_ thinking just how much better than the last time this third time should be, right?

 

Honestly, it usually ends up with a heel turn as one player finally decides to push his EGO to overcome his CVK, to the applause of the group.  He turns himself in to face punishment for his crime with a stoic pride that he has done what the justice system could not, and actually made the world a better place.  Then he makes a new character so that he can continue to adventure with his friends.

 

I've been on both sides of this:  player and GM.  As I said, once in a blue moon, as part of a larger, better story, it's not a deal-breaker.  However, there is no side of the screen from which the routinely recurring over-and-over again villain doesn't just totally suck butt.

 

 

 

 

This 

 

1 hour ago, Spence said:

 

4) Players completely dislike and will not play in a game where the villain will threaten innocents with death or dismemberment to force the PC to allow them to escape or capture the PC’s.

 

 

Never had that problem, either-- or rather, those problems (because "dislike" and "will not play" are, again, two different problems / levels of dissatisfaction).  No one likes to be in a situation where they can't "win" the scenario, but by and large, the players I've encountered tend to respect it when it happens: it shows intelligence and planning on the part of your villains, after all, and it's a pretty common element of adventure fiction as well, so....

 

But seriously.  The only negative feedback I've ever gotten from that is "Damn!  That _sucked_!  We've got to come up with contingencies for things like that!"  But even then, it's generally not hatefully received.

 

 

 

 

1 hour ago, Spence said:

 

5) Players completely dislike and will not play in a game where an NPC friend/subordinate will turn out to be a betrayer or enemy.

 

 

I've never encountered this personally, either.  I mean, I've used the whole "your friend is the bad guy / your friend works for the bad guy " thing a few times.  I try not to use it too much, or it loses it's surprise factor, and suddenly becomes the first place the PCs start looking.

 

I have heard horror stories from other players about GMs who have something like that in _every single adventure_, which I think is mind-numblingly bad as plot ideas go, and I have heard complaints from GMs who overuse this idea that their players have lost all interest in the various NPCs he throws at them and barely have interest in interacting with anyone from whom they can't buy supplies.

 

Can't say I don't know why, of course, but I'm more surprised that _he_ can't figure it out!  :rofl:

 

 

 

 

 

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15 minutes ago, sinanju said:

 

The first thirteen years of my role-playing experience took place primarily in one gaming group, under--with rare, short-lived exceptions--one GM. Said GM was a huge fun of pulp fiction (SF, fantasy, all of it). Every player had several characters to choose from, and we mixed and matched them from one adventure to the next.

 

 

My point? I think player dislike of being captured, or of recurring villains, and the rest has more to do with how heavy-handed the GM is about using those tropes than the tropes themselves. As I say, our GM loved him some pulp adventure tropes, and mostly we rolled with it. But occasionally we got tired of endlessly getting captured and escaping, or of fighting the same villains over and over again and never getting a real win. And we rebelled. And our GM generally saw the writing on the wall and eased up on such things for a while.

 

By first few years were with D&D, Boot Hill and such.  It wasn't until 82 that I discovered Champions.  Your first 13 years sounds similar to that time I was part of my most fondly remembered game group.   But one of the major differences is we rotated GM's and the way we ran our supers games was very different from non-Champs.  Our love of Pulp/Comics really only came out with Champions and later Justice Inc.

 

IMO I think you may be right about the dislike being more from a bad experience than the trope itself.

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1 hour ago, tkdguy said:

5. I have to admit this is a great plot point for the GM but horrible for the player. I once did this to a player, and he was really shocked and angry in real life. This was just at the start of the campaign.

Can you imagine what his reaction might have been if trust had been broken after several sessions of building that trust?

 

(Emphasis added)

((Duh.))

(((I mean, you saw it immediately, right?  You knew it wasn't there before, right?  So why do we have to keep saying that?!)))

 

 

_I_ can imagine it!  And thanks to the power of the internet, I don't have to!

 

Does anyone else remember how something like all of fandom reacted to Captain America saying "Hail Hydra?"

 

I bet it goes something like that. 

 

:)

 

 

22 minutes ago, sinanju said:

 our GM generally saw the writing on the wall and eased up on such things for a while.

 

 

That's the mark of a good GM, right there:

 

If the players are tired of it, don't do it.

 

 

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I think this generally comes down to player agency and having actions matter.  The PCs need to have an impact.  Player decisions need to matter.  And that means that when a thing happens involving the PCs, it should both follow from the PCs interacting with the world and not get undone on a whim later. 

 

1) Being captured generally implies having lost.  I don't think anyone in my group would object to losing if it felt fair.  But that's the big sticking point.  How do you create a fight where the PCs are going to lose without making it feel like the GM is scheming to force a loss instead of it being a legitimate "Could have done better, our bad" moment?  Remember, the feelings are more important than the facts here. 

You're also assuming stables of characters.  Two-thirds of the players in my group only have one PC each.  "Hey, play another guy for a bit" is very different from "Hey, make a new guy". 

I've also run players through a "So between sessions, you were captured.  By your teachers, you're in superschool and they know all your tricks.  Yes, this is a test.  Escape before your grade starts dropping!" and they enjoyed it.  Maybe someday I'll try a full grown superheroes version. 

 

2,3) My group doesn't care about this.  We've had revolving doors for ages and nobody's batted an eye.  I think most of this is that we've never hated a villain.  We've never had a foe who we felt needed to be vanquished for good.  No Joker killing thousands, no Doctor Destroyer leveling cities, just supercrooks.  So consequently we've never felt "Yes!  We did good today!" only to have it get flipped around and be told "No, your actions didn't actually matter". 

 

4,5) See 1, execution and presentation and reaction are the god-kings.  If it feels to the players that there was no chance to catch the traitor / save the hostage / catch the crook, they're going to be rightfully pissed. 

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There are a couple of ways to mitigate a friend betraying the PC:

1. The NPC was framed or misled.

2. The NPC is being mind controlled by a villain.

 

Another thing: Some players are quick to throw tantrums instead of trying to figure out why something happened in a certain way. A bit of digging around would uncover the truth, if they cared to look.

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1) Players completely dislike and will not play in a game where Player Characters are captured.

 

Yeah most players I've ever had have had issues with it. I, as a player, have had issues with it. But sometimes it's a legitimate trope to use. It can be a way to force the players to follow a plot; and that gets old fast. But it can also be used an an alternative to death. The PCs wake up in chains. Possibly  they will be forced to fight in gladiatorial combat or be thrown into some sort of Hunger Games for the amusement of their captors. (The classic DnD Module A4: In the Dungeons of the Slave Lords is a good one.) Maybe it's an excuse for the players to play The B Team and mount a rescue. Use sparingly. Maybe also ask your players if they're okay with this sort of plot.

 

2) Players completely dislike and will not play in a game where enemies and villains return after the players thought they were dead.

&

3) Players completely dislike and will not play in a game where captured villains escape or get released from prison.

 

I think that in a Supers game recurring villains are pretty much mandatory. I wouldn't want to use the same villain every session, it rapidly turns into Inspector Gadget if you do that. But if the players like a villain (love to hate would be the best way to say it) then finding a good way to bring them back is worth it. The trick is doing it right. eg: Kingpin goes to jail then the heroes learn that he's still running his crime syndicate from inside, good. Joker walks out through Arkham's revolving doors yet again, bad.

 

In fantasy games this is a much rarer trope. At least in my experience. I've had it happen twice, and both times by accident.

 

The first case was years ago - the villain was meant to recur once. Had been a petty villain, went to prison then came back as a major villain pulling off amazing heists. When the heroes finally caught up with her I expected her to die. And she ever so nearly did. But one player grudgingly said "I check to see if she's alive. She is a citizen after all and she has a right to a trial." She was alive. She went to prison and then, because she had stolen so much loot, started manipulating the powers that be from her prison cell. The campaign fizzled out shortly after that. But the players genuinely enjoyed it while it lasted.

 

Second time is a game I am currently running. There's a wizard who had kicked off the campaign by betraying the good guy army and let the undead hordes in the back door of the fort. A few sessions later the heroes have him cornered in a tavern in an abandoned city but are so damn incompetent the guy got away. So I had him join the main bad guy team. The heroes have just met him again, this time at a a party. The party was being held in a neutral kingdom so no fighting allowed. I had so much fun watching the players gnashing their teeth fighting to restrain themselves.  The players may have enjoyed that too. They certainly love to hate him and when they finally get him I don't doubt they will be shouting with excitement.

 

4) Players completely dislike and will not play in a game where the villain will threaten innocents with death or dismemberment to force the PC to allow them to escape or capture the PC’s.

 

I'm with everyone else who says this is standard villain behaviour. Violence and disregard for innocents is a classic villain trope. I've only once had a player who hated this and walked. Not someone I played with much and I don't miss having him in my games. He was very much of the "an RPG is a game to win"" player. That's fine, but it doesn't gel with my sort of game. Like all tropes, use it sparingly. But some days the players are just going to have to come up with better plans or wait to fight the villain again at another time.

 

5) Players completely dislike and will not play in a game where an NPC friend/subordinate will turn out to be a betrayer or enemy.

 

Now this one I've been wary of for a long time. The earliest days of DnD* seemed to be filled with untrustworthy NPCs bent on shooting the PCs in the back. So the players reaction that every NPC was out to get them was fair enough. I don't want that sort of game so I avoid this trope. I honestly can't remember how much I might have used it 35 years ago. Not much, I hope. But nowadays I want a game where the PCs actually interact with the game world, so this is a trope I am very reluctant to use.

 

I did do something similar just recently. A game I run has the three PCs being half brothers. Somewhere out there was their dead beat dad. For a long time now, maybe 4 years in the real world, there's been a recurring NPC; a charming rogue who has been on several adventures with the heroes. Just last session I dropped the bomb shell that he was the dead beat dad. And I had a great reaction. It worked as well as it did, I believe, because the game has a huge list of recurring NPCs so no-one thought this character's recurrence was in any way suspicious. I can have a huge list of NPCs because I studiously avoid the "all NPCs are out to get you" trope.

 

* I say DnD did this. And it did. But Shadowrun is the friggin' poster child of this trope.

 

Very few tropes are so bad they can never be used. It always depends on how, and how often, you use them.

 

 

 

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6 hours ago, Spence said:

1) Players completely dislike and will not play in a game where Player Characters are captured.

 

2) Players completely dislike and will not play in a game where enemies and villains return after the players thought they were dead.

 

3) Players completely dislike and will not play in a game where captured villains escape or get released from prison.

 

4) Players completely dislike and will not play in a game where the villain will threaten innocents with death or dismemberment to force the PC to allow them to escape or capture the PC’s.

 

5) Players completely dislike and will not play in a game where an NPC friend/subordinate will turn out to be a betrayer or enemy.

 

1) There was a point where, while I wouldn't say I wouldn't play in a game where the characters were captured, I'd fight like made to keep it from happening.  Mainly due to the fact that the villains capturing the characters, if played correctly, would just kill them.  If the player characters survived, it would have to some kind of contrived and convoluted thing that just wouldn't make sense.  Howerver, after playing with Wildcat, I came to realize that having my character (or the characters in general) captured could, and probably would, lead to more adventure and storytelling.

 

2) I've only had a problem with this if it was outside the genre or if, there was just no way, the villain could return.  And even then, I'd (after a bit to be honest, sometimes I can be a bit . . . over-reactive).  If, for an example, we're playing in a heroic game and the Villain gets a high caliber sniper round through the melon, I'm gonna need a good reason to accept the fact that he didn't die.  On the other hand, if we're playing Supers and "no one could have survived that", well, it's supers. it happens all the time.

 

3) Again, this is genre dependant.  Supervillains escape from Super Prison all the time.  Heck, even in a Heroic game, villains do escape.  I'd just expect it to happen a bit less in a heroic game than a supers one.

 

4) This ties into #1.  If it feels like the capture of the hero will result in the hero's death, then I'm against it.  If the GM has proven that the characters can get captured and it's not a death sentence, will then it's what the villains do.  That's why they're the bad guys. Of course, if this happens constantly, it can get annoying so should be used sparingly.

 

5) Again this can be a fun as long as it's not something that is done all the time.  If a friend/subordinate is constantly turning out to be a bad guy, you're just going to start having serious trust issues.

 

Hope this is what you were looking for.

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Part of this is a "Loss condition" of players that are of the "gamist"  persuasion.  A lot of players are "in the moment", and experiencing the situation as they happen, without any consideration of what the narrative may be in the future.  The other thing is that villains who escape erases a player's and team's achievements.  There is a split between those players that enjoy  Genre emulation, and those that enjoy overcoming tactical obstacles and completing the tactical puzzle acceptably.  We had one GM Early in our Champions careers that had villains that escaped a lot, and that kind of twisted our group, and what had started as a somewhat Avengers inspired group, soon had a turnover of membership that pushed it in a "Dark Champions" direction, a decade before Dark Champions was a thing.  The other two GMs of our group did not do this, and those super groups maintained their comics code conduct through the Mid-late 1980's. 

 

Most players despise the loss of agency/ options that capture scenarios present. Yes, this is a staple of fiction, and various genres (see James Bond), but it means that the captured character might as well read, or be sent home, until the attention of the campaign is directed at them. At it's core, it is perceived  as NOT FUN by the captured player. A later group I was involved with, trained extensively to avoid capture, including retreat from the field if necessary. We would take the loss to avoid capture, because capture in that campaign against specific villains was bad (Character would be turned into an NPC minion of evil mage type). We actually enjoyed training scenarios for that campaign.

 

For a lot of players, story is what you tell after the game. 

 

 

 

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I, and most ofthe people I've played with, enjoy genre simulation, so we largely accept all these tropes if the GM is not too heavy-handed; and none of them happen all that often. When they happen, they are fairly Big Events.

 

Like, early in my first Champions campaign, the Seattle Sentinels captured several lesser villains: Mob enforcer types, minions of bigger villains, etc. They also accumulated clues that there was a vampire in town, moving on organized crime. So while it came as a nasty surprise when Lady Twilight broke a bunch of the villains out of jail to form her gang, it was not an arbitrary event.

 

The PCs also learned that captured members of the Devil's Advocates were not going to stay in jail for long, because the whole team never took to the field at once. But they stopped evil plots, saved the world a few times, and made sure the group could never attempt a scheme asecond time.

 

No villain has ever returned whom the PCs thought was genuinely dead. Atomized in the explosion that knocked out all the PCs? Yeah, right, they knew Baron Frost is still alive somewhere.

 

On reflection, the only games I've run where a supposed ally turned out to be an enemy, I had player cooperation. Same player, in fact. For several sessions, the heroine Bluejay was possessed by the Mind-Master Complex. The player even tried dropping clues, which the other players missed. Much later, the NPC bounty hunter/semi-hero ally (and Bluejay's sometime love interest) Javelin was revealed as the supervillain Blitz using a different costumed identity as part of a long con. (But it ended happily: He liked being a hero and eventually defected from the Evil Organization.)

 

There've been occasions when players resented these tropes, but I admit I'd been clumsy at GMing them. Or once,m there was a player who flat-out refused to treat DNPCs as anything just Disad points, and sacrificed them without a qualm when the villain threatened them. But he was extremely gameist and, moreover, had been scarred by past experiences in games with very bad GMs.

 

Dean Shomshak

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On 6/6/2020 at 8:09 PM, Spence said:

So, I have been pondering a few recurring points I keep reading on the boards.   

 

While there are many variations they all boil down to:

 

1) Players completely dislike and will not play in a game where Player Characters are captured.

 

2) Players completely dislike and will not play in a game where enemies and villains return after the players thought they were dead.

 

3) Players completely dislike and will not play in a game where captured villains escape or get released from prison.

 

4) Players completely dislike and will not play in a game where the villain will threaten innocents with death or dismemberment to force the PC to allow them to escape or capture the PC’s.

 

5) Players completely dislike and will not play in a game where an NPC friend/subordinate will turn out to be a betrayer or enemy.

 

Now in many cases I can see or understand the view point from people who came to RPG’s from video/computer games or the D&D/Pathfinder type of game.   Most RPG’s do not allow for combat that does not kill.  Many have “nonlethal combat” crudely pasted on top of the existing system, but not integral to it.  Hero System is one that does.  In fact, Hero is one of the only systems I know that has a unified system that handles physical, mental and magical abilities in it core system.  Most other “universal” systems address things by adding additional books. 

 

But enough rambling, here are my thoughts on the five items.  I am not wanting to convince anyone of anything.  Instead, I would really like to hear others thought.  For, against or other. 

 

So, I’ll begin.

 

1) Players completely dislike and will not play in a game where Player Characters are captured.

 

I don’t understand this one. Almost all of the action adventure books and even movies have this as a central trope.  How can a PC make a daring escape if no one is ever captured?  How can the players ever get to make the daring rescue?  For sword swingers (what I call D&D, PF etc.), capture has to be shoe horned in because those systems really do not have integral options for being knocked out vice killed.  Hero has this as part of the core mechanics.  In fact, for supers games I have always played with all the players having stables of characters.  You can only play one PC at a time, but you will always have another PC to play if one of your PC’s is captured or hospitalized for a while.  I thought that this was “normal” for super’s RPGs.

 

2) Players completely dislike and will not play in a game where enemies and villains return after the players thought they were dead.

 

Again, this is a common.  A very common trope in the genre.  Doc Savage, the Spyder from pulp books.  Comics had this as well.  Literature and movies also have these.  I love to used this is an ongoing campaign.

 

3) Players completely dislike and will not play in a game where captured villains escape or get released from prison.

 

Again, why hamstring the story.  The idea of a powerful enemy escaping is pretty much a core part of crime-based stories.  The crook gets off on a technicality and the Heroes/Police know he is evil but cannot prove it.  This is especially a part of more gritty street level campaigns with Drug Lords and such. 

 

4) Players completely dislike and will not play in a game where the villain will threaten innocents with death or dismemberment to force the PC to allow them to escape or capture the PC’s.

 

I meet this with a Huh?  Have they read a comic?  Have they watched a crime drama?  This is a normal ploy.  Plus, it adds to the intensity of the chase and make the PC’s plan for the next time.  Just how do we capture the Blastmaster when he plants bombs as a diversion to enable him to escape?

 

5) Players completely dislike and will not play in a game where an NPC friend/subordinate will turn out to be a betrayer or enemy.

 

I don’t use this one often, but it is an awesome way to insert drama and danger.  Most of the times I have used this is with “mystery disadvantages”.  A Mystery Disadvantage is when a player decides they will take a disadvantage such as Hunted but do not want to define it.  They would rather be surprised like some in some stories.  My usual method is to hold the points until something happens, then I use the points.  After a super-battle where the team defeated the villains but there had been civilian deaths, I used 10 points of Mystery Hunted to make two 5-point Hunted’s which were competent normal NPC’s that blames the Hero for the death of their loved ones and plotted revenge.  One was a reporter that gave the players heck and the other got themselves hired as staff at the team’s headquarters and fed intelligence to villains.  The revelation of the spy was just awesome!  We never got to the point where the reporter was discovered.  

 

So, what are your thoughts?

 

Well for my attitudes

 

1) yeah, I do hate that one. I find myself sometimes, as a death for cApture. But, I can go along for a short time, sparingly.

 

2) doesn't bother me. (Within reason)

 

3) doesn't bother me, as long as it isn't a joker escapes every other Wednesday mess.

 

4)situational. If it is my character's nemesis,  let's say. There is a chance with certain. personAlities. My PC just might choose to go after the villain and hope his friends save the civilians. Not heroic, but depending on history, it is a possibility.

 

5)Good chance, the PC will take a total distrustful attitude towards everybody, that could always hurt  campaign.

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If players hate villains threatening the lives of innocents, they really hate it when the villains actually commit murder. I actually did that when I asked the GM if I could play the villains (I had a really bad week). The villains could go invisible and cast illusions. They cast illusions of ghosts in a mall and robbed a jewelry store. Thing is, they also brutally murdered several people. My group was really upset. The GM retconned so that the villains just scared the shoppers into moving away from the jewelry store without killing anyone, and everyone was okay with that.

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1) Players completely dislike and will not play in a game where Player Characters are captured.

 

2) Players completely dislike and will not play in a game where enemies and villains return after the players thought they were dead.

 

3) Players completely dislike and will not play in a game where captured villains escape or get released from prison.

 

4) Players completely dislike and will not play in a game where the villain will threaten innocents with death or dismemberment to force the PC to allow them to escape or capture the PC’s.

 

5) Players completely dislike and will not play in a game where an NPC friend/subordinate will turn out to be a betrayer or enemy.

 

I don't think I have ever had a problem with any of these as a player, and I have used most of these as a GM and never had a complaint.  The biggest complaints I have had as a player is lack of options from the GM. Some GMs I have dealt with are Poof, you're captured with no chance to get away. Don't like that. Don't like you should be playing your character this way, instead of the way you are playing. Don't like having to solo villains that are bigger than I am on the power scale, and then have to hear complaints from the GM. Don't like soloing the villain, and the GM says you didn't actually solo the villain which is different from number two because the villain didn't die because the GM said your wave motion gun that shoots through buildings only left a scratch.

 

Did any of that make sense?

CES     

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On 6/7/2020 at 3:00 AM, drunkonduty said:

1) Players completely dislike and will not play in a game where Player Characters are captured.

 

Yeah most players I've ever had have had issues with it. I, as a player, have had issues with it. But sometimes it's a legitimate trope to use. It can be a way to force the players to follow a plot; and that gets old fast. But it can also be used an an alternative to death. The PCs wake up in chains. Possibly  they will be forced to fight in gladiatorial combat or be thrown into some sort of Hunger Games for the amusement of their captors. (The classic DnD Module A4: In the Dungeons of the Slave Lords is a good one.) Maybe it's an excuse for the players to play The B Team and mount a rescue. Use sparingly. Maybe also ask your players if they're okay with this sort of plot.

 

2) Players completely dislike and will not play in a game where enemies and villains return after the players thought they were dead.

&

3) Players completely dislike and will not play in a game where captured villains escape or get released from prison.

 

I think that in a Supers game recurring villains are pretty much mandatory. I wouldn't want to use the same villain every session, it rapidly turns into Inspector Gadget if you do that. But if the players like a villain (love to hate would be the best way to say it) then finding a good way to bring them back is worth it. The trick is doing it right. eg: Kingpin goes to jail then the heroes learn that he's still running his crime syndicate from inside, good. Joker walks out through Arkham's revolving doors yet again, bad.

 

In fantasy games this is a much rarer trope. At least in my experience. I've had it happen twice, and both times by accident.

 

The first case was years ago - the villain was meant to recur once. Had been a petty villain, went to prison then came back as a major villain pulling off amazing heists. When the heroes finally caught up with her I expected her to die. And she ever so nearly did. But one player grudgingly said "I check to see if she's alive. She is a citizen after all and she has a right to a trial." She was alive. She went to prison and then, because she had stolen so much loot, started manipulating the powers that be from her prison cell. The campaign fizzled out shortly after that. But the players genuinely enjoyed it while it lasted.

 

Second time is a game I am currently running. There's a wizard who had kicked off the campaign by betraying the good guy army and let the undead hordes in the back door of the fort. A few sessions later the heroes have him cornered in a tavern in an abandoned city but are so damn incompetent the guy got away. So I had him join the main bad guy team. The heroes have just met him again, this time at a a party. The party was being held in a neutral kingdom so no fighting allowed. I had so much fun watching the players gnashing their teeth fighting to restrain themselves.  The players may have enjoyed that too. They certainly love to hate him and when they finally get him I don't doubt they will be shouting with excitement.

 

4) Players completely dislike and will not play in a game where the villain will threaten innocents with death or dismemberment to force the PC to allow them to escape or capture the PC’s.

 

I'm with everyone else who says this is standard villain behaviour. Violence and disregard for innocents is a classic villain trope. I've only once had a player who hated this and walked. Not someone I played with much and I don't miss having him in my games. He was very much of the "an RPG is a game to win"" player. That's fine, but it doesn't gel with my sort of game. Like all tropes, use it sparingly. But some days the players are just going to have to come up with better plans or wait to fight the villain again at another time.

 

5) Players completely dislike and will not play in a game where an NPC friend/subordinate will turn out to be a betrayer or enemy.

 

Now this one I've been wary of for a long time. The earliest days of DnD* seemed to be filled with untrustworthy NPCs bent on shooting the PCs in the back. So the players reaction that every NPC was out to get them was fair enough. I don't want that sort of game so I avoid this trope. I honestly can't remember how much I might have used it 35 years ago. Not much, I hope. But nowadays I want a game where the PCs actually interact with the game world, so this is a trope I am very reluctant to use.

 

I did do something similar just recently. A game I run has the three PCs being half brothers. Somewhere out there was their dead beat dad. For a long time now, maybe 4 years in the real world, there's been a recurring NPC; a charming rogue who has been on several adventures with the heroes. Just last session I dropped the bomb shell that he was the dead beat dad. And I had a great reaction. It worked as well as it did, I believe, because the game has a huge list of recurring NPCs so no-one thought this character's recurrence was in any way suspicious. I can have a huge list of NPCs because I studiously avoid the "all NPCs are out to get you" trope.

 

* I say DnD did this. And it did. But Shadowrun is the friggin' poster child of this trope.

 

Very few tropes are so bad they can never be used. It always depends on how, and how often, you use them.

 

 

 

 Though this comes from a player who thought outside the box and occasionally  went off script  a little.

 

You have to plan for derailed plans  a little.  Making them follow in a shoehorn can punish for creativity. Obviously got when or when not to feel them back in.

 

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1) Players completely dislike and will not play in a game where Player Characters are captured.

In my groups, it isn't a problem if the players are captured when they do something stupid or if the dice roll bad for them.  To them, its just a part of the game.  But if it feels that they have been railroaded into the problem, that's when they get upset.  If the villains are throwing 15d6 with 12 CVs against players throwing 9d6 and 7 CVs, they tend to complain its being rigged, no matter what the payout is in the end.

 

2) Players completely dislike and will not play in a game where enemies and villains return after the players thought they were dead.

This only depends if there is a good and engaging reason for them coming back to life.  In my current campaign, I had a brother team (a martial artist and a necromancer) and one of the players accidentally got one of the two brothers killed.  In the next story, they meet up with the brothers except one of the brothers is now a zombie and the other brother is trying to get him to become fully alive.  This ends with the zombie coming back to full life with the living brother now dead, again due to PC interference.  The third meeting has the remaining brother vowing vengeance and getting captured and incarcerated.  The last story of the two brothers has the players meeting the dead brother in hell (long story) and if asked if he wanted out, he said no, he would break out of hell on his own.  The players loved this story line.

 

3) Players completely dislike and will not play in a game where captured villains escape or get released from prison.

I haven't had an issue here recently.  The big issue is how frequent is the escape.  If the villain breaks out and its been about 10 sessions since you last saw them, I've found the players are fine with that.  If the villains are out by the next game, they tend to hate that.

 

4) Players completely dislike and will not play in a game where the villain will threaten innocents with death or dismemberment to force the PC to allow them to escape or capture the PC’s.

I haven't had a problem with this.  Mainly, because villains tend to do villainous things and the players being superheroes usually figure out a way to stop them.

 

5) Players completely dislike and will not play in a game where an NPC friend/subordinate will turn out to be a betrayer or enemy.

I haven't had a problem with this UNLESS the traitor is a PC.  It doesn't matter if the treacherous player is fine with the action, only if they can no longer trust the player.  A Player told me, he hated these story lines because he wants to enjoy playing with his friends not worrying they will back stab him.

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I'm pretty sure that list was cribbed from Strike Force.

If players really and truly hate being captured, that confuses me, because so many scenarios and video games begin with exactly that trope.

I think what infuriates players is when they can't tell whether they are supposed to "win" a fight or not and stress out because it looks like they are about to die.

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How would they be able to tell when they were supposed to win or supposed to lose?

 

It's not like a book, where one author both knows all the story and all the threads _and_ does all the thinking for every character.  Players are charged with "living the lives" of their characters, and being true to the characters they envisioned.  I'm not a soldier or anything, but there have been a few scraps here and there, particularly in my youth, and I can't recall a  time in my life during _any_ attack that I wasn't thinking "fight like my life depends on it, because it might."   The players are there, too: they don't have any way to tell that they are supposed to take a dive because they won't get their throats slit as soon as they go down.

 

I'm not saying that as a GM, it isn't annoying as Hell when you want to kind of have them learn something while they are being captive, or introduce them to an NPC who tosses them a small tool they can use to regain their freedom.  I am not saying that because it _is_ annoying as Hell when that's how this small part of the story you have planned was meant to go.  But I _do_ get it.  I do understand where they are coming from.  To this end, I try to arrange it so that when they have to be captured, the entire group is captured-- or at least, the entirety of a particular group, if they have chosen to split the party, and drop a narrative hint or two that they are probably wanted alive for some reason or other.  Not beat them over the head with a security blanket or anything, but give them the chance to think through the situation, as it were.

 

As far as being from Strike Force, I remember these same issues when I was just a player back in the 70s, with Traveller and D&D.  It may be addressed formally in Strike Force, but it was in Dragon and White Dwarf magazines and dozens of other places, too.  It's a common problem, and I think a lot of it grows from the very real game problem of Railroading--

 

or, more accurately:  Narrative Story versus Player Expectations.  The story either _wants_ or _needs_ the characters to be briefly captured, or the logical results of the players losing a combat are very much "you wake up in the local jail, awaiting a magistrate."  Story-wise, this isn't the end.   The players, however, are expecting to either win the battle or be killed.  Perhaps they are simply being true to the character, as they both want and are expected to be:  "You'll never take me alive!"  or "I have no idea why they attacked us!  We've got to get away!"

 

One thing that I have learned that can help ease this for players is to let a situation brew beforehand:  let them get hints and rumors that the Grand High Schmuckity-Schmuck is interested in speaking to them about X, or is curious as to just what their intentions are, etc, etc.  Let this brew.  Let agents make direct contact.   Let them get warnings that the bandit princes of the desert tribes are looking for out-of-towners unknown to the local constabulary-- _whatever_ it takes.  When the showdown occurs, let their be hints that the attackers are in the employ of the people that they know want them _captured_ and not endeadened. ;)   Give them a reason to think that maybe capture won't be immediately fatal.  This works less than half the time, to be honest, but that is tenfold the number of times it works when they are simply jumped by a snatchgang.

 

 

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