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Admiral Terghon

Suggestions to Transform Murder Hobos into roleplayers

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Somehow I'd never heard the term "murder hobo" until these forums.  I realize that one of my groups is composed primarily of murder hobos. 

We play D&D, we kill things, take their stuff, buy more and upgraded gear so we can kill more things and take their stuff...

 

We play Rogue Trader.  Somewhere in our first few sessions we destroyed an entire planet, just so that our stock of exotic creatures would increase in value (to be fair, I was sick that night and wasn't there).  But Rogue Trader quickly turned into a sanctioned (semi-ish) pirates.

 

We play Deathwatch.  Um, really not much to say here.  The Xenos die in startlingly large numbers and we wade through the blood and ichor with casual, perhaps alarming, nonchalance.  Exterminatus is suggested often, or at least discussed and mentioned. 

 

Diplomacy means assassination, negotiation means slaughter and/or assassination, exploring means slaughter, trading means eliminating competitors...

Seeing a trend?

I don't want my Edge of the Empire campaign to be quite so bloody and one-tracked.  I think with FFGs system and some effort it can be much more.  We had a decent run-through of the Beginner Game adventure, with some creative ways around some of the potential fights.

Any tips on how to curb the murder hobo playstyle and encourage other avenues of problem resolution (even, dare I suggest, non-violent conflict resolution)? 

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You are wanting to teach kill first ask questions later players how to consider their choice of actions.

 

First thing you should do is explain that to your players. That many encounters are going to be designed around the idea of developing your characters place in the galaxy at large and that their actions will have consequences, so at times combat will not be the best solution nor the most profitable one.

 

At first if that style of play is foreign to them start using the narrative dice to offer alternatives to the players.  Example while your players all trying to hide for an ambush one of them notices a way to avoid fighting altogether if he can slice the door controls and avoid alerting the rest of the base to blaster fire onboard, start out with such simple methods of offering them creative alternatives and then reward them for thinking of their own creative options.

 

Structure encounters that have no combat alternative and intersperse them in the missions, social or technical challenges.

 

Create NPCs that the players need to do things they cannot, skilled forgers, droid and starship suppliers, infochants, etc... and make the players behavior a factor if they will deal with the players.

 

Most importantly if you want to deter Murder Hobos create real negative consequences for their actions that they feel when its appropriate, and don't be afraid to make the consequences so progressively more painful until your players get the hint.

 

Reward the players when they make smart decisions or choose the best story driven or creative alternatives.

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Step 1.) talk to players about campaign expectations. If they know you are looking to do something a little less blasty and stabby, they should be willing to work with you. 

Step 2.) assuming your players are unwilling to work with you, I mean, you should really find a new group that has more similar expectations. However, barring that, as the GM, take the combat specializations off the table. Force them to play social and skills classes. Most murder hobos are also min-maxxers, and if you force them out of combat min-maxxing, they'll have to rely on non-combat skills and talents.

 

Step 3.) When they want to use those things, such as a scathing tirade or inspiring rhetoric, you simply ask them "okay, before you roll, go ahead and tell me what you want to say." Based on good or bad performance, you can add an extra blue or black to the die pool. Once these guys start seeing rewards for role playing to the actual roll they are making at that moment, you will find them a lot more eager to please in this regard. 

 

Step 4.) If they still try playing their politicos and engineers like soldiers, just go ahead and let the NPC combat builds put them down, and have them wake up in a prison hospital with their belongings confiscated or impounded. 

I think once you can get your players to buy in on the fun to be had in social and skill encounters outside combat, even if that means ramming them down their throats at first, you'll find they might be more open to taking a more balanced approach to games in general in the future. 

But let me make one thing clear: Sometimes its fun to be in a murder-hobo campaign. If this is what your players want, its going to be a battle that makes life fun for nobody if you are trying to force them into an experience at the table they aren't looking for. Making sure all your players have a similar expectation for what the tone of play is going to be up front is the best way to go. The best way to get your players to agree to something like this, is to treat it as an experiment, and tell them its just going to be a 1-3 session long campaign, and that you just want to see what might happen if they try playing in a much more different way. That way, they'll probably be more open to it, knowing they can go back to what htey are used to after a few sessions if they don't like it.

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If you have the time, take a look at Shadowrun and some of the guides for that game.  It has a lot of parallels to EotE and, due to the lethality of combat in Shadowrun, "clean" runs wherein no one fires a shot or gets killed tend to be emphasized.

 

Above all else, emphasize to your players that there will be repercussions.  If they slaughter a bunch of people, those people are either employed by someone powerful (who has tons of other employees to come for revenge) or citizens of somewhere that has a government (who has tons of resources to come for revenge).

 

Parties, even combat-monster parties, can eventually be worn down and attrited to unconsciousness by mooks.  Especially by mooks with heavy weapons and armored vehicles.

 

It might be a good idea to drop a player or two at the start of the game with a missile launcher if they are veering too much in the wrong direction.  Let them know how easy it is for them to exceed their wound threshold.

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Step 1.) talk to players about campaign expectations. If they know you are looking to do something a little less blasty and stabby, they should be willing to work with you.

 

This really is the best advice I could give. When I am interested in specifics tones to my campaigns, I make sure to discuss it with my players before they roll characters. It's important to be upfront about the kind of story you wish to tell.

Communication with your players is probably the most important skill as a GM.

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In my mind, the murder hobo phenomenon happens because the system offers no interesting or viable alternative methods to conflict resolution. In the D&D/Pathfinder set, every single class is combat-oriented and only a few have even a small amount of diplomatic skills that only get dusted off every two or three sessions. You never send the Deathwatch in if you're planning to negotiate, and Rogue Trader is set in the same universe, where neither the Xenos nor the heretics are to be trusted or dealt anything other than a painful death.

 

These are all cut from the same cloth: games devoted to killing monsters.

 

But in Star Wars, there are other options. There are even Career choices where you don't get any combat skills. The design of the dice makes clear when diplomacy succeeds and when it fails, and they encourage the GM to be creative about the results.

 

As everyone else has said repeatedly, talking to your players about this first is the best idea. However, you should couch it in the language of, "Look what else this system lets you do." Don't ask them to play combat characters and rein it in; instead, encourage them to branch out. Remind them that there aren't better rewards for killing their way through problems, and the XP is the same whether they out-fight, out-smart, or out-talk their opponents. I think they'll be willing if not eager to try a whole range of characters.

 

Finally, I recommend memorizing the Encumbrance rules, and whenever anybody seems like they're just taking all of the loot, call for an Encumbrance check. It's been effective for me thus far.

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in D&D and other games, the players are expected to be able to win through combat. This system is not the same. If you think of the movies the players were always outnumbered and usually out gunned. This combined with the difficulty in killing players (since it required critical hits) and the ease of making them unconscious by surpassing WT makes it an ideal system to give them a few encounters they cant will. Weapons are deadly even against trained people and the party may just have to loose a few fights and have their bodies looted, or be thrown in jail, or sold into slavery etc.. Teach them that combat is not always the best course of action in this game.

 

if it is still what they want though make a party of assassins, privateers, special ops, or big game hunters just as long as everyone is having fun.

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Yeah I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to have a Session Zero where you discuss game and setting themes and let the players build characters as a group so that they're all satisfied with their individual results and what bases are covered as a group.

 

And definitely point out the differences between the games, how conflict resolution doesn't always have to involve fighting (I mean, it probably will at some times, but not always). Call attention to the genre - Han Solo in particular. You're not going to be playing rich nobles for whom actions don't have real consequences (Rogue Trader) nor engineered killing machines (Deathwatch).

Edited by Kshatriya

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remind them that this game isn't a out killing bad guys and getting better gear. but you need to enforce it! don't give them XP for each encounter. give them XP for actually doing.stuff. give them XP for role playing. but not for killing. don't give your baddies better gear then they have.remind them.that storm trooper armor will attract bad attention if they try to sell or wear it. then,when they try, the contacts won't buy them anyway. hat will change their attitudes. talking to them id good, but playing it is better

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If you have the time, take a look at Shadowrun and some of the guides for that game.  It has a lot of parallels to EotE and, due to the lethality of combat in Shadowrun, "clean" runs wherein no one fires a shot or gets killed tend to be emphasized.

 

Above all else, emphasize to your players that there will be repercussions.  If they slaughter a bunch of people, those people are either employed by someone powerful (who has tons of other employees to come for revenge) or citizens of somewhere that has a government (who has tons of resources to come for revenge).

 

Parties, even combat-monster parties, can eventually be worn down and attrited to unconsciousness by mooks.  Especially by mooks with heavy weapons and armored vehicles.

 

It might be a good idea to drop a player or two at the start of the game with a missile launcher if they are veering too much in the wrong direction.  Let them know how easy it is for them to exceed their wound threshold.

I used to run Shadowrun chronicles many years ago and my players never came up with a solution that didnt leave everyone else dead. The last couple of years a few of us have come up with a group though that we call the "Heist group" that focuses on non-violence runs.

 

I have alot of problems in my current groups with this kind of mentality and I try to deal with it by nudging my players away from murdering and looting by showing them the consequences that their actions have in the world and by offering them other alternatives. Still, half the time I have to let them have their genocidal ways, since Its not all about the kind of chronicles I want to tell as a GM but also what the players want out of it.

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Many have said it, but it's worth reiterating that maybe being murder hoboes is what they enjoy and really, there's nothing wrong with that if everyone is having fun.  However, if you want more out of it, the best solution is to talk to them out of character about what you'd like and see if you can build consensus.  

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Many have said it, but it's worth reiterating that maybe being murder hoboes is what they enjoy and really, there's nothing wrong with that if everyone is having fun.  However, if you want more out of it, the best solution is to talk to them out of character about what you'd like and see if you can build consensus.  

I generally agree but I think the OP noted that he didn't want to have that kind of game with Edge.

 

But Edge can certainly provide that kind of game, if you want. I've played in a game where we were basically a mercenary/bounty hunter group. Not everyone was combat focused - we still wanted people who could tend to the ship and talk our way around Imperials, after all.

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Many have said it, but it's worth reiterating that maybe being murder hoboes is what they enjoy and really, there's nothing wrong with that if everyone is having fun.  However, if you want more out of it, the best solution is to talk to them out of character about what you'd like and see if you can build consensus.  

 

That takes a period of adjustment, as sometimes player habits are hard to break.  Depends how long they've been immersed in their murder-hobo ways, you sometimes have to set it up so that physical combat is the last option.  The group I play with aren't really murder-hobos, but violence is always at the top of the list of their actions.  It's part of the reason I started my latest campaign on a backwater, limited-galaxy-access planet, with the characters all having grown up in a small mountain town (named Grimley's Dead End).  First game (after the hook was set) they noticed they were being followed, so they ambush the follower and were prepared to off him right there.  I "reminded" them that Old Mrs Withershins was watching the whole thing from her front porch, where she's been sitting for as long as they can remember.  "I see you boys," she yells, "and I'm going to have a talk with your mother!  Now you leave that poor little Weequay alone!"

 

Three sessions in, and there hasn't been a real fight yet, even though the Enforcer and his Athletics and Coercion have been invaluable.  Even without fighting, tension from all the various issues has been high.  Now that they've broadened their outlook, I'm hoping to reward them by unleashing the truncheons... :)

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Many have said it, but it's worth reiterating that maybe being murder hoboes is what they enjoy and really, there's nothing wrong with that if everyone is having fun.  However, if you want more out of it, the best solution is to talk to them out of character about what you'd like and see if you can build consensus.  

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Many have said it, but it's worth reiterating that maybe being murder hoboes is what they enjoy and really, there's nothing wrong with that if everyone is having fun.  However, if you want more out of it, the best solution is to talk to them out of character about what you'd like and see if you can build consensus.  

 

 

Sorry, I wasn't disagreeing with your point, just that even with consensus, some players fall into familiar patterns if the opportunities present themselves.

Edited by whafrog

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Many have said it, but it's worth reiterating that maybe being murder hoboes is what they enjoy and really, there's nothing wrong with that if everyone is having fun.  However, if you want more out of it, the best solution is to talk to them out of character about what you'd like and see if you can build consensus.  

 

That takes a period of adjustment, as sometimes player habits are hard to break.  Depends how long they've been immersed in their murder-hobo ways, you sometimes have to set it up so that physical combat is the last option.  The group I play with aren't really murder-hobos, but violence is always at the top of the list of their actions.  It's part of the reason I started my latest campaign on a backwater, limited-galaxy-access planet, with the characters all having grown up in a small mountain town (named Grimley's Dead End).  First game (after the hook was set) they noticed they were being followed, so they ambush the follower and were prepared to off him right there.  I "reminded" them that Old Mrs Withershins was watching the whole thing from her front porch, where she's been sitting for as long as they can remember.  "I see you boys," she yells, "and I'm going to have a talk with your mother!  Now you leave that poor little Weequay alone!"

 

Three sessions in, and there hasn't been a real fight yet, even though the Enforcer and his Athletics and Coercion have been invaluable.  Even without fighting, tension from all the various issues has been high.  Now that they've broadened their outlook, I'm hoping to reward them by unleashing the truncheons... :)

 

 

As I read that you have set up a very nice tension to the campaign. The question I have is, will you create a anticlimax by adding in a round of combat? Why not keep the tension?

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Sorry, I wasn't disagreeing with your point, just that even with consensus, some players fall into familiar patterns if the opportunities present themselves.

 

 

Oh, no, I didn't feel this was an argument, it was for the sake of clarity for another reader.  I meant to emphasize that an open discussion will be the easiest, fastest way for OP to communicate his desires, as steering a story will take everyone's participation.  It's my hope that they will find a new play style as refreshing as I do.  

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As I read that you have set up a very nice tension to the campaign. The question I have is, will you create a anticlimax by adding in a round of combat? Why not keep the tension?

 

The tension will remain, there is a lot going on they have only hints of.  The fight should be fairly brief.

 

The PCs are helping a former high school acquaintance, somebody who, in school, was just a "nice guy".  Nice guy owns a mine, but he's no businessman, and is struggling.  His droids are mysteriously shutting down half the time, and the Imperials (or, at least, the local Imperial bureaucrat who's trying to skim things) is working on an embargo of the type of ore the mine produces.  So the last session was to get the shipment to Eriadu and play the various buyers off against each other before the embargo came down, meanwhile dealing with a stowaway (young girl on the run from abusive father), and an Imperial scholar interested in the ruins recently found in "nice guy's" mine.

 

They've succeeded pretty well at these issues, now "nice guy" wants to reward them because their swift action has allowed him to stay in business for a good while longer.  That doesn't sit well with the guy pulling the strings, the Imperial bureaucrat.  He's trying to make it harder for local resource producers so he can swoop in and buy them cheap.  This puts a crimp in his plans, it's time to take action.

 

So when the players meet with "nice guy", goons will arrive.  All are Weequays except the leader who's in a Weequay mask.  They will be undermanned, expecting only to have to deal with nice guy, but their leader will make some statement about collateral damage and launch an attack.  There could be reinforcements if it goes too quickly...  However, the Weequay they threatened in the scene mentioned earlier (above) decided he's not really into this anymore and will hang back and give up later.  Ideally, the masked leader will try to make an escape, but get captured.  The only problem is:  he's the well known owner of the local cantina, and also brother-or-other-relative to the local marshall.  So they'll need to either make a deal, with tension in town between them and brothers; or alert planetary forces, who will likely be neutral but again the marshall is an issue; or alert Imperial forces (a show of gratitude for ferreting out corruption, but now they're marked as meddlers by the bureaucrat).

 

Fun times...

 

There's lots more to work with in case the players make it too smooth.  The mines haven't received any notice by the Imperials, yet...but as all the players (at my request, and free XP) are Force Sensitive, you can guess what the ruins are about.  If "nice guy" lives he has another smuggling mission:  the part he identified in his droids was inserted backwards, which is why they're shutting down, but the parts are all now ruined.  New parts are...guess what?...subject to an export tax from Eriadu making them ridiculously expensive.  Bringing in a shipment will help "nice guy", but could also lead to an alliance between mine and other resource owners, most of whom have been experiencing issues but haven't yet shared the information with each other...

 

Not to mention:  "nice guy's" wife has been sleeping with the cantina owner and is in on the game.

 

The nice guy's name is "Sax Bingley", and it looks like everyone wants to play Sax...

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Lots of good advice in here, thank you very much.  I've had some strong hints that will enjoy not being murder hobos.  Session Zero will focus on exactly what they want to be, but the Facebook polls I've put up so far have hinted away from just merc-like slaughter groups. 

One the tips you guys have put forth I'm ingraining in my brain at every turn.  If I don't want murder hobos, then violence shouldn't be the easiest solution to a problem.  I need to make sure I design any encounters in a way that not only encourages non-violent solutions, but makes violent ones difficult or problematical.  Of course once in a while there will probably be some faceless goons that need to eat blaster bolts.  And something I want to try, as suggested, is the fight that ends in fleeing on purpose.

 

It seems to me that the staple of a lot of films, not just Star Wars, is tossing off a few shots to distract pursuers so you can get away.  There's never a thought of "Oh, let's fight to the death with these guys, we'll win."  I'd love to have that mentality prevail in my campaign but I think it's going to take much work on my part as GM to set up encounters that flow in that direction and a bit of "training" of the players to break off fights instead of "finishing" them.  That's not something our group has ever been good at.  It's almost a video game attitude that if a fight is there, then it must be geared to be defeated.

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Admiral Terghon, I think you're right that it's a kind of 'videogame' mentality that players will often fight to the death rather than flee.

 

Sometimes it's even appropriate to just flat-out remind your players "By the way, in this system, Stormtroopers can be VERY deadly. You're facing two squads of three Stormtroopers each. You might consider whether discretion is the better part of valor here and try to escape."

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Terghon, the trick is to have reinforcements arriving much faster than the party can defeat the minion groups on purpose. If you have a new 1-2 new minion groups showing up every round of combat, they are going to get the idea that standing and fighting the Empire for long periods of time isn't feasible. If you make it clear that this is basically standard imperial operating procedure, then you should be good on getting themt o at least learn the better part of valor.

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There's never a thought of "Oh, let's fight to the death with these guys, we'll win."  I'd love to have that mentality prevail in my campaign but I think it's going to take much work on my part as GM to set up encounters that flow in that direction and a bit of "training" of the players to break off fights instead of "finishing" them.  That's not something our group has ever been good at.  It's almost a video game attitude that if a fight is there, then it must be geared to be defeated.

 

I have found I can have two types of fights.

 

The first is stand there and pew, pew, which just like I suggest with the "pew, pew" is very much like a video game. You have two groups fighting over the MLR and some basic flanking and counter-flanking moves.

 

The most enjoyable combats I have run, have a chase built in. I had my players in a flat bed truck making a spice delivery to rebel medical facility, just as a goon squad drove in. We were flying along the coral jungle, avoiding accidents, swerving and ducking all while the passengers took shots at each other.

 

For a foot race I think you start the encounter and lead in with the idea that the players are now going into a chase with combat. You start heading towards the two stormtroopers, they are waving and gesturing, though they don't seem to be drawing the guns or doing anything else. From around the corner you see quite a few stormtroopers stream from behind the two stormtroopers in front of you. So with that many troopers heading your way you turn and start running. Further this by rolling initiative and working it out using athletics say.

 

Now at this point you have set up expectations, the players have a large force after them and that you don't expect them to solve this combat by fighting. You could also escalate things using Despair results buy adding a swoop bike into the mix, and by allowing Triumphs to become a swoop bike that the players could take. This could become even more outrageous by having two chases eventuate from this as you end up with those on swoop bikes going faster than those on foot.

 

All of a sudden your players just aren't going "pew, pew" and ducking behind a box but they are now moving through a city, space station or some forest, ducking branches, walk ways or jumping crates.

 

Even in a normal combat why not have the bad guys make a fighting withdrawal and they flee the players? In some regards having the bad guys flee when they are out numbered or outclassed is equally as important because the GM is showing by example what he expects. Then of course you can go all tactical on the players, they enter a corridor that seems empty (those doors in Star Wars open and close very fast don't they?) and they see no signs of the people that they were chasing, then two doors, one either side of the players open and an arm sticks out into the corridor and shoots from each door. After all if the players are chasing troopers don't they have their communicators to coordinate with each other and some knowledge about the "home turf".

 

You could also introduce the murder-hobos to the idea that when infiltrating a base full of bad guys that having an alarm raised tends to have the numbers of bad guys escalate and slowly overwhelm them. As a GM your job is to be fair and unbiased, and while you mostly want to see the players do well and win, sometimes they have to lose and learn how to do something with a different attitude or approach. The combat system with its need to have a critical hit kill a player is forgiving enough that you can let the players make big mistakes that in other games would be the end of the campaign.

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Another interesting option, in EotE in particular, is to split the party.  In many/most RPGs, splitting the party is a horrible idea.  However, the mechanics of EotE and the relatively flat combat power curve, tends to reward parties splitting up into multiple sub-teams to accomplish different tasks simultaneously for one mission.  This way, when the party does, inevitably, engage in combat, even if the group they're in isn't in immediate danger from the opponents, another group, somewhere else, is at serious risk.  Therefore the combat monsters need to leave their engagement ASAP to support the others in a fighting retreat.

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I find that giving most of my NPCs real personalities, and relate-able problems can come a long way to solving the issue.  

 

If they are treating the character's in your world like video-game puppets that only have a few lines to say and may dish out rewards or fight, then they have no investment in them.  The less investment a player has with the NPCs, the less investment they have in your universe as a real and unique thing they wish to interact with.

 

Then it becomes just a board game with a bit of extra rules tacked on.

 

Focus on the story line each player has in their head for their character.  Add sympathetic NPCs, interesting villains who may be more important alive, and think about real world consequences as other people have already suggested.

 

Trying to change players can be harder than anything else, but in-game interactions can go a long way.

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