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Archlyte

Stealing and Killing for fun

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I am examining a phenomenon I have noticed in my gaming career in a different light and wanted to get some outside opinions. I have noticed that when players are not engaged in what is going on as far as the group goals or story they will tend to engage in either Stealing or Killing for fun. On the one hand I feel like this is in some ways part of the fundamental experience of TTRPGs, the basic experience of getting to do what you want in an imaginary space. 

On the other hand  it seems like a predictable behavior that is usually indicative of the player being un-engaged by other situations that may be going on in the game (assuming that the adventure is not just supposed to be the PCs killing and stealing in a particular location. i.e. Dungeon Crawling). 

As a GM how do you view this phenomenon in your games? 

 

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I haven't really seen this in a very, very long time.  If there's a pause between stories, my players usually either try to start up a side-business or spend half an hour or more roleplaying a meal scene in great detail.  

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I'm out of reactions today so thank you @Samuel Richard and @Vorzakk and I agree that the base nature of humans is basically as you stated and we have to fight against that in life. I think the question I have here is what are the components of that disengagement into the murderhobo routine? What is the nature of Buy-In for the non-murderhobo goals and story? 

I think that is interesting Vorzakk, is it a group that has been together for a long time? 

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2 minutes ago, Archlyte said:

I think the question I have here is what are the components of that disengagement into the murderhobo routine? What is the nature of Buy-In for the non-murderhobo goals and story?

There isn't a single answer that will fit every campaign. You'll need to ask your players what will get them engaged, but be warned that they may not truly know what they want or they may be tempted to say what they think everyone else (or just you) want to hear.

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7 minutes ago, HappyDaze said:

There isn't a single answer that will fit every campaign. You'll need to ask your players what will get them engaged, but be warned that they may not truly know what they want or they may be tempted to say what they think everyone else (or just you) want to hear.

I think that's great advice but I would like to explore the idea of keeping players engaged in a more generalized way as well, disembodied form a specific situation but with your advice in mind that each group is in fact different. 

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5 minutes ago, Archlyte said:

I think that's great advice but I would like to explore the idea of keeping players engaged in a more generalized way as well, disembodied form a specific situation but with your advice in mind that each group is in fact different. 

I've found that more generalized approaches to this tend to be ineffective.

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22 minutes ago, Archlyte said:

I think that is interesting Vorzakk, is it a group that has been together for a long time? 

4 of my 7 players have been in my group since the 90s.  Of the remaining 3; one's been around for a year, one for 5 years, and the other for nearly 10. 

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1 hour ago, Archlyte said:

I think that's great advice but I would like to explore the idea of keeping players engaged in a more generalized way as well, disembodied form a specific situation but with your advice in mind that each group is in fact different. 

Talk to them individually and try and figure out why they do it. Express you dont like the practice and try to come to a understanding. If the players dont like or are not interested in what your running, ask what they want to do. The best adventures come from the ones that a player motivated.

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Posted (edited)

This is often a Session 0 conversation that should be had. The GM explains that this will be a game with such-and-such types of goals and encounters. If that includes violence and theft or the possibility thereof, the GM can also hash out with the players what the parameters of that will be. For instance, we'll only attack people who attack us first, or we'll only steal from criminals, or whatever. In other words, get buy in from the get go about what the expectations of the campaign will be and how you want this to be a game where character arcs and motivations will be important.

Then you can also look out for warning signs that someone is creating a character expressly for murder-hobo behavior. It's not universal, of course, but it can be a red flag if a character is described as "having no morals" or if they have no social ties whatsoever. "Ja-gon's family was killed by a rival gang. He has no ties now, and he has no moral compass." That sort of thing is a red flag, as that's a character whose only reason to adventure is murder-hobo-ery UNLESS the player is very mature and can handle that kind of character and a revenge arc with very specific stipulations in place to keep the character from resorting to violence at every opportunity.

Edited by SavageBob

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I haven't seen much of this with players past their teens. So not that much the past couple of deca... err... years.

Might be worth noting that virtually none of the people I play with started out with D&D, which often defaults to the "kill the enemy and take their stuff"-format, but came up through systems with less formalized combat encounters.

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8 hours ago, penpenpen said:

I haven't seen much of this with players past their teens. So not that much the past couple of deca... err... years.

Yea, the last time I had a murderhobo party I was running Moldvay-era Basic D&D.  *sigh*

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Posted (edited)

I see it pop up every so often in play-by-post games. Maybe because the anonymity of the Internet? It's not necessarily a bad thing, but it needs to be decided upon by all rather than one player imposing that kind of story on others who want something different.

Edited by SavageBob

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In a game where you can play a bloodthirsty band of miscreants in the services of a vile gangster (or eventually go it alone as your own gangster), there's certainly a place for people that love killing and robbing other people.

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Posted (edited)

I see this as a throwback to Dungeons and Dragons and early role-playing games.  Looting equipment/money off of dead adversaries was the only way to progress.  We did not play the games to open up a shop.  Now, 30 (ok 40) years later, I actually do have a character that owns a shop but he sells stuff he finds on adventures so not much has changed.

RPGs are very much like TV and movies, the amount of killing is escalated as part of the story because you are playing characters fighting for their way of life whether they are Empire, Rebellion, Jedi, or Sith.  I have one player who would absolutely love if the game was all political deals, negotiations, and figurative back-stabbing but my other players would quit if I did only that.

Others have mentioned that the GM should indicate in a Session Zero that this kind of action is frowned upon if that is not the type of game they are looking for.  The only genre game that I normally don't see this in is Superheroes games (and then you have superhero games based on the Watchmen, Deadpool, etc)

Edited by Varlie

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10 hours ago, HappyDaze said:

In a game where you can play a bloodthirsty band of miscreants in the services of a vile gangster (or eventually go it alone as your own gangster), there's certainly a place for people that love killing and robbing other people.

Yeah and I think that if it's the intent of the game that's one thing as opposed to the incidental stuff that will go on sometimes. If the game is designed to be basically EotE Scarface then it would be strange to me to see the rampant death and theft as anything but germane to that campaign. Also I think it's probably a tone issue.

As I thought about this a bit more it seems to me that if the NPCs are devalued into being just fodder for the PCs, if sentient life has little or no value like in something like Warhammer then social behavior is likely to be less prevalent. I think it can also be situational like in a situation where certain populations can be treated as gun fodder and others have more value for whatever reason (friendly village, etc.).

Perhaps also  if the participants in the game and/or the Gm have a difference of opinion as to what the tone should be that could be a big source of seeing such behaviors by players/GM as an issue.  

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11 hours ago, SavageBob said:

I see it pop up every so often in play-by-post games. Maybe because the anonymity of the Internet? It's not necessarily a bad thing, but it needs to be decided upon by all rather than one player imposing that kind of story on others who want something different.

I agree and I was calling it a tone issue but you beat me to the explanation. Yeah and while it's not usually my cup of tea I understand that to some its almost the main reason to play, so I get that. I think it needs to be a point of communication for sure. 

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On 5/1/2019 at 5:58 AM, SavageBob said:

This is often a Session 0 conversation that should be had. The GM explains that this will be a game with such-and-such types of goals and encounters. If that includes violence and theft or the possibility thereof, the GM can also hash out with the players what the parameters of that will be. For instance, we'll only attack people who attack us first, or we'll only steal from criminals, or whatever. In other words, get buy in from the get go about what the expectations of the campaign will be and how you want this to be a game where character arcs and motivations will be important.

Then you can also look out for warning signs that someone is creating a character expressly for murder-hobo behavior. It's not universal, of course, but it can be a red flag if a character is described as "having no morals" or if they have no social ties whatsoever. "Ja-gon's family was killed by a rival gang. He has no ties now, and he has no moral compass." That sort of thing is a red flag, as that's a character whose only reason to adventure is murder-hobo-ery UNLESS the player is very mature and can handle that kind of character and a revenge arc with very specific stipulations in place to keep the character from resorting to violence at every opportunity.

I read this post too quickly the first time and didn't realize how on the nose this was as far as I'm concerned. 

I agree about the red flags and if I take your meaning this is something that is better sussed out in an express manner rather than trying to guess and hope that it works out. When it comes to tone of a campaign or any other expectation my policy is that Hope is not a strategy. 

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16 minutes ago, Archlyte said:

I read this post too quickly the first time and didn't realize how on the nose this was as far as I'm concerned. 

I agree about the red flags and if I take your meaning this is something that is better sussed out in an express manner rather than trying to guess and hope that it works out. When it comes to tone of a campaign or any other expectation my policy is that Hope is not a strategy. 

Yeah, pretty much. If I see the old "Ja-dan has no morals and his whole family was killed" thing, I'll work with the player to give the character some more nuance if it's anything but a throwback fight-and-loot kind of game.

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20 minutes ago, SavageBob said:

Yeah, pretty much. If I see the old "Ja-dan has no morals and his whole family was killed" thing, I'll work with the player to give the character some more nuance if it's anything but a throwback fight-and-loot kind of game.

Ja-dan has no morals. lol I love this example. I just don't find terminators to be very interesting but I agree that for a fight-and-loot type of game it's not any big deal. 

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In my experience players devolve into the kill-and-loot mindset when they don't feel any attachments to the story or NPCs in the story. When there is more interesting things to do than just killing fools, then a lot of people prefer that. Of course some people are just really bad at role playing and has little to no interest in that aspect, they're just there for the killing and the looting.

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Yikes. I've never seen that mind-set in an actual table top RPG session - and I started RPGs with AD&D during late 1e.

One of our GMs uses the term "social contract", which I think could be expressed in that "session 0" advice given earlier.

Personally, when I run a game I write character creation guidelines where possible, and include lines like "characters must not be evil, anti-social, or worship evil deities" plus the need of being willing to go adventuring. The latter is important for certain types of D&D campaigns - no one wants to spend two hours at the table while the GM coaxes another player's PC into leaving town for the planned adventure.

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Posted (edited)
4 hours ago, Bellona said:

Yikes. I've never seen that mind-set in an actual table top RPG session - and I started RPGs with AD&D during late 1e.

One of our GMs uses the term "social contract", which I think could be expressed in that "session 0" advice given earlier.

Personally, when I run a game I write character creation guidelines where possible, and include lines like "characters must not be evil, anti-social, or worship evil deities" plus the need of being willing to go adventuring. The latter is important for certain types of D&D campaigns - no one wants to spend two hours at the table while the GM coaxes another player's PC into leaving town for the planned adventure.

I have a friend who has that as an express rule of character creation. He won't allow characters to be played that are not suitable to adventure. I don't think that covers it all the way though as I have seen plenty of pure-adventurer characters decide to reject a hook. Sometimes for understandable reasons, other times for bad reasons (can't stand to risk their war machine in actual battle, are pursuing some profitable but boring venture, or are trying to railroad the group into doing what they want only). 

My biggest problems with evil PCs is that they generally are only evil to NPCs, which while this saves the group it makes me hate the character generally speaking. If you are going to do an anti-hero there is a balancing act between the sympathetic and the repulsive that you have to do successfully. Playing an outright villain as a PC always strikes me as a Player essentially trying to do the GM's job in being the main problem/adversary of the group. 

Edited by Archlyte

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