I am GMing a game with several of my friends, and we just passed a large milestone in the campaign. At this point, some players are abandoning the characters that had in order to try out new things, but there are two players, P and M, who are very invested in the continual narration of their characters’ lives. P is playing a street rat who has been given a religious vision and is on the verge of becoming a living prophet. M is playing a communist government reformer, hoping to institute a socialist regime for the people of her city, through violence if necessary (and it looks as though it will be…).
Both of these two are very driven and ambitious, and both want to make their stand in the same city, Enreuca. The problem is: the two are mortal enemies! They started off as allies, but as the game progressed, M’s cold-blooded nature and P’s spiritual awakening started grinding against one another. At first they were merely grumpy friends, but after M left another character, N, for dead, P decided enough was enough, and the two have essentially been working at odds ever since, P going so far as trying to rip apart M’s communist organization from the inside.
So now I face a problem. We are essentially going to be starting a whole new campaign soon, and both of these two want to play out their hopeful rises to power. But how do a play a game where two characters are trying to kill one another? Their beliefs are irreconcilable, and the gain of power of one will by necessity affect the other’s ambitions (meaning that I can’t split it up into two non-interacting campaigns). What do I do? Is it possible to run such an antagonistic game? I’ve talked to the two, and they agree that it would be incredibly out of character for either to ever work with the other again. Is it hopeless?
I think my first step would be to lay it out, in exactly those terms, to the group as players. Is the new game going to be about those two players’ characters’ conflict, or is it going to be about them all having to accommodate an external threat, or what? More importantly, do the players who are burning new characters give a toss about the two determined players’ characters’ conflict?
No dude, it can be totally awesome. This kind of thing works really well with BW supporting it.
In our Rimmersgard game (we have some APs up in the forum) one of our players basically gave up all hope of fighting for the cause of good, and became a major lieutenant for a dark elf queen. One of my favorite rolepalying scenes was of my character a high minded elven ranger fighting to the death with the other character to save the life of a pregnant woman.
I remember that what made it work was how Mark, our GM, directed the game in such a way that one roll, one test, would encompass several days of game time. He also switched back and forth between the good guys and the bad guy.
It was delicious watching our buddy play his character totally against us. Ordering a giant troll to storm our keep, or dispatching great wolves to track us down.
Of course, the bad guy died, but it was an awesome memorable moment.
Your situation sounds awesome, and I wouldn’t try and force the players to compromise their beliefs to follow some sort of grand design.
Well, if the players want to keep continuing to play those characters, they’re obviously enjoying antagonizing each other. If you’re wanting to lessen it, introduce situations in which they are forced to work together for a common good, if only for a while.
Let it Ride! In BW is not necessary that the characters act like a group (in the other hand, players should act as a group), so let them fight over it, is a situation full of conflict, drama and possibilities.
The only reason for not letting those two fight each other is if that kind of conflict is hindering the flow of the game, creating a tense situation between the players or if the players aren’t enjoying the campaign as it goes.
Now, I don’t have BWG yet, but the older edition states, “Fight for what you believe in!”
It sounds like the players are going to do just that.
Did you guys ever sit down and have conversation about what kind of game you were playing at the beginning and what the expectations would be? (http://bankuei.wordpress.com/2010/03/27/the-same-page-tool/) It sounds a lot like you were expecting the PCs to work together, or at least, not oppose each other, while these two players are totally happy to go up for opposition.
Alternate between giving either one opportunities and problems, and sometimes, add a problem that hurts them both, or an opportunity that helps them both at the same time.
It doesn’t sound like an expectation problem at all. He’s just not sure how to set up the new campaign given two players are adversaries. I say discuss it when you are creating beliefs and spend some time together fleshing out the situation.
I’d pitch the start of the new campaign with, “So, it’s been a year since we last saw our intrepid heroes, and the two of you (and maybe the rest of them) have been stuck chained in this one prison cell for the last 6-8 months, being tortured weekly by the secular/athiest dictator that swept the nation by force from out of nowhere or something contrived like that. Far more than you want to kill each other, you really want this bastard’s head on a stick. Now, if we hang a lampshade on that, will it work for you guys, at least for now?”
Then if everyone thought that was at all interesting, we’d flesh it out from there. Give them someone to hate more than they hate each other.
I don’t know about you, but for me, straight up PCvPC conflict is boring. Now, when there is something bigger than them, something that obviously Matters More (caps intentional), and they choose to keep fighting each other rather than band together, that’s way more interesting.
That, and when starting a new campaign, even with old characters, I like to use the first scene to set my Big Picture in motion, and show how it’s dicking my player’s characters in a big way, rather than just let my players do their thing and slowly introduce things that matter to the Big Picture. I just find it more fun, and it leaves players with a solid idea of what angles I’m going to start beating them from.
That said, if you wanted to highlight specifically their fight against one another against a backdrop of something bigger, take what I already said and back it up 8 months. “It’s been a few months since we last left our intrepid heroes, and power bases have been consolidated. All out war has broken out on the streets between your factions, and some hidden faction bides its time to make its move. My thoughts on opening scene revolve around the first day of that street war breaking out between you guys. Like?”
Anyway, my bigger point is that it’s more a matter of pitching something the players can run with, and making sure they know that there is always something bigger looking to threaten everything they love. Cue impetus to earn deeds points.
It’s a good idea to remember that the while the characters may eventually develop enough depth that some things feel ‘out of character’, the path they took to get there was paved by player choices (not character choices). This is still true now. The players can push their mutual hatred, or they can be looking for opportunities to Moldbreaker out of it.
The trick with intense PvP conflict is that it’s unstable. Unless the players are abiding by some intensity-restricting limitation (“we can’t let our war come to the attention of the nobility”, “I will never kill a man who has surrendered”), it’s going to boil over and someone’s going to wind up dead.
Thank you so much to everyone who responded here! I wasn’t expecting such an influx of great advice.
I’ve started talking it over with my players, and have decided to phrase the pitch thusly: “In the wake of [all the events that climaxed at the end of Part 1], there is a power vacuum at the center of Enreuca. This campaign is going to be about the attempts of various individuals to fill that void. P and M have already laid down their cards. Where do the rest of you stand?” This has had the effect of splitting my (quite large) group of players into those interested in the politics of the city, and those who would rather start afresh. It’s looking like I will have P, M, and N all duking it out in the changing power structure of Enreuca (rest assured, with lots of things getting in their way, and making allegiances change often). My other players are more keyed into an adventurous setting, which I’m all too prepared to give them. Time to see how well I can handle two games going on at once!
Thank you all. You’ve given me the confidence to actually attempt something with competitive PCs, and now I’m excited as hell!
In most of Luke’s games, my character has hated another character for at least half of the duration of the campaign. I don’t know how he kept us together, but there was always something that kept me from laying into the other guy. I’m pretty sure this last one will end up with one of us dead, of course.