Intra-party drama: when did it start ?

edited July 2015 in Story Games
Nowadays we have a plethora of games that support intra-party drama and conflict through actual mechanics or precise techniques. But when did it start ? I began playing roleplaying games in the early 90s and while some games suggested such behaviour through its texts (Paranoia, Vampire, etc) I dont remember seeing actual methods, nor rules, for making it happen in a effective manner. It was almost always just loose advice that ended up ignored more often then not.

The curious thing is that I had this thought while playing a videogame called Persona 3 on a playstation 2 emulator, a game released in 2005 that has a neat "social link" mechanic where your character improves in power the more he explores the bonds with his colleagues. I came to realize that Ive never seen such a thing in my youth. I mean, sure we had videogames with parties and all, but having intra-party relationship coming to the fore looks somewhat novel in videogames, no ?

So, is this some pattern through some medias ? The earlier "party drama"-focused roleplaying games I know of also came out more or less during this period (BW, Dogs and Mountain Witch in 2003~5 ? ). Was this period the beginning of this kind of thing ? Or there were games of this kind before ?

Perhaps more importantly: is this kind of conscious promotion of intra-party drama in our games something new(ish) ?


  • For the drama, or for the mechanics supporting the drama? I'd argue that in one sense that player-vs-player conflict was inherent in the original context (Braunstein, the wargaming roots, the different expeditions into Castle Greyhawk, etc.) Of course, this kind of conflict isn't precisely what you're talking about.

    Someone else can probably speak to the play culture pre-2005.

    (Intraparty relationships are a relatively recent development in videogames: I'd argue for 1991-ish, though there's probably an earlier example I'm forgetting...)
  • Paranoia definitely supported its PVP through the secret society mechanic and the constant demands by the Computer that the players target each other.
  • +1 for Paranoia. In addition to Corley's points, the addition of clones greatly diminished any potential guilt associated with killing another PC.

  • And the earliest proto-RPGs (Braunstein) were purely "PvP", as Isaac mentions....
  • Some of the original players (of D&D) who have been on the old school forums have shared how there was very definitely PvP action from the beginning. It's certainly documented in The First Fantasy Campaign. I definitely had PvP action in my early gaming in the late 70s.

    As the game shifted from open sandboxes with players coming and going, with a single "party" campaign, things started shifting and PvP action started to be seen as antisocial activity in most cases (I think the way Paranoia was played was actually a reaction to all this non-PvP play).

    Heck, I've even read about groups mounting assaults on other campaigns in the era of characters being allowed to move from one campaign to another.

  • I'd argue there's a profound difference between "we are competing for the same goal" and "our characters have different, and conflicting, philosophies."
  • Yeah, in Paranoia your secret society boss tells you to kill the other player character. In Vampire your vampire mom is SO RIGHT about your crappy vampire pals, why didn't you listen to HER, huh?
  • I spontaneously think that the difference -- in respect to what the design must support, if not encourage -- isn't that big. So I was like "Braunstein!"
  • There is a difference, though, between "our play culture encourages PvP conflict" and "we have explicit rules for PvP conflict". And some points between them, like rules that have affordances for it, but never explicitly say it.

    Not to mention the possibility of a play culture that expects conflict--classic examples: the D&D party arguing about where to go, or the thief stealing from the party--that the rules leave affordances for but never give an explicit way to resolve them.

    The adventuring party itself is kind of a weird beast. It acts more like the cast of a television show than any natural human grouping. That is, these characters hang around together all the time and sometimes must come up with excuses for why they're all still together even if the original reason is resolved.
  • What Isaac said.

    Yeah, my curiosity is about when games started to portray techniques and mechanics that promote such behavior.
  • Several mechanics and flaws in Vampire make sense only when you really read the roleplaying advice part of the book and play it that way instead of completely disregarding it and play it like D&D (which is the most common but missed issue people have with the game. The old storyteller system is crap? Yeah, the actual game text tells you to use it sparingly and roleplay out of it or even compare skill levels instead of rolling dice whenever you can.

    But enough derrailing: the humanity mechanic, the hunt as an important theme of the game the fact that every PC has a defined nature and behavior as roleplaying indicators, toppled with the fact that most usually the PCs will come from different clans who hold different interests, is all shouting that the game is more about intra-party drama than against outside forces, as it's most often played.
  • edited July 2015
    I'd say most games I've played over the last decade did away with the notion of a "party" of main characters entirely, so it's not as much "intra-party drama" as it's drama, pure and simple.
    A few games do actually set up a "party" of PCs and then get the most of traction out of their internecine conflicts, though. The Mountain Witch is the mother of them all, almost, both in that it's a great game and in that others (like Cold City & Hot War) draw the relevant game mechanics directly from it.
    The exception is Dogs in the Vineyard, where disagreement between the Dogs is a desirable outcome in the long run, but there are no special mechanics to deal with it (though, arguably, the standard conflict-resolution mechanics are not designed to sustain continued interest in the game should the PCs act as a monolithic team all the time).
    Then there's games such as Poison'd or Covenant, where the PCs are created as part of an in-setting group or social entity with its own goals, but are also given explicitly conflicting individual goals from the beginning. Typically the same standard resolution mechanics are used for conflicts with PCs or NPCs alike, with no special provision for "betrayal" mechanics (well, Poison'd has one, but it only applies to a specific subset of situations). You can see these as TMW descendants as well, or maybe not.
    The two lines come together in Apocalypse World, really, where Hx is an explicitly TMW-derived bit and player-characters come with a complex bunch of implied goals, both common and conflicting, with initial play sessions often devolved to establishing or clarifying such goals.
    EDITED TO ADD: but then, in AW, we're well beyond any sort of "party" (though I've heard of people who do play it that way).
  • edited July 2015
    Yeah, my curiosity is about when games started to portray techniques and mechanics that promote such behavior.
    I would also put my money on Paranoia as probably being the first.
  • edited July 2015
    I'd say that there is a definite line between games where the players compete against each other (relatively rare, I think), and games where the Characters are at odds with one another, in order to produce drama. (Let's not overlook LARPs in this sense!)

    The former fits with a very specific kind of play, and is rare in typical "RPG campaigns" (until more recent designs, as pointed out above). The latter starts as soon as we have an interest in good stories, since most good stories cannot exist with a group of completely friendly people doing something together. Usually stories have either a single protagonist or a bunch of protagonists who are somehow at odds; more modern game designs have started to focus on this more intently since "telling good stories" became an interest. (Vampire probably has a role to play in here somewhere, in terms of mass-market success.)

    I've never played Toon (1984). Does that have inter-character conflict, or do the cartoons act as a team all the time?
  • It started when Bob joined the party. Fuck Bob.
  • edited July 2015
    When I think of intra-party conflict, a few games come to mind for me:

    Paranoia (1984) - as others have mentioned, this is solidly built around conflict between PCs

    Toon (1984) and Teenagers from Outer Space (1987) - both use competition between PCs in their example scenarios and others, with some suggestions about how to build these up, but not a lot of detail or concrete mechanics

    Amber Diceless (1991) - built around throne war and other PC conflict scenarios, with techniques like the attribute auction, and various advice based around how to handle PC conflicts

    Wraith: The Oblivions (1994) - notable for having other players play the dark Shadow side to another PC, representing their desire to succumb to oblivion

    The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1998) - this is the first RPG that I can think of which is purely built around strict player conflict, with a defined winner

    I'll have to think more about early examples post-2000.
  • edited July 2015
    (deleted accidental double post)
  • First Fantasy Campaign (1980) gives troop budgets for different nations. If nothing else, it documents that PvP was part of the early role playing (since it's a document that describes Dave Arneson's Blackmoor campaign which was the inspiration for D&D).

    Mike Mornard over in the odd74 board has talked about how PvP is inherent in the D&D setup with the PCs eventually getting castles.
  • Verdy’s Free Kriegspiel (1896) has the General Idea which is what the team (party) is striving for together. Then each player gets a Special Idea which can bring them into conflict with your teammates or the General Idea. Some of the earlier Kriegpspiel’s had similar rules.

    Blackmoor (FFC) Like other’s have said. Blackmoor with it’s alignment, Good guys and Baddies on the same dungeon team, troop system, and unknown person to kingdom builder play.
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