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TechnoGoth

Friend or Foe Identification

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In my last thread on an injury system for combat. Someone mentioned getting knocked unconcious and robbed. Which got me thinking, why is it that we all assume that in an rpg when you enter a battle it is your opponent that was the aggressor? What if it was your character that started the fight? Think about you have your want to be heros roaming around the wilderness with their brand new swords looking for trouble. Isn't it more likly that they came across the group of giant bunnies and decided to get in some sword practise? Then that those same bunnies decided to attack the would be hero? And how many times have those same "heros" come across a man carrying a bow and arrow and jumped to the conclusion he must be a bandit and attacked him, when if in fact, he was just a peasent hunter out trying to catch food for his family? And so another thought occured to me friend or foe identifcation. Why should the player know just be looking at the name of entity that they encountered, what it is and whethro it is a friend or foe. What if instead the player and to make the decision, and live with the consequences? You come across a group of people in the woods they have some spears and a couple of bows. They could be ordinary hunters or they could be bandits. But the player must decided and act accordingly. So how could the player decided if someone is a friend or foe? Obviously waiting to see if one of the men attacks them isn't the best strategy. So what are some techniques and methods that can be employed to allow the player to make that decision? Ideally I want something more elborate then putting all the bad guys in black hats and the good guys in white hats. ----------------------------------------------------- "Fate and Destiny only give you the opportunity the rest you have to do on your own." Current Design project: Ambitions Slave [edited by - TechnoGoth on May 18, 2004 4:13:22 PM]

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quote:
Original post by TechnoGoth
Obviously waiting to see if one of the men attacks him isn't the best strategy.
Well actually, some consider that a very wise strategy. If the opponent attacks, they are clearly a threat, and one can continue to murder, pillage and plunder guilt-free. But yes, they do get the first attack.

There are plenty of ways to accomplish what you're describing, and I think its a fantastic question so I'm glad you brought it up. But I doubt my response will be quite what you're hoping for.

Recently I played in a P&P D&D game wherein the PC party happened upon very much the situation you've described -- a band of poor-and-weary farmers carrying basic weapons like pitchforks, slings, and so forth. A detect evil spell and the simultaneous discovery of a couple of bandits hiding in a tree apart from the road were the only indications that they weren't friendly.

But what if the farmers still didn't have hostile intentions, and they had fallen into the trap as well? We had no way of knowing. The party acted on an assumption and attacked, killing three of the six and capturing the remaining... suppose the four farmers had wives and children at home awaiting a meal? The party could have saved them all, and the guilt-trip would have been enormous.

As the player of a good-aligned character, I would have considered a tremendous defeat. The party would probably be hunted as murderers. But these consequences could have made for an exciting side-adventure, or simply added tense overtones to the remainder of the game, which further builds the atmosphere and immersion factors. Story and emotional involvement could have been enhanced if at some future point the party had met up with the sorrowful young child of one of the farmers. And the greatest reward would have been a moral self-evaluation, both in-character and OOC. At the end of the session I would have thanked the DM for a top-notch gameplay experience.

My point in this rambling is that there's nothing wrong with forcing players to live with the consequences of their actions, even when all the information needed to make a wise decision was not immediately available. Life doesn't afford this luxury; and while there are many here who will whine and moan that games and life should remain 100% separate, I have long believed that some of the more meaningful aspects of life, when applied to game design, can make for a far more lasting and enjoyable experience.

****************************************

Brian Lacy
ForeverDream Studios

Comments? Questions? Curious?


"I create. Therefore I am."

[edited by - irbrian on May 18, 2004 2:05:03 PM]

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That would certainly make the game more interesting. Hand-holding the player through your game just makes it boring. If you didn''t want to implement a justice system, you could do something like Jedi Knight''s force powers. The more good people the player kills, the more you align yourself to dark. A bit off topic, but I never liked RPGs where I had to choose my alignment at the beginning - I always preferred systems that altered my stats behind the scenes, and just told me "Your exelent at Swords" or "Your bad at Magic."

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Alignment is an integral part of the D20 system that D&D 3rd ed. is based on, but since its P&P, its dynamic. So is everything else.

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I recommend that you take a couple of steps back and ask:

1) How do I know when someone is good or bad?
2) Are there common cultural, behavioral or visual cues to someone's "alignment?"
3) What low-risk mechanisms does a person have for testing a fear-based hypothesis?


For #1: IRL, you don't. Saints and serial killers can look alike. Even if we had a branding or IFF transmitter mechanism, enemies can still look like friends and vice versa, depending on what they're doing and why.

This leads to #2: People can often pick up subtle hints as to a person's disposition. If we're observant, we can pick up on facial tension, eye/eyelid movements and size, body posture and stored tension, clothing (neatness), neighborhood, etc. FWIW, there's a book out there on this stuff by Gavin De Becker, called The Gift of Fear. In it he says that we pick up these cues all the time but often override them out of concern over overreacting and embarrassing ourselves.

Which leads to #3: What predictive gameplay is available to the player before they get into trouble, and what error recovery gameplay is available after they're in hot water? Can they send a fast scout ahead, or simulacrum to test intent? Are forms of attack and threat value of targets easy to judget with the interface (ie, can you "scan" them, and if so, from how far)? A mechanism as simple as a buckle / strap on a sword being open or closed, or holster flap open can, if implemented as a strategic tradeoff, give the player hints as to intent.

So to address the overall question, how do you know:

I think that road meetings in the ancient world were often regarded as an ill omen for a reason (especially at night). This was a case of simple odds: Who was likely to be traveling the worn roads between settlements but merchants, those on royal business or highwaymen? The former two were more easy to distinguish (by their guard and retinue) than the later. But the poor random peasant, while a possibility, was not a probability (most people didn't travel for fear of getting lost, IIRC)

Nowadays if you meet a person walking on the street you guage their threat value on their appearance, vitals, the neighborhood you're in and whether or not they appear to be atypical to it or not. This gives you some probabilities of threat. There are certain giveaways: A woman jogging with a stroller is probably not packing an Uzi in place of her baby (although that's a great videogame surprise ). IRL, most people you meet (despite media hype) aren't hostile, no matter the appearance or neighborhood. Exceptions apply to males in groups, unfortunately, particularly young males in groups.

In a dangerous world where you don't know people's alignment, I'd assume the worst. This would lead me to avoid encounters entirely, especially if I don't know the long term ramifications. Remember, as a newbie, I'd be completely unfamiliar with the game's universe (and less likely to learn it as I consciously avoid contact). In Morrowind, for example, all of life as a newbie was about having my finger poised over the adrenaline rush spell so I could get out of dodge when I got into range of a hostile NPC and they detected me. I then came to associate certain areas (caves mostly) as bad guy haunts, and once I got invisibility started to slaughter cave denizens on sight. I would have easily fallen victim to a punative system had there been one, but fortunately the game warned you with its justice system.

You might avoid this problem by giving expository hints, maybe linked to stats like Judgement or Perception. It's an interesting design challenge, nonetheless.


--------------------
Just waiting for the mothership...


[edited by - Wavinator on May 18, 2004 6:49:00 PM]

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quote:

Well actually, some consider that a very wise strategy. If the opponent attacks, they are clearly a threat, and one can continue to murder, pillage and plunder guilt-free. But yes, they do get the first attack.



Ahh, but with this you run into problem of premptive attack. The peasents see you walking towards them clearly armed with a rather large sword, they jump to the conclusion that you must be a bandit and so they attack you before you can attack them.

quote:

That would certainly make the game more interesting. Hand-holding the player through your game just makes it boring. If you didn't want to implement a justice system, you could do something like Jedi Knight's force powers. The more good people the player kills, the more you align yourself to dark. A bit off topic, but I never liked RPGs where I had to choose my alignment at the beginning - I always preferred systems that altered my stats behind the scenes, and just told me "Your exelent at Swords" or "Your bad at Magic."



But that makes the assumption that everyone is either good or evil.

quote:

You might avoid this problem by giving expository hints, maybe linked to stats like Judgement or Perception. It's an interesting design challenge, nonetheless.



lol, this makes me think of some kind of film noir style soliloquy system, where there is text box somewhere on the screen displaying the characters thoughts.

"Its a cold dark night, its wet very wet and not the good kind of wet. This was the bitter piercing kind of wet that goes right through the your jacket and then decides to move into your shirt like unwelcomed house guest. To top it off I was hungry very hungry it makes wish I bought lunch before I had left town instead of an extra set of bandages.

It was then that I spied the camp fire, it was warm and bright. There where about half a dozen men sitting around drinking and eating pieces of a rather large hunk of meat roasting on a spit. The men where dressed in worn leather and carried bows and arrows. They could have been simple hunters but something about the situtation just smelled wrong, their cloths where a little to clean and their bows a little to heavy. Then there was the nagging question of what a group of hunters where doing out here in this rain.

Maybe it was that fact that I was soaking wet or, hungry but right now going over to the fire seemed like a lot better idea then standing around here in the rain."



-----------------------------------------------------
"Fate and Destiny only give you the opportunity the rest you have to do on your own."
Current Design project: Ambitions Slave


[edited by - TechnoGoth on May 18, 2004 10:50:23 PM]

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Guest Anonymous Poster
WHy not just make bad guys look like bad guys--scruffy, ugly, suspicious, etc. Good guys are dressed more colorfully or clearly identified as a soldier, a farmer, etc. Bad guys are in dirty rags and obviously live in he woods. Or maybe they wear lincoln green?

If you won''t have a good guy/bad guy dichotomy, there must be a way to guage aggression. Maybe stance, or something less obvious, like the drug-users in True Crime not making eye contact with you.

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The mention of Alignment got me thinking further, why is it that everyone you fight is generaly considered evil? When the simple fact that they oppose is hardly an indication of the kind of person they are. Aligment really strikes me as a blunt instrument that can't really be used to describe complex issue.

For example

The local lord is a ruthless tyrant, taxes the peasents to near starvation and shows a total disregard towards others. For simplisity sake we will say he's evil. Now does that mean all the servents, retainers and guards who work for him are evil? To continue the lord has group of two dozen loyal bodyguards. Who are men of strict honor and duty who's familes have protected the lords family for generations. These men belive strongly in duty, honor and loyalty they are rightous and in terms of aligment would be considered good.

Now how does that dynamic work in terms of a game with a simple system of aligment? If killing good people causes you to loose aligment and killing bad people causes you gain aligment. Then that would require everyone around a good or evil person to be good or evil. When in fact an evil person can have nothing but good people working for them. If the player wanted to kill the lord, the bodyguards would be honor and duty pound to protect the lord they can't simply allow you to kill the lord, it would invalidate their own belifs. So what other option does the player have, do they kill to 24 good men to kill one evil? If so wouldn't that not mean the player has become evil in the attempt to do good?

In general it seems most games take a black and white stance on aligment opponents are always bad and attack on sight, while those who don't attack on sight are good. I wonder if it is even possible to have more complex system then good and evil in a game.


-----------------------------------------------------
"Fate and Destiny only give you the opportunity the rest you have to do on your own."
Current Design project: Ambitions Slave


[edited by - TechnoGoth on May 19, 2004 11:24:43 AM]

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quote:
Original post by Anonymous Poster
WHy not just make bad guys look like bad guys--scruffy, ugly, suspicious, etc. Good guys are dressed more colorfully or clearly identified as a soldier, a farmer, etc.


Millions of investment bankers are now looking for their rags...
:D

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quote:
Original post by TechnoGoth
The mention of Alignment got me thinking further, why is it that everyone you fight is generaly considered evil? When the simple fact that they oppose is hardly an indication of the kind of person they are. Aligment really strikes me as a blunt instrument that can''t really be used to describe complex issue.


That''s what D&D has the two-dimensional alignment scheme for.

quote:

The local lord is a ruthless tyrant, taxes the peasents to near starvation and shows a total disregard towards others. For simplisity sake we will say he''s evil. Now does that mean all the servents, retainers and guards who work for him are evil? To continue the lord has group of two dozen loyal bodyguards. Who are men of strict honor and duty who''s familes have protected the lords family for generations. These men belive strongly in duty, honor and loyalty they are rightous and in terms of aligment would be considered good.


In the D&D scheme, the lord would probably be considered neutral/evil or something, meaning that he is holding to the laws as he sees fit (first component) and doesn''t care about others, even actively wants to hurt them for his own good (second component).

The general populace would probably tend to (neutral|chaotic)/(neutral|good), depending on personality. There probably wouldn''t be any lawfuls since there is no written law to keep to. It''s a system you won''t get paladins for to keep in the scheme.

The lords guards would be lawful/evil if they supported the lord strictly, doing the Evil StuffTM like beating up locals.

The first component always denotes how someone fits into the local laws. If those laws say "steal all you can", then thieves would be lawful and non-theives would be neutral or even chaotic if they actively sought ways to undermine the system. The second component rates you on a more global scale, after widespread schemes like - for example - that stuff Moses carved on the hill. You kill people, you are evil. If you want to implement a system like that in your game (which you probably won''t since it''s d20 and you can''t legally make computer games with d20 rules), you will have to judge each noteworthy action on those two scales. If you, for example, kill Robin Hood, you''d definitely go for the lawful Nottingham side, but at the same time it''d be a big step towards evil with all the crying starving peasants and stuff.

Of course, there are intricacies that cannot very well be modelled like intent. If you rush a scene with a steenkin'' rich brat yelling for help while some Men in TightsTM clear the valuables off her coach and you put a bolt through good ole Robin''s head without knowing who he was, then what?

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