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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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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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The problem with that though is how do balance law and moral, duty and honor? Would following unjust laws raise you law and lower your moral?

For instance in your example, say you where a paladin protecting the sheiff of Nottingham or better yet prince John. Suddenly Robin hood shows up and attacks the prince, you intervine and kill robin hood. Is that an evil act? You as the paladin were obeying your code of ethics and the laws of the land. Even though Prince john may be evil, he is still the head of the country and you are duty bound to protect him. Like wise Robin Hood may help the peasents and be considered good he still attempted to attack the prince someone you are honor bound to protect.


quote:

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.



True, a way is still needed to determine another characters intent but basing you judgement entirly on appearence isn''t a good method to judge people. Afterall just because someone is dressed in black doesn''t make them evil.



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

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Much has been discussed since, but I wanted to comment on TechnoGoth''s earlier thoughts..
quote:
Original post by TechnoGoth
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.
Indeed, but as I said, the possibility can add to suspense in the game, and increase the intrigue factor of the attack itself.
quote:
But that makes the assumption that everyone is either good or evil.
But one could always extend the basic system to incorporate a technically "neutral" style of play.
quote:
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.
...
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...
Here''s a cool idea... somehow give the player "intuition" bits to help them "feel" a certain way about a situation. Dunno what that might be off hand -- maybe a darker aura around the subjects or a text box like you said. Or -- of course! -- a musical score with subtle but foreboding minor tones.

Anyway yeah, I like it a lot. The trick is not giving the player TOO much, and previously giving them plenty of encounters with well-meaning characters in situations like this, so that even the hints are not trusted... since the typical player''s first instinct is to kill-on-sight, a bit of retraining is necessary to exploit the scenario to its full effect.

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The difficulty arises comes from trying to stick to the strict concepts of Good and Evil, and applying them to a more gray-shaded world or story.

If in your game, you play a holy, unselfish saint trying to stop a horde of demon-summoning baby eaters...then Good and Evil can be applied pretty easily. However, if your character is a royal soldier who's simply defending his kingdom's borders from bandits or trolls, then that's not exactly a "Mission of Good".

Your soldier may be dutiful, loyal, honor-bound, and even a nice guy. But if you try to make him "Good" in the grandest sense of the word, then he probably wouldn't be out in the wilds kicking ass. Or if he did, he'd probably reserve his wrath for true Evil, most likely sparing underlings or hungry monsters.

Your best bet would be to not worry too much about Good vs Evil, but maybe rather focus on Law vs Crime, or Faction-1 vs Faction-2 (ie, two warring kingdoms). If your character's motivations are his duty to his kingdom, then you can justify slaughtering a disgruntled mob that may or may not be dangerous. However if your character's motivations are ultimate Good...then you're going to have a rough time justifying most all "gray" matters.

[edited by - Veovis on May 19, 2004 5:11:12 PM]

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quote:
Original post by TechnoGoth
The problem with that though is how do balance law and moral, duty and honor? Would following unjust laws raise you law and lower your moral?

For instance in your example, say you where a paladin protecting the sheiff of Nottingham or better yet prince John.


You couldn''t be a such a paladin in the roleplay sense of the word. A paladin must be lawful/good, meaning that (s)he both follows the ruler''s law and is "global-scale" good. There can not be paladins standing in for a system that hurts people. That''s also why most - if not all - paladins are followers of a clerical institution, they circumvent the first alignment component by making it a divine one, thus acting on a globally "good" scale in both contexts.

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See, I don''t like that, according to the logic you can''t be a truely good person and live in society with unjust laws. The paladin could be honor and duty bound to protect a corrupt and evil king, he would simply be refuse to particapte in any evil acts. He woulds simply protect the king to the best of his abilites, that doesn''t mean he also goes around beating up babies. The king would have other people on staff to handle those matters.

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

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Okay to get things back on the original track. Lets forget all about alignment and morals and get back to friends and foes.

Now a way is need to tell which is which.

As earlier stated there could be an intuition and judgement test. The results of this test would determine you characters opinions the npc. This could be represented by an auras, a simple circle around the base of all npcs the colour of the circle determines what you perceive the npcs reaction to you is.
Green for friendly
Red for Hostile
Blue for Afraid
Yellow for Intrigued
Purple for Suspicious
Grey for Neutral

Now again the problem of intent comes into play, here this would simply be a way to determine reaction not intent. After all the group of bandits could be very intrigued by you. So would it perhaps be better to show intent rather then reaction?

Should there be anything further to aid the player in making their decisions on whether or not the npcs are friends or foes?

One other aid could be environmental clues, but those would be rather situation specific.




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

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quote:
Original post by TechnoGoth
As earlier stated there could be an intuition and judgement test. The results of this test would determine you characters opinions the npc. This could be represented by an auras, a simple circle around the base of all npcs the colour of the circle determines what you perceive the npcs reaction to you is.
Green for friendly
Red for Hostile
Blue for Afraid
Yellow for Intrigued
Purple for Suspicious
Grey for Neutral


That given scale would basically call for a two-dimensional rating scheme. Determine friendly/hostile and then the strongest of the remaining ones. Someone could be generally friendly towards you, but also afraid, intrigued and suspicios at the same time. The possible attributes would of course have to be tailored towards the nature of the game to avoid unnecessary complexity.

Generally, having a primary "friendly/neutral/hostile" primary reaction seems sensible and pretty much generic to me. Perhaps make it gradual, e.g. on a scale from 0 to 100 with 0 being hostile, 50 neutral and 100 friendly. That could be worked into a faction system with certain biases between factions (faction A is friends with faction B resulting in the reaction getting a +25 bonus or something).

quote:

Now again the problem of intent comes into play, here this would simply be a way to determine reaction not intent. After all the group of bandits could be very intrigued by you. So would it perhaps be better to show intent rather then reaction?


Intent should IMHO only be shown when it''s obvious, e.g. people cheer at you, start drawing weapons, etc. Someone might be your strongest supporter but still shy away from coming to your aid in a fight when (s)he thinks it''d be unwise at the moment. Perhaps an emphathic character could "foresee" actions by being granted an intent check a short time before actual action is taken. This would need a system in which some basic "drive" ist accumulated up to an acting threshold, for example being close to a hostile character would increase the char''s "attack drive" over time until it discharges. An emphathic character would have a chance to register the drive getting close to the threshold and run away, a non-emphathic character would just see the outcome.

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Just a thought. I think that the D&D system is on the right track, it just needs one small addition: lawful/chaotic should be more like "loyalty", towards each different faction. So you''d have a "gauge" for good/evil, and then another one for loyalty for each faction. A paladin would be generally good since he generally doesn''t like hurting creatures and being mean, and he would be loyal to the people he protects, and have a low loyalty towards the orc and evil creatures. Robin Hood would be also good, but loyal to the farmers and not loyal to the duke of what''s-its-name A thief that steals to survive would still be counted as neutral (not good or evil) as long as he doesn''t kill "for fun". I think this wouldn''t be too complex and it would still manage to overcome most of those problems you described.

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The diffrent colors would show the what the main character percives a npc''s reaction to them is, they don''t see hostile and afraid, they see which ever reaction is strongest. So it would not tell you if the npc is a foe so much as what their most intense emotion towards you at present is.

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

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