Kickstarting Lotus Dimension, a pacifist RPG


#1

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2016/09/13/kickstarting-locus-dimension.html


#2

Headline typo: “Locus” for “Lotus”.


#3

Thanks!


#4

Can’t they start it without the kicking?


#5

Sorry, my gaming was all about killing things and taking their stuff. :laughing:

To be honest, though, in early D&D you typically looked for ways to overcome obstacles without force because often times otherwise you’d get your ass handed to you.


#6

This is intriguing though I’m a bit skeptical that you could make it fun enough (this coming from an IRL pacifist). What percentage of gamers are just in there to kick ass or blow off steam? From watching the video he seems to imply that you must resolve all conflicts with non-violence. If true, I think this is wrong. Violence should be allowed but it should have consequences. This is where traditional RPCs usually lack sophistication. The costs associated with in-game violence tend to be zero-sum; they die or you do.

I think the most interesting aspect would be the exploration of the trade-offs associated with the decision to use violence. It’s generally not zero-sum. Mowing down an encampment of orcs might get you the treasure but could it cause more problems for you down the road because it sows resentment in the survivors/witnesses? On the other hand, what if you try to reach out to them and they kill one of your party? How should you respond?


#7

Finally, I can actually be the serenest!

(Remember, kids: it’s a competition!)


#8

I’ve actually led a pacifist RPG! In Pathfinder, of all things! See, the players were a police force (of sorts[1]) and each case (which I made up to be an episode of a show, complete with credits and all that) had stated goals one of which was zero casualties[2]. As a result, one case I can recall had exactly one attack roll rolled and that was against an inanimate object.

The players are generally quite fond of a good dungeon crawl but they enjoyed this, especially, I think, because they were armed (heavily, too) but had cause to exercise restraint. It was a fun challenge and the campaign is still fondly remembered.

[1] There was a definite X-files vibe to the proceedings.
[2] Which was in-character for the not particularly nice regime they were working for for tedious political reasons.

D&D 3.5e actually had pacifism as a rule: The Book of Exalted Deeds had oaths you could take which compelled you to certain conduct but gave rewards in turn. I believe pacifism was one of them.

Even mainstream games can be played quite flexibly and even if you keep to the D&D school (of what are, latterly, essentially miniatures wargames) you can explore non-standard modes of play. Pacifism is completely compatible with roleplaying. And if you choose more experimental games this only becomes easier. Spirit of the Century offers a modeling of social conflict using a similar ruleset to its combat which means you can absolutely have games where the big fight at the end is actually a masked ball the end boss is the dowager duchess and her odious political views. And you don’t need to do any serious adapting to the rules since the players already can make non-combat characters with considerable ease.

As for they die/you die… I think I disagree. I mean, first of course, there’s weird experimental stuff like Dogs in the Vineyard which is explicitly built to avoid this sort of thing by using this weird poker-bid based conflict resolution system. But secondly, even as hoary a system as AD&D 2nd edition features morale scores for most monsters (certain undead and golems never lost morale, of course, because they were mindless) and fights were, if played correctly, not to the death but to the running away. Players, too, often had to leg it since AD&D was comically unforgiving.

And lastly, the idea of violence having consequences, that, too, is a very common thing. Played straight, murder, even in self defense, is supposed to ding your sanity meter in Call of Cthulhu, and in Unknown Armies responding with violence is the absolute worst thing you can do.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that pacifism in tabletop gaming is possible, has been done before, and games that take violence semi-seriously (they are games after all) do exist. And it can be fun, too. I will admit, looking at the above I feel a bit… cold, since it strikes me as preachy. I much prefer the Unknown Armies approach where violence exists is absolutely effective and is as terrible an idea as it is in reality. That said, Unknown Armies is, on occasion, a very grim experience.

(And yes, I am a nerd. :slight_smile: )


#9

This is good to hear! Sounds like you have a fun group.


#10

Yeah, I wonder about how playable it is. My gaming group always had some games in which violence had consequences and non-violent solutions, but inevitably there comes the time when someone says (the equivalent of), “fuck it, I set off a bomb.” Also there always seems to be someone who consistently want to vent steam by playing a Murder Bastard.


#11

A pacifist Rocket Propelled Grenade? This I have to see to believe


#12

You’ll be pulling glitter and golden ginseng out of your neck and ankles for weeks. If you admit you’ve hit rock bottom you drop 3D20 gold and an assortment of items including body parts that reasons will be revealed for one’s not needing?

Nice parallel with the recent Starship Sofa where they train the new munitions. (Story is the same Effie Seiberg also seen in Analog, its cohort to be seen in Lightspeed ‘Women Destroy Science Fiction!’ (what does it drop?) and Galaxy’s Edge.)


#13

I prefer to listen to the Hot Tuna Sofa.


#14

I’m daft for not knowing what kind of game an HTS is, but…if it helps, StarshipSofa is a sci brut and sci fi podcast.

Jefferson Airplane <> Jefferson Starship div {Hot Tuna} …good to know. 2.1 and YouTube audio enc. don’t fail me now?


#15

If the gamemaster enjoys combat, it can be hard to play a character who wants to avoid hurting anyone.

If the gamemaster is more confident about combat, but less confident about alternatives [from breaking and entering to negotiation], it can still be hard.

I’m glad someone’s working on a project like this.


#16

I’d had an idea a while back for a game based loosely on kids’ adventure stories, where the villains are thuggish adults that kids can’t possibly take on toe-to-toe. It would be about exploration, stealth, gathering clues, running, hiding, getting caught, and escaping. The worst violence the protagonists might inflict would be a surprise shin kick or frying pan to the head, stunning a villain just long enough to escape. It could also work with more adult themes; anything where smart but non-fighty civilians are going up against monsters, soldiers, etc. and trying to escape with the evidence, the macguffin, whatever.

No idea how it would work mechanically, but it could be interesting.


#17

It’s the floaty stuff, like the “inner strength” and guru shit that’s scaring this pacifist off… I would think it be way more interesting to have an RPG that’s pacifist at heart, but still allows for violence (which comes at a high price).


#18

For potential inspiration, see both Toon (for stun-only combat) and Bunnies and Burrows (for everything-is-nastier-than-you RPGing).


#19

Non violent confronatations can be fun, a pacifist D&D reminds me of the roleplaying exercise in Venture Bros therapy;

PSYCHIATRIST
How about just talking to him?

ACTION JOHNNY
T- talking?

PSYCHIATRIST
Yes he’s an angry native, but he’s also a person. Start a dialogue.

ACTION JOHNNY
Uh, okay. Um, uh, why you guys always chasing me with spears?

PSYCHIATRIST
[as native] You parked your giant iron thunderbird on my ancestors burial ground.

ACTION JOHNNY
I did?

PSYCHIATRIST
[as native] I’m afraid you’re a trickster god who will woo my women away and fly them to your sky hut!

ACTION JOHNNY
Well I… I did not know that. I’m sorry?

PSYCHIATRIST
[as native] I accept your apology. Now hug me!

ACTION JOHNNY
I don’t… I don’t… Okay!


#20

I never played it, but I understood Blue Rose was fairly pacifistic in its play. Unknown Armies had combat rules but did a pretty good job of selling how awful violence is. And independent RPGs without combat rules at all have been a thing forever, however popular the combat-heavy games are; teen girls in high schools, Bronte and Austen emulators, and so on.

Social-fu systems tend not to as involved as combat systems, I’ve found; they tend to rely on the GMs and players being on the same page as far as monkeysphere politics and theories of mind go, in order to avoid breaking them. It’ll be interesting to see if Lotus Dimension delivers on interesting, consistent and rewarding gameplay.

I’ve just got back into D&D after a thirty-mumble-year break; I made up a half-orc fighter for the latest game. After seeing what can be done with a low-level wizard these days, I’m thinking a fighter in a party of wizards, druids and clerics won’t actually have much to do, unless there’s something other than murdering peaceful troglodytes on the DM’s agenda.