Violence is always an option

Xenofos is a member of the same group as the Beer With Teeth crew. He set out to make and play a non-violent character. So far none of our PCs have been able to make her slap us, although we’ve tried. She’s restricted herself to cutting remarks.1Possibly I shouldn’t have found her attempts to insult me funny IC, but I did roll the response and go with the dice, and I don’t think it would have HURT the relationship. It’s not a good relationship. For reasons. Lenta isn’t a main PC, so she hasn’t been really tested yet, just test-driven. Here’s his write-up on how he thinks non-violence is going.

This follows on from in which he creates the character sheet.

When transforming the NPC Lenta Hulta into an adventurer I was stubborn in my idea of building her as a non-fighter. Why? Because she is one in my mind, for starters. That is not something required by the setting though. If I had used the noble profession to build her up she would have come out with some weapon skills and pretty impressive warrior equipment.  So making her basically a non fighter was my choice – I decided that with her background she could choose to learn combat, but would in normal circumstances expect others to do actual fighting. I had previously played with adventurers who have fighting as a secondary skill. That works but since I had tried that I wanted to try something different this time. The previous background Lenta has as a NPC I have ran gave me some ideas how she could work as an adventurer. I was also bouncing ideas about this with one of the potential GMs  a long time before actually converting Lenta. To be absolutely honest, I am not quite sure how well the non-fighting approach actually works in a game of RuneQuest. Smiting monsters and Orlanthi rebels is a fun and central part of the game. It is an easy way for the GM or adventurers to up the stakes and risk of sudden evil death is always there. As the Orlanthi say, violence is always an option.  However Ernalda reminds us there is always another way. As a GM I have sometimes struggled to find meaningful activities for the non-fighters to do so I wanted to give a good  thought to this by working from the perspective of an adventurer.

Playing an adventurer who does not really fight does not mean one needs to miss the action totally. One option is to use summoned creatures like Yanioth does. The other could be to act as a booster for the fighting companion. Both feel to me a bit like fighting by proxy. These are totally viable alternatives in the game and can be recommended. Both are quite appropriate for the Earth priestess too. I chose not to because the group I play with already has access to magic boosting fighting efficiency. And how fun would these be in the long run. Good additions to an adventurer, not something I want to concentrate on.

Another common option is concentrating on healing magic. It is very useful in RuneQuest. Since we have had people concentrating on that in the group I steered clear of this option. And frankly, if that is what one wants to do one should probably play Chalana Arroy or Xiola Umbar initiate who are really good at that.

What remains to do while combat is raging? Option of dispelling enemy magic is quite useful surprisingly often. Getting stripped of your berserk or fly spell can really ruin someone’s day. Befuddle, demoralize and ignite give options to hamper enemies from afar. So working as counter-magic or ranged magic support. These may cause direct physical harm, but more often than not this is the domain of followers of warrior cults, who do fighting stuff anyway.

On building Lenta as a non fighter I did accept that while there is fighting going on she is sidelined. The things above could ameliorate that, but they are not the point in her so I am not concentrating on them. I am trying to think about the Other Way. What  are the ways she can interact with the world in other ways? Are these the same or different from the ways other adventurers can do it? Can these create hooks for the GM to use in a storyline in a way that can involve other players in a fun way? 

In Lenta’s case we have connections through the cult. These are not unique and she is not locally connected yet. Also – she is connected to the adventurers by her past, but how that connection will work  is a bit undefined yet. We have a connection to Earth and some crops magic. Now that is hardly ever useful in your typical adventurer situations. It is more of a thing to barter for favors or to create more social connections. It felt like a thing an aspiring landholding noblewoman might very well have, and a thing an Ernaldan priestess should have. Lenta’s other beginning rune spells Arouse passion and Inviolate have similar soft focus, probably requiring special circumstances to be fully effective. 

She has a relatively strong connection to both harmony and fertility. I tried to build her skills around listening and understanding people which would enable her to persuade them to behave sensibly. So some Insight human, some Intrigue, more Charm, decent knowledge of Customs… Some Orate. Soft, harmonious ways of dealing with people. 

The catch? Getting these to similar levels as a beginning fighter has their combat skills does not really happen with the character creation engine. It is not impossible. Through the noble career it is possible to start  with a high skill in orate. For really efficient social skills one would need intrigue and insight human for getting and assessing the information and orate or charm for getting others to behave the way you want. On the fighting side we might compare this with a need to have high scan and battle skills for seeing risks and high weapon skill for hurting the bad guys. It might be easier for the player to ask the relevant questions and for the gm to describe the situation so that the adventurers perception skills and tactical acumen don’t really matter as much as their weapon skills and spells augmenting combat effectiveness.

The second catch? Fighting is easy for the GM on several levels. The stakes are high, it can be shared relatively easily. Just give every adventurer an opponent or one big scary monster and everyone can join the fun. Thinking of social challenges is a bit harder, they are harder to share and with the basic rules engine they are often basically simple opposed rolls that either succeed or fail. So it makes sense to just let the person with the highest skill do the social encounter. This may lead to players getting frustrated for not getting the chance to use their social skills, perhaps even not stated out loud, but still lessening the fun for some of the players. The problem is similar to troubles arising if GM tries to create martial opposition that is tough enough to challenge the most buffed adventurers. Those maybe invulnerable and lethal to other mediocre or just beginning fighter and create similar feelings of frustration. 

Now different connections and possibly passions might give some ideas on why at some occasions the young Ernaldan should speak before the Orlanthi noble, or the Eirithan before the Humakti. GM can frame the situation in a way that encourages such responses – and if needed maybe prod with customs lore checks on what would be culturally appropriate.  Dictating this from the GM side may seem a bit heavy handed, but helps set up precedents on altering the speaker of the party. In a way this may help with the next issue too.

Third catch? Roleplaying social skills does seem to more easily blend with the social skills of the player than physical feats to his natural physique. A quiet player running a smooth talker is harder than a weak person wielding weapons with astonishing agility and strength. Conversely a glib tongued, or just loud, player may dominate the social game way over the adventurers skill. To a certain extent this may be unavoidable. Being aware of this on both sides of the table may help.

I have taken Lenta for one stroll as an adventurer so far. She was asked to perform fertility rituals to a plot of land held by a Humakti she does not particularly like, but to whom she owed a favor. The Humakti then proceeded to pair her up with an Orlanth on whom she has had a serious crush. The ritual was disturbed by a Telmori assaulting the Humakti guarding on the outside and ritual Orlanth taking off at best possible speed. My favorite part was having Lenta remind the Orlanth of the ritual who owns the land. Experience overall was very nice. I had impression that it relied heavily on the GM taking the effort of tailoring the agenda of the session so that the new character introduced was the star of the night. GM  also exploited her Bless Crops spell I had chosen pretty much for the reason of being used as adventure seed.  Also, the group we played with was smaller than sometimes so there was more time for each adventurer to be the centre of attention than usual. In all honesty it must be said that I don’t know how the players of our Chalana Arroy healer and Issaries merchant felt about the attention they got in this session.

I suppose the real test on finding her role comes when playing with a larger group with the content not tailored to her so that I need to find it myself. Can she add to the fun for me and for the others? Will I find place to use the Other way.  That remains to be seen but I am confident that even trying that will be educational and be more aware of these questions when on other side of the gaming table..

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    Possibly I shouldn’t have found her attempts to insult me funny IC, but I did roll the response and go with the dice, and I don’t think it would have HURT the relationship. It’s not a good relationship. For reasons.

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