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Considering Player Killers - How They Fit into Your Neverwinter Nights Game


Kinds of PK

To deal with PKs, we must make an effort to understand them. The first thing we have to realize is that there are many kinds of PK. Some are in it for the thrill of defeating an opponent who is more unpredictable and intelligent than any AI opponent. Some just like ruining someone else's day without having to worry about real-life repurcussions. A few are somewhat honorable in their outlook, who do not prey on the weak. But in all cases, a PK's goal is to kill another Player Character.

For the DM of a Neverwinter Nights game, there are really only two kinds of PK he needs to concern himself with: the wolf pack PK, and the lone wolf PK.

The Wolf Pack

Most PKs are either part of a pack, or seek to become part of a pack, or will do so if if the offer is made. Whatever his reasons for begin a PK, he is willing to submit to a few rules to be a part of a clan.

A DM can work this type of PK, because he is willing to negotiate, and understands the need for rules. In your game, that means your rules. Before you can make rules for how you wish to deal with PKs in your game, it may help to know what rules they are used to following, and why.

The Lone Wolf

This is the truly evil PK. One that does not discriminate. His target is anyone and everyone, and he will only follow rules for a short time, so that he can get his target within closer reach. Once he makes his kill, or once he is killed, he is gone... only to return later under another identity to deal more grief.

If your game is going to be a "PK only" affair, the lone wolf can add some spice to PC interaction. But if you are running a typical game that includes some of the higher aspects of role-playing, like teamwork and storytelling, this type of PK is going to be the worst that you have to deal with. But only once. You can ban an uncooperative player's CD with little fear of his return under another identity. A serious PK will need to buy many copies of the game if he really wants to bug you. By the way, that does not imply that the more PKs you ban, the more earnings there will be for Interplay.

The PK Rules

Many wolf packs, or "clans", agree to a set of rules that most PKs are willing to follow. Things like "Kill without being killed" and "Join us and commit to the cause of Evil". This makes it seem as if the PK must commit to being destructive. That's like asking a mosquito to promise that it will suck blood. These aren't rules in the real sense, they are just reinforcing statements that goad PKs into thinking they have a cause that isn't completely self-centered, simply because other PKs must follow the same rules.

Some wolf packs actually adopt more restrictive or benevolent rules, or even a "code of honor" of sorts, which limits their killing outside the pack in some manner. For example, they must allow a target a sporting chance to escape their wrath.

Most of these "rules" are just window dressing for rule number one, which is "Do not kill other PKs in your pack." This is the only rule that PKs need to form a wolf pack. They see anyone not part of the pack as being a lowly creature deserving their wrath. One of the biggest threats to a PK is guilt. In treating outsiders as prey, they can more easily ignore any feelings of guilt by seeing that prey as a lower form of life, or just some pixels on the screen.

By accepting rule number one, the wolf pack members support each other, and separate themselves from being utterly Evil. Truly Good or Evil acts have no conditionals. Someone who is purely Good, or purely Evil, does not need to discriminate his target. An act of Goodness can and should be bestowed upon anyone who needs it, whether they are Good, Evil, or whatever. Likewise, an act of Evil, like killing, succeeds regardless of the target's faction, alignment or guilt. But with rules applied, this creates a "Lawful Evil" set of morals, designed to preserve the pack. The PK gains a sense of "rightness" in following rules that perpetuate his kind. The lone wolf who joins a clan eventually gets booted out, for his "Chaotic Evil" refusal to follow rule number one.

The PK Game

Many PKs struggle against playing the game as it is meant to be played – that is, playing a character that participates in a story. They make up their own game. Not only is it more exciting to play by their own rules, but it displays the PK's ability to "think outside of the box". By ignoring the expectation that he behave in a manner defined by the character he plays, the PK can act freely. Some pretend to play a character by creating one that has an Evil alignment to justify their killing sprees. Others truly enjoy role-playing to a degree, but must satisfy their urge to kill eventually.

PKs may justify their way of violence by citing that violence is popular in movies, television, books and other entertainment. The PK sees it as his duty to provide some exitement to others, especailly when it is lacking in the game. But such acts are only accepted in works of fiction because the creators of that fiction set the stage for the audience. The audience is never directly threatened by the Bad Guy, but the players are threatened by the PK.

The PK often assumes that it is his duty to stir things up, to be the Bad Guy. What they don't take into account is that it's not their job to be the Bad Guy, it is the author's (or DM's) job to define that role. This is the downfall of most online RPGs. The game's creator is absent, and there generally is no arbiter or DM. Without DM interaction, the PK assumes the role of DM for himself and for others as well. He beleives that by doing so he has the justification to do as he pleases.

Thankfully, in Neverwinter Nights, DM interaction is built-in, and PKs can be dealt with in any manner the DM sees fit. You have the chance to use PK characters as your villains, allowing you to use a PC instead of an NPC, and allowing the PK to be the Bad Guy.

PKs can destroy the games they play by ruining the fun of real gamers (that is, players who want to play the game as it was meant to be played). Eventually any game that has no DM, and that supports PKs, will end up driving away real gamers, leaving only PKs and newbie players. Eventually word will get out, and even newbies will avoid that game. This leaves the PKs to form teams that hunt each other, which is perhaps the only truly honorable way to play a PK. As a DM, you could host a PK-only game from the beginning, and the PK issue becomes moot. Doing this also provides PKs a place to go where they are welcome, and doesn't necessarily require them to make arrangements with you before the game, for their role in the story.

The PK Future

A wartime MMORPG setting would satisfy the PK by giving him a more involved role and true reason to kill other players. By joining one side of a conflict, he does not need to pervert the game to meet his own need to cause suffering. He can fight for a cause that is built into the game, and he can kill the enemy at will.

This is exactly what Neverwinter Nights is capable of doing. The wonderful thing is that every game server can be completely unique in its vision of what a multiplayer RPG should be. A game of NWN can be all out PK war, arena combat, spy competitions, or anything the NWN module creator wants. It can also make playing an RPG safe again for those of us that actually prefer interacting with people in a non-violent manner. It may be that hard-core PKs will quickly tire of NWN, especially if the majority of DMs ban them. This might sound like a good idea to some, but if you ban all PKs you lose some potentially great players. Consider finding a way to incorporate PKs, and you may add a whole new dimension to your game. But consider carefully. If your other players are used to villains that capture them and give them a speech, or if they are squeamish about playing against villains that aim for the jugular, then don't allow PKs.

Many PKs actually enjoy role-playig, but were driven to PKilling because the game they played became boring, or had bugs or lag-time that brought about changes to their PC's status. They wanted more involvement, more story, and DM intervention. Now they can have it, with Neverwinter Nights.

In a sense, Neverwinter Nights can be an evolved, matured RPG that has the potential to put PKs in a place where they too can evolve and mature. As a DM, you have one of three choices to make. (1) You can support PKs, and give them a place to quench out their selfish thirst for power until they move on to the next game. (2) You can ban PKs, making your world safe for real gamers. (3) You can bring both Role-Players and PKs together, by designing a balanced module. Instead of making your story revolve around a typical RPG party of heroes (the players), you can really make the story come alive by recruiting PKs to play the villains. There are two benefits to this. First, PKs are smarter and more treacherous than any scripted NPC, and thus more convincing to other players. Second, it allows a PK to consider becoming a player with a purpose built-in to your world.

Now that makes for an interesting game!

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