What Are Your Favorite PVP RPGs or Story Games

edited September 2016 in Play Advice
I have a new group that is interested in playing some; any suggestions are greatly appreciated :)

Comments

  • In a Wicked Age... comes to mind!

    The game has disappeared "off the radar" somewhat because Vincent said he was dissatisfied with the design, but it was a favourite for a long time, and still plays pretty great.

    (Note: it's more of a "character vs. character" game than properly "player vs. player", if that makes sense. The players are collaborating to create cutthroat fiction, not trying to "beat" each other.)
  • In A Wicked Age and Smallville are the only two I can think of that really embraced the PVP ethos completely.
  • In a Wicked Age... comes to mind!
    In A Wicked Age and Smallville are the only two I can think of that really embraced the PVP ethos completely.
    Very cool guys; thanks so much for the suggestions. Have you guys played Houses of the Blooded, and if so how did it handle PVP?

  • If we're talking about drama games (story games, whatever) where the players just happen to play characters that are at odds, then there's a whole bunch of them. I do not personally consider this "PvP" in the video gaming sense, though, as the players are cooperating as much as ever. For true PvP you'll want something like Paranoia, a game where the players are actually trying to undermine and conquer each other instead of just going through the motions for the sake of dramatic form.

    Individual titles are much too numerous to list, but in general any and all scenario-based drama games are structured so that the players each have their own characters who have conflicting interests with those of the other players, which consequently creates opportunities for drama - characters shouting at each other, stabbing each other knives, or whatever. Dust Devils is a prominent and excellent early example of the pure-bred form, but you really can't swing a stick without hitting one of these. E.g. Primetime Adventures, Mountain Witch, S/lay w/ Me are perennial favourites for me. My own Zombie Cinema is also one of these.

    (Drama games where the player characters are all on the same side are understandably a minority, as in the final calculation it's more entertaining if the PCs can shout and stab and hate and love at each other instead of NPCs, if that's the core activity of your game. Mostly you get this arrangement in hybrid drama/adventure games like Shadow of Yesterday or Dungeon World or such, where some lingering sense of PC adventuring party yet lingers.)

    I'll give special mention to the Finnish story game Tales of Entropy just because it's something I've been playing a lot lately myself, and because it's a very pure-bred example of what a game of this sort looks like. It's free, it's very good - sort of like a cross between Dust Devils and Legends of Alyria (yet another excellent early Forgite adversial drama game), but with its own angle and a very effortless scenario prep system. The game's relationship map creation is predicated on the characters being enemies with each other, which makes it about as adversial as a cooperative drama game can be.
  • edited September 2016
    For true PvP you'll want something like Paranoia, a game where the players are actually trying to undermine and conquer each other instead of just going through the motions for the sake of dramatic form.
    Thank you for the suggestion, which edition would you suggest?

    I'll give special mention to the Finnish story game Tales of Entropy just because it's something I've been playing a lot lately myself, and because it's a very pure-bred example of what a game of this sort looks like. It's free, it's very good - sort of like a cross between Dust Devils and Legends of Alyria (yet another excellent early Forgite adversial drama game), but with its own angle and a very effortless scenario prep system. The game's relationship map creation is predicated on the characters being enemies with each other, which makes it about as adversial as a cooperative drama game can be.
    I downloaded and printed ToE. Thank you so much for bringing it to my attention; I look forward to playing it :)
  • In my opinion Paranoia is not, despite its established status in the rpg canon, a very playable game right out of the box - it has the usual traditional foibles, such that it requires the GM to basically read the rulebook carefully and construct their own vision of how, exactly, the game is delivered, and what its creative agenda shall be. We were very successful in producing a vicious, intelligent campaign of PvP backstabbery with it a last year, but that was accomplished by combining the best ideas of two editions of the game with a dash of old school D&D and a significant amount of original design. It is without a doubt a classic of the form, but it's not a game to be entered lightly, I feel.

    All that is, I emphasize, what people do anyway when they play traditional games seriously - that's what being a GM is, pretty much; you make games work for your group. Paranoia is no worse than any other '80s game, it's just not anywhere near what my expectations for a finished product are 30 years later.

    That being said, I recommend the 2nd edition for a confident GM who wants to put their own mark on the game (it's a solid core treatment of the premise, with certain superior mechanics), or Paranoia XP (third edition) for the closest that the game has come to a clean design. In general the XP adventures and supplements are much superior to 2nd edition, which suffers from the misapprehension that Paranoia is a comedy game of some sort :D

    I'm not familiar with the new edition under development, but the little I've heard does not seem like the type of treatment that I'd desire for Paranoia - they're trying to make the game easier to play by narrowing the premise and gamifying it, instead of supporting the full-blown wargame of paranoid conspiracy that I prefer. Odds are that out of the published editions I will continue to favour 2nd and 3rd, and particularly my own mishmash of the two.
    I downloaded and printed ToE. Thank you so much for bringing it to my attention; I look forward to playing it :)
    The designer of the game, Petteri Hannila, is currently in the process of writing a final game text for publication, so he'll be highly interested in any thoughts and reactions to it from an international audience, if you end up reading and/or playing the game. The current playtest text on Petteri's wiki is about 95% finished and fully playable, so no reason not to check it out now.

    Do let me know if you have any questions about the game, or if you desire any of the Finnish-language scenarios in English. Petteri intends to make available a wide selection of ready-made scenarios for the game at some point, but for now the majority of the stuff is only in Finnish here, with a few exceptions written in English to begin with. I suggest using e.g. Google translate to figure out the main thrust of the scenarios, and if a particular scenario grabs you, I'll be happy to arrange for translation - the intent is to translate pretty much all of them at some point anyway, so it's no extra bother. As you can see from the list, I've written a fair share of the scenarios myself, having gotten enthusiastic about the game last winter.
  • I should also mention that if true PvP (as opposed to drama games, as discussed above) is under consideration, then there are other classic options aside from Paranoia out there. Amber is often considered a PvP game par excellence, although the same caveats that go for Paranoia apply to it as well: the game requires quite a bit of thought and planning from the GM, it's nowhere near ready to play out of the box when compared to modern story games.
  • edited September 2016
    The designer of the game, Petteri Hannila, is currently in the process of writing a final game text for publication, so he'll be highly interested in any thoughts and reactions to it from an international audience
    Great, thankyou so much for the info. I very much enjoy play testing games, so I will give the designer my thoughts and feed back once I've ran it. Is there a way that is best to contact the designer to give the feedback? Thanks :)
  • I don't remember off-hand if Petteri has an account here - he might have. I suppose I'll send his email address to you privately. I'm sure he'd be thrilled to hear from people outside our (remarkably functional) game design circle :D
  • I want to plug Shinobigami as being both PvP and storygame...ish. It kinda breaks a lot of classifications. Unfortunately, it's in that awkward post-Kickstarter, pre-General Availability phase.

    That said, it really does, I think, fall into Eero's second category - true PvP. Let me summarize:

    All the players are modern day ninja, with the conceit that ninja have been here, hiding in the shadows (proverbially, but also literally. :P) for hundreds of years, and there are all kinds of "World of Shadows" ninja conflicts going on behind the scenes of normal society. It's got a sort of "World of Darkness" vibe going on, what with feuding clans, power struggles in the shadows, etc.

    Everyone creates a character, and the system initially looks kinda trad - you've got a skill grid thing and some ninpo (powers) as well as an Ougi (Super Secret Ultimate Technique!), which you keep secret from the other players. The GM then gives each character a mission (which is public) and a secret (which is hidden from everyone except the player whose secret it is).

    But then the game immediately runs off into storygame territory - the game is divided into three cycles, followed by a Final Battle (No, really). In each cycle, each player gets to frame one scene, which can either be a drama scene, or a combat scene. A drama scene can serve one of three purposes - it can be a recovery scene (where you heal a little bit of damage), it can be used to create an emotional bond with another character (Which adds to the fiction, and also allows the two of you to modify each other's die rolls... and means that any information one of you finds out, the other also gets) or it can be used to learn information about another character (Which allows you to discover their Secret, or their Location. You need a character's location before you can initiate a combat scene with them.). Drama scenes are almost entirely freeform - the scene player says where the scene takes place, and who is in it (Though if they are trying to form an emotional bond or learn information, I think their target needs to be present) and basically more or less GMs the scene. A single roll using a single skill is made to determine if the recovery/bondmaking/information gathering is successful, and that's the only die roll in the scene.

    Combat scenes, on the other hand, are kinda crunchy. Each player secretly chooses a "plot value" which is your initiative number, your "power pool" for your ninja powers, your relative 'position' for calculating range and...your fumble value. And you use crazy ninpo attack powers to try to hurt your opponent. Combat scenes during the three initial cycles only go to "first blood" with characters dropping out once they are wounded, and have a very limited max number of rounds. The victor in a combat can force an emotional bond, learn a secret, or take a Prize (usually a mission related item) from the loser.

    Once all the cycles are done, the Finale kicks in, which is a battle "to the death" between all the characters (and maybe major NPCs if there even are any.) During this fight, no one is required to drop out until they run out of "HP". The winner gets to walk away with the Prize.

    So a scenario might just include missions that are all "Your clan wants the sacred knife, go get it and hold it until the end of the scenario." but secrets like "You have a vendetta against Player 1. Defeat them in combat before the end of the scenario" and "Your clan needs allies. Form positive emotional bonds with at least two other characters." and "You are secretly in Love with Player 3. Prevent them from being defeated." etc. And the amount of "XP" everyone gets is based on fulfilling both Mission AND Secret.

    And I'm leaving out stuff like how Ougis work - they're a secret move that does something very powerful, and automatically works... the first time. But after that, anyone who has seen it, or who shares an emotional bond with someone who has seen it, can try to stop it from working...

    So yeah. It's cool. There might be a way to get the alpha materials if you "preorder" too, but I'm a little vague on that.
  • I want to plug Shinobigami as being both PvP and storygame...ish. It kinda breaks a lot of classifications.

    secretly in Love with Player 3. Prevent them from being defeated." etc. And the amount of "XP" everyone gets is based on fulfilling both Mission AND Secret.
    It sounds interesting; thanks for the info. I will check it out :)

  • Since I'm in a swords 'n sorcery mood again... Blood Red Sands by Ralph Mazza is literally a player-vs-player rpg, in that players are actually competing for the top score to win at the game. You have to play over multiple installments where only one of the players is the current hero, while the others play rival factions. The scoring at the end of a round of installments determine which players' heroes are out and which players get to keep playing their heroes for another round instead.
  • Since I'm in a swords 'n sorcery mood again... Blood Red Sands by Ralph Mazza is literally a player-vs-player rpg, in that players are actually competing for the top score to win at the game. You have to play over multiple installments where only one of the players is the current hero, while the others play rival factions. The scoring at the end of a round of installments determine which players' heroes are out and which players get to keep playing their heroes for another round instead.
    This sounds super interesting; I didn't even know Ralph had made it. Thanks for the heads up; I will definitely check it out :)

  • edited September 2016
    Agh, Rafu beat me by two hours! I clicked into this thread specifically to say "Blood Red Sands and Power Play!" @Rafu, if you've played BRS, I would love to hear about it! I only talked to Ralph about it a lot, like, 5 years ago -- still haven't played it.

    Shinobigami is also a great call.

    So, Power Play: I haven't played this yet, but from what I know, it's a roleplay-lite villainous competition to leverage known and secret accomplishments and strengths to win the race to your objective. I actually did a video interview with the creators a while back, if you're interested.

    Hey, what about Agon? I know it's competitive -- I assume that means PvP...
  • edited September 2016
    Hey, what about Agon? I know it's competitive -- I assume that means PvP...
    Thanks for the suggestions, David; I will check out the video for sure :) Agon is definitely one of the top contenders, but I thought I would look over, and even read, a few options first. It's good to know that people agree on a lot of the options :)
  • edited September 2016
    Another vote for Shinobigami, and also a mention for Eternal Contenders (and also by extension its predecessor Contenders I guess, although I haven't played that version). EC is a GMless PvP game where everyone creates and advocates for their own warrior in a fantasy duelling culture. It structures things with rigid scene types and outcomes. There's an end-game condition and an ultimate winner, although everyone gets their own personal "good" or "bad" ending. I've played it several times and it's quite good; my only real complaints are that the fights can take a while to resolve, and despite the game imploring you to add description it doesn't actually affect the gameplay – there's only so many times you can say "I deliver a roundhouse kick" before it starts to lose any impact.

    I'm about to Kickstart a game called Blade Bind that's inspired by both Shinobigami and Eternal Contenders. It's GMless and Char vs Char; you can play it as PvP, but it's really aiming for that drama-space rather than "I IZ WINNAR!"-style play. The book's just about ready to go, so it'll be available soon after the campaign ends.
  • Oh! How could I forget World Wide Wrestling!
  • edited September 2016
    Another vote for Shinobigami
    Wow, everyone is recommending this. Looks like I'm buying Shinobigami :)

    I'm about to Kickstart a game called Blade Bind that's inspired by both Shinobigami and Eternal Contenders. It's GMless and Char vs Char; you can play it as PvP, but it's really aiming for that drama-space rather than "I IZ WINNAR!"-style play. The book's just about ready to go, so it'll be available soon after the campaign ends.
    Cool, I downloaded the beta from another thread. I will check it out and if I dig it I'll make sure to back it on Kickstarter. Thanks :)
  • Oh! How could I forget World Wide Wrestling!
    I've heard really good things about this; I'm just not a wrestling fan and don't know if I could get into a RPG about wrestling. Still, it tied for Game of the Year. I should probably give it another look. Thanks :)
  • I've never watched a full wrestling show and I found it delightful.
  • @Rafu, if you've played BRS, I would love to hear about it!
    No, I haven't played it. I bought the book for the swords-and-sorcery color, but I found that:
    - It's a specific sub-strand of swords-and-sorcery that I do like but don't find as enticing as others - more "Manowar album cover" than "vintage pulp magazine".
    - It's a game of complexity beyond the comfort level of most members in my (very stereotypically European) habitual gaming group, some of whom also don't care for the genre, and most of whom don't care for the competition.
    - It's impossible to play it a convention, because it's not meant to be a one-shot game.
    - I realized that I don't particularly care for the competition myself - I don't actively enjoy playing to win, except as a short, momentary diversion - so I'd be playing this game just for the color, and maybe not aggressively enough.
    Hey, what about Agon? I know it's competitive -- I assume that means PvP...
    Yeah! Agon is a game of... friendly rivalry? In that the PCs are allies who fight side-by-side, but all the time they're competing to see who fights the most gloriously, and in the end the one with most glory is the winner.
    I haven't played Agon, but I was in a (short-lived, as we moved on to other games) D&D 4E group where we played with a similar mindset. My guess is, if you like 4E as a game of bravado and showing off your tactical genius, of high-fiving your fellows over totally annihilating the opposition in a flawless victory, you'll like Agon. Or that's my expectation.
  • edited September 2016
    I don't consider World Wide Wrestling to be PvP. Your goal in matches is to build yourself up, and that has nothing inherently to do with tearing the other wrestler down. It's more common (or at least it was in my multi-session game) to work together to sell the audience a good show than it is to genuinely mess with each other. You can mess with each other if you want, simply for roleplay reasons, but the game economy doesn't require it at all. Most characters advance faster by not doing that, I think.

    Having said all that, if you go into it with everyone determined to play it PvP, you certainly can.

    Contenders, on the other hand, really rewards winning matches. So for the duration of the match, that's some real (and excellent) PvP there. There's opportunities for fights beyond that too -- I vaguely recall that defaulting to NPC fights and not being a productive use of PCs' time, but I could be wrong.

    @Rafu, thanks for the info. I think I have some friends to recommend "Manowar album cover: the game" to. :) Trying to defeat my friends certainly isn't my normal RPG mode either, but I really want to try it out.
  • Here's another good game (more of the "characters may occasionally be at odds and occasionally be friends, but unlikely to do either for the whole duration):

    http://www.story-games.com/forums/discussion/20474/utpost-mechanics-explanation

    It's playable entirely just from the information in the thread.

    I've seen Monsterhearts played with lots of PvP, as well, it tends to go in that direction.

    Both are in the "character drama" type, as defined by Eero above.
  • @Paul_T
    Cool, I have Monsterhearts :) Do you know if Utpost is available in English? Thanks for the suggestions :)
  • It's not, but everything you need to play is in the thread (and there might be some downloadables in the links, as well).
  • It's not, but everything you need to play is in the thread (and there might be some downloadables in the links, as well).
    Oh, Okay cool, thanks :)


  • If by PvP you mean direct physical confrontation between players being the focus of the game, I don't know any. But if you mean conflict of interests with the occasional fuckery and backstabbing, then there's a lot of good choices out there.

    The ones I find most interesting are the more fuckery-oriented PbtA games (like Monsterhearts), Hillfolk and Shinobigami.

    I tried to like Houses of the Blooded, but couldn't. Can't explain why.
  • Oh, I forgot about the Houses of the Blooded question. I haven't played it, but I did run a World of Dew game for a while, and the system is extremely similar.

    It's also kinda weird. Because you are usually rolling for narrative rights, rather than for 'success'. Except in combat. Where you are definitely rolling for success. And I feel that kindof makes a mess of things.

    The Houses system starts out with what I feel is a really simple, clever idea, and then it piles a bunch of stuff on top that I don't think the game really needs.

    So I'm not entirely sure I would recommend it in general, nevermind for PvP.
  • edited September 2016
    @vivi_lessa
    "If by PvP you mean direct physical confrontation between players being the focus of the game, I don't know any."

    No, I meant more of the "fuckery" kind :) Thanks so much for the suggestions :) I preordered Shinobigami and own the other two (just have yet to read them). Thanks for the info on HotB :)
  • @Arik
    Thanks for the info regarding HotB. Maybe I will wait off on using it :)
  • If you have questions about Shinobigami, feel free to hit me up, I think I have a pretty good understanding of how it works by now.
  • Here's a great 1v1 competitive story game:

    Showdown, by Seth Ben-Ezra.

    We had a good playthrough of it here on the forums, if you want to see it in action.
  • @Airk Cool, will do, thanks so much :)
    @Paul_T Nice, thanks Paul :)
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