The Murder Game

A stealthy assassin sneaks into someone’s house and then stabs them to death before leaving quietly by the door. A thug beats up an unsuspecting victim and then finishes him off. A man is beaten down, tied up and tortured before being killed.

Today I want to talk about something that has fascinated me since I began LARPing: Player versus Player, or PvP. It’s something I’ve watched time and time again as both a player and as a storyteller in LARP at Dystopia Rising. And it’s something that I’ve seen very few people talk about as a general rule of thumb.

In this case, I think of “PvP” in the physical sense. I’m talking about situations when one character stabs another character rather than one character politically undermining another. More specifically, I’m talking about when one character dies due to another character’s actions.

Now before we go any further, I think it’s important to note that I’m not against PvP—far from it. In fact, I think it makes a world far more realistic. Let’s take Dystopia Rising as an example. You just have to look at any post-apocalyptic setting in the media to see what I’m talking about; people kill each other over resources all of the time, even when they’re in the same settlement. Tensions rise and certain sects of people wind up dead because of it. The same can be said for most fantasy LARPs, as well. If you don’t step carefully, you may find yourself with a sword through your gut.

Now, I don’t think that a game should necessarily be heavy on PvP. Dystopia Rising is actually largely a Player versus Environment, or PvE, game. (Just look at all the zombies. Seriously--they're like the best kind of undead roaches). However, PvP does come up—and players should be ready for it.

Over my years of LARPing, I’ve developed a few “rules to PvP” which I always keep in mind during any boffer game—rules that I fondly call “Murder Game Rules.” I know—more rules. Ick. But they’ve really helped me as a Storyteller when certain situations come up, so I thought I’d share them with all of you.

1. If you play the Murder Game. Expect to be Murdered. This is rule number one for a reason. If you shank a dude, you have officially raised the bloodied PvP flag. It doesn’t matter if you shank a dude at the behest of someone else. It doesn’t matter if you are the one ordering another guy to shank a dude. The fact is you have, through some way or other, shanked a dude--and have officially entered the PvP game. This means that you have chosen to be part of a deadlier portion of a game, and should accept the consequences if they come up.

2. Don’t blame the player for in character actions. From what I’ve seen, many people who initiate PvP put a lot of time and effort into it. They find out another character’s weaknesses in character, they create a plan, and then they go for it. If your character is killed by another character, then role with it; use it as a character-building experience. It’s not a setback, but is instead a period of growth. If the person that kills you is smart about it, don’t try to seek vengeance through out of character methods. That’s not cool. By that same token, if your character recognizes the other character (and that character is not in disguise), then feel free to retaliate in character.

3. Your Marshal is always right—really. Most PvP scenarios require that one player grab a Marshal to oversee the killing of another character. This Marshal is responsible for all rules calls during that scene—and if a Marshal rules one way, then you have to respect that. If it’s a rules call you believe was unfair, you can politely raise the issue to the Storyteller on shift at the time for future incidents. However, the ruling is still valid for this particular instance.

4.  Consider the Player when you plan to kill a Character. Some people don’t want to play the Murder Game. Heck, I see them all the time—and that’s fine. If a person has never done or helped with PvP, and if you think that person has a hard time separating themselves from their character, then keep that in mind before you go up to their character and shank them. If the murder-ee has done something in character that requires some sort of response, consider a good-old-fashioned beat down and scare tactics instead of killing the character.

5. Always sleep in character as your Murder Character when playing the Murder Game. Barring medical reasons, always sleep in character as the character that does PvP. It’s only fair to give your fellow Murder Gamers the chance to gank you in your sleep.

6. Never use out of character information when killing another character. It's simply not sporting to use information you find out of character. If you're going to kill a character, then do it properly--through in character means.

7. Have fun. Whether you’re the murderer or person being murdered, remember to have fun. There can be a lot of personal growth for a character in the Murder Game. And because in most games you get more than once chance at life, getting murdered isn’t the end of the world. It can be the start of a new beginning.

The Murder Game isn’t for everyone. Some people just don’t like that conflict—and that’s fine. But if you start playing the Murder Game, remember you’re in it for the rest of that character’s existence. It can be fun. It can be exciting. And it can be oh so deadly. But always remember that it’s a game—and always be prepared with another character just in case.