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Lack of RP conflict between heroes and villains?


Oginth
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I don't have a long history with CoH, but during my initiation run with HC (last year before my PC exploded and I didn't bother to reinstall after I got a replacement), I was thinking maybe I would see some sort of RP conflicts, that out of tradition, villains always lose, but not before giving the heroes some troubles worth conquering. When I learnt that CoH has a base system, and once had base-invasion gimmick, I even imagined of RPing base invasion.

 

I might not have experience everything RP in HC, due to my timezone and limited stay with HC, and me not initiating anything but just going with the flow, but what I saw are player heroes staying with player heroes, player villains staying with player villains, they rarely cross paths except when it's drinking and dancing time.

 

There is that Mission Architect, and some SG do provide some RP experience, but it's still player heroes vs AI (and GM?), are there any for player villains? And still, outside of PvP, heroes don't RP fight villains. It's kinda boring for a world with heroes and villains.

 

I do not know what I'm expecting, or how RP conflict should/would work, just my opinion, this thought comes out of nowhere as I reinstalled HC after nine months of absence.

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https://forums.homecomingservers.com/topic/18442-that-was-great-gushing-about-being-a-villain/

 

It's been a long, long while since I've gotten to indulge my villainous tendencies and flex my narrative antagonist tentacles, but to follow-up with my post in the linked thread, I did have another encounter where someone invited me to be a villain in their group's roleplay.

Regrettably, that one did not go so well as the other.  While I had a very solid rapport with the one player who invited me, and they coached me on how they wanted the scene to play out, no OOC introductions were made before the scene with the other players involved.  There were fundamentally different approaches to elements of the roleplay (specifically related to the mechanisms of magic), and things were fairly bumpy.

Since then, I've declined a few invites when OOC preamble discussions weren't forthcoming.  Playing an antagonist for other players to interact with is something I take rather seriously, and I'd like to make sure I'm on the same page with other players (and reading the same playbook, at that).  

 

As we've recently been discussing in some other threads here, there is a call for improved player interpersonal networking options.  I'll make a note to include elements of "heroes seeking villain" and vice-versa to the Roleplay Connections thread, when I get to working on it.

Similarly, we'll hopefully see some improvements or additions of in-game tools for creating meaningful player-Villain versus player-Hero(es) content.  But there hasn't even been a breath of a hint to any of the existing Devs actually being willing to tackle that particular pipedream.

 

Also, the recent thread about "godmodding" and @CrystalDragon's roleplay seminars draw attention to one of the issues which creates a potential barrier for these sorts of narratives:

How do you balance the individual strength of a player-Villain in a roleplay context against the collective strength of player-Heroes to make an engaging experience for all parties?  

My personal solution is to talk it through OOC beforehand, but as alluded to at the start of this post, I've not recently found any groups where we've come to consensus on the matter.  A further complication is that I've discovered so many players are Incarnated out the ass, and looking for a compelling villain at that level of power . . . and I'm fairly disinterested in Incarnates in general, so that's typically a non-starter for me.

 

Conversely, there are plenty of close-knit groups who do this sort of thing.  They tend to be fairly insular, though; finding a collection of players who mesh well and then playing amongst themselves predominantly.  If you befriend such a player outside of the clique, they may attempt to introduce you to their fellows and induct you if they feel you're their kind of people.

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Very much this. 

48 minutes ago, GraspingVileTerror said:

Conversely, there are plenty of close-knit groups who do this sort of thing.  They tend to be fairly insular, though; finding a collection of players who mesh well and then playing amongst themselves predominantly.  If you befriend such a player outside of the clique, they may attempt to introduce you to their fellows and induct you if they feel you're their kind of people.

Especially from a roleplayers nondramatics aspect outlook. Many of the groups I'm working with tend to be very much so careful whom they bring in to the circle for play simply because we don't want to deal with other peoples drama but don't mind sharing and listening to each others views and offering advise and help to each other with missions/tf's and what not. I work heavily with Chaos United, and a couple other groups that I'm not sure if I have permission to invite to, but the more you listen/read the conversations and ongoing matters with roleplaying groups that gather in public spaces, the more you get to know them as player characters and their stories too. I'd recommend giving Kassie on Everlasting, or @_Kai_ a tell sometime to talk about your character and your story interests. They might have some insights on how to break into the scenes and find a good villain player that wants to have some story writing fun.

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I have to admit that aside from an existing player within a social group alting over to play villain to the rest of the group as part of a plot, I have never once had a good experience with villains and heroes trying to organically just 'do' conflict in all the years of Live, or on HC. When no one really gets to know each other as players first, its very very easy to people to assume certain 'rules' or expectations and get upset or disappointed or hurt when the RP is based around one person/group antagonizing another. It's not even power or winning, it could be as little as someone expects a serious fairly realistic villain for their fresh out of sidekick training hero to have to stop and instead Pieface the Clown shows up with a water blast flower and ruins the scene for the hero's player. 

I think if that's something people want to see, it's likely something best organized either on the forums, or Discord, or some non-game space where expectations can be discussed at minimum, or, at maximum have one side plan out the kind of scene they want to run and do a 'casting call' for what kind of characters they want on the opposing side.  

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4 hours ago, Oginth said:

I don't have a long history with CoH, but during my initiation run with HC (last year before my PC exploded and I didn't bother to reinstall after I got a replacement), I was thinking maybe I would see some sort of RP conflicts, that out of tradition, villains always lose, but not before giving the heroes some troubles worth conquering. When I learnt that CoH has a base system, and once had base-invasion gimmick, I even imagined of RPing base invasion.

 

I might not have experience everything RP in HC, due to my timezone and limited stay with HC, and me not initiating anything but just going with the flow, but what I saw are player heroes staying with player heroes, player villains staying with player villains, they rarely cross paths except when it's drinking and dancing time.

 

There is that Mission Architect, and some SG do provide some RP experience, but it's still player heroes vs AI (and GM?), are there any for player villains? And still, outside of PvP, heroes don't RP fight villains. It's kinda boring for a world with heroes and villains.

 

I do not know what I'm expecting, or how RP conflict should/would work, just my opinion, this thought comes out of nowhere as I reinstalled HC after nine months of absence.

Well part of it might have to do simply with the rules of conduct. Unless its wanted, players trying to stir up RP conflict and drama actually amounts to harassment. We keep in our circles because those are the players who we can RP with without being having to deal with negative time. The only places heroes and villains can encounter each other in non pvp environs are a few co op zones. In the D by the very lore of the game our very ability and perhaps even will to think of doing violence or stirring conflict is being pacified by a force beyond any a player character can muster.

 

Basically the only random RP that is allowed is that of a friendly nature. Insults even IC can be reported. In fact any form of unwanted RP can be. Someone goes up and does a /e runs their hand down your back, and if they are not a friend that knows they are welcome to, you can report them for sexual misconduct.

 

Basically RP is for friends, and basic random civil pug RP.  Most of us ime who RP are not RPing because we are after some kind of conflict or drama, and those who do usually dont last long.

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10 hours ago, GraspingVileTerror said:

How do you balance the individual strength of a player-Villain in a roleplay context against the collective strength of player-Heroes to make an engaging experience for all parties?  

My personal solution is to talk it through OOC beforehand, but as alluded to at the start of this post, I've not recently found any groups where we've come to consensus on the matter.  A further complication is that I've discovered so many players are Incarnated out the ass, and looking for a compelling villain at that level of power . . . and I'm fairly disinterested in Incarnates in general, so that's typically a non-starter for me.

 

Definitely a good idea to talk it out beforehand if you're dealing with people who you don't regularly RP on the side with.  Even with my newfound group it's all been social, so I have no idea about how they rank their power levels.

 

As for incarnates, I ignore that aspect even though several of my characters are.  I leave it at my character has more or less mastered their abilities and has spent enough time in the trenches.  I know why the incarnate system exists, and it's fun, but it doesn't really jive with where I want any of my characters to actually end up.  I do work enhancement procs into their story as little technological/magical/secondary mutations to their powers. 

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In the first year or so of the Tower, we were looking to get some Hero vs Arachnos group rivalries going. We kept running in to the same problem, none of the Hero groups we contacted or who contacted us ever wanted to lose beyond the "We Heroes didn't ask for this, we're just chilling in our base and you evil villains came and blew us up/kidnapped/killed" thing that would give them every reason to smash down the Tower. None of them ever wanted to be the aggressors or even remotely in the wrong. We were wanted as a punching bag to advance their SG storylines, but they weren't willing to help advance our VG storylines.

Eventually, we just stopped looking for a Hero group to be our arch nemesis.

In the very early days there was a thread or two that had views from all sides the Hero vs Villain RP situation.

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Heroes v Villains needs some sort of proper arrangement and structure. The adage 'The Villain always loses' needs to be thrown out the window, loss is good for character development, guaranteed loss is predictable and bad. Then you've got to question what makes a Villain a Villain? Most topics that aren't 'Saturday morning cartoon Villain' might involve more adult themes such as torture, blackmail, manipulation, widespread terror, a lot of Roleplayers muddy the waters here, IC/OOC blend and drama can occur.

 

This is why the Hero group and Villain group need to trust each other OOC to have fun IC, that takes organization and setup which is time and effort.

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Yeah, I don't like the black and white outlook either.  Most of my 'villains' are selfish and have goals or methods that may not be considered socially acceptable by portions of the populace, but they aren't Snidely Whiplash, either.  My main does just fine hanging out in a club or chatting it up in a pub.  She doesn't assault people for no reason at all.

 

That's something I like about my current RP group--I'm not even sure who is a hero or villain.  It's just a bunch of people doing their thing, some more kindly than others.

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4 hours ago, Siouxsie said:

Yeah, I don't like the black and white outlook either.  Most of my 'villains' are selfish and have goals or methods that may not be considered socially acceptable by portions of the populace, but they aren't Snidely Whiplash, either.  My main does just fine hanging out in a club or chatting it up in a pub.  She doesn't assault people for no reason at all.

 

That's something I like about my current RP group--I'm not even sure who is a hero or villain.  It's just a bunch of people doing their thing, some more kindly than others.

When I was still on Everlasting, I used to RP Arachnos. Some residents of the Rogue Isles still see the place as Etoile, and are just trying to make a living. Same with those working for Arachnos. I think I saw an NPC joke about Arachnos' Dental plan as being a reason for high levels of recruitment. Plus in some cases, there are common enemies. No one care if my Crab is a Crab in Dark Astoria if I am running spiderbots all over Banished Pantheon. 

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That's pretty much the way it goes with my Oranbegans (who tend to be Rogues, alignment-wise), as well. No one seems particularly concerned that they have a Death Mage along for the ride... as long as it's the Rikti, or the Romans or the Talons who are getting covered in inky darkness and a mass of creepy tentacles. 

 

Once in a great while I'll run into someone who gets testy IC about it... A few even to the point of being disruptive and, frankly, really assholish... but that's been pretty rare. More often it's a nervous laugh and a "You're not going to body-snatch me are you? No magicians in my family. I swear!" .... Or cheeky questions about succubi. 😝 

 

 

 

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On 9/9/2021 at 2:13 PM, Saeletra said:

In the first year or so of the Tower, we were looking to get some Hero vs Arachnos group rivalries going. We kept running in to the same problem, none of the Hero groups we contacted or who contacted us ever wanted to lose beyond the "We Heroes didn't ask for this, we're just chilling in our base and you evil villains came and blew us up/kidnapped/killed" thing that would give them every reason to smash down the Tower. None of them ever wanted to be the aggressors or even remotely in the wrong. We were wanted as a punching bag to advance their SG storylines, but they weren't willing to help advance our VG storylines.

Eventually, we just stopped looking for a Hero group to be our arch nemesis.

In the very early days there was a thread or two that had views from all sides the Hero vs Villain RP situation.

 

Obviously I'm not fully versed in the Ivory Tower (only a little bit of tangential exposure through my character Archenemy) but if I may speak a bit to my philosophy as a former villain main who now skews more antiheroic, I don't think "we don't want to lose" is an unreasonable expectation from someone roleplaying a superhero.  This game, City of Heroes, exists in the comic book genre, and comic books have an ironclad heel-and-face formula where the villain exists as the actor and the hero exists as the reactor, ultimately ending in the hero negating or forstalling what the villain achieved until such time as the villain initiates the action again.

 

Is this a great formula for roleplay?  No, not really, it puts way more onus on villains to be interesting and engaging than heroes.  Should heroes have to struggle to defeat villains?  Yes, and a hero wanting to treat a VG as a 'punching bag' is disrespectful.  But something that I've always felt to be an implicit rule of the City of Heroes roleplay space is that villains never win in the end, because that's the immutable, arguably most singularly important rule of comic books.  The whole superhero genre is built on a foundation of fantastical morality tales, and as an inversion of your frustration that no superhero group wanted to be 'in the wrong,' I'd argue that asking superhero players to job themselves as unreasonable aggressors of helpless "villains" who did nothing wrong is entirely contrary to the social contract.

 

This disconnect informs a lot of player conflict that I've seen both on Live and Everlasting.  At the broadest strokes, roleplayers don't like their characters to lose and lose big.  They like to face adversity, sure, but they want their character to come out of it always improved, better, more developed.  But when villain players go into a roleplay conflict with hero players and both are expecting to win, feelings get hurt and fast.  The villains get defensive about "what, can't you let me win just this once?  There's like eight of you for every one of us on the server" or occasionally present a more confrontational appeal-to-realism like "villains win in real life, cupcake, now pucker up."  The heroes, in turn, get defensive about the fundamental moral underpinnings of their world being violated.  It's a bad scene.

 

I love playing Archenemy, but he's a jobber.  His raison d'etre is to lose to superheroes.  Whenever I engage in conflict RP - and there have been 3 or 4 such occasions, to mixed degrees of success - I have him shoot credibly for his own short-term success and don't undersell his capabilities, but the question I always ask myself is "okay, and how will I ultimately be defeated so the heroes can shine?"  It helps that I play him like a complete scumbag (as a card-carrying "villain" should be), which makes it fun and cathartic to lay him low, but I've always implicitly understood his roleplay purpose, as a villain, to be to act as an obstacle for heroes that is ultimately surmountable, which represents a break from what I'd estimate to be half of the villain roleplay playerbase.

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My last paragraph was a mess
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I generally find your thoughts very insightful and positive, @TwoDee, but I feel you are deeply off the mark with the initial premise that leads your thought process there.

City of Heroes isn't a comic book.

City of Heroes was -partially inspired- by comic books, but what the Legacy Teams collectively brought into existence is so much more than that.  Champions Online and DCUO, and the attempts by Marvel at MMOs are much more fitting the bill of "comic book."  What we have with City of Heroes is a confluence of happy accidents; upward failures in an attempt to make a comic book game that became and remains so much greater than its original, narrow aspirations.  Diverse minds and interpretations brought us this game.  Inclusivity on that level is the foundation that makes City of Heroes special.

 

I don't disagree that a player-villain as a narrative foil for the heroes to eventually overcome is in short supply within our roleplay community, but there's definitely more that can be done with villainous characters.  Not all villains are antagonists.  Not all heroes are protagonists.  Not even in comic books.

 

And to nip it in the bud, hopefully; I'm not saying that players can't view City through a narrow lens of comic books*; that's their personal prerogative.  I just think it's a huge disservice to the depth and splendour that is City if we expect others to view it that same way.

 

* (and let's be honest:  Comic books are a HUGELY, VASTLY nuanced artistic medium.  When people use the "just a comic book" reductionist excuse, it always comes back to whatever era of Marvel or DC that particular player latched on to as a child, rather than acknowledging that comics (even super hero comics specifically) come in all shapes, sizes, themes, tones, genres, deconstructions, re-imaginings, and everything under the sun and moon.)

 

 

But . . . ultimately, diving in to this particular hornet's nest is something that I've been struggling to compose in to a massive essay post for the past . . . oooooh, 12 years?  At least?  Longer, honestly.  I just didn't really grasp how restrictive the "it's a comic book" paradigm was to the overall progress of City until after I had played it for a few years.

I know I didn't really bring any of my evidence to bear in this post, as all that's still largely disorganized as I piece my thoughts together, and I do apologize for any potential derailment of this topic.  I'll try to prioritize the essay if there's interest in it, and post it in General some time, rather than continue to pursue it here.

 

 

So, loosely trying to re-rail:

I think that narrative conflict between player-Heroes and player-Villains in roleplay is probably best achieved by players first coming to an agreement on whose turn it is to be the protagonist and who is to be the antagonist in any given storyline, regardless of what alignment an given player-character is presently.

Folks should feel empowered-to and rewarded-by switching roles from time to time.

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16 minutes ago, GraspingVileTerror said:

City of Heroes was -partially inspired- by comic books, but what the Legacy Teams collectively brought into existence is so much more than that.  Champions Online and DCUO, and the attempts by Marvel at MMOs are much more fitting the bill of "comic book."  What we have with City of Heroes is a confluence of happy accidents; upward failures in an attempt to make a comic book game that became and remains so much greater than its original, narrow aspirations.  Diverse minds and interpretations brought us this game.  Inclusivity on that level is the foundation that makes City of Heroes special.

We've kind of touched on this in our prior discussions about City of Heroes and the Homecoming community, but I don't think I associate quite the same romance with City of Heroes, and especially its roleplay community, that you do.  It's a really, really good superhero game.  Probably the best superhero game.  But being the best superhero game doesn't mean that the playerbase are going to magically recognize that theirs is a Limitless Kingdom of the Mind and reach a platonic creative zen-state divorced from the existing assumptions they brought in, assumptions based on the kind of stories that are City of Heroes' contemporaries.

 

In the world of City of Heroes, the PPD are good and wear blue and Arachnos are bad and wear red.  People literally have in-text identities where they voluntarily register as "yes, I am a supervillain and I like to do bad things and hurt people because I am a supervillain."  Objective evil definitively exists on a cosmic level, and can be quantified. There is an inbuilt level of moral abstraction from the real world in place to facilitate the escapism of the superhero/supervillain fantasy, which means that touting the City of Heroes roleplay community's ability to facilitate deeply nuanced, grey-on-grey narratives where nobody is truly right is a lot like a Dungeon Master touting how they used the nine-box D&D alignment system to tell a deeply nuanced, grey-on-grey narrative where nobody was truly right.  It's theoretically doable, but as a seasoned GM I can't help but cock my eyebrow and wonder why you didn't use a system designed to facilitate the fantasy you actually wanted to have, and instead felt the need to crowbar your favorite round peg through the square hole.

 

(This is not to say I abhor nuance and greyscale.  Obviously, the character I'm best known for is a narcissistic, drug-abusing showboat with a hero license who veers into villainy on his worst days.  But even he relies on the prior context of comic books and cartoons to characterize him - the running joke in the guild is that he was envisioned as a Homelander analogue, but he's really more of a Bojack Horseman - and I don't think "what if superheroes had deep character flaws and villains had a point" is a particularly groundbreaking bit of revelatory comics roleplay magic.  Hell, it's de rigueur in the Marvel movies these days.)

 

To spool back onto the 'dungeon master' thing, I often approach RP more from a facilitative/game mastery perspective, and at the end of the day the question I have to ask is "what do roleplayers want" and, not for nothing, but there's a reason the vast, sweeping majority of players play Heroes.  That's the fantasy they want to live.  They don't want to delve into the grit and grime of real people and real problems.  They don't want to use their precious free time reenacting Wanted, or Black Summer, or - God forbid - Watchmen.  They want to be Powergirl, or Wolverine, or Spider-Man, and that's completely fine, but it's incompatible with the much more niche "the villains win/bad end" fantasy.  From a quantitative perspective if not a qualitative one, it behooves me to meet hero players at their level, even if my preferred roleplay space is ambiguous antiheroism.

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As the one who's usually playing a rogue... I like it when my "villain"-types actually have a point. It doesn't need to be a point that their opposition necessarily recognizes, but for my own character-building and motive-defining purposes I do find it useful to have.

 

Looking at my Oranbegans as an example, a lot of them are out-and-about the surface world for a *reason*.

 

They're trying to find and reclaim what they see as their rightful property...

 

You know, all of those books, and artifacts and arcane what-nots that the so-called "heroes" have barged into their city and stolen over the years? Things like that last-remaining-copy-on-Primal-Earth Tome of Persephone that Person Man and his buddies in the League of Brightness needed to save the world a week ago. Or that artifact they forced their way into the Temple vaults to take yesterday, beating up the head archivist, his entire staff and four dozen guard-demons without so much as a "Hey, would you guys mind if maybe we borrowed that? We could give you back the Tome of Persephone in exchange". 

 

The heroes might not see what they're doing as the result of a legitimate gripe,,, But as far as they're concerned, it's a justified issue that needs to be addressed. With a truly excessive number of tentacles if necessary. 

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Sure, and obviously it's important that characters, villains especially, have, y'know, motivations.  Villains get a lot more leeway with their motivations, in fact, just because there are so many more interesting ways to be "bad" - and therefore heterodox to conventional morality - than to be "good" - and therefore ascribe to orthodox morality.

 

But all the same, there's a distinction between portraying a villain as a well-realized individual who sees themselves as being in the right, and devil's-advocating your way to a bothesidesist position regarding City of Heroes' explicitly hard-E Evil organizations.  For your Circle Archivist arguing that really, the heroes are the bad guys for tooling on him and confiscating his magic tomes that let him violate people's bodies, devour their souls, and summon demons, I'd raise a Nemesis Lancer arguing just as passionately and with as much conviction that we need the overthrow of the United States and summary extermination or enslavement of all but the landed white gentry.  Especially for lore-based roleplay, the villain factions are literally designed to be near-always wrong and forever be bested by the gallant hero player, or they wouldn't be 'Villain Groups' in a video game that revolves around beating the tar out of them.

 

If I want to have a roleplay centered around 'well-actually Longbow uses flamethrowers so Evil is just as valid as Good' I'll just go to Pocket D and ask any other VEAT how their day is going.

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Well, I'm also the one who argues for maybe NOT having an entire civilization made up of nothing but cookie-cutter Absolute Evil-types out to turn everyone's souls into demon-chow, so it's all a matter of perspective. (See the head-canon thread if you're curious about my Circle characters' attitudes and the particular spin on Oranbegan culture I've ended up with as a result. I may tie my characters to game lore, but I refuse to be a complete slave to it.)

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I'm just not a big fan of conflict RP outside of the SG event-space. Too many bad experiences with antagonist characters/groups, so nowdays if someone tries to start conflict with my characters in a place like the D my characters are probably just going to shrug them off.

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On 9/17/2021 at 9:36 PM, TwoDee said:

 

To spool back onto the 'dungeon master' thing, I often approach RP more from a facilitative/game mastery perspective, and at the end of the day the question I have to ask is "what do roleplayers want" and, not for nothing, but there's a reason the vast, sweeping majority of players play Heroes.  That's the fantasy they want to live.  They don't want to delve into the grit and grime of real people and real problems.  They don't want to use their precious free time reenacting Wanted, or Black Summer, or - God forbid - Watchmen.  They want to be Powergirl, or Wolverine, or Spider-Man, and that's completely fine, but it's incompatible with the much more niche "the villains win/bad end" fantasy.  From a quantitative perspective if not a qualitative one, it behooves me to meet hero players at their level, even if my preferred roleplay space is ambiguous antiheroism.

 

Quoting just this bit, but skimming through... there's a lot of bias in the post. And it seems you're aware of your own, which is fine. But some of this needs pointing out.

 

There has been a *lot* of discussion about why more people play heroes, and it's not just - or, I'd posit, the majority - "I want to be Captain Four-Color GenderAppropriateScout."

 

I mean, for starters the game itself is labeled "City of Heroes." Yes, there's "City of Villains," but ... look up. The site's not listed as "City of Villains: Homecoming" or "Cities of Heroes and Villains: Homecoming." Heroside is front and center. You start out (unless you choose Praetorian, and that is a whole other kettle of fish) in the blue, heroic environment, unless you take steps (add -cov) not to. We no longer split by AT, other than Epics (and that's a good thing.) But from the get-go in character creation, you're heroic blue.  The only real nod to villainside is ... a click button in a box at the end.

 

If people, new or old, ask where their friends are, where the teaming is, etc. they'll generally be told "heroside." Which leads to more people looking at heroside versus villainside, and that likely feeds on itself. Villainside is, at best, represented by a few mobs. Or, if you step toe into a PVP zone and someone else happens to actually be there who can fight you, you've been... defeated by a villain. And just being defeated leaves a bad taste in some peoples' mouths. *shrug*

 

Then there's the environment and writing. Redside keep sgetting described as dismal, dirty, grey and depressing when conversations about "why aren't people playing villains?" come up. (On top of that, some of the arachnos maps make me *long* for the 5-layer-cake caves. That ridiculous 100-story-tall reactor room when you're on a kill all and need to find that ONE LAST MOB... ) And the writing - while it was changing a bit near the end - is just hard to reconcile with villains. Villains tend to be the ones driving the plot. Making the plans. Having their own agendas. Mission wise, you're written as a lackey and a dupe. Alternately, there are just missions that make people *really* uncomfortable. "Villain" does not mean "amoral, psycho- or sociopathic, murderapeillage is my middle name." And yet, the content railroads your character and makes assumptions about them - you'd deliver a young woman back to Bocor, you'd deliver people to be cut up by the Vahzilok and so forth.

 

Playing redside, *far* too often I have to just ignore what the game *tells* me my character is doing and/or wants to do. But part of that is just the difficulty in writing for playable villains in an MMO. I don't want my character railroaded into actions they'd never take ... and so I rarely find myself playing redside, even though I do have characters that most certainly are "villains," to some degree, and belong over there.

 

I think playing redside is what turns people off of playing redside. If we could *play our villains as villains,* as the planners, the instigators, the ones going for the big score, or going for revenge, or even "this is what they know, life's hard, to get what you want you need to beat it out of someone else," without having to know the ins and outs of AE and without being depicted as a dupe, pure evil or just pants-on-heads stupid and unaware, there'd be more people playing redside.

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Primarily on Everlasting. Squid afficionado. Former creator of Copypastas. General smartalec.

 

I tried to combine Circle and DE, but all I got were garden variety evil mages.

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I'll fully admit my bias any day of the week.  I have very strong opinions about what is and isn't best practices in roleplay, and I'm well aware that my notion of what villain RP, and conflict RP, is doesn't mesh with what a lot of people perceive it to be.  Although I think something that's interesting here is that I land on the opposite side of the aesthetic of City of Villains from you, @Greycat, potentially owing to me being a Villain main on Live and still carrying that mentality.  I don't really intend for this to become a "well um *snorts obnoxiously* actually all of those problems are present in baseline city of heroes, especially the map thing" post so I won't make it one, but I will zero in on this:

 

12 minutes ago, Greycat said:

Alternately, there are just missions that make people *really* uncomfortable. "Villain" does not mean "amoral, psycho- or sociopathic, murderapeillage is my middle name." And yet, the content railroads your character and makes assumptions about them - you'd deliver a young woman back to Bocor, you'd deliver people to be cut up by the Vahzilok and so forth.

 

This is interesting to me, because I feel that one of the great failings of City of Villains is that it fails to make you a reprehensible or notoriety-worthy villain, which leads to a lot of muddy waters regarding what 'villainy' looks like in a player character.  At its launch, and using the moral characteristics from later in the franchise, the more accurate title for the spinoff would be City of Rogues.  The writing is by-and-large better than in City of Heroes, but the stock character you're railroaded into being in the majority of villain content isn't the awful heel you love to hate...

 

Instead, for most of City of Villains content, you're just a superhero that punctuates their superheroism by saying edgy stuff about beating people up and occasionally robbing a bank.  Let's be honest, here: most supervillain content doesn't paint you as a dupe.  The lowbie, Hearts of Darkness stuff, sure, I'll grant you that.  But for most of City of Villains?  You're a hero that wears leather and skulls and can say the word "hell."

 

The content you earmark as needlessly edgy for your tastes is, to me, the only parts of the game that actually deserve the title.  I adore Peter Themari.  I stan Westin Phipps.  I want a game that makes me uncomfortable to play my creation.  If the game is billed as City of Villains, a game about becoming the baddest supe this side of the tracks, why should I settle for limp-wristed justifications?  I want to get to actually be evil, which is something that City of Villains abjectly fails to deliver outside of those fleeting moments of glory.  I don't want my villains to be "actually, really they're heroes if you look at it another way or factor for their upbringing."  My villains are fucks.  They make their bones on breaking them.  They thank you for your sympathy by pissing on you, unless you're on fire, in which case they'll let you burn.  They cheat and snarl and hurt and kill and their existence begs for a hero to come and stop them.

 

Where I'll agree with you is that I don't vibe with the occasional content that paints me as a bumblefuck, but even then, I tend to let it fly because of something you allude to:

 

31 minutes ago, Greycat said:

If we could *play our villains as villains,* as the planners, the instigators, the ones going for the big score, or going for revenge, or even "this is what they know, life's hard, to get what you want you need to beat it out of someone else," without having to know the ins and outs of AE and without being depicted as a dupe, pure evil or just pants-on-heads stupid and unaware, there'd be more people playing redside.

This is the dream, but that's just it: it's the dream, because the devs could never possibly predict all of the deeply personal, dysfunctional, beautiful schemes of tens of thousands of individual player villains.  A hero is stupid-easy.  The villain does a thing, and the hero undoes the thing.  Wham, bam, thank you Statesman.  But villains are the instigators, and that means that no amount of pre-preparation on the part of the devs could ever fully satisfy what makes a villain truly compelling, which is whatever their personal malfunction is, their damage, their broken taboo that allows them to transcend morality.  In spite of the lack of formal infrastructure to support it, that's why I identify as a "villain main."  We're - and I'm using the societal 'we're' here - transfixed by villains because of the possibility of what they could do next, of the sheer potential energy that they bear compared to heroes.

 

And that's the dragon I chase when I roleplay villains.  I want to delight and dismay, I want to be ghoulish in my implications without turning my roleplay partner's eyes away.  I want to experience the rush of what it is to be loathed and to be worthy of that loathing.  I want to squirm in my seat whenever I emote what my character does.  And then I want the catharsis, and to deliver that catharsis to others, of letting my creation finally be toppled.  To me, no other roleplay compares, and to deny my villain their Evil is to cheapen that.

 

And, if I may spool back from the tangent and onto the topic of facilitating conflict roleplay, just because hero players don't want to, themselves, play villains for a myriad of very good and very valid reasons, doesn't mean that they don't want a good villain to give their hero a reason to exist.

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Ok . . . continuing down the road to off-topic'ness (sorry Oginth!), I contend that the Devs -could- write compelling content for Villains by breaking from the terrible single-character second-person fixed narrative structure which unfortunately dominates even the new writing.  Explicitly telling the players how their characters feel or what their motivations are is the biggest problem here, and it only requires a change of writing habits to escape.

 

Basically, looping it back in to tabletop roleplay, the game narrative as it's currently written is a Game Master stealing agency from their players by meticulously describing the actions of the characters, and therefore ascribing subtext.  ie:  "A natural 20?  You swing with so much anger that you hit the target with such force that you cleave their head off."

Rather, I think a more appropriate approach for the GM is to just adjudicate the mechanics, and allow the player to define their own action.  ie:  "A natural 20?  Nice!  Feel free to add a little extra flourish as you describe how this happens."

 

We can achieve this in City of Villains by writing specifically to avoid the use of the second-person "you."  Don't say stuff like "you are disturbed by the smell of cloves mingling with sulphur."  Instead (and this is actually the example I tried to use with the Devs during City of Villains Beta, but it never stuck, even though it's actually a great example from the game itself):  "The scent of cloves mingles disturbingly with the stink of sulphur."

The latter writing (which is in a Mr. Bocor mission) really delivers all the important world-building and environmental storytelling, while also not robbing the player any kind of agency from their character.  In fact, it doesn't even assume the character can smell!  It just states, matter of factly, what the environment is like.  It leaves the player entirely in control to define if that detail has any bearing, whatsoever, on their character.

 

Now, in the past, I had advocated a total rewrite on content to fix this issue, but some players expressed a personal preference toward being explicitly told who their character is.

Alright.  Fair enough.  Some people like things the way they are.

But I think it's crucially important to bear these lessons in mind while writing all future content.  We -have- the means to giving players agency and choice in the narrative.  We just have to make use of them.

 

 

As for giving players the authority to instigate things as Villains . . . well . . . a lot of suggestions were given (some of which are quite feasible): 

https://forums.homecomingservers.com/topic/19655-weekly-discussion-53-how-to-increase-villain-population/

More to the point:  https://forums.homecomingservers.com/topic/17554-make-red-side-great-again/?tab=comments#comment-194213  

 

So, trying again to bring this home to the original topic:

Imagine, if you will, if player-villains had the power to build up points, and then collectively spend those points with other villains (or on their own) to launch invasions in Paragon City Zones.
Suddenly the player-villain can vamp it up in roleplay about how great and nefarious they are for achieving such a lofty goal and therefore win the narrative conflict, while the player-heroes get the opportunity to beat back the invasion, save the day, and ALSO win the conflict.

A classic win-win.

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I agree, in principle, that mechanical incentives to RPPVP would be a great technocratic solution to the problem, but I am a bit of a realist (alternatively, a lot of a cynic) about working with the tech, and the social dynamic, that we have, rather than what we could have.  I'm not in favor of a total rewrite of Hearts of Darkness, for instance, but it has nothing to do with me "wanting to be told who my character is" -

 

3 hours ago, GraspingVileTerror said:

Now, in the past, I had advocated a total rewrite on content to fix this issue, but some players expressed a personal preference toward being explicitly told who their character is.

Alright.  Fair enough.  Some people like things the way they are.

 

- and everything to do with that I'd much, much rather the devs work on creating new content for all of the villain players, than take a scalpel to imperfect content that already exists in the name of satisfying roleplay purists.

 

I do agree that we've gotten very sidetracked by this point, so I'm going to take your attempt to recenter on the original topic of why isn't there more conflict RP between heroes and villains? and run with it.  To me, when you peel away purely logistical answers like 'well, there are much less villains than heroes' (which is something we debate extensively on this forum and indeed, in this thread), the social answer to that central question is that conflict RP is rarely pursued with the "Session Zero," negotiative approach that it requires to have any hope at succeeding, and when it is, there's often a mismatch - demonstrated robustly in this thread - between villains who justifiably want equality of opportunity, and heroes who justifiably want equality of outcome.

 

Irrespective of the perfect-world "every character is somewhere on the grey spectrum and has complex and sweeping motivations and end-goals" ideal that we have neither achieved nor have a consensus on achieving, a problem with making conflict RP satisfying to everyone is that fundamentally, at an archtypal level, the villain's goal is to introduce negative change, and the hero's goal is to maintain the status quo.  That's what makes the hero-villain binary tick, but it also makes creating equality of opportunity in roleplay 'wins' an impossible proposition as far as lasting verisimilitude.  If the Circle of Thorns got to notch a W half the time and heroes got to win half the time, then the scroll of Teliekku would be safely in custody and unable to hurt anyone, but the City Council would be replaced by bodyjacked wizards.  If the Freakshow got to win half the time and heroes got to win half the time, then Dreck would still be in prison but Independence Port would be a post-nuclear wasteland filled with irradiated corpses.  If the Council got to win half the time, then the Striga volcano base would still be in ruins but there would be a true-breeding subspecies of Vampyri spawning throughout Paragon like the plot of the Strain.  When heroes are a ratchet on the negative progress created by villains, then equality of opportunity just means that the villains win but slower.

 

This is not to say that villains cannot ever ever never ever win, but the stakes are different.  Villains can win to a point.  Villains can give heroes the slip, or make inroads on their schemes, or break a few eggs for their omelet.  However, you're never going to get the buy-in from hero players for villains to win the big one, the dramatic ultimate moment where The Plan comes to fruition.  Hero players won't stand for it.  There's too much basis in the genre, and in the hero fantasy, for hero players to just passively go with the flow of "yeah, the world gets measurably worse this time, but next time we'll maintain the status quo."  They're going to try to weasel out of it, and find loopholes, or invoke the 11th-hour Deus Ex Machina, because that's what superheroes do.  They want equality of outcome: the balance of power is maintained, the villains go to the Zig and break out because it's a paper bag, and the conflict begins anew, fresh for more roleplay.

 

Personally, my strategy as a villain roleplayer to address that conundrum is to cede ground: it is to not pursue equality of opportunity at all, and instead to enter with the expectation that I can take victories that are nonthreatening to the ongoing health of the shared space, but when it comes to my 'master plan' or 'end goal' I must take a gamemastery role and allow my villain to be dethroned for the sake of letting the heroes fulfill their end of the fantasy.  And I acknowledge that this is an act of surrender, where I'm compromising an element of what I might want in the name of facilitating a good time for a broader swath of other roleplayers.  I'm not going to mandate that other villain roleplayers follow my doctrine, because my process is an effort-intensive and elitist one that assumes a formulaic simplicity on the part of the community, but it has lead me through a battery of conflict roleplays that I have enjoyed, and I hope that it helps to articulate why I think so much conflict roleplay fails before it even starts.

 

EDIT: As a corollary to this, this does mean that I tend to find it a lot more defensible to ask that my villains win when their schemes are low-stakes.  As a good example, I have one villain that wants to kill half of the people living in King's Row, and I have another villain that wants to steal rare Hong Kong action films from collectors.  This is just speaking for myself, but I wouldn't consider a hero player unreasonable for asserting "I'm not okay with you killing half of King's Row in this roleplay without my hero stopping you," where I would consider a hero player unreasonable for asserting "I'm not okay with you stealing the original reel of 1997's Full Alert, starring Ringo Lam."

Edited by TwoDee
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It's all good to get into the deep nitty gritty of why, how much, and should its of heroes vs villains, but the actual fundamental issue of lack of RP conflict is that everyone wants to be the protagonist.  Forget the labels of 'hero' or 'villain' or 'moral' or 'psychopath' or 'mercenary', in the end everyone who wants to tell a story want to be that story's protagonist and desires other people to be antagonists.

 

Antagonists, to make the story work, have to lose in the end, for whatever value of 'lose' the protagonist wants.  You are, by definition, not the star of the show, you are secondary and your every relevance to the story is to be viewed as an obstacle for the protagonist to overcome.  

 

It's human nature to make up stories that entertain us and make us feel good.  Even stories that involve sacrifice, death, if they are not just straight up dry historical these happenings are framed as 'a price to pay' or 'what lit the fuse' and encompassed in a story that ends up Some Good Result in the mind of the story creator.  That is so much easier a task when the character you pose as protagonist has the same morals, ethics, etc valuations of 'good' as you as a functional person in society do, hence the overwhelming amount of protagonists in this game that are coded as heroes.  Not blueside, this is an important distinction, but heroes.  Characters who are in Arachnos for the dental plan and keeping their family safe? Heroes. The Orenbegans who just want to live their undead life? Heroes in the moral/ethical/etc sense.   

 

Does that mean there are no true villains? Of course not, but those players have to work ten times harder to make an engaging story where the definition of A Good Ending does not match the moral/ethical/etc values of the player, and it fundamentally feels bad to many many people to have the character that does match their values, lose. Which, as an antagonist in those stories, is their purpose.

 

So the scale is skewed already, no matter the genre.  The genre itself and the conceits of the setting weigh heavily on it though precisely because of the language used in the terms 'hero' and 'villain'.  You may want to write something from the perspective of someone abused and abandoned in the Etoile, doing what they can to survive in the slums, and these costumed people kicking you down just for that, and thematically they are the hero and protagonist of that story but everything from the terms to the setting to the colors to the music hammer in You Are A Villain.  As a player you might want that story to go 'well so I need a hero to come in and bust up this kidnapping, only none of these guys are evil, they just were paid to guard someone and your fighting and how fast they go down galvanizes my character to train up and be a real threat' and that's perfectly fine, but is going to be a hard sell to find a player willing to put their character that both they and the game prop up as A Hero to be that antagonist.

 

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The main element that prevents reasonable RP conflict between heroes and villains is the human element.

If you were to suggest PVP as a means to solve it then we get into the pandora's box of meta builds, having to drop influence to make a build, and opinions on if the power selections in-game represent how strong your character is or isn't. As has been shown by Sael's post, the general sense is that there will be those that hate to lose. So the PVP side of the conflict often invites bruised egos, bickering, and more - often from the fact that one side did not agree with the outcome. PVP is also a hassle because PVP was gutted to shit back on live.

So the next option is pure emotes. Well the chatbox has some serious limitations that need to be kept in mind. What this choice invites is the risk of someone power-gaming / metagaming and otherwise making a mess of things. As at least one post has displayed there will be those who do not want to be the aggressors or the losers. So they throw a stink and otherwise blockade any attempt to further IC conflict solely based on OOC. Again the whole thing becomes a mess because one side does not agree with the end result.

Even adding dice makes it a repetition - it comes down to the human element. Experiences beget that one could have a lack of trust just as much as one can have a hatred towards losing. Losing, for some, is a blow to them as a person. Even when its their character losing and not them its taken personally. Conflict, as is inherent, means someone will lose and someone will win. Which is where problems arise in my experience.

In an RP scene / community dominated by clubs, conflict becomes the bottom of the totem pole. This is just the nature of Homecoming's roleplay scene. It's not inherently bad, but there's simply not anything to invite player-to-player conflict or interaction besides those more social than any other.

I'm probably repeating points made but I wanted to say my piece.

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