Three: Violence in Fiction and Gaming


The crew members of the Wayfarer fill familiar roles in science fiction stories (mechanic, pilot, doctor, translator, etc.). However, none of those roles focus on violence, which is often present in space opera stories. Despite this, the book gives each role a chance to shine.

  • What was a favorite example of a role / skill set being thrust into the spotlight?
  • Combat skills are often over-represented in RPGs. What can we learn from this book in making non-combat skills interesting? What games already do this well?


  • 1

    Hmm. I don't have any examples from the book to offer. I rather liked the captain's coy affair with the alien soldier. I'm not sure that was a result of skill, rather than personality.

    Combat skills being over-represented - yes, that's certainly true in the trad sphere, and probably because people game for action and excitement as much are for anything, and we've learned (via film more than anything) that action and combat are exciting. And sorry- unorganized stream of consciousness to follow:

    In order to evoke the tension and drama that comes with combat, combats need to be slowed down in order the create the detail that makes them interesting, and slowing them down and focussing on them requires more rules and attention to detail. Some games try to capture this is social environments by creating 'social combat' which, to me, feels overly like an effort to mechanize something I think roleplayer's should just be able to handle naturally by playing their characters - which is in-character dialogue with other characters in the game.

    All this is to say that I don't think that making other skills more interesting is the way to go - at least not mechanically interesting. The way to make other skills more useful is to frame the scenario is such a way that the stakes are high for skills other than combat. Combat is exciting because it can result it death or injury - the stakes are very high (at least in games that do combat well). But if you tried to do that with other skills, it would quickly become too much. Baking for your life quickly loses it's dramatic appeal.

    So the long and the short is that if you remove death or injury as a stake (e.g. Freemarket) you can reduce the importance of combat. If you make combat dull, you'll reduce the importance of combat. If you make the goals of the game about something other that survival of the fittest, you'll reduce the importance of combat.

    Oddly, a game like RuneQuest, which has great combat mechanics with their own section in the rules, fosters a lot of non-combat play because the combat rules are quite deadly. RQers learn to avoid combat, but when they get into it it's fun. The older skill-check method of advancement was quite good at fostering the use of other skills, too. However some people found that artificial and it's not used so much anymore.

  • 1

    I liked the non-violence inherent in the human culture. A refreshing change! I have personally tried to make my own games non-combat focused, even the ones about war, but then I don't know if others play them that way, or if it's just me. My players get as pumped about an important speech, or a great bit of improvisation, or a great first date, but maybe they are just great players! No way for me to know!

  • 0

    Nothing really to add here but if I make a comment then I get to follow the discussion :smile:
    Probably just to repeat the obvious point that conflict can take other forms than just combat.

Sign In or Register to comment.