2.27.2013

Don't Move! Surrender Rules for RPGs


In RPGs the situation that I've found the least satisfactory with any rules system I've used is where an NPC tries to stop the characters at gun point. This almost _never_ resolves in a manner that pleasingly emulates the sort of genre source material I'd like it to.

What I'm considering is the following sub-system:

* The target and adjacent allies must not have made an attack or chosen to defend the previous round (eg. Surprised, Helping injured ally etc)
* The attacker's action is to call for surrender (Freeze! etc) and can not move or make any other action including an attack
* A call for surrender can target a close group of adjacent targets (Nobody move! etc)
* IF the attacker's maximum weapon damage adjusted by Charisma bonus is higher than the target's hit points adjusted by their Wisdom bonus, the target is subdued and can take no actions as long as the attacker does not take an action other than continuing to keep them subdued.
* The attacker can make subdued targets move ahead of them at their walking speed (assuming the target can move that fast)

The only way a character can be a bad ass and try to run or grab their attacker's weapon is if they had MORE hit points + wisdom but voluntarily "surrendered".

Any comments or suggestions for things to add?

9 comments:

Zavi said...

I think rather than ruling that the person ordering surrender gains seeming control over the PC, I would give the PCs incentive to take the order more seriously and still maintain agency.
In reality the idea is that your best choice is to surrender because the other person is in a better position to harm you than you are to harm that person.
So in order to create that feeling my ruling would be (also including your notes 1 through 3) if someone orders you to surrender and the conditions are met, that person has initiative automatically if you act and will do max damage, since he/she was focused on keeping you in his/her sights. Also probably an attack bonus, as if you were prone.
You can mix and match those however works, but the idea is to give an advantage to the gun-toting npc to ensure there is real danger, while still maintaining player agency. Let them take the risk if they want.

Stuart Robertson said...

Some players will not accept surrender, ever, no matter the odds. Giving a massive advantage only serves to make it really likely the character gets killed when the situation should have resolved with them only being held at gun point.

This is a possible alternative: http://www.jonathantweet.com/jotgametry.html

Zavi said...

I just thoroughly dislike the idea of taking away the choice a player has. If a player will never surrender, that is his choice. He will either choose afterwards to get smart or to keep getting hurt.
I don't intend to give an overwhelming advantage though. Max damage is usually something you can handle one hit of after the first couple levels when you get around to fighting things that are smart enough to hold you hostage. The rule is easily tweaked.
I don't like the rule on the link because I dislike the idea of never-fail actions
(http://randemise.blogspot.com/2012/02/gatsby-batman-and-splintering-chairs.html),
but I acknowledge that this is just a matter of personal preference.

Stuart Robertson said...

Ok. I thoroughly dislike the players choosing actions for characters that are out of scope for the genre of the game we're playing. Different strokes and all that. :)

David Larkins said...

My solution whenever I run a game that leans heavily on genre expectations (and, between Call of Cthulhu and Pendragon, that's pretty much most of the games I run these days) is to simply be up-front with the players about what those expectations are. Like, before I run horror, I'll talk about the necessity for everyone to contribute to building tension at the table, limiting out-of-game joking, being willing to be the one who goes down into the dark basement rather than doing something more sensible, etc.

So if I was running an espionage or pulp or other genre that often featuers villains getting the drop on heroes, I would simply state at the outset that that's a genre expectation and reassure my players that if they go along with surrendering, I won't arbitrarily screw them over. "You surrendered? Fine, you wake up in a prison cell. How are you going to escape?" instead of, "Oh, you surrendered? You're all killed." I mean, that's obvious when you're GMing a game like that, but the players might not trust it.

On the other hand, both Pendragon and CoC have built-in mechanics that are specifically designed to remove player agency in order to force genre-appropriate behavior, just as your surrender rules are--clearly, it never hurts to have some mechanical fallback for those times when even the best players just don't feel like playing along.

Zavi said...

David gives the option that, with a good group that can handle it, I would prefer to give. It does depend on that condition somewhat though.

fadedearth said...

I agree with David that communicating genre expectations is job one. That given, if you have the drop on someone in any cinematic game I use a save vs death (or equivalent) for any successful attack by the droper on the dropee who fails to surrender.

Notes:
Some players will not accept surrender, ever, no matter the odds. Giving a massive advantage only serves to make it really likely the character gets killed when the situation should have resolved with them only being held at gun point
I don't have a problem with that.

Ok. I thoroughly dislike the players choosing actions for characters that are out of scope for the genre of the game we're playing. Different strokes and all that.
I don't see why combat should then be the exception. Shouldn't you seize control of the PC whenever you believe they would act differently if they weren't a pawn of the Player?

Stuart Robertson said...

I don't see why combat should then be the exception. Shouldn't you seize control of the PC whenever you believe they would act differently if they weren't a pawn of the Player?

Yes. Or more likely "say No" and remind them of the scope of the game we're playing when the player wants to have their character do some action that's out of genre.

Dan H said...

I think this sort of thing could work, but only in a game that already modelled this kind of thing (that is to say, in which the emotional reactions of player characters were understood to be dictated partially by game mechanics).

I think they're a bad fit for the implied-D20 system you seem to be suggesting here, rather than emulating genre, it seems like you're turning "demand surrender" into a combat manoeuvre - and possibly an overpowered one.

In theory you should get the same effect simply by adopting a deadlier combat system, otherwise I think you run the risk of creating cognotive dissonance - you have a comabt system which encourages the players to engage in combat by making firearms relatively ineffective, then you add a rule which forces them to behave as if firearms were more effective than they are in the game.

To put it another way, it seems a bit like this is introducing a cutscene mechanic, a rule which forces players to surrender *even when they would probably win a fight* like when a video game character randomly surrenders to three guys with guns after they've just beaten up thirty.

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