Content of the article: "Ludonarrative Dissonance in D&D"
I'm calling it Ludonarrative Dissonance because I can't really think of a better term even though dnd isn't a video game. It probably exists and I'm just dumb, but lets get into it. I've noticed that, both as a player and as a dm, that a lot dnd characters regardless of how good or evil their character may be actions in combat don't really tend to have a lasting effect on most characters (if any at all). A "good" character is cheerful, bubbly, and a moral center in the group, but they've been involved with the death of dozens of people (people meaning both people and otherwise intelligent creatures).
Those people may or may not have been evil, who knows they often are little more than a stat block and a token on the map. In more traditional good vs evil I can understand it a bit, but even in more moraly obscure or darker dnd games it never really comes up. As a player I've often tried to mainly do non lethal damage in combat, and just given up as the campaign progressed because most of the time they'll end up being killed by another player at some point.
I know this happens because the combat side of dnd is normally pretty seperate from the role play part of dnd inside of peoples minds. Typically everything about the game changes once initiative rolls, and I'm not saying that people don't do combat while staying in character, just that combat rp doesn't tend to then lead into regular rp.
The reason the two don't often mix, and that by the end of the campaign the goody two shoes of the party could be involved in the deaths of a truly insane number of people and not have that heavily impact their character, is because how combat works in the game. Once you enter combat an npc generally shifts from a character to an obstacle with stats in the mind of the players. The game is designed so that you kill all the enemies in combat as well. You have to go out of your way to not kill people in combat, and so this leads to the deaths of enemies not really being fully considered by the characters. You just killed 6 bandits, does that change anything about you character? Normally the first kill, and then the deaths of major npcs affect the player.
Now the question I'm asking is do you think this is actually a problem or not? I'm not completely sure if I do myself. As a player I have found it dissapointing a few times, but as a dm I don't feel like it's on me to tell the players to feel bad for killing people that I put in opposition to them. At the same time though, I think role playing games give us the opportunity to explore those kinds of questions. The reason this stuff is popping into my mind right now is I'm about to start a new campaign and I'm debating on the tone I want it to have.
I know for most games and people this probably isn't a problem. Hell, I like to play funny character concepts and try to avoid more depressing stuff at the moment. It's really just more of a logical problem I've always had with the game more than something I'm desperate to explore. The only potential "fix" I could think of would be to change it so that in combat damage is naturally non lethal and the players would have to declare they're doing lethal damage and see how that would change the game.
Let me know what you think. Have you played or ran games that this kind of stuff was explored? Or am I just crazy and this isn't really an issue?
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