Words from the Wise (Guys)

Copyright Peter Mork © 2012

Edited by Peter Mork for The Guild Companion

Welcome to the 159th edition of the Guild Companion. This month we have a bonus installment of the Art of Fighting, which introduces the Power Sword and Force Knife, tools used by mystical orders to combat (especially) the Undead. Also on the Rolemaster front, we have a short piece by William Van Horn that provides new options for handling level bonuses in RM2. Finally, Aaron Smalley reviews "Planets of Peril" by Keith Bruce Vaughn. This RPG provides rules for "Planetary Romance" settings: sci-fi pulp settings popularized by Edgar Rice Burroughs and updated for modern audiences with the release of "John Carter."

Combat. Or, diplomacy by other means. It transpires with regularity in many role-playing games. But, what happens when violence is the least-worst option for the PCs?

I bring up this topic based on a recent encounter in our god game. A close ally of the gods (a metallic dragon on the plane of Arcadia) suddenly turned on the party with a vengeance. Slaying the dragon was out of the question. But, they also couldn't allow it to flatten the city!

Thus, the encounter was about much more than dispatching the characters' opponents. Instead, the Goddess of Peace focused on Calming the marauding dragon (a temporary fix because the dragon would quickly dispel the Calm effect). The Goddess of Hunting distracted the dragon, darting from tree to tree to maintain cover (which the dragon would promptly smash with child-like glee). The Goddess of Oceans left the fracas to determine who (or what) was causing the dragon to behave so erratically.

Ultimately, the party determined that the dragon was being controlled by a toddler wielding an artifact. Once again, a violent solution was out of the question. Instead, in a moment of brilliance, one of the characters used her knowledge of Psychology to negotiate with the toddler (trading the artifact for a ride on the dragon's back). I was duly impressed by the party's response to the challenge (and especially with the clever use of Psychology skill!).

Possession, mind control, etc. are all common ways to deter all-out-violent-aggression. As an alternative, in a previous game, we had a series of encounters in which the party was assembling various archetypes (to be immortalized as tarot cards). Many of these archetypes were living beings. Thus, each combat would begin with the warriors parrying like mad so as not to kill the opponent until it was determined not be an archetype. This series of encounters also revealed the danger of overusing the "non-violent" encounter: once an opponent was deemed not to be important to the quest, the warriors would exterminate with reckless abandon. Clearly there's something cathartic about a little wanton destruction.

Please join us on the forums and share your favorite techniques (and stories) involving "non-violent" combat.

Until next month, may all of your Large criticals be open-ended.
Peter Mork
General Editor