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The state of "antags" (and conflict?)
I'll try to make this brief, as I could make a whole essay about this stuff, but I'd like to discuss something near and dear to my heart, which is the sometimes controversial concept of "antags" in this game. Over the years playing SL2, I've enjoyed my fair share of fun playing villainous characters, troublemakers, scumbags, deranged killers, misled criminals, and all things in between.

However, recently, I've started to notice that it's not really that welcome. A lot of people have voiced their discontent about what we call "gank antags", which are just villain of the week bad guys that go around and do pvp. I like pvp, I like being a bandit/bad guy. I think it adds spice and danger to an otherwise boring world. I thought for a long time this was mostly harmless fun. Though I guess, especially recently, it really hasn't been that well received.

Well, there's two types of "antag" you can play, in really broad terms. Simple, and elaborate. Simple antags are essentially just bad guys that go around, usually without a clear plan, usually attacking people. Sometimes scheduling scenes to attack people. That's what I do usually with sawrock. Then there is the elaborate antags. Basically, creating a complex plan, and organizing sessions, intrigue, and a whole ploy for an event-like story using an antag.

Simple antags are quite hit or miss, and their low effort nature means that sometimes they fall flat. You can play a basic bandit guy, and whether or not that's interesting entirely depends on the people you interact with. They might find you boring, annoying, and/or not want to interact with you even if they are the ones trying to stop you. So you have to tiptoe around the enjoyment of others, making sure you're communicating profusely, offering alternatives, making sure they are having fun, making sure they want this to happen at all. And if they don't wish to be attacked, you are better off leaving them alone. Though sometimes that's not possible due to how the game has to flow.
In addition, your actions, even when your targets are consenting and relatively happy, might have repercussions. Especially in korvara, everything is connected. Hurting one person will affect their loved ones. It'll affect the law enforcement. It may even affect a nation. That's why the ripples of a simple gank can reach far and wide. It can be fun and create stories, or it can give people headaches. And sadly, it's difficult to plan for that.

All in all, a "simple" antag isn't so simple. It's a constant balancing act. It's a whole piece of work!

Now, elaborate antags are cool. I always come back to the example of the "necromancer" from duyuei, which was essentially an event. But unless you run those things exactly like an event, you're going to have problems. I could elaborate for a while but most things from above apply here. It's difficult to make things happen, especially if you want to do something significant. The short of it is, complex antags take a lot of effort, a lot of planning, a lot of time. It often takes luck as well, because a single mistake can cost you everything. In the end, when your machinations come to fruition, there's a very low chance that things will go well, let alone be appreciated. And herein lies the crux of it all. Being an antagonist, especially a more elaborate one, is always a bit of a gamble because you're rarely sure whether your efforts will be worthwhile. In fact, your efforts might cause pain for others. That realisation is something that really hampered my motivation to play antagonists.

To summarize, whether you're playing a simple antagonist or a complex, planned out antagonist, you're going to run into complications. You're going to need extensive communication, compromising on the fly, planning things, and generally putting much effort into playing something that you aren't sure will have a positive effect, both on others and yourself. It gets tiring after a while, and slowly I'm realizing that even the times where I had a lot of fun, some people didn't like things that I did. The worst part is, most of the time, they simply kept quiet about it. How many times did I do something I liked and people didn't have fun? How many of my fond memories are actually of good times?...

Why am I even playing antagonists?

In fact, this extends not just to antagonists, but to conflict in general. Anything that might have a negative impact on one party runs into these same issues. Some say that people don't like losing, and I think that's a part of it, but it's also more complex than that. SL2 is a game where people want to write their own story, not be at the mercy of transpiring events. So... Why would you try to even enter conflict? Sure it might alleviate boredom, but it often causes a lot of issues... Time and time again, I've been left wondering, is it even worth it?

So I guess that's where I am. I'm curious to hear if some have their own part of the story to share, but I think I'm done trying for now. I wanna specify this post isn't targeted at anyone, not even slightly. Please understand that my intention is simply to share my opinion on something that I deeply care about when it comes to this game I love. I'm sorry to make such a negative post, but I feel like I really needed to talk about this, because it's something that is talked about fairly often in various chats, and I both wanted to share my feelings, and want to hear people's true opinion in a more concise format.

Thank you guys
[-] The following 3 users Like Poruku's post:
  • Balor, Ray2064, Sawrock
To put my own two cents in, I will agree that playing antagonists is like a balancing act. You have to be a lot more mindful of how you react to others due to how IC negative actions can spring others to action (both ICly and OOCly) a hell of a lot more faster than positive IC actions. In part, this is due to the nature of the game; without a clear guideline to keep track of time, actions we would consider positive (for example, a character having and then raising a child, hosting celebrations, etc.) can be easily washed over (if only a small portion of the population keeps track of their ages, then having a birthday party is more about having something to do than doing something because something is happening). Compare such to a negative action: a character death through murder. A dead character doesn't come back. People have to deal with it, and if the character was your IC friend, having a response is often much more weighty. "How would my character react to yours having a wedding?" versus "How would my character react to yours dying?" In one, you have the celebration, are overjoyed, but your overall relationship stays the same. The other? You can't keep the relationship the same between characters if one is dead. Even with a simple mugging, defending one's friends is simply natural.

Because of that weight, that call to action, playing a villain is much more engaging for me. Things happen! But being mindful around others can be nerve-wracking. It's why I remind myself that I roleplay on the game for me, and I play a villain not as a service to generate roleplay for others, but because I genuinely like being the bad guy.

Now, on the side of "throwaway villains are worse than villains with thought-out plans" (and not accusing anyone specifically of thinking this, just that I've seen the sentiment before), I will say I treat my creation of antagonists 99% of the time like I would any other characters I create. I get a hankering for what kind of character I want, I grind them and draw art, and I play them in-field. I don't like to plan ahead- doing so ruins the fun of roleplay for me. To create as few predetermined courses of action as possible is the goal, and to increase in-game interactions as much as possible is the key to... flat-out just roleplaying. Having fun. Having "throwaway characters" isn't the goal. That's a simple consequence of the system we use to roleplay.

If my villainous character were in a video game, a show, or otherwise, he might be a part of a Big Evil Empire that encourages his sadism. He could be a reoccurring threat that has to make his retreat instead of being captured on loss, or be captured/gotten rid of on his defeat (whether through death or otherwise). But the system as we have it now? If I go out and fight, and lose, the default built-in option isn't for the former. Unless the people you're fighting works with you, there's only options for the latter as a default, because people either don't want their governments to seem poorly-run (and for good reason), or they don't want their heroes to seem ineffective (once again, for good reason).

I'm not saying we should follow the strict plans of Saturday Morning Cartoons and let the governments not react efficiently ICly. I don't want pre-set scripts; I want people acting in the moment. But what I do want is for people to think about the situation; that the concept of throwaway villains is a creation of the system that lets villains suffer consequences while heroes/government, when they succeed, are allowed to succeed flawlessly, and require explicit consent for their losses.

I create a villain. I plan to play them as long as I can, and have adventures where I get to show off their cruelty, their violence, and they will continue to do so until the system decides they are done. And then I make a new one. It's just how it is. I enjoy it. I do it because I enjoy it. I roleplay with others who enjoy it. My characters are only as disposable as the system lets them be.
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[-] The following 4 users Like Sawrock's post:
  • Balor, ClaudeScythe, Poruku, Skimmy2
I disagree with the idea that villains or people in general escaping from prisons is somehow "governments running poorly." The truth of the matter is that prison escapes happen relatively frequently, and bad people end up living or going free relatively frequently in both modern times and history. Our baseline comparisons don't paint the expectations people have for the jailing system in this game as anything other than unrealistically efficient and secure.

Japan had a guy escape from various different prisons over 4 times before and after WW2. One time, he used miso soup to corrode shitty iron bars.

The world is a fantastically complex moving place with so many pieces like that. Let content generators (villains) escape jail. Unlike in every other scenario where I advocates for a ridiculous amount of consent and communication, this I find is a non-negotiable right. If they want to kill your character, they can put in an admin form for it. If they can't do it in the time they're allowed to soft lock your character, then it's as much your right to leave as it was theirs or anyone else's when you go approach them to mess with their character.
[-] The following 2 users Like FaeLenx's post:
  • Poruku, Sawrock
That might be the case, but usually, someone in game is responsible for a given prison, and as such, it can reflect poorly on them, sometimes in a pretty significant way. In a world where not much happens, one or two blunders can define your IC career. This varies based on the location, of course, but in the end it's a matter of people not wanting to be seen as having failed. Because they have so few opportunities to "succeed", and failure is a big deal. Bypassing guards is also not very appreciated
[-] The following 2 users Like Poruku's post:
  • Balor, Sawrock
Your Local Heel here.

I will not be so base as to be reductive and state that many of the complaints and opinions here seem to ride hard on the fact that often times people wish to inflict their PVP and Villains upon a populace of players that were not comfortable enough in their own skin to deny consent. Or at worst at times are told by members of the community explicitly they can't. So they suck it up for the sake of good faith.

Communication is important in all regards, consent is even more important. It matters not that the villain's players desires are for people to react in the moment, or for conflict to be organic. That may be what the individual enjoys, but it may not be what the whole enjoys. But I also find it a misnomer that the people you're engaging with have to speak up and not be quiet.

When the Marauder event in Telegrad event happened, it was sparsely organized, poorly communicated to everyone as a whole, and there seemed to be a detrimental amount of misunderstandings and such in the build up to it. To the point that in the aftermath it's remained a matter of contention. To the point that I volunteered to speak up, especially towards a member of the Event Staff.

Something people aren't comfortable doing, or worse saying no to. People may not agree or like it, but I feel if you're planning to create an antagonist, to inflict change upon the world as one should be. No matter how big or small. You've the onus to reach out and communicate.  Any consequences that come from a lack of foresight or thought, are on you.

This is not to say I did not have fun with Marauders during the event, that is not to say I didn't have fun fighting your Exorcists, or meeting them. I did.

However you can see where a lack of communication, clear conveyance of the villain's players desires and a mutual trust come into play? I hope that while my speech here is impassioned and brash in places I offer only my perspective and critique from the other side. The one who likes to play hero. Because while yes the saturday morning cartoon villain works within the confines of their narrative structure.

It may not always work that way within the constraints of SL2, and even then saturday morning cartoon villains are written amongst a team. Collaborating and planning beats to find the most organic notes of satisfaction they can.
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[-] The following 1 user Likes Balor's post:
  • Sawrock
I wouldn’t call your speech brash, Balor. I agree with you 100%- open and clear communication is 100% the baseline, the bare minimum. Roleplaying is cooperative, and all.
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[-] The following 1 user Likes Sawrock's post:
  • Balor
(07-27-2023, 04:42 PM)Balor Wrote: You've the onus to reach out and communicate.  Any consequences that come from a lack of foresight or thought, are on you.

You can see where a lack of communication, clear conveyance of the villain's players desires and a mutual trust come into play?
Well, I think your post describes well how difficult it is to be a bad guy. The responsibility lies mostly upon the antagonist, as both the perpetrator and the manager of any particular encounter. As antags, we must be communicating with everyone involved, we must make everything clear, and give people options and make sure they are comfortable. Even if we offer a way out, some might not even be comfortable with choosing that, and we are in part responsible for that. We are the ones initiating after all.

I am not saying the way that works is wrong. But I think your post is a great demonstration of why it's so tiring. Playing an antagonist "correctly" without hurting or offending anyone is a nigh-impossible task. And to those who would say "it's not hard to communicate", I would respond that it's harder than one might think. SL2 isn't a job, it's a game, and the expectation is that you're having fun. When you spend as much time "communicating" as you're spending time playing, then I feel like it starts to defeat the whole point. Thus, why I've decided to stop trying so hard.

I think this problem could be alleviated with actual systems in place in the actual game. I'm talking like, mechanics that facilitate it. For instance, making prison a mechanical thing. Making robbery, and capture, all mechanically enforced. Making it easier and more organic for bad guys to exist, perhaps in a dedicated area like the runescape wilderness. It's the same problem that korvara conflict had and still has. The fact that everything is in the hand of the players means that there is a massive amount of responsibility on our shoulders, coupled with the problem of disagreement, miscommunication, conflicts of interest, or even worse things like harassment. Much like in other areas, SL2 demands a lot of work from players, because it is not really a game with RP systems. Only RPG mechanics, and a chat.

So Balor, you're totally correct. And therein lies the issue.
[-] The following 2 users Like Poruku's post:
  • Sawrock, Skimmy2
Man, Polk, having a wilderness in SL2 would be so fuckin’ cool. Maybe like the middle of Kcorvara or whatever.
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(07-27-2023, 03:02 PM)Poruku Wrote: That might be the case, but usually, someone in game is responsible for a given prison, and as such, it can reflect poorly on them, sometimes in a pretty significant way. In a world where not much happens, one or two blunders can define your IC career. This varies based on the location, of course, but in the end it's a matter of people not wanting to be seen as having failed. Because they have so few opportunities to "succeed", and failure is a big deal. Bypassing guards is also not very appreciated

If a player has set their character up to be the singular potential point of failure in a world where presumably dozens if not hundreds of people should be doing that job, they are either setting themselves up for a series of failures and attempts at retribution and vengeance like some SL2 version of Maiev intentionally or they're seriously just looking to infringe on other players' enjoyment for the sake of their own.

Ignoring the fact that failure is a transient state and you can generally make the character the best ANYTHING so long as you put it in your profile (even if they never actually show themselves to cook, be a good jailor, etc), the idea that you'd be allowed to generally infringe on another player's autonomy for their character because of a loose set of rules written by another player and their interpetation of it is silly.

Like... If you're the warden of a jail and a PC breaks out of that jail, just have a small blurb about how you executed one of your nameless, faceless subordinates for incompetence. It's not that hard. Ya'll can't keep playing this game of 'tag the antag' where you just wait until the antag loses one fight to merc them forever.
It's just what's become expected at this point. People in this game want to end villains so that things become ok again. The antags are generally seen as an issue that must be fixed. I am not going to fight for my freedom when a whole nation wants me dead and wants to hunt me down and execute me. What is the point? It would just piss people off who want that character gone. It would make people frustrated. It's hard enough to get people to enjoy an antag before getting captured, I just don't feel like fighting against the tide just to get my freedom. That's why generally I just accept death. Hell, last time I got imprisoned I tried to bargain and there was no recourse, I had two bad options and that was it. Even if I got my freedom, it would be with great effort and to the great frustration of others. I just don't want to be that guy.

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