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Structure, Behavior and Conflict
Ideas for all on creating a more conflict rich environment.

This is inspired by 0x1mm's post on the ideas thread on e-voice wiretapping here:

https://sindome.org/bgbb/game-discussion/ideas/wiretapping-with-digital-recorders-2932/ (Sep 17, 2023 5:35 PM). I very much agree with their assessment there, at least in general terms. Very well said.

It got me thinking on how important and fun conflict is to me. I love good stories and I think conflict is essential to any good story. Sadly, I feel that some aspects of the game's current structure and some behaviors of the player base mix to produce an environment that does more to discourage conflict than encourage conflict.

I am not trying to say that the current state is a failure or a result of mismanagement. I am not pointing fingers or laying blame. A game as complex as Sindome shifts over time and the way it changes is very hard to predict and as much in the hands of the players as it is in the hands of staff.

I also don't know exactly what changes will produce a more conflict rich environment. I don't think anyone KNOWS. But I think we all have reasonable some ideas and that there are many paths that could lead to more conflict.

So the idea here is to ask other players to respectfully make suggestions on how they think conflict could be more encouraged. They could be suggestions to staff regarding the structure of the game, to other players regarding character behavior or anything else.

I am very curious to hear what people think. Just keep it civil and avoid going into details regarding the game world, which I know can be hard!

I think simple things staff could easily take and use should they choose could be quite valuable. More valuable still, in my opinion, are ideas that other players can take and implement all on their own.

The current state of the game is that often when conflict IS made public, every sort of person has an opinion about it, and it often escalates from a petty rivalry between two people to some sort of large plot with midbies and high UE players tangentially involved. I think that while this brings more people into the RP, it often means that the person creating the conflict is often seen as 'disruptive' or 'unusual' compared to the vast majority of the population that is not doing anything conflict-oriented at the time.

I guess one way to encourage conflict is to normalize it. The whole dome shouldn't be discussing the rivalry of two pledges, for example, nor should everyone feel like they have to have an opinion on it. Because conflict, especially in the past few months or so, tends to have an accelerationist bent towards it - it always -has- to end with someone dying, being bullied into suicide, or leaving the Dome entirely (even if not permanent.)

Agreed, conflicts need to stay more contained to the level of the players involved, not be rushed to a resolution and reach more interesting conclusions. I think it's largely on us the players to take IC consequences more solemnly. Killing or having someone killed or maimed, getting them to suicide, etc, is extremely heavy and should take a heavy toll on our characters' psyches.

On the staff side, I'm sure GMs RP as such with puppets and IG bosses demand more sophisticated solutions from their underlings than death and mayhem.

I know that I try hard to balance the times I 'win' with occasional carnage with more frequent 'limited victories'.

By limited victories I mean trying to frame the victory so I clearly win but the other side can tolerate. It's not easy given how we all get so deeply invested in things but I've enjoyed some great RP by tempering my 'wins' and when others have done the same for me.

It's hard for me to describe how to do this well as I am always developing myself here as well. I guess that the best way to phrase this is by being flexible and watching your words. In fact, it's similar advice parents often receive.

Often, once someone SAYS something, they feel they have to back it up 100% or look bad when they fail to do so. And there's some truth to that. It's often considered good parenting to pick your fights and to try to always follow through. The same applies to life and the game.

So... Say I'm a mugger, gang related or otherwise.

If I demand 1k and the other person can't deliver it, now what? You made the demand so now you need to follow through. If they don't have a kay on them then you end up in a mess. Do you take goods instead? Do you drop them off the roof as a lesson? To you try to get them to take you tot heir home and make them open the door and kill them when they refuse because that's not a losing condition they can accept?

Or, maybe I just demand you give me some valuables. I don't specify what. Then, as long as it's not insulting (and I'd be forgiving here), I take it and move on. Only 200 chyen? That's a free meal and booze. Maybe I save it and get some lana and enjoy my high. It pushed theme, I established my dominance and it wasn't too hard for the other character to stomach. And there's room for escalation over time if my PC feels it's needed. Hell. I can do that to the same PC several times a week and it's still tolerable.

I think that by not making specific claims or demands up front I can then be flexible with the outcome. It's also interesting as you can frame it in a way that lets the player of the other character frame their loss in a way that will be more interesting to them.

It has to be a loss, you have the upper hand, but maybe they are the type who would rather lose by falling under your character's power. They gotta work for you maybe. Or maybe they want to feel broke and poor so choose to give you every chyen and valuable. Or they expose a part of their character by losing a photo that holds great sentimental value.

Or, I can make very reasonable and fairly easy to meet demands if I want to ramp it up. One I used before was, "If you see me, you leave without delay. You don't get to be in my presence. You are too scummy for my nasty personage. You ever do anything but leave, I will wage war on you until you learn to leave." This worked for the other PC. They liked the power play. It was interesting RP for them and it was a clear win for my PC with options for more conflict from there.

So I guess that's my first suggestion. Don't talk yourself into having to follow through with some scorched earth level business.Leave room to be flexible. Take the small wins as it's the win that matters more than anything. Try and find ways to let the loser help frame their loss.

I get that it's not always possible. Not all players/characters will play along nicely. Especially if they are used to fight/flight or they die or lose heavily. Where even trying to engage in this RP is too risky to try. But if your character develops a reputation for this kind of play, I think more PCs will dive into the losing RP with you.

TBH I feel like a lot of this talk lately about fear of conflict and such is very Mix-centric. I think a lot of players could learn a thing or two about subtlety and restraint by playing a topside character some time. I know a lot of people think the game is topside-heavy right now, but I think that's because it's gotten more love than it received in decades and there's very interesting conflict there. You might be surprised how much you enjoy it and how much richer your Mix conflict is with another character later on.
I think a major issue regarding the perception things are 'slow' is too much dang secrecy. It's cyberpunk, of course there is always going to be the need for secret ops, shadow tactics, slow burn tinkering behind curtains, and so on. At the same time I'd argue it's cyberpunk, loud and proud conflicts are on brand. You can have restraint and subtlety in how you push conflict while still doing so on the main stage. Yeah, it's a lot more cryo to play it straight and snatch your win without looking like you were ever bothered, but that veil doesn't provide much for the game world beyond those who it has directly affected, and sometimes even those directly affected have no clue as to the rhyme or reason if you didn't make the point well enough. It shouldn't be the sole burden of gangers and lowbies to make it appear like mayhem is going down frequently. I believe more conflicts, even those that are exclusive, should unfold out in the open to be observed and inject life into the game. That would help a lot with the normalization discussed prior.
That's a Catch-22 because any slip-up of secrecy is heavily punished.
Could you elaborate on heavily punished?
The fear is that airing out your laundry will make the whole game weigh-in and get on a high horse, pretending you offended their IC ethical sensibilities and destroying your reputation, ganking on you, not giving you business, etc.
Think that boils down to a clash of negative IC sentiments and positive OOC ones, which can be hard for a lot of people to parse. I can certainly say it took me a while to figure that out since I started playing, and there were hurt feelings and discouraged periods in the interim. Now, I'd argue that in most hearts and minds the observation someone is pushing conflict is a major boon to business and healthy attention, so long as it is flavorful.
I’ve found that plots were much more meaningful and successful for me when I was more open about doing things, rather than staying anonymous. Of course, secrecy is still paramount and knowing who to trust is very much a major consideration, if not the most important consideration in this game. But being open and visible about involving others in exciting plots/wanting to be involved in exciting plots, breeds even more exciting plots and people seeking you out for RP meaningful to you and your character.
@SoulTune

I think the suggestion you had of "Try and play topside for a little to learn to be better at x or y" is not a good one. Telling people they need to be filtered through corporate play when they very well might not be interested in that, or might not want to rework their char to go topside is unhealthy IMO. People can be subtle and partake in intrigue play in the mix, too. I don't need to abandon a place where the new player experience is essential to retention (Red sector is where every new player comes into our game). Telling them that they can't truly understand some good conflict RP without being topside is bad form.

My short and simple two cents is that if you want conflict you need to create it, which is not hard. There are infinite reasons for conflict provided by the IC world. When I find myself avoiding or disengaging with any, it stems from not being able to personally commit to it. Conflict has always been the most engaging, rewarding, and themely way to play in my view. But yeah, it takes a lot of investment.

I appreciate the discussion but I don't think you could convince anyone but yourself provide this type of experience for others. The more plots there are, the more plots get created by intertwining with each other. Plots are, in my experience, nearly always centered around conflict.

I do miss the big time protagonists that existed when I first joined the game, and seemingly involved everyone in their net. A spoiling experience, since I can only imagine the time sink that must have been. BUT, I remember doing my part in support, so maybe the more involved, the more duties are allocated, etc. All a cycle.

I implore anyone who finds themselves in the position of playing a high-UE character who is faced with witnessing a lesser conflict, to simply not care, or to only invest yourself in it as much as one may watch a sports game. That is the attitude I try to adopt, and it is what is healthy for lowbie conflict. Let people duke it out, you don't always need to tip the scales or champion a cause.

I think big shots sticking their fingers in what the immies and newbies are squabbling about is usually a bad idea, and I am getting the impression from some posts here that people feel like every conflict escalates to a universal involvement.

@robotdogfighter

Didn't mean to imply that. Just that topside RP can teach a lot and is a huge part of the game that I feel a lot of players haven't explored judging by their Mix-centric discourse. I would never tell people to change their character to go topside, let alone topside and back down to the mix. I was suggesting they eventually try playing a topside character.

I want to stress that I am not at all against violence and death as a part of play. There have been times my PCs killed others for greed. On one occasion I had a PC kill at least three other PCs when they decided to attack after trying to warn them off. I've had PCs slap others around just to prove dominance used violence/death to enforce non-violent 'wins'. Violence and death is a part of Sindome and I do not think it is bad at all.

At the same time, I think I get where Soultune's coming from. I feel that violence is a tool that is difficult to wield against other corpies when playing a corpie yourself. Not impossible but more difficult than it is to employ violence in the mix. I think this forces a player/character to consider other avenues and it's more forgiving in some ways as other corpies will find it difficult to simply fall back on violence against you.

I think this can certainly help players/characters expand their toolbox. Not saying that anyone should make their characters do anything or that anyone should play any particular way. It's all good in my book as long as you aren't breaking the @rules. Play how you like best.

But if you are interested in expanding your conflict toolbox, it can be fun and interesting to ask yourself: What could I do to fuck with this asshole if violence was off the table? Even if you never have and never will play a corporate PC, just this thought exercise can sometimes yield interesting results.

Again, sometimes violence IS the most fun/interesting answer for a player/character. I would never want to suggest it shouldn't bee a well used tool. I simply understand where Soultune's coming from - or at least I think I do!

I would argue the opposite, that topside has become something of an albatross around the game's neck: Too expansive, too broad, too far from the fundamental cyberpunk theme of high tech low life, diluting and pacifying the player base and player culture.

It has always been too much Lords and Ladies and teaches passivity and disengagement while preaching intrigue and patience. If it had to exist at all it would certainly be better off as just as violent, vengeful and tense as the Mix once was.

Though to be clear: That is topside the setting and not topside the players. I've known enough all-star players who shone radiant in the Mix while being comparatively tampered topside to recognize that the effect is environmental and not personal.
Instead of combining two different ideas about how to generate conflict into one reply, I am going to separate them into two. I encourage anyone who replies to do the same.

My first suggestion is the most simple and straight forward.

The easiest way to generate more violent conflict is to reduce the cost of failure.

I will use my own risk / reward metrics as an example. Keep in mind I think that I am a very risk adverse player. My character is a non-combat character. But as a player I accept that Sindome is primarily a PVP-centric environment.

There are a couple of key things that I need to have as a player, or that my character needs to have access to, in order to make me comfortable enough to "risk" them. By risk, I mean take the risk that they might not succeed. And if they do not succeed, that their failure will not result in permadeath.

Those things are

1. An active clone / recent memory backup from SenseNet

2. 5Kc to get a new clone / memory backup made if they wake up in the vats

3. A safe place to disconnect (apartment, etc.) with at least a week's worth of rent

Every player and character will have a different "bare minimum" recovery position that they are willing to be knocked back to.

As long as my character is backed up and they have an apartment, as a player I'm okay risking whatever gear they have on them.

I am going to avoid going down the risk / reward rabbit hole of balancing gear cost versus the potential reward of risking that gear. Because that's a tangent.

In summary, if the community wants more conflict, we need to make other players comfortable failing. Assure them that they have some degree of safety net.

There are countless ways to do that. Organizational support (gangs, corps, etc.) is an obvious one. Social circles / teams can function as a lesser version of organizations.