Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Last Resort: Banishment

We play a game where characters in a universe filled with fighting and death and adventures.  No matter how real we try and make it, there are certain concepts that will never actually translate well.  Characters will never really feel pain.  Characters often don't fear death, especially in games where death is not necessarily the end*.

So what is the worst possible thing you could do to punish someone in a world like this?


Really, Banishment should be reserved for the worst of the worst crimes, like Treason or Serial Murder.  And yet, I have seen a lot of people throw it around lightly in my years at NERO.

When you banish someone's character, you're telling them that the player can never play that character at your game ever again.  In most cases, it ends up being an OOG punishment for IG actions made by the player.  And that's fine for certain crimes, as this offers the risk that games with limited death can't offer.  You know, "Go Big or Go Home."

So what's the point of this article?

You should only be banishing characters for premeditated and extreme crimes and you should never banish someone for something that's accidental or may not have been clearly illegal.

I remember Galavast, where for a time the PCs had made the punishment for every crime "Death, Banishment, and loss of all possessions."  On the surface, it looks like it's just someone trying to prevent crime with harsh punishments.  But, in essence, a PC was punishing players OOG for committing crimes by banishing them.  That PC was essentially banning players from playing at Galavast for anything, even victimless crimes.

That's a terrible business model.

Now, in some games I've seen a much better punishment that banishment.  Characters are permitted to remain, but they are no longer protected by the laws of the land.  They lose the security that they once had but they can continue to hang out with their friends and participate in the game, albeit more difficult to stay safe.

So let this be a public service announcement - Banishment is a heavy handed punishment reserved for high risk crimes.  PCs should never have the ability to issue banishment, and plot should only ever use banishment for premeditated crimes where the players know the cost of failure.

*Players may fear death, but they don't fear it in the same way as real life.  They fear losing their character, but they don't fear the unknown that accompanies death.


  1. Mark Henry ~MariusApril 3, 2012 at 1:38 PM

    I agree 100%. Banishment is the 1 crime that I think is too strict. Nothing forces you not to play there, but your reason for being there will be PvP (I can assure you from personal experience :) ).

    Perhaps if you are retiring a character and want to go out in a bang banishment is a cool send off.

    I almost feel the same about obliteration for crimes, BUT you can buy back deaths and once it's done it is done.

    My group and I had an interesting conversation when setting up our new laws about doing away with oblits as punishment. We had two reasons: 1. it wasted everyone's time and 2. We had to spend components for other's misbehavior.

  2. Somewhat on the same theme, I’ve always been a bit annoyed by plot teams that use the punishment of declaring someone an Outlaw, i.e. they are no longer protected by the law of the land. In my mind this isn’t punishing the person. This is a way of plot or the in game authorities shirking the hard and messy business of applying a punishment and making it stick and instead delegating that task to the rest of the PC’s.

    For a lot of people and a lot of characters this would be a very effective punishment and a serious deterrent. But those also tend to be the sort of people that aren’t getting in trouble with the law. The lawbreakers tend to be players who enjoy conflict, like mixing it up, and are very confident in their abilities to take care of themselves. These sorts of players aren’t going to be discouraged if you tell them the punishment from victimizing people is that the victims will be able to attack back with impunity. If the law breaking PC had any fear of their victims to begin with then they likely wouldn’t have victimized them in the first place.

    This sort of punishment probably works best in a very edgy game where PvP is well supported and the majority of the players are comfortable with it. But in most of the games I play the vast majority of the players don’t want to PvP, and they have very little IG or OOG skill at it. They just want to solve plots, roleplay, craft items, socialize, and save the world. They don’t want to get dragooned into being a surrogate police force or discipline deliverer for plot.

  3. I think that part of it has to do with the reasoning behind making someone an outlaw.

    If a plot team makes someone an outlaw in hopes that other PCs collect the bounty, then yeah, I think that's kind of crap. If a player is that bad, kill them off or, in case of players griefing others, just ban them.

    But there are times where the government in a game is corrupt, and a player who is a "Robin Hood" could become an outlaw. In this case, most PCs would be perfectly fine with the character and may actually go out of their way to hide them from enemies, while various NPCs may come in looking for them.

    And that might be the case if someone is treasonous against a ruling government. Acting on that is definitely high risk, but if the character is righteous, the other characters will probably let them go about their stuff. On the other hand, if someone tried to kill the king of Evandarr, there would still be a lot of PCs that would side with the nobility. But that is the cost of trying to kill the king.

    But outlaw for stealing bread? Lame.

  4. I don't think PC noble should have the power to banish other PCs without Plot approval and providing the banished player a chance to get unbanished by means of a mod or RP encounter.

  5. I have some idea where this subject came up and lets just say that I agree wholeheartedly that no PC should be able to Banish someone without OWNERSHIP approval. To me plot is not enough. So rest assured any banishment that occurs at the chapter I run has come through ownership first.

    Now as to the reasons it is used, I agree it should be reserved for the worst offenses or OFFENDERS. See sometimes players just don't fear anything at all. and they show up, game in and game out and tally up bad behavior after bad behavior and worse are bad at it.

    NERO players certainly do not fear death. It is laughable in NERO. So if someone is committing offenses again and again, and doing a poor job of it so they are constantly getting caught, banishment is really the only thing with teeth the game has.

    So what types of crimes would be worthy of banishment? Killing someone, how about threatening repeated to kill someone then showing up to do it and getting caught before you can act because you previously threatened it? Those all seem reasonable to me.

    As with all things there are ALWAYS ways around it. Usually the way we do it is we give the offender some choices because we understand it is a risky thing to do.

    But in the end, sometimes it is deserved, and even that character is played by your friend or your player, they are wrong and have earned what they got. And you know it, but you just cannot separate their character from your loyalty to them.

    So I would say, yes banishment should be reserved for those times when in game some level of law and order needs to be established or reestablished and/or when a character has done something or somethings that is deserving of it, and if that happens the player should also be willing to accept the consequences. One NERO's biggest game issues is there are no consequences for actions because you can almost never die and it has resulted in a culture of unreasonable expectations that you as a player should never have any difficulty if you repeatedly choose to commit crimes as your character.

    And in the end, if the character is clearly guilty of the crime, and the punishment was clearly known, and they player just cannot accept that have to pay for the crimes they chose to have their character commit, well it is not as bad of a business model as you think to have them banished. Sometimes it is addition by subtraction.

  6. The problem with giving banishment to people killing someone else is that, as you said, death is marginal to both parties. A character that constantly commits crimes and gets caught without causing too much ill will OOG should not be summarily banished. They're simply playing a Dengar character.

    There is a very small region where banishment is ideal, and that's when players are trying to pull something huge off. Killing a king, starting a revolution, etc. Those are the things where the player knows ahead of time that they're taking a big risk.

    In cases where players are causing trouble on an out-of-game level (harassment, griefing), IG punishment is not appropriate. The appropriate solution is to deal with those offenses with OOG punishment (ie player suspension or ban). IG punishments send mixed messages and don't get rid of a bad player.

    If someone's being a bad player, stop them from playing the game with a suspension. If someone's being an evil character without griefing, don't punish them by making them essentially unable to play.

    And for this particular case - 200g+ for assault? For reals? That's more than many characters have, so the punishment for killing someone (loss of all possessions and death) is actually less than threatening to kill someone.