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RPGs without conflict

SilentScope

Registered User
Validated User
I want to explore a certain theme, that of Utopia. Players are citizens of a Utopia, where everything goes absolutely right, all the time, and there is no internal or external threats, and everyone is genuinely happy. Think of it as Alpha Complex, but actually working properly.

The problem: For the setting to actually reflect a Utopia, there cannot be conflict. Any conflict, internal or external, implies the utopia isn't really a utopia. If you have an internal, personal conflict about following the norms of the utopia, it cast into doubt what the utopia actually is. If you have an external conflict, like an outside enemy, people are going to start questioning why the Utopia did not adequately prepare to fight against that enemy. If you have day-to-day problems, like the Utopia needing to negogiate prices for salt, or the Utopia having 1 industrial accident in 20 years, then people are going to ask why the Utopia even had those problems to begin with.

But if I remove conflict, I remove any incentive for the players to actually play. I get rid of all mission hooks and remove any possiblity for a campagin. And I don't want to put players as the 'external enemy', sent to destroy the Utopia. I think I could do more to explore the theme than just "how can I destroy a Utopia".

So, I ask you: how do you create an RPG without conflict? How do you get the interest of the players, and have mission hooks, while not introducing anything that would imply a sort of conflict between two people...
 

harpy

Retired User
I suspect...

you can't.

In order for a roleplaying game, which is built around some form of storytelling, requires conflict in order for it to be interesting.

There aren't any stories, as far as I can recall, in the literary world that deal with a utopia on its own terms.

The best I can think of are things like Thomas Moore's Utopia, or Plato's Republic. But they aren't stories, but rather descriptions of utopias. The latent tension of those descriptions is that, as a description, it forms an argument for reaching this utopia. Thus reading them is a kind of drama because the reader knows the world is quite unlike what they are reading, and the argument to become a utopia is the tension.
 

dr_mitch

Maths Sensei
Validated User
Well, here's one way, which might go against your concept, but makes the Utopia important and lets you play with the philosophy.

The Utopia exists, and is powerful enough to be unthreatened by external forces, but...it doesn't cover the whole of the world. The PCs are citizens of that Utopia, bringing enlightenment to poor outsiders, who for whatever reason are stuck in their own conflicts, with their own problems, accidents, and wars. They need Utopia's help.

Think of Iain M. Banks' Culture novels for inspiration here.

Another way would be to avoid traditional RPG stuff, and make it a soap opera set in a Utopia. Sure, society's perfect. No wars, no major accidents, no real crime. But does that mean everyone is happy? People are still going to have disagreements, have affairs, and possibly indulge in smaller crimes, even if it's only cheating at board games. Actually, the last one could assume critical importance if there are no bigger things to worry about. So there are conflicts, even if they're not deadly.

I suspect if you want everything to be absolutely perfect, everywhere, and everyone to be universally happy you're stuck for stories. But there's still mileage in a Utopia concept.
 

SilentScope

Registered User
Validated User
Well, here's one way, which might go against your concept, but makes the Utopia important and lets you play with the philosophy.

The Utopia exists, and is powerful enough to be unthreatened by external forces, but...it doesn't cover the whole of the world. The PCs are citizens of that Utopia, bringing enlightenment to poor outsiders, who for whatever reason are stuck in their own conflicts, with their own problems, accidents, and wars. They need Utopia's help.

Think of Iain M. Banks' Culture novels for inspiration here.
That's perfect! Thanks paul! I don't think it goes against my concept at all, and altough the existence of other societies other than the Utopia might cause certain implications, that could easily be justifed by saying "Well, a Utopia has to start somewhere."
 

Cool Guy

Retired User
I'm still waiting for my Freemarket RPG box set... I think that's as close as we're going to get to exploring the concept.
 

The Dragon Master

just this guy, you know?
Validated User
I think the place to start is to figure out what sort of stories you want to tell. If you want to tell stories about living in a Utopia, like those PBS specials that detail cuisine and culture, then you want mechanics that focus on that (and they don't really require any conflict) though I don't know how interesting those kinds of stories would be in the long term, but that may be a matter of taste.
 

SilentScope

Registered User
Validated User
Well, while it is established that the society the players belong to is a Utopia, I don't actually make it clear why it's a Utopia.

So, Players could work together to describe the Utopia, with the main goal of persuading the Outsiders to submit to the Utopia as a Protectorate, where the players would then 'advise' the Outsiders on how to construct their society to become a Utopia in their own right. They do so by actually describing the Utopia in such a manner that it convinces the Outsiders; this game is therefore 'worldbuilding', or more accurately, 'propaganda building'.

All Players agree that their society is a Utopia, but they agree for different reasons: a person working in the bureacracy might explain how minor problems become effectively solved with just a few forms, a person serving in Internal Security would point to the non-existant crime rate, while a person serving in the Army would showcase the impressive weaponry the Utopia produces. Obivously, the players all believe that it is their experiences that prove the Utopia is a Utopia, as opposed to the experiences of everyone else.

In addition, you could also have a slight inter-party conflict over how to best persuade the Outsiders, especially if the Outsiders raise stupid and pointless objections over exactly how the Utopia actually works.
 

Nooch

Registered User
Validated User
I don't think you can have a game without conflict. Conflict is really the only motivation to do anything. Without SOME sort of conflict, nobody would ever get out of bed in the morning. Hunger, love, war, greed, sympathy all come from conflict.

That being said, the game could be set up with as a struggle to maintain the impossibility of utopia. The conflict is one's personal rights vs the good of the whole.

The nWod rules would work well for this. The lower their moral level, the more they have to roll in order to resist their personal wants. As they gain experience, they can increase their stats (selfish) or raise their morality (for the whole) so the players can choose to support the utopia or resist it.

The conflict in the utopia would be setting up unequality through randomness and let the players choose to help the person or write them off as the sacrifice for the whole.

Oh, and lots of vorpal swords.
 
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