View Full Version : D&D 3.x Other House Rule: Conflict Between Player Characters

2015-06-28, 04:05 AM
Short Version

Your character's right to swing her sword ends where the other player characters' nose begins.

A player who kills another player's character will lose her character. A player who steps all over another player's experience, will miss out on experience point awards.

Frampton Comes Alive Version

House Rule

This rule is in the nature of a house rule. It is specific to this campaign and is in no way presented as official or authoritative. The author's ability to reconcile this house rule with the core rules of D&D 3.5 is in no sense a guarantee that it will function in other campaigns for other DMs.

Meta Rule

This rule is in the nature of a meta rule. It exists to directly manage the expectations of the players. It is not designed to function on a level that would cause the player characters to be aware of it. This rule establishes an expectation of how the DM will generally exercise discretion. It shall in no way guarantee mindless consistency from the DM.

Reasonable Expectations

A player is entitled to reasonable enjoyment of her character.

All players have the ability to take in-game actions that could result in substantial interference with another player's reasonable enjoyment of her character.

In this campaign, the term of art in for an action taken by a player character that substantially interferes with another player's reasonable enjoyment of her character is Tedious Interference. Tedious Interference is two offenses in one. It interferes with the reasonable enjoyment of a player. It also interferes with the reasonable enjoyment of the DM.

Player characters may, from time to time, come into conflict with one another.

Player characters are routinely expected to resolve internal conflicts without resorting to Tedious Interference.

Under no circumstance shall the DM be obliged to indulge or tolerate Tedious Interference.

It falls to the individual player to reconcile this house rule with her character concept.

The DM owes an affirmative obligation to his players to refrain from placing them in positions that are in irreconcilable conflict with this house rule.

Remedies for Tedious Interference

The DM shall use those remedies he deems necessary to cope with Tedious Interference. The DM shall in no way be limited to the remedies described in this house rule.

There Is No Way-Back Machine

The DM refuses, on principle, to retroactively rescind or nullify actions that are subject to this house rule. Players are expected to refrain from causing Tedious Interference.

Preventative Remedies

The DM is obliged to take reasonable steps to prevent Tedious Interference to come into play in the first place. Preventative remedies must be taken during the moment the action comes into play, usually during an acting player's turn in a combat round.

Non Event

If possible, the DM may preemptively declare Tedious Interference to be a non-event.


If possible, the DM will offer the player an opportunity to take an action that might achieve a desired goal without causing Tedious Interference.

Punitive Remedies

A Player who brings Tedious Interference into play shall risk punitive actions taken against her character.

XP Forfeit

If a player action is deemed to be Tedious Interference and is not prevented from coming into play, the acting player shall forfeit all XP awards that would otherwise attach to that encounter.

The DM is obliged to impose this remedy before the next encounter begins, on the grounds that this remedy should be timely. In the event that the DM doesn't recognize Tedious Interference until after a new encounter has begun, then the acting player shall not be subject to this penalty.

Standing Sanction Against Killing Player Characters

If a player takes an action which causes another player's character to suffer Death or Catastrophic Loss, then the acting player's character shall be removed from the Cast.

A player character who refuses to take an action that would reasonably prevent another player character's Death or Catastrophic Loss is a violation of this Sanction, and is grounds for that player character to be removed from the Cast. (Illustrative examples include: A refusal to stabilize the wounds of a dying character; withholding an antidote for a poisoned character; knowingly allowing a character walk into an ambush; refusing to throw a lifeline to a drowning character.)

This Sanction shall also extend to all Character Assets. (Familiars are illustrative examples.)

Should a player who violates this Sanction chose to continue play with a different character, then the replacement character shall be substantially different from the character removed. At a minimum, the new character shall be a different character class from the character removed. If the removed character was a multi-class character, the DM will decide which character class is prohibited to the replacement player character. There is no need to rule the removed character to be dead or inherently unplayable, since that character might be a good fit for a different Cast.

Use of the Standing Sanction Against Killing in a coercive manner against other player characters shall qualify as Tedious Interference, and the DM shall seek a remedy for this as for any other form of Tedious Interference.

This remedy is always timely.

A player character that has been Killed or suffered Catastrophic Loss due to the Tedious actions of another player shall be returned to play. If the DM is unable to find an elegant remedy to restore the character to play, he shall resort to tired and stepped on methods such as Deus Ex Machina.

Under no circumstances shall it be possible to suspend this Sanction, or any of its clauses, without also suspending this house rule in its entirely.

Player Characters Under DM Control

Game mechanics explicitly provide for a DM to take control of a character away from a player.

When a player character is under the control of the DM, this house rule shall be modified as follows:

It is not possible to cause Tedious Interference to a player character under DM control.

There shall always be an incentive for limiting the use of lethal force against another player character, even when that character is under DM control.

The DM may generally give a Standard XP award for resolving an encounter with a DM-controlled player character with non-lethal force, and cut the award in half for those characters who use lethal force against the DM controlled player character during the encounter.

Regardless of the standard employed by the DM, the XP award for using non-lethal force against a DM-controlled player character shall be at least twice as large as the XP award for use of lethal force.

Even under this modified rule, the Standing Sanction Against Killing Player Characters remains in full effect. Players are expected to exercise the utmost restraint when using lethal force against a player character even under exigent circumstances such as this. Players are expected to Disable a DM-controlled player character rather than taking that character completely out of play in the name of tactical expediency.

PvP Encounters

If it is the sense of two or more players that a PvP encounter involving a use of force is in the best interest of the campaign, then they must get the affirmative consent of the DM before the PvP use of force shall be possible.

The DM shall be reasonably satisfied that the potential benefits that attach to a PvP encounter are more likely than not to outweigh the potential harm to the campaign before consenting to a PvP encounter.

Under no circumstances shall the DM be obliged to explain his reason for withholding consent for a PvP encounter.

Under no circumstances shall a character be compelled to participate in a PvP encounter without the consent of that player.

Under no circumstances shall a character participate in a PvP encounter if the player is absent, regardless of consent.

Under no circumstances shall DM consent of use of force be extended past the PvP encounter.

The DM has the standing authority to rescind his consent at any time during the PvP encounter, and shall exercise this authority as he deems necessary.

Players who participate in PvP Encounters waive all claim to any Experience Point awards that might attach to that encounter.

The Standing Sanction Against Killing Player Characters shall remain in full effect.


All players are entitled to have their characters harbor Secrets from other player characters. The precise nature of the Secret (be it Lycanthropy, or a Portable Hole full of Porn, or unironic enjoyment of The Pina Colada Song) is irrelevant. What is relevant is that the Secret, and actions taken to protect the Secret, shall in no way be grounds for a player to cause Tedious Interference.

Sinister Secrets

Characters with Sinister Secrets pose peculiar role-playing challenges. (A Sinister Sercet places a character in conflict with the rest of the Cast by virtue of the character concept. Illustrative examples include: Moles, Infiltrators, and Double Agents.)

Even if a player would approach such a character with the best of intentions, many players simply lack the role-playing "chops" necessary to play such characters in a manner that doesn't compromise the integrity of the entire campaign.

Even if all players present prove equal to the role-playing burden that attaches to a Sinister Secret, there is the matter of the appearance of fairness. Unless "Sinister Secrets" are explicitly offered to everyone at the point of Character Creation (Paranoia! is an illustrative example), it can look like a DM is playing favorites among players by allowing this sort of character creation option selectively and clandestinely.

If the DM acquiesces to a player's request to play a character with a Sinister Secret, the DM is well within his discretion to render a Sinister Secret to be an "Open Secret" at a meta-game level. Meaning that the players are aware of the existence of the Secret, but their characters are not. Other players may not be privy to all the details of the Secret, but may be given enough information to facilitate the ability to reconcile the burden of the Secret with the burden of this house rule.

Hidden Agendas

During the course of play, the DM may call upon player to take up a Hidden Agenda that places her character in conflict with the rest of the Cast. (Introducing into play a Cursed Magic Item, like a major Artifact or Relic, is an illustrative example.)

In the event that such an agenda is allowed to come into play, it shall be understood that the DM is vesting a great deal of trust and faith in that player's role-playing chops. And the player shall persue that agenda within the context of this house rule.

The DM will take those steps necessary to facilitate a player's ability to reconcile such an agenda with the demands imposed by this house rule.

The DM may make the decision to render a Hidden Agenda to be an "Open Secret" at a meta-game level. Meaning that the players are aware of the existence of the Agenda, but their characters are not. Other players may not be privy to all the details of the Secret, but may be given enough information to facilitate the ability to reconcile the burden of the Secret with the burden of this house rule.

Under no circumstances shall the DM imposing a Hidden Agenda upon a character be grounds for setting that character up to fail. The DM owes an affirmative obligation to refrain from placing his players into positions that are in irreconcilable conflict with this house rule.

Suspension of the Rule

The DM may suspend this rule entirely. Monkeys may also fly entirely out of the DM's butt.


The adventuring party as a whole, including Player Characters, NPCs, Familiars, and Animal Companions.

Catastrophic Loss:
A consequence of use of force that is so severe that a person of ordinary prudence would consider it to be equivalent to, or worse than, death. Catastrophic Loss usually involves supernatural phenomena. A consequence or condition that would take a character completely out of play and cause that character to remain out of play without magical intervention qualfies as Catastrophic Loss. (Flesh to Stone, Soul Bind, and Baleful Polymorph are all illustrative examples.)

Character Asset:
Those creatures (including constructs) to which a Character is entitled peculiar and reliable access. For a creature to qualify as an Asset, the Death or Catastrophic Loss of that creature must materially interfere with a character's ability to benefit from a durable game mechanic such as a Class Feature or a Feat. (Illustrative examples include: Familiars; Animal Companions; Paladin's Mounts; Blackguard's Fiendish Servants; Cohorts and Followers from the Leadership Feat.) Creatures that can be replaced without mechanical penalty (including Commanded undead and Summoned creatures) are not considered Assets for the purpose of this rule.

Coercive Action:
Action that forces a creature to act in an involuntary manner. (Illustrative examples include: The Intimidate Skill; Spells that require a Will Save, except for spells that are inherently non-violent; Bardic Fascinate, Suggestion, and Mass Suggestion.) Spells from the Charm sub-school are considered non-coercive in nature, and by that virtue they are excluded from the in-game definition of Coercive Action.

Refusal to administer life-saving aid (healing spells are an illustrative example) to a player character in the context of resolving a conflict constitutes Coercive Action.

Lethal Force:
A use of force that is capable of resulting in Death or Catastrophic Loss. Actions capable of causing the following conditions: Ability Drain; Ability Damage (Constitution Only); Dead; Disabled; Dying; Energy Drained; Petrified.

Placing Weaponized Property in striking reach of another creature is so provocative that it qualifies as a Use of Lethal Force.

Non-Lethal Force:
A use of force that is not capable of resulting in Death or Catastrophic Loss. Actions capable of causing the following conditions: Ability Damage (except Constitution); Blinded; Checked; Confused; Cowering; Dazed; Deafened; Entangled; Exhausted; Fascinated; Fatigued; Frightened; Helpless; Knocked Down; Nauseated; Panicked; Paralyzed; Pinned; Prone; Shaken; Sickened; Staggered; Stunned; Unconscious.

Coercive actions fall under the category of Non-Lethal Force even if those actions don't cause physical damage.

Non-violent Conflict Resolution: The absence of the use of force. Persuasive actions fall under this category. Spells that require willing targets are inherently non-violent. Spells that are deemed Harmless are inherently non-violent. Spells from the Charm sub-school, being non-coercive in nature, qualify as inherently non-violent.

Tedious Interference:
Action taken by a player that substantially interferes with another player's reasonable enjoyment of her character, and which also substantially interferes with the DM's reasonable enjoyment of his campaign.

Examples of Tedious Interference include, but are in no way limited to: Use of Force (including non-lethal force), Theft, Destruction of Property (including Weaponized Property), and Catastrophic Loss.

Charm spells are more likely than not to substantially interfere with a player's reasonable enjoyment of her character, so these spells do qualify as Tedious Interference.

Intent is not a component of Tedious Interference. Absence of malice is in no way a defense for Tedious Interference.

A player is not entitled to absolute enjoyment of her character. A player is not entitled to the best possible enjoyment of her character. A player is entitled to reasonable enjoyment of her character. A conflict between two player characters alone is not Tedious Interference. For a player action to qualify as Tedious Interference, that action should generally increase the risk of harm to a player character (something like gross negligence).

Tedious Interference is incompatible with good roleplaying.

Weaponized Property:
Property that is so inherently dangerous that a person of ordinary prudence would consider mere proximity to that property to be life-threatening. (Illustrative examples include: Oozes; Constructs; Vermin; a Sphere of Annihilation.) The mere appearance of Weaponized Property may qualify as coersive to the uninitiated.

Placing a person in reach of Weaponized Property qualifies as Use of Lethal Force.

Commanded Undead are Weaponized Property. Disgusting, nasty, horrifying, Weaponized Property. The most likely form of Weaponized Property to come into play. Considering that undead are deemed to be existential threats by society at-large, and that close proximity to Weaponized Property qualifies as Use of Lethal Force (and, by that virtue, Tedious Interference), player characters are expected to take those steps necessary to keep their Weaponized Property out of the face of other player characters.


Why is this rule so long? Can't you just rely on the Fun Covenant or the Golden Rule?

The Fun Covenant and the Golden Rule are excellent philosophical cornerstones on which to found reasonable expectations. But they lack a meaningful enforcement mechanism.

This house rule establishes an expectation, and describes specific means of enforcing this expectation.

A player who kills another character, will lose her character. A player who interferes with another player's game experience, will be lose out on an experience point reward.

This rule establishes a baseline for what constitutes ostensibly reasonable boundaries in the context of game play.

All players, including the DM, bring to the table their own notions of what is reasonable.

There are many otherwise reasonable people who are entirely capable of having their fun at the direct expense of others. There are players who possess such strong competitive spirit that they lose sight of the notion that role-playing games don't lend themselves to zero-sum game strategy. There are players who become so focused on playing their characters that they lose sight of the impact their approach is having on the group.

The notion that no such person will ever find his way to my game table is a hope, not a plan.

Do these enforcement mechanisms need to be so harsh?

Yes, they do.

"No more half-measures, Walter."

Speaking of Walter White, how am I supposed to play an Evil character under this House Rule?

Like a boss. That's how.

From TV Tropes alone there is: The Clock-Punch Villain, Even Evil Has Standards, The Noble Demon, Affably Evil, Pragmatic Villainy, Dangerously Genre Savvy, The Chessmaster, The Anti-Villain, The Villain Protagonist, The Corrupter, Evil Versus Evil, and my personal favorite... The Magnificent Bastard. This is by no means an exhaustive list.

This house rule is entirely compatible with a wide array Evil character concepts, provided that character concept does not include a mandate to kill off other player characters.

But what if my character is a serial killer?

Then your character needs to be a serial killer of non-player characters.

There are millions of NPCs in the world for a budding murderhobo like your character to victimize. So, why target the only five characters in the universe that the DM needs him to refrain from killing? He could start with people who don't help keep him alive in dungeons. Maybe? A little? No? REALLY?

If your character concept requires you to kill other player characters or place them in harm's way for no good reason ("because I'm Evil" isn't a reason. It isn't even on a bus line that connects to a reason), then your concept is just not viable in this campaign.

How am I supposed to role play my character as a thief if he can't steal stuff from the other player characters?

Your character is going to have to steal stuff from Non-Player Characters.

But what if my thief steals from other player characters but never gets caught?

The DM will always catch you.

Isn't this railroading?

It is absolutely railroading. I'm railroading players into letting other players enjoy their characters. And I'm fine with that.

Don't your players hate this rule?

Actually, I've never even had to mention this rule past Session Zero, let alone enforce it. Even the highest ranking members of the Power Gamer Lollipop Guild seem to understand that this rule is in their own best interest.

What about Cast Members who are NPCs? Are they off-limits, too?

This house rule protects only Player Characters, their Property, and Character Assets. This rule doesn't directly apply to any other NPCs, Monsters, or Creatures in the game. Attacking an NPC who is also a Cast Member does carry some risk of being deemed Tedious Interference.

Illustrative Examples might help:

Example #1: The Cast is tasked with rescuing a Princess and returning her safely to the King.

Once the Princess is in the custody of the Cast, she is a Cast Member. If your character kills her before she is returned to the King, you will cost the entire Cast any XP that would attach to her rescue. That is Tedious Interference.

Once the Princess is in the custody of her Father (King Dad the First) and the Cast has been awarded XP for this, then the Princess is no longer a Cast Member. If your character manages to kill her now, it is no longer Tedious Interference. It's a **** Move, it's just not Tedious Interference anymore.

Example #2: None of the players wants to play a Cleric, so an NPC Cleric is added to the Cast.

This NPC is the only person with routine access to healing magic in the Cast. If your character kills this NPC in a dungeon environment, then that would be Tedious Interference.

Your character is denying the Cast reasonable access to healing magic at a time when they are in persistent danger.

If your character kills the NPC Cleric when the Cast is not in persistent danger and they can get reasonable access to healing magic by other means (such as during down time in a city) then killing the NPC is no longer Tedious Interference.

It's still a **** Move. And if Clerics in your Cast start having the life expectancy of drummers in Spinal Tap, word will spread, and the Cast will have difficulty recruiting Clerics at some point.

2015-06-28, 04:58 AM
A few things however: a neutral character is likely to abandon someone they don't like to their own fate (as in letting someone die), esp. if the rest of the party isn't there to push said character into doing so. A CN character might push another character into a room they think may be trapped just to trigger the trap, or use them as bodyshield. A PvP encounter should be at risk of one (or both) of the characters dying, it doesn't make sense for either of them to pull punches if they are going seriously against each other. It's partially the DM's fault for not foreseeing such amount of potential character friction at the moment of character submission.
In short terms: PCs should never be forced to act OoC by the DM just for the sake of plot progression.

2015-06-28, 05:30 AM

I'm assuming that our play styles are incompatible.

Does my house rule leave you with nagging or lingering doubts?

Do you understand my expectations?

(The merits of those expectations notwithstanding.)

2015-06-28, 07:11 AM
I find within "reasonable" part of the character enjoyment the following fact:
In-game actions will have in-game consequences. If player 1's character terribly annoys player 2's character to the point of disliking (And assuming player 2's PC isn't Good), player 2's character should not be expected to try and save player 1's character out of compassion or goodwill. Player 2's enjoyment of acting IC shouldn't be disrupted by forcing his character into OoC.
And the entire thing about pvping: Both characters IC decided to have a straight up fight. As with any encounter, there's a risk of dying by taking the wrong choices. A houserule that makes both of them effectively immortal for the entire thing, unless the pvp is IC decided to be non-lethal, such as two characters sparring or making an exhibition duel of sorts, simply disrupts the flow of the game.
And unless the entire cast is meant to be irreplaceable, in the worst case where a character is killed in either situation, said player could just roll up another character in a reasonable space of time and continue the story. (Something that could be conveniently made at the end of a session, or within a couple hours of irl time if PbP format).
Also, the entire "consent" wording wierds me out. If character C challenged character D to an all-out fight and D's player accepted, D's player has no reason to complain if character C wipes the floor with character D(or the other way around), or if whatever forces may be (a caster, for example) decide to not revive him afterwards.
Also, I find my opinion being reduced to *snip* being quite disrespectful. There's no point in making a quote just for that.