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Collateral Damage and Notoriety
Punching down has its consequences.

Now, I will start this post by stating the obvious: as a simple player, I'm probably unaware of many hidden mechanics and even more obvious mechanics. As a player, much of my OOC view of mechanics and game will be (of course) influenced by my IC experience. I also do not have the experience of certain, longer time players.

Now, the concept:

The idea goes like: combat actually happens in the world. I got the idea when I noticed performance reactions.

If you fight anywhere that isn’t a ‘safe combat area’ or considered ‘relatively empty’, you will deal collateral damage. As the fight goes on, there will be messages speaking of the damage you and your opponents are dishing out to the surrounding area.

That stray bullet just hit an orphan; good blow with that katana, unfortunately, you also sliced a citizen that was right next to you. You will devastate the area, temporarily changing the locale text, maybe even affecting services.

There should be a few primary modifiers that should be taken into account:

Overall strength: Fairly vague, I know. The idea is, the stronger you are, the more collateral damage you deal

Hahn shot first: Har, har. Jokes aside. Self-explanatory. You threw the first punch, and it ended up in a mass slaughter.

Length of the fight: self-explanatory.

Your target: I know what you’re thinking: ‘what’s the explanation here?’ We have literal mountains of muscle, you punching that whimp over there and they might go flying into a crowd, wounding several? That other wall of muscle, however, might just stand their ground. The less IC reason is to punish punching too far down. There’s tens of thousands in Withmore, there’s a good chance people get on your nerve or swing a cuss your way, on a regular basis. Why’d that player character doing the same piss you off that much? Doesn’t stop you from punching down for serious disrespect, but puts a bit of a break on doing it too often.

Stance: this shouldn’t affect it. I particularly specificed this, as it feels like it should, but at the same time, I think combat players can understand why this shouldn’t affect this system.

Holding back: Maybe you’re a bit more soft-hearted, and don’t want to injure others in the process. You still will, that’s the nature of fighting for your life in a crowded area. It’ll at least make stronger characters potentially consider weakening themselves, essentially giving their target a greater chance.

Yet. How does this system achieve its goal of punishing over aggression? All this does is giving flavour text and potentially damage the room!

Here comes the real hard part of the suggestion: the idea of infamy

It’s a hidden stat, tied to the character. What it is meant to do is, for one, give gamemasters a trackable stat that lets them go: ‘maybe we should start messing with this character’. Why? Maybe that grandma you accidentally blew up with that callous grenade was a relative of a lieutenant ganger, now he wants your neck.

But, I think it should go further than just a stat that gives gamemasters an idea as to how vicious you are. Potential hazards of this are:

-(In the Mix) NPCs jumping you: their loved ones were caught in the crossfire, or maybe they’re hoping for glory. Whatever their reason, they’re armed with not-so-great weapons, probably not that great at fighting. Yet, with enough numbers, even if they don’t kill you, this happening too often might start being a drain on your resources.

-Bounties are being placed on you. They might not be massive, but over time? Ten chyen here, another hundred there? It starts to stack.

-Less tied to infamy, more devastation. Sure sucks those people caused such devastation in front of your store, hurting your profits. It could lead to player interaction

Further, still, how impactful it is should depend on your status and faction. While gangers should be affected, it’s likely far less weird for a ganger to be violent, it’s expected. Yet, go too far? You might start hurting your King’s cut. Why risk getting your head ripped off to go pay your toll when you might just want to avoid a turf, altogether?

Corporate, however? It should impact a *lot*. Think about it. You, a Saeder-Krupp employee, just decided to go on a deadly joyride. You hit countless Mixers with your car. You know how many of those Mixers might’ve been buyers of SK’s goods? You know how many of them might’ve been servants? What if one of them was the long lost sister of an investor that was no longer on talking terms – they might never forgive this transgression? What about the PR costs to sweep this under the rug, double the ads, pay off reporters?

So, how do you combat infamy?

The concept of collateral, I don’t think, would be the hardest thing to implemented and even balance. Infamy, a lot harder. Balancing its build up, potential negative downsides, and combatting it? As fun and interest of a mechanic as it sounds in my head, I realize this is a nightmare.

Disguises and laying low are the obvious ones. But you don’t want disguise to utterly ignore the mechanic, just mitigate it, maybe infamy could even make the ability to disguise oneself harder, or even stealth, as the crowd you’re hiding in takes notice of your presence and takes distance. Charisma is another one. It’d be nice to give it a use, even if you’re into fighting, make it less of a UE waste (in a mechanical sense). And, no doubt, discussing with admins roleplaying! Maybe a large donation to a new orphanage would help your image?

The dangers of implementing this: now to be the devil’s advocate. It might just be my more paranoid side, but there is a certain code of honour. There is the danger that adding such a system would invite people wanting to get the ‘high score’ and merely act horrible for the sake of it. If the infamy-pushback isn’t punishing enough, people could purposely attempt to raise theirs for unplanned for reward. I’m all for characters being pricks, but just being pricks for the hell of it isn’t that interesting.

To conclude: punching down should have its downsides, it should hurt a *lot* given the right mix of circumstances.

It would make it a tad more dangerous to perform hits, potentially increase the value of hits, give newer characters a bit of a safety net (but not total leeway to do as they please), and, make corporate be more cyberpunk. To some players, who enjoy riling others up, it could also provide a nice, flavourful response from the world, really letting them feel like the douchebag.

Even if a more mechanical entwining of infamy could not properly be implemented. Collateral and a hidden infamy stat would still probably prove useful, to give a general idea to gamemasters on how vile a person is acting and how overt they are about it and to give a bit more flavour to fights than just red text.

I think I like it? My thing is I see too many little details that make this extremely difficult to balance.

Why focus on the fighters' strength rather than skill? A syndicate enforcer with cryo pistol chops is less likely to fire on an innocent regardless of the crowding. They're less likely to miss in general, for that matter.

I also expect that in an ambient sense, the crowd isn't going to just putter along, indifferent to a deadly fight in their proximity. The crowd will disperse away from the event as much as they can.

Shrouds. I agree with the concern you bring to the table with regard to hiding from a system like this. Unfortunately, that's exactly the kind of scenario that can make disguise useful. Not really sure of a good way to work around that. Again with ambience, a single character in a black poncho is one of thousands among the population.

As far as charisma goes, the stat is useful in several mechanical ways for a variety of skills, etc.

At the end of the day, I do like the idea, but it comes off to me as something that will serve to punish newer characters yet to master their combat chops. Is that bad? Not necessarily imo, but there's already threads present discussing issues that potentially strengthen veteran characters at the expense of newer ones.

I think it's worth further discussion though. I wonder if there's a viable way to make effective and fun.

Previous discussions:

Collateral Damage

Adding Flavor to Combat

While it may be easy to imagine one type of conflict occurring to have canned 'collateral damage' feedback for, the reality is there is ten thousand different permutations between location and intent and context and participants and weapons, and I think short of a hugely complex system of checks with a gigantic amount of written feedback for all the variations, it will end up with nonsensical feedback and outcomes that break immersion or make players avoid combat at all.

In general, anything that makes players less likely to engage in violent conflict is probably for the thematic worse, there is way too little of it as it is in my opinion.