The more you speak of DD, the more extremely cool it sounds. I only came here because I stumbled over the "moral dilemmas" thread in Google and thought "hey cool! People designing games right!"... but now I think I'll have to buy and play these games <img src="/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" /> Them and PlaneScape: Torment.

I can not see this being a common situation.
Not all fights must be moral quandaries, no. But I would argue that "fights that absolutely must be fatal" should be even rarer, or not even exist in the game.
[...]you would either have to kill or be killed. Though as you say, another option some of the time would be nice to have
But there I disagree. There is no excuse, ever, in any situation whatever, against any monster whatever, for any combat to be required to be fatal. Not even a rat. Not even the big end-of-game badguy. Especially not him!

It is possible to make it so that it's reasonable that you need to only kill or be killed. A crystal monster in an inescapable arena, that can't talk, doesn't breathe knockout gasses, poisoned darts bounce off, and blunt "concussing" weapons shatter it. It's possible... but really sucky game design. That situation would tell me "the game designer spoke of choices and consequences when designing the game, but the level designer was just not listening, and has gone out of his way to strip all choice from me." And if there's a class of monsters that combat must be fatal with, then it's just silly. Worse than silly, it's poor game design. Worse than that, it's a FPS.

I'm also fine with straight experience points and loot based massacres, but only because there is, for the moment, nothing more realistic. Final Fantasy/Anachronox minigame-style combat is, to me, the epitome of combat done wrong in every imaginable way.

No idea if the DD engine has anything relating to NPC interactions with eachother, or if it's a "have them all stand where the designer placed them and wait for the NPC to talk to them" type engine, but in Fallout 3, they'll be using Radiant AI (hopefully not the crippled version from Oblivion), and it occurred to me that NPCs should be able to stop killing eachother, too. ( from )

As I understand it, radiant AI had to be scaled back in earlier games by taking a shotgun to its groin, because otherwise NPCs would end up massacring eachother.

My suspicion is that this is because NPCs had exactly three reactions if other NPCs hit them, steal from them, or otherwise triggered a disposition change:
1 "I'm Oblivious!"
2 "Hey, I'm on your side!/I see wut u did there!" (OK, maybe they only said this to the PC, not sure).

I propose scrapping the first level, and adding some more levels to more accurately reflect reality.

1 "Hey, I'm on your side!/I see wut u did there!" - verbal acknowledgement of wrongdoing and a warning. Important first step in escalating hostilities... or in changing people's behaviour so that they don't need to escalate.

Opponent reactions can be: insult, ignore, apologise but continue with action, apologise and change selected action. "Sorry, I'll be more careful."

2 "What do you think you are doing? Were you born in a Vault?"...etc. Insults are the lowest level of conflict in real life. They do sometimes escalate, but they deal no damage, and conflict at this level has a good chance of defusing itself. It serves the purpose of making the NPC stop his activity and respond instead to the insult.

Opponent reactions can be: bitchslap, insult, ignore, apologise but continue with action, apologise and change selected action. "At least I wasn't born in a brahmin-shed!"

3 *BITCHSLAP* Yeah. You know you want to slap that annoying fan. Well, so do NPCs. Now they get to. A zero-damage physical attack, perhaps with brief stun and knockback, and a deeply satisfying sound. But it's zero damage. Could escalate, but still, not necessarily.

Opponent reactions can be: attack, bitchslap back (should be low %chance, or can get silly like the link), insult, ignore, apologise but continue with action, apologise and change selected action. "Eh sorry - guess I deserved that." "What was that for?" "Hey... *slap*!"

4 "I'm gonna beat you like a redheaded stepchild!" Even when you enter the realm of doing physical damage, there is no earthly reason that anyone would want to fight a friend to the death. Their goal in combat is to beat their opponent until he gives in or falls unconscious - NOT to kill. They won't draw a weapon.

Opponent reactions are prettymuch defend, surrender, or run, like with any combat, but they do have the option to also escalate the combat by drawing a weapon... but this would not be common. Nobody in a bar brawl whips out a gun or a knife. It's just not done. Surrendering on either side is very likely to be accepted, though they might give one last [censored]slap or curse.

5 "GRAAAH! FITE TO DETH PLZKTHX!" - Between faction members, there is no earthly reason to fight to the death for anything less than a murder. Even in a fight to the death, NPCs should be able to at least try to surrender to eachother.

Opponent reactions as above. Surrendering on either side might not be accepted, but offering it might move the combat down a notch to just a beating (same mechanism as previous, really).

Hope that makes sense. In human interaction, we have many social tools to prevent violence, and one of those is violence escalation levels. Even in murders, it is very rare indeed for someone to switch straight from normal to a murderous rage - they generally slide through "verbal abuse" and "punishment" first. And the vastly overwhelming majority of people who enter those first two conflict levels do NOT go on to the "murderous rage" step. People carrying weapons do not always draw them in combat: in fact, against friends, they almost never do.

So, it's not just the player who could benefit from nonlethal combat.

But, what about the long term? If someone's beaten someone else unconscious, should that affect their disposition to eachother? Make the NPCs avoid eachother more? Likely, yes.

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