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Old 07-12-2019, 01:52 AM   #1
WaterAndWindSpirit
 
Join Date: Oct 2014
Default The rights and consequences to bear arms in RPGs

Hello everyone!

This is not a discussion of real gun control/gun rights, unless they are brought up in the context of how civilians/police would react to an armed character in a real-world setting. This is not the place to debate what gun laws should be, though talk about what they are and how they will affect characters in a game set in our world is on-topic. Am I clear? Please do not ruin this discussion with political debates.

So, it is a fact that most PCs possess weapons. It is a fact that they often carry them. But how are they perceived by the world for doing so?

In fact, the answer is "it depends on the world".

As a general rule, the more the world has a stable society, the less possession/carry of weapons is tolerated (even if legal). As a matter of fact, I have seen a police officer making a video about how, in his state where open carry is legal with a license, civilians often call the police on anyone carrying a gun to a park, even if said gun carrying person is just walking his dog minding his own business and just happens to be legally carrying a gun, and how, if a police officer accosts you if you happen to be that guy, you should react to make it easier on yourself (frustrated police officers can throw the book at you for minor offenses if you anger them enough, many cops will tell you that if some of your paperwork is expired by a day they'll probably let it slide with a reminder to update it ASAP unless you've been rude to them in which case they'll stick as many minor offenses on you as they can get away with), and on the police officer, who is probably tired of investigating the 30th legally armed guy who is just walking his dog in the park today because someone called the police station and reported yet another of these guys. In most peaceful societies, a PC openly carrying a weapon, even if he has a legal right to, unless he is a Law Enforcement Officer on duty, will likely be badly perceived (Reaction Penalties in GURPS terms) and would be subject to more regular controls by Law Enforcement Officers, which makes keeping a low profile harder. The Karate and Wrestling skills may be attractive in such societies. The Streetwise skill may also be useful to know which weapons are generally tolerated by Law Enforcement even if they are not strictly legal (in my country, owning/carrying pepper spray is illegal unless you work a security job but largely tolerated by police.). If your character is found with an Illegal-but-mostly-tolerated weapon by a police officer, I'd be tempted to just have you roll a Reaction Roll, or a Diplomacy check in games with no Reaction Rolls. On a Bad reaction/poor check, you are arrested/detained. On a Neutral reaction/somewhat failed check, the offending item is confiscated but you are free to go. On a Good reaction/successful check, you are free to leave and keep your item.

Worlds where society is less stable (After The End) or where danger that can be shot dead with weapons are common (most Fantasy and AtE settings), it's usually the absence of visible weapons that gets you the most attention. Anyone not carrying a weapon, even a simple spear or club, is either a fool believing he doesn't need one or a psion/wizard/Ki practitioner knowing he doesn't need one. There are example of After the End settings where Ki practitioners can break down tanks by kicking them (Fist of the North Star), I draw a blank on AtE settings with magic but AtE with psychics are not unheard of (The Master from Fallout 1 had psychic abilities) and most fantasy settings will have at least one type of psychic, magic user or ki practitioner.

Just as the fact that you're carrying a weapon may get you attention, the type of weapon may also get you attention. Exotic weapons will get you attention by default (Katana in a Western Fantasy area, or Western sword in a pseudo-Japanese fantasy setting). Most players, and by extension their characters, are very attached to their weapons, and thus it can be assumed they maintain them properly. A thoroughly cleaned, well oiled gun without a trace of rust and corrosion is an oddity in an After the End setting, even if it's a simple WWII era rifle knockoff that's been made by a blacksmith. If you see someone with such a weapon, there's a 99% chance they know how to use them, and depending on who you are, you may want to keep tabs on anyone who clearly has skills in using a weapon. Showing in any kind of settlement with equipment worth more than the settlement's entire GDP will get you the attention of every grifter, merchant and service provider in said settlement, whether these people are legitimate or not, even if open carry of weapons is otherwise the norm. It only applies if the weapons is obviously valuable though. An Anti-Materiel Rifle or a Laser Carbine in an AtE Setting is obviously valuable, but a +5 Returning Holy Spear may be worth enough to purchase an entire small fishing village several times over, but if it otherwise looks like a regular spear, it may not attract attention until thrown at a strong Evil monster with lots of HP, who falls dead when he should have survived a simple spear, and then magically returns to the thrower's hand.

Even in a setting where weapons are an accepted fact of life, there are places where they are not accepted. You do not show up to the Duke's ball in a full plate with a two handed-hammer. High class casinos in safe(ish) enclaves in an otherwise AtE setting might confiscate weapons upon entry. Small, inconspicuous weapons mayor may not be tolerated there so long as they are kept out of view.

Alright, anyone has anything to add?
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Old 07-12-2019, 02:18 AM   #2
Agemegos
 
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Default Re: The rights and consequences to bear arms in RPGs

Not only does this depend on the setting, it also depends on the genre of the campaign and the nature of the PC group.

Player characters may often be law enforcement officials in e.g. mystery and Western campaigns and some types of horror or monster hunting campaigns. Then their carrying weapons would be either strictly forbidden or required by regulations, depending where and when the adventures were set.

In some campaign types the PCs may have especial need not to be caught with weapons, e.g. espionage campaigns, or private eye campaigns in jurisdictions where PIs are not allowed to carry. The old Victory Games game James Bond 007 gave special rules support to the smuggability of weapons and spy gadgets, to the concealability of carried weapons, and to the consequences of being recognised as a secret operative.

Then you have out and out military campaigns in which PCs are soldiers, special operators, etc. In, say, a Star Trek game PCs would be issued with phasers for away teams and boarding actions, but having a personally-owed weapon aboard a starship would be unusual and might hint that the PC was an infiltrator or refugee from the Mirror Universe, a Romulan spy, a Klingon agent, etc.
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Last edited by Agemegos; 07-12-2019 at 02:24 AM.
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Old 07-12-2019, 04:23 AM   #3
The Colonel
 
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Default Re: The rights and consequences to bear arms in RPGs

Yep, totally a world building question - and allows you to look at things like sumptuary laws as well with distinctions between "common" and "noble" weapons, which might run both ways (a commoner might not be allowed to own noble/chivalric arms whilst a knight might lose a great deal of face being seen with a "peasant's weapon").
Urban adventures are also great for watching
the guy who over focused on heavy armour and martial weapons sweat.

For the less civilised areas, carrying a weapon might be seen as an inherent claim to warrior status that you must be prepared to defend.

Also, as the OP touched on, carrying some weapons may actually make you more of a target as people may be prepared to risk killing you to own them.
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Old 07-12-2019, 05:24 AM   #4
L.J.Steele
 
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Default Re: The rights and consequences to bear arms in RPGs

Some of it is genre, and whether having to think about weapons laws is something the GM wants the PCs to worry about. One could easily have a "fig leaf" approach -- make an effort to conceal and the world will ignore it; try to wander down the National Mall in full plate with a two-handed sword and somebody will oblige you with trouble.

Some of the way games (and fiction) treats weapons may be a skewed view of the past. Medieval England had laws about how many armed followers a knight could travel around with -- typically from tournament to tournament. Large bands of heavily armed folks wandering around were deemed a possible threat to the peace. The American west wasn't as wild as the Westerns would have you believe. But PC expectations are often based on the fiction, not the boring facts.
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Old 07-12-2019, 06:19 AM   #5
WaterAndWindSpirit
 
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Default Re: The rights and consequences to bear arms in RPGs

Quote:
Originally Posted by L.J.Steele View Post
Some of the way games (and fiction) treats weapons may be a skewed view of the past. Medieval England had laws about how many armed followers a knight could travel around with -- typically from tournament to tournament. Large bands of heavily armed folks wandering around were deemed a possible threat to the peace. The American west wasn't as wild as the Westerns would have you believe. But PC expectations are often based on the fiction, not the boring facts.
It's not necessarily a "skewed view of the past" and more an "alternate universe" thing. In your typical D&D setting, you can't go from town to town without encountering at least one hostile monster, from giant spiders/insects to minor demons to tribes of raiders. Just take a look at a "random encounters table" and it should be enough to realize that in that type of universe where these are "normal" encounters, it's "normal" to carry a weapon and "abnormal" to go without weapons (I count you as armed if you yourself are not armed but are surrounded by armed bodyguards) because not carrying weapons means you (think you) are able to fight at peak capacity without them. In that type of universe, someone going without weapon should set off the same kind of alarm bells someone walking down the streets with a Juggernaut suit, an LMG and a missile launcher would in our universe.
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Old 07-12-2019, 07:28 AM   #6
Curmudgeon
 
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Default Re: The rights and consequences to bear arms in RPGs

Quote:
Originally Posted by WaterAndWindSpirit View Post
Hello everyone!

This is not a discussion of real gun control/gun rights, unless they are brought up in the context of how civilians/police would react to an armed character in a real-world setting. This is not the place to debate what gun laws should be, though talk about what they are and how they will affect characters in a game set in our world is on-topic. Am I clear? Please do not ruin this discussion with political debates.

So, it is a fact that most PCs possess weapons. It is a fact that they often carry them. But how are they perceived by the world for doing so?

In fact, the answer is "it depends on the world".

Alright, anyone has anything to add?
It's also affected by the cultural expectations of the GM and players. There is no right to bear arms in my country, you can bear arms but it's a privilege, legally and that affects my view when world-building.

As an example, take the difference in the way pacifism is treated in Star Trek (the original series) vs. The Starlost. Star Trek talks a lot about the Federation being pacifist by nature but phasers get used quite a bit and people get disintegrated with fair regularity and nary a blink of the eye. Garth carries his crossbow everywhere in [I]The Starlost[I]. He might put it down while he showers but we've never seen that. He loads his crossbow in less than half the episodes, maybe only a third of them and fired it maybe twice, wounding his opponent. I don't remember him ever killing anyone with it. The Starlost hardly ever mentioned their pacifist tendencies but their actions spoke loud and clear.

That's usually my expectation for game play, weapons are the last resort and killing an opponent isn't the go-to solution, it's the "well, nothing else has been effective" solution.
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Old 07-12-2019, 07:29 AM   #7
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Default Re: The rights and consequences to bear arms in RPGs

Quote:
Originally Posted by WaterAndWindSpirit View Post
It's not necessarily a "skewed view of the past" and more an "alternate universe" thing.
This is a good point to emphasize. A game like D&D isn't presenting history. It's not even especially based on any particular period of history. People like to say that D&D is medieval, but it's really a hodgepodge of technologies, attitudes, and social structures from all over history.

And history had many differing attitudes to the bearing of weapons, so a hodgepodge game will also have a hodgepodge approach to the bearing of weapons. It's only the game master's choices that decide where the law falls on that matter.
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Old 07-12-2019, 09:06 AM   #8
khorboth
 
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Default Re: The rights and consequences to bear arms in RPGs

In general, I think it goes like this...

1) If people are carrying practical weapons or wearing practical armor, the perception is that they are expecting to use them.

2) If there is a perception of a good reason for this, fine. If not, then... consequences. Maybe there are laws. Maybe it's people thinking they're crazy.

Some examples:
During the Italian renaissance, an expensive permit was generally required to carry a weapon in a city. This became a status symbol, so the five-finger dagger came into fashion as a way of showing off that you had one. It's not really practical.

Where I live, there's a weird loophole in the law which says I may carry a blade of any length, but not concealed. A sheath then was ruled to count as concealment. A friend, knowing this, was walking a few blocks home with a sword he just bought and was carrying it openly. He was stopped by the police and questioned at gunpoint. He was ultimately let go as they couldn't rule he was threatening anybody in particular. He didn't have a visible reason.

If a person walked into a tavern in real-life medieval Germany wearing a full suit of chainmail and calmly ordered a drink... folk would be very nervous. Doubly so if he was wearing a sword. The presence of these things would be threatening. Unless he was dressed as a soldier of a local lord; now he has a reason.

The tavern at waystops on a caravan route plagued by bandits is probably used to seeing armed and armored caravan guards all the time. They have a reason.

If I go into a modern bar wearing chainmail with a foam sword, I will probably get weird looks, but not really harassed by the authorities because my stuff is not seen as practical.
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Old 07-12-2019, 10:05 AM   #9
Black Leviathan
 
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Default Re: The rights and consequences to bear arms in RPGs

As a gun guy it's difficult to have a clear perspective of how people see guns. Recently I encountered a guy who was open carrying a pistol at my grocery store and it really pinged me. I've had similar reactions when I see police behaving suspiciously. It's not that I think people who have weapons are good or bad but the presence of a weapon itself escalates the danger of a potential conflict.

I think is most game worlds, walking around with a weapon that's obviously not a tool wouldn't cause a problem in itself but even in a world where people are walking around with swords constantly you won't blend in. It would be hard to shadow someone, or filch something, or even browse in a shop without the shopkeeper remembering you.

I think the more civilized a game setting is the more restriction you'll see on weapons. Even if the town is routinely attacked by monsters and people carry weapons openly in the street the local magistrate isn't going to meet with a stranger while they have some much as an eating knife on them because he doesn't have to and his guards don't want to have to de-escalate a situation with someone who's hammered and armed. In a game setting where the streets are safe, you probably can't carry weapons in town unless there's some law that protects that practice. And even if you can walk around the street with a sword wagging on your hip you probably have to turn it over when you come into the bar because bar owners know that ale plus swords equals shutting down the bar early and awkward conversations with the constable.
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Old 07-12-2019, 10:19 AM   #10
jason taylor
 
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Default Re: The rights and consequences to bear arms in RPGs

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Colonel View Post
Yep, totally a world building question - and allows you to look at things like sumptuary laws as well with distinctions between "common" and "noble" weapons, which might run both ways (a commoner might not be allowed to own noble/chivalric arms whilst a knight might lose a great deal of face being seen with a "peasant's weapon").
Urban adventures are also great for watching
the guy who over focused on heavy armour and martial weapons sweat.

For the less civilised areas, carrying a weapon might be seen as an inherent claim to warrior status that you must be prepared to defend.

Also, as the OP touched on, carrying some weapons may actually make you more of a target as people may be prepared to risk killing you to own them.
There was overlap. Stylized versions of peasant weapons have been found that make it obvious a noble had a fancy for it (a kukri, a navaja, or an ordinary axe for instance).
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