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Old 11-01-2019, 04:10 AM   #1
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: Cambridge, UK
Default [Basic] Disadvantage of the Week: Pacifism

Pacifism [-5 to -30] is a mundane mental disadvantage, with no self-control roll. You are unwilling or unable to use violence against people, either on principle, because of psychological factors, or a mixture of the two. This disadvantage first appeared in GURPS 1e, and has several variations:

Reluctant Killer [-5] means you aren’t psychologically adjusted to harming people. This is fairly normal behaviour for humans without combat experience or training. You can attack monsters or vehicles, launch missiles against targets on a screen and the like without problems, and you can assist or encourage allies happily. But when it comes to shooting or striking recognisable people, things get harder for you. You’re at -4 to use deadly force on a person whose face you can see, and cannot Aim (or, presumably, Evaluate). If you can’t see their face, you’re only at -2. If you kill a recognisable person, you have a severe reaction to it, and are depressed and incapable for 3d days. During this time, you need to succeed in a Will roll to use or threaten any kind of violence to anyone.

Cannot Harm Innocents [-10] is more like a Code of Honour. You’re unwilling to use deadly force if people who are innocent bystanders might be affected, or on enemies who aren’t using it on you. You can’t use it on people who are only attempting to capture you without deadly force, unless you’ll be executed after capture, or have principles that require you to kill yourself if captured. You’re quite willing to use non-deadly force, which makes this disadvantage more suitable for settings, such as supers games, where that is more readily available.

Cannot Kill [-15] seems to be more a psychological trait than a principle. You’re unwilling to kill anyone, even through omission, or to have comrades who kill people. You can participate in or start fights, if they present no risk of killing. If you feel responsible for a death, directly or indirectly, you react in the same way as a Reluctant Killer (above).

Self-Defence Only [-15] is usually principled. You use violence only to protect yourself, and those you’re responsible for, and to the minimum degree necessary. Pre-emptive strikes are not permitted. You also do your best to discourage others from violence.

Total Non-Violence [-30] is the extreme case. You will not use violence against intelligent creatures, even in self-defence. You try hard to discourage others from violence. You can still defend yourself against animals and other unintelligent creatures.

In GURPS supplements, Reluctant Killer and Self-Defense Only are common options on templates for ordinary people, and Cannot Harm Innocents for people with some power or authority and a conscience. Aliens: Sparrials are prone to the quirk “Cannot Kill, Except in Self-Defense,” and some Banestorm monks have a Major Vow to use force only to protect themselves or others from immediate harm. Bio-Tech has a combat drug that mostly suppresses this disadvantage, although there can be problems after it wars off, and “Wetware sub-personalities” that can negate mental disadvantages in general. Horror: The Madness Dossier is more about inflicting disadvantages, in this case via implanted microchips, while Locations: Hellgate and Magic have a -50% limitation for demons’ Cannot Harm Innocents, limiting it to truly good or holy people. Power-Ups 6 has several quirk-level versions, and Space applies Pacifism to all intelligent beings at base cost. Ultra-Tech robots can readily have species-specific Pacifism, but in a Zombies game, it depends on if zombies are still “people.”

The Basic Set suggests that characters starting a high-realism campaign without combat training should have Reluctant Killer (or even Cannot Kill). I’ve played such a game, when some quite normal students volunteered for drug trials in the 1960s, and found they’d acquired psionic powers. There weren’t many guns around at first, but there was an enemy with pyrokinetic abilities, after which we were allowed to buy off Reluctant Killer. Social Engineering suggests that Reluctant Killer becomes common at TL5+, when police and military organisations mean most citizens don’t have to deal with violence regularly. Modern tactical training tries to remove Reluctant Killer, as per Tactical Shooting.

I’ve seen a character in a Norse-flavoured D&D game try to use Total Non-Violence: he was an evangelistic cleric who was sure that he could convert an encampment of giants to his religion (I think the player was just trying to subvert the game). He said we “weren’t allowed to rescue him unless he got into serious trouble, which won’t happen!” He didn’t define “serious trouble” but we reckoned he was there once he’d been swallowed by a giant worm.

How has Pacifism complicated your games?
johndallman is offline   Reply With Quote

disadvantage of the week, pacifism

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