…whether tis nobler to suffer the slings and arrows of that obnoxious paladin and the churlish bard or to take arms and beat them soundly about the head with your cudgel and by opposing end them.
There are two major types of games in the world: PVE (player versus environment) and PVP (player versus player). In terms of the table top experience, PVE is the players coming together against the world as created by the GM and PVP is inter-player fighting. In most cases, PVP is the result of having two characters in a party that disagree on matters of alignment, such as a paladin finding out that one of his new companions was a lich. In some cases, however, it is more the situation that the characters just have temperaments that do not mesh well such as a ranger or druid being thrown in with a scientist who destroys nature in the name of his research. In the campaigns I’ve seen or played in, PVP has racked up more character death than PVE ever has. So that begs the question: is PVP worth it? That depends. There are ways to make PVP be disallowed in world instead of just telling the players they can’t. You also might end up with players who want PVP to be an option. You need to come to an accord between the GM and the players. If everyone supports PVP, then go for it. You want to make sure that you don’t alienate anyone who doesn’t feel comfortable with PVP interactions.
So lets say you have decided that PVP is allowed. Lets cover some ground rules. First and foremost is for the players: do not let in-game PVP become out-of-game animosity. If you ever feel like your characters not getting along is proving to be a problem to your friendship, then either one or both of the players in question need to drop from the game or the game needs to end. Remember that you’re playing to have fun. The next thing that everyone should remember is that PVP should not be allowed to get in the way of the story the GM has written for you. If you ever find yourself in a situation where PVP combat or animosity keeps the plot from moving forward or combat lasts for more than a session, then you should stop and seriously reconsider why you are playing.
Now here are some reasons to consider why you might want to engage in PVP combat or allow it in your world. For one thing, I’ve seen some really interesting games that were based entirely around the concept that the players were gladiators and almost all combat involved some PVP. These can be amazingly fun games and it can be on the whole a great experience. Another reason to include PVP is to add a level of verisimilitude to your world. I run a magical school setting for my game, and PVP is allowed, though discouraged. But I discourage it on the in-character level of sure you can fight some, but the Professors aren’t going to take it kindly if you kill or maim another student. Take a look at the real world, PVP is allowed but discouraged by things we like to call laws and morals. If your character is lacking on morals and flexible about laws, then logically speaking you should be able to punch the person who makes you angry.
Ok, so lets allow PVP but find in-world ways to discourage it. The easiest way is by having laws or rules and enforcing them. Particularly if the NPCs enforcing the laws are more powerful than the PCs. This doesn’t work, however, if they choose to have their PVP away from anyone who might stop them. But on that hand, why not let them go at it as a reward for finding a way to get around the rules. Its all up to you, oh GM, but remember to let the PCs have fun.
Whatever you choose to do, the most important thing you can do is to remember that all of the players are in this to have fun (including the GM). No matter what kind of game you’re playing, people should come to the table as friends (or strangers…it happens) and leave as friends.