Adventures in Surrendering

“I don’t lose. I just change the battlefield to something that suits my skills a bit more.” –Tuyet

There’s one thing I noticed about two of the games I was in (one running, one playing) that differed from almost any game I’d played in before or since: PCs, actual PCs, ending a fight by surrendering. Sure, in some games we’d see the NPCs do it, but with the PCs, the options seemed to be win, lose or flee; if a group got captured, generally it was after something that was at best a curbstomp battle and at worst a cutscene. Apparently there is no tactical advantage whatsoever to saying, “All right, you got me,” actually meaning it, and taking it from there. Or so it would seem.

Then there was my best character: see quote above. I think by the time the game was over, she’d surrendered in somewhere between a quarter and a third of the fights in which she was involved; if it was a side session, whether solo or partial group, the percentage was even higher. And yet she still came across as one of the scariest people in the setting, probably because of how we handled it. (In fact, by the time we were two thirds of the way through the game, we alternated between lampshading this aspect of her tactics and wondering why anyone even accepted her surrender anymore, both IC and OOC. Symbolic value has its advantages.)

What was I getting out of this? (Aside from, you know, not dying.)

The main element, as implied by the quote, was strategic. Tuyet was a talker first and foremost, capable of swinging quickly between truth/common sense and silver-tongued manipulation as the situation required; moreover, she’d been designed from the get-go as an escape artist and all around improvisational master. I-as-player, meanwhile, was pretty good at coming with battle strategy, but I’d also just discovered that through play-by-chat I could actually match her stats with my own skills, or at least come close enough to avoid breaking suspension of disbelief, and the entire group was prone to Option B sorts of plans and epic MacGyvering. (This was even when the GM really wanted us to stick to Option A, but half the time we couldn’t tell the difference.) Heck, she at one point in the first arc lampshaded the whole thing by commenting to someone that the only time she got a good night’s sleep these days was in the enemy’s camp.

Another was enjoyment-based, both IC and OOC. For me, the draw was scenes with different emotional tenors (fear is interesting, what can I say?), excuses to put my cunning and propensity for mad plans to work, and chances to talk to NPCs that ordinarily I’d just be facing over the battlefield and not be likely to get anything but battle banter out of. For the character, it was one part adrenaline-junkie-ism, one part our shared interest in learning about and messing with the heads of the characters—and whatever else we could reach—on the other side of the lines.

And to be fair, in most cases, it really was the best strategy. There were at least a few instances in which the opponents had the advantage of numbers, power, or most likely both; there was one case in which it was the best way to protect the rest of the party, and several in which it provided the only way to talk to someone she needed to reach or learn something useful; heck, there was one incident in which the group came up with an entire plan that hinged on her arrest by a couple of her teammates in order to protect a third party who would at least in theory be taken in at the same time.

In short, with the right players, the right GM and the right circumstances, surrender can be a viable and interesting PC tactic.

Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. They Just Won’t Give Up! | Exchange of Realities
  2. Impractical Applications (An NPC’s “Victory”) | Exchange of Realities

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