Player vs player, or PvP, is competitive interaction within a game between two or more live participants. This is in contrast to games where players compete against computer controlled opponent, which is similarly referred to as Player versus environment (PvE) or player versus monster (PvM). PvP is a type of combat in MMORPGs, MUDs and other computer role-playing games (CRPGs), pitting one player's 'skill' against another's.

PvP can be broadly used to describe any game, or aspect of a game, where players compete against each other. This can include entire gaming genres, such as first-person shooters or real-time strategy games, or can be limited to an optional part of an otherwise PvE game. In computer role-playing games, PvP is often called player killing or PKing. PKing has taken on a negative tone as it is used almost entirely in cases where the combat was not consensual. The term PvP, and to a lesser extent PKing, has also been adopted in discussions about traditional role-playing games and live-action gaming, with approximately the same meaning. Contents

History and backgroundEdit

PvP combat in CRPGs has its roots in various MUDs like Gemstone III. However, while the ability to kill another player existed in many MUDs, it was usually frowned upon because of general strict adherences and heavy influences from role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons. The term PvP originated in text based MUDs played on bulletin board systems like MajorMUD and Usurper. These games had open worlds where any player could attack any other player as long as they were not at a safe spot in town like the Bank. Player versus player was coined sometime in the late 1980s to refer to the combat between players that resulted in the loser being penalized in some way.

Diablo (video game), a dark fantasy-themed hack and slash action-adventure game developed by Blizzard North and released by Blizzard Entertainment in December, 1996, also allowed PvP combat. "Player Killing" was an added facet of Diablo online play, which resulted in many conflicts, both in-game and on the Diablo Ogden's Tavern forum, between "PK" ("player killer") and "anti-PK" ("anti-player killer") clans and players. With the introduction of Diablo cheat programs and methods, players were able to initiate PvP combat in areas not intended by its designers or far outside the power of a normal player character. "Town Killing" was a notorious method of player killing outside the original design of the game as well as "insta-killing." Many players, though, enjoyed PvP dueling, which was consensual PvP between the players.

Other early MMORPGs, including Meridian 59 (1996), Ultima Online (1997), and Tibia (1998) also had PvP combat as a feature. In Ultima Online, the goal was to allow players to police themselves in a "frontier justice" way. This system was also implemented in Tibia, where death included significant penalty, and killing someone inflicted considerable harm to their character. In Meridian 59, the game tried to focus PvP by having different political factions for players to join. However, these games tended to be unfriendly to more casual players. With the popularity of EverQuest in 1999, primarily consisting of PvM elements (with the exception of limited PvP on one specific server), PvP became a negative for some newer/casual MMORPG players and developers looking to draw a larger crowd.

PvP has been included in other games such as Asheron's Call in late 1999, Diablo II in 2000, Dark Age of Camelot in 2001, Asheron's Call 2 in 2002 and Shadowbane in 2003, Runescape in the early 2001. While these games included PvP, they still contained large portions of prerequisite PvM, mostly to build characters. Critics argued the comprehensiveness of this type of PvP lacked in comparison to Ultima Online's implementation before the release of the Age of Shadows expansion. The main concerns voiced by critics were lack of an individual's skill involved (primarily reaction time and hand-eye coordination), heavy dependence on items, and too much prerequisite PvM to build a character. Some MMORPGs currently in development are starting to use competitive PvP, such as dueling, as a main feature.

Though many MUDs have gone the route of roleplay intensive gameplay (RPI), or followed the hack 'n slash trends in popular graphical MMORPGs, some MUDs have focused strongly on the PvP gameplay. Many MUD designers claim that PvP in graphical MMORPGs is not player-skill oriented, and that the more versatile gameplay of text-based MUDs can allow for better PvP combat implementation.

In most MUDs, players engaged in PvP are usually separated from the rest of the community, and are organized in clans, or other player-run groups as well. A few of the most popular MUDs who lay claim to advanced PvP combat systems are God Wars II, Achaea, MUME, Clandestine MUD, Realms of Despair, The Seventh Sun, DragonRealms: The Fallen, Everwar, and Duris: Land of Bloodlust.

On August 4, 2005, the Chinese government announced a ban on all "violent" MMORPG play for minors (under 18). Chinese officials defined "violent" as any game that involves player vs. player combat. This new policy is part of a crackdown on pornographic, violent, gambling and superstitious content on the internet and mobile phone networks in an effort to create a so-called "healthy online environment".[2]

Player killingEdit

Player killing, or PKing, is non-consensual PvP resulting in a character's death. Some games offer "open PvP" (also sometimes called "world PvP"), where one player can attack another without warning anywhere in the game world. An aggressor attacks an opponent without agreement to any set of rules of engagement or combat.

PvP can also create additional facets in the community. In Ultima Online, a rift formed between those who enjoyed PKing, those who enjoyed hunting the PKs and those who simply did not want to fight at all. The Renaissance expansion later added a Trammel facet where PvP was not allowed, giving some out to the UO crowd that did not wish to engage in PvP at all.

Some players find PK deaths to be unfair, since the most effective tactics require surprise or attacking an opponent in a weakened state and sometimes, the abuse of bugs and/or hacks. In PvE, the goal is to learn the pattern of the monsters and often to exploit those patterns for fastest gains. Fighting challenging monsters in online games usually requires a period of recuperation before fighting another monster, and this downtime is the perfect chance for a PKer to strike. PvP, and more specifically PKing, goes against the predictability of the game. While some people enjoy this aspect of gameplay, others do not and criticize such gameplay design. PKs who consistently harass players by "corpse camping", "resurrection killing", or player killing without material purpose can be labelled Griefers

Character death in an online game usually comes with a penalty (though some games remove it from PvP combat), so habitual PKers can find themselves ostracized by the local community. In some games a character will die many times and the player must often sacrifice some experience points (XP) or in game currency to restore that character to life. Permanent death (such that the player must create a new character) is relatively uncommon in online games, especially if PKing is permitted. An example of such a mode is Hardcore mode on the game Diablo II.

A more rare form of player killing involves inciting a monster or monsters to attack another player. The reason this is rare is because the monster is more likely to attack the one who is trying to do the killing.

Player killer killingEdit

Player killer killing, PKK, or PK Killing, is a form of revenge or vigilante killing. Players specifically target and kill those who are PKing or griefing others. The term was popularized by Blizzard's Diablo and Diablo II,also, in the .hack//G.U. games, the main character Haseo is entitled PKK for killing the PKer.


Dueling is both consensual and competitive. Both parties agree to a certain set of rules before combat, which can include a specified area and restrictions on items and combat type. Dueling ladders and leagues setup by fans are common for most MMORPGs that have PvP. Final Fantasy XI was the first graphical MMORPG to debut a formal dueling system ingame (Ballista); other MMORPGs such as City of Heroes, World of Warcraft, Guild Wars, Lineage 2 and RuneScape feature PvP as competitive, consensual dueling in a group setting. This removes the unpredictable element from PvP, allowing players to challenge each other on "even" ground. Dueling is often considered an inferior and less challenging form of PvP by the more hardcore PvP communities.


Through various means, "flags" can be turned on or off, allowing PvP combat with other people who have also turned on their flag. In Everquest, there is no way to turn the flag off once it has been turned on. In Star Wars Galaxies, the flag may be turned off by interacting with faction specific NPCs located throughout the game. In World of Warcraft, flagging is selectable or can be activated by attacking certain flagged platers until the a cool-off period ends, though this can be exploited by griefers via corpse camping. Some games have a bounty system where players that kill or heal other players open themselves up to being killed in return. This is sometimes called the "revenge flag". Use of this 'bounty' system is not standardized among MMORPGs, and there are debates raging about how to 'police' the system to avoid abuse. The web-browser centric MMORPG, Urban Dead has no NPC characters, so policing of players who break player-created regulations against certain forms of PK face player 'Bounty Hunters', who specialize in hunting down those listed as Outlaws on the metagame community. In this instance, flagging is a community effort, and not an in-game mechanism.

PvP in live action role-playing gamesEdit

Live action role-playing games (LARPs) have always featured player versus player conflicts, partly because even in PvM games the monsters are played by other players ('monster crew') rather than by GMs/referees/computers, partly because there is little a human referee can do to prevent one player-character attacking another player-character (apart from asking 'please don't do this'), and partly because it is often considered that another free-willed player is a more worthy opponent than an NPC whose background, choices and abilities may be determined by a plotwriter.

PvP conflict is not limited to lethal combat - in LARP it might include theft, social one-up-manship, political maneuvering, economic domination, or even romantic affairs. Still, the most direct and unambiguous PvP conflict is combat.

While there are a few LARP (or LARP-like) games whose primary focus is on killing other PCs, a lot of LARP gaming styles do not look fondly on unmotivated killings, or players who abandon any kind of characterisation but simply look for opportunities to kill monsters and characters, as might be normal in some CRPGs.

Some few LARP's ban player-killing outright. Many games have a stronger focus on PvM than PvP play, and social conventions deter (for example) the killing of a low-level character by a high-level character, at least without considerable provocation. Some LARPs, especially the larger ones, make complex PvP a principle element of the game.

PvP can be an advantage in LARP, especially large-scale LARP (hundreds of players or more) since it reduces the need for monster crew and plotwriting, and can enhance the sense of fair play, as well as produce a wider variety of opponents than a small plotwriting team could easily create. However, it can be hard to maintain PVP alongside some kinds of PvM plot. (For example, if the end of the world is at stake, the rational strategy is to temporarily ally with your enemies until the threat is over.)

The term PVP has been gaining adoption in LARP circles with the rise of internet-based discussion groups.

PvP in Tabletop Roleplaying GamesEdit

Tabletop roleplaying games have also often featured PvP action. These are usually considered a reasonable part of play so long as the fight is based on in-character reasons. Kills done in vengeance for kills made for in-character reasons are usually considered unfair. PvP conflict of a nonviolent sort is considered incidental to play. Clashing characters often increase the chance for in-depth roleplay. It is only when this leads to the death of a character that it causes trouble. Games are often written so player characters will not be unbalanced.