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PvP (Player versus Player [combat]) has been on my mind recently. I'm a fan of PvP, and while I wouldn't consider myself a "hardcore" PvPer, I still certainly get my jollies from fighting against another player, gripped in an epic wrestle, with each other's prides on the line as we deftly manoeuvre and muscle for a tactical advantage. There are then those fights where you might best your opponent with nothing more than a lucky roll of the dice, so to speak; a game of chance or luck, a bit like that fight scene you might have seen in a movie where the good-guy and bad-guy are locking horns and the fight seems to be going nowhere, and just when things are starting to turn in favour of the bad-guy, he's struck by lightning or delivered a final blow by a minor character, or something. The thing that appeals to me most about PvP is its spontaneity; it's capacity to catch even the most experienced of gamers by surprise and make things go the other way even at a moment's complacency.

I've written before about PvP "etiquette" and how it would be great for 'Age of Conan' if players that are not usually accustomed to PvP would give it a go in this game, since the world of Hyboria - its context - is so perfectly suited for PvP. But, understandably, players, by nature, especially those that are not accustomed to PvP, are wary of PvPers, that dangerous and often unpredictable "breed" of gamer. A "once bitten, twice shy" rule applies also: a player, in the past, may have given PvP a go, and after being "ganked", "griefed" (yes, yes, I know it should be "grieved", but no one here is mourning your loss exactly, are they?), camped, harassed, or just rubbed-up the wrong way, will often regret having tried PvP in the first place. Yes, PvPers can get their jollies from making life miserable for a "n00b" (that's not my style, however), but only if the game mechanics allow them to! And it is that is the premise of my editorial this fortnight: PvP rule-sets; the rules of engagement!

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Even as a player that would like to enjoy open PvP on a PvP or RPvP (Roleplaying PvP) server, I believe that there should be some rules in place so that the server doesn't end up like a scene out of a Mad Max movie... on crack. I like the idea of open PvP; being able to fight a player anywhere at any time and of course this is Conan's world, Hyboria, we're talking about, so anything goes, but at the same time we're talking about players who, primarily, would like to be given the opportunity to fight on relatively even terms. Don't get me wrong, I'm not talking about "many against few" tactics or completely discrediting the element of surprise, be it through trickery or experience, but in terms of "readiness", a player should at least have a character that has progressed enough to take on an opponent of a similar level. Have you worked out what I'm getting at? Well I'm talking about players that take their high-level/end-game characters and prey on "lowbies" (a low-levelled and relatively "inexperienced" character in terms of game progression), of course.

Funcom have taken the right step, even on PvP and RPvP servers, and established the "hubs" of their Hyboria as safe zones: main-city Tortage, Old Tarantia, Khemi, and Conarch Village. Outside of those areas, it's more or less "game on". But let's say you're a level 19 or 20 character fresh out of Tortage and heading into Conall's Valley, the Wildlands of Zelata, or Khopshef Province, for the first time, and you encounter another player with a pretty good head-start on you. You may even encounter another player that has reached the level cap (level 80 in the case of 'Age of Conan', at release), and they may decide to christen you, PvP-style, a bit like the seniors at a school flushing a junior's head in the toilet bowl. Okay, once you could probably handle this, but many times over? A line has to be drawn somewhere! And when exactly (at what level) does it become acceptable for a higher-levelled player to attack a player with a lower-levelled character?

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