Format and explanation: Following submission of the first draft of this behemoth, Flux pointed that the format was pretty confusing, particularly the Question and Answer sections. He didn?t actually use the words ?soup sandwich? but I can take a hint. So here is how its all laid out: First we have an overly lengthy introductory paragraph or two, then a series of Q&As from some Player Killers I interviewed, and interspersed throughout the article are some PK statistics in italics. These statistics are really just estimates from experienced HC players and PKs. OK, that means they are guesses, sue me.
Some of the questions I posed to PKs resulted in reasonably consistent answers across the board. In such cases, I clooged (a technical term meaning ?to force together as best you can under the circumstances?) the answers together into a single stream of conscience response indicative of the feeling all the PKs gave me. Faulkner lives. In other cases, the PK answers varied significantly, and I included several separate answers identified as A1, A2, A3 etc. Towards the end of the article I included a collection of PK tactics in bullet format. Whew, I hope that does it. On to the article?
Within the Hardcore community, few topics generate more raw emotional responses than the subject of Player Killing, for the obvious reason of irrevocable character death. Play a hardcore character, invest countless hours nurturing them into a reasonably effective (survivable) killing machine, suffer the nauseating task of trading in the public channels to equip him or her adequately for the next big challenge, only to have your psuedo-child destroyed by someone whose D2 enjoyment comes from beating you, not the game. Only hacking discussions result in greater vitriol.
This is not an article about the relative ethics or PKing. Such discussions have no solution, no end game, and little point beyond intellectual diversion. Nor is this another ?how I was PKed by a trigger using script kiddy? story. Visit the forums if you want some of those. This is a presentation of what I learned in the forums and during interviews with several player killers, some of them well known in both the HC forums and the realms. The PK answers provided are not all quotes. Rather, they are my attempt to capture the sometimes-contradictory feelings and motivations expressed by the PKs who provided me information and interviews.
There are two types of people in the world: Those who believe that people can be divided into two types and those who don?t. I fall in the latter. There are actually three types of people. Or at least, there are three kinds of PKs.
The ?Honorable? PK: A tiny minority, those who openly reveal themselves as a Player Killer when they join a public game, thus announcing their intention to kill you.
The legitimate deceiver: Those who use deception and tactics to kill you, but generally abstain from hacks.
The hacker: Most likely the strong majority of PKs, they include the infamous trigger users, and most would include the ?drop hack? bug exploiters in this category. Subclasses vary; distinctions of what is fair/honorable/legit/lame PKing are frequently debated. Bear with my categories for now. I will touch briefly on the trigger/hack users, but my interviews were predominantly with self-described legit PKs, those from the first two categories.
Among PKs, estimated percentage using a trigger hack: 65. This percentage is much lower in Norm games, and until NM bloody you are more likely to see legit PKs.
Q: Why PK?
A: No single answer can explain this. Because I am bored with the PvM game. Because it is a greater challenge. Because the ubiquitous thrill of the hunt really is far more heart thumping than Meph runs. Because I can. Because you can?t stop me. Because the game allows it. Because, in general, I don?t like PvM players, and enjoy beating them. (OK, only one guy said the last one, but it was to entertaining to leave out.)
Q: Why not duel?
A: Legit HC dueling is a myth. It?s bugged, hexed, and Ithed. I use legitimate methods and equipment, admittedly geared for PK vice PvM, but legit nonetheless. Find that in a HC dueling game, it ain?t there. The limited legit dueling groups are more often than not rule-ridden clans, complete with the egos and order system associated with such an organization. I am a PK, I am a lone gunman, I am not a dueler.
Q: OK, why not PK just in softcore?
A: That?s how I started, but really, what is the point? I hear people whine extensively about getting PK?d in SC, but so what? ?Oh no, you just made me have to respawn in town!? Big freakin? deal. There are no stakes, no real risks in SC.
Percentage of public ?run? games resulting in a PK attempt: 35. Sounds high, but you may never know a PK attempt even happened, such things may be aborted before an opportunity to hostile occurs.
Q: How do you respond to your critics, those who lambaste you for ruining their fun?
A: I ignore them; their comments are not realistic. I utilize a designed game feature. If you are killed by me you are either a moron or too inexperienced to play HC yet. I am depressingly easy to avoid if you have even a modicum of public gaming knowledge and self-discipline.
Q: Doesn?t the hatred and spewing you hear after a kill bother you?
A1: It is not unexpected, and I ignore it.
A2: I revel in it. I find it humorous.
A3: Once in a while, a victim will be rational after dying, and on several occasions I helped these people out with a rush and some equipment. (Divergent opinions expressed on this. Another PKer: I can?t see the point of that at all. I killed them, why in the world am I going to help them?)
The most common tactics employed by legitimate PKs:
[*]Direct hunt: I hostile you, search for you, find you, and kill you. While this seems a rather obvious and easily avoided methodology, you would be amazed how many ears I collect. Taunting helps. Stamina potions help a lot.
[*]Waypoint ambush: I wait near a popular waypoint until my prey uses it. I town, hostile, return. Rinse and repeat.
[*]TP attack. I invite you to use my TP, I have insinuated myself into your party, you have let your guard down or simply don?t know better. Come on through, victim, it takes but a second to use the TP myself, hostile, return, kill.
[*]Town gate lingering. Same as Waypoint, but even more obvious.
[*]Taunt and irritation. I stand in full view near a town entrance, challenging the other players, insulting them, and generally being as big a nuisance as possible. It is surprising how often this works. An overconfident PvMer, ignorant of the capabilities of a PvP build, will reach a breaking point and come out and play. Briefly. ?Bring it? they say. Oh yes, I will.
[*]Reverse running. You start at the top of the bloody foothills (or any other common run area) coming down; I start at the bottom coming up. You approach, well, you know the rest.
[*]I?m your friend. See how I help you quest? See how I rush you? You may be wary at first, but once I have assisted you through a portion of the game, your trust grows, and your life expectancy decreases. Combine with ?Take my TP? attack for easy ears.
[*]Hydra PK. Considered lame by many legit PKs, while partied with you I cast several Hydras in your vicinity, or near a WP you will use. I return to town, hostile, and the Hydras attack you. I don?t even need to return to the battle except to collect your ear.
[*]Trap Assassin death sentry. Similar to, but more artistic than a Hydra PK. Lure several monsters to the town entrance, kill them, cast death sentry nearby, wait for you to leave town and hostile. Bodies begin exploding while you desperately search the map for your attacker. Here I am! (Waves from afar.)
[*]Monster trapped waypoint. Lure the herd of powerful monsters, ideally including an MSLE, near a popular WP. Victim uses it, gets a surprise. Only disadvantage is no ear to collect. Works quite well with the red portal to cows.
[*]Trojan PKK. Flaunt myself as a PKK in a public game, even chasing off a real PK. Trust ensues, death follows.
[*]Internal Operative. One member of the PK team is the plant. He?s friendly, helpful, and unthreatening in his level, gear, and build. His partner is not, and is receiving messages on where to find you. Perhaps they even convince you not to fear the obvious PK who hostiled, for your new ?friend? is an ?uber PKK, built just for this kind of PK.? So many variations, so many ears?
[*]One PK, two computers or two D2 programs running on the same platform. For those that have the means, this is the Internal Operative or spotter set up conducted by one person. Makes coordination even easier.
Q: Ever use trigger or other major hacks? (Major divergence of opinion on this one)
A1: Never. I have nothing but disdain for those who need to resort to such ?tactics.?
A2: Sometimes, but only for situations that truly warrant it, such as killing another trigger user, or those who use chicken hack.
Note: LOTS of PKers use these hacks. There are entire clans revolving around trigger PKing, with scripters within their ranks who devise new and improved trigger hacks to overcome the various counter-PK techniques and third party hack protection programs.
Q: How do you select your victims?
A1: Convenience and expediency, anyone will do. They select themselves.
A2: If I can find them, and think I can take them, and they don?t recognize my stalking, then they are prey.
A3: I prefer the challenge of taking down a higher-level character. My 9th level assassins own virtually any PvM character in there 20s.
Various other answers: I go after the a-holes. If they use chicken hack, I am willing to trigger them. I kill anyone with a gangsta name. Anyone with an overtly crude name. Anyone using ridiculous spelling in their messages (gib itamz pleez, my l337 haxor pwns ju noob) is at the top of my list.
Q: Most dangerous PK class?
A1: Trigger Zon.
A2: The one I am using. The one closest to you.
A3: This is really a level dependent question: In the early levels, Norm difficulty, a low level assassin with three balls going and a throw barb can one hit kill most players.
A4: We tend to focus on Zons because of Guided Arrow/Pierce as well as trigger users, but a Bone Spirit Necro can trigger as well. Barbs have multiple different PK build options, not just the currently popular throw barb. Yes, Hydra Sorcs are dangerous, but a telesorc, even a telecro is a real threat if constructed properly. Low-level Smitadins will rock your world. What are you gonna do, only play with druids?
Q: How do we avoid you?
[*]It is common sense. Just like birth control, abstinence is the only completely safe method.
[*]Join groups that organize co-op play, GAT, HAT, Misfits, whatever, they are easy enough to find.
[*]If you play public games, you are at risk. Reduce that risk significantly by staying out of the run areas. Avoid Bloody, Arcane, Sewers, and Cows. In every act there are plenty of places to level without resorting to the ?PK me please? runs. Give the foothills a rest, run the Crystalline/Frozen River area.
[*]Look for inconsistencies in level versus area/difficulty. A zon above 40 has no business (other than your ear) in a Norm bloody game.
[*]For Amazon PKs, look for critical level points: Level 33 allows use of Kuko, 41 allows Buriza, both are favorites of legit and trigger users alike.
[*]Don?t assume a lower level character is not a danger to you. A 16th level sin, throw barb, or smiter will own nearly any 30th level PvM character. We build them specifically for it.
[*]Don?t take other players? TPs unless you know them well.
[*]Avoid excessive, repetitive use of WPs. Barbs in particular need to watch for this due to their tendency to BO near WPs in order to return to town and heal.
[*]Pay attention to who joins and leaves your game. Many PKs will have an unthreatening spotter character to aid in picking out a victim?s location, then quickly leave and return with their PK character.
[*]Watch for bizarre comments that might be messages between team PKs.
[*]Map hack can be a liability to you. You leave a far more definable trail of bodies and dropped equipment for me to follow. Scanning me may do you no good, we build for deception.
Above all else, remain suspicious of anyone you don?t know well. Overly helpful characters, players a little too curious about your equipment, etc. If you have a doubt, leave the game and join another.
As one forum member said, if you really want to know how to avoid a PK, become one, even if just for a little while. I have not gone this route and don?t intend to, but the know-thy-enemy logic is sound, whether you find it distasteful or not. I met a player in a GAT channel last month; she mentioned she had nearly done just this. Built a PK character, equipped appropriately. Joined a game. Identified a victim, got into position. Mouse hovered over the hostile key. Couldn?t bring herself to do it. Couldn?t ruin other?s fun. She attributed such feelings to being a mom, what with the whole nurturing mentality. Moms are a minority on BNet, but Player Killers stalk the realms.
Disclaimer: Bone App?tit is and written by Osteomata (Jack Likens) and hosted by Diii.net. The views expressed in this column are those of the author, and are not necessarily the opinions of Diii.net.