Does anyone have any experience with roleplaying as a competitive player?
I'm so competitive I managed to win a game of Fiasco (a very non-competitive game).
Luckily, I know why you feel this way and where the source of the problem is.
Unfortunately, D&D 3.X is more often than not the cause of this dicothomy.
There's a thing game designers call reward cycle: encouraging the players to behave in a certain manner by giving them some mechanical advantage if/when they do.
This is done differently in different games where the authors are conscious about the need to encourage the intended behavior with positive reinforcement. Some examples:
- in the Solar System you get concepts that define your character called keys. following them often puts you into trouble or requires you to be in trouble. You get XP every time you hit a key.
- in Fate, whenever you do something that's not convenient to your character, you get awarded a fate point you can later spend to reroll, add modifiers to your dice or introduce elements into a scene.
- in Monsterhearts, you need to get strings on other characters to improve your chances of success. Things that get you strings are not nice things to do to other characters.
- In Primetime Adventures, players can reward other players when they describe a memorable scene by giving them a fanmail, which can be spent to draw more cards to play against the game master (whoever has more red card wins).
These games make bad choices for your character become good choices for you, encouraging you to play your character's flaws as well as his qualities.
D&D 3.5 also has a reward cycle, but it's not something the authors appear to have planned, unless you want to believe D&D authors actually wanted to encourage playing some psychopats who only care about money and xp.
- in D&D, you get experience points and gold for killing (or otherwise defeating) monsters, for good roleplaying or for plot-related goals.
Emphasis is because only killing/defeating/avoiding monsters has defined and quantified rules governing the gains. More than that, most of the things you can buy with money or XP are useful to be a better monsterslayer.
In previous editions, you gained XP based on the treasure you could get your hands on: avoiding confrontations meant suffering less HP (or character) losses. Now, the easy way to solve an encounter is "just kill everything".
This means in a D&D game there's a straight path to "winning" the game that requires you to bash monsters in the most efficient way. The most efficient way, as many movie villains will tell you, is to get rid of all emotions and vulnerabilities. Weakness leads to being killed. Dying makes you lose some of the resources you gathered.
Of course, this does not produce a fiction that's satisfying to those who want to tell a "realistic" story, nor to those who want high fantasy, epic or similar results.
What usually happens in a D&D game where being a party of murderhoboes is not the intended result is that people is expected to behave consistently (and rolpelay an actual human being), and whoever can't find where the line lies and balance on it is usually either despised for "not being able to roleplay" or is willingly taking risks and worsening his chances at suceeding.
Someone calls it "role-playing vs. roll-playing".
It might be arguable that an equilibrium point or where none of the two happens exists.
So, what do you do?
- You can modify your reward cycle, by giving XP only for good roleplaying, but this often means "what the DM thinks is good roleplaying".
- You can remove this kind of reward. Leveling happens when the story calls for it, and money is given out accordingly. Then you introduce a different reward cycle.
- Maybe the easiest one, play a game that already has a "good" reward cycle. Buying your friends in could be hard, because of the investment needed to master D&D 3.5 and the fear that every system out there takes the same mastery to learn.
- Learn how to have fun without aiming at the intended reward cycle, while it's still there. If you manage to do this, please tell me how it's done.
- Just keep playing psychopaths (but that's not what you want, right?)
@Miniman wrote a comment where he suggested to roleplay a character who wants to make optimal choices himself. I suggest you don't: more often than not, being stuck on finding the optimal choice in-character is a flaw you'd probably try to instinctively avoid, especially when metaplaying is involved and you know a stupid decision of your character would make for a great strategy.
What you don't want to get is a character that behaves in a completely different way in different situations, because the lack of internal coherency hampers the kind of immersion you're currently looking for.
Be the wiser character. If you think that all humans are an inferior threat to nature but you need their help, your character shouldn't be surprised when they verify your assumptions. You "knew" they were problems going in and you still chose to work with them, so seeing evidence of it shouldn't change your approach.
Someone calls you an idiot? You're almost 60, you've seen people like them get killed by their own foolishness, and you're going to become a god. Say something dismissive and move on. Young, rash adventurers get offended by casual insults. Old, wise sages know not to listen.
Unless everyone at the table wants to play a PvP campaign, just play the grumpy, dismissive old dude who puts up with the others because they're necessary to his plans. It's fun for the other players to bicker with a curmudgeon; it's probably not fun for them to get into a drawn-out PvP combat with someone you admit is too powerful.
It's Almost Hopeless
Assuming this is a standard Goblin with no special tricks, there's not a whole lot you can do. You'd want to use Escape Artist to try and break the grapple (as it's going to be higher than the -3 on a grapple check), but then you have to get away and that will be pretty difficult with sword guy standing right there.
Fighting out will be almost impossible, since you have to attack the one grappling you first, while hoping the one with the sword doesn't hit you (because with 5 HP, you can't take many hits). Maybe if you were incredibly lucky.
Talking Is Your Best Bet
If the PCs are holding the Goblin at sword point, you've got the opportunity to try and talk your way out of it. Maybe the PCs want information. If the Goblin knows something, he could try and trade it for his freedom (and hope the PCs are lawful enough to honor an agreement).
If the Goblin doesn't know anything... he can lie. Goblins have a lousy bluff, but if your PCs have a lousy sense motive, maybe you can get away with it. At low level a good die roll will get you a long way even with a lousy modifier.
Mechanically - How to Get The Goblin Into That Position
You'd start off with a grapple, as you already did. While grappling, the best thing for the attacker to do is to try and pin the Goblin. Pin is done with an opposed grapple, while already grappling. If the attempt is successful, the link I just gave explains what happens. In a nutshell: the one being pinned can't really do much of anything except try and escape. You can even be prevented from speaking. (Note: you are not helpless for the purpose of a coup-de-grace.) The person doing the pinning is in control at this point.
Of particular use with a pin is that if the Goblin escapes the pin, he's still grappled. That gives the PC a chance to re-establish the pin, making it very good for holding things in place.
"Holding a sword to his throat" is a narrative statement, there is no specific rule that covers it. If a Goblin is pinned, though, it's pretty easy to visualize what's going on. What the rules do offer you is the ability to react to an escape attempt, using a Ready Action. That lets the PC holding the sword say "I'm holding the sword to his thraot, and if he breaks the pin I attack him."
The way that works is if the described event happens, the PC immediately gets to take a standard action, doing what he described. So the scenario goes like this:
If the goblin does break the pin, PC B immediately attacks.
You can do all this without pinning and with just using grapple, but I find the narrative of what you're describing as the situation fits really well with a pinned goblin, as it's pretty hard to put your sword to the throat of a creature that's actively grappling with your friend.