Combat is central to many things in Black Desert Online, but it extends well beyond just killing monsters. While some might find the lack of traditional endgame disconcerting, that's only because Black Desert Online is much more akin to EVE Online than World of Warcraft. In place of a never-ending string of raids, the true heart of Black Desert Online lives within its robust and expansive PVP system. If the idea of conquering whole regions for your guild and rolling in the money you earn from them sounds appealing to you, read on.
This guide will be breaking down the different avenues from PVP and is intended to give players a jump-start come launch day so they know what options are available to them as either a solo player or as a guild. However, Daum Games is constantly evaluating the nuances of PVP in Black Desert Online, creating a specifically tailored version of the game for western audiences. So while there will be specifics to read about in some areas, this guide is more intended to be a broad-strokes look at PVP and give you the basic fundamentals so you can start conquering the land as quickly as possible. That said, specific values, prices, and level requirements are subject to change. We will, however, update this guide to remain as relevant as possible.
Understanding the Most Basic Form of PVP Through Karma
If you've ever played EVE Online, you should already be somewhat familiar with how PVP works in Black Desert Online. The basic gist is that, unless you've officially declared war on another guild, there's going to be some stiff penalties in place for randomly attacking other players. While some might see this as merely protecting the weak from the strong, Black Desert Online implements a smart system that encourages robust and exciting combat, but only when both sides have consented to it.
This current system is almost entirely adapted from the Korean version of the game, but Daum Games has expressed that this system is being tailored for western audiences, and might see significant overhauls as Black Desert Online matures.
The most basic form of PVP in Black Desert Online is the 'PK' or 'karma system'. This is the open world form of PVP that becomes available around level 45 (could potentially be changed to 50). If you are below this level, you are always safe from any form of unwarranted aggression from a single player.
How this system works is fairly similar to other MMORPGs. By pressing 'control + C', your character becomes flagged for PVP, which enables you to attack other players who are above the required level—even if they haven't flagged for PVP themselves. Once you reach a certain level, there's always the threat of being attacked by other players.
For those who want to enjoy the game without being harassed, this might sound like a nightmare. However, unwarranted player-killing in Black Desert Online is extremely costly for the attacking party, and engaging in this activity will have serious consequences.
Every time you attack another player, you will immediately lose around 10,000 karma. Once you engage in battle with a non-hostile player, you will stay flagged for PVP for several minutes, allowing other players to target you without consequences and also making you hostile to any NPC guards who you might stumble upon.
While attacking a player has a significant karma penalty, however, following through on your attack and actually landing the killing blow on a player will drop your karma around five times more, somewhere in the ballpark of 50,000 to 60,000.
This system is designed to allow aggressive players a chance to engage other players in combat without significantly damaging their karma. While the initial cost for assaulting a player is high, clever players can negate the larger penalty by attacking players who are already fighting monsters, letting the monsters deal the final blow or, perhaps a better idea, attacking a player as a method of scaring them off.
Karma is a currency you earn through killing monsters. If you want to make up the cost of attacking another player, you're eventually going to need to spend a decent chunk of time farming monsters roughly equal to your level in order to keep your karma positive. There is a maximum value your karma can reach, however, so even if you rarely engage in player-killing, there's always going to be a relatively substantial fine for going on reckless killing sprees.
If your karma drops beneath zero, your character becomes an outlaw and other players can attack you without penalty. Dropping below zero will also change how you play the game, as guards will attack you on sight. However, thanks to Black Desert Online's sandbox nature, being an outlaw doesn't immediately restrict you from entering cities as clever players can find ways to sneak into a town or city without alerting the local guard. Normal NPCs, such as merchants and quest-givers will still treat you normal, so while being an outlaw will impact how you play the game, some might find the extra challenge fun.
While being on the other side of the law might be entertaining for awhile, you're going to want to keep your karma relatively close to zero. The maximum negative value your karma can drop to is one million, which would represent hours upon hours of grinding monsters in order to earn back a positive karma score. If your karma reaches negative one million, there's likely no coming back.