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Roleplay's Mutual Expectations

Roleplay Philosophies for FFS: Mutual Guidelines From JayEnfield

One thing that I’ve learned in 14 years of online RP is that people expect very different things out of their play. One person wants to be competitive, another wants to weave complex stories, another wants romantic drama, and another just wants to mow down zombies. Not all games can be all things to all people, so it’s important that I be up front with what the expectations are.

IC conflict good, OOC conflict bad:

The storytelling style of FFS is one that allows for inter-character conflict. But experience has taught me that players are human beings, and not all of us are naturally inclined to separate what occurs in character (IC) from what’s going on out of character (OOC). It is important to understand that I am going to drive IC conflict, and attempt to minimize OOC conflict. The reason that IC conflict is important is that it’s what drives narrative. Every good story you’ve ever read had conflicts. People just getting along all the time is great in a workplace, but it’s painfully boring in a story. However, it is the duty of the players to ensure that they can act in opposition to one another IC, while taking a sportsmanlike attitude about things OOC.

I personally find Pixar’s 22 Rules to be quite relevant to these matters. Normally they’re for narrative writing, but they contain helpful advice for RP too. In my opinion, the most valuable and the ones that I will endeavor to utilize as often as possible are these:

1. You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.
6. What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?
10. Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.
13. Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.
15. If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.
16. What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.
17. No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on - it’ll come back around to be useful later.
19. Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.

It will, at times, be important to the stories to have characters lose assets, or maybe be injured or jailed or even die in service to the story. It will be important that the players of those characters be proud of having been a Good Loser in service to the story. Therefore, it will be the permanent policy on FFS that being a Good Loser will result in an appropriate reward that fits the degree and circumstances. Moping, complaining, or hostility will forfeit these rewards. The system that we’ll try is this: When a player displays sportsmanlike conduct during a major setback (especially one that is random or arbitrary), they’ll be awarded some points for later benefit.

IC Action, IC Consequence:

Credit to Fenriswolf for teaching me the value of this one many moons ago: if a character does something ICly, the consequences of that action will manifest ICly. If a player does something OOCly, the consequences of that action will manifest OOCly, and the two are expected to remain separate.

The isolation of IC factors from OOC ones works both ways. On the one hand, if Steve McCharacter does something that inconveniences Marty von Characterstein, then Marty’s player will be expected to take that inconvenience in a sportsmanlike way and understand that the IC conflict is nothing more than a story element. On the other hand, if Reese Playerspoon and Terry Herpenplayer are currently having some interpersonal drama, then lashing out at one another through IC actions would be considered very poor play.

In addition, no player or plot director ever has any right to tell you that “you’re playing your character wrong”, because that would be applying an OOC judgement to the player in response to an IC action by the character. Sometimes characters take us in unexpected directions or we got brave and made one that is outside of our wheelhouse, this is good and should not ever be punished. Never be afraid to try something that you might suck at and never put down anyone else for sucking at a new character type, because sucking at something is the first step towards being good at it.

There will not be a metagame ladder to climb:

I am not a Game Master. FFS does not and will not have Staff, Officers, Ops, or any other position that bears any benefit of “rank” to be held over each other. Every person who chooses to write stories with us will be expected to behave respectfully to all others, regardless of the duration of their stay or their proficiency in the art of roleplay. You don’t have to like everyone else, you don’t have to socialize with everyone else (though it’d be cool if you did), you just need to cooperate as part of the same team and not cause any unnecessary interpersonal grief.

Some players will volunteer for increased responsibilities which suit their talents. This should not be done with the expectation of increased privilege or reward. It may be the case that some in-game opportunities may be better suited to players who have been around reliably for a period of time, but there will never be any “staff-only” events, nor any preferential characters. I will be doing my best to provide a level playing field for all players, new and experienced alike.

Since we are a team assembling a story together, I feel that using film-making terminology might be more appropriate. One who is the creative leader of a scene or plot is a Director. If someone uses the term GM out of habit, we are to consider this to mean Group Moderator and never “Game Master”. The Director of your scene is not your boss, s/he is your fellow player putting forth an effort to handle the back-end of the crafting of a particular chapter of the story with you, and in the absence of any formal rewards they’ll certainly appreciate your gratitude for their work, and cooperation in ensuring a smooth and engaging experience for all.

Make your preferences known:

Since players are so diverse in their preferences of style and theme, it will be very beneficial for both players and directors of plots to be up front with one another about their preferred play so that nobody is pushed into a type of scene which doesn’t engage them or otherwise is unwanted. There are different tolerances for levels of darkness, sexuality, goofiness, niche themes, etc, so it’s in everyone’s best interest to be open about these with each other and to play on mutual likes as much as possible.

Player opinions on all things relating to the game matter to me. I may disagree with them, I may not implement every suggestion fielded, but the overall objective of the game is to provide an engaging experience for as many friends as is possible, and there’s no substitute for honest feedback and earnest suggestion. Nothing is static here, if rules or systems or procedures can be improved, let’s do it together.

Character Abilities:

There ARE technologies and pseudo-magics that characters can have which will give them some combat potency. However, these will never include teleportation or telekinesis abilities. Too many scenes are ruined by the use of these powers, for no discernible gain. We’re not gonna have em, all requests for TP or TK will be declined. Ability types subject to severe limitation due to difficulty to administrate and/or play with/against include mind-reading, mind-altering, and precognition.

Post Length/Speed:

It is my opinion that short fast posts are best, and that forced turn-orders slow down the pace of play. Ultimately, any given scene is up to the participating players to decide how they like best to interact with each other, but the standard for public play is that if you are in play, then you are focused on what you’re doing, and keeping others aware of any AFKs you’ll have that are going to prevent you from posting at an active rate. For most normal play, the turnaround time from one post to the next should be under 3 minutes. Particularly descriptive posts may take a little longer than that, of course, but I recommend against text-walling, particularly in dialogue.

Suppose for a moment that your character has a major point to make, and is going to spend 10 sentences talking. You could type all 10 of those sentences and then press Enter, and everyone else is just waiting until the textwall pops up. Alternatively, you could press Enter every two sentences, and just post 5 times in a row. This way, others are already typing their responses as you’re finishing up your own actions, AND you’re giving them an opportunity to interrupt. That may sound undesirable, but it leads to much more organic dialogue which resembles real life banter, where we interrupt to ask questions or tell you to shut up before you reveal stuff we don’t want said or add a smartassed quip about something before you move on to another part of your speech. There is NO obligation to wait for others to post before you post again in dialogue scenes, until they request that you hold up and stop posting until they get a chance, or if you’re executing a series of actions there’s an expectation that you not get your character too far ahead of others chronologically. Use common sense and courtesy in your discretion.

Sexuality:

If you want to play smut, go ahead, just keep it to private rooms. Characters flirting, romancing, and affection-ing in regular play is just fine. If you’re going to do creepy stuff IC, just be careful to establish your intent to build such a narrative with the recipient party(s) and ensure that nobody is going to be on OOC-ly uncomfortable ground. If you’re the recipient of said uncomfortable ground, and are unable to work out a satisfactory mutual outcome, bring the matter to me, and I’ll mediate it.