posted 09-22-02 09:58 PM EDT (US)   
With the forum growing as it is, it is advisable to lay out some Guidelines lest it turn into a free for all. I had promised to get them out earlier, and had hoped to do so last weekend, but other things have gotten in the way. Better late then never though.

This thread will be locked, as it is not intended as a platform for dabate. Discussion of these Guidelines however is welcome in The Prancing Pony

General Guidelines

Common courtesy is to be observed at all times. The HeavenGames User Agreement governs this forum as it does all others at this site, and the attendant Code of Conduct [the CoC] will strictly observed. While discussions may occur, abusive name-calling, hate politics and flaming are not allowed out-of-character, and should not go beyond a reasonable level in-character. Profanity filters also remain in effect. If you must for character purposes be profane you should try to invent terms of your own. It worked for Galactica, it will work for you.

This is a fantasy Role Playing [RP] forum. While not necessarily the world of AoW, at this time stories here will generally be set in an environment of magic and medieval weaponry - in other words, sword and sorcery is the rule. Introduction of modern or futuristic weapons such as firearms and plasma cannons is not appropriate. Black powder or black powder matchlock muskets may be allowed by approval of a GM only, as these occur in the AoW world which is the common theme of this site, but should not be considered generally available items.

How it Works

Stories here are written by multiple authors, each of whom will generally control the actions a single PC [Player Character], and possibly one or more NPC's [Non-Player Characters] with whom his PC or others may interact, usually to relate information in dialogue rather then narrative.

Having a variety of story formats is a good thing. There are therefore, few rules governing play style, and individual threads may vary from a strict DM-style to an open and GM-style. Most however will fall in-between, with a GM either providing an initial story or quest goal. This story can be as strictly scripted or as open to branching as required, and GM's are free to chose how much if any of the planned story they wish to reveal in advance.

The job of a GM is to establish the basic architecture of a world. He may choose to keep that world restricted for a single story, or to make it available for multiple stories. He may if he chooses, and typically will, also actively participate as a PC. In this case his job becomes more difficult. He must present both goals and problems to be solved, but should do it in such a way as to allow the other PC's to develop their own characters and their interactions with others. A GM who treats his players as bit parts whose only role is to act out a storyline he has written for his own character does them a disservice. Likewise a GM who ignores past development of the story or changes the direction of the story in such a way as to cause PC's problems due to having set up plot points or pledges they can no longer fulfill hurts both party unity and the individual players. Ultimately this sort of gaming must be for fun, but that fun comes at a price in hard work, and it is the GM who must work the hardest.

It is strongly recommended therefore, that GM's post at a minimum a description of the world or subset of a world the quest will take part in, and the basic rules and restrictions on the people living there. This includes, but is not limited to, known races and creature types and their basic relationships to one another. Lacking such racial information, players may be free to model their characters on those generic found in typical fantasy games such as AoW, HOMM, D&D rules, or others. Unless explicitly stated by the GM, however, no player should assume that all others are familiar with such base rules or worlds. Use of highly unique types such as the AoW Karagh as either PC or NPC characters or monsters should be avoided.

Stories may be strictly single party quests, or multiple parties in competition. In the latter, a party of one, i.e. a single character acting on their own, may be appropriate but in general threads here are intended to be interactive. Single character stories, sub-plots, or side-quests should be kept to a minimum at all times, and only by permission of the GM and/or major players whose characters can reasonably be expected to be affected by the action.

Initial participation in a GM-led thread is at the discretion of the GM, who may either post a call for members or arrange privately for their participation. GM's may set an arbitrary limit on the number and composition of an initial party, such as "six members maximum, evil characters need not apply." Character descriptions or "bio's" will typically be asked for and should be posted publicly for the benefit of all players and readers. If certain character information is to be restricted until later in thread, then a detailed bio should be emailed to the GM for approval before posting the basic bio with the words "GM restricted info" in place of that information. All GM's are advised to post an email address where players and/or prospective players may reach them in the first post of their thread.

Initial participation in a GM-less thread should of course always be arranged privately and by mutual consent. This means, among other things, that in a world of continuing characters and interwoven stories you do not simply "attack" the stronghold of another character without warning. Joining a thread in progress however may or may not be permitted. If permitted, it should be approved in advance by the GM, if any, and by at least the major characters in the story. In a GM-less story, all initial characters may be considered major unless they chose to be considered otherwise.

It is recognized that RL considerations may prevent some people from participating for periods of time. If this is the case they should so state. If their characters are indispensable to the story line, it should be politely paused until they are able to return. Players who simply abandon their roles for extended periods without prior warning, and who do not respond to inquiries, may at the discretion of the the GM be treated as a NPC under his or another player's control, or written out of the story altogether. Players who wish to leave of their own accord should be given opportunities to do so gracefully within the framework of the story. In either case however this is an extreme measure, and if the character is vital to the plot line can have serious repercussions, so please do not do so lightly.

Believability

The goal of this sort of role playing is to have fun of course. The method is to take and work within the confines of a character and world, acting and reacting as that character would, rather then as you yourself would. Consistency and development are the key here. In RP, as in Real Life, you are given a character to work with, and you must develop that character on its own merits. In RP you have the luxury of choosing how that character will start out, but be aware that those choices once made must be what determines your actions. Changing attitudes is allowed, but the reasons for it must be clear. PC's have been known to "fight" with their owners because they simply cannot logically develop in the way the player
wanted them to. If this happens, they are better off dropping out. The stronger your initial character is, the less dependent he is on others and the harder he will be to have learn or change. While it may seem like fun to run around with invincible armor, a half dozen ego weapons, and a book full of spells blasting all whom you encounter to oblivion, there is no room for development in such a character.

Logical believability is a key factor here. In a fantasy world, some suspension of disbelief is inevitable, even mandatory. One cannot after all have magic spells and dragons in a world unless one accepts that such things exist. But there are limits to which this can be taken. Many threads start out as open recruiting calls in some nondescript tavern. Having even one such superman available would be rare. Having a party of them unthinkable. If you have a dozen supermen in your starting tavern, then those places you are going to encounter along the way are no less likely to have supermen as well.

By the same token, you should not expect the small bag of gold your character may be carrying to be enough to buy armor or weapons of enormous power. In typical CRPG's the prices of even quite low grade and mundane arms quickly escalate to the 100's of GP. If one gold piece is, say 20 grams (well under an ounce), then 100 gold pieces weigh in at 2000 grams - over five pounds. Bear that in mind as you go shopping. And of course, for the GM's out there, bear that in mind when you send your villains shopping as well. Encountering a band of hired thugs wearing impenetrable armor is only a little more likely then a band of supermen meeting by chance in a tavern. When someone gets hit at close range by a weapon that's designed to penetrate all but the best and most expensive of armor, it will. Otherwise why make it in the first place?

So too of course, one must look to the availability of the gold and treasures needed to buy such things. In the real world, one does not expect to find stashes of abandoned loot around every corner. Neither is it logical to do so in a fantasy world. People, or dwarves or gods or particularly nasty monsters, simply do not leave hard won valuables like the +9 Wicked Bastard Sword of Totally Destroying Undead laying around. If they do, they do so for a reason. Can you say "cursed?"

Nor should a pick-up party from the local tavern - a random group "who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time" - reasonably expect to be able defeat monsters and win trophies that legendary Hreoes of the past have tried and failed to obtain. That is not to say they cannot, but there has to be some reason why they and they alone could do so. Jason and the Argonauts won the Golden Fleece after much difficulty, but they were had the help of a goddess. Do you?

Hand in hand with this comes one of the most important rules of building or playing in an RP world: Actions have Consequences. If a character sets off a trap whether deliberately or accidentally while he or other characters are standing around, someone is likely to get hurt. That's what traps are there for. Conversely, if an event is to occur in the story line, there should be a reason for it. There are only so many times a party can be attacked by random wandering monsters before you have to ask "Who is sending these things?" If every traveler on the roads were having to put up with such things, there would be precious few travelers. Or roads for that matter.

As much as, if not more so, then characters and weaons, this holds true of magic. Although we have suspended our total disbelief in such things, that does not mean it flows like water. If the GM says "your apprentice mage gets one low level spell" you should not reasonably expect it to be Fireball or Chain Lightning. These are not, despite how they may appear in some games, spells the average Apprentice mage would be likely to possess, much less a warrior who dabbles in magic. They are the the stuff of Masters of the craft. In Lord of the Rings, when the greatest fire wizard of his age lights a brand by magic he does so only reluctantly, for this is a great and unique ability.

"If there are any to see, then I at least am revealed to them," he said. "I have written GANDALF IS HERE in signs that all can read from Rivendell to the mouths of Anduin."

They are also particularly dangerous and therefore impractical spells for a beginner. Casting either in melee or confined space is as likely to harm you or another member of your party as your enemies, and don't even think about using Fire spells in a forest. If you must have a ranged attack, chose Magic Missle. It's cheap, dependable, and really the spell of choice in most situations anyway. Why waste any more mana on a ROUS [Rodent of Unusual Size]? Assuming of course a GM does not decide to start off by having you face down the invisible Ultra-Karaghlich that's guarding the +9 WBSoTDU, and who can only be defeated by the shard of the Ultimate Artifact of Power that your simple farm boy happened to turn up plowing a field. But unless you are going for satire (and that GM was) how believable is that in the first place?

These guidelines of course can be hard to follow sometimes, particularly when the GM does not enforce them, and you see others joining with characters who are demi-gods. No one really wants to be the ineffectual weakling of the party, nor should they be expected to be. But when the story ends, it is much more satisfying to have discovered that your Weaklinkg was a Hero, then that your Hero was a Weakling.

GM's most of all need to keep this in mind. There can be a huge temptation to write a sweeping story full of detailed, scripted actions, in which their own character is the star player. If that character however fails to develop the correct relationships with others in the party, that PC may find himself arbitrarily overriding the decisions of other PC's who have perfectly logical and valid reasons for choosing them. This makes that character look dictatorial, arrogant, uncooperative, and often uncaring and stupid when foreseeable events occur that he was warned about by others but refused to take precautions against. He may even find himself having to take actions that seem unwarranted in order to forestall the party members doing something, like splitting the group, that will damage the overall story. This will, needless to say, make that character unpopular and cause IC friction within the party. Unless this is a planned plot point, such friction is never a good thing.

In extreme cases, he may even attempt to order players OOC to take actions that violate their own character's development and background. This, needless to say, is very bad. Reducing your fellows to the status of bit players mouthing your words will not make them like you as a GM, and you will have a great deal of difficulty ever getting them to join you in another quest. A moment of glory for your character is not worth it, if no one else in the story wishes to stay with him, or you.

Breakable Rules

A good general rule in any interactive environment such as this is that you may not move, speak for, or perform any actions with another player's character without their consent and/or good and logical reasons. If you feel the story is well served by by having another character respond to a comment or question and that you can accurately predict what that character's action would be, you may ask to do so. In some environments with continuing characters, this becomes so commonplace between individuals that it is assumed. Please do not infer however that because any two players in a thread are doing so that permission is therefore extended to all.

This rule includes GM's as well. GM's may, from time to time and as necessary to fulfill the major story goal or prearranged sub-plots, move characters or entire parties from one location to another, but they should not do so without warning or for trivial reasons. If a GM needs a individual player to go to a certain location and/or fulfill a certain goal, he should ask them to do so, either in character [IC] or out-of character [OOC]. They should not, under any circumstances, abuse this privilige to cut off or limit a player's character development. Plot points may be important to the GM's story, but they are not what the "role playing" aspect is about and simply rushing parties from one to the next with no chance to explore their own characters will merely alienate players. Doing so is as much hijacking the thread and it's characters for the GM as for anyone else.

Non Player characters [NPC's] may be introduced as required to further the character's development. It may for example be easier to present attitudes or backstories in the form of dialogue rather then narrative. In general they should be kept to a minimum but if such characters are introduced, they should usually be considered extensions of the character who introduced them just as his equipment is and be should treated accordingly. That is, they should not be moved or used without the owner's permission.

This is not a hard and fast rule however, and this is one reason they should be kept to a minimum. If a barmaid is introduced for a single scene as background say, other characters may subsequently interact with her in non plot related ways such as a thief introducing his skill by stealing the coin she was paid with.

On the other hand, NPC's with whom a player has had significant interactions should not suddenly be taken over by another player. If for example, a player has introduced a farm family and his PC has asked and answered questions about their alignment, had dinner with them, and is sleeping in their barn, it is extremely rude to suddenly declare that they have all along been agents of the enemies who are pursuing him and have them rush to reveal his location.

Somewhere in between these fall "stock" NPC's that may have recurring roles in a story or story world. A good example of this is Farman the Barman, who runs the Prancing Pony but may also appear in stories. Think of him as an actor who portrays himself in a movie. In the Pony, he is to be treated as a PC, and only his creator should move or speak for him. In stories, he may be interacted with, but please do try to keep him within character. For this purpose, he and other NPC's like him should probably be supplied by their creators with bio's of their own.

It should be noted that any such NPC's can either be created fully defined from scratch, or develop naturally over the course of time. Farman, for example, was originally introduced by a PC as a backdrop character with perhaps no more relevance to the story then the barmaid. As events in that scene developed however, he took on a role and persona of his own. In time, he and his pub were transplanted to another world where they again became integral to the early story. Before that was done however, permission of the original creator was asked and given. Even minor NPC's have rights.

Unbreakable Rules

War and conflict are inevitable in a sword and sorcery setting, but Player Killing [PK'ing] is strictly forbidden unless agreed upon in advance with the player(s) involved, and within this forum this rule shall not be overridden by the GM. Under no circumstance shall any PC or NPC be permitted to kill another PC unless first agreed upon by those players involved and with due consideration given to party unity and story plot. This includes actions by the GM which place a character in a situation from which he cannot reasonably extricate himself or in which he may be reasonably be expected choose to sacrifice himself to save another.

If a player may however arrange a suitable death for his PC only. Any player who does so however retains ownership of his character and all items that character carried. Unless explicit permission is given, that character may not be resurrected or used as an NPC by the GM or anyone else, nor may any special equipment created expressly for that PC's character be parceled out to the remaining party members. To put it another way, in this forum a charcter has both "A right to Live" and "A right to Die" and neither can be taken away.

PC's may kill monsters or minor NPC's but most NPC's should be considered as owned by the creating player and may not be killed without permission. The Ninja warriors who attack you, even if they speak, can usually be dispatched by any member of the party - that's what they're for. But the fat bejeweled mage that has been sitting back directing the last three attacks probably can't. He is the property of the GM, who may have future plans for him.

Characters joining a thread will be normally be expected to post their character's description and enough basic background information [referred to as the "bio"] so that the GM and/or party members can determine if that character fits the story line. This information is the only thing they, or readers of a thread, will have to go on in understanding aspects of the characters behavior. All information posted in a bio is to be considered accurate, and characters are subsequently expected to conform to such descriptions. Any intended alterations from the posted bio should be first discussed with the GM or major players in a GM-less thread, and updated to the bio upon approval.

Players wishing to engage in sub-quests or plot points should first consider story balance and must clear them with the GM, if any, and any other player(s) directly affected before announcing them. If permission is not granted, then that sub-quest should not be undertaken. Sub-quests may be used, however, to explain a player's absence if such needs to occur for a time. Again, GM or major player's approval in a GM-less thread should be sought and story balance considered.

Characters consistantly acting against their bios or ignoring these guidelines, or whose posts seem intended to be disruptive only, may be asked to withdraw from the thread. Disruptive acts include but are not limited to drawing other characters off track or diverting story in ways that threaten either the other PCs or party unity, or could reasonable cause unwanted consequences. This would include acts of senseless violence which can reasonably result in the party becoming unnecessarily embroiled with the local population or agencies of the law. The key here is that such acts are repeated and noted by others however. A character who has been warned, both IC and OOC, by multiple members of the party that his actions are inappropriate may be properly sanctioned. A player who validly refuses to act against character even if instructed to by the GM, as for example by refusing to ignore reasonable precautions so as to put themselves or others at risk for some plot point should not be dismissed for doing so. Plot points and puzzles can be rewritten, and new ones created by the GM. It is much harder to do so with characters.

Except as noted below, players may chose to omit details of their characters past, or their motivations, though any such which may effect party unity or the stated goal or story plot should be revealed privately to the GM, or major players in a GM-less thread, for prior approval. However, any motivations that are posted should be adhered to. Reasonable later motivational changes will be accepted as long as it does not damage either party unity or story goal and should first be approved by the GM or major players in a GM-less thread. If a character is questioned on his bio prior to joining a thread, stating "that's not how I intend to play" will be considered a violation of good practice, and an attempt to undermine the story. Bio's should accurately reflect how a character is expected to be played. Any later changes requested or proposed either by the player or the GM/party and mutually agreed upon are to be considered part of the official bio and should be quickly posted there as such. Failure to edit in the changes however does not make them less binding. A player who simply announces later that "I do not choose to be bound In Character by prior Out of Character promises" will likewise be considered in violation of good practice, and may be asked to withdraw from the thread by those to whom such promises were made.

Bio information should include, in particular, any special abilities or limitations of that character. If such special abilities are not listed, then the player cannot later claim to have them without either sufficient reason or approved in-story occurrence, unless previously approved by the GM or major players and covered in the bio under the "GM restricted info" clause. Suddenly announcing in the middle of a story that your character is immune to fire because he is of a particular religious alignment and the Dragon's Breath did not affect him, will be considered in violation of the rules. A character based on a race that is generally accepted as having a particular ability may be able to get away with this, i.e. a fire elemental may not have to specify he is immune to fire, but in general even in cases where an attribute is common, players should make an effort to list it in their bio and/or make mention of that ability prior to using it.

Racial histories, legends and beliefs are particularly important items in character development. If any of these significantly impact the story planned by the GM, they should be disclosed in advance, if not publicly then at least privately to those players whose characters are of the race(s) in question. Failure to do so may result in players supplying their own backstory IC and being subsequently contradicted by others. This is not conducive to good relationships, and good GM's should watch for and take such things into account, altering their own planned versions if necessary.

Fairness and Other Considerations

It is in the interests of the forum and the community as a whole to encourage as much participation as possible, therefore limiting access by newbies is strongly discouraged. "Newbies" in this sense entails both new members to the forum, and existing members who are new to the type of RP practiced in a given thread. While a thread limited to pre-selected "experienced players" as an example to others is acceptable, such things will be considered the exception rather then the rule, and will require approval of the forum moderator(s) and/or their designates. That approval will not, in general, be given if the party consists entirely or primarily of new members to the forum. We encourage new members, but we do not wish to slight our existing ones.

Players will not be arbitrarily limited in the number of story threads they may enter. However story quality is also a consideration. A player who is having trouble finding the time to handle the PC[s] he is currently running should not be considered a good candidate for joining another story. Neither is a player who has demonstrated that he is not seriously interested in role playing. Such characters can unfairly take up slots in a limited party that could be used by others. As a general rule then, players new to this type of interactive role playing should limit themselves to no more then two or three threads. Unless you have a well defined character, in an established world, you most definitely should avoid starting or taking part in concurrent separate but related stories. It can be done, but the time line problems of keeping such threads and PC's consistant are enormous.

Likewise a GM who is having trouble handling one thread, who is arbitrarily changing his own rules to benefit one player's PC at the expense of other PC's, party unity and/or story balance or who cannot keep track of details of the story he is currently running should consider these things before seeking to open a second thread. Even the most experienced GM's should hesitate to handle more then that if their threads are to be tightly story based, or they are already handling or will be handling too many significant characters.

And finally, the most important guideline of all: This forum is for fun, but it should not become anyone's entire life.


ChowGuy - The LaChoy Dragon - Servant of the Tiger and disciple of the Wanderer
The Hall of Wonders - HeavenGames Fantasy Role Playing and Creative Writing Forum

[This message has been edited by ChowGuy (edited 09-23-2002 @ 07:33 PM).]