Guide To Free-Form Roleplaying

Free-Form role playing is role playing without character sheets, dice, or set mechanics for determining who succeeds or fails in a challenge. This style of role playing presents some difficulty for those new to role playing or free-form style rp. So, I’m going to talk a little about the different aspects of Free-Form role play and how to avoid problems.
First, you’ll want to know how to indicate when your character is speaking, performing an action (Action Text), and when you as a player are saying something out-of-character (OOC). You can put “OOC” in front of your text to indicate that you are speaking out-of-character (which you can use “IC” to identify your In-Character (IC) comments if using both in one post).  Another way to indicate that you are speaking OOC is to put your text inside double ((parenthesis)), or [[square brackets]], or {{curly brackets}}, or even <<angular brackets>>.  It is best to avoid using out-of-character conversation as much as possible so that you do not disrupt role play.
Traditionally, you use “quotations” to express that your character is speaking. Often, if you are not performing any actions in the post, you can just type out your words. If you are performing an action (such as waving at a friend, or drinking a cup of earl grey tea) you would prefix the post with an asterisk (*) which is located above the number 8 key on your keyboard. When using both action text and also speaking in the same post, you will need to use “quotations” to separate your actions (*) from your “spoken words”.  If you are portraying a character that has a different name than what is on the facebook you are posting with, you will want to use the character name when describing your actions so that other players are not confused as to which character you are portraying.
* Ren walks into the tavern and waves at Cardinal Asthea “Good evening Cardinal Asthea. How are you this evening?”
* He smiles at the sight of his wife “Good my dear. Kill any sky rats today?”
“Why yes I did. Thank you for asking!” Ren sits in a chair at his table.
* He leans over and gives his wife a kiss on the cheek. 
If you need to whisper in a conversation with someone, there are two ways to do this. You can post an Action Text saying that you are whispering and then put your whispering into quotations, or post Action Text stating that you are whispering and then privately message the player with your whispers. Typically, if you want others to be able to ease drop, you would post your whispering in public for everyone to see. It’s not realistic for everyone to suddenly have hard everything you’ve said, so I suggest avoid “overhearing” whispers as often as possible and only use it if your character us in ear shot of the conversation.
Now, it’s important to understand what “Editorializing” is. There are two types of Editorializing in role play. Type 1 is describing details of what your character is thinking, when no one would know this information. It’s okay to post common body language that implies something simple and obvious. Type 2 is describing how someone else’s character reacts to something, whether it’s physical, emotional, or thoughts, when really only the player of the character knows how their own character reacts and thinks. Type 2 can cause drama, so it’s very important to avoid this all together.
Example of Type 1: 
* Ren looks at Thomas Reinier like it’s the most condescending person she’s ever met since joining the Order many years ago and is so glad she left SCARS.
Please note that no one is going to see the look on Ren’s face and magically realize that she left the Order many years ago and is glad she left SCARS, let alone that she’s thinking Thomas is condescending. An acceptable editorial would be:
* Ren looks at Thomas Reinier with disgust on her face. 
Example of Type 2: 
* Cardinal Asthea stands in Thomas Reinier’s personal space, sneering down at him with anger, as Thomas gets nervous and shakes with fear. 
While it’s fine to post that you (the Cardinal) are invading Thomas’ space and sneers at him, it’s not your choice how Thomas reacts. The player of Thomas may not be afraid or nervous and would reasonably be offended by you posting that for him.
This brings me to the topic of Godmoding. There are degrees of godmoding, and all of them are unacceptable. Godmoding is playing your character like you are a god. This means that you are impossible to kill, win all challenges, and you are better than everyone else at everything. It’s like you’re a God. The lesser degrees of godmoding are just as unsavory. Sure you can die, but only in one way and chances are no one will ever find out… that’s still godmoding. Sure you can die and it’s not just one way, but you succeed at everything you do and you always win… that’s also still godmoding. Like mentioned in the previous section, posting what someone else’s character does or think, is also a form of godmoding. Godmoding is one of the quickest ways to ruin the fun for everyone, so please don’t do it. 
Now that we’ve covered not controlling other people’s character, let’s talk about consensual role play. A “Contested Action” is when you do something that either requires, or gives opportunity for others to resist or intervene with you.
Contested Action Examples:
* Thomas Reinier balls up his fist in anger and takes a swing at Cardinal Asthea’s jaw. 
In this example, Cardinal Asthea is required to react, whether he resists by blocking Thomas’ punch, or chooses to let the fist connect with his face and then shrug it off smuggly. This also presents the opportunity for someone else to intervene, such as Ren jumping in front of the Cardinal. This is another contested action as Thomas is forced to choose if he stops his fist in mid flight or punches Ren.
It’s best to avoid any contested actions that are obviously combat oriented, such as Thomas attempting to punch Asthea. However, if both Thomas and Asthea’s player agree to the scene, and plan exactly how it’s going to happen, then it’s perfectly acceptable to engage. They may have pre-determined that Thomas will punch Asthea on the jaw, Asthea will smile smuggly, say something witty, and then Thomas will storm out of the room. Lengthy planning of scenes should be done in private message.
It’s customary to give a reasonable pause between posts so other players have the opportunity to request to intervene in the scene. For example, I might ask Thomas and Asthea’s players if I can have my character defend Asthea, and thus plan out that Ren has jumped in front of Asthea and then Thomas stops his fist mid air, while Asthea still gets that smug smile and Thomas still storms out of the room.
However, please check the rules for the venue you are playing in because some venues have rules against combat of any kind or special guidelines for dealing with them. So, here’s another example of a contested action that is not combat related.
* Ren reaches over to try and snatch the book from Cardinal Asthea’s hand.
As a contested action, Asthea is forced to either allow Ren to snatch the book, or dodge her attempt. Again someone else may want to intervene by slapping Ren’s hand away from the Cardinal. These are all actions that should be consensual between the players involved. For non-combat oriented actions, players don’t necessarily have to go out of their way to plan scenes. I may not have asked Asthea’s player if I can attempt to take the book, but he can consent to the scene by saying he did not stop me from taking it.
* Cardinal Asthea was so intrigued by his book that he didn’t notice Ren’s hand. He looked up in aggravation at her. 
Should the character choose to dodge, it’s best not to continue the attempt, otherwise it may be perceived as harassment. Contested Actions, in general, should be consensual or limited.
Another negative word that comes up in role play that can cause drama is “metagaming”. Metagaming is using knowledge in-character, that was gained out-of-character. This means that you as a player know something about other character or a plot and your character was never given this information in the game.
For example, if my character Ren has never met Elmo or heard of him before, she wouldn’t know what he looks like and wouldn’t know he lives on Sesame Street along with Big Bird. So when Elmo walks into the tavern and Ren says “Hey Elmo, what’s up? Did you leave Big Bird back at Sesame Street?” this would be metagaming. Silly, but true.
If a person doesn’t introduce themselves and you don’t know them, you shouldn’t use their name verbally or state facts about them that your character wouldn’t know. There is such a thing as unintentional metagaming, so please be patient and forgiving and talk to the player respectfully if you feel this has happened to you.
We’ve talked a lot about the players and characters, but we need to also be familiar with the Storytellers (aka ST, DM, GM). These are the people who create the major game content, including storylines,  and plot scenes. For example, Airship Isabella would be the ST crew for the SCARS vs Order LARP. ST’s will often script out major plot scenes that are meant to further the storyline. These scenes are often closed off from others intervening, because they are generated to further the role play for the whole community. These scenes still must be consensual for those directly in the scene (no killing off Ren just because you want to, you need to ask me first!). Just enjoy the scene, and then react as you feel necessary in the aftermath.
Last but not least, is Facebook Ettiquette. Here are a few things that will improve the quality of the role play for everyone.
> Don’t start a new thread for everything you do. If at all possible, join other threads. The less threads to try to keep track of, the better.
>  Don’t just magically appear and disappear. Post an Action Text of your character entering and exiting the room. If your character really did magically appear, then please post that.
>  When referring to another character, use their name at least once so we know who you are talking to or motioning to. If everyone is using “him” and “her”, people may get confused and not know which “him” or “her” you are talking about.
* Ren motions to him.  
This is too vague.
* Ren motions to Cardinal Asthea. 
Ahhhh, now I see!
There is another form of Godmoding that is more to do with storylines and settings. While, in most free-form settings, it’s okay to introduce new factions and create your own side stories, but you have to use good judgment not to unbalance the game or core storyline. New factions, good or bad, shouldn’t come in too big or too powerful without the consent of the person(s) running the actual game. It can be hard to judge, so ask some prominent players or the community as a whole for advise if you want to be sure before bring in a new faction. It’s also best not to make up events like destroying whole worlds, your home planet, or your entire family, unless the destroying faction/character is consenting to the event. If no one wants to be responsible for that level of evil, then make up something less intrusive – perhaps this evil faction destroyed your home world, but the faction doesn’t exist in this world or were defeated long ago. That might be a cool background story for yourself. Just as a rule of thumb don’t “save the world”, “destroy the world”, kill the main bad guys / good guys, make other people/factions responsible for some atrocity, or introduce a something huge and unprecedented… without gaining the consent of the game masters (the people who officially run the game).

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