IC Conflict, OOC Cooperation
Whether WoD games are horror games to you or not, they still tell deeply personal stories with difficult themes, such as loss, betrayal, and sacrifice. Writing with strangers about those things and creating a space of trust can be difficult, especially when we are expressing ourselves through characters we've grown fond of, but without the genre and the themes that engage us, RP becomes little more than a game of dice rolls and loot.
At times, players will be challenged when we step into the stimulating but sometimes rocky space where things like politics, religion, culture, history, violence and discrimination become important parts of the narrative stage. Players do need to be willing to ride the wave of IC risks, consequences, and heavy themes in order for the collaborative storytelling environment to work -- but they cannot and will not do so if they cannot trust their fellow players or their storyteller.
In roleplay action leads to consequence, but at the end of the day, "ICA = ICC" does not change the fact that your character is fictional and YOU are real. Your emotions, your elation, and your distress are always relevant, and should never be set aside in pursuit of some mythical perfect immersion.
Therefore, players and storytellers must hit the brakes if another player is feeling personally unsettled, distressed or unsafe. A storyteller must do their best to respect boundaries, listen, and collaborate towards a narrative resolution that respects these boundaries. If a player wishes to withdraw from something, that is their prerogative, and their peers must help them gracefully exit.
Modern Nights has a Conflict Resolution policy providing a script for players to draw boundaries, in case they are not sure how to do it otherwise.
Modern Nights has a Conduct policy, summarized here:
- Users that promote hostility based on identity or vulnerability should be reported. Comments, requests, and jokes become harassment the moment they are described as unwelcome and yet persist.
- Users who are asked to stop communicating with another user OOCly, or are asked to stop a specific type of action, must do so. If they refuse or fail to do so, they should be reported.
- All users must respect any and all requests to FTB/FF (Fade To Black/Fast Forward) immediately and without question. Failure to respect a FTB/FF request should be reported.
- The other person being a dickbag is not a valid reason to sink to their level. This goes for staff and players ailke. When you put your foot down with another person, do so with either respect, courtesy or neutrality.
- All players and staff are responsible for keeping the drama purely IC. If you are antagonized ICly and find it upsetting, reach out to the players instead of letting it fester. If you are playing an antagonist, reach out to players after you kick their characters around to make sure there's no hard feelings.
- Generally speaking we do operate by "ICA = ICC", but that principle doesn't come at the expense of your comfort or consent. If you're not comfortable with a scene, or how it is being resolved, please reach out to staff.
Provide A Collaborative Storytelling Platform
Modern Nights aims to provide a collaborative storytelling environment.
A collaborative storytelling environment looks like this:
- OOC Communication: You gotta enjoy the people you write with! Modern Nights encourages talkative public channels and channel discourse to make sure players get to know each other. We have a Discord server (type "+discord on the game for the invite).
- Healthy boundaries: Players should be ready and able to set boundaries and confident they will be respected. We have a Conduct and Conflict Resolution policy to guide players towards handling tension should they decide not to involve staff while they're still building a relationship with us.
- Organizational Tools: Players are able to sort their jobs into buckets and assign their jobs to other users, including fellow players (like if they want to use a +request to coordinate a PRP). Our notes system lets you hierarchically file notes underneath other notes so you can stay organized.
- Valuing Autonomy: Players are entrusted to manage equipment, maintain their own +notes, apply damage and Paradox to themselves, and use most supernatural powers without having to stop for a staff call (within the bounds of consent of other players). See Can I Just Do This? for more details. The few individuals who disrespect the game's leniency get locked out of the command sets they abuse and the remaining players continue to be trusted.
- Motivating Risk-Taking: We employ a Karma system, which is a spendable goodwill system that is rewarded by the type of OOC behavior we want to see (sticking to your character's flaws, upholding the IC-OOC divide when it's strained, etc). You can spend Karma to improve your character's odds, and we have seen this create a positive feedback loop, as those who accumulate enough Karma to spend it on a re-roll tend to get brave and make things interesting!
- Open Door PRPs: We have PRP Policies that we hope will encourage players to run plots that are open to walk-ins (as opposed to PRP runners always just running things for the same, tight group of people -- spread the fun). So far we have seen that from our PRP runners and we look forward to seeing more of it!
Keep Up With The Casuals
We value the time of players who have RL demands that keep them from playing on the game as often as they'd like and we want to make an environment where they can keep up.
There are power-users and there are people who only spend a few hours a week on a MUSH. Maybe IRL obligations keep them from putting in the hours they prefer. Maybe they have more than one hobby. Regardless, just because the game is accessible 24/7 doesn't mean that you should need to be on 24/7 to remain competitive. In order to balance power users and casual users, we have done the following:
Experience Points Considerations
We have An Experience Points system designed with casuals in mind, with the following deliberate choices:
- Accessible Pose XP Caps: After 10 hours of RP (per week), pose XP stops rewarding you. If you want to RP for more than 10 hours a week, that's good, we are glad to have you! We just prefer that the rewards for extensive hours of RP be RP for the sake of it (such as the inherent character development and engagement with others).
- Monthly, Nonlinear Vote XP: When +votes linearly reward XP, people in voting circles can outpace casuals who RP with the same number of people but not as often. The +vote system tallies votes until the end of the month so that weekly attendance is not critical. Next, the XP reward is in batched tiers. According to our pose data, the average size of an RP circle is 5 to 6 people. Thus, you get 5 XP if anywhere between 1 and 6 people +vote for you that month. If 7 or more people voted for you, then chances are you went outside of your regular circle, and thus get 8 XP. Casuals have the opportunity to collect this reward due to the monthly schedule.
A strategy to rate limit hyperactivity from players and help staff triage +jobs when the playerbase is large and active:
- There is a Downtime system. Everyone gets the same amount of Downtime points and can spend them on off screen actions (as well as other things described on the Downtime page). If we have a hyper-active user who submits a bunch of jobs, the Downtime system serves as a gentle reminder for them to slow down a little.
- When you submit more than 3 +requests, the +Jobs code asks you to prioritize your top 3 jobs. Staff will use these priorities that you set in order to triage jobs when handling situations where characters are competing (wittingly or not). That way, if a hyperactive player has put in something that conflicts with a player who has less opportunity but is invested in seeing a specific thing done, we understand their priorities.
IC Deadline Handling
IC deadlines are not to be OOC Deadlines. If you have a time-sensitive deadline IC, that's fine, but any +request or @mail stating a character's IC actions to be completed by that deadline are valid so long as the request is sent in before the day of the IC deadline. If you haven't processed it by the time your stated IC deadline rolls up, don't move forward until whatever action that player declared wanting to do has been addressed. If Jimmy's wife is held for a ransom and he has 2 weeks to cough up the dough or the lady gets it, and Jimmy put in a job the very next day, he should not under any circumstance be cut off just because technically it's OOCly 2 weeks later. What, did Jimmy ICly go catatonic just because Jimmy's player has a job?
The action should be ran as if it ICly commenced the day of the +request. If the action described would take too long to pull off and there's a reasonable chance the character would know this based off of their sheet, advise the player and let them pick something simpler. After all, it's not like their character would realize, "I can't accomplish that in time" and then spend the remaining days paralyzed in indecision.
Do not proceed with a time-sensitive situation if you are aware that someone put in a +request to do something before the deadline. If you need to crunch it into handwaving and dicerolls instead of a scene, do so, but do not skip a player's request to do something.
Lastly, we highly recommend that you proactively confirm IC inaction. Sometimes you'll be running a plot (as staff or a PRP runner) and go "damn, Jimbo should have tried to do something by now." If you find yourself thinking that, reach out directly to the player(s) and ask them if they're interested in taking action. Do not assume that their lack of engagement is due to deliberate negligence or disinterest. Usually the reason why they haven't said anything until now shakes out in the conversation ("Oh, you're a PRP runner so I thought I couldn't do XYZ").
House Rule With Purpose
Modern Nights applies the following litmus test when proposing new house rules:
- Does it clarify something? If the written material contradicts, obviously we need to straighten that out. For example, the called shots rules between M20 and V20 differ, so in our Called Shots HR, we picked the M20 one.
- Does it add missing information we need? Sometimes the written material straight up doesn't explain how something actually works while still putting that thing on the table. For example, te V20 core rulebook does not offer a mechanic to lower your Conscience and Self-Control despite requiring that you do so to take a Path of Enlightenment, so we have a Degeneration house rule.
- Does it help a large playerbase participate in theme? Some rules from the core material are written with a tabletop group in mind, and as our playerbase fluctuates, we need to be prepared to handle a larger pool of players. Therefore, we do things like use the Minds Eye Theatre Status system in the Vampire sphere, and our Influence system is very MET inspired as well, because it was designed for a large playerbase.
- Does it remove a bottleneck without compromising characters? Sometimes we run into systems that turn out to make playing the game tedious: too much to keep track of, for example. If we find a bottleneck and can fix it, we tend to. Our Secondary Abilities house rule is an example.
- Does it add missing value players are seeking? Having a game that is always on 24/7 will sometimes mean that players develop interests and needs that existing material doesn't exactly provide.
- Are we willing to hit everybody with it? We don't grandfather people in. It's silly you should be able to get a specific perk just because you happened to find this game before I did. If you aren't willing to make the existing players you know adapt to a change, don't impose it on strangers either.