Limited Consent

(This text was adopted and editted with the permission from Road to Amber-MUSH)

In general terms, players are always in control of what happens to their characters, but players must accept reasonable IC consequences for the IC actions of their characters. Players are also expected to remember that certain types of actions, such as rape, are disturbing or distasteful to others, and to exercise both sensitivity and good judgement when proposing consequences that might not be broadly regarded as in good taste.

Characters are all people of consequence in the "novel" of the game, and therefore don't die easily. Character death should be narratively powerful. Unsurprisingly, people generally don't consent to killing off their characters unless the death feels like a rewarding conclusion to their saga. If you can't kill someone in a story-significant, entertaining and cool way, you should probably be trying to find some other kind of consequence.

Our structured-negotiation system for conflict resolution is designed to encourage people to mutually agree on narratively interesting consequences. We expect everyone to be a good sport, and to win some and to lose some, and be aware that other people are also just trying to have fun.

If you feel that another player is habitually unfair about accepting the consequences of his character's actions, please discuss it with the staff.

Consent in a Nutshell

The quick summary of our consent policies are as follows:

You always have the right to not play something that you find distasteful or disturbing. Express your discomfort and fade to black, or ask for some other consequence.
You do not have to participate in any conflict, nor play with any particular player. If someone is trying to force you into a situation that you haven't yet become engaged in, please ask a GM for help.
If you are trying to avoid something, avoid it. If you engage (even indirectly), and then decide to withdraw for OOC reasons, it is your responsibility to figure out a way to lose IC, and avoid the situation in the future. If you need help doing so, please talk to a GM.
If you have decided that you don't want to play with another player, it is your responsibility to withdraw, and not theirs. For instance, if you are entering a scene and the player you are avoiding is there, it's your responsibility to cope or leave — not theirs.
We strictly define consequences in the context of our conflict system. Consequences can never take a character out of play (unless this is what the loser wants). All consequences must be mutually agreed upon. Given that consequences are not play-damaging, we expect people will be reasonable in agreeing to them.
Anything that would take a character out of play should probably be agreed upon using storybuilding, although of course you can simply negotiate it. If you run into difficulties, ask a GM for help. However, we do have a hard and fast rule: Genuine consent is absolutely required for anything that would take a character out of play. We will look very, very dimly on any attempt to force a player down this path.
Consent and Fairness

We are a consent-based game because, frankly, it is nigh impossible to get people to accept things that they are unwilling to play; if you force such things down a player's throat, all you generally succeed in doing is making their play experience suck, and the stress and effort of trying to do so will probably make your play experience suck, too. It's better and much more straightforward to simply let people say, "No," and work from that point.

That said, if you are on a MUSH, you are in a multi-player environment. Because you are in a world with other people, you do not have full authorial control. Your right to determine exactly what happens to your character stops where it collides with other people's rights to determine what happens to theirs. Demanding absolute control is selfish, and inconsiderate of the rights and desires of other players. Even if you're a player who usually chooses to lose, insisting on "choosing when to lose" is equivalent to "demanding to always win unless you decide otherwise" — it's the desire for control, which transcends any concept of "winning" or "losing". Control needs to be shared between players in order to be fair to everyone involved, and the system mechanics are our way of encoding what is fair.

What you have is the right not to be abused. This is paramount in the design of our RPG system. Our consequences system strictly limits the scope of consequences to things that do not make your play experience suck, and our storybuilding system offers structured negotiation with the option to call a GM if the negotiation seems abusive. We've tried hard to structure the mechanics in such a way that they cannot be abused, and we take action when we learn that something is being abused. We take OOC harassment seriously, as well.

Consent in the Context of Pre-Negotiation

Players can set a Trouble preference (+help trouble) indicating their openness to IC conflict, and the degree to which they prefer that it be pre-negotiated. Trouble is a preference and not a rule. You do not have to pre-negotiate anything, although someone's Trouble preference will indicate the circumstances under which that is probably wise, and unless you want to be known as a jerk OOC, you'll probably want to avoid putting other people in situations where they are going to be angry at you OOC.

It's important to recognize that consent is essentially limited to:

Always retaining control over your own character's actions
Not playing with a certain other player
Refusing to agree to something dealing with an offensive matter (such as rape)
Refusing a particular RPG consequence (requiring negotiating an alternative consequence)
(For those familiar with AmberMUSH's consent rule, ours is a more limited version of it. You can call consent to basically throw a flag on a play and say "No", but if you withdraw from the conflict, that makes it your responsibility to lose.)

We encourage pre-negotiation when dealing with trouble-averse players, because we believe that it decreases the likelihood that the conflict will break down into something that is unresolvable to everyone's reasonable OOC satisfaction. But it is not required.

Consent in the Context of Prop Control

Consent applies to props just as it does to individual characters. Players have the power of consent over what happens to the props they control. Other people who are interacting with a prop are obliged to deal, OOC, with the prop's controller, in a reasonable fashion, keeping the prop controller informed of interactions with the prop and ensuring that the prop controller has agreed with what is being asserted about that prop. The prop controller essentially acts in a GameMaster role for the prop.

That said, consent as applied to props is "weaker" than consent applied to individual characters, particularly for props that are inherently part of the game's setting and have been loaned out from staff control. We have props so that they can be contested. We encourage conflict over props because we feel that this level of indirection tends to make conflict feel less OOCly personal to the players involved, and provides a broader range of consequences than strictly interpersonal conflict can offer.

Mechanically, in deference to consent desires, we consider roughly 80% of a prop's assets in the Resource syste to be "safe". The remaining 20% is fair game for conflict, and may also be at risk from plot events and the like (whether player-proposed or staff-generated); if it makes you feel better about the risk, you can consider this 20% to be "bonus" assets instead. Again, prop owners have the right not to be abused — but absent abuse, their opt-out on such risks is limited to simply deciding to not participate, possibly taking the temporary loss of the 20%.

More broadly, we expect that prop controllers will consent to all reasonable IC actions taken against a prop, subject to player reasonability, the boundaries of good taste, and general good sportsmanship.

If you feel that a prop controller is being unfair about putting a prop on the table for conflict and agreeing to reasonable play involving it, or you're a prop controller and you feel that another player is being unreasonable in his requests regarding a prop, please discuss it with the staff.

Consent in the Context of Tokens

For the purposes of consent, tokens are no different than any other claim made by a player. A token simply proves that a player made a claim at a particular time (and may have gotten support for that claim from other players). This doesn't mean that anyone confronted with that token has to accept it, either in part or in whole.

A token should be treated no differently than a statement made in, for example, page or +mail, for negotiation and consent purposes. If this claim would be considered abusive, obnoxious, nonsensical, or otherwise unacceptable in +mail, you should also consider the token to be abusive, obnoxious, nonsensical, or otherwise unacceptable.

Tokens can no more contradict play than +mail can. OOC disagreements over what happened when should be settled via negotiation. As with all communication mishaps that result in consistency issues, an effort should always be made to avoid a retcon of play; trying to minimize the number of tokens contradicted should be a secondary goal.

Consent in the Context of the RPG System

More broadly, there is nothing in RPG system that ever, at any time, takes away a player's right of consent and negotiation.

The conflict systems entitle winners to demand a certain number of consequences or to name a certain number of facts, but they do not entitle winners to any specific consequences or facts. What the consequences and facts turn out to be is subject to agreement between all of the parties involved. It is everyone's responsibility to exhibit good sportsmanship and to work together to come up with things that are both playable and fun. Our Consequences philosophy is heavily rooted in the idea that consequences ought to create play. Story should come out of conflict, and mutual enjoyment, not winning, is very much at the core of our vision for the game.

Gifts are generally written with consent explicit, but even when the particular consent points are not explicit, consent is still implicit. You are never, ever forced to do anything against your OOC will. Again, however, it is everyone's responsibility to be reasonable. It is also everyone's responsibility to be sensitive to other people's play desires, as well as to cooperate OOCly in generating better play and accepting the consequences of their IC actions.

Consent Examples

Here are a number of examples of consent negotiations.

Negotiating a Consequence

Sergeant Tubbins of the City Watch is apprehending Chumpley, a criminal. Tubbins and Chumpley use +compare, and Tubbins wins, getting one consequence.

Because they are not storybuilding, Tubbins can't lock up Chumpley for an extended period of time. But he'd like to try, so he makes an OOC offer — he'll lock Chumpley up overnight, during which he can get visitors, and after that time can either escape or be released.

Even though this is reasonable, Chumpley's player doesn't want to agree to it — he's got a scene planned for the evening for which he is central, and although being locked up might make for an interesting twist on the story, he'd rather go forward as planned. He explains this to Tubbins, and suggests that they set up a situation in the future where Tubbins can capture him then, or that he simply takes a wound while escaping now.

Tubbins decides that a future capture is fine with him, and they agree on that.

Indirect Engagement and Avoidance

Commander Connor of the City Watch has put out warrants for the arrest of members of a notorious gang, the Blue Jackets. Chumpley is a member of the Blue Jackets. But Connor and Chumpley's players have just never managed to get along; every time Connor has gotten into a conflict with Chumpley, he has been frustrated, and he has decided that he really doesn't want to play with Chumpley.

Problematically, though, Connor has engaged — by interfering with the Blue Jackets, he has also interfered with Chumpley. If he ends up running into Chumpley, it'll be his responsible to cope — he can't arrest Chumpley, for instance, since it would obviously be unfair to impose consequences that Chumpley didn't have any ability to respond to.

Circumstantial Victimization and Avoidance

Caine is not responsible for the round-up of the Blue Jackets, but through some IC circumstances, it becomes a widespread belief that he was the one who provoked Connor into taking action.

The Blue Jackets have decided that Caine will pay for this. Caine is effectively an innocent bystander, but he's been caught up in the action anyway.

Caine has not yet engaged, so he can inform the Blue Jackets that he refuses to play the conflict, but it will become his responsibility to avoid the Blue Jackets and their turf while the matter blows over.

If Caine engages — for instance, by getting into a fight with a Blue Jacket — then withdrawing becomes more complex. That would likely require Caine to take a consequence that reasonably settles the matter, so he can withdraw from play with the Blue Jackets.

White Wolf © White Wolf
Original Work is licensed under a CC Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 US License.