The limits of IC/OOC responsibility


  • Admin

    I've been meaning to ask this for a while, and the latest MU Peeves has reminded me of it.

    In terms of having to remain active or set time aside for people who need to play with you, what do you consider a reasonable amount of 'responsibility' players can be expected to sign up on, and what are the limits? Is it only a matter of initial arrangement, terms and communication or are there more caveats to it?

    I'm referring to things such as:

    • Attaining an IC position of authority or similar rank
    • Accepting a dependent PC attached to yours (ghouls and thralls to Kindred are common examples)
    • Running a non-short term plot (let's limit it to PrPs and not staff-ran things for the purposes of this)
    • Being in an IC relationship

    What I'm mainly looking to see your thoughts should also take the flipside into account - how much freedom should there be for other players to bypass you if your activity and/or time set aside isn't deemed sufficient for them? For instance how easily should you be replaced from an IC position? Should there be a positive or mutually agreed IC justification for it or should you just be fired? If you're not around enough for an IC relationship what's a good guideline for your PC be dumped/divorced off-screen?

    As usual, please keep in mind this is the constructive section. :)


  • Pitcrew

    Regarding 'ranked' positions, I think it depends on the IC nature of the organization and what the PCs' places are within it. Something like the leader of a pack, or other small personal organization almost requires someone who is OOC at least /okay/ with doing some significant personality management. On the other hand, a large IC organization with many, many NPCs is different - the PCs should presumably have enough autonomy and NPC oversight to not need an IC leader who sits down with each one of them and walks them through everything. While I might expect a head of a family to explain their plans over dinner, I would not expect a megacorp CEO to drop by each of their employees' houses to get their personal feedback on where they plan to take the business. Note, this only works if the PC leader isn't trying to micromanage - if you're going to expect PCs to fend for themselves within the org, then give them the freedom to do so, and only step in when they're going against the purpose/goals of the org in a measurable way.

    Taking on a dependent is a similar case, but on a smaller scale, I think it's the OOC responsibility of both players to discuss what this relationship entails in terms of IC commitment. And be honest! Also, my general feeling is that any relationship like this should have an 'escape hatch' right from the start, mutually agreed on, if it doesn't work out, or if one player goes suddenly idle or something, in a way that doesn't ruin either of the characters. The above also applies, ideally, for IC relationships of a lot of different types.

    I don't think any RP position should reach the point of needing to be a second job, full or part time, in order to be seen as 'doing a good job'. I feel like some times people demand too much of others in those positions and forget that the other person is a player, trying to have fun, and not just a dispenser of things your PC needs/wants. If you're wanting/needing something from another PC, take a moment and think about what you are doing to make your needs actively fun for the PC's player.


  • Admin

    @pyrephox said in The limits of IC/OOC responsibility:

    On the other hand, a large IC organization with many, many NPCs is different - the PCs should presumably have enough autonomy and NPC oversight to not need an IC leader who sits down with each one of them and walks them through everything.

    How far would you take the OOC organizational skills needed for a role such as this? What's a good compromise between "this person is a great roleplayer" and "this person might not be able to handle the OOC work needed"?

    In a way it's a similar predicament as picking staff, and for similar reasons; for example you can pick someone who's honest and friendly but do they possess entirely RL skills and experience to be able to delegate responsibilities, juggle personalities without burning out or even hand out demotions/promotions thematically (which isn't the same as fairly, making it even more difficult to do than staff does things)?

    And if someone is failing at that role, yet their character ought to have been able to, what's a good way to handle it? If Jane has everything on her sheet to be an expert organizer and leader but the player is having issues, what's a good chain of custody for the issues created, starting from acknowledging there is a problem (does staff need to keep an eye on everything?

    Or what are some good early signs?) to fixing it (it can be a very awkward conversation to have with someone if you have to explain they don't have what it takes as a person) especially if stripping them of that authority can have a significant impact that's not easily justifiable IC?


  • Pitcrew

    @arkandel - The way we handle it in Arx is Voices/2nds in command, who act with the voice of the faction leader. Spread the love and share the burdens, because it shouldn't and can't always be THAT ONE GUY who stands AT THE NEXUS OF ALL DECISIONS. It's not feasible IRL, and it's certainly not feasible in a game.

    I think the responsibility if you have someone dependent directly upon you for their arc is a scene once a week. I also think you should never be in a position where more than 3-4 people are directly dependent upon you for their entire arc, esp. when they're different arcs. At that point, then more people need to be involved organizationally.



  • @darinelle said in The limits of IC/OOC responsibility:

    @arkandel - The way we handle it in Arx is Voices/2nds in command, who act with the voice of the faction leader. Spread the love and share the burdens, because it shouldn't and can't always be THAT ONE GUY who stands AT THE NEXUS OF ALL DECISIONS. It's not feasible IRL, and it's certainly not feasible in a game.

    This is pretty much the only way, I think, this can be managed -- and agreed that means 'RL or on game'.

    This is also a really handy way of handling NPC-run factions; it means there's a set number of folks who ever have to deal with that NPC directly, or interpret whatever 'demands from on high' are sent in a memo/missive/directive to the remainder of the faction (or to those delegated seconds to implement -- or not! -- as appropriate and/or interesting).


  • TV & Movies

    I think game genre/overall play design/'what is this game about' is also a pretty big factor in terms of how you define IC leadership and OOC responsibility levels. People will complain about all kinds of inactive leaders, but how justified those complaints are depends heavily on what their actual function is supposed to be on the game.

    If the faction/org is part of a major axis in the game's conflict, then high expectations are reasonable: if these people are supposed to be navigating IC conflicts, organizing responses to metaplots, meeting regularly with their rival counterparts, etc... then it's normal to expect them to be involved, active, and available. Absences will cause IC consequences and OOCly disrupt everyone's fun. In this case, it's prudent to have lots of redundancy (proxies, lieutenants, etc) and to have easily-exercised removal/replacement clauses. Relevant examples here are anything from top-level nobles in conflict-heavy L&L, office holders in Praxis-politics focused Vampire, to small org or sub-org leaders (packs, military squadrons, whatever) etc.

    On the other hand, if the organization is a background edifice or wide-scale and passive player grouping, then these expectations are often kind of silly. These are often positions that could easily be NPCs. While some might argue that in that case you shouldn't let people play them it's just as reasonable to ask: well, why not? Even if the player isn't super active, if they're active at all they're taking work off some staffer's shoulders and providing background color that the game wouldn't otherwise have. Examples here are often top-level figures in games not actually about their decisions (ie, a town mayor in an urban supernatural game or even a King on a more fluffy, marriage-simulator L&L who has no real duties, a ship captain on a sci-fi game that's all about smaller away missions, etc), or required 'org leaders' for large/mandatory umbrella orgs that encompass huge numbers of players but aren't really in conflict (one that springs to mind is old-school Pern Weyrleaders).

    I feel that complaints about idle leaders in #2 scenarios often comes from little more than status envy; people are annoyed that this person has a title and isn't 'doing' anything to justify it. But if the status is merely an IC fluff detail and not a structural one, these people should probably just learn to stfu.



  • @bored Also, let's be honest -- not all game developers bother to consider an important question: "Is someone taking on this IC leadership role we've designed for this setting going to have to spend the equivalent of RL full time hours doing the job?"

    If the answer is "yes" -- or even "maybe" or "Mmn, maybe about half that?" so far as I'm concerned -- it's time to look at structuring that group in a different way that allows for a number of people to share those responsibilities and spread them out more.

    This applies to NPCs (almost) as much. (And I only say 'almost' since multiple people can contribute to running an NPC if necessary.)

    I remember hearing about games in ye olden days that used to have requirements like 'you need to be on at least 2 hours every day to handle this job' and similar crackpot bullshit that, hey, maybe it worked when we were all in college or high school, but is beyond laughable to most people these days -- and for good reason. Some were a little more lenient, but still had things like 'at least 12 hours a week available exclusively for faction management' and so on. It's just not practical for people with actual jobs and responsibilities in the real world beyond what the average college students we used to be had at the time.

    So in a way, I think we've not really examined that specific question as much as we should have. We all remember ye olden days of faction heads being around all the time -- because most of us had a lot more free time then -- and many of us still think of that as the standard baseline, on some level, for what a faction head is or does, and if they're not able to do that, they're a do-nothing failure.

    It isn't so much that they've failed -- though some certainly do! -- as that we haven't, collectively, taken as many of the steps as we really need to take to redefine these roles in a much more manageable way for the audience we have. Importantly, this includes 'bringing in new people' and 'fresh blood' as part of that audience, not just 'let's cater to the current crowd and ignore what someone new might bring to the table'. When presented with what looks like an overwhelming or unreasonable amount of work? Yeah, you're not going to be keeping as many of those new people as you might want to, because, 'fuck THAT!' is absolutely a thing -- and it's how most of us would respond to those ye olden days requirements now, were someone to attempt to enforce them today.

    We're not (typically) doing that in policy, but in terms of our hopes and expectations? A number of us still kinda are, and I'm reasonably certain that's where a lot of the stress about 'do nothing faction heads' comes from.


  • Pitcrew

    @pyrephox said in The limits of IC/OOC responsibility:

    I feel like some times people demand too much of others in those positions and forget that the other person is a player, trying to have fun, and not just a dispenser of things your PC needs/wants. If you're wanting/needing something from another PC, take a moment and think about what you are doing to make your needs actively fun for the PC's player.

    10/10


  • Coder

    @arkandel said in The limits of IC/OOC responsibility:

    'responsibility' players can be expected to sign up on, and what are the limits?

    For me, the only people who should have responsibility are the staff. Everyone else is there just to play the game and have fun. Who wants a second job?

    Courtesy is more important in player-player interactions. If someone is your employee/SO/sibling, then it's courteous to give them a scene on a reasonably frequent basis to support that relationship. If someone is participating in your plot, then it's courteous to reply to their questions in a timely fashion and not leave them hanging.

    If you're not going to be courteous to your fellow players, then you can't really get too bent out of shape if they decide to go seek their fun elsewhere. This is something that I feel is better handled by "playground rules" than by any game policy.


  • TV & Movies

    @surreality To a degree, yeah, that's a game structure issue although I think it's pretty rare that it actually legitimately gets that bad, and that when it does it's usually not because the role actually requires that much investment. When it happens, it's usually because of gross inefficiencies, ridiculous staff or unreasonable player demands on the time of others, etc.

    For instance, take doing High General for a Firan war season. I'd say that was a pretty top level example in terms of workload etc: singular decision-maker, scheduling player rosters for missions to submit to famously ridiculous staff, and screwing up anything anywhere would get everyone killed and your name dragged through infamy. But... despite that, I'd say the OOC shit was probably mangable in 1-2 hours a night, and the 'required' RP could probably be boiled down to a couple scenes a week. Plus, a lot of it was the sort of thing that was fun for the sort of person who'd volunteer for it in the first place: strategic min-maxing spreadsheet foo, leading missions, meeting enemy envoys, RPing meetings, authority showdowns with a rival former position holder, etc. Firan-isms aside, I don't think it required an unreasonable investment of time. On the whole, I had fun doing it. War was always the best thing about that game.

    But for the counter example, I got passive aggressively guilt-tripped by staff on Star Crusade playing basically the same character at a lower authority level (tier 1.5 noble where the game had only 4? I think tier 1s and the rest of the playerbase tier 2s or mooks) but not... I don't know, constantly RPing, submitting +request background actions, etc. My lack of constant RP affected basically no one (I had no actual PC vassals and communicated regularly enough with my own liege), but staff used it arbitrarily to take the high ground in arguments about their own poor management of the game's military storyline. Some of those staff arguments could drag for hours. It was tiring and amounted to nothing, fun the least.

    So I think a lot of it really comes down just to shitty people who are either envious of other people having a shiny they don't (even if it's basically an intangible with no mechanical benefits) or staff using 'activity' to bully players and cover up for their own failings or poor organizational skills in terms of the plots they run. If a role 'requires' an RL job's worth of work, it's almost certain that there's some guilt-trip RP, overly long staff arguments, or other massive inefficiencies going on.



  • @bored A lot of that is a design thing, too -- I'm guessing that Firan had a bunch of tools that would allow you to set up the various rosters/etc. and that the others would be notified, and so on. That's not the kind of setup a lot of games have, and it is something that makes a difference. (Namely, the more tools a game provides to make managing the workload easier, the more work someone can reasonably do.)

    Picture the same on your standard WoD game, for instance, where none of those tools are in place. Suddenly, that 1-2 hours daily -- which is still a lot for most people's availability -- explodes, because it involves scheduling meetings, accounting for everybody's timezones, making sure you send @mail to everyone and that everyone reads said @mail, posting to bboards for the group (...which, again, no one reads), and so on. Add in the expectation that many have in a WoD setting that there's going to be some sort of 'depth of interaction' with the person giving the orders, and suddenly what even RL would be a five minute meeting becomes a 4 hour soul-and-time-suck.

    So I'm guessing we're more or less saying the same thing here in most ways -- some games account for this in the way they set themselves up with reasonable expectations, and some really just don't. Essentially, there's a third option: bad structural design, and people are often egregiously blind to it.

    Design involves a whole lot of 'moving parts' -- some are code, some are policy, some are game mechanics, some are world-building. They all have to work together or the whole thing can hit the skids. It's one of the reasons I squint at times about things being converted from tabletop to MUX, since the actual environment is so different; a straight conversion is almost certainly going to fail outright.


  • TV & Movies

    @surreality It didn't really. Players for missions was a mix of OOC @mail and IC in-game messages, and then submitting them on a google doc that had a calendar of the mission dates. But at the same time, that stuff isn't unmanageable for anyone who isn't a total ditz IRL; I asked everyone to submit availability/interest, picked out lists w/ alternates, handed those in.

    That said, you're right about the expectations. The one thing that was unique to Firan is the game's... harsh staff culture eliminated player entitlement. Players understood that going on a plot/mission was a privilege and that these were going to be run promptly whether or not they showed up. So they were motivated to submit quickly and not flake out, which is a 180 from highly sandboxy PRP-heavy games - the WoD scenario you describe.

    Re: the standard WoD game version, this is precisely what I mean about the problems not being so much 'what is required' but more on 'what players demand.' I'm not saying positions don't turn into massive RL jobs, just that it mostly happens due to lack of player etiquette, which you mostly describe ('no one reads', etc). People who can't be bothered to communicate aren't in any position to bitch about an IC leader's availability/activity.

    So I think we mostly agree, yeah. Although I think there's a pretty wide margin that a lot of it can be solved by game staff looking at whether their positions are type 1 or 2 above and setting expectations - both for the leaders and their subordinates - appropriately.


  • Admin

    @faraday said in The limits of IC/OOC responsibility:

    If you're not going to be courteous to your fellow players, then you can't really get too bent out of shape if they decide to go seek their fun elsewhere. This is something that I feel is better handled by "playground rules" than by any game policy.

    Yet given the gap in standards - sometimes involving lines somewhat hypocritically drawn, in that they are different for others than one's own self or friends - what's the best way to handle that even through playground rules once things do go south?

    Sometimes it's personal. I don't log on 'enough' (whatever that means), so is it fair game to get back after a two week unannounced break to find my character divorced? And sometimes it's more systemic; if my supreme political mastermind (look! Leadership 5!) is fumbling because I just can't organize people to save my life, is it okay to demote him?

    What I'm asking is... are all these cases individual, whether explicitly written rules exist for them or not? What are warning bells staff can be on the lookout for, if any, to get in front of some of this? If there is a discussion about how to handle the transition should the 'failing' player be part of them and have a say or would it expose those dependent on him to retaliation and emotional pressure?


  • Coder

    @arkandel said in The limits of IC/OOC responsibility:

    What I'm asking is... are all these cases individual, whether explicitly written rules exist for them or not?

    I think they are, truly. Even something as simple as an login-based idle policy invariably leads to exceptions, let alone something as complicated as "are you active enough".

    You ask - is it fair for someone to file for divorce because you've been gone for two weeks? I ask: Why not? Is there ever a circumstance where someone should be chained to an IC relationship they OOCly don't want to be in any more?

    You ask - is it fair to take away a mastermind position from someone who's not mastermind-y enough? I ask: Why would you? Do you expect everyone to be able to RP their character convincingly? Would you take away a doctor PC if their player couldn't play a doctor to someone's satisfaction? Whose?

    We could go through scenarios all day long, and you'll get a variety of answers and justifications from different people on each one.

    Playground rules say that its up to those involved to sort it out, and to staff to intervene when they can't. In the end, you just make the best call you can and leave it to other players to decide if you're fair or a tyrant. Ultimately people vote with their feet.


  • Pitcrew

    I think each of these scenarios is very different.

    In regards to IC leadership, I think the onus is on staff to put forth some effort and a) think about what is it they want from having ic leadership vs npc and b) using those thoughts to come up with clear guidelines to be published. Ic leadership has a strong ooc component to it usually. This should not be an unspoken expectation but a very open one. What are the staff’s behavior expectations oocly and icly? What are the activity requirements icly and oocly? What recourse does the leader have from staff to get help in dealing with oocly nasty people? (Because there will be some and perhaps many). Are there any restrictions on activity (person may not join every plot scene, can’t run those in which they star, whatever it is...name it.). And lastly there should be a very clear expectation of timing for dismissal and ideally an advanced directive in case of AWOLness.

    I feel staff owes it to the game, the General players and most importantly ic leadership players to not be vague and to exert some leadership of their own before someone is handed a very visible leadership role. This should never happen randomly—no one should ever be pressured into taking on a role with fair or not some degree of ic/ooc crossover responsibility without informed consent.

    I suspect many people will disagree with me, but having served in this capacity time and time again, sometimes very admirably and sometimes shittily, I think if you want to attract and keep quality player leadership you really need to put support structure in place.

    In regards to subordinate/dependent play, I view this much like a D/s relationship (I know boo hissssss). Unhealthy people don’t talk about stuff and it’s often extremely fun in the beginning but quickly turns into a train wreck. It’s my opinion that the dependent pc is as if not /more/ responsible for generating fun for both and for not becoming a stupid liability without consent. Want to play a fuck up ghoul who’s constantly creating problems for your vamp? Please be sure you have the vamp player’s consent for that as play that she wants to engage in regularly. Or if you want to be a fuck up but don’t want to RP consequences or even have them, be sure to disclose that pre-sealing the deal. Because unless both people are ok with this, you’re going to be a very poor fit. Don’t want sexytimes/must have them? Disclose. Need things to be exclusive? Disclose—directly. Many people don’t want to do the ooc discussion. Sometimes that works out great, but most of the time that’s a hot ticket to idling out or unfun drama. Just because the pc is dependent doesn’t give the player an excuse to be. You must be prepared to be able to not rely on a single person for all your mush fun usually unless you want to smother that person off the mush. And again, it’s a great idea to talk IN ADVANCE about ooc exit strategies in case of not clicking or mushing time availablity change or AWOL.


  • Pitcrew

    Ack.

    In the case of not being able to rp your +sheet...this is a fact of life on a mush. This is also why ic position with ooc activity and expectation components must be clearly labeled as such. Yes, it’s uncomfortable to say “I see you’ve applied for x, but you’re not what we’re looking for,” but I think it’s better for the game in the long run if staff is willing to do that AND they have a exit strategy for people who need to be removed. Sometimes people seem great but are very not. Sometimes a noob can grow and thrive in the role. Clear expectations and clear removal won’t make it easier when you have to (because it sucks all round) but it allows you to take a chance on people and salvage things for the rest of the folks if someone who seems great turns out to be an inappropriate one.


  • Coder

    Related but possibly tangential ... Has anybody ever seen IC PC leadership work out well in general? Sure there are those rare non-staff players who can handle both the OOC and IC demands without flaking out or abusing their authority, but does it happen often enough for people to really continue beating their heads against the wall? I gave up long ago. It seems that a lot of these problems go away if you just don't go there.


  • Pitcrew

    @faraday

    Yes, I’ve seen it work out very well but it’s certainly the exception rather than the rule. It also depends on what level of leadership too. In my experience most staff don’t want to do the work to create the environment or upkeep on it, while still wanting to say for some reason they have player leadership. Which is why it often becomes a train wreck, either with shitty leadership or players going full crazy ooc asshole on good leadership players until they leave.


  • Pitcrew

    I've seen it work out really well too, but was structured so that each PC leader was paired with a staff leader too.


  • Pitcrew

    Yeah I think that’s the difference. Staff does need to be pretty involved, so it’s not a timesaver. I do think it can be enriching but without that support it’s just probably more potentially troublesome than it is valuable.


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