Consent-based games


  • Admin

    I'm waiting for a VM to finish updating so I've been meaning to write this up for a while. Time to get to it. :)

    So I've been chatting (more recently with @Misadventure) about how to set up a consent-based game, and I believe there is potential in at least discussing it here. Parts of that could apply to a fully consentual environment and other elements, such as collaboration between players, could perhaps be useful to people running games without such clauses.

    Before we go further I'd like to ask that this thread remains (roughly :) ) on point - it's not supposed to be a discussion on whether consent based MU* are worth it and/or superior/inferior to other games but how to implement one.

    So here's what I'd like to see in such a game.

    1. I believe mechanics should be present. Frankly, an environment like Shang where you can roll whatever you like might have its advantages (such as a very minimal CG) but ultimately it deprives players of a common framework for abilities, randomizing the chances of success or failure, and having a standardized character progression curve (i.e. "XP", or something like it) which has its own uses. Characters only possess powers and abilities they have purchased.

    2. Consent, in the context that I'd like to see, is defined as such: A character may not be removed from play long-termly or physically altered in a permanent manner without the explicit consent of their player. It's good to leave a loophole there (which perhaps doesn't need to be stated) that staff can override this at their discretion; this could entail cases of harassment or even players writing themselves into a corner ("No, I want to jump into the active volcano. Yes, I know there's a pool of hot lava there, I'm doing it!").

    3. Consent does not shield characters from social or political consequences. I.e. it doesn't matter if you refuse to have the Sheriff title stripped from your PC, no one is asking.

    4. Once consent has been granted for an IC path it cannot be taken back. If Bob accepts vitae from Jane then it happened, with all of its consequences (addiction, etc). This overrides the first condition above - if Bob's player agrees to drink three times his PC will be blood bonded (which is otherwise a long term change).

    5. Handling failure should be a fundamental part of a consensual game in order to promote collaboration between players even if (or especially since) their PCs are safe from permanent harm - the two don't need to be exclusive. There are two cases here:

    • Player versus environment. A player can simply assume an action their PC takes is successful ("Bob climbs the wall"). They may choose to roll the dice with the appropriate mechanical penalties according to the difficulty of the task. If they fail they have to accept any consequences of the action that doesn't violate the first condition above ("Bob fails to climb the wall and the cops catch up to him"). Either way waiving the roll should award them a small amount of XP, with more given for failure than success.

    • Player versus player. This doesn't need to be PvP, it would be any contested action ("Jane uses Awe to intimidate Jill"). If players can agree on the outcome award an intermediate amount of XP to them both (collaboration!). If the players cannot agree on the outcome and the defender wishes to automatically resist against the attacker's wishes then that's what happens, so roll no dice - but this awards no XP. If they cannot agree but agree to use mechanics use the dice to determine the action's outcome, then award a large amount of XP to both characters.

    That's what I got so far. Thoughts, troubleshooting, counter-proposals, devil's advocacy and brainstorming are all welcome. :)



  • Strong guidelines on what generates XP from letting people roll everything out? Some sort of scope of magnitude of consequences? So neither "give me that flyer!" nor repeated intimidates on a subordinate get rewarded?



  • @Arkandel Have you checked out Requiem for Kingsmouth's policies on all this? They allow for several different consent 'playstyles'

    http://kingsmouth.info/wiki/Playstyle_FAQ

    Generally, the Civilian playstyle features high OOC control, but also restricts the character from participating in some kinds of high stakes ICA=ICC scenarios.



  • This is a discussion I would love to see play out, and to hear what players in the community think on the subject.



  • Many components can be fit into the consent structure. It's a matter of do they help create RP, prevent player conflicts, and prevent whatever else peeps don't want to see for the given game.


  • Pitcrew

    I don't think bolting consent onto any fundamentally non-consensual RPG mechanics is ever going to work very well. A better idea IMO is to use mechanics that rely on structured consent, i.e. hippy RPGs. If you can do that then all the bother about ICA/ICC goes away.



  • @Arkandel, be careful, this is so on point with things I want to do with half a dozen projects you may find yourself begged to join staff somewhere, some day!

    I am a huge fan of hybrid environments this way, they're just hard to handle on the fine points. Most of them are addressed here pretty well and I agree 100% with every single one of them. There are a few I'd like to throw in additionally, and expand on some others from what I've observed from consent-based environments and tinkering with hybridization before.

    On 4, I always sum this up as part of a broader concept: you can't no-consent to part of the essential theme or setting or character class. For instance, using WoD examples, you can't play a vampire and opt-out of being harmed by the sun without powers allowing such, or you can't suddenly decide the rules of your covenant (per book or HR) are totally different when it comes to you and that thing you did is consequence-free, etc.

    Absolutely love the PvP example. To me, that is the ideal for RP, and the OOC mini-award for good sportsmanship is excellent. I would actually put this on par with the dice award personally, as while one may have more inherent risk factor to the characters, the other requires more cooperation and maturity on the part of the players to keep things mellow and fun for all -- and both things are equally important, from my perspective, in the smooth operation of a game. Essentially, I don't think valuing risk above cooperative OOC play is necessarily the kind of message you'd want to send if you want to foster the cooperative environment, as it implies one method is 'better' or 'more valued' than the other from the perspective of the game. (That's a tangent of sorts and probably worthy of its own thread some day -- but it's something I've put some thought into lately in designing some XP awards for an atypical game environment, so it felt like something that bears mention, as the kind of awards granted are essentially a reflection of not only what a character is doing or has accomplished, but of what the game community/etc. places value on.)

    One of the big ones for me is the idea of informed consent. This actually got nudged in the Clingy Players thread a bit -- in reference to how people stumble into situations that they don't realize are about to become explosive or more complicated than expected. I could dredge up my old example of Santiago and choking on panther wang when expecting a chat over coffee here, too. (But please don't make me? I can only afford so much therapy.) Informed consent is important -- and it's something people overlook a great deal, and many times it's not at all intentional. There are some "trappy" players like Santiago out there -- but they tend to be the exception rather than the rule.

    The classic example on this one is the victim plot -- Jane thinks it would be fun to play a scene in which she gets mugged, Joe the Mugger is more than happy to oblige, both players have a blast... until Jane's 30 big protective brothers she never mentioned when Jane and Joe were discussing the scene and its potential resolution and consequences decide they all want to kill Joe and every member of his family. This would reasonably have an impact on whether Joe has any interest in taking part in that scene at all -- and it's only fair play he be allowed to consider these factors.

    The other general big one, at least for me, is a pretty core belief that relationship-based RP should remain consent-based as a default. Anything involving TS has an FTB out, but even so, it may leave a player with some deeply ick feelings on the OOC front that are best avoided with a consent firewall. Pregnancy especially is the kind of subject matter that gets vaulted from 'but I wanna and I can force it to happen so it's gonna' strong-arm tactics in my ideal world.



  • @Arkandel said:

    I'm waiting for a VM to finish updating so I've been meaning to write this up for a while. Time to get to it. :)

    So I've been chatting (more recently with @Misadventure) about how to set up a consent-based game, and I believe there is potential in at least discussing it here. Parts of that could apply to a fully consentual environment and other elements, such as collaboration between players, could perhaps be useful to people running games without such clauses.

    I come from a background of primarily consent games, so I'll weigh in here.

    Before we go further I'd like to ask that this thread remains (roughly :) ) on point - it's not supposed to be a discussion on whether consent based MU* are worth it and/or superior/inferior to other games but how to implement one.

    So here's what I'd like to see in such a game.

    1. I believe mechanics should be present. Frankly, an environment like Shang where you can roll whatever you like might have its advantages (such as a very minimal CG) but ultimately it deprives players of a common framework for abilities, randomizing the chances of success or failure, and having a standardized character progression curve (i.e. "XP", or something like it) which has its own uses. Characters only possess powers and abilities they have purchased.

    In my experience, I've found that consent games that are completely freeform end up a little more listless and with more OOC conflicts, unless you have a crew of good players. Most of the consent games I've been on had systems of some sort; mostly coded systems that handled the most contentious aspect of things, combat between PCs, with the system handling everything so that one can't cheat on stuff like +rolls or bonuses and stuff. Most of them didn't have a notable progression (2k5 was one of the few that did an XP system, others just did app-based respecs).

    1. Consent, in the context that I'd like to see, is defined as such: A character may not be removed from play long-termly or physically altered in a permanent manner without the explicit consent of their player. It's good to leave a loophole there (which perhaps doesn't need to be stated) that staff can override this at their discretion; this could entail cases of harassment or even players writing themselves into a corner ("No, I want to jump into the active volcano. Yes, I know there's a pool of hot lava there, I'm doing it!").

    As I stated in another thread, and it really does need to be said in my experience, the ICA=ICC aspect of consent games is important, as well as staff-based overrides if people do stuff that get them into trouble. If I attempt to assassinate the Prince in Court and get caught and fail and get KOed/torpored, I can't expect to not lose my PC. The big exceptions should be, as you note, for harassment and ICA=ICC/corner writing.

    1. Consent does not shield characters from social or political consequences. I.e. it doesn't matter if you refuse to have the Sheriff title stripped from your PC, no one is asking.

    Agree 100%.

    1. Once consent has been granted for an IC path it cannot be taken back. If Bob accepts vitae from Jane then it happened, with all of its consequences (addiction, etc). This overrides the first condition above - if Bob's player agrees to drink three times his PC will be blood bonded (which is otherwise a long term change).

    Again, agree. ICA=ICC, as much as many people here hate that acronym.

    1. Handling failure should be a fundamental part of a consensual game in order to promote collaboration between players even if (or especially since) their PCs are safe from permanent harm - the two don't need to be exclusive. There are two cases here:
    • Player versus environment. A player can simply assume an action their PC takes is successful ("Bob climbs the wall"). They may choose to roll the dice with the appropriate mechanical penalties according to the difficulty of the task. If they fail they have to accept any consequences of the action that doesn't violate the first condition above ("Bob fails to climb the wall and the cops catch up to him"). Either way waiving the roll should award them a small amount of XP, with more given for failure than success.

    As it's just me, I'm not a fan of XP based on the rolls or aspects of rolls, but allowing freeform if people feel fair in doing so is fine, and choice of success or failure.

    • Player versus player. This doesn't need to be PvP, it would be any contested action ("Jane uses Awe to intimidate Jill"). If players can agree on the outcome award an intermediate amount of XP to them both (collaboration!). If the players cannot agree on the outcome and the defender wishes to automatically resist against the attacker's wishes then that's what happens, so roll no dice - but this awards no XP. If they cannot agree but agree to use mechanics use the dice to determine the action's outcome, then award a large amount of XP to both characters.

    Again, if people are good with freeforming it without the systems, more power to them. Again, I'm very much meh on the XP awards for this type of thing. It feels like staff oversight would be needed for EVERY scene that could feasibly be run.

    That's what I got so far. Thoughts, troubleshooting, counter-proposals, devil's advocacy and brainstorming are all welcome. :)

    Overall I think it's pretty good. If you want, I can dig up some of the consent files from some of the games I've been involved in and pastebin them for you to read.


  • Coder

    @Arkandel said:

    1. Consent, in the context that I'd like to see, is defined as such: A character may not be removed from play long-termly or physically altered in a permanent manner without the explicit consent of their player.

    Player versus player. This doesn't need to be PvP, it would be any contested action ("Jane uses Awe to intimidate Jill"). If players can agree on the outcome award an intermediate amount of XP to them both (collaboration!). If the players cannot agree on the outcome and the defender wishes to automatically resist against the attacker's wishes then that's what happens...

    It all sounded good until I read your PvP example. I read your basic consent policy as "don't do anything too stupid, and you're not likely to lose your character." I don't read it as being able to deny simple shit like being intimidated. There's nothing permanently scarring about a social interaction you lost, or the permanent loss of a character in a quick ass-beating that leaves you hospitalized for a couple of days.

    I would not like a consent game that says "you have say over the major stuff," but that basically works out to "you have complete control minus exceptional cases to be decided by staff."


  • Pitcrew

    Eh. This, barring #5, is how GoB goes.

    More or less. A PC will not die, be crippled, or otherwise be permanently removed from play or transformed into something unplayable (in the player's consideration) without the player's consent. Players may not be ridiculous about this.

    Failures and successes, including PvP contested roll type ones, are up to the dice. If players happen to feel like deciding among themselves how something turns out, whatever. It's neither encouraged nor discouraged. But you don't get to say, "I don't want Bill to be able to intimidate me, regardless of his intimidation points!" if Bill wants to do a contested roll.

    However, if Bill hits you really good with an ax and it really ought to kill you or maim you, you get to live and keep your leg, by force of absurd luck. If Bill's player is absolutely determined to kill you and insists that he'd behead you right there, well, he and I would probably have a talk and figure out WTF.

    So far, there have been zero problems with this that were not related to Ravaun/Vuk.



  • @Arkandel
    Honestly, what you have described sounds less like a Consent-based game (which I find boring) and more like an ICA=ICC game, which I approve of.

    All games should be ICA=ICC. Purely consent-based games always end up as very dull, sandboxed affairs.

    Not to mention, the more agency you take away players to affect things ICly, the more they turn to OOC methods. Which is probably why every purely Consent game I've ever seen, was a hotbed of drama.



  • I've never felt like most games that calls themselves "consent" or "non-consent" were hard-and-fast just those things, outside a couple of entirely free-form consent games I've played on. Most consent games I'm familiar with have some concept of Actions/Consequences. Most non-consent games I've played on are OK with players negotiating what happens among themselves and settling things without dice in certain - though not all - situations. I find those terms more useful in sussing out the culture staff is trying to instill more than anything else. They can be applied in variable ways and to variable degrees, and that's as it should be as far as I'm concerned.



  • For the sake of history, I'll explain how CoH's Risk system was intended to work.

    • Risk has discrete levels concerning what can happen to your character without your consent.
    • Actions are symmetric at the risk level of the lowest participant (least risk). We didn't think through how this should work with people joining a contest scene after it had started.
    • Risk 0 meant that no permanent changes could be forced on you and you couldn't force permanent changes on anyone else. Risk 3 was "anything goes".
    • Risk levels shouldn't be changed during contest scenes.
    • ''Forced on you'' is a key clause. When your risk level indicates you're consenting to something, staff may be required to direct the player to accept those consequences.
    • Players control their risk level. Nothing changes a character's risk level, not even staff.

    I saw instances of staff there saying "If you do X it will force your risk level to 3" or "Y is a risk 3 action". This is nonsense since the only people who can actually enforce consequences are staff. When a character abuses a low risk level, the player needs to be dealt with. A player bent on abuse isn't going to be dissuaded by changes to their character.

    As I stated in my CoH Post-Mortem, players mostly managed themselves with respect to risk. The majority of requests I saw during my tenure regarding risk were speculative. Specifically in the vein of "what can I get away with?" and "how can I be made to suffer?"

    I still think the idea has merit but not quite how we initially wrote it.


  • Pitcrew

    @crusader said:

    @Arkandel
    Honestly, what you have described sounds less like a Consent-based game (which I find boring) and more like an ICA=ICC game, which I approve of.

    Indeed. I would not describe GoB as consent-based. When I hear that, I think "diceless" and I don't want a diceless game. Dice are fun. Not knowing what will happen is fun. Having a non-human system of arbitration is fun. Having different skills and different levels in those skills is fun. Having things go unexpectedly well or unexpectedly badly is fun. The sense of tension and risk created by dice is fun.

    The non-fun part is losing a character you don't want to lose, because of a series of bad rolls. So I did away with that.


  • Admin

    @surreality said:

    @Arkandel, be careful, this is so on point with things I want to do with half a dozen projects you may find yourself begged to join staff somewhere, some day!

    Hah! No. My times of insanity and managing egos are behind me; I toil from a mortal coil these days. :)

    @crusader said:

    @Arkandel
    Honestly, what you have described sounds less like a Consent-based game (which I find boring) and more like an ICA=ICC game, which I approve of.

    I think that's by design. See, I don't believe consent-based games are so far from the model of player collaboration we (the hive-mind of MSB) often refer to as the gaming nirvana. In its heart that's what such a system represents, the ability to play and communicate with other players so that everyone walks away from scenes satisfied in some form even if their characters are not.

    My assertion here (in its very rough form) is simply that the system itself could, and should, reinforce that notion - I suspect I'm being influenced, some might say corrupted, by @Coin and @tragedyjones' notions of nWoD's Conditions and Beats, which are meant to reward adversity, although I don't want to limit the discussion to nWoD.

    So, I'd like to not simply expect players to be mature but to offer active incentives for them to occasionally lose, as a game of "bang! I shot you!" "no you didn't!" won't be fun for long. So perhaps if we condition the playerbase to take the occasional hit we could (always theoretically :) ) end up with a culture shaped to accept mishaps to their characters as part of simply playing, and more so in the absence of paranoia of losing a beloved PC whose story isn't yet told.

    @Glitch said:

    It all sounded good until I read your PvP example. I read your basic consent policy as "don't do anything too stupid, and you're not likely to lose your character." I don't read it as being able to deny simple shit like being intimidated. There's nothing permanently scarring about a social interaction you lost, or the permanent loss of a character in a quick ass-beating that leaves you hospitalized for a couple of days

    No, I can see that. It's possible I put the barrier on loss arbitrarily too low there, and that PCs experiencing non-permanent setbacks isn't something they should be coddled about. The proposed plan looks roughly like this: (volunteer to lose from dice) -> (get a bit of XP), (volunteer to lose outright) -> (get more XP), but there's no real reason to shield players from what amounts to minor inconveniences otherwise either.

    What I'm thinking is that ultimately a consent-based game, at least in this context, isn't that far from a... what's the opposite of it? Free-for-all? Bareback? :) It's not that far from it though when done right. What sane game isn't built around the concept of players figuring outcomes out for themselves and, if not, use dice to arbitrate for them?

    Now, ideally what I'm looking for is a way to have the system itself gradually condition its participants into a cultural shift - and cultural shifts, bar nothing at all, is the hardest thing to achieve in MU*. Well, intentional shifts that is, with a somewhat specific goal in mind.

    But I think this debate here is in the right direction even if specifics can and should be tweaked.



  • I think the PvP example can be remedied by something described here -- which was kinda how I'd read it actually at first glance so I'd missed a bit. Mostly, if no decision can be agreed upon, go to the dice. Deciding to not do a thing would come up in discussion as an option in decision-making, I would think, if it was a viable option, rather than the 'well, it just bounces off' option.

    Part of the 'you can't ignore game reality by consent' thing, for me, does include other folks' stats -- so ignoring the guy with Intimidation 5.Menacing Bastard.Scaryface.Growlysnarl.Stinkeye.Prom Date's Dad-Glare would not be entirely kosher without a damn fine reason (like stats that reasonably allow for it).


  • Admin

    @il-volpe said:

    @crusader said:

    @Arkandel
    Honestly, what you have described sounds less like a Consent-based game (which I find boring) and more like an ICA=ICC game, which I approve of.

    Indeed. I would not describe GoB as consent-based. When I hear that, I think "diceless" and I don't want a diceless game. Dice are fun. Not knowing what will happen is fun. Having a non-human system of arbitration is fun. Having different skills and different levels in those skills is fun. Having things go unexpectedly well or unexpectedly badly is fun. The sense of tension and risk created by dice is fun.

    That's what I was thinking, yes, if for different reasons (which is as intended since we it's natural to value other things even in the same systems).

    For instance when I played on Shang there were several things that bugged me and it wasn't the lack of dice per se, it was the lack of a common framework; people had abilities and powers often made up on the spot, there was absolutely no way to compare two characters' skill levels at any task or, for that matter, even the same power - two telepaths would use entirely different approaches to how reading minds work. Furthermore there wasn't even a guideline to progression, which is one of the things I enjoy the most in any RPG, i.e. starting as a lowbie and becoming better at things.

    So see, I don't like dice... per se. I roll them rarely unless I have to, but I do like having mechanics even if only to provide objective frames of reference. How does <X> work? Oh, that's how, okay. I guess I see sandbox (in this context) limiting the gameplay's potential rather than doing something for it, and I say that although I always liked the idea of just rolling whatever you well damn pleased through CG without having to wait for approval or go through bottlenecks and jump through hoops. The latter, to me, is a price worth paying for the former.

    On the other hand...

    The non-fun part is losing a character you don't want to lose, because of a series of bad rolls. So I did away with that.

    Yes. I remember when I first started playing on HM (I hadn't had the character for more than a month, but being completely new I knew no one, and creating the PC took a while then I had invested a lot of time in meeting the few folks I did end up knowing, getting a ghoul, etc.

    So there was this offer for a PrP thrown by Kohl which I took - my first pWoD PrP ever! So he took us through this 5-minute setup and threw something like five NPCs with fire-axes at the party, which was consisted of three PCs two of whom were extremely non-combaty. I didn't want to lose the character - it would have been for nothing.

    So to me, the meaning of consent is to ensure emphasis is placed on simple sanity checks like that. Actions can - and should - have consequences but players should have a definite say in defining how far things go.

    It's not meant to be a dramatic departure from traditional games since even then communication is supposed to be key and wasting the other guy's PC for little reason (be it as a Storyteller or otherwise) should be avoided - we're supposed to offer the courtesy of discussing it first, and perhaps making sure alternatives are on the table if they exist.

    Well, that's what this is about the way I see it - systematizing the offer.


  • Pitcrew

    One of the things I really like about nWoD Second Edition's Combat and Social Maneuvering systems is that there are contingencies for this sort of thing and experience gain is tied to them.

    If you surrender in combat, you take a Beat, but the opponent is accepting an OOC social contract to stop hurting your character (assuming their Intent was something else; if it was violence for its own sake, surrdender is pointless). With Doors, if you don't want to take the outcome of someone winning the contest against you, you take a Condition; losing affected you in some way, but you don't necessarily have to react the way they want you to; it just has to affect you.

    I guess this is a tangent, but the conversation reminded me of it; it's sort of applying what you're talking about to a non-consent gamestyle.



  • I think it's fine for some people to prefer consent-based games. I just sincerely hope that isn't the future of MU*ing because I have zero interest in it. If I don't have the risk of losing my character I just can't enjoy taking risks. I'm fine with rather than death things ending in maiming or a beating or whatever but I don't feel that should entirely be in the hands of the player.

    Maybe I'm old school but if I was going to resort to mitigating the damages of player on player (or to a lesser degree player versus enemy) conflict I'd just make it a dice roll where you get something like...

    1-2 - Death

    3-4 - Permanent disability (can be mild)

    5-6 - Permanent scarring (no disability)

    7-8 - Near death injuries, standard recovery

    9-10 - Near death injuries, speedy recovery.

    A wound table. Or whatever. You could police the dicks who say 'BUT I WANT TO MAKE SURE HE IS DEAD AND CHOP HIM INTO PIECES' individually.


  • Admin

    @Admiral said:

    I think it's fine for some people to prefer consent-based games. I just sincerely hope that isn't the future of MU*ing because I have zero interest in it. If I don't have the risk of losing my character I just can't enjoy taking risks.

    I don't want to sound like I'm arguing what you like (because that's silly) but what keeps you from playing and simply waiving your consent? Not just for one encounter but permanently by flagging yourself as non-consent-okay (which sounds so much like Shang :) ).