Advance Tips

Advance Tips

Sample Session Outline

The following is a sample outline to help newer A/SHs plan for a typical session in Vaxia's somewhat unique format.

While each session is unique, a typical 5-hour session often falls into a familiar pattern most of the time:

  1. The hook
  2. Characters to the action
  3. First encounter
  4. Boss encounter
  5. Wrap-up

The Hook
The hook is the thing that gets PCs interested in joining into whatever is going on. It's the smell of smoke that draws them to a burning building, the sound of a scream in a graveyard at night, the all-call on the station for a planetside mission or the realization that their coinpurses have been snatched.

Typically, the hook is the second narrative in a session. Many A/SHs lead with a scene-setting narrative to let PCs post and describe where they are and what they're doing before things get moving. It also works as a form of attendance so that the A/SH knows not only which players are coming, but with which characters, to help them plan on the fly for things like encounters and challenges later in the session.

Shorter sessions can quickly save an hour by skipping right to the action with the opening narrative and letting the PCs get straight to the action with their first post.

Characters to the Action
Once the hook is set, the next hour is focused on getting characters to the site where the action takes place and giving them a more complete run-down on the situation that they're helping resolve.

It's the difference between simply smelling smoke and seeing the building in flames, hearing that there are people inside and seeing that the flames are starting to catch a neighboring building. It lays out the challenges for the characters so that they can go where their skills are best fit and start to have an impact on the landscape.

Sometimes, the action comes to the characters (an out-of-control carriage racing down the Royal Road, for instance), but the function is the same: when the danger gets close enough, characters get the rough size and shape of it so that they can start to react to it in more concrete terms than the generic 'hook' that gave them a preview of it earlier.

First Encounter
1-2 hours into the session is a good time for the first encounter. This can be combat, traps, tense negotiations, a chase - some form of action and dice-rolling that most or all of the PCs can engage in. It's been largely talking, text and AWA rolls up till now in most sessions - to stretch that out much longer will start to lose some players by this point, so include some form of action that gives folks a chance to succeed at something measurable and exciting.

Boss Encounter
In a 4-5 hour session, there isn't really much time for a break between the first encounter and the 'final' or 'boss' encounter. Often, they'll be the same thing, with the 'boss' simply joining the combat already in progress, or the biggest challenge appearing before the smaller ones have been completely dealt with.

Longer sessions can include planning, investigation or questioning between the first and final encounters, but in a 4-5 hour session, espect to have to move immediately from one to the other. Don't rely on having time to slowly re-hook or guide PCs from the first encounter to the final one - it may put you well over your expected time for the session.

Wrap-up
It's very valuable to provide 30 minutes to an hour for wrap-up after the last of the action is resolved. Since there isn't much time between the encounters to explain why what's happening is happening (how the fire started, what spooked the horses in the runaway carriage, or why these bandits were holding someone hostage), now is the time to do exactly that.

Beating the big bad isn't nearly as satisfying until you know who they were and why they were doing what they were doing. Try not to skip or truncate this step if you can - which means plan for it in advance when you decide how long your session is going to take.

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The vague outline above will cover a surprisingly high number of session types, but it's definitely not a requirement, just a baseline to help newcomers know what to expect. As you run more sessions, you'll learn what you can expect from your own ruling and posting speed and the sort of plots you like to run, so don't let this limit you if you find your own format differs from this outline.

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Pacing Tips

Pacing may not be the most vital thing to focus on as an SH, but being cognizant of it can save you and your players a good bit of frustration and discomfort when you're Running Sessions

Pacing is all about how quickly the PCs are moving through your plot. A well-paced session, even if it runs for a very long time, doesn't typically feel like a "long" session. Similarly, a 3-hour jaunt where the PCs barely get anything done can feel a lot longer than it is. The difference is how fast it feels like things are moving.

For an example session outline by the hour, see our [[Sample Session Outline]]

Pacing by the Plot
A good way to manage pacing is to plan for it from the get-go. When you plan your session, give yourself an estimate of how long you expect it to take. Then take each section of the plot (the initial hook, the opening combat, the chase, the big reveal, etc) and give it a separate estimate for just that section. If the section estimates add up to the total estimate, you're already en route to a good pacing schedule.

Leave the section-level estimates with your notes, you may need them later. As you run the session, if one section takes longer or shorter than expected, you'll have an early warning sign as to how ahead or behind schedule you are.

If you wind up running super long early on, it can be a sign to drop or trim up some of the later plot elements to make up the lost time. Similarly, if the PCs fly right through the opening bits you expected would take a while, you know you have room to run a more expansive or expressive combat or encounter later in the session without running over the time you expected.

Pacing by the Player
One X factor that you can't usually plan for is the number of players attending, and it can have a big impact on the pacing. A session with 8 players will typically take longer than one with only three. How can you plan for that? One good estimate is to give each of your players roughly 45 minutes of time in the session.

For instance, if you have 6 players, your session will take roughly 4-1/2 hours. If you have three players, the session might wrap up in just over two. A 5-hour session for 3 people will likely feel a little slow, and a 2-hour session with 8 people will undoubtedly feel rushed and frantic. Changing your expectations once you see your number of players can help ensure you're moving at about the right speed.

Pacing by the Round
If you get to where you can anticipate about how many rounds a session will take, there's a much tighter way to estimate your pacing from the get-go. Our sessions almost always average out to roughly 30 minutes a round. A four-hour session window thus allows only 8 rounds to get the PCs to the plot and through the plot, as well as wrapping it up at the end.

Folks coming from a classic tabletop environment typically get much, much more content into a four-hour block, but in text RP like this, expect it to take much longer round by round.

In Medias Res
There's a trick short-story writers use that we can leverage, especially for shorter sessions. "In medias res" is Latin for "in the middle of things," which is how most short stories start to save time. Instead of having your first narrative be the PCs' contact waiting in the bar, looking around for the people agreeing to help, make the first post arriving at the mysterious site outside town where the real action takes place.

Your narrative can make reference to the meeting with their contact "an hour ago, back in town" to give folks a window for how they got from where they were to where they are, but you have likely just saved 1-2 hours of introductory RP by leaping them straight to the start of the action to start their investigations and the like.

"Sandbagging"
If the actual time the session is taking gets far enough out of whack with what you had planned, you may need a way to speed things up, which means dropping elements of the plot that you had planned.

To do so without the worry that you'll drop something vitally important, mark elements of the session in your notes that can be trimmed if you run short on time. They become the "bonus" elements that a fast-moving group can get time to enjoy, while a larger or slower group doesn't have to chew through them to get to the vital bits and the real meat of the session.

If you take time to mark the optional and "fluff" elements in advance, it can save you the worry later that you might be skipping something vitally important to the PCs, which might then cause even further delays and greater frustration.

Pre-writing Narratives
One thing that can save a lot of time round-by-round in a session is cutting down on the time it takes you as the A/SH to post your narratives. Start your ruling and narrative-writing as the group is still posting. If you post in two parts (one half covering the first part of the PC group who posted that round, the other for the remainder), your players will have something to read during the 10+ minutes it'll likely take to rule and write up the results of the latter half of the group, as well as the 'hooks' for what's happening next round.

When you make your first post, to signify that it's only half a narrative, include a "[MORE]" or "[HOLD POSTS]" at the end of the post to let folks know that another narrative is coming before the next round officially starts. With your final narrative of the set, make sure to include a "[GO]" at the bottom of the post so that players know it's time to get posting on their end again.



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Flying Dungeon

The concept of the "flying dungeon" is all about adapting your plot to fit the actions of the characters. One of the issues we addressed is that giving players Freedom to make whatever choices suit their characters can run contrary to Fun if they go so far off script that you don't have anything interesting for them to interact with. Realistic as that is, it's not why we're here.

The "flying dungeon" moves its elements around behind the scenes, so that no matter which way the PCs turn, or which door they go through, they'll stumble across at least some pre-planned element that will be fun to interact with and give them something to do. Since the PCs have no way of knowing what was behind that door before they opened it, all the flying elements of the Flying Dungeon move, invisibly, behind the scenes.

The natural problem with the flying dungeon is that it creates a sense )at least for the SH) that the choices the PCs make don't matter (whichever way they go, they enter the same room), which is why it should only be used as a last resort. Plan as much as you can for the choices you can expect the players to make. Use the flying dungeon model only when they go deeply off the beaten path, to the point where there's no longer anything interesting for them to interact with at all. The dungeon, or at least parts of it, fly to them.

Despite the name, the flying dungeon is more often uses with pieces than places. Flying enemies move to create opposition along whatever path the PCs take. Flying treasure makes sure they get rewarded for their efforts, even if they went left instead of right. And flying clues (maybe the most vital) ensures that they have enough information to keep moving forward in pursuit of the big picture, regardless of which path they took or whether or not they decided to loot the Goblins they just fought.

Again, flying elements should be the exception, not the standard, but it's a good concept to have in mind to ensure the PCs still have fun while simultaneously allowing them to be their unique, quirky selves.



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PC Imprint

While we talk about keeping consistent with the larger (and older) IC world outside of our own designs, it's important to remember that there is a danger in always siding with the way things were when PCs actively work to change them.

Leaving a dent on the IC world, just like leaving a mark in our real lives, is valuable to almost every player. Our worry, oftentimes, is that the dent one player (or group of players) leaves will have ripples that negatively affect others by warping the IC world around them and their characters. And that's a reason to be cautious about how big and how lasting the mark players leave is, but it isn't a reason to deny them the opportunity.

Let's start narrow and work our way out.

Impact in Sessions
It's important to let the PCs in your sessions affect the overall outcome of the events you're presenting. If you ever host a session that is locked or rigid enough that players only have one possible end in sight, then they're no longer participants; they're observers. As an SH, remember that PCs aren't an audience for your designs, no matter how fun they might be to watch. They're active participants in how things shape out, which means you have to let them impact those events as they're forming. Be malleable. If the players don't feel like they've made a difference, they may start to wonder why they took so many hours to come to your session at all.

Impact on the Larger World
It doesn't happen nearly as often, but if the PCs in your session have a chance to impact the larger world, it can create more of a sticky situation for you. World-level impact is not always as big as it sounds, it can be something like blowing up a major bridge in town, which will have lasting impacts on commerce and certainly be noticed even by those not in the session. It can also happen if a PC is given influence over IC political matters, like becoming captain of the city guard, member of a ruling council or, in very extreme cases, king of a small nation. Anything which has lasting ramifications for more than just the PCs in attendance rates among world-level impacting events.

Any SH, even World heads themselves, should be very careful in these situations. If you do allow the impact, be sure to check with World immediately afterwards to make certain that a) they're aware of it, and b) they're okay with it. If you have to null something, doing so immediately after the session is much easier than days or weeks later, when everyone's heard about the bridge that got blown up and RP'd accordingly.

If you personally feel like the impact is too big, it may be wiser to find an IC reason to stall its effects (the bridge is weakened by still standing, or the council the PC serves on gives them little influence as the newcomer). Then check with World on the full impact the PCs would have had, just in case they're okay with the change and can work with you to weave it into the existing IC continuity.

Effort and Impact
One important thing to remember about impact is that, the bigger, wider and more lasting the influence, typically the more effort the player had to put in to accomplish it. For instance, one haywire fireball probably shouldn't take out a bridge that will grossly impact the livelihood of hundreds of people in the city. It can take out an abandoned warehouse nearby and be roughly equivalent to the effort put in.

Similarly, players who go the extra mile and take the time to construct all the IC elements needed to make a change to the world (gathering contacts, building alliances, etc) can be rewarded by leaving a larger impact in accordance with the work they've put in. Luckily, in the time it takes a player to put that much effort in, there's plenty of time to talk with World ahead of time about the change the PC intends to evoke, and ensure that World is okay with the potential change if the PC does successfully pull it off.

Again, the point is that PCs can affect the IC world, whether it be a whole nation or just within your sessions. It's a community-driven and community-built site, which means we are all the architects here. We just need to respect each other as we go about our building.



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Motivating PCs

"Freedom" is the second of the The Three Fs : Three F's because it's often essential to ensuring people have fun. In a session, it shows up frequently in the form of letting the players make decisions that you might not have predicted as an SH, and which might go off the beaten path from what you have planned. While that freedom is great and vitally important to Vaxia, it can also be problematic if the PCs go so far off-script that there's nothing there of interest waiting for them, or the SH is forced to improvise everything and chaotically toss elements in their path, hoping it all still makes sense and all the numbers are sound without any planning at all. That starts to endanger the fun.

The only way to ensure PCs are acting as the players want them to while also letting them enjoy the benefits of the challenges and NPCs you planned is to give them a compelling reason to head in the direction of the plot.

The key to motivation is first understanding that everyone is a bit different, so make sure you include a variety of reasons for the PCs to get involved. The classic spread includes:

  • The chance to save or protect someone (even evil people have people they like)
  • Treasure! (money, items, ancient knowledge, etc)
  • The chance to kill stuff (often more of a motivation for players than characters)
  • Fame and notoriety (even if it's just with the locals)

When you break them all the way down to their core elements, that list easily covers 90% or more of the motivations used in nearly any session. If you get into part of a series of sessions (or "saga"), you can add "answers" to the list, when the PCs who've been in previous sessions in the series start to crave an understanding of the bigger picture. Answers, in this case, are really just another kind of treasure.

Setting the Hook
Motivation is most key at the very start of a session when the action is kicking off. Most of the PCs are in the midst of going about their daily lives, and they'll need a very good reason to break that routine and get involved in potential dangerous situations voluntarily. One solution is to bring the problem to them ("the inn you're in catches fire!"), but many dangerous situations don't fit well within comfortable city walls (hence the big draw of cities in the first place), so be prepared to give them a reason to venture out to wherever the session is actually set to take place.

Often the best solution is a messenger, of sorts. A wounded man staggers into the PCs' path in a panic, wailing about bandits who hit his caravan on the road. Instantly, you have the potential for people to protect someone (if the members of the caravan were taken prisoner), the chance for treasure (the cargo the caravan was carrying), the chance to kill stuff (see: bandits), and fame and notoriety (at least with the caravan). If you want to be fancy about it, give them a chance at fame with the whole caravan company, who may then proactively hire them to protect a future shipment, which becomes its own hook for a future session.

Messengers come in all shapes and sizes, from the frantic survivor, to the rich merchant looking to hire someone to take care of a problem for them, to a man in the street shouting "over here!" at a crowd that just happens to include the PCs. They have the added benefit of serving as an answer bank to let the PCs get clarification on what sort of situation they'll be heading into, which can open up opportunities to sweeten the pot. If a building explodes nearby, the PCs only know that a building went boom. If there's a messenger, they can learn that there were people inside who may still be trapped in the basement, and that the explosion might have been caused by the powerful artifacts the mage who owns the building was experimenting with.

Clarity and Caution
Even after the initial hook is set, PCs can sometimes stall out and lose momentum by becoming confused about the situation around them. If you notice the players becoming overcautious, taking longer to post or taking more post to do what should be simple, quick actions, it's possible they're feeling lost or intimidated by their understanding of the scenario.

If the players don't immediately know what to do next, either because they don't understand the situation or they don't see a clear path to any solution, you may need to take a moment to clarify things to get them moving again, a little like unclogging a drain. Things are rarely as obvious to your players as they are to you, since you have all the answers on how to solve the problems and know how difficult or easy they are to overcome. You will likely find yourself having to be more blunt and direct than you might expect.

It can help to post a quick, one or two sentence summary of the situation at the end of your narrative post with a snapshot of the current options (or at least, the elements in the room that are most relevant), just as a reminder to players of what they can do to keep things moving forward.

Meeting Halfway
Keep in mind that getting the PCs moving toward the plot is only partly on the SH. The player, too, has a responsibility, if they want to be in the session, to try to meet the SH halfway and get their character motivated to follow one of the many hooks the SH should be providing. Between the two of you, you should almost always be able to get the character a reasonable reason to get involved. If not, don't let all the burden rest on yourself. If you're properly respecting the Three F's, you can't force them to get involved, you can only meet them halfway. The rest is up to the player.



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PC Power Balance

One of the perennial problems encountered by SHs is the fact that any given group of characters for a session can easily contain vastly different levels of mights for a given type of action. This is most problematic in combat, where a gross power imbalance doesn't just mean failure, it can mean death.

The solution is to find ways to offer each character challenges which they can reasonably hope to succeed at without making things either too easy or too difficult for the rest of the players present.

Like with handling PC variety, the best solution is typically to make sure you have more than one element for the PCs to interact with. It's hard to make a single bad guy both tough enough to fight off a high-powered character without also making her too difficulty for lower-powered PCs to hit. However, if there are several bad guys, each with different mights, the PCs can each take on a villain closer to their power level and have a realistic chance to succeed and contribute to the overall combat.

Alternatively, creating ways for PCs to contribute in combat without having to go toe-to-toe with an evenly matched opponent can make for a more realistic challenge than a carefully matched set of opponents who just happen to be the right size to take them on.

Remember that players can take extra actions at a penalty to their mights, so a way to level the playing field can just be to give the higher-powered characters more targets to focus on. If they take on two or even three opponents, their mights quickly start to fall in line with the lower-powered characters in the room, they're just taking one two or three bad guys at once. Just be sure you have enough opponents to go around.

If the characters have skills beyond combat, or magic which has other uses than just dealing damage, creating challenges for them to handle separate from the fighting can let them contribute on either end of the scale. A magic ritual that can only be undone by a strong mage or clever thief may give the higher-powered PCs something to focus on while the lower-powered characters keep the crazy cultists off their backs. Likewise, if the lower-powered PCs have hostages to rescue (and locks to pick or cages to break), they have something meaningful to do while the higher-powered PCs fight the massive monster in the room.

In the end, what matters is that everyone who tries to contribute to the situation has a chance to do exactly that. It can be frustrating when you can't do anything to help, or if you feel like you could solve the whole problem with a wave of the hand, making everyone else's participation meaningless. Neither outcome is very fun, and fun is our guiding star here, so make sure everyone can do something to help, and that it actually does measurably help.

For more on the subject, refer to the PC Imprint section on the importance of letting characters leave a dent.



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Handling PC Diversity

One of the best things about the Vaxian system is the near-limitless variety available to our players. Unlike some other systems, characters don't have set kits or classes. Any skill a player can dream up, if it's within the boundaries for broadness and power, it goes.

In addition, most sessions are open-call, meaning you don't often know which characters will be showing up. As a result, SHs have to be on their toes to account for a wide variety of character abilities when it comes to planning and Running Sessions We can't rely on specific characters or skills being available at any given time, so you have to be sure to include a number of different ways to solve the challenges you plan to present to the players.

With all that potential variety, you can't account for every skill out there, but the good news is, you don't have to. Making a conscious effort to include more than one way for PCs to contribute to the session is all you need to do. Players whose characters have very obscure or less combat-applicable skills can meet you halfway if you've at least given them something to go on other than "I hit the ogre with my stick."

There are a handful of skills you should typically keep in mind when planning your session and its challenges:

  • Combat skills (melee, Ranged and combat magics can be planned for roughly the same)
  • Scouting and stealth
  • Social influence (CHA-based skills for persuasion, inspiration or negotiation)

If you cover those three areas in any given session, you'll already have given most characters something to do. On a similar note, many players specifically build characters with at least one of the abilities above, so it's a nice compromise.

Typically the most troubling situation is trying to combine the elements of combat and social influence in the same scene. By the time the swords or guns come out, most people are done talking. That's why it can also help to have a number of different elements within the same scene, so that you're not trying to pack it all into one place.

For instance, if you have a pack of bandits that those with a combat skill are fighting, having a crowd in danger that the charismatic characters can influence (into helping, or staying clear, or a little of both) helps them both contribute in the ways they're most comfortable. Likewise, letting one character scout the palace while the others talk with the baron lets them both be active, even if they're not in the same exact place.

Remembering to provide a variety of ways to contribute is something the players in your sessions will greatly appreciate, especially if they aren't playing combat-focused characters.

Handling Redundant 'Roles'
Making sure there's something for everyone doesn't always mean diversifying your challenges, it can also mean making sure there's a way for more than one person to 'team up' on any given challenge, even if they go about it the same way.

Count on some players doubling up on what they can do. We often expect to have more than one character with a combat ability, be it magic or physical, which means having more bad guys (or making your one bad-guy bigger, if you go that route).

Make sure you do the same for non-combat challenges. Have multiple people from whom charismatic PCs can gain information, and give no one NPC all of it so that they have to divide and conquer. When dealing with hackers, give them a system complex enough to require a multi-pronged approach, or several systems that can all be accessed at once ("you get the doors, I'll get the cameras," etc).

Let PCs know that there's more than one target along the same lines. We list three common skill types above - they're common for a reason, so count on more than one of a given type showing up to your session, and make sure you have enough for at least a couple of them to do.

Abilities to Be Prepared For
In addition, be prepared for some of the rarer abilities which can be problematic in a session environment:

  • Teleportation and portal magic (which can circumvent physical obstacles in a hurry)
  • Mind-reading and divination (which can unmask clues before you're ready)
  • Mind-control (which can derail just about any villain who isn't prepared to resist)

"Being prepared" here doesn't necessarily mean "find ways to negate them," it just means have a backup plan in case a character with the skill shows up, and they make the roll to make it work in a way that could potentially unravel the session you'd originally designed. Have a Plan B, or an additional, optional challenge that you can trigger if the players happen to bypass a major element of the session.

For more ideas on accounting for potentially session-breaking skills, see the Flying Dungeon section under Tips & Tricks.



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Site Continuity

In addition to keeping your own elements realistic, you also need to be conscious of the larger setting you're operating within. If your additions contradict or interfere with either those of other SHs or those established previously by Setting, it can lead to a lot of friction, confusion, and player anger.

Part of being a community-driven site means that there isn't often a single authority on the IC settings. Our Setting Department can settle disputes between players or SHs when they came up, and keeps the wiki up to date so that folks can keep up to date on any changes, but department isn't solely responsible for adding content to the IC settings. That's for SHs and players to do.

Since SHs are often treated as a higher authority on the IC settings, we're responsible for being better versed in whatever area or elements we're dealing with, which often means a little research beforehand.

If you're going to run a session in a given location, take a moment to read its description and wiki page (if it has one) to get a feel for the history and the current status before you apply your own elements to it. It should help set a context and maintain and consistent understanding of the location the characters are playing in.

The same is true for organizations (like the Mage's Guild or the Followers of Light), nations, types of magic, exotic races and creatures, just about anything for which there's a wiki entry under Setting Information. You don't have to be a scholar, but it can be worth it to review the relevant details beforehand so that you're aware of the history and the context that other players may be bringing to the session.

If the wiki is sparse or non-existent on the subject, or if it's too much of a mouthful to easily skim through, don't be afraid to ask! Setting's other duty is answering SH questions about the IC settings, and they may have more up-to-date or relevant details for your particular needs.

Understand, you can change established elements of the IC settings through RP and sessions. Respecting the IC settings just means that you don't run roughshod over the settings the players know (and may love) before adding your own stories and elements to the mix. It also means establishing a realistic path from where things were to where they're going whenever an element of the IC settings does change under your watch.

The established settings works as a starting point and a framework within which, and on top of which, your own stories will take place. That history never goes away, even if the present changes. Respecting that means respecting the players and SHs who came before you and the stories they helped to tell, because others will later be respecting your own stories on the site.

Many of the sessions you run won't require Setting approval: it's only those that have a lasting impact on the larger IC settings that you need to check with them about.

Examples of when to contact Setting:

  • A known organization is changing leadership, disbanding or starting a conflict with another organization
  • A known location is being severely damage or altered
  • A known NPC (like a king) is being killed, stepping down or starting a war
  • Any extra-planar travel (or travelers, including your NPCs) is involved
  • A very powerful artifact is being unearthed, or is in the hands of the NPCs

Remember, contacting Setting is best done before you run the session that's going to be impacting the IC settings in a lasting way. There's an old expression about it being easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. Not so here: it's much easier to check with Setting first and find out of something is approved than to have Setting null it after the fact and make the time you and the other players spent essentially a waste.



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Personal Continuity

One of the most critical things for all SHs to keep in mind is a sense of consistency within their own plots, and with their own NPCs.

While it may sound funny to apply to a fantasy or sci-fi setting, it's important to maintain a sense of realism with the elements you control. What that means is that your NPCs are treated like three-dimensional, real people. They have wants, needs, fears, etc. They have pasts, and lives, often beyond what the players get to see.

Keep those lives in mind when you narrate the actions of your NPCs. Your villains should have a reason for doing what they do. They may also have had to work a little to set up the scenario you introduce the players to, and that prep matters when determining what the villain is capable of, and what impact the players can have on those plans.

Essentially, don't think about the NPCs in your session, think about them outside the session, to make sure there's a logical path from where they were and who they were to where and what they are when the PCs meet them.

Understand, you don't need to write a full biography, just have a quick synopsis in mind for things like motive and rationale to complete the character, and avoid making two-dimensional cardboard cut-outs that only exist for the players to chop down, or rescue.

In some cases, you don't even need to have prepared the full backstory, just be prepared to think of the details when they become relevant. For instance, if the PCs try to reason with the bad guy, rather than attack him, you should be prepared for how she will react. If they decide to not only rescue the wounded soldier, but get to know him and try to help him recover from his experiences, you should be prepared for that. Every NPC has the potential for becoming a lasting facet of the IC world, and for that reason, you should be prepared to predict how they'll behave, even in situations you haven't yet prepared for.

The same goes for your plot elements. If there's a fire in a warehouse, you should know how it started. If a plague reaches the city's water supply, you should know how it can be cured or treated, and how it will spread (touch, fluids, through the air, etc). Treat all the elements you introduce to the world, and to the PCs, like realistic things, even in cases where they might not have a real-world equivalent.

Anything you haven't directly planned for can often be realistically determined by following a logical path from what you already know. A poorly-payed mercenary might choose to run after seeing one of his colleagues cut down quickly by a talented PC's blade, rather than stay and fight a losing battle. By contrast, a freedom fighter might fly into a rage and attack the same PC, even if it seems like a lost cause. Fire magic in a dry, wooden structure might have unintentional consequences, as would ice magic underwater.

In short: be ready to provide realistic reactions of your NPCs and the surroundings to whatever choices the players may make; even the ones you can't predict.

Doing so will satisfy all Three Fs at once: fairness, in that your villains will have to follow the same rules when setting up their dastardly plans against the PCs; freedom, in that it allows the players to make any choice and have the IC world react appropriately; and fun, because a realistic world gives players a sense of understanding and expectation for what can happen based on the choices they make.



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Player vs Player

Player-vs-player combat is allowed in Vaxia and Sirian on the condition that all players have consented to PVP in that scene with those characters. PVP is one of the Character Permissions you can enable for a given character if you wish for them to be eligible for PVP. You cannot update this permission in the middle of a session, however, so please consider in advance if you would like to have it on or off before you join a session.

Ruling PVP
PVP can either be self-ruled (like when characters engage in friendly sparring) or ruled by an A/SH. Self-ruled PVP is limited in that it cannot result in permanent material consequences. You cannot kill or maim a character in self-ruled PVP, nor can you steal from them or otherwise grievously impact their life. For any of those, you need an A/SH to rule the scene.

PVP must be voluntary!
PVP is only possible when all parties involved have their character permissions for PVP enabled. If your flag is enabled, you still cannot engage in PVP with a player character whose flag is disabled. Likewise, even if the player character you target is flagged for PVP, you must also be flagged before you can engage them.

Permissions are locked during a given scene, which means any time an A/SH is present and ruling. You cannot update your flags in the middle of a session, and you cannot change your flag to join a fight already in progress. Therefore it's very important to think through any updates to your character permissions.

PVP Lock-out Period
Any time you engage in PVP that requires a ruling A/SH (anything beyond harmless sparring), your character's PVP permission will be locked in the "on" permission for a 7-day window. This is to allow for allied engagements that may result from the PVP action - for instance, if you kill a particular character, their friends may be interested in engaging you in PVP (if they know and are able to find you, of course).

A/SHs are instructed to closely examine "reprisal" PVP to ensure that out-of-character knowledge isn't being used, and to ensure it isn't part of a larger harassment issue. Once it's been 7 days since your last PVP engagement for that character, their flag becomes unlocked and you can disable it if you wish.

Support Efforts and PvP
You cannot lend aid to anyone actively engaged in PvP conflict without also consenting to engage in PvP for that conflict. This includes buffing, healing, even analyzing their PvP opponent and shouting advice, so be advised: you cannot be a passive partner to PvP, helping a friend without potentially opening yourself up to reprisals from their opponent.

Working at Cross Purposes
It's important to remember that working against another character's efforts where an NPC party is involved is not automatically PvP. For instance, if a PC is chasing an NPC, and you help the NPC to escape, that is not PvP. If they're chasing an NPC and you trip the PC, that IS PvP. Even though might yield the same outcome, one involves attacking the other PC directly, while bolstering the NPC does not.

As another example, if character A is setting fire to a building, and character B uses a water spell to put it out, that is not PvP, and they can continue to battle over the state of the building all night without ever crossing that line. If the fire mage tries to set the water mage on fire, that does cross the line into PvP and would need consent.

Where this gets hazier is when someone parries or blocks the efforts of an attacking character against an NPC. If character A attacks an NPC and character B tries to parry the strike, that is NOT PvP, even though it's combat. Character A wasn't attacking character B when they attacked, and character B is acting defensively. If B strikes back at A, that's PvP, and if A stops trying to go around B to hit the NPC and attacks them directly, that's also PvP. But B can continue trying to block A all night as A staps at the NPC behind them without it becoming PvP.

Non-Combat PvP
"Attacks" against one character by another may not always be so direct or literally as throwing a punch or firing a gun. The principles and guidelines of PvP do extend to more indirect attacks as well.

As a general rule, it's considered PvP when one character targets any of the following of another PC with intent to do harm:

  • Their LIF or other Stats
  • Their free will (mind control, loss of consciousness, coercion/intimidation, etc.)
  • Their owned Items (theft, destruction or modification without permission)
  • Their Companions (drones or animal companions)
  • The well-being of their NPC loved ones (assuming said loved ones aren't Setting NPCs)
  • Their Reputation (through libel, slander, etc.)

There are also some notable exceptions to this expansion of PvP. In these cases, rules are already in place to ensure any exchanges are handled fairly, and either an A/SH or the Setting Department is directly involved, so there's no need for further considerations and oversight.

Business and Location Ownership
Businesses and property with associated RPG Chatroom locations can often be mistaken for Items, but in fact are part of the larger Setting and thus not covered under the same PvP considerations. Just like with NPCs which belong to the larger setting (if your character's cousin somehow becomes mayor of a town, for instance), businesses and property locations are a fixture of the larger IC world and aren't protected by association with a PC. They can be attacked without consent.

That said, such attacks still need to be ruled by A/SHs as normal, and any appropriate Crime and Punishment rules may come into play, since property destruction is typically a crime. But they are not considered PvP in and of themselves.

This also applies if one PC attempts to buy out a business or property owned by another. All those transactions will follow the normal rules for business and property ownership and purchasing.

Rank and Title
Attacking a PC's reputation (more specifically their Reputation Score) via slander or libel is considered PvP, but attempting to claim their rank, title or position in the IC world is not. Essentially, if your character simply works on improving their own standing without directly affecting that of their competitors, that's fine. If they try to damage the reputation or otherwise win a position through underhanded means, that's considered PvP.

The rules for Rank among PCs apply as normal - if one PC genuinely beats another to a given title, rank or position that then removes it from another PC, the PC who lost the title, rank or position is not protected under PvP considerations.



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