How much control do you really have over your character? That is the question at the heart of the matter we'll be discussing in this week's edition of The Darker Side of Life. Consent, notification, and anarchy. Three scary sounding words we'll break down and give meaning to through hands on examples. What is the best way to roleplay? If you're looking for that answer, then these aren't the droids you're looking for. 

So what does it all mean? When you're roleplaying, no one can force you to do anything with your character, right? Or do you give up a bit of that control when you step out into a wider world with other players? To be sure, there is no way we can all agree one way or the other, but that's why we have many servers, for different types of people, more then just PvE and PvP, though there is some parallel thinking going on. 

Are any of you even reading this? You're playing The Old Republic aren't you? Aren't you? Google can tell me if you are. For those of you too busy grinding to read the full thing I'll cut to the chase. Compromise is essential if we're going to coexist. Ultimately, surrounding yourself with only a small group of like-minded souls will eventually fall apart. There is no right way to work together – but more wrong ways then we can count – and many of them boil down to stop being such a jerk.

In some communities, leaving your high ground to fight Samuel L. Jackson
can be considered accepting permadeath consequences.

Atreiyu: If someone is going to Mug my character, steal something unnoticed, eavesdropping on important conversations, or unexpected assassination attempt. I think it's just OOC common courtesy to ask another player if you can do something that may harm or negatively affect their character before you just... Go ahead and do it. Roleplay is all about give and take, and it's best for these sorts of scenarios to work something out OOCly prior to something following through. You never know if the other character has incredible sense skills and can catch you red handed before you even get your hand in their pocket.

OddjobXL: I don't think I ever actually ask for prior notification. I suppose if someone was planning a massive attack or wanted to try an intrigue espionage storyline around my character I'd like to know so I'm not suddenly inconvenienced when I'm trying to RP something else. But...if these things just cropped up and managed to work out I'd roll with them too. Odds are, though, when these things just "crop up" they're likely not going to work out well because the other players are going about it for the wrong reasons.

Now, for those of you actually reading this article, I'd like to apologize. You're probably still waiting to get intp early access. I'm playing TOR right now. It's fantastic. However, instead of continuing to taunt you I'm going to move onto the first topic – notification. What is it? Notification is the player OOCly requesting that before a certain action can be taken against their character that the other player give them some sort of advance notice through OOC means. Is it metagaming? Just a little. 

Why do it though? Because our characters are special to us, and not everyone is IC all the time. How embarassing would it be if your rival shows up on Vaiken Spacedock to challenge you to a final duel to the death, but you're sitting there with an operation group getting ready to go run a raid? Awkward! Does it mean that the player you notify might also call their friends together and ready a trap for you when you give advance notice? Well unfortunately yes, but I have to ask, why are you RPing with someone like that in the first place?

In the real world there is no prior notification, unless you happen to be a Samurai. Barring that rare chance, someone can walk up to you on the street and gun you down without any sort of cosmic force stopping them. That is anarchy. God will not step in directly and stop the bullet. You are not Neo, you are dead. Isn't that what we should be working towards, realism? Well maybe, but I have to ask, how much fun is your real life? How often does it follow a plotline where anyone at all wins?

Hey, I'm the hero, I'm supposed to win! 
Also pictured: Lucas being less creative then most roleplayers

Chikt Tristar: Anything that is detrimental to my character or forces a loss of control of my character for a time is something that requires my consent. Force mind tricks, permanent harm to my character or those close to him, so on and so fourth; the kinds of things that have a very major impact on my character, if even only momentarily. In the case of a mind trick, it can mean being forced to make a decision my character would not otherwise make, and that's something I'm not very comfortable with. I'm actually more comfortable with him being permanently physically damaged or harmed, because those are the kinds of things I maintain some control over. I want to be the one dictating the degree to which my character is harmed.

Xet: Now this one's a bit tricky. I usually tend to go with the flow but there is of course the exception when someone wants to do something permanent to my charachter, such as permanent wounds, especially ones that alter my charachter in any way, kidnapping and such. But then again, I wouldn't feel comfortable if just some random encounter would lead up to something like this and I would actually prefer some prior planning, just so that all the participants are on the same page and can develop the story appropriately. But in the end, the fun in roleplaying for me is derived from the unpredictability of any given situation and these exceptions, I believe, should be common sense to any serious roleplayer.

Anarchy might sound like fun. If another character pisses yours off, you can walk over and gun them down in their seat. That character is now dead and the player has to remake them. It sounds great until you realize it can happen to you too. If you're reading this, chances are you've spent at least an hour or two even before playing the game about how to put your character together. Are you willing to throw that all away over a random barfight? What about Guild Leaders? Will guilds fall apart when their leaders are randomly killed?

It's because we get so attached and have responsibilities that players came up with consent. Consent is requiring that another player OOCly obtain your permission before taking an action against your character. In many MMO RP communities, this is the de-facto stance for killing a character. It's also where people get the most upset. If the big baddie has wronged your character and killed your family, but refuses OOCly to accept any losses, then how do you get vengeance? You don't and a good opportunity for a story dies. 

So, given all that, which is better? Server communities on MMOs from World of Warcraft to Star Wars Galaxies have held this debate for years, with some ending up on the extremes and the rest in the middle. With no notification or consent, all structure and order quickly break down. Our base instincts take over and we destroy carelessly. However, by forcing too much consent for everything you can ruin immersion, stifle creativity, and strangle off RP. Neither extreme has a happy ending. 

This is what most villains go through if they don't set some boundaries
Riandora: There was a time when a character was written off. I believe the situation was basically an ambush with some trash from the character found there at the site of battle, presumed death. The character was out of the picture, so the player was able to move on to play something else. I believe it was to take a break from the game at that point. Meanwhile, a group that were friends with the character got involved and went to the ambush site where they apparently recognised the body among the dead and treated it accordingly. They did not inform the player that they had decided that she actually was genuinely dead and had found her body. Returning to the game, it took a hell of a lot of work to fix the situation and the amount of retcon that followed was pretty staggering. There also were some trust issues that followed after that. This is exactly why you NEVER EVER assume anything about someone else's character without asking.

Sareth: Oof, where do I start. I've seen major arguments spring up between players because things didn't go as they envisioned; I've seen people pull out of the storyline altogether and thus wrecking a carefully planned arc because they became uncomfortable with the way the story was going, and so on so forth. This happened pretty recently on my WoW server and has just had horrible fall out to this very day, to the point where I can honestly say that trying to deal with the resulting schism between RP groups made me finally quit WoW.

One thing we can all agree on is how much we hate disruptions in our RP. It would be incorrect to assume the notification/consent people do. In fact, notification should really be called prior notification because the intent is for it to happen beforehand. We've all been in that situation where a good RP session breaks down into OOC drama or politics. Can any of us really say they enjoyed that? Yes? Well, you're either lying or a terrible human being that thrives on the suffering of others. RP communities do seem like they have plenty of the latter though...

These sorts of disagreements happen not because an RP community is made up of spiteful children though, but because of the differences in how we see control of our own characters. Sure, some of it is just immature children who think they can kill any character they see with their unstoppable force powers, but mature experienced RPers have this problem often as well. It comes from the question of control. When you put your character out into the big world with everyone else you automatically lose some control over it. 

Some people are happy to let go into anarchy, other prefer to use consent to try and maintain as much control as they can. Almost everyone lands somewhere in the middle, and that's where the conflicts happen. For us to work together to build RP communities on our new servers, the only option is compromise. There may be a lot of interruptions at first, but if we can get through them politely, we'll be better off for it. 

On the other hand, when you've done so much the whole galaxy wants to see you burn,
sometimes it is best to give the story an ending, or at least a new chapter with cooler armor.

Batty: I usually tell them to feel free to talk with me ooc if they want to get me involved in something they're not sure if I'd like to or not because it'll tie our two characters together. Though it sounds anti-social I assure you I'm more than willing to discuss most things before forcing the big character changes on me out of the blue. I do get the feeling I could've answered those four a little more clearly but I think most people can get where I'm coming from here. For the most part most random roleplay interactions are what drive a community and our interactions with each other. But usually it's the direct stuff of involving other people's characters without permission is where I'd say it's ooc before ic plays out. At least it is for this gamer anyway.

Maincora: I believe, simply, I would have to call a Time Out and explain my stance on the matter. That it makes me more comfortable to be checked in with for the duration of the RP, to be notified, for consent to be requested. That being said, I do believe in a give and take in RP, but there are some things to which I will not capitulate. Harm and foul upon my character, and the like is a no go; assassination attempts included. I have already pre-prescribed my main character's reactions to a Mind Trick attempt, so if that was attempted without my consent I would react accordingly. But I would explain my reasons for wishing consent and requesting it in the first place. What it comes down to is a measure of respect. Should you respect your fellow role player in scene and respect the scene or the role play itself, you will act in accordance with the wishes of people present. Being polite and respecting characters and players aids role play, it doesn't hinder it.

When you find yourself in a drama bomb situation of an RP interruption due to this clash, the most important thing to remember is Douglas Adams' famous words in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, "Don't Panic!" Your adrenaline is pumping, and your tempter is rising – take a deep breath. Use the momentary pause in the RP to catch your breath and calm down before you start screaming at the other person. Remember that on the other side is another player who is probably thinking the exact same thing you are. You two are Kennedy and Khrushchev on the eve of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Don't start World War III. 

The best way to handle it is to work out a temporary solution, like one party escaping with some wounds instead of losing an arm then setting up a time to sit down and talk later once you've cooled off. The best way to do that is on voice chat, since it reminds you constantly the other person is a human being. Sit down and settle your differences like rational adults, or if you really need a mediator you can call in me or one of the Guides and we'll try to assist. It's not worth making an enemy you'll passive-aggressively snipe at on the forums for years to come. 

Well that's all for today folks. Leave your comments and get back to playing TOR. The Darker Side of Life thread will also have the questions for next week's topic up if you want to head over there and leave your responses. Otherwise, it's going to be a cold and lonely Christmas with no comments to write about! Be sure to check out my wall and @SebayaKeto on Twitter for all the latest updates and topic votes. See you all on Lord Adraas!
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