Dec 172012

This post is about an argument I’m having with myself. In a previous game, I’ve insisted on there being absolutely no Out-Of-Character (OOC) between any of the players/characters. This worked very well indeed and without it, I don’t think the game could have survived as long as it did. I’m thinking about how best to implement this in other games I’m going to run, or if I should. Or if I even need to. So, expect Pros, Cons, and examples and by the end, me pleading for other input, as I would love to know what other people think about this concept.

What do I mean by this rule? Well, simply put it means that any information possessed by a player in my game, is also known by the character. I find it safe to use this as a blanket statement, even though it’s not true. Does the character know the player’s mobile number? Of course not, I’m only talking about things in relation to the game.

The main reasons for this rule is to protect all the players and characters from people who choose to abuse trusts and play the game in what could be considered a less than fun way for everyone. A scenario that has happened in other live action games that lead to this rule being put in place, runs as follows: player one tells player two about this great idea they have to screw someone over. The conversation takes place away from the table, at a bar in a purely social situation, not even on the same day the game is going to run. Player two thinks it’s a killer idea, and they both have a laugh about it. Player one then uses his plan to dick over player two. When player two tries to prevent this plan from coming to fruition, player one bitches to an ST that player two is acting on out of character information and that they shouldn’t be able to do what they can to keep their character alive.

Now, a good Story-Teller should be able to sort this out, but in the middle of a frenetic game, it can be hard to King Solomon your way out of it in a way that keeps everyone happy. So, we drop one simple rule; if you tell anything to another player about your character, then you have also told their character. Get drunk and let something slip; same deal. It’s your best friend, and you’d happily trust them with your progeny? Same. Deal. With no OOC it means that everyone is on the same page, and there is no way to cheat your way into an advantage.

The game it worked in last time though, was a bit different from most other games I’ve run. I’ve spoken before about the live action Vampire game that me and my mate ran. One of the things that made it so much fun, was the intrigue and power plays between the players characters. Sure, NPCs were constantly trying their hands too, but the real struggle came from ‘blue on blue’ role playing, or PvP if you prefer. For this to work effectively, the players had to be careful about revealing their machinations – going so far as to keep certain things from the story tellers even – or at least revealing them to other characters. Now, outside of a PvP style game – and don’t get me wrong, there was also a ton of cooperation involved – I wonder if this level of secrecy is really justified. Would it matter what people were getting up to, if everyone was working on the same team for the same goals? Would it make the players suspicious if I instituted this rule?

In my experience, even a team of characters who all have the same driving goal, will on occasion butt heads over personal motivations for actions, and if this means a little bit of going behind the players backs then having this rule in place would protect everyone. If it’s in place right from the beginning, then if one player character suddenly gets turned against the rest, it won’t look as obvious as dropping it in after they’ve joined the dark side.

Pretty good reasons to have it in so far then, but not still not enough for me to push forward with it. On now to a very strong reason why it shouldn’t be included: Player Diaries. I love these things, as you will know from some previous posts from me, both about my own write-ups, and those of the players in my current game. All the write-ups I get are written in character and available to be read by all the players. I think this is great fun as it gives all the players a chance to look at their current situation from a few different angles, and they’re also usually just a blast to read. The no OOC rule would do away with these write-ups, or at least make them available only to myself and the player who wrote them, and that takes away a lot of the fun of writing them in the first place.

So, there you have it, some good reasons to do it, some questions as to whether or not it’s necessary in the first place, and some reasons to just not bother. What do you, my loyal and attractive readers think? Please sound off below with any ideas you may have.

  2 Responses to “The ‘No “Out-of-character”‘ Rule.”

  1. [...] The No Out-of-Character Rule by Shorty Monster [...]

  2. In most RPGs, I don’t really have a reason to have a no out of character rule because there simply isn’t any meaningful difference between what the player knows and what the character knows. For instance, in your standard D&D game with a never before seen dungeon, the player knows just as much about the contents of the dungeon as the player does.

    Where it does come up is games that have lots of secrets, which lately for me has been Deadlands. Fortunately, my players who are familiar with some of the setting secrets are more than happy to just assume that their characters have the “status quo knowledge” for an average person in the setting and don’t know about what’s really going on.

    Generally if they want to have the characters know one or more important secrets about the setting, perhaps as part of their character backstory, they take the Veteran o’ the Weird West Edge, which mechanically represents them being more experienced with the secrets of the Deadlands world, albeit with some consequences. I wonder if it would be helpful if more RPGs had something like that: an Edge or Feat that lets the character in on some of the setting knowledge and gives a mechanical bonus, but also gives a consequence as a result.

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