Dragon's Mark Guidelines
What is Free Form Role-Playing?
First, let's make a distinction between gaming and online role-playing, also often called Free Form Role-Playing (FFRP) or just Free Form.
The word "gaming" gives a certain impression. There are typically lots of rules, dice, and an overall controlling Storyteller with a game objective. Even the more general term "game" implies the idea that there is some form of structure since all games tend to have rules, measurable objectives, winners and losers.
FFRP, can not be classified as a "game" since there are no clear winners or losers. There is no overall controlling storyteller or dungeon master who provides you with an objective for your character to complete. There are also no official 'rules' although there are a few guidelines to keep in mind in order to keep the overall experience a positive one for everyone involved.
FFRP should be classified as a sort of hybrid mix of "director-less" improvisational acting and collaborative story creation. It is a time of make-believe where the participants get to create their own character for the setting and interact with others within that setting.
What does that mean exactly? To better answer that question, let's look at a few guiding principals.
Cooperative Guidelines, Not Rules.
Character Creation Guidelines: Setting defines the character. What does this mean? Simply put, so long as your character idea fits within the setting guidelines, you can be just about anything you can image. Pharos Station, for example, is a sci-fi setting. You can be a space jockey, a businessman, a space cowboy, an actor, a station rat, a mob boss, a cyber-girl, a bounty hunter, a robot, a mercenary or just about any other sci-fi character you can imagine. Because it's sci-fi, you would naturally avoid creating a dwarven swordfighter, a pixie, a dragon, a vampire, a werewolf, or an elven mage since these character types are more at home in the open-ended fantasy based setting of the Red Dragon Inn. Each Dragon's Mark site will have information and tips to aid in creating characters suitable for those settings. Please be sure to refer to these tips and respect the settings.
Character History: You Decide. Your character's history is up to you. You can make it detailed or leave it vague to be discovered during the course of the play. You can create your own background with worlds, societies, species all of your own making or you can utilize the information offered by the setting. It's your choice. Deciding on one or the other does not make you a better or worse player than your fellow player, it is simply the way you decided to make your character.
Character Growth: You Control The Potential. Your character can grow and change as you think your character should as your character experiences things during the course of play. You decide if watching a certain event or experiencing a certain thing will have a lasting impression on your character or if your character will even remember it the next day.
Character Interaction: Give and Take. There are no written rules that determine action or the resolution of character exchanges. There will be no dice or storyteller to determine the outcome of a situation. There is only player cooperation. If there is a 'rule' in FFRP, it should be Cooperation Between Players.
Yes, you decide if your character takes damage or not in a fight. Only YOU decide if your character dies. But remember, the other player you are interacting with has the same right for HIS character. YOU do not get to decide what happens to any character other than your own.
This is why mutual cooperation is so very important in Free Form Role-Playing.
Mutual Cooperation: Perfect is Boring. How would you like it if you knew that no matter what happened, your character would never achieve his or her goal? It's doubtful you would expend the creative energy to create the character. This is why it is important to have a character with flaws. This is why, when two (or more) characters get into a fight, that all characters play fair and take damage when appropriate. Nobody likes to have their precious character be the whipping toy of the 'Perfect Hero' or 'Almighty Enemy.' How boring would it be if two characters fought and nobody took any sort of damage? Would the fight ever end or would it dissolve into swings, misses and a boring exchange of line after line of how wonderful each character was? YAWN! Drama is when there is a possibility that a character will suffer… maybe even die.
The Story-Line: It is what YOU make it. Since this is a largely unstructured story-telling exercise, the only objectives to be met are those you decide your character needs to accomplish. The setting itself and the staff of the area do not control the role-play for you. They do not tell you what your character needs to do and they do not control when your story ends. It is your story. You decide.
The Chat Room Staff: Not your Storyteller. The staff members are in the chat rooms only to ensure that the occasional irreverent individual does not disrupt your play time. The staff is not your Storyteller. FFRP is dependent on the creative and collaborative give and take of the players themselves. This interaction and willingness to compromise and work together during play allows a wide range of adventure possibilities to take place. It is not the job of the chat room staff to create your adventure for you. Like creating your character, you have control over the adventures you decide to create and participate in with your character.
There are times when multiple players want some sort of plot or goal to achieve together. Sometimes it is fun to look to another player or group to "loosely" provide plot structure and story-line. Even if the story is yours, sometimes someone else can offer something interesting that can make the story better. Group story lines work best when there's give and take, with no one player working to outshine the rest.
There are no limits but your imagination.
You have the vision about who and what your character is within the setting. You created your character to play in the setting; you gave your character interesting benefits and flaws. Only YOU know your character completely. Since this character is your creation, only you know how that character reacts. Nobody has the right to force you to make your character do something you don't think your character would do. It's your character.
There are no losers.
As long as you are expressing your creativity through interactive, cooperative role-play and you are enjoying yourself through this challenging exercise of your imagination then you are a winner.
Though characters can die or get hurt (physically or emotionally) there are no losers. You win simply be experiencing the power of your imagination and the creativity of those you play with.
As you can see, FFRP can encompass a great many things and can be interpreted in many different ways. It is the flexibility of Free Form that is its greatest strength.
This strength can also be a problem if players do not cooperate with or respect their fellow players. Free Form Role-play requires a high level of emotional maturity on the part of the players. Not only does it assume that the players will 'play fair', it also assumes that the player can and will differentiate between "In Character" (IC) and "Out Of Character" (OOC.) What happens to your character is not happening to you. If another character insults your character, it is important to remember that the other player is not insulting YOU as a person.
FFRP requires that players "give and take" to make the interaction exciting and enjoyable for all involved. This means that sometimes your character will be the hero and have the spotlight and then sometimes you'll play a support role and let someone else be in the spotlight.
FFRP is a open environment in which everyone is welcome. There are no limits on who can participate and who is welcome to play so long as everyone cooperates and respects each other and the setting.
There will be times when your creative vision is at odds with another player's vision. There will be times when the give and take doesn't seem to develop between you and another player. At these times it is more than acceptable to bow out of play with that other player. You can't get along with or please everybody. There is no reason for angry words or hurt feelings. Simply find someone else who you can interact with and enjoy creative interaction.
Remember, you are in control of your on-line time, your character, your creative expression, and how much fun you have with cooperative FFRP.
Create... Cooperate... Enjoy!
Questions or comments about these guidelines, or suspected violations can be sent using our Contact Us page.
Dragon's Mark Guideline Index
Last updated: March 20, 2008