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(#85, Version 5.0)
Role-Playing By the Book
Why Role-Play By the Books?
Thinking Like a Gorean
Role-Playing Limitations & Restrictions
Emulating Your Character
Rule of Law
What is role-play (RP)? What elements make up RP? What is Gorean RP? How can we improve Gorean RP? These are some basic questions about RP yet they are important questions, especially as many people’s first experience with RP is their online Gorean RP. Thus, they do not possess the experience and knowledge of the usual RP conventions, the commonalities that exist in this area.
There are many different types of RP but some generalizations can be made. Despite their differences, most RP games have at least three common elements: standardized rules, characters and adventures. The type of Gorean RP that is most common online is a free form style, often deficient in these three elements. Much of this online Gorean RP is improvisational, where nothing is really planned. Online characters often have nebulous identities, undefined personalities and abilities. Free form RP takes little effort, which can be an advantage if you do not wish to invest much time and effort into your RP. But, there is much potential in RP, a myriad of ways to bring added excitement and enjoyment. So, let’s examine the three common elements of RP and understand some of the possibilities.
First, there are standardized rules, which have been the topic of discussion online at various times. Standardized rules make for ease of play, allowing a group of RPers to know what to expect from a game. This helps to minimize arguments over the effectiveness of an action such as a capture. It also allows other players, new players, to more easily join a game as they do not have to learn a whole new set of rules. In addition, it promotes more interaction among various groups as they are using similar standards. Standardized rules can also help handle unusual situations that arise that are often not addressed otherwise.
For most offline RP games, it is not unusual to see game rulebooks containing 100-200 pages of rules. The mechanics of combat often take up the largest part of these rules. Character generation also takes up a substantial part of these rulebooks. Though the rules are fairly comprehensive they can also be fairly easy to understand. Many ten-year olds are capable of understanding such games. Online, we often see people complaining that 3 or 4 pages of rules are too complex. Such a minimal amount of pages should be, as the Goreans say, as easy as a sneeze.
If the message boards are any indication, then it is quite evident that online could benefit greatly from more standardized rules to minimize the many arguments seen over such matters as captures and combat. What rules that are used are often ambiguous and poorly defined. A rule may state that you must indicate “intent” prior to beginning a capture or combat. But what constitutes sufficient intent? Can you just type that you look at someone with intent? Or must you specifically indicate it is an intent to capture or attack? In addition, what few rules that are used online are often rather incomplete. They are not equipped to handle a variety of situations that could be encountered in role-play. For example, most online capture rules do not deal with such matters as the use of tassa powder, the use of poison or the effect of multiple combatants.
There may be some practical obstacles in establishing standardized rules for online RP but those can be overcome. They should not prove insurmountable if people are willing to work toward that objective. People need to understand that such rules are intended to help their RP not hinder it. It is meant to create more plausible and realistic RP. It is meant to minimize conflicts and arguments over whether an action was successful or not. It involves compromise though, a willingness to work towards the betterment of the overall community.
The second main element is the characters. In role-playing, you assume a certain “role” in the game, like an actor in a play. The idea is to get into that role’s mindset, to act as that character would act. The more you develop your character, the easier it can be to understand that role. The most basic information you need for your character is whether he is free or slave. Then if free, you need a city, culture or geographic location and then possibly a Caste as well. If slave, you need to determine an owner and the type of slave you are. Much of this information can be placed into your profile, if available. This will help people interact with you better because they know the type of character they are encountering. To go further, you may want to develop a personality for your character, maybe add some unique traits to him. You can also develop a mini-biography for your character, a personal history of their life before the game started. The idea is to make a character that is three-dimensional, as vivid as any person you know. Your character should be more than a stock Caste member. He should seem alive, real.
While you are RPing, you should try to remain within your role. When you speak during RP, you should limit your words to what your character would say. You should not discuss extraneous real-life matters. Save such discussions for Instant Messages, Private Messages or similar such matters. If you wish to openly discuss real-life matters, take them to non-RP rooms. The key is separating the player from the character, not mixing the two. And your character’s actions should be governed by that character’s personality, not your own. Sometimes a player will not want his character to do some action because the player knows it will lead to negative consequences. But, he should let the character govern what happens. If the character would act, even if the negative consequences will occur, then let the character do so.
The last element is the adventures. This is essentially what the characters do in RP. Sure, characters can sit in a paga tavern chatting, enjoying the kajirae serves. Sure, that can be fun at times. But, RP can be so much more than just that. There is vast potential as to what you can do with your character. You can relive the type of adventures that you found within the novels. You can defeat insidious Kurii plots, battle the evil machinations of a mad Slaver, pursue raiders from Treve through the Voltai, lay siege to an enemy city. The list is endless. And such matters can be so much more exciting than hanging out in a tavern. It helps to alleviate boredom and repetition, to do something different, something exciting.
RPing in those adventures does require some advance preparation. You could try to wing it, to improvise as you go, but unless you are very experienced in RP you might find it very difficult to do. Plus, you will encounter the obstacle of everyone involved in the RP having different ideas of what should happen. It thus often becomes a chaotic mess. To avoid such problems, many RP games use a Game Master (GM) to act as the referee and storyteller for the RP. The GM designs the adventure and then presents it to the players. The GM does have a lot of responsibility and it can be a difficult task. But if done properly, the players will have an exciting adventure that they will talk about for a very long time.
A GM is like an author and the players are like the characters in the story. The GM sets up the setting and plot. The ending remains unresolved though as it is the character’s actions that will determine the outcome. The characters must act in that story, helping to determine how the plot will resolve. The GM will act in the role of other people that the characters may encounter. The GM will also help determine the results of any actions done by the character. The GM helps to guide the adventure without forcing its results. The GM is supposed to be an impartial party, the facilitator for the adventure.
So, what would a typical GM run adventure be like? Let’s consider an example. The GM decides on a basic plot, a search for a hidden treasure cache in the Voltai Mountains. The GM then decides on a way to introduce the characters to the plot. Maybe a character’s uncle dies and in his will gives that character an ancient treasure map. The character may then organize a small group of his friends to hunt for the treasure. As they follow the map, they will encounter certain obstacles that the GM created. The characters may have to deal with a larl, some outlaws or raiders from Treve. The treasure may be deep within a cave and there might be traps in that cave. Eventually, the characters may be able to recover the treasure.
Now, adding these three elements to your Gorean RP will take some work. It will take a group of people willing to work towards a common objective, better RP. It will take the establishment and acceptance of a group of standardized rules. It will take people willing to RP in character, to take on certain roles. And it will take a few people willing to act as Game Masters, to help organize and run adventures for other people. But the ultimate rewards will make all that effort worthwhile.
If you criticize someone for not role-playing by the books, take a moment to ponder your own role-playing. Do you role-play as closely as possible to the books? Or do you bend the rules at times, veering from the books in certain areas? If you do, then why are you criticizing someone who is doing the same as you? Or do you feel that there is a difference between what you both do?
There are various ways to interpret the books. First, there are those who are very strict, accepting only what is clearly written within the books. Unless it is explicit, they will ignore it. Second, on the opposite side of the spectrum are those who are very loose, who accept nearly anything that is not explicitly prohibited from the books. Third, is everyone in the middle who may tend toward one side or the other. There are generally certain issues that they are stricter or looser on than others. Most people fall within this middle category.
Objectively, one should strive for an absolute middle ground between the two extremes. Each issue should be examined as a part of the whole, through the eyes of a Gorean and not a person of Earth. All of the evidence should be carefully assessed. And then an impartial decision can be made. Remember that the Gor novels are not complete guides to role-play so some educated guesses are necessary.
3. Why Role-Play By the Books? [top]
Role-playing by the books is a controversial subject, sure to garner some heated discussions. Your style of role-play (RP) is simply a matter of preference. You can either RP by the books or not. No one can force you to do either. My personal preference is to RP as close as possible to the Gorean books. I generally only RP with others who share that same objective. Yet, why do I want to RP by the books?
First, it shows honor and respect to John Norman, the creator of Gor. I accept the world he created, warts and all, as he wrote it. I am not trying to change his world or add items that do not fit within the themes and milieu of Gor. It is a way of paying homage to an author who has entertained and fascinated me.
Second, it is a creative challenge to follow the parameters of the books in my RP. It would be very easy to change Gor, to add things to it. It is much harder to remain true to all the restrictions and limitations of the world of Gor. It stimulates my imagination to be bound what the books in my RP.
Third, I find the world of Gor diverse enough without the need to add extra items to it. With over 10,000 pages of information in the series, Gor is quite vividly detailed. And there are still so many untapped areas within the books for RP ideas.
Fourth, I want people to clearly understand what I mean when I say I engage in Gorean RP. If they are familiar with the Gor books, then they will know exactly what I do. They can observe my RP and know where it derives from. They won’t be scratching their heads, trying to determine what book something came from, when that item actually never existed in the books. The designation “Gorean” should stand for something.
Just a few brief comments on the matter of In-Character/Out Of Character (IC/OOC.)
Anytime someone brings a matter of real-time (RT) into a role-play (RP) room, they are speaking OOC. If you mention your RT day, you are speaking OOC. If you go to almost any Gor RP room online, you will see most people blending IC and OOC. You will find very few people who remain completely IC in these RP rooms. Even the Message boards are a blend of IC and OOC. Anytime we discuss RP rules, we are talking about OOC issues. If we analyze the validity of capture/kills, we are talking about an OOC issue. Thus, the concept of IC/OOC is not a new one. Only the terminology might be new to some people.
If we want slaves to remain IC in RP rooms, then the free should do the same. The free should set the example for everyone else. In RP rooms, try to restrict OOC comments to Instant Messages, Private Messages or the like. It can be a challenge to remain IC for a lengthy period of time. Save open OOC talk for nonRP rooms.
IC/OOC are old concepts, as old as RP itself. They are certainly not new rules. They are just a way of separating the player from the character. People who have never RPed anything but online Gor may not be familiar with these terms due to their lack of general RP experience. You might want to thus read a few offline RP books to familiarize yourself with the common RP conventions and customs.
5. Ramifications [top]
When a role-play rule is created, it is important to consider all of the potential ramifications of that rule. That is why play-testing of games is often done, to iron our potential rules problems that could result. Some people are particularly adept at using loopholes in the rules to gain an unwarranted advantage. Sometimes the creator of the rule did not consider all of the possible problems that could result from a rule. Let’s consider the example of killing slaves on a No Kill Zone (NKZ) page. Some people want to be able to kill slaves on a NKZ page if they are disrespectful, insolent or acting unslavelike. If that is permitted, what are the potential ramifications? What other factors need to be considered?
First, who defines what is disrespectful, insolent or acting unslavelike? Different people will have different opinions on that matter. Should the person who claims they are offended determine it? Should the slave’s owner determine it? As an example, a free person might command a slave to do something that her owner had commanded her previously not to do. The free person might see this still as disrespectful to him. So, the slave would thus die, even though obeying their owner, because the free person still felt this was disrespectful. If the slave was shown not to be disrespectful, insolent or acting unslavelike, would that invalidate the kill? Who can decide if it should be invalidated for that reason? This aspect contains much potential for abuse as a free person can claim almost anything to be considered disrespect.
Second, by Gorean law, it is illegal to kill or maim the slave of another. The penalty for this violation is compensating the owner for the loss of his slave. But who decides what is proper compensation? The violator? The owner of the slave? The city where the killing occurred? And how will compensation be paid? Money is a waste as online a person can possess any amount of money they wish. They could easily toss 1000 gold tarns at an aggrieved owner. Even though their character may not realistically possess such an amount. For example, if a poor Peasant killed a Passion Slave, who might be worth 20 gold tarns or more, the Peasant would not realistically be able to make such restitution. So, how does one properly assign just compensation? What type of compensation would be equivalent to an online slave? Slaves are property and some can be quite valuable. Such high compensation would definitely act as a deterrent for some.
Third, some owners especially treasured their slaves. The books state that some wars even began over a single slave. Is there any consideration given to this by those who would kill a slave? Are you willing to go to war just to kill a disrespectful slave? Would your city defend you, for killing a slave, if it meant war with another city? Or would they simply turn you over to the aggrieved city? Are you willing to risk an Assassin being sent after you because you killed a slave? These might be extreme situations but they did occur so it was a risk.
Fourth, if a slave has orders to ignore a certain free person, can that free person still kill the slaves? Would ignoring them be considered disrespect? Should we also allow nonGoreans to be allowed to kill slaves?
Fifth, the books mention that “use” discipline is permitted to free people against slaves they do not own, for instance if a slave is disrespectful. The slave is then “used” by the free person as a form of punishment. If we allow kills of such slaves, should we not allow this type of punishment, even on girls who are said to be “restricted?” Killing would be a much more serious penalty so, if permitted, any lesser penalty should be permitted as well. And if a slave is “used” she is not considered to be injured so no compensation would need to be paid.
Sixth, what is the actual effect of being killed? The slave simply creates a new identity, a new slave name and their new character can return to their previous owner. So what is really accomplished? Does the slave really learn any lesson? Does the discipline make her a better slave? For a number of slaves, I do not think it would matter much to them at all.
Killing a slave who is disrespectful, insolent or acting unslavelike was not a common occurrence on Gor. People generally respected the property rights of others. Why should online Gor make such kills commonplace? Why should the people of online Gor ignore the property rights of others? What type of person on Gor routinely ignores the property rights of others?
6. Safe Role-Playing [top]
In offline role-playing, there nearly always exists the chance of death for a character. And that chance is rarely, if ever, questioned. It is part of what makes role-playing exciting, the risk and dangers that your character faces. And there is great satisfaction in beating the odds, avoiding death while accomplishing some great deed. Role-playing where death cannot occur is often dull and unfulfilling. Characters are able to take enormous risks without fear of any ramifications. It becomes less plausible, less realistic. There is little real challenge and it often grows monotonous.
Which is more suspenseful, a story where you know that the characters cannot die or one where a character could die? That risk of death obviously adds suspense to a story. If no one can die, then the ending is fairly certain so there is no need to get nervous during the story. Do we want safe role-play, or do we truly want to role-play on the edge?
7. ESP [top]
While role-playing, some people have difficulty separating player knowledge from character knowledge. Their actions thus seem as if they possess extrasensory perception, the ability to read minds. This most often occurs when a person types the thoughts of their character on the screen. Now, any other players present can read those words, thus seeing into the mind of that character. But, realistically, the characters of those other players cannot read minds. So, their characters should not know what the other character thought. They should act as if they were unaware of the other person’s thoughts. They should not react to what was thought by that character.
As an example, a Warrior and a Free Woman are in a room together. The Warrior offers the Free Woman some ka-la-na and she accepts. The Warrior goes and pours them each a goblet of wine. At that moment, the Warrior types in his thoughts and those thoughts are visible to the person playing the Free Woman. He types the thought that he is glad he placed tassa powder into her goblet beforehand. Tassa powder will render a person unconscious and then they can be captured easily. At this point, the player of the Free Woman should not act on the information from the Warrior’s thoughts. She should not suddenly decline the wine or leave the area. Her character would not realize the danger she was in. Not all players though can differentiate between player and character. Some would have their Free Woman act on the Warrior’s thoughts and suddenly refuse the wine, or “accidentally” spill the cup. Obviously that is done to avoid the negative consequences of inaction. It is not role-playing realistically or fairly.
Typing one’s thoughts is sometimes abused as well, often by people who insult other people in their thoughts. They type many insults, stating that they are thinking them and not saying them. Thus, they avoid responsibility for their insults or disrespect. Some slaves even do that. They then feel safe from retribution knowing that people should not be able to read their minds. There is no need for such behavior. The intention of such people is often clear, not to role-play but simply to harass and insult others.
8. Thinking Like a Gorean [top]
The essence of role-playing is that one assumes a certain role, a character within a fictional setting, much like what an actor does. The key to effectively assuming such a role is getting into the mindset of your character, trying to think as that character would. You must suppress your own thoughts in favor of the thoughts of your character. This can be difficult if your character’s thoughts are quite different from your own, alien to your own way of thinking. It takes a great effort then to remain within character, to think like someone so different. It takes a great effort to make that role seem convincing. It is far easier to impose our own mindset upon the character.
Consider all of the differences between Gor and Earth, often enumerated within the Gorean series. Goreans think very differently from the people on Earth in many respects. In addition, their entire society is geared in different directions than Earth. Consider simply the matter of legal slavery on Gor. There are no abolitionist movements on Gor, no protests over inhumanity of slavery. It exists and it is accepted. Most give it little thought in their daily lives. Gor is also not a democratic world. It is a place of hierarchies, of clear levels of power. The Low Castes do not possess the right to vote and that is simply accepted. The list of similar matters that are simply accepted are near endless.
To role-play a Gorean, one thus needs to think like one, not like a person of Earth. One must immerse one’s self into Gorean society and accept what exists as would any other inhabitant of Gor. If you are pondering an action or a decision, you must view it as a Gorean would. Do not think about what you as the player might do, but think what your character would do. They are separate entities, player vs. character. If you think as the player, then you have ended role-playing. You are acting outside of your character. Let’s consider a couple of examples.
The books state that there is clear difference on Earth between the terms “men” and “males.” On Earth, there are few men but plenty of males. But, Goreans would not understand this difference. To them, the two terms are basically identical. Thus, a Gorean would not derisively refer to a Gorean man as a “male” because it would not be considered an insulting term on Gor. Online, we primarily see Panther Girls using the term “male” in a derisive fashion. Yet that runs counter to the mindset of Gor. It is imposing Earth thoughts upon one’s role-play. It would be like an Earth person going to Gor and calling someone a geek or a nerd. The insults would be meaningless on Gor.
The Gor books discuss loyalty often, such as loyalty to one’s Caste and City. People on Gor rarely change their Caste or City because of such loyalty. But yet online, there are characters that change their Caste and City almost weekly it seems. They maintain the same character but go through a series of significant changes. They do not show that sense of loyalty that a Gorean would. They think more like an Earth person who changes jobs at a moment’s notice, who usually moves 5 or more times in their lifetime.
Not many players take on the roles of Low Castes but when they do, they often fail to consider the Double Knowledge. The Low Castes have been taught the First Knowledge which includes many falsehoods about the world. Yet how many people role-play that aspect of their character? It seems that so many Low Caste characters online seem to know all about Earth, to not believe in magic and even know about the Kurii. These characters know everything that the player does which is not properly taking on the role of that type of character. They should be role-playing the ignorance of their character, not imposing their own knowledge on their character.
Obviously getting into the mindset of a Gorean requires knowledge of what that entails. Thus, it is vitally important that one learns as much about Gor as possible. Reading the Gor novels cannot be recommended strongly enough. They provide a sense of wholeness about the world of Gor, setting forth an intricate and compelling world. You get immersed into the thoughts and deeds of the characters of Gor. A website cannot provide this entirety. At best, they give you isolated snapshots of specific topics. They do not provide that collective vision of what makes Gor.
There will be those who object at this point, who claim that there is no single Gorean way. They will state that there are always exceptions on Gor. They may be able to extract an isolated example from the books to justify their character acting in a certain manner. And to a degree that is true. There are wide variations in how Goreans act. Exceptions do exist. But should everyone be the exception? Must everyone act contrary to the average Gorean? What would online Gor be like if everyone was the exception? Why is your character an exception? What is so good about being the exception?
There should be very clear reasons for any such exceptions. They should remain exceptions and not become the norm. If all of our role-play is with the exceptions of Gor, then is it really Gor any longer? Does not the exception then become the norm, thus changing the norm of Gor? Some people think the exceptions are more interesting. I think it is more of a challenge to make an interesting character who conforms to the Gorean norm. When other people role-play with these exceptions though, they treat them as the norm. They ignore the unusual behavior. Is that proper?
An exceptional character should understand the ramifications of their behavior. The reactions of others should be plausible based on Gor. A man who is derisively called a “male” by Panther Girl would probably scratch his head in puzzlement. He would fail to grasp any insult. The man who changes Caste and City frequently would begin to find Castes and Cities who would refuse to take him in because of his record of meager loyalty. They would not trust him. The Low Caste person who did not believe in the First Knowledge might be seen by his peers to be crazy or delusional.
9. Pure Role-Play [top]
Let us isolate the concept of role-play for a moment, distilling it to its purest form. Role-play then becomes a form of entertainment devoid of personal involvement. It becomes very similar to actors within a play, though a play with a minimal script and much adlibbing. Everyone understands that each role is simply that, a role, an assumed identity for the purposes of furthering the entertainment. Thus, the players can freely assume any type of role. Men can become women, women can become men, humans can become animals, etc. In the higher forms of Gorean theater, similar to ancient Greek theater, men took on the roles of women in such plays. Gorean men assumed the role of women because women were not permitted on the stage.
Much offline role-play (RP) tends more toward this ideal of pure RP. It is viewed more as simple entertainment so that people are permitted to assume any role they desire. Anyone with offline RP experience will know a number of people who have played opposite gender characters, or they may have done so themselves. This is freely accepted offline, as they understand RP is generally a game. In some fantasy RP games, characters may even change their gender during the game, though often through the form of a curse. Thus, a male character may become female for a temporary period of time.
Why then is there so much concern in online Gor about what characters a person is permitted to RP? Why isn’t online Gor closer to pure RP? First, the vast majority of people in online Gor do not possess any experience in RP outside of Gor. Thus, they do not understand many of the customs and conventions within the general RP community. They do not understand the widespread acceptance of these matters. Second, and maybe more importantly, much online Gorean RP touches on personal matters, placing it far from pure RP. This Gorean RP becomes more than just a game. It becomes a matter of relationships, of emotions. People identify more closely with their characters, investing much of themselves in them. Thus, the identity of RP characters becomes much more important to people. Because we are dealing with relationships, people want honesty and trust from those they interact with.
Is this wrong, to make the RP more personal? I do not believe there is a right or wrong in this matter. It is simply a matter of personal preference. And it is definitely here to stay. People are not just going to stay forming relationships online. They are not going to suddenly all move toward a pure RP. The fact of this existence though does place a burden on responsibility on everyone. As there is diversity online, some people who just RP and others who RP with personal interaction, then there is a need to ensure others understand your particular stance. This is only fair to all involved. And this is where most of the potential problems lie.
People who are going to Free Companion, or enter into an owner/slave relationship need to discuss their personal views on RP before getting so involved. Each party needs to understand whether the relationship will be merely RP or more than that. And the burden lies on both parties to present their own views on this matter. Neither should assume the other party knows their views. Waiting to tell someone your views when the relationship has already begun is too late.
Deception is always the main enemy in such circumstances. And because much of online Gor involves personal relationships, the deception is taken more seriously, closer to heart. And matters that might not be considered deception in offline RP, become matters of concern online. But then again, offline RP generally involves face-to-face interaction so one obviously knows when a person is playing someone of a different gender. As long as online Gor remains entwined with personal relationships, then certain principles will need to be in effect to reduce potential problems.
How does all this then affect the concept of secondary characters for RP? It simply means that it is a possibility for online, provided the proper rules are set in place to reduce potential hazards. Such secondary characters are often intended to be closer to the ideal of pure RP. They are characters who are not intended to have personal relationships online. They are there simply to enhance the RP, to add some variety and diversity. They will often be identified in some fashion so that all are aware they are just RP characters. There will often be rules preventing people from RPing members of an opposite gender. So, safeguards exist.
10. Storylines [top]
How many people in online Gor use storylines in their role-play (RP)? How many people understand how to integrate a storyline into their RP? How many people understand the various types of storylines possible? How many people understand how to integrate Free Women and slaves into a storyline? How many people have experience in creating and running storylines? How many people know the definition of a storyline?
A storyline, at its simplest, is a basic plot, the nucleus around which people RP. Storylines can be very simple or highly complex. A simple storyline would be that a new tarnsman must capture his first slave. A more complex storyline might be that same tarnsman must capture a specific Free Woman while avoiding or defeating an Assassin who has been hired to kill him. Storylines can have preset endings or the ending can be totally unknown. In a preset ending, the players know how the story will conclude; such as they know the villain will be vanquished. If the ending is not preset, then maybe the villain will win. Some storylines have many set details, which others are more free form, accepting whatever may occur. A storyline where a tarnsman must capture his first slave is often more free form. He flies around waiting for an opportunity to arise. In a more structured storyline, he may have to go to a specific city, and will face several specific encounters that have been set up in advance. Then, there are what are commonly called “linear” and “nonlinear” storylines. In a linear storyline, the characters proceed along a certain path, a path that leads directly from the start to the finish. There is generally a single route. In a nonlinear storyline, there are several routes to reach the end point. A character has far more options in a nonlinear storyline.
Obviously, if you are new to creating and running storylines, then simplest is best. With experience, you can then move on to more complex matters. But it all begins with an initial idea, a basic plot. You should always start with that. Once you have that initial idea, then the rest is just adding details to it. The more details you add, the more complex the storyline will likely become. You should remember who will be RPing the storyline as well. If they are inexperienced RPers, then a simpler storyline would be better for them. A complex storyline may only frustrate them. You should also decide whether the storyline will need a specific Storyteller, an impartial referee, or whether it can stand on its own.
Let us then create a storyline to use as an example. I begin with an initial idea, a basic plot. I decide on a “hunt for buried treasure.” It is a simple idea but with many possibilities. At this point, I now begin to add on details to the plot, to “flesh” out the storyline. I need to decide whether the treasure exists or not. Maybe the characters are on a wild goose chase and the treasure has already been recovered or never existed in the first place. If the treasure is real, I need to determine what it is. And then I need to decide if I want the players to acquire it or not. Maybe it is a chest of gold tarns, or a secret journal, or a rare piece of art. As you can see, this basic plot can easily expand in so many different directions. I finally decide that the treasure will be real, and it will be a lost oil painting of a famous Gorean artist.
I then need to decide where the treasure will be hidden, and that will also depend on how hard I wish to make it to be found. Do I hide it close to where the players live, or must they travel a great distance to acquire it? Let us say my players live in Delphius, which is on the coast of Thassa. I decide to place the treasure within a cave in the Voltai Mountains, which is a good distance away from Delphius. This means the players will have to travel a good distance for the storyline. Ok, now I must create a “hook”, a way to get the players involved in the hunt. Maybe one player find an ancient map to the treasure, or it is a family secret passed down to one of the players. Or maybe they are hired by someone else to acquire it. So, I will decide to have the players hired by a Scribe who is seeking the lost artwork.
At this point, I must then decide on what the players will encounter on route to the cave. Part of this will depend on how they will travel there. If they all fly by tarn, they will have different encounters than if they traveled by wagon. I decide that the players will be traveling to tarn. So, I decide to have them encounter a group of raiders from Treve on route to the Voltai. They will have to fight these raiders to be able to continue on. Once they reach the mountain, they will need to search for the proper cave. I might then decide to have the players encounter a larl to fight, or an ost to avoid, or both. Once they find the proper cave, maybe there are traps protecting the treasure that the players must avoid or deactivate. Once they acquire the artwork, they can then fly home and the storyline will conclude.
This is a simple, fairly linear storyline. I could easily make it more complex. I could have introduced another group, enemies, who also were seeking the artwork. The players would then have had to fought them. Or maybe someone else got to the artwork first so that the players need to track down who now has the artwork. The potential choices are endless. A good storyline can enhance your RP, make it more exciting. You can share ideas for storylines with other people, or seek their advice on something you would like to do. You can look through the Gor novels for ideas. Other novels and even non-fiction books can provide ideas for storylines. Use your imagination.
11. Time Frames [top]
If you are emulating one of the cities of the Gor books, do you want that emulation to reflect the realities of the books? If so, what time frame you choose for your emulation makes a significant difference, and it is a matter largely ignored online. For example, do you emulate the city of Tharna before or after its revolution as depicted in Outlaw of Gor? That makes a big difference over the status of women in that city. The amount of military forces available to a city will vary as well dependent upon one’s time frame. Directly after the events of Raiders of Gor, the naval forces of Port Kar, Cos and Tyros are significantly diminished. In addition, before the events of Raiders, Port Kar did not have a Home Stone. Directly after the Jason Marshall trilogy, the naval forces of the Vosk are significantly reduced after their battles with the pirates. At the time of Magicians of Gor the military of Ar has been drastically reduced, especially after the loss of about 45,000 men in the Vosk delta.
There will never be a general agreement over what time frame that all of a specific online Gorean community Gor should use. At best, some cities may choose specific time frames for themselves. And if you wish to be more realistic in your role-play, closer to the books, then choosing a particular time frame makes a lot of sense. It can help defuse arguments and give you a better guideline for your role-play.
12. Role-Playing Limitations & Restrictions [top]
In role-play, no character is perfect. Each character has its own weaknesses, flaws, restrictions and limitations. And these can derive from a variety of sources, such as the character’s geographical location, their culture, their profession, their gender, or their physical/mental attributes. In this way, role-play mimics real life. Part of the challenge, and enjoyment, of role-play is dealing with these restrictions and limitations. And it is certainly more difficult to deal with such matters and remain engaged in plausible and realistic role-play.
Some people won’t be concerned about this. They do not want to have any limitations or restrictions. They do not want to have any weaknesses. They want to know everything, to be able to do anything. They wish to be omniscient, omnipotent. And that is their choice. It is certainly easier to view role-play from this perspective. But personally, I see it as much less of a challenge. And I strive for such a challenge in my own role-play, to push the envelope with my character, to work around my restrictions and limitations.
Let us consider some of the restrictions and limitations that exist in Gorean role-play. First, there are the differences between free and slave, with slaves possessing many limitations and restrictions. Second, there are the differences between male and female, which on Gor can be significant. Third, there are the differences between Castes, between High and Low, and between each individual Caste, each possessing their own Caste Code. Fourth, there are the differences between cities, as Port Kar and Ar would be drastically different. Fifth, there are the differences between cities and the barbarian cultures such as Torvaldsland and the Tahari. Sixth, there are the differences between an Earth mindset and a Gorean mindset. And the list could go on and on.
Often the key to dealing with a limitation or restriction is not so much to find a loophole to it, but rather find a creative way to integrate it into your role-play. You thus embrace the limitation or restriction, transforming it into an opportunity for role-play. You turn a negative into a positive. That may be easier with some limitations and restrictions rather than others, but all can be transformed. It just might take a bit more work. So, let us turn to some examples of what I mean.
The Low Castes of Gor possess the First Knowledge, a mass of lies and myths concerning Gor and the universe. This is a limitation as such individuals do not know many truths that the players would. A Low Caste believes in the existence of magic, and thus fears sorcerers and wizards. A Low Caste believes the world is flat. I once role-played a tavern keeper, a Low Caste, and spent several hours involved in a debate over whether Gor was flat or not. My character adamantly stood by his belief the world was flat. And everyone involved had an enjoyable evening. Low Castes also believe in the efficacy of divination. Yet how often do we see fortune telling and omen reading online? Mainly it is seen in the barbarians and not the cities, though it was rampant in the cities as well.
Then we have the Panther Girls who are primarily restricted to the northern forests. To travel outside the forests involves great risk, and would be an uncommon matter. So, how can Panther Girls deal with this restriction? One way is to make the forests more attractive so that people wish to visit them. They could create role-play scenarios involving hunts for various animals. They could make the exchange points more popular spots. Port Kar gets his lumber from the forests so the Panther Girls might be involved somewhere in that matter. They could work with some players to get them to enter the forests for other storylines, like seeking buried treasure, collecting rare herbs, etc. Rather than leave the forest, the Panther Girls could attract people to come to them.
The distance between cities and other geographical locations can be a limitation. As this is online, a person can “jump” to any room they want instantly. Despite the fact that it might have taken hours, days or even weeks to travel that distance on Gor. By using this “teleportation” a person is ignoring the limitation posed by geographical distance. But, one can enhance one’s role-play opportunities by being more realistic, and actually role-playing the travel aspects. Some consider how much time it would take to realistically travel to a location and keep their character “offline” while traveling. Though they might make stops on route to their final destination.
The key is to use your imagination, to try to conceive ways of working with one’s limitations and restrictions rather than just ignoring them. Discuss the matter with other people to obtain their ideas on the matter. Share any ideas you discover with others. If you learn to role-play with limitations and restrictions, I think you will feel prouder of your role-play, satisfied with a job well done. You will have met a challenge and conquered it. And does that not make you happy, to have surpassed a challenge? And you also find it to be more fun.
13. Emulating Your Character [top]
Role-playing is similar in many respects to acting. You adopt a role and attempt to give a good performance. Now, must you role-play a character that resembles your own real-time personality? Must your character be a similar version of yourself? Or can you role-play a character that is quite different from yourself, who may even be quite your opposite? The easy answer is that you have no restrictions in the type of character you can role-play. They can be as similar or dissimilar to your real personality as you desire. This is also akin to acting. A good actor can play any type of role, even a role that varies greatly from his own personality. How else would we get someone to play evil roles? Would we require only evil actors to play evil roles? No, that would be ridiculous.
Sure, there are actors who play essentially the same type of role time and time again. It is often expected of them and they do quite well in that single type of role. But even they often struggle at times to extend their range, to play a role that is much different from their norm. Robin Williams, known for his comedies and light-hearted dramas chose several darker roles to extend his range. Arnold Schwarzenegger, known for action movies, chose to do comedies as well. They understood the challenge in breaking out of their mold of type-casting. They wanted to test their abilities in different roles, to show they were not one-dimensional.
If one role-plays frequently, one has many opportunities to role-play different characters. As a conservative figure, I have role-played over 1000 characters during my years of role-playing. Those who act as Game Masters/Story Tellers must role-play far more characters than just someone who plays the game. For example, in an ongoing role-play game that lasted for one year, a Player might only role-play a single character during that time. The Player could role-play more characters during that time, but at best it might only be a dozen characters. The Game Master though might role-play as many as a dozen characters in a single session, and hundreds over that year.
All of these opportunities allow you the chance to extend your range, to seek the challenge of playing a character very different from yourself. Online may not have as many opportunities available, but it can be quite refreshing when such an opportunity arises. Sure, every character may possess a little bit of yourself but they may also possess much that is not within you. That will most often be the case when a person is playing a villain. No one thinks that Anthony Hopkins is really similar to Hannibal. Role-playing allows one to play a villain sometimes, to enjoy the cathartic _expression of such a role. And it can be an enjoyable experience, provided you understand what you are doing.
We are often told not to make assumptions yet in role-play, assumptions in certain areas are absolutely necessary. These assumptions are akin to a suspension of disbelief, necessary for a role-play character to immerse himself in the role-playing world. The first major assumption is that our characters exist on the world of Gor, a world like the one described in the books. We assume the sun is in the sky, that there is grass beneath our feet, that larl prowl the Voltai. We assume the existence of massive tower cities, containing hundreds of thousands of people. We assume a working economy that binds cities in trade. The list can go on and on. And these assumptions are freely accepted, as a necessity. This has always been a part of role-play (RP).
If we had to rely upon only actual players to populate our RP, then no one would control an actual city. They would be lucky if they had sufficient people to populate a hamlet, never mind a place like Ar that was said to have 2-3 million people. So we rely on assumptions, on the existence of many unnamed thousands who populate our RP cities. The tags that are used, NKZ/PKZ/etc., all rely on assumptions, on guards that would normally exist in a city but for which no RP city has sufficient players to emulate. We make assumptions of the existence of many Castes which no one RPs. For example, without Peasants, many on Gor would starve but how many Peasants are RPed online? Instead, we assume their existence and that our cities receive sufficient food for their needs.
The same assumptions would apply to the financial situation of our cities. Technically, money is relatively meaningless online as anyone can claim to have whatever amount of gold tarns they desire. That is why you sometimes seem outrageous bids of 10,000 gold tarns for a slave. Yet we must make certain assumptions concerning money. We must assume tax revenues, collection of fines, and trade revenues. We must assume a city collects sufficient revenue to pay all its expenses. We do not expect anyone to keep detailed records of such matters. It is assumed to be taken care of.
A key aspect though of all of these assumptions is that they should be plausible and realistic. Otherwise such assumptions become ridiculous. I could assume that my city’s revenues give me a profit of one million gold tarns a month. But that would be very unrealistic. I can assume I have an army of 500,000 Warriors but again, that would be very unrealistic. There may be few black and white rules over what is unrealistic. But, the Gor books need to be used as the guide as to what would be plausible and realistic. And the information in the books needs to be addressed as a whole, comparing and contrasting the various elements to derive more plausible assumptions. You should collect the various details spread throughout the series to assist in your analysis.
What is often helpful is the creation of certain benchmarks that will limit our assumptions. For example, the size of the fleets of Port Kar, Cos and Tyros, the preeminent naval powers, would be an upper limit on the number of ships a city could own. On land, the army of Ar would probably be the upper limit on the number of Warriors a city would possess. Now, by comparing your city or town to these benchmarks, you can get a better idea of what is more plausible. A city that is half the size of Ar, is likely to have an army half the size as well, within a certain margin.
Now sometimes you have very little information to work with concerning a number of cities mentioned in the books. You might only have a city name, and not even its location. How would one decide on what was plausible and realistic then for that city? Well, first try to gather any and all information about the city from the books. Second, you may need to make a rough assumption about the size and importance of the city. You can still use the benchmarks though, assuming your city is not above those benchmarks. The benchmark cities have been mentioned in the books as the elite, the top of their class. It would be unrealistic to assume your city is more powerful than them. So, always keep in mind the assumptions necessary for your RP but try to keep them on a plausible and realistic level.
15. Role-Play Realism [top]
When creating rules for role-play, a primary consideration is that those rules should promote a more realistic and plausible environment. They should be designed to enhance the role-playing experience while providing necessary restrictions. They allow for the simulation of certain actions that would not otherwise be possible. Online Gorean role-play should not be treated any differently. Rules for such role-play should be carefully designed, to promote a more realistic experience. Let’s examine a few situations with this objective in mind.
Laws: The city-states of Gor are cities of laws. They have collections of codified laws and judicial systems to handle violations of such laws. Goreans are generally obedient to the law, especially in their own Home Stone. They generally do not just act in whatever manner they choose. They consider the laws and their Codes in their actions. Yet how many online cities have a set of laws that are listed on their pages? Some have “rules” but they often do not qualify as city laws. They are more often role-playing quirks of that city. And these rules commonly supercede the types of laws provided in the books. For example, some online cities allow a man, on his own, to collar a disrespectful woman of their Home Stone. Yet such a law was never seen in the books. In fact, the books state often that women have the power to speak freely. We should also note here that the legal systems of the books provide for judicial enslavement in certain circumstances, such as a free woman acting slave-like. But, a man does not have the legal right on his own to collar such a woman. The courts must adjudicate the validity of such an enslavement. If online cities had a set of laws to govern conduct within their pages, a number of problems could be lessened.
NCZ/NKZ: The city-states of Gor are usually well-defended places. They have high walls and guarded gates. As most online cities have only a handful of people in their city, they do not possess sufficient people to simulate these defenses. They do not have someone to act as a guard at their city gates 24/7. Thus, rules need to be designed to simulate the strong defenses of a city, to account for the hundreds and thousands of people who would exist in such places. In RP games, these are often referred to as nonplayer-characters. Considering the existence of these people simply imitates what would normally be found within a city of the books. Thus, a NCZ/NKZ tag can be used to effectuate this simulation. Such tags should prevent any and all captures or kills on those pages. This prevents unrealistic role-play where just any person can wander into a city, capture/kill someone, and wander out. Such individuals would first have to pass through guarded city gates. Outlaws for example would be denied entrance in nearly all cities. Then, such individuals would have to locate their target. That can be difficult and should take some investigatory work. Online, most people simply use a “Search” to locate someone, which is poor role-play. Then, the person might have to gain access to the specific building that the target is in, which could also be guarded. There might be many witnesses as well. And then escaping after a capture/kill would also be difficult. Yet none of this is RPed online. People just do a Search to find someone who looks vulnerable, teleports to that page, makes a capture/kill and then teleports away. That is highly unrealistic. It runs contrary to what would occur in a real Gorean city. Yet somehow people think that it is acceptable.
Capture/Combat: In the most commonly used capture/combat systems online, the abilities, skills and knowledge of your “character” are meaningless. Capture/combat online is often more a real-time skill than a role-playing mechanic. One’s typing speed may be very important though such has basically nothing to do with role-play. In such speed posting systems, the secretary becomes the supreme swordsman of Gor. As another example, if such rules were used to fight a battle between Tarl Cabot and a new recruit, Tarl Cabot would have no advantage over this new recruit. Their skills would be considered the same, despite Tarl in the books being one of Gor’s best Warriors. If you examine other capture/combat systems, you will find many marked differences to the speed posting systems. Such other systems are keyed to the RP character, and not the Player behind the character. A Warrior in those systems would have a better combat ability generally than a Leather Worker or Peasant. A man would possess an advantage over a woman. And typing speed would not be an issue. By designing a system that adjusts for a character’s abilities and skills, it is more realistic. A Warrior on Gor should be better at combat than most other Castes. A woman on Gor should have the disadvantage of a lesser strength. To ignore these differences, is to ignore a significant element of Gor. It is also to ignore the essence of RP, which is emulating the role of another, not simply being yourself.
Extent of Gor: Where is Gorean role-play permitted online? To some, all pages are considered fair game for role-play. In essence, they simply mean that captures and combat can occur on any page, whether Gorean or not. That certainly is not realistic. Gor has clearly defined borders and so should online Gor. Gorean role-play should be limited to Gorean pages that permit role-play. It should definitely not extend to nonGorean pages. To do so, would be disrespectful of those who nonGorean page you are inflicting your RP on. As you would not wish others to RP nonGor games on Gor pages, you should not do the same to them. Educational pages should also be exempt from RP. There is no need to make them available for RP. It is disruptive of their educational purpose. Marked or not, an educational page should be safe from all RP.
16. Rule of Law [top]
As I have long stated, I fully support the rule of law within each Gorean city, camp and other location. That means that the rules of that place are sovereign within that place and no one, absolutely no one, has the right to try to impose their own rules on that place. It does not matter if the rules are silly, unfair, unGorean or whatever, those rules are still sovereign in that place. If we dislike their rules, then we should simply not enter there and ignore it. I have stepped forward to support this in the past and I will continue to do so in the future. I am concerned that others may not respect the sovereignty of these places.
I see the importance of law in Gorean cities, how the laws function to keep a community together, to prevent it from falling into chaos. I view the overall Gorean legal system, extrapolating from the laws presented in the books, and from the laws that are not presented. I ask why all the time, exploring the possible answers to why certain laws exist and why certain ones do not. There are over 80 laws contained within the Gorean novels, the majority dealing with slavery. There are a variety of magistrates, judges, lawyers, and juries.
Let us then try to break down the various types of enslavement that exist on Gor. I would place them in four general categories. First, there are the voluntary submissions. Second there are legal enslavements, where a person is made slave by operation of the law. At least a magistrate is required to make such enslavements legal and a full hearing before a judge may even be required. Third, there are forced enslavements that occur where there is no law, such as in the countrysides. They are not illegal because there is no law in operation there. Finally, there are the forced enslavements that are illegal. They essentially occur within a city or other area where the law operates. These enslavements either violate specific laws within that area or fail to follow the proper legal procedures. Now, such illegal enslavements do occur on Gor and Warriors are encouraged to capture women from other cities. That does not though change the fact that such enslavements are illegal in the first place.
Let’s examine some specific laws. First, veils and robes were not legally mandatory in all the cities of Gor. The books specifically mention that within Ar and Ar’s Station, veils and robes are not legally mandatory. Thus, in such a city, a woman could not be legally enslaved just because she is not wearing a veil. If she were enslaved, it would be considered illegal. You cannot legally enslave someone for engaging in legal behavior.
Second, there is no law found within the books that states a woman can be legally enslaved for showing disrespect to a man. This could easily lead to a quote war. There are a number of quotes stating free women (FW) have the right to speak their mind, to insult men. Then some may try to offer examples of women who were punished for being disrespectful. But, no quote or example exists showing that any FW was ever legally enslaved for disrespecting a man. Many of these haughty women who ended up as slaves were forced collared in the countryside or illegally collared. Within the cities, FW do possess the power of free speech and cannot be legally collared for their disrespect or insults.
Third, there is a legal principle common on Gor dealing with “conduct indicating suitability for a collar.” What this means is that if a woman engages in slave-like behavior, she can be arrested and brought before a judge. That judge will then adjudicate whether her behavior was sufficient to warrant her legal enslavement. This is very important as it speaks volumes about the legalities of enslavement. It means that a man cannot take justice into his own hands and collar a woman who he feels engages in slave-like behavior. Instead, a judge must make that determination. There are plenty of other laws indicating circumstances which can lead to a legal enslavement. Yet, in none of them is there an indication that the ordinary citizen can take justice into his own hands and legally collar that woman. A legal official is needed to adjudicate such matters.
Let’s take an example. You live in Ko-ro-ba and are sitting in a paga tavern. A FW of enters the paga tavern wearing somewhat revealing clothing. She boldly kisses one of the patrons, wiggling her body lasciviously. She then turns to leave the tavern. Can you just collar that women because you thought her actions were slave-like? Not legally. It would require the women to be taken into custody to face a hearing on her conduct. A judge would then determine her fate. Yet how often do you see that result online? Instead, you see forced captures that are accepted as legal even though on Gor such would likely not be the case.
We also should not confuse the difference between the “validity” of a collar and the “legality” of a collar. A collaring attempt is valid if it occurs on a valid page and the capture protocols of that page are followed properly. A valid collar is not automatically legal. A legal collar is one that follows the laws, not the rules, of the area where the collaring takes place. A valid collar can be legal or illegal, and probably most valid collars online have been illegal. An example of a valid collar could be a successful raid attempt on an enemy city. Matters that could make it invalid would be the presence of tags on the page or the capture posting requirements are not followed properly.
Now, as I stated earlier, illegal collaring exists on Gor. It is primarily conducted by men upon the women of other cities. They capture a woman in an enemy city and then return to their own city, to avoid any consequences in the enemy city. But, if that is done online, we should be under the obligation of respecting the sovereignty of that enemy city, respecting their rules. We cannot ignore their rules, even if we dislike them. For if we do not respect their sovereignty, then we cannot expect others to respect our own sovereignty within our own cities. And without a respect for sovereignty, we are on a path of chaos that will erode the foundation of our online Gor community.