Sinai Player Guide v5.0: 10.0 - Role-Playing Guidelines

Sinai Player Guide v5.0

10.0 Role-Playing Guidelines
  • 10.1 General Guidelines for PCs
  • 10.1.1 Essentials and Rules
  • 10.1.2 Tips for Players
  • 10.2 General Guidelines for NPCs
  • 10.3 General Guidelines for GMs
  • 10.4 Campaigns
  • 10.5 Unmoderated Role-Play
  • 10.6 Magic and Role-Play
  • 10.6.1 Tips for GMs about Magic
  • 10.6.2 Tips for PCs about Magic
  • 10.7 Essays
  • 10.7.1 Invisible Poses
  • 10.7.2 Religion and Morality
  • 10.7.3 Fictitious Languages
  • 10.7.4 Problem Solving
  • 10.7.5 Holodeck Etiquette
  • 10.7.6 Gen's GM Guide
  • 10.8 Tools for GMs
  • 10.8.1 Black Box

  • 10.1 General Guidelines for PCs

    Role-play is a very vaguely defined "game", and the "rules" can change from GM to GM, and from adventure to adventure. That said, there are still some general principles that apply, and certain boundaries that the PC is expected to stay within for general game-play. Here are a few notes on what's expected of players and player-characters. Some points are expanded upon in more detailed articles cross-linked from this page, if you desire to read further.

    10.1.1 Essentials and Rules

    1. Avoid "instant success". The exception is when you've paged and gotten approval to go ahead and put both the action and success in one pose.

      For instance, if faced with an enemy monster, unless they've been shown to be plainly incompetent, posing "Karak knocks his sword aside and skewers him through the heart" is a bit presumptive. Instead, try something like: "Karak attempts to knock his sword aside and make a thrust at his chest."
    2. Be on time. (Please?) If you arrange with a GM to be online at a certain time to role-play, then please be there and ready to go! Of course, "life happens", and you may not be able to connect, or perhaps you can't even get to your PC because something came up. But if that happens, please try to get some sort of word to your GM, especially if you know ahead of time that there may be a problem. If you make a habit of being a no-show -- even if you have a "good excuse" every time -- your GM is not likely to be inclined to keep trying to set time aside for you.
    3. Stay in character. Your PC is on a world that, while it might bear some similarities to Earth in some ways, and might even have ties with Earth (maybe it's in the distant future?), it isn't Earth. If you start making references to novels in Earth literature (unless you happen to be an Exile that came from Earth), that's not very likely a good example of being in character. Also, while it's inevitable that certain aspects of English probably wouldn't have equivilants in "Rephidim Standard", there are just some things that it doesn't make sense to use in dialogue, or which sound "out of theme". ("Jeez!" "You da man!" "Smoooookin'!")
    4. IC and OOC knowledge are not the same. It is possible that, while reading through the Players' Guide or the Encyclopedia, or by watching others' logs, you may stumble across information that your PC wouldn't be privvy to. If your PC is a barbarian who knows nothing of technology, it's going to be a stretch to assume that when he first encounters a laser pistol, he'll know which end to point at the enemy, and what button to push to start it up ... or even what the thing does! You may learn that some NPC you've been dealing with is guilty of some crime, by watching someone else's log. You shouldn't, in the course of your own role-play, flippantly bring up this fact, unless your PC had due cause to learn this. A certain degree of discretion is required, to ensure that you can keep separate your knowledge from that which your PC can act upon. (If this is difficult for you, you may simply have to restrict, for instance, which logs you read.)
    5. Don't use foul language. We have plenty of "fictional" foul words invented, and players occasionally invent new ones. "Vhai", "Dagh", "scruddy" and "wires" (for bats) are a few examples. We may explore a lot of mature themes in the course of role-play, but we don't really need to use that sort of "mature" language to get a point across.
    6. Don't play "Mommy/Daddy" with GMs. Unlike table-top role-play games, there is not a single authority to deal with. There are multiple GMs, who have to work with each other to make sure they don't step on each others' toes. They don't have ESP, and as much as they may try to keep in contact with each other, if you ask one GM a question about role-play, you may get a different answer than from another. In theory, anybody who wants to has a chance to be a "GM", but that doesn't mean that everyone is equal in authority. As of this writing, Lynx is the ultimate authority on Sinai, if you're in doubt as to who's who. If you've got a question, don't just go checking with different GMs until you get the answer you like.
    7. Don't be a rules lawyer. This is a fantasy game, with rules developed without any commercial purpose. We don't get paid. We're not in print. We don't work for a game company. The rules are a framework, and GMs have to twist the rules from time to time to get things to work. What worked back then won't necessarily work now. If you can come up with some sort of crazy application of precedent or rules that explains to the GM why you should be able to create a perpetual motion machine, or achieve god-like powers with no effort, odds are that: a) Your interpretation is wrong, or b) There is a flaw in the rules, and the GM is going to try to fix it rather than letting something absurd happen. If you're the sort of player that is going to be jumping on any precedent set by a GM and twisting it to go to logical extremes in order to try to get your way out of the GMs ... then the GMs aren't going to want to have to deal with you.

    10.1.2 Tips for Players

    1. The GM cannot read your mind. The GM wants you to have fun, no matter how angstful the situation is he or she may be placing you in. If events are going too quickly or too slowly, page the GM.
    2. If in doubt, page the GM. Sometimes it's not always obvious when you're expected to do something, or when you think it's the GM's turn to do something.
    3. Is your character being forced into a situation you can't deal with? Ask for help! The GM doesn't know your character as well as you do.
    4. Give the other PCs (and the GM) time to respond. If you're a fast typist -- or if you tend to fire off quick, short poses rather than long ones -- it's hard to resist the urge to grab attention. Let other people have the spotlight now and then, and be patient with slow typists or thinkers.
    5. Yes, PCs can die. Your PC is part of a story. If your PC does things that would logically get him or her killed, then your PC may die. The only alternative would be for the GM to pull some sort of "deus ex machina" to bail the hero out ... and either option may leave a sour aftertaste.

      You can have an irrational character: overconfident, suicidal, a fanatic, or simply psychotic. However, at some point things like jumping into a cauldron of boiling lava or charging a hundred armored knights with a chitin dagger is just plain silly and disruptive ... unless you're perfectly willing for your PC to die.

    6. Be informed about Sinai ... especially if your PC is supposed to be a native of the planet. It hampers role-play if you aren't clear on what a Jupani is, or what's so important about the Rephidim Temple, or if you don't know any better than to spit on the shoes of an Inquisitor who is rude to you -- unless, of course, you're specifically playing a character who doesn't know these things ... but even in that case, it'd be nice if you, the player realized the significance of such things!
    7. Keep in communication with your GM. If all you do is show up for a weekly session with your GM, ready to play, then immediately sign off, your GM isn't going to have much chance to get any feedback from you. Even if your schedule doesn't coincide enough with your GM's to be able to sit around and chit-chat, you may still provide your GM with invaluable insight into how things are going with your PC, if you could at least keep in contact via email. Your GM needs to know if you're having fun, or if you're confused, or if you're not really certain how to role-play your character. If your GM doesn't hear anything from you, he or she may assume that you're simply not interested.
    8. Don't take role-play for granted. We have fewer regular GMs than we have players interested in regular role-play, and they aren't paid for their efforts. Players on Sinai are expected to be interested in role-playing, rather than just sitting around and chatting exclusively, but we can't guarantee that there will be a special tailor-made plot to star all of your PCs. Also, when you do get a GM to run a plot for you, it is, by necessity, going to end sometime. There may be a delay before the GM figures out a new adventure for you, or you get picked up by some other GM. In the meantime, you might have to settle for "light role-play".
    9. Make sure you know what you're getting into! Some GMs may run light-hearted, silly plots. Some GMs may run really serious plots. Some GMs may try to protect your PC from dying, at all costs. Some GMs may let your PC die without a second chance, if you hurl yourself into a pot of boiling lava. Some GMs may use a dice combat system, where you have a real chance of dying in the course of regular combat with lethal weapons. Some GMs will protect PCs from each other. Some GMs will allow bad things to befall the entire "party", if a single PC does something stupid. If you have concerns about such things, your best bet is to talk things over with your GM, and find out what your GM's "style" is. (It doesn't hurt to know more about your fellow players, either!)
    10. Keep OOC chatter to a minimum ... particularly if you are in a log with several players (more than three). Every time you make an out-of-character comment, there is a slight chance of someone taking it as an in-character action or statement ... and in particularly "crowded" logs with lots of PCs doing their own thing, it's easy to get "spammed", and overlook little details.
    11. Keep it clear. With the "spoof" command, you are no longer restricted to standard "say" and "pose" actions. It's not "Joe says," or "Joe does..." However, especially when there is more than one PC involved, it's best that, any time Joe does something, his name shows up in there somewhere ... or else something that definitely identifies him. Sometimes, it's just fine if you can refer to Joe as "the Skreek" or "the cowled figure", when it's obvious just who this is ... but that can be a bad habit when more than one Skreek pops up, or another PC may have just joined in and doesn't necessarily know that Joe is a Skreek.

      Most certainly, don't use lines that just refer to your PC with a pronoun! "He then turns around and hits the monster." Who is "he"? Joe? Grok? Mystico?

    12. Keep it simple. GMs have a tendency to get verbose, especially when they're trying to set a scene. However, play tends to work best if you can keep your poses clear, short and simple -- especially when there are multiple PCs involved. When you use long, convoluted poses, there is a good chance that before you ever press the Return key, someone else will have fired off a pose that could force you to rethink your action entirely.
    13. Don't worry about HTML. Certain GMs will go ahead and stick HTML tags in spoofs and poses and dialogue, out of habit. The logs are going to be checked for spelling errors (usually), edited for HTML tags, and then slapped up on the Log Entries page. Some GMs try to save a few steps by sticking in tags for italics, etc., to begin with. However, that doesn't mean that PCs have to do this!

      Especially if you are a slow typist, don't trouble yourself with having to fumble with doing a bracket-I-end-bracket-bracket-slash-I-end-bracket combo just to stick some emphasis on a word. There are plenty of ways to use "short-hand" to get the point across to people in a log, and move on to the next pose. If it really matters, whomever edits the logs will catch it, and this way you're reducing the chance of sticking unbounded italics in the file.

      Example: "Hey, <i>you<i> are really getting on my nerves!"

      By leaving out a slash, the whole rest of the log is going to be in italics. The proof-reader might miss this. Save yourself the trouble, and just use shorthand like /italics/, *bold*, _underline_, ALL CAPS, or whatever gets the job done to get your point across quickly and clearly.

    14. One thing at a time. It's possible to type really long poses in which you ask several questions in the same breath, or perform several actions in sequence, without giving anyone so much as a chance to interrupt you, or answer your questions in turn. This is related to "instant success". But furthermore, if you pose multiple questions at a time, you are in essence assuming that whomever you're talking to is just going to stand there dumbly until you finish firing off all those questions. Don't be surprised if people assume that your PC must therefore be a rapid-fire chatterbox, and you get curt answers like, "Yes, no, yes, yes, in that order."

      Also, if you do something in a plot that should cause a reaction the GM has to resolve (such as pushing a button on a strange alien artifact), wait for the GM's response before you go pushing more buttons!

    15. Let the GM know when you go AFK. "AFK" would be "Away From Keyboard". If you're going to go answer the door, go have dinner, or something else that is going to keep you away from the keyboard for more than a few seconds, it may be a good idea to warn the GM. This is more important when there are other PCs involved -- If it's a "solo" log, then the GM has no reason not to wait on you (unless it looks like you're taking a half hour to decide whether to swing your sword or not). If it's a multi-PC log, other PCs may end up sitting and waiting on you out of politeness, not knowing that you're off chowing down. If people know you're away from the keyboard, they can know that they can safely take a break themselves, or else figure out a way to go on without you.

    10.2 General Guidelines for NPCs

    "NPC" stands for "Non-Player Character". Technically, every character introduced by a GM that is not a Player Character is therefore, a Non-Player Character. Some games are run with a single GM and one or more PCs. However, some GMs prefer to have one or more "assistants" present, each of whom may control one or more NPCs, or have some other sort of control over the environment (such as adding little "ambient" events in the background, for "atmosphere"). Sometimes, a GM may assign roles to some players, letting them play "NPCs" on a short-term basis.

    Guidelines for NPCs

    10.3 General Guidelines for GMs

    The GM (Game Master) is the person who has "creative control" over the environment and over the plot, and has final say in resolution of conflicts. This gives the GM a great deal of authority, but what comes with it is a fair amount of responsibility.

    Guidelines for GMs

    10.4 Campaigns

    Some role-play only takes place on an "episodic" basis. The GM gets some PCs that are online, gets them together in, say, the Bazaar, and has something happen, which they can react to or ignore. The event runs its course, and the PCs eventually part ways. It may be that next week, the GM signs on again, he gets hold of all or some of the same PCs, and another event takes place, building on the events of the first one.

    However, other GMs will take one or more PCs and take them on a "campaign" -- a series of sessions that are meant to tie together. It may be something along the lines of having one or more PCs get aboard an airship and journeying off to explore a new land. Until the campaign is finished (e.g., they come back to Rephidim), the PCs can't really take part in other adventures, or "hand around in the Bazaar" with other characters. The PC, after all, is off on some airship for the time being.

    Such campaigns can be quite epic, and lead to several of the "Plot Threads" that are marked in the Log Entries. However, here are a few tips to keep in mind when running such plots.

    Tips for Campaigns

    10.5 Unmoderated Role-Play

    The typical role-play session on Sinai has a single GM and one or more PCs, sometimes with some "assistants" helping the GM as "NPCs". However, GMs can't always be available, and sometimes players just want to role-play their characters in "light" situations, without necessarily needing to save the world or defeat an evil villain in order to have fun.

    It's perfectly all right for a few PCs to log onto Sinai, grab a "cambot", and log some light interaction. This might consist of just two PCs talking to each other while traveling between adventures on an airship ... or perhaps exchanging tales of their past adventures over some ale at a generic bar ... or perhaps running into each other in the Bazaar.

    The key element of "light" role-play is to avoid conflict -- unless it's something that you're prepared to resolve to the satisfaction of all players involved. It's also best to do only if there is at least one player present who has a pretty good knowledge of the Sinai universe and "how things work", so that, in the course of conversation or poses or "ambient" narrative poses, you don't introduce elements that are out of theme.

    For example, if some PCs are in the Rephidim Bazaar, it's fairly common to "invent" a few generic booths selling some miscellaneous wares, as a backdrop for your interaction. If some NPCs started talking about football games, or if there were some video tapes for sale in one of the booths, that would be a bit out of character for Rephidim. Likewise, if, in the course of role-play, the PCs (without moderation from a GM) invent some Temple Guard that comes up to bully the PCs, that may be pushing the limit. While it might be within the realm of possibility for a Guard to give some PCs some trouble, that's really the sort of thing that a GM should handle.

    While such interaction is generally limited to light chit-chat, exchanging of information, brainstorming, or general goofing around, it's possible that some conflict between PCs could develop. Perhaps one PC (wittingly or not) insults the other. Perhaps the other PC is inclined to resort to violence ... or perhaps he wishes to get back by "secretly" stealing something from the first PC. If such a conflict occurs, you will have to resolve it. One way is just to halt the plot and only continue it once you've got a GM to handle the conflict. Another way is for you to resolve it amongst yourselves. Maybe you flip a coin, maybe you both agree on the outcome -- just as long as both players are satisfied.

    Anything that comes out of light role-play will be subject to "review" by the GMs. It may be that there was some minor little detail in the background that is out of character, and may need some editing before the log is posted to the Log Entries. Or, it may be that things are so out of character that the GMs decide that this "didn't really happen". (Fortunately, the latter doesn't happen very often.)

    For the sake of keeping things orderly, one of the PCs may take the role of an "unofficial GM" for the session, taking care of background ambience (for example, spoofing the waitress coming by to set some full mugs of ale at the table, rather than making it seem like the bar is empty, and there's no good service in there). It's important to keep in mind that if you are acting in the capacity of an "unofficial GM", you still have certain responsibilities as a GM would. You shouldn't abuse your position to make your PC look good at the other PCs' expense. Try to be fair. The key to any unmoderated role-play is that it has to be cooperative in order to work!

    10.6 Magic

    Magic and high technology often come up in plots, since the presence of such is what makes this science fiction and fantasy. However, some care should be taken, as it's fairly easy to let such things get out of hand -- or, at least, out of the "theme" of Sinai.

    10.6.1 Tips for GMs about Magic

    Magic can be a very popular plot device for a GM. It's what makes this a "fantasy" game. The general principles here tend to apply for the application of wild technology as well.

    Tips for GMs about Magic

    10.6.2 Tips for PCs about Magic

    1. Let the GM know before the session whether you have any "held spells". It could affect the plot, and it could be that there are NPCs who could sense that you have a spell held ... or there might even be some effect on the environment if you walk around with a held spell (especially if you head into Forbidden Zones). You can't just, on the spur of the moment, declare that you just happened to have the appropriate spell "held" for this occasion. Don't surprise your GM. If you do, the GM may overrule you and say that you didn't have any spells held at all.
    2. Let the GM know when you are going to use a "held spell". There may be circumstances that you are not privy to that may prevent you from being able to instantly fire off a spell, even if you've prepared.
    3. If you are going to cast a spell -- whether it be a cantrip or a ritual -- it will always take more than one pose to accomplish. You can't, in the middle of combat, pose, "Karak sits down, scribes a magic circle, chants for five minutes, then lobs a dart of light at the goblin." If you do that, be prepared for the GM to come back and tell you, "No, Karak doesn't. The goblin interrupts his chanting by bonking him on the head." Spell-casting, even at the cantrip level, is not instantaneous, and the primary balancing factor on the powers that magic gives is that there is a chance that it may be interrupted before the desired effect takes place.
    4. The GM is the ultimate arbiter of the passage of time in role-play. Even if, in the real world, five minutes has passed since you made your pose about chanting a Minor Spell, that doesn't mean that your spell is now finished. You can't pose the results of your spell until the GM says you may do so -- and until the GM lets you know if you were successful or not!
    5. When you are taking part in unmoderated role-play, with a mage character, it is generally best if you don't partake in any spell-casting. However, cantrips are handy for "ambience" and general "cool factor". Work out ahead of time what specific effects that your regular GM(s) are okay with, that you may use in the course of unmoderated role-play.

    10.7 Essays

    The following are assorted essays written by some of the GMs to cover assorted aspects of role-play and GMing. Don't worry: players aren't expected to memorize all of these rants and essays, but they may still be of help in getting to better learn what "wavelength" the GMs are on.

  • 10.7.1 Invisible Poses

    In summary, "invisible poses" are poses made by a PC that really have no visible effect. The PC "notices" something or "thinks" something, but doesn't actually say or do anything that other PCs could react to. In solo RP, this can be a useful way to see what's going on inside a PC's head. However, if the PC just spends a lot of time making derogatory commentary about other PCs in thought balloons -- which other players can read, but have no IC reason or way to respond -- this can lead to conflicts.

    More on Invisible Poses

    10.7.2 Religion and Morality

    There are many religions represented on Sinai, many of which represent beliefs that may differ greatly from the actual beliefs held by the players and the GMs. Here are a few thoughts on how some plots may handle issues of morality and religion on Sinai.

    More on Religion and Morality

    10.7.3 Fictitious Languages

    It should be noted that we have a number of different languages that have been introduced to Sinai, some with considerable thought put into them ... some not. Since we can't take the time to invent new languages and teach them to all the players, certain concessions in "realism" have to be made for playability.

    More on Fictitious Languages

    10.7.4 Problem Solving

    This essay covers some basics about trying to deal with problems that occur in role-play, rather than freezing up or just trying the first "solution" that comes to mind on a regular basis.

    More on Problem Solving

    10.7.5 Holodeck Etiquette

    This essay covers a few "traditions" that have been set when running logs in the "holodecks" using the "cambots", and explains a bit of the jargon that has developed during role-play on SinaiMUCK.

    More on Holodeck Etiquette

    10.7.6 Gen's GM Guide

    This essay offers some tips and suggestions from one of the main GMs, Gen.

    More on Gen's GM Guide

  • 10.8 Tools for GMs

    The following section is devoted to charts, short cuts, and other references of use to a GM for use in role-play, but which aren't really a part of the rules for play here.

    10.8.1 Black Box

    Greywolf has his own little system (which gets changed from time to time) for handling combat and skill resolution by using 20-sided dice. This might be of some use, in whole or in part, for GMs trying to handle random determination of success in plots.

    Black Box