RPG Rules and Members

Enforcing RPG rules is one of the toughest things RPG admins do. Unfortunately, it is also one of the things for which it is difficult to receive advice. Even if you ask an RPG community what to do, you’ll receive a variety of subjective answers that may be wildly different. None of the answers will have as good a perspective as you have, either.

How you enforce your RPG rules really depends on how you want to run your game. If your aim is craft a friendly, human, and very personal small roleplaying game — you won’t want to go with one of the tougher strategies. If your aim is to create a well-oiled machine, you may want one of the toughest strageties.

If you’re becoming an RPG admin to lord power over your roleplayers, control every aspect of the game down to Main Street’s lamppost paint shade, or write a story centered around your main character, this guide can’t help you. You’re probably a jerk, and you’ll probably be one of those admins who freaks out at the first sign of independent thought within your (emphasis yours!) game.

Conversely, if you want to be a great administrator and create a welcoming place to log on and create unique content, one that can last years and years — there are things you should keep in mind.

Enforcing RPG Rules with Strategy

Pick a strategy and go from there. Which rule enforcement strategy you use depends on the type of game and community you want to create, and the kind of administrator you want to be. Your time constraints come into play, too — those who are pressed for time may not want to spend ten PMs explaining powerplay to new members. In those cases, ban-on-sight may work better for you.

It may be helpful for you to start documenting more specific administration strategies based on one of these broad strategies. E.g., decide now how many warnings you’re willing to issue on a given problem, decide how long and how often you are willing to ban roleplayers, and other such information. This will help you in crunch time — it stinks deciding what to do about a situation as it’s happening. Being able to deal with things quickly and efficiently — no matter the strategy — is one hallmark of a good RPG admin.

Document Your Administration and Strategy

Document your administrative data. If you have a problem with a roleplayer or even a technical issue, make a new topic in your private administration forums explaining how you solved the issue. Do this even if you’re working solo — it is useful for two reasons. If you ever run into the same problem again, you’ll know how to act (consistency with member issues, and less search/struggle with technical issues — just for an example). It is also incredibly useful if you ever promote anyone else to administrative level — they’ll know how you want things done.

Specific Strategies for Enforcing RPG Rules

In no way comprehensive! Organized roughly from least to most controlling.

Unmoderated

Perhaps the best approach for your time constraints, you do not make any effort to moderate your community. The RPG rules are strictly game-based, meaning members are free to fight in the OOC areas, curse at one another, etc. This approach tends to work best in mature communities capable of self-policing.

Big Show

You make a big show of having rules, but don’t care to actually enforce the RPG rules. You let players off with warnings or are simply silent, just to avoid the work it would take in talking them through the issue. Be aware that this approach may make you appear flaky, lazy, and untrustworthy — but is good for your time constraints. This strategy may work well in creating a very personal, “human” component to your administration. Players won’t be afraid to come to you with complaints — but they may not complain because they know you won’t do anything anyway!

Strong Willed

Your will is strong — but not harsh or fierce. You’re very, very dedicated to getting someone to understand your RPG rules, whether that takes paragraphs of explanations or links to twenty off-site resources. This is a very big drain on your time as an administrator, but may result in individual members you have helped appreciating and remembering your efforts.

By the Book

You set down very strict requirements for how many rules a player may break, how many chances they get, and similar restrictions. You keep to them absolutely, no matter how nuanced the situation. This is a very “fair” and objective way to do things, but is a little impersonal and can forget the human component of any given situation.

My House, My Rules

You set down RPG rules that situationally change — according to your preferences, your like/dislike of a player, and any number of other factors. This approach is not “fair,” generally, but it is a good approach to take if you are intent on creating your perfect community. Be aware that you are limiting yourself as to potential players. While there are likely some who agree with your perspective on what makes a perfect game, many more are frightened away by fluctuating, seemingly personal RPG rules.

Iron Fisted

Zero-tolerance, kick ’em out permanently policy. No welcome-backsies. This method is good for your time constraints and if you don’t want to spend a ton of time working with any one member. It may lead to a very small community and accusations of harshness, however.

Dealing with RPG Rule Infractions

  • Review the Situation

    Look over the situation, player(s) involved, and anything else relevant. Make sure it’s really a rule infraction before you act — you don’t want to punish someone when it wasn’t their fault.

  • Create a Response

    No matter what you are going to do, tell the roleplayer what they did wrong, why it’s wrong, and what you want them to do next time. Do not simply ban someone from your forum without explanation; this may make you a Bad Roleplaying Game. It offers no chance for explanation or improvement on the roleplayer’s part.

    Hi Roleplayer,

    It has come to the attention of {RPG NAME}’s administration that you violated a game rule. This occurred in this forum topic. This is a rule infraction because {explanation}. {RPG NAME}’s administration must take actions against such rule violations. In this case, we have decided to {punishment or warning or other disciplinary action}. If you have any questions about why this was a rule infraction or about your {punishment/warning}, please respond to this message. — {RPG NAME} administration

  • Enact the Punishment

    Enact your punishment and send your response at the same time. Remember, if you are banning a roleplayer from your forum, they will not be able to access the PM system and you may need to e-mail them the response message you created in the previous step.

Dealing with Problem Members

Problem members are a little different than direct rule infractions. A problem member may not break any major rules, but they do a lot of little things. Or they may not screw up at all, but they just don’t fit into your game at all. What you want to do with these problem members again depends on your strategy. It’s obviously not fair to kick someone out for not fitting in — but if your aim is to craft an intimately personal roleplaying game, your community is of the utmost importance. If your aim is to be fair, you’ll leave that member well enough alone and hope they find their way.

Know when to give a problem member the boot, though. If someone is intentionally skirting closely to the rules, reading things literally when they are meant to be taken “in spirit” or otherwise seeming to give you a hard time for little or no reason — don’t waste your time. This person is playing with you and is unlikely to be a great asset to your roleplaying game anyway.

Drama from Other Games and People

  • Don’t feed trolls. Laugh at them if your roleplaying game has that sort of community, or just delete it. Freaking out is a waste of your time and exactly what the troll wants.
  • React calmly, accept truths, and improve if possible. It’s tough to accept criticism, but sometimes someone is saying something true.
  • Don’t engage people who are obviously just out to get you, trying to smear you, or otherwise just spouting misinformation. The best thing you can do to fight this is ignore it, or simply thank the people for their input and move on. Especially don’t reciprocate their behavior. If you must correct misinformation, make a calm announcement on your board, and leave it at that. Following people from site to site to defend yourself appears weak, and your time is better spent improving your game than defending it.

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