Retconning is the act of rescinding or otherwise acting as if an in character occurrence never happened. Note that this is explicitly different from roleplayers who promise a plot and do not follow through; that’s “reneging” but it isn’t retconning. Retconning specifically deals with occurrences that already happened in-game.
The problem with retconning: even a small, interpersonal thing between two characters can have consequences beyond those two characters. Changing or going back on this plot may make later occurrences disordered or even completely nonsensical. This is a huge detriment to most roleplaying games — hence why many do not allow retconning at all. What happens in character has already happened and should stay that way for the sake of everyone’s sanity in organizing timelines and keeping track of character histories.
- Retcon (noun)
- The rescinding of a plot or In Character occurrence; roleplayers acting as if a plot never occurred.
- Retconning (verb)
- The act of rescinding of a plot, or otherwise acting as if it did not exist.
In some instances, roleplaying game administrators may reserve the right to retcon a plot that severely violates the game’s universe. For example, in a non-supernatural game, if two characters have a thread explicitly discussing and using telekenetic powers… that’s probably something the administration is going to want changed or even deleted (roleplayers ofter re-read archived threads, and having one so out-of-universe is bound to arouse questions).
- Azazel and Baphomet are partners. They get into a huge fight over something Baphomet did. Azazel leaves Baphomet. Baphomet goes crying to several other characters; Azazel discusses the break-up with her sister.
- A week later, the roleplayers of Baphomet and Azazel have the couple back together again, just as if nothing changed. They do not mention the fight in any posts.
- When asked in the chat what happened, Baphomet and Azazel’s players state that they decided they didn’t like the direction of the plot, and had decided it never happened.
WHY: This plot has clearly affected other characters — Baphomet’s friends and Azazel’s sister already know about the break-up. It may be possible to retcon the plot in this instance… but what if Baphomet’s friends had another thread where they discussed the break-up? What if Azazel started new threads wherein she explicitly stated she did not have a partner? The effect one small plot can have “butterflies” quickly — even in an explicitly personal instance of a fight. Imagine the trouble this could cause if it was something huge!