In free-form roleplay player consent is one of the most important factors in ensuring that all players enjoy themselves and are not forced into places they do not wish to be. Many people scorn those who require consent for things happening to their characters, and others require consent to be obtained for everything. While there is no “right” or “wrong” way to play in that regard, there are some considerations to be had.

Consent boils down to what type of play the player is willing to engage in. Many players have these lists of consent available in a character description or website, but if you are unsure it is always wiser to ask. Most players require that you gain their explicit consent for sexual roleplay, character death, or serious injury (debilitating). Also, if engaging in sexual roleplay, there are often acts that require player consent, and those should be discussed between the players before participating in a scene.

Now, in many communities out there, there are certain sects of players who look down on folks who require consent be explicitly given for character death or sexual acts. They consider themselves “no-consent” players. While there is nothing wrong with this style of play, if you enjoy it, it does not make you a better roleplayer than someone who prefers to have consent requested of them for such actions. The opposite is also true – some consent players look down on folks who are no-consent and consider them brutish.

There is no style of play that is “better” or “worse” – they are merely different.

That said, there are people who misuse and abuse consent, so I’m going to address the different ways consent could be abused and why it is, in fact, abuse.

The first kind of abuse I want to mention is when you are playing in a community that has IC laws with IC consequences. If you have committed a crime “refusing consent” to reasonable punishment is an abuse of consent altogether. Consent is not a “get out of jail free card” – it is designed to prevent you from having to play things that would be against your personal morality or comfort. If receiving reasonable IC punishment for IC actions is that troublesome for you then you should reconsider acting in a way that would find you on the wrong side of the IC laws. It isn’t fair to expect people to overlook your illegal activities simply because you don’t like the consequences. This, of course, assumes the consequences are fair and reasonable.

Secondly, the use of consent to avoid taking any kind of injury while in combat is also an abuse of consent. While you should not be forced to take injury that would permanently maim or cripple your character, you cannot engage in combat without being willing to take appropriate injury. If you do not want your character to take injury of any kind you should not engage in combat. However, if you do engage in combat it isn’t fair to the other participant if you are unwilling to accept the responsibility of taking hits when you should take them.

If you are sensing a theme then you’d be correct. While those are the two examples of the abuse of consent that stick out the most in my head, they are not the only ways consent may be abused. The crux of the issue is that consent should never be used to avoid consequences of your actions. To do so is to disrespect the people you are playing with and be dishonest.

Personally, I use consent in a few, specific situations and find that this type of consent is the type most people employ.

  • Character death
  • Sexual situations
  • Maiming (limb removal, crippling, blindness)
  • Kidnapping or prolonged incarceration

In sexual roleplay consent also carries the dimension of what sexual acts characters or players are comfortable acting out. Everyone’s desires are a little different, so it is best to establish ground rules (just like you would in real life) before engaging in that style of roleplay with any partner. Communication is key, and establishing what all parties in the scene would like to be part of is going to make your roleplay more fun and prevent unnecessary OOC drama.