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I’m sure everyone has met that one jerk that tries to pull a move that would put Neo from The Matrix to shame, and when confronted he makes the argument “lol, its just fantasy, newb”. Unfortunately, they are half right: it is just fantasy. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t rules.

Roleplaying is, intrinsically, an exercise in fantasy. Even if it’s not in that genre. We are creating characters in a universe that isn’t ours and pretending to be those people for however long we immerse ourselves in that world. This is true in video games, tabletop games, and freeform RPGs. As such, the rules are innately a little different. Much like writing, everything has to be brighter, faster paced and larger-than-life. Let’s face it: how many people have the experiences that their RP characters do? Ever? If we were to write a fully “realistic” backstory for ourselves it would include a lot of boring Saturday afternoons watching cartoons. Most of us don’t have parents that are incredibly abusive, totally absent, or utterly loaded (We’re not Marvel Comics characters).

Just like with writing a story by yourself, you need to make your character extraordinary somehow. But let’s take a second and realize that this doesn’t mean that you can break rules. Just because you’re playing an elven princess it doesn’t give you an excuse to have unrealistic backstory or abilities. Now, you might be asking yourself, “Why would I want realism in my fantasy!?”

The answer to that is pretty simple, honestly. While we can suspend our disbelief some there are certain things that need to remain constant. Like physics. In every universe, excluding some specific points in the Matrix universe and only then with Neo explicitly, there are physics that apply to everyone. Everyone. Including your character. There are also rules of engagement, and general setting rules (no, you can’t play a Terminator walking around Middle Earth).

As I’m writing this, I hear the chorus in the back of my head yelling “BUT I WANNA!” and to them I reply: then make your own world where those things are possible. Keep in mind that unless you are creating and running your own world (I actually have plans on writing a series of articles for people that are interested in doing so), you need to be prepared to play by the rules in other people’s worlds. Those rules often include such things as: remaining true to the setting; ensuring that your character isn’t a Mary Sue; keeping your character at a reasonable power level; and generally play nice with the kids.

Ultimately, the “But it’s just fantasyyyy!” argument doesn’t tend to work well on administrators, moderators, or game masters. Usually they respond poorly to such things. Particularly when it’s used an excuse for godmodding or metagaming.

I’ve said many times that this is one of the most important lessons for roleplayers. A lot of the time this is a struggle for people and it doesn’t need to be. The reality is that embracing this makes things a lot more fun and a lot easier.

ICA=ICC is a pretty basic rule. In-Character actions result in in-character consequences. You’d think it’s common sense but more often than not it’s something that people struggle with. In one of my various games I play a police officer in a large, crime-infested city. I deal with criminals frequently and it’s a pretty common vein for them to not want to take consequences for their actions and, instead, prefer to godmod, complain, or log off so that they don’t have to deal with the rammifications of their actions.

This is frustrating for everyone, I’m sure. This doesn’t just happen with cops’n robbers roleplay, this happens with all kinds. I’m just using the cops’n robbers as an example because it’s the freshest in my mind. One of the biggest things that people need to understand is that “losing” isn’t actually a bad thing.

Most people view things like combat (in roleplay) and being caught by the good guys (or by other bad guys) as being a competition. The reality is that is nothing like like that. Every “loss” is a chance to build your character just as surely as wins. In fact, losing tends to create deeper character arcs. Think about it. If your character doesn’t lose something they’ll never learn.

Now, does this mean that you need to take every “consequence” that someone decides you earned? Well, maybe not. Not if it’s unreasonable. If you’re sitting beside someone at the bar and they decide that the “consequence” of you sitting next to them is them pulling out a Beretta and shooting you in the face then… well it could go either way. If the person’s a good roleplayer and they’re doing it in relevance to a storyline sure. If it’s just some random yahoo that’s being a pain in the ass… not so much.

The key here is to use consideration, caution, and think about what would logically happen. I know, everyone’s crying “but it’s just fantasy!” and that’s true. But every fantasy needs some elements of realism or it becomes just a masturbatory aid for people that deem themselves badasses. I’ve seen what happens when things like “it’s just fantasy” gets out of control.