Seminar: Gather in the Gutter

Summary: Asini and Fishbreath lead a discussion on roleplaying crime and criminals, including issues such as crime against non-player characters and finding players who will consent to portray victims

Air Date: 2005.06.18

Asini lays down a few ground rules. Let's try and keep chitchat to a minimum. Got a question, raise your pretty little hand where I can see it. Otherwise things could get all crazy and stuff, and I'd be forced to kill you all.

Asini says, "'Kay then. For those not in the know, I'm the new U999 admin, though I pretty much throw my hat in anywhere that players are wanting to do shady stuff. Most of the Jackal and Faux piracy stuff in the last Arc was me, and I'm hoping we can see more crews and the like getting in on it."

Asini says, "Fishy's heading up Tomin Kora, but the Warren -- and TK in general -- has sort of lost its bite. OS' criminal element's lacking. There's no smuggling going on or bank robberies or even petty theft, and beyond that sudden explosion we saw with the new +bounty system, there's little if any real criminal presence that has PCs talking."

Asini says, "So there you have the point of this chat. What would you guys like to see? What would be cool?"

Syvanix says, "The reason you don't see any petty theft or any criminal presence is that the mentality towards criminals, outside of TK and a couple other areas for the past 4 years has been: Wait for the criminal to fail a taskroll and smite, thus showing an object lesson that it's an exercise in futility for any criminal activity to happen outside of the 'designated criminal areas.' - As for repairing it, I think that what needs to happen is we emphasize the relative strengths/weaknesses of the the enforcement agencies. In other words, as a criminal, if I want to do something I should be able to have a vague idea on a way to not get caught. On LT for example, it'd be a good idea to emphasize on occassion that customs officials aren't above bribery or other less than pleasant tactics to get some goods across."

Silvereye says, "Syvanix is getting at what I wanted to. Let's just stick with him."

Asini nods. I talked with someone recently about this. What has been a problem in the past, from what I understand, is that people haven't been following through with that RP. They just show up and roll the dice. There's been little RP of someone paying an official to look the other way, or sabotaging a security camera in a jewelry store, or following the avenues to determine the strength of the enforcement agencies or what have you.

Asini says, "There's a lot of preparation that goes into setting up a successful heist."

Asini says, "Those that don't think it through... well, they're the ones you see on COPS."

Kastaprulyi raises a tentacle.

Asini eyes Kas, checks around for schoolgirls, nods.

Kastaprulyi says, "To look at it from the other perspective, maybe it's not that the police are too good. Like Sanctuary police had more than a few things go wrong, and there are vigilantes running free all over the place. Maybe the problem is that there isn't enough balance- where the authorities are good at their job, but not /super/ good." Kastaprulyi says, "...and what Syv aand Asi said. :)"

Syvanix has more if you don't have anything right now Asini and we aren't waiting on someone else.

Asini headtilts, and ponders. I wasn't here back in Sanctuary days, but I think I see what you're saying. But it's unfair to the playerbase to assume that all cops are super good at their jobs. You average NPC beat cop responding to a call, personally, I'd scale at Fair. Detectives, SWAT teams, and specialized forces would climb higher. And while you have to use sense and watch your step, they don't have eyes everywhere.

Asini says, "Whatcha got, Al?"

Syvanix says, "I think the other observation I'd like to make is NPC vs. PC crime. - Namely, most criminal activity that has taken place is against PCs, which means that as a criminal you're going to have the heroes after you. How would you personally advise going about running criminal activity against NPCs, since that seems to be where you've focused for the most part."

Silvereye raises a paw.

Asini says, "One sec, Silv honey."

Silvereye is just getting in line.

Asini is definitely more inclined toward PC vs NPC. I like the consent game when dealing with sprayin' bullets and stealin' things when it's between PCs. My number one recommendation there is communicate with staff. Communicate with 'em! If you're holding up a grocery store on Sivad, holler at Aeolus; dumping toxic waste in the Alhiran Baths, go talk to Chalice. Before you do anything, the second the idea gets in your head, +str what you want to do and start a jam session with staff.

Asini also staples Brok.

Brokichev's connection is being odd.

Asini nods at Silv.

Silvereye says, "Doing underworld stuff is by far the most difficult thing to do on OS. It requires a special kind of player that frankly is in short supply. I think things become infinitely easier if you follow Asini's suggestion which is to plan with Admins and target NPCs, but I also feel like that's not really in the style of OS as it resembles more of a quest that you'd go on in MUD. I know that sounds really snobby but I think it's true. You lose the impact and the shock value of real life crimes (well, not really as most everyone is desensitized) when you don't go after PCs and remind the community that just because you're a PC you're not immortal. That's why the DelMarenno incident was shocking, we hadn't seen anything like that from 'normal' players in a long time. It also highlighted the problem with PC vs. PC, that the players sometimes intervene and make things hell for everyone. I think that's what needs to be addressed as at least I believe that PC vs. PC is ultimately the most desirable form of criminal activity. We can't do anything about getting the kind of players necessary for underworld activity but I think what has to happen is to bring the victims around. What are the thoughts on that, how do we get players to play victims?"

Asini falls over.

Silvereye is long 'cause he's got to go in a few minutes. I'll wait for any reply, though.

Syvanix has a comment for Silv.

Kastaprulyi has a small comment too.

Asini does agree, Silv. I don't want to give the impression that I'm working toward building a happy fairy land where bad guys can come and crochet and every day is double coupon day. Au contraire: the underworld I'm trying to help build will have some f'ing teeth and those that can't handle it will be finding their names in purple on the 'who'. PC vs PC is definitely a lot more intense, but like you said... feathers get ruffled because someone is going to be the loser.

Asini says, "As for how to build a better victim?"

Kastaprulyi says, "The most important part of getting players to accept trouble for their characters is trust. Trust that if they're into realism that you don't hurt their suspension of disbelief, if they are really into heroism that they don't go down without a good hard fight. Overall, trust that everyone is looking out for everyone else's fun."

Asini hits backspace and echoes Kas.

Asini says, "No worries, we were essentially sayin' the same thing ;)"

Silvereye says, "Alright, thanks for the discussion. I've gotta head out."

Silvereye says, "I'll read the log if the website ever returns."

Asini says, "Bye Silv. :)"

Asini laughs.

Syvanix says, "More or less the same here. Most of my victims have tended to be those players I know and have at least talked to about the matter. A lot of it has to do with 'how much damage will it do' and 'how much damage will be done to my character if caught.' - Trust is the key, but that takes a lot of time to establish."

Asini says, "Basically, we're all here to have fun. As long as you don't make the victim feel like you're gunning for 'em OOCly and give them some good quality RP that they can build off of, you're golden."

Asini nodnodnods.

Kastaprulyi says, "Make them believe that you're going to do and have done them a favor. :)"

Syvanix says, "A lot of being a good 'bad guy' in general is just knowing who you're screwing over ICly. I'm definately a fan of OOC conversation in the PC vs. PC situations, but it does severely restrict your underworld development."

Asini says, "Like the Hyperion thing -- what few people know is that while Kisa and Salzier stole the ship, Mika was the one who orchestrated it. It sort of blew up in her face and she ended up simply having to collect the bounty, but that's the beauty of these things: even the best schemes go awry and you better have a backup plan. With Hyperion, there was a LOT of weighing of the pros and cons of doing the job OOCly. If you're only concerned with what YOUR character will get out of it, then in my opinion, you're playing the damn game wrong. Think about it from all angles."

Asini nods to Syv.

Kastaprulyi says, "And maybe if the victim doesn't know you well, you can get someone who knows both of you well (but who isn't involved) to help you plan the crime. That way, you're more likely to get concensus on how to play things out, rather than bickering OOCly about the details until someone gets annoyed."

Syvanix has another topic when we get there.

Asini agrees. Bouncing ideas off of other players is always a good idea, but be mindful of who you do it with -- we all know a couple of people whose characters mysteriously know things after an OOC chat. Talking it over with staff is always a good idea, particularly whoever oversees the zone you're playing in. Or me. I guess that's sort of what I'm here for, too, huh? Haha. Yeah, you could poke at me, too. :P

Asini says, "Whatcha got, Al?"

Syvanix says, "Any thoughts on white collar activity, Asini? While we're on criminal activity in general. Unless you have more to say. - Reason I ask is that this and the corruption activity is where I've had much more success in the past. Mostly since from the consent angle it means bad stuff happens ICly but there's little risk to character health."

Brokichev has disconnected.

Asini says, "I'd love to see more nasty corporate nogoodniking. Unfortunately, I'm about as business-minded as a turnip."

Asini says, "So all I can really say is YEAH! BE A CORPORATE DEVIL! And um, kinda of hope that you know what all that entails, because I sure don't. ;)"

Syvanix smirks.

Asini says, "Rivalries between companies and all that funny insider trading and paying politicians to cover up your shady schemes and whatnot? That'd be great. That's not restricted to G'ahnli."

Cruyer is a politician. He bobs his eyebrows.

Kastaprulyi says, "I think first people need to know what's normal and legal, so they'll know the risks if they choose to do otherwise. You can give business-beings' players that background either by pointing out good PC examples of "normal" (if there are any) or by writing up an official theme guide."

Asini also notes that when I say 'consent' I don't mean that because both players agreed to whatever is occurring, that they're all going to come out free of bumps. It's part fairness, part pre-emptive strike against the griping that inevitably follows with most victims, as brought up earlier: "You agreed. You *knew* what was happening."

Asini smells a second seminar held by someone way more qualified than herself. Coughs in the general direction of Icarus.

Kastaprulyi has a comment on the consent.

Asini says, "A new theme guide is nearing completion. But really, if they have questions on what's legal and what's not in a certain area, they can @chan/on que or +str. I understand that finding a starting point is very hard, particularly in the underworld -- which I suppose is a nice segue into another topic."

Asini says, "What's up, Kas?"

Kastaprulyi says, "You should still make sure they don't feel tricked when you spring a surprise. (Even if you did warn them ahead of time.) You should make sure they feel privileged that you took the trouble to do the RP with them by appealing to whatever rp style they're into."

Asini says, "Yes. Make the RP worth it."

Asini says, "If there's nothing else there, the next item... starting off. Lots of people come in wanting to play space pirates or whatever, and you can't just be spit out of chargen with a ship and the necessary equipment and all, no matter how good your bio is."

Asini says, "Which does concern me. I mean, I do understand -- newbies come and go, and they aren't familiar with the atmosphere right off. I *know* why there is no shuttle to Tomin Kora."

Asini says, "But how can we help those who do want to dip their toe in the deep end better? Or are things fine the way they are?"

Asini lags.

Kastaprulyi has a suggestion

Asini says, "Sup kas."

Syvanix gets in line.

Kastaprulyi says, "In order for a pirate to get certain priveleges or get into big action, maybe you can get them to informally agree to take on a newbie pirate at some time in the future. (Same could go for any hard to get into career, really)"

Brokichev handraises.

Asini nods. I was actually considering like a smuggler's guild, or something... in fact Torr and I had worked on something along those lines a while back. Fosters illegal trade and giving people a way in, two big things of mine.

Asini says, "Alex, then Brok."

Syvanix says, "I think criminal activity is best suited like a few other things here. It's meant for the more experienced players, or generally for those who know the place better than someone brand new. A first character can make a good criminal, but it should take additional effort. 1) It means less turnover due to a lack of understanding 2) the underworld can be known to have quality RP, rather than those who think it's all about guns and 3) they understand the Darwinian nature going in."

Asini says, "Yeah, 2) is worth noting. The underworld is dangerous, but it's not OS's PvP zone. There's more RP than simply 'grr arr I'm gritty I'll kill you'."

Asini waves to Katya.

Innokentevna waves back

Asini says, "Whooooa nelly. Bouncing villains."

Asini thinks we're waiting on a comment from Brok?

Brokichev wakes up. "Ehwhat? Oh, right."

Asini grins and swats.

Brokichev says, "Well, Syvanix kinda said what I was gonna say. But also, working your way up has its advantages. There's the RP, obviously, but then you get to that uber-cool pirate status (if you haven't screwed up) and everyone knows your rep that you've established IC. And if you do screw up (like Brok did)... well, it leads to interesting character development."

Brokichev apologizes if he just inadvertently regurgitated something that someone else said.

Asini nods. There *is* a lot to be said about working your way up. Jackal certainly wouldn't exist had we not spent eight months aboard Hyperion selling tea. There was a lot of 'God, this isn't what I want to be doing' going through my head.

Asini says, "But at the time, the only option was the Warren. The Warren wasn't exactly what I wanted, nor is it really all that active, and I just kind of recall the teeth-grinding frustration as I tried to figure out where the heck to start."

Kastaprulyi re-states something...

Asini does have to be leaving soon. Are there any questions or additional things anyone feels should be brought to my attention before I go?

Asini nodnods to Kas.

Kastaprulyi says, "And maybe someone who thinks they want to play a pirate really would be happier playing a tea-shipper. :)"

Asini laughs. Very good point. ;)

Brokichev would like to add something real quick.

Asini says, "Fire away, Brok m'love."

Brokichev says, "There's a lack of criminal types on Chia, too. So be a space pirate *and* a brigand!"

Asini snickers. Yes. Go plunder Palisade.

Asini says, "They'll scream 'Shadow-Touched' quicker than you can squeeze into a petticoat."

Brokichev happens to have an alt trying to establish a criminal empire on Chia. It's hard to do without goons. :(

Asini grins. That's a whole 'nother bag of rocks, there. Goons! Any thoughts on henchmen and assorted thuggery? Of course, PCs are ideal, but where should the line be drawn in regards to NPCs?

Fishbreath appears in a flash of rancid stench. "I'd say that henchmen should be limited to the coded +hm stuff, with objects representing more and somewhat inferior thuggery granted only with good justification."

Syvanix says, "It depends on the purpose, I've personally come to like the retainer system of Chia over +hm but that's more the xp versus IC money debate."

Syvanix says, "But yeah, it needs to be coded in somehow, otherwise you get into a really fuzzy situation which just isn't good."

Asini also tacks on her own personal opinion... if you're going to have thugs or whatever, establish them in RP! This gets back to what Kas was saying earlier about giving the victims a good scene to soften the blow a little bit.

Kastaprulyi says, "I think goons should be OOCly appreciated as much by the players whose characters get bashed as the people who hired the goons. And you should be able to have non-coded NPC goons if consent vs chance isn't going to be an issue too often."

Brokichev's gotta run. RL calls.

Asini says, "Thanks for coming, Brok."

Kastaprulyi wavies

Brokichev says, "Thanks for holding this shindig :) *waves*"

Asini says, "NPC goons are sort of a gray area. While I don't really care for the current +hm system, I understand why it's in place."

Asini scrolls up, basically repeats Syvanix. Oy.

Fishbreath says, "While we're on the subject, what would you change about the current +hm system?"

Syvanix says, "Make it based on credits or currency rather than xp."

Asini hits backspace a lot and fistshakes at Fishy, and also echoes Syvanix again.

Asini says, "Pay in credits rather than XP."

Innokentevna slowly raises a hand ... to speak if I can?

Asini says, "Sup Katya."

Kastaprulyi has another payment idea.

Asini says, "Katya, then Kas."

Fishbreath says, "If they don't say what I'm going to, I'll jump in after them."

Innokentevna takes a breath ... I might recommend upgrading it to System 3.00 with much more adaptable and customizable henchmen, and less drain on the server on the server side. as for payment, I suspect thats an esier said than done thing to properly balance ...

Kastaprulyi says, "Maybe if your goon is only beating up folks or hacking their comps once a month rather than once a week, it'd be better to call in admin for that special occasion than to use the +hm system. And I think Incoming Transmissions would be a better payment than credits or XP."

Asini oooooohs at Kas's idea. Sort of like the mandatory 300 words for offing a PC.

Syvanix would like to queue up.

Asini says, "But yeah. Staff. Coded goons or not, talk to staff."

Asini says, "The criminal's Rule Number One on Otherspace."

Asini says, "Where are we? Fishy? Fishy then Syv."

Fishbreath nods. "One reason why henchmen aren't for money, I think, is that wealth seems a bit more abstracted here than at Chia. Nobles start off with 200,000 whatchamacallits at Chia, while everyone here, regardless of social standing and/or past history, starts with 2,000 credits. There, nobles have retainers that make a net profit and crafters have nobles to sell things to--kinda simplified, but an economy much more functioning than the one here, which means that people can actually save enough to keep their retainers around. Paying by XP seems a reasonable way to me--if you're RPing, and presumably throwing your henchmen around, then they're earning their keep."

Syvanix says, "And perhaps I'm misunderstanding, but my impression of +hm from reading the help files is that they're meant to be an xp sink, for one. Someone isn't meant to have many henchmen, namely, from the xp cost. It's prohibitively expensive even to the most xp rich characters (I'm talking 1500-2k+ xp). - The other thing is that it's meant to represent almost any NPC that can do anything, namely from the specialist example in the help file. - I'll agree, it's an easier said than done thing but I think it's a valid consideration."

Innokentevna knows the answer to that one ...

Asini glances at Katya.

Innokentevna says, "It was designed so it was very expensive to have henchmen, and lotsa them, better than the average PC when it came to things like, lets say, combat skills. PCs are supposed to be the heros, da?""

Kastaprulyi has a comment

Asini nods to Kas

Asini jumps in line after Kas.

Kastaprulyi says, "I think providing good background on what's realistic, and making sure that everyone is thinking of everyone else's fun, are usually better solutions to NPC issues than coded restrictions or costs. (I know sometimes code is a necessary evil, for fairness sake.) If RP or online stories that everyone can read are the price of getting good goons, that might provide both types of solution."

Asini says, "I agree, Kas. And yeah... in the case of goons, code is sort of a necessary evil, because there are morons who'd try to twink out. :P I do like your idea regarding an accompanying story, though -- s'what we're here to do, right? Tell a story? And Katya brings up a very valid point, too -- if you're depending on henchmen and not PCs to get the job done, you might want to re-evaluate the way you play. Henchmen are intended to fill gaps, not serve as substitutions."

Asini says, "On Chia, they've got a million bazillion servants in noble houses doing this and that and this whole crafting thing going on, like Fishy said. And that's really different than what we have here."

Asini says, "And..."

Asini says, "The time has come for me to go out and drown myself in alcohol. Guys: I really appreciate you coming in here and hittin' me with your thoughts; I can seriously work with everything you said tonight, and I hope you have a good idea of where I'm coming from, too. And if you have further ideas or questions, don't hesitate to contact me."

Asini says, "Fishy, you gonna hang around?"

Fishbreath says, "I have some time, sure."

Asini says, "Rawk. Hit me with the log of your portion, then. :)"

Asini thanks again, and disappears in a poof of confetti and villainy.

Thender looks like I missed the whole thing?! WTF?

Kastaprulyi has an idea related to Katya's point.

Fishbreath says, "Well, Asini's on her way out but I'm hanging around to keep things going. Go ahead, Kas."

Thender curses.

Kastaprulyi says, "Maybe one reason for gaps that "need" to be filled with henchmen is that the roles aren't OOCly attractive enough. Sure, there are plenty of people who want to play heroes. But if you can't find a PC to play the wisecracking toady of the mob boss, who always gets beat up, you just need to ask a different way. :)"

Thender says, "Did anyone already mention the dearth of targets for henchmen like that to occupy themselves with?"

Kastaprulyi will try to answer.

Kastaprulyi says, "I think Asini said she prefers PC vs NPC, so you can do nasty things to them without hurting anyone's feelings. So if you want to do something to NPCs, just -communicate- with the admin in charge as soon as you come up with an idea. But we also talked a lot about consent, trust, and OOC communication which is how you can do PC vs PC."

Fishbreath nods.

Thender says, "Right on."

Thender says, "Did bounties get touched on, theN?"

Kastaprulyi says, "Don't think they did."

Thender says, "That means I have a question: are the admin going to rely on the "Hunted" character type and PCs own thirst for adventure (or, death) to fuel bounty hunting - or are they going to pay any attention to it at all, and just leave it for special occasions and player use?"

Fishbreath says, "I'd like to try and keep at least one or two more attainable bounties in the system at all times, but that depends mostly on how many people I can find who are willing to play hunted characters--while I'll probably do a few myself, it's the sort of thing that takes time I only have on occasion."

Thender says, "I think the possibility of players only temporarily having bounties on their heads - that is, there being opportunities to lift the bounty, or escape from it somehow - might increase the popularity of tha.t"

Kastaprulyi has a few comments

Fishbreath says, "Go ahead, Kas."

Kastaprulyi thinks a +bboard would've been just as good as a new command, but the idea of "motivators" issued by everything from governments to petty criminals is neat. I have a couple concerns: One, that people are going to try to earn bounties without thinking about how realistic that would be (like kidnapping someone off Sivad). Of course, if they know it's crazy to mess with patrol bots and try it anyway, more power to them. :) Two, that people might see the +bounty system takes coded credits and not think to post a bounty with RPed ones.

Kastaprulyi adds for Thender, "And if they don't want a bounty to be collected on them, they can always stay on Centauri." :)

Thender says, "I think the bounty system is a good piece of code to have because it ensures that the bounty payor has the money set aside when the time comes to collect - so you don't forget you've promised to pay someone half a million credits when your bounty shows up, and wind up with no money. Yeah, but hiding and not RPing is no fun, and if you didn't want to play the game, why would you walk on the field? I'm talking about more of a clearing-your-name type scenario, like say I had a Hunted character who was framed for murder and was on the run or something. Trying to track down the real killer would be a driving force for my character, and if I got tired of being a Hunted or wanted to go in a different direction, I could arrange a plot."

Thender says, "Or an ex-spy with a bounty on his head from a foreign government who could get a face change, or something, y'know? I mean it's not always obvious to people that *they* make the story."

Kastaprulyi says, "Good point about the money, assuming you promised coded money. And I'm pretty sure an admin would take down the bounty if it wasn't possible to collect it anymore."

Thender nods.

Kastaprulyi says, "Hey, I thought of another type of crime nobody mentioned..."

Fishbreath nods at Kas.

Kastaprulyi says, "Crime in prisons. Usually chars seem to be sprung from prison or allowed to fade away because they weren't getting any RP besides the odd visitor. But what if you had a mob boss running a drug ring or something from behind bars? (in a place with lax prison security, of course)"

Thender nods. "I kind of thought of prison stuff too, but not necessarily crime. Like Kisa and Salzeir could be having to watch their backs because of prison gangs - joining them or dodging them. Prison could be one of those crucibles that harden a character, like joining a military or a violent org.

Thender says, "What other kinds of crimes were mentioned?"

Thender says, "and when it comes time for the character's parole hearing, maybe mob ties or some such could get them sprung ... and they'll be leaner and meaner when the yget out."

Kastaprulyi says, "White-collar crime, bribing customs officials, and piracy got mentioned"

Thender says, "Forgot cybercrime like bank hacking and industrial espionage. And what happened to good old-fashioned robbery?"

Fishbreath ran a plot based on industrial espionage.

Thender says, "That's true."

Fishbreath says, "Granted, it kinda petered out."

Kastaprulyi says, "Bank hacking is probably an ask-the-admin thing, unless somebody makes a banker PC."

Thender says, "True, Kas, but it seems like everything is right now."

Kastaprulyi says, "Well, you have to ask for a little background or permission first, but then you can run with it."

Fishbreath nods. "We admin like players who run plots."

Fishbreath says, "Is there anything else, then?"

Kastaprulyi shrugs, and was planning to just listen when I got there 4.5 hours ago. :)

Fishbreath says, "It's getting late here, and if there's no more then I'd like to head to bed now. :)"

Kastaprulyi pokes Thender. Guess he can @mail any extra questions to Asini.

Fishbreath nods and waves. "Thanks for coming."

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