One of the fundamental truths of LRP is that the quality of the game is dependent on the people at the game. Live roleplayers often prefer to attend games our friends are going to - because we know that we will get the kind of roleplaying experience we want when playing in their company. The people we roleplay with are often more important then the event itself in determining how much we enjoy the game. The setting, the characters, the plot - these things are crucial - but so is the way we interact and roleplay with each other.
Laying out a code of conduct for players attending our events gives us a chance to define the acceptable parameters of behaviour. That lets players know if the style of roleplay that is encouraged at our events is something they will enjoy or not. Most games are explicit about the setting and the game rules - by being explicit about the rules for conduct we want to empower players to make an informed decision if this is a game that they will enjoy.
- It's fine to disagree with our rules, provided you follow them at our events
- We run live roleplaying events - not political debates
Some of the elements of our code of conduct are contentious. The overwhelming majority of people who attend our LRP games accept that players should be treated equally regardless of their identity - but there is no clear agreement on the best way to try and create an environment that supports that. Part of the reason we need a code of conduct is precisely because players do not all agree on the best way to tackle the problem; if everyone felt the same way about the issues there would be no need to lay down any guidelines for what we required at our events.
Disagreement is healthy, LRP benefits from a marketplace of ideas. We don't expect or even want all live roleplayers to agree with the policies we have adopted - but we do require the players who choose to come to our events to comply with them while interacting with the Empire community. This code of conduct is part of the rules that we have laid down for Empire, and in that sense it is just like any of the other rules of the game. We don't expect all experienced live roleplayers to agree with our design choices for how combat or magic works best in a live roleplaying game - but we do expect everyone to follow our rules and take their hits. It's fine to disagree with our policies and our politics - provided you still follow the rules of the event you have chosen to attend.
Disagreement between live roleplayers on the best way to tackle these issues can often lead to heated debate. That debate is healthy - it is the essential element that allows members of the hobby to develop a better understanding of the issues and identify better ways to improve games. But crucially, we run live roleplaying events - not a debating society - our goal is to create the best events we can - not act as a forum for the wider hobby. As such we encourage players to use other forums, online spaces, and events to discuss the issues addressed by our code of conduct. The reason that Profound Decisions players come together is to enjoy Empire - not to discuss politics - so please respect our game and try to take political debates elsewhere where reasonably possible.
Where Angels Fear to Tread
Defining a code of conduct is difficult. There is no need to make rules for the things everyone already agrees on - the only issues that need addressing are the ones that are contentious. By necessity our code of conduct lays down rules and requirements that some of our players will not agree with. In fact, given the wide-ranging nature of the material covered and the wide range of views on the subjects dealt with it's likely that almost everyone can find something to disagree with. Defining a code of conduct for our games is an intimidating prospect, it is an unpleasant nettle to grasp.
The easy alternative is not to bother. In a small live roleplaying game, there is rarely a need for an explicit code of conduct because players will tend to find mutual agreement on the kind of conduct acceptable for the game simply by socializing together. The code of conduct still exists - but it comes into being through evolution rather than design and it is not written down anywhere. But every LRP game can identify behaviour that is not acceptable to them - the code of conduct is still real even if it hasn't been written down. Not having an explicit code of conduct has many advantages - since the majority of human beings tend to assume that their own personal views are the right ones and represent the majority. By not writing a code of conduct down groups of players with different views on what is acceptable behaviour for a LRP game can participate in the same game by assuming that everyone else is doing it wrong.
That works less well in a large game - especially in a game like Empire that appeals to thousands of live roleplayers from across the country. The more players participate in a game, the greater the spread of views there is. In the absence of a clear code of conduct the only way to establish the agreed parameters for the game is to argue it out at the events and online. Given how emotive these issues are, that tends to produce volatile, hostile arguments that are incendiary, divisive, and exhausting for everyone.
We've taken the decision to draw together existing material that was spread over our website and wiki and update it and give it more prominence because we think the advantage in terms of clear communication of what players can expect and what is expected of them is worth the price of offending players who don't find our code acceptable. It's not a pleasant thing to have to do - but we wouldn't do it if we didn't think Empire would benefit by doing it.
Compliance Not Convergence
The kind of issues that we address in our code of conduct, costume, language, equality and diversity, are emotive and politically contentious. There is absolute agreement in the minds of individuals on what the right answers are, but there is no agreement at all across our hobby or in the wider gaming community about the way to handle these issues. At events we tend to focus on playing the game, so we reserve discussion of these contentious issues for the internet - an environment perfectly designed to polarize debates and breed resentment.
We don't imagine for a second that our code of conduct will settle these arguments - that is not what it is intended for. We have no basis for telling other players the answers to these questions nor are we remotely interested in doing so. Profound Decisions is not a political party- it exists purely to try to create enjoying live roleplaying games. Our remit extends to our own games - and no further.
So we can't stop people arguing on the internet about what the answers should be, but we can define what the answers are for Empire. We don't remotely expect everyone to agree with the decisions we take - but disagreeing with us about how many hits your character should have, doesn't give an individual player license to ignore the rules that have been laid down for everyone. It's absolutely fine to disagree with us - provided you comply with the rules we have laid down for Empire when you are involved with the game.
Human Rights and Human Wrongs
In laying down a code of conduct, we absolutely are trampling on the inalienable human right for you to turn up at our events and do whatever you like. Of course this supposed "right" never existed in the first place. You can't play stormtroopers, ewoks or jedi at our Empire events. In fact, no LRP organization has ever created a game where you can turn up and do whatever you like. All we have done is take that further than many systems by explicitly defining the code of conduct that we expect of participants.
In doing that we have categorically increased the restrictions on people's right to do as they please at our events. That is not a step that we take lightly - as a libertarian I'm overly attached to people's rights to choose for themselves. We've done that to ensure that people have the right to attend our events without experiencing the kind of behaviour we've asked players to avoid.
But there is another right here - my right to run the game I want to run. The right of my crew to create the game they want to create. Everyone involved in Empire has some right to define what they want for the game - our view is that the more work you put into the game, the more right you have to make those decisions. Ultimately Profound Decisions is the only body that can make a conscious choice about what the rules for conduct should be at our events - we've chosen to take that step because if we're going to spend our lives working on a game than we're damn well going to choose to do that on a game that we want to run.
In short we've set these rules for our code of conduct because these are the rules we want for our game. Anyone who genuinely respects us for running Empire will be willing to abide by the rules of the game because they will respect our right to choose what we create.
Of course some participants will be unhappy at the decisions we have made - that is inevitable. We can't make everyone happy - and we have never claimed that we would try to do that. But regardless of any restrictions that we create, everyone who is part of the live roleplaying community retains one fundamental human right - the freedom to choose what games they wish to attend.