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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

a revised series of guidelines for storyboard interaction

Our last board had a whole slew of rules and regulations, cheerfully narrated by Kayla the waitress, to which no one ever paid the slightest attention. This time we're keeping the rules to three, and they will be enforced:

1) Don't use any restricted characters (RPCs) without permission. Ever. These characters are restricted because their authors don't want to deal with writing them actively right now. So do not involve them in any plots in any way unless the author does so first or you have specifically gotten permission. If you do and the author complains, your post will be deleted. If you do and it's a character Doug has proscribed, then heaven help you come the next reunion campaign. :-D

2) Don't make any decisions or reactions on behalf of somebody else's active character (PC), nor make any changes to such a character. These characters are PCs because their authors want to be able to participate by making these decisions themselves. So don't steal their thunder and spoil their fun. If you do and the author complains, your post will be deleted. Such major infractions include: killing someone else's PC, making them fall in love with yours, making choices for them, making them take actions which have significant consequences, making them change their minds, writing what they're thinking, or any other similar cooptiing of their autonomy. As a GM, you wouldn't tell your players how their characters react to things you do to them; don't do it here, unless you've been given SPECIFIC permission.

3) For the sake of fluidity and fun, authors ARE allowed to write about other people's PCs in their posts if they don't do any of the stuff forbidden by rule #2. If another author writes about your PC and makes a mistake--gets your hair color wrong, provides inappropriate dialogue, or something--you have three options: let it slide this time but email a correction so it won't happen again, correct the error in your next post (your version will be the canonical one), or, if it really really bugs you, email Laura the correction and she'll edit the post. But whichever you choose, don't yell at the other author--anyone can make a mistake, and we want to encourage people to play. Acceptable use of other people's characters include: dialogue, letting them figure something out ("Flicker notices his boots aren't leaving prints in the mud,") action WITHOUT reaction ("Suddenly an aurumvorax bites Flicker's leg!" or "Edyric declares her love for Flicker!"), consequences to actions the author has ALREADY WRITTEN ("Since Flicker cowardly fled from the aurumvorax, it disembowels Edyric!") As a rule of thumb, if it's something a GM might do to you or have your character figure out in a session, it's kosher here.

Hopefully common sense will suffice 98% of the time, but these rules DO matter--they're the only way for new or less frequent posters to ever have a chance to participate fully, and the only conditions under which other authors will play. There's only three of 'em, so please do take them to heart. You can find the list of restricted characters, PCs, and NPCs here.

Otherwise, you are free to contribute however you choose. There are no restrictions on style or subject matter. Write for your own PCs or for the board NPCs as frequently or as infrequently as you like. Contribute to the ongoing plots, write tangential stories in the background, or start up a new plot. Follow along or add new plot twists. We reserve the right to boot you if you're a total ass (you know, the kind who undoes everything the other writers do and spends his posts feeling up all the other characters), but aside from that, follow your own drummer, and we'll work with you.

Check out our Interactive Fiction page for some in-depth tips and writing suggestions. A few guidelines (these aren't rules and you don't have to remember or abide by them, but they may make your storyboarding more harmonious):

*DON'T cover too much ground in one post. If your post spans weeks of travel or initiates a combat, concludes it, moves the party to a new location, and then embroils them in some intrigue all in one fell swoop, you will have skimmed right over everyone else's chance to contribute to any of it. Try to pause and let other people take part at least once a plot point.

*DON'T feel obligated to log in multiple times a day, or expect anyone else to. Try to give other writers 24 hours to respond to things that happen to their PCs before moving on; conversely, if you're offline longer than that or things move on without you, take advantage of the flexible timeflow of the board to write a flashback, or your character musing over what already happened, to catch up without much stress. It's just a game, after all.

*DO read the other posts, at least those in the storyline you're writing to! If you contradict or undermine what other writers have just said, your post will likely be ignored, and will certainly be the one removed in any later write-up.

*DON'T interrupt or hijack what other writers are doing. Throwing in a new twist is fine, but if you jump in and try to drag the story somewhere else while something other writers are interested in is still in progress, they will probably either ignore or be annoyed with you. Try to work cooperatively, building on what's currently happening rather than bypassing it.

*DO use selective attention as a tool to handle skeeves (vague plotlike ideas tossed out by authors who don't have any real plans for them yet). There will be many more possibilities brought up in the course of a plotline than can possibly be pursued. Follow the ones that are most interesting, and leave the rest by the wayside. If the plot is starting to move in one direction and suddenly someone tosses out a skeeve that doesn't connect at all, you're under no obligation to try and wrestle it into the plot. You can ignore the skeeve, at least for now, and go on with what you were doing. If someone thinks of a good way to tie it in later, maybe they will; or maybe someone will pick it up for another plotline; or maybe it'll just get dropped. On the other hand, if the skeeve fits into what you're doing, you can scoop it up immediately (Mad Sallie, the escapees from Hell, and the Rat Kings themselves all came about this way). Skeeving is not illegal and in fact can really benefit the board, but you're in no way obliged to pay attention to any particular skeeve if it doesn't suit your purposes.

*If you are the 'captain' of a plotline (sort of the mini-GM), DO have a general plot arc in mind from the beginning (i.e. "The evil Paris ancestor Aelwyn has returned and is leading the Remnant to destroy them all, with the secret help of the traitorous Tora, but Rauvin Paris is even more secretly plotting to double-cross them") and a couple of good plot points for along the way (i.e. "The mysterious 'Passage' leads to Starcross Station"and "There is a second Jack Paris who was split off from the first to safeguard Paris family secrets"). If all you have is a vague thematic concept (i.e. "Rimbor City is corrupt"), your plotline will be frustrating! On the other hand, DO allow the other players to introduce side plots, NPCs, and other curveballs to your plot; otherwise it will be boring as you lead them by the nose from one plot point to the next. Especially avoid un-writing their characters' unexpected actions or reactions to your plot, even if they're stupid. Nothing turns off players faster than having no input into the plot. If Rani decides Aelwyn must be the Diarian Emperor and leads the party on some nonsensical errand into the Diari Wastes, deal with that; players have free will. On the other hand, if Laura reveals Aelwyn to be the Diari Emperor planning world domination from the Diari Wastes, you are perfectly within your rights to write "Then Rani woke up and vowed never to eat burritoes before bed again." You don't have to put up with people hijacking your plot, but if you want players to enjoy it, let them make meaningful choices about their characters' direction.

*On a related note, if somebody else is the 'captain' of a plotline, DON'T jump in and make sweeping changes to the overall plot arc like "Aelwyn is really the Diari Emperor, so let's move all the action to the Diari Wastes and confront him and his telepathic demon army!" The captain will have every right to change the plot back where it belongs, and the other writers won't like playing with you as much. Be collaborative, not cooptive.

*Finally, DON'T use your posts for meta-complaints about how bored you are with combat/talking/romance/psychodrama posts lately. This has occasionally caused bad blood between authors, but more to the point, even when it's friendly gibing taken as intended it can hurt group morale and paralyze new or uncertain writers such that they don't post or take forever to post for fear of writing something the others will find uninteresting. If you're getting sick of an endless combat, make the enemies retreat, leaving some odd clue behind for everyone's attention to be diverted to. If you're tired of a romance plot, incite some action elsewhere on the board. There's plenty to do out here. Try to be constructive about it.

All posts to the Mithril Dagger Storyboard are (C) copyright by the author indicated.


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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

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