To have “good roleplay” in Chimera, you need two things: 1) safety tools; 2) roleplay guideposts.
In Lieu of the idea of safety tools in TTRPGs like D&D--concepts like Lines, Veils, Stars, and Wishes, I have included a variant of these rules to open up conversations at the table. My line of thinking is, if there is roleplay, there must be safety. This section MUST be read over. If you don’t read this, you are cheating.
To give my own definition, Boundaries are guidelines, rules, and limitations that a person sets regarding anything (behavior, objects, topics of conversation) that they a) do not want in game, b) do not want to happen to their character, c) do not want in other player’s backstories, d) in table discussion, or e) anywhere near them. In brief, when a person says “no” to something, when they say “I do not want X to happen at the table”, they are asking you to respect their boundaries as a person or a player at the table.
The person who sets a boundary does not need to disclose why this is a boundary for them, as it may be triggering. If they do not feel their boundaries are being respected, they should consider having a conversation regarding the matter or leaving the group altogether. Likewise, a group may want to explore narratives that has triggering content; if this is the case, the GM should be fully aware of this, have a conversation with their players to set expectations, and anyone who agreed to engage in this kind of content should be allowed to leave this group at anytime should this environment prove uncomfortable.
To clarify, Chimera supports both its GMs and Players who decide to engage in the world, but does not outwardly or openly condonethe shenanigans people should get up to that would trigger someone, offend the boundaries of a person, etc. Chimera seeks to create a safe roleplay space, but this effort is largely up to the people who pick up the hobby.
As a GM, it is wise to open the conversation to your players regarding topics they may be sensitive to. This is in an effort to either avoid them altogether or respectfully fade-to-black or otherwise omit certain details from the world.
Potential trigger warnings ahead, as some of these will be mentioned to designate common sensitive topics.
Many players come to the hobby to enjoy an escapist fantasy, a power fantasy, and what have you. What one player enjoys may offend another. Check to see what your players enjoy, but also what they don’t enjoy. For example, Chimera involves combat, and while there are pacifistic options, some players may not enjoy this nor want in-depth details about how they handle foes. Ask them what they expect, and ask them what media they have seen that they would enjoy participating in (anything from My Little Pony to Game of Thrones).
Remember, you are building a world together. If you have a vision for a world, see if you can compromise and accommodate your players. After all, these are hopefully your friends, and you are building a world with them and for one another, not just for yourself.
X-Card / and O-Card
Cards are optimal at the table when a scenario is on-going. Sometimes, it can be hard to speak up when we encounter a difficult situation; we don’t want to be singled out, interrupting is rude, and maybe you’ll just grit and bear it. On the opposite side of the metaphorical coin, sometimes we experience a strong emotional reaction while roleplaying and are vulnerable, but feel okay with how the situation is progressing. These cards are meant to symbolically bypass these fears and quickly speak up. As a sidenote, no one can pick up a card for you.
The X-Card represents something you are not comfortable with at the table: something has killed the fun, you are uncomfortable, and you wish to get this situation over with quickly. GMs, this card means you fade to black with the given situation and move on immediately. This also means that when you take a break or when the session ends, you should privately open the conversation to this player to discuss what bothered them. Player, you must briefly explain what about the situation you wish to avoid in the future, but you do not have to explain why; shaking your head or responding with a short “it made me uncomfortable” is perfectly okay. As a side-note, GM, it is up to you if you want to employ this altogether. I recommend it, as it allows you the opportunity to address sensitive topics at the table as it happens. However, you may worry, given the appropriate circumstance, about a player abusing this power generally or using it to single another player out. If this concerns you, open the conversation with either player respectfully, and, if you feel you are not getting anywhere with either player, feel free to tactfully discuss this with the group.
The O-Card represents something you are comfortable with: something has happened that you enjoy, that you are comfortable with, and you wish to continue the scene regardless of your own and only your own emotional reaction at the table during the game. If someone else is crying and you put up the O-Card (for them or for yourself--you sick fuck), that does not mean the situation gets to continue. GMs, you can also use this to test player engagement outside emotionally charged situations. “How’s everyone doing so far?” and see how many use either card. If the O-Card is used and it is an emotionally charged situation, it is polite to double check with the player: “Is everyone alright so far?” Check with a look or an, “Are we sure?” and with an explicit confirmation, proceed. Later, it is still good to double check with the player or everyone involved about the situation and what made it enjoyable even if emotionally charged.
Preferably, how many players need to attend for you to run a session? This is a question for both GM and Players alike. Some players may feel okay with have the session go on without them, but then an explanation is needed for what that player does while the session continues.
Additionally, is it okay to arrive late? If not, a compromise could be moving the time back for when the session is played in order to accommodate your friends.
Would you, GM, allow your players to use their cellphones, tablets, laptops, etc, during play? If so, would you allow electronics during a “high impact” scene? What about between rounds of combat? What about when another person is talking during a social encounter? Iron out what you consider respectful of everyone’s time put in at the table and what is reasonable considering everyone’s life situation. Consider asking, if a player insists on needing to use their technology, why they need to do so, and to accommodate that person, if possible.
Is food allowed at the table? Who is in charge of buying food? Food is a great unifier at the table, but it can get expensive. A common house rule is, the GM should not have to get food as they are the one’s refereeing and creating the adventure. It is up to the players to divide how they can provide food for everyone. Allergies, preferences, and budget should be a consideration. If this is too much to handle or too expensive, maybe everyone should get their own snacks. On the opposite side of the coin, GMs, if you feel food is distracting, it is not needed at the table, but do be mindful that hangry players can make angry characters. Taking snack breaks can help get everyone through.
Soft drinks, teas, coffee might be welcome at the table, but what about alcoholic beverages? Some players won’t mind playing with a buzz, but it might greatly concern another player. What drinks are allowed at the table? What drinks are okay with everyone? Are some drinks banned? Any discomfort and concern about various beverages that can be had at the table should be addressed, spoken about, and come to an agreed upon consensus.
Is smoking allowed at the table? Should smoking be limited to outdoors? Depending on who is hosting, should smoking be prohibited?
In several online roleplay forums, it is required that you discuss potential character plots and character development wishes with your fellow roleplayers (your players and GM, in this case by setting up a list of plots you would like to happen, you invite in character drama, cinematic or character development beats that move along a character's plot. This may involve friendships, love interests, enemies, or the like.
GM, how do you feel about character plots? Do you want to focus on a world plot instead, do you have a group of actors who dream of character plots, or are you not in love with the idea of plots? Could you accommodate the players and make them a B-plot? What plots would make your players uncomfortable--betrayal, unrequited love, loss of something important, etc?
Make sure any plots that do happen are limited to what is possible for the world and the characters, and doubly make sure no one is singled out, ostracized, or made uncomfortable.
Full credit where credit is due, This is also not an original idea of mine. My boyfriend, who I otherwise madly respect for his roleplaying capacity, helped me to nail down this concept:
Getting “into character” is a pain point for several persons attempting to enjoy the hobby. Some prefer to narrate what their character would do because “using funky accents” and “pretending to be someone” is weird. If by weird it is meant that this is something we don’t do everyday, perhaps that’s true, but that doesn’t mean you should not try, and it doesn’t mean it is not a worthwhile experience. I’m no paragon of roleplay, so as one of the people, let me show you where I’m coming from.
To roleplay, you first need a sense of who you are and who you want your character to be--philosophical-sounding, I know. Most people make their character like themselves, or a part of them they wish to better understand. I posit this is why a vast majority of people online complain about their party being murderhobos or seeking escapism, because this is the first step in removing ourselves from our characters. I see many people get stuck here perhaps because going further from this point means that you have to “be” someone else for a moment, and this person can be rejected and hurt, just like you. This is why the safety tools are important.
Roleplaying is a vulnerable experience. You can explore new worlds, dive into new narratives, get to know yourself better in the process. You are accepted for inventing who you are from moment to moment, just like we did when we were kids, but probably with much much MUCH more acceptance.
In a way, you learn how to act and how to empathize through roleplaying. To clarify, not being good at these things off the bat doesn’t make you bad at roleplaying; it makes you a part of the hobby, which means that you will pick this up as you play. Meaning, please don’t be scared away by doing something you aren’t perfect at yet. It will feel weird for some, liberating for others, (kinda like how Aslan is experienced differently by each of the children in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe) but none of this means you are bad. It means you are vulnerable. And If you are making yourself vulnerable, you need to make sure you are safe when participating in this hobby.
Remember, at the end of the day, this is a hobby. If you surround yourself with good, supportive friends, this experience will be accessible and fun. So, that’s our first guidepost:
You are having fun.
You will know when you are roleplaying correctly when you are having fun. Experiencing a world through your Character’s eyes is interesting. You might catch yourself laughing and smiling, and you aren’t sure whether you are laughing as your character or as yourself. Hint: it’s probably both.
Your friends are having fun with you.
Your friends are who your character is going to play with, on the majority, so, while you should definitely have fun, make sure to include your friends too. Share the spotlight and get invested in their character. Do you want a particular thing to happen between your characters? Make sure to talk to the other players first to make sure they are okay with it. Remember, don’t do anything to another player’s character without their explicit, eager, and persistent consent.
You experience fear, sadness, anger, happiness, or any other emotions when it comes to your character, another player’s character, or an NPC.
This is a foreign feeling, at first. You feel sad because your character has lost something important, your friend’s character lost something important, or an NPC lost something important. This isn’t the end-all-be-all scenario, but hopefully you get the idea; you are experiencing your character’s or another character’s emotions. This means you are invested. But, better yet for your GM, this means you are engaged in the world.
You ask questions in-character to NPCs or PCs, not just the the GM or Players.
First, make sure you let the GM and Player in question know you are going to do this beforehand. If they object, that is fine, of course. But the game’s roleplaying becomes more natural if Players are allowed to do this. GMs, I task you with opening up designated “Roleplaying Sprees” to get players comfortable with this. The easiest way to do this is when the players go shopping.
You learn to respond more naturally in character.
You respond in character, and you don’t narrate what your character says. Now, this isn’t about responding quickly, and this isn’t about outshining your fellow players. This is about the player growing more comfortable with their character. Even if you need to pause a moment to think about what you will say, you are able to have an organic conversation while in character.
These are not all the guideposts in the world, but these should begin to help you roleplay, as it is both a mechanic used in social encounters and a way to put yourself in the game.