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The OOC Ethics of Being an IC Superpower

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The Macabees
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The OOC Ethics of Being an IC Superpower

Postby The Macabees » Fri Jan 12, 2018 8:41 am

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As roleplayers, we’re taught that the in-character (IC) world should never cross with our out of character (OOC) world, and thus the world we build and the stories we roleplay should be divorced from the emotions and preferences we have outside of it. Roleplay, in other words, should be value-free.

Invariably, the IC and OOC do however tend to mix. Our IC position tends to influence who we roleplay with and therefore who we develop OOC relationships with, and often this influence tends to spread over to smaller, newer nations and the players behind them. This gives especially influential nations — superpowers —, and the players behind them, an incredible opportunity to do good…or to do bad.

This essay is based on several years of introspection, a process that is still ongoing — after all, I still have much to improve on, like anybody else —, on how I have used whatever influence I have to help develop other players in the game. They aren’t always values I play by, but they are definitely values I always aspire to and, through my experience, I’ve come to believe that they are good standards of what an ethical use of IC superpower influence looks like.


Why Should a Superpower Care About Being Ethical?

Because IC superpowers tend to carry a lot of OOC influence, they can have an important impact on the development of the game’s culture and in the growth of other players. One of the most dramatic examples of the influence a set of well-known, highly influential players can have — players who also have heavy IC clout, and therefore whose OOC behavior conditions the behavior of others (who have to “compete” ICly by, for example, shedding OOC standards [if the player has to use technology they don’t personally enjoy using just for the sake of IC survival]) — was the situation in International Incidents in-and-around 2011 and 2012. The misuse of game-side populations and the disrespect shown to the necessary institutions of roleplay played a tremendous role in fracturing the forum-side roleplay community on International Incidents, promoting inward-looking behaviors and strict-rule communities (such as ‘realistic populations’ and ‘strictly modern tech’).

Because an IC superpower externalizes costs and benefits, that player must be cognizant of their role in the community — it’s a role they play whether they like it or not. And with that role comes a great responsibility, which is to help foster a smoothly operating inclusive roleplaying community. The opposite is to be destructive of said community, ruining the experience for others and working to undermine the functionality of this aspect of the game, which is unethical, not least because of the great cost that is not borne by the unethical player, but by the community as a whole.

Furthermore, IC superpowers can have a tremendous influence on individual players and their trajectories. Oftentimes, IC superpowers take on the role of mentor — if not in the official capacity, then in the practical one — and other players will take on the same behavior, ideas, and attitudes. How one influences others can determine outcomes well into the future, as these players teach others. Again, it may not be something an IC superpower signs up for (although they did sign up to be the center of attention, which carries with it responsibilities), but it’s a power they have whether they acknowledge it or not. And it’s a power that must be used wisely, for the good of other players and the good of the game.


The Five Tenets of the OOC Ethics of Being an IC Superpower

I. Respect for the Necessary Institutions of Roleplay: There are informal institutions, rules of the game, that make cooperative roleplaying much more enjoyable for all parties. For example, it is generally accepted that each player has complete ownership of the immediate canon related to their nation. It is also widely accepted that only the owner of a canon can determine losses and consequences of conflict, politics, or otherwise within the context of their canon. These rules exist to protect players from bad experiences so that we can foster a healthy, growing roleplaying community. As experienced players, IC superpowers should recognize the need for these institutions and should respect them — not necessarily evangelize them, but communicate their importance through rightful action in their own RPs and interactions with others.


II. Transparency: When you are dealing with an inexperienced player who is susceptible to the imbalance of influence and power between you, transparency is paramount. Because of the inequality, the inexperienced player has a big incentive to trust you, or otherwise put weight on your words and opinions, the right thing to do is to avoid the temptation of manipulating the inexperienced player, and instead guide that player through what it means to worldbuild and how the decisions we make throughout the game impact that world. Transparency stems from the respect for the necessary institutions, because if the inexperienced player is in full ownership of their canon, then an experienced player should know enough to understand the need to explain the implications of the other player’s decisions. By explaining the role of consequences in shaping a story and a world, you are teaching the inexperienced player how to be a better roleplayer.

Most experienced roleplayers tend to be okay with situations where they are surprised and the consequences are unclear. This is an acceptable form of roleplay, but in situations where it is successful it is because there is an informal understanding — institutions — about the constraints to how liberal each player can be in determining outcomes, meaning experienced players tend to know the boundaries of competitive roleplaying better. An ethical superpower must know when an inexperienced player is not operating with this understanding or is not comfortable enough with the game to know the difference.


III. Flexibility: Experienced players, even superpowers, make mistakes. Imagine how many mistakes an inexperienced player makes. It is wrong, in a game where the stakes are low enough to be lenient, to hold people against decisions they regret and absolutely refuse to accept. If the player faces a consequence that they did not foresee, then you failed to be transparent during the cooperative process of the roleplay. This isn’t something to be ashamed of, it’s an experience that helps to develop us as NationStates RP influencers. It is right to allow players to make mistakes and let them backtrack because ultimately that experience and that practice in thinking about the consequences will help to develop them into better RPers.


IV. Selflessness: This is perhaps the most idealistic tenet of the OOC ethics of being an IC superpower. There’s a very fine balance between mutual gain and taking advantage, one that is hard to see even for the most well-intentioned. If an IC superpower is to use their influence for good, then surely the best way to discipline one self is to always think of what’s bthe est for the inexperienced player. Of course, what’s best for the inexperienced player is not always what’s the most favorable IC outcome relative to the IC goals of the characters and institutions of the world, but rather what’s best relative to OOC goals (developing and writing a good story, having a good time, et cetera).


V. Sportsmanship & Humility

“When the winner doesn’t show any emotion out of respect for the loser, that is something that surprises all of us.”

— Arsène Wenger


“Uneducated people delight in argumentation and fault-finding because it is easy enough to find fault, though hard to see the good and its inner necessity. The learner always begins by finding fault, but the educated person sees the positive in everything.”

— Georg Hegel


In building a world and writing a story cooperatively, humility is a key ingredient of success. The ability to judge different paths, to consider different options, and explore new ideas all rests on intellectual humility. Diversity in a world makes it full of tension, making it interesting and ripe for storytelling, but diversity is only possible in a community where people are open to it. Promoting variety and differences in IC philosophies, religions, ethnicities, and other elements of our canon, is ultimately good for the game, and therefore a value an ethical IC superpower — someone with influence — ought to communicate.

Diversity in NS roleplay extends beyond the canon and applies just as much to how the story you are writing (with the players who you are influencing) evolves. A good roleplayer, a good story writer, should be able to include outcomes that are both good and bad relative to the characters and institutions of their canon. It’s not about being willing to lose, it’s about making loss part of the story — not a loss, but a twist, a challenge, and an opportunity to explore a new facet of your world.

To better integrate chance, mistakes, and miraculous successes, I’ve been experimenting with making certain outcomes in the story based on dice rolls. I have been keeping it very simple. I use only a ten-sided die and I ascribe outcomes to different ranges of numbers. For example, I am in a roleplay where I am RPing a military advisory group in Baarjistan, and my convoy escorting the ambassador to Baarjistan has been stopped at a surprise checkpoint after being diverted. First, I ask my RP partner if there are one or more IEDs — notice that I did not force him to disclose that information before we got to that point, I asked him when it was relevant because I knew that an IED would make the story more interesting —, and he says yes. He says there's a 30% chance of hitting one of my first vehicle hitting an IED (only the first vehicle because the other ones might be able to react). If you give 3 numbers on your 10-sided die to the chance of hitting an IED, that's 30% probability. I ask my partner 'high' or 'low.' Low means success is rated between 1-3 (all numbers above are misses) and high means success is rated between 7-10 (all numbers below are misses). He calls high, I roll, it lands on 8. Boom. We roll again on a lower probability for the second vehicle, since it has warning. Miss. I roll again for the third, hit.

Dice rolling introduces an element of randomness that is hard to reproduce without an actual instrument of chance. Humans are built on patterns and they're hard to break, so I used a tool at my disposal (a dice rolling chatbot) to introduce randomness. It's not for everyone, and there are definitely many roads to the same end.

You don't need dice, in any case, to show sportsmanship or humility.


On Being the Solution

"International Incidents isn't what it used to be. The quality of roleplaying is so much worse..."


...is the statement that I heard in 2004–05, 2008–09, and 2015–17. Every generation says the same thing. My experience in the game, from 2003 to the present day, has been completely the opposite.

I've reflected on the growth of my RP community, especially over the past three or four years, that all it takes is a leader (someone with awareness and a willingness to take action) to light the fire beneath players who all have talent when you frame the game for them in the right way, the way that appeals to them. Through both success and failure, I've found that the most efficient and more predictable method of doing that is by following, or aspiring to, the five above tenets. My approach has always been around promoting these five tenets by applying them in my RPs. I am an evangelist as well, but that is not where any success I've had has come from.

As a result, the circle of players I RP with and the number of RPs available to me for participation are much greater today than they have ever been.

The reason I bring it up is that the health of the network around us is determined by the effort we're putting into it. If we are active roleplayers who show humility, sportsmanship, selflessness, flexibility, transparency, and respect, then we are roleplayers that are communicating the right values through the most powerful means available to us: action. And if we are actively trying to improve our communities through ethical action, then we are promoting an environment of diversity and tension that gives other players the incentive and rationale to roleplay with each other. As long as we're doing that, then we have a good chance of maintaining strong communities that last.
Last edited by The Macabees on Sat Jun 16, 2018 8:14 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Inyourfaceistan
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Postby Inyourfaceistan » Sat Jan 13, 2018 8:10 am

So what do you define as an IC Superpower?

In NS II, I would think this is a tricky thing to define because most states are nuclear armed, and even amongst realistic communities, it's still uncommon to find players controlling a state of less than 100mil.
So is this a matter of mere population x military x tech stats, or is it more a matter of functional influence and/or skill and proven track record?


It's not French,it's not Spanish,it's Inyurstan
"Inyourfaceistan" refers to my player/user name, "Inyursta" is my IC name. NOT INYURSTAN. IF YOU CALL INYURSTA "INYURSTAN" THEN IT SHOWS THAT YOU CANT READ. Just refer to me as IYF or Stan.

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Postby Allanea » Sat Jan 13, 2018 8:43 am

Inyourfaceistan wrote:So what do you define as an IC Superpower?

In NS II, I would think this is a tricky thing to define because most states are nuclear armed, and even amongst realistic communities, it's still uncommon to find players controlling a state of less than 100mil.
So is this a matter of mere population x military x tech stats, or is it more a matter of functional influence and/or skill and proven track record?


There are no 'superpowers' in NS as such, except possibly in some close-world community.

However, there are players, who, through a combination of in-character power, and an ability to roleplay (write, worldbuild, and participate in military roleplays) such that it makes it possible to suspend disbelief about this level of IC power, are 'powers', in the sense in which, in 1913, France, Britain, Russia, Germany, and Austro-Hungary were powers - none of them rule the world as such, but each of them is strong enough to be taken very seriously.
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Postby Allanea » Sat Jan 13, 2018 9:13 am

I’d like to add a few notes with your permission.

1. It should be noted, in understanding any of the rules of NS RP, that absolutely any of the rules we have – including some of the most important ones – the underlying concepts of the game are upstream of the rules. That’s to say, even rules such as ‘you must take casualties’ are downstream of the basic rule that all interaction in NS is consensual. If you drive a player into a situation where he’s deeply OOC uncomfortable with it, actually they are entitled to stop the RP, or to stop posting, or to refuse to accept a given event. You should have lines of communication open to avoid ending up in such a situation and most of the time it is possible to avoid.

I have certain rules for my behaviour that I have evolved throughout the years, a lot of them based of ‘I would probably not like it if someone tried to pull it on me’. These days, I don’t try to kill off people’s main characters that they might be attached to, or outright destroy their nations with nuclear weapons, or reshape their nations’ culture entirely beyond recognition through occupation unless it’s very very clear that they’re okay with that. It could be argued that they would be ‘perfect roleplayers’ if they were to accept that, but that is not an excuse.

Even ‘improving people’s roleplay’ is not a goal in and of itself. I’ve observed RPs where people are having a lot of fun even though the posts are low in quality in a literary sense, and realism is lacking or whatever. Good for them! We are not here to be ‘better roleplayers’ for its own sake, as if it was a sport where being able to bench-press a kilogram more is its own goal. We are here to have fun.

2. Another thing that you should always avoid, I think, is to try to portray some IC decision of your nation’s as an inevitable consequence of a younger or weaker nation’s decision. There’s almost never such a thing (you always have a range of choices, and especially if you are stronger in an in-character way). In my experience, people who do this are trying – sometimes actually instinctively, it’s rarely deliberately an act of sleaziness, and I am not implying such an act – to arm-twist the other person into a ‘consequence’ of their actions that’s not something the other player is comfortable with.

3. Communications are absolutely key.

I possess, for instance, a degree of military knowledge and skill that is greater than most new players on II, and probably many old players. If I see that the player cannot through whatever reason pay attention to the military details of an interaction – maybe they don’t know it, or maybe they come from a background where they don’t care – I try and ask ‘are you sure you want me to go into these details?’. I could get a person embroiled into the sort of RP where I would make them pay dearly for every mistake they made in terms of tactics and strategy, but unless they’re into that sort of thing, and unless I am capable of making the narrative fun for them, there’s no point, and to some extent it would smack of a degree of OOC dishonesty to lure someone who’s more interested in roleplaying the legal maneuvers of their diplomats into an RP where Battalion Tactical Groups are dancing a furious dance of death and fire around their soldiers.

One thing to establish is to what extent the player wants the RP to be open-ended, and to what extent they want to have a specific ending.

In fact, I have found that if you communicate with people fairly, and respect their boundaries – even if you might find these boundaries silly – they might be later willing to move their boundaries.

For example, I once had an RP with a specific player where he allowed my Special Forces to carry out an operation in their country, however on the very clear understanding he was not interested in having it descend into a full-scale war RP, nor have senior leaders in his nation killed off. So we had a very detailed RP. And then another.

And now, three years and three excellent RPs later, we’re planning a war in which Allanean soldiers invade his nation and tear everything to shreds. But had I come up 3 years ago, and demanded this sort of thing, purely on the fact I would probably be able to outwit the player in a wargame, that would have not worked out for either of us.

4. Competitive versus non-competitive play.

Nationstates has a weird taboo against admitting you RP ‘competitively’, and have an interest in telling a stories of your nation becoming stronger. It’s a bit like those D&D players who claim you ‘can’t win D&D’ even as they go about gathering artefacts and gold pieces and keeps and followers for their Paladin.

I roleplay competitively. I’m not shy from saying this. I am interested in roleplays where Allanean (and Reichskamphenite, etc.) characters solve problems, fight and (hopefully) win wars, and whatever. But importantly, I try to also roleplay cooperatively.

I have seen roleplayers who claim ‘you should not be competitive’ or ‘you should not play to win’, but are actually managing – sometimes entirely without realizing it, I’m not suggesting they’re being deceptive on purpose – to use this claim to non-competitiveness to try and avoid people doing things that they don’t want to happen. In its extreme form, this is summarized as: ‘You shouldn’t roleplay to win, and therefore you should let others win. For example, you should let me win.’

There is however a weird sequence of events which I have noticed in NS, where if you work towards not being a jackass, and avoid trying to force your will on others and avoid insisting on having everything happen in a very specific way, then in the end you will actually be better on achieving your goals.

I’ve seen people who are so ‘selective’ on who they ‘don’t RP with because they’re too competitive’ that their RP group basically becomes a silly clique and people don’t even RP with each other within the group, because any RP devolves into a discussion on who is being a ‘bad roleplayer’ or has broken some ‘RP rule’. This is not, I am sure, the result people have wanted to achieve.

The underlying solution is that if you want to have roleplays which you enjoy, you should do things that other people enjoy and work towards that. Attempting to throw your OOC/IC weight around to have things ‘go your way’ and arm-twist young players into a consensus they don’t fully understand is not the way forward towards achieving the things you want, even if it gets you towards some short-term achievements.
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Postby The Macabees » Sat Jan 13, 2018 9:34 am

Inyourfaceistan wrote:So what do you define as an IC Superpower?

In NS II, I would think this is a tricky thing to define because most states are nuclear armed, and even amongst realistic communities, it's still uncommon to find players controlling a state of less than 100mil.
So is this a matter of mere population x military x tech stats, or is it more a matter of functional influence and/or skill and proven track record?


In this case, I have in mind the latter.

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Postby The Macabees » Sat Jan 13, 2018 10:06 am

Those are good additions, Allanea.

Regarding competitiveness, I think this is a complex subject that is hard to wrap our heads around. It makes sense for IC characters and organizations to be competitive, but depending on what the player is competing toward I think OOC competition tends to be more harmful than beneficial. And not just when players cooperate, but also for the player on his or her own.

I recently had a conversation with a slaver state who wants to be a super-capitalist super-state, but also wants hundreds of millions (or billions) of slaves. And I pointed out that economies with a high demand for slaves are labor intensive, whereas economies with low demand for slaves tend to be capital intensive. And super-capitalist economies tend to be capital intensive. But he didn't want to go the labor-intensive route, he rather abandon the slavery aspect, because he doesn't think he can compete geopolitically. I said that the USSR competed geopolitically, despite diverging in productive output drastically over time with respect to the U.S.

I feel that the need to be "competitive" in that geopolitical sense can distract us from real value. Like, a slave, pariah state is interesting because it's unique, but it's only unique if you embrace the quirks of that kind of society. Otherwise, you're just trying to be everything at once and the world becomes disinteresting. And it's the quirks that we can exploit to write very good stories of political tensions, characters and their lives in this unique society, etc.

To me, competitiveness doesn't even float into the arena of winning or losing. If you try to win against someone that doesn't want to lose, the RP is going to die. That's a natural block to that type of behavior. The loss of that myopic approach to NS is much greater than a dead RP, the loss is the worldbuilding that doesn't happen because we have the wrong priorities.

And there are highly intelligent and experienced players who know how to balance on that edge. The majority of players, however, do not. And that's why those rules of thumb are useful, in a similar sense to why students are taught to not begin a sentence with 'but' or 'and,' or why never to have sentence fragments, even though these things are perfectly legitimate in writing. You can only break the rule when you know the rule well enough.
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Postby Allanea » Sat Jan 13, 2018 10:14 am

I happen to not agree. There’s a difference between ‘wanting to win’ and ‘just never being able to accept loss’.

I think people’s desire to ‘achieve’ things in-character can obviously be a terrible thing if it comes at the expense of enjoyment (their own or others), but, frankly, if I wanted to improve my writing I would write a novel.

The rule of ‘non-competitiveness’ has been elevated into such a dogma by some players that people have forgotten why it is there. If you have a rule that you just recite as a dogma and don’t understand it, then it ceases to serve its function. Even a lot of older roleplayers just recite the ‘rules’ to younger players, without any understanding what they’re there for.

Very few people are capable of remaining immersed in a roleplay extensively over a long period and regularly posting and so forth if there’s not some motivation additional to wanting to effectively write a novel together. There are some very good people who can do that but it's not common.
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Postby The Macabees » Sat Jan 13, 2018 10:54 am

On NS, the far biggest problem has always been RPs that devolve into OOC conflicts, not RPs that are too bland because the players aren't competitive enough.

EDIT: And, note, that what I said has to do with worldbuilding, not writing.
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Postby Allanea » Sat Jan 13, 2018 11:06 am

The Macabees wrote:On NS, the far biggest problem has always been RPs that devolve into OOC conflicts, not RPs that are too bland because the players aren't competitive enough.



RPs devolve into OOC conflicts even among ostensibly 'good' roleplayers that are not 'competitive'.

But frankly I consider RPs that never happen, or that die at the start, to be almost as bad as RPs that evolve into a bitchfest.
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Postby Inyourfaceistan » Sat Jan 13, 2018 11:08 am

Allanea wrote:2. Another thing that you should always avoid, I think, is to try to portray some IC decision of your nation’s as an inevitable consequence of a younger or weaker nation’s decision. There’s almost never such a thing (you always have a range of choices, and especially if you are stronger in an in-character way). In my experience, people who do this are trying – sometimes actually instinctively, it’s rarely deliberately an act of sleaziness, and I am not implying such an act – to arm-twist the other person into a ‘consequence’ of their actions that’s not something the other player is comfortable with.

With all due respect I cannot disagree more.

Consequences are realistic expectations, and many times actions lead to a unitary range of consequences (basically a single consequence). This is literally how MAD works; if one state launches any number from 1 to infinity of strategic nuclear weapons (or projectiles that look like strat-nukes) at another nuclear armed state, then there is one and only one action that can result from the first state's actions.
I personally choose to play as a state which has based a large chunk of its foreign policy philosophy upon the lessons learned in Millennium Challenge 2002; it is neither irrational nor in poor taste to assume that certain outcomes are inevitable.

I possess, for instance, a degree of military knowledge and skill that is greater than most new players on II, and probably many old players. If I see that the player cannot through whatever reason pay attention to the military details of an interaction – maybe they don’t know it, or maybe they come from a background where they don’t care – I try and ask ‘are you sure you want me to go into these details?’. I could get a person embroiled into the sort of RP where I would make them pay dearly for every mistake they made in terms of tactics and strategy, but unless they’re into that sort of thing, and unless I am capable of making the narrative fun for them, there’s no point, and to some extent it would smack of a degree of OOC dishonesty to lure someone who’s more interested in roleplaying the legal maneuvers of their diplomats into an RP where Battalion Tactical Groups are dancing a furious dance of death and fire around their soldiers.

This also applies in reverse. It's just as dishonest to lure a player who is much more interested in roleplaying tactical operations and strategic maneuvers into an RP where their military is cowardly and powerless to act while cucks in suits & ties talk and talk and talk around a table...

If it's dishonest for a pro-swimmer to try and lure a sumo wrestler into a pool, then it's just as dishonest for the sumo wrestler to try and drag the pro-swimmer into a ring.

I was very recently forced into an RP where such "diplomatic only" conditions were applied (and dishonestly so, as it was never explicitly stated, discussed nor agreed by any party involved that those were the conditions until I began planning my military/insurgency operation); not to mention the fact I never would have involved myself with any prior event had I known those conditions to be in effect, but it is just as uncomfortable and aggravating for a warfighter roleplayer to be deceived and weaseled into a pencil pusher-dominated RP.*

IMO I prefer RP's where warfighters, pencil-pushers and everyone in between has a fair shot at influencing policy; my point is just that said dichotomy applies just as much to the other end of the spectrum.


I have seen roleplayers who claim ‘you should not be competitive’ or ‘you should not play to win’, but are actually managing – sometimes entirely without realizing it, I’m not suggesting they’re being deceptive on purpose – to use this claim to non-competitiveness to try and avoid people doing things that they don’t want to happen. In its extreme form, this is summarized as: ‘You shouldn’t roleplay to win, and therefore you should let others win. For example, you should let me win.'

Yeah, I actually agree 100% here. Too many players take "cooperation" to translate to "respekt muh powah" and "give me cheap shots!"...

The Macabees wrote:
Inyourfaceistan wrote:So what do you define as an IC Superpower?

In NS II, I would think this is a tricky thing to define because most states are nuclear armed, and even amongst realistic communities, it's still uncommon to find players controlling a state of less than 100mil.
So is this a matter of mere population x military x tech stats, or is it more a matter of functional influence and/or skill and proven track record?


In this case, I have in mind the latter.

Okay, thank you for the clarification.

This next point has less to do with such powers in that case, but it's still worth discussing:

One big thing I have noticed with respect to many so-called powers, or "super-powers" (or the abysmal """hyper-powers""") is that they OOC demand for IC respect and admiration of their power; which in many cases is just empty stats or even something as benign as the possession of nuclear weapons. As such, they often try to force other players - sometimes those who are actually true powers according to this thread - to back down, negotiate, stray away from calling bluffs, challenging ultimatums, etc. based solely on the fact they consider their nation to be a power.

So then, how would everyone here handle such a player who plays as a "power" and outright expects your nation to sit down at the peace table or back off claims simply because they say their nation is scary?


It's not French,it's not Spanish,it's Inyurstan
"Inyourfaceistan" refers to my player/user name, "Inyursta" is my IC name. NOT INYURSTAN. IF YOU CALL INYURSTA "INYURSTAN" THEN IT SHOWS THAT YOU CANT READ. Just refer to me as IYF or Stan.

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Postby Allanea » Sat Jan 13, 2018 11:12 am

This also applies in reverse. It's just as dishonest to lure a player who is much more interested in roleplaying tactical operations and strategic maneuvers into an RP where their military is cowardly and powerless to act while cucks in suits & ties talk and talk and talk around a table...


Oh yes.

Yes.

I especially dislike the particular shade of individual who attempts to lure you into following some specific set of legal rules which your nation never IC agreed to, or use legal definitions from RL law which may not apply in your country for cultural reasons, or due to your country having chosen explicitly to use a different legal proceeding.
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Postby Allanea » Sat Jan 13, 2018 11:16 am

With all due respect I cannot disagree more.

Consequences are realistic expectations, and many times actions lead to a unitary range of consequences (basically a single consequence). This is literally how MAD works; if one state launches any number from 1 to infinity of strategic nuclear weapons (or projectiles that look like strat-nukes) at another nuclear armed state, then there is one and only one action that can result from the first state's actions.
I personally choose to play as a state which has based a large chunk of its foreign policy philosophy upon the lessons learned in Millennium Challenge 2002; it is neither irrational nor in poor taste to assume that certain outcomes are inevitable.


But this is not even factually true. There's literally been incidents where countries accidentally or deliberately launched 'rockets' at another nuclear armed state, and nuclear arms exchanged did not, in fact, ensue.

Even if it is true in a broad sense, you're deliberately positing an edge-case.

For example, my nation regards attacks on its ambassadors as a very serious act of hostility. However, if a new NS nation assassinates my ambassador, it would be a douchebag move of the highest proportion for me to subject the country to Ghengis Khanesque acts of war and insist this must happen as this is an inevitable consequence of their actions, and that they must accept a genocide or total occupation of their country simply because, in-character, Allanea possesses the firepower to inflict these.
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The Macabees
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Postby The Macabees » Sat Jan 13, 2018 11:18 am

That's interesting because in my community it's the most competitive people who don't start the RPs they plan.

It's the people who are more methodical, less competitive and more cooperative, that get their RPs going. For example, this RP is highly cooperative in the sense that the OP has put strict guidelines on what is an acceptable contribution. We can be competitive, but only within the constraints that the OP has set.

The case is similar with this RP, which is competitive but only within the framework that was established cooperatively.

Like you say, there is a balance between the two. But on NS, that balance is highly shifted towards competitiveness. If it was the other way around, you'd have more people complaining about too much cooperation. But that is rarely the complaint voiced when an RP fails to get off the ground. Most of the RPs that have failed in my community have been mostly competitive in nature, and then one or more parties falls through and the RP dies.

I can definitely see your point in theory, but practically my experience just speaks otherwise.

And a lot of the issues you guys speak of, like players luring military-minded players into RPs that just don't appeal to them, is an issue of cooperation; i.e. of laying the ground-rules and scope early on. In metaphorical terms, it's like establishing the "constitution," the rules of the game, and then being competitive within that framework.

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The Macabees
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Postby The Macabees » Sat Jan 13, 2018 11:22 am

Inyourfaceistan wrote:...(and dishonestly so, as it was never explicitly stated, discussed nor agreed by any party involved that those were the conditions until I began planning my military/insurgency operation); not to mention the fact I never would have involved myself with any prior event had I known those conditions to be in effect, but it is just as uncomfortable and aggravating for a warfighter roleplayer to be deceived and weaseled into a pencil pusher-dominated RP...


Not disagreeing with you, Inyur.

Just wanted to pull this quote, because I think this is a perfect example of what I mean when I say that cooperation has to do with setting a framework for competitiveness early on.

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The Macabees
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Postby The Macabees » Sat Jan 13, 2018 11:26 am

Inyourfaceistan wrote:This next point has less to do with such powers in that case, but it's still worth discussing:

One big thing I have noticed with respect to many so-called powers, or "super-powers" (or the abysmal """hyper-powers""") is that they OOC demand for IC respect and admiration of their power; which in many cases is just empty stats or even something as benign as the possession of nuclear weapons. As such, they often try to force other players - sometimes those who are actually true powers according to this thread - to back down, negotiate, stray away from calling bluffs, challenging ultimatums, etc. based solely on the fact they consider their nation to be a power.

So then, how would everyone here handle such a player who plays as a "power" and outright expects your nation to sit down at the peace table or back off claims simply because they say their nation is scary?


We're in an environment where talk is cheap. In my personal opinion, you're not a power unless you show it through storytelling; i.e. RPing. EDIT: Within the context of being a power that applies to your point.

For what it's worth, I don't mean to impose a definition of what is a "true" power, just what is a power within the context of what's discussed in the OP. Consider it an ideal type or a model vs. a definition.
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Allanea
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Postby Allanea » Sat Jan 13, 2018 11:40 am

The Macabees wrote:
And a lot of the issues you guys speak of, like players luring military-minded players into RPs that just don't appeal to them, is an issue of cooperation; i.e. of laying the ground-rules and scope early on. In metaphorical terms, it's like establishing the "constitution," the rules of the game, and then being competitive within that framework.


Which leads us to the real and serious conclusion that competition and cooperation are not genuinely mutually opposed! :)

Indeed a properly-functioning competition depends on cooperation and fair and open OOC communication between players.
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The Macabees
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Postby The Macabees » Sat Jan 13, 2018 11:42 am

That is very much true.

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Postby Inyourfaceistan » Sat Jan 13, 2018 12:42 pm

Allanea wrote:I especially dislike the particular shade of individual who attempts to lure you into following some specific set of legal rules which your nation never IC agreed to, or use legal definitions from RL law which may not apply in your country for cultural reasons, or due to your country having chosen explicitly to use a different legal proceeding.

^This, 110%

Even worse when they try to use RL law which doesn't apply to tell you that the map you drew of your own nation is wrong, and you have no control of your own waters.
But I digress, and it's probably better to end this note here rather than go off on a tangent about the most distasteful ways of trying to force other players to do what you want...

Allanea wrote:But this is not even factually true. There's literally been incidents where countries accidentally or deliberately launched 'rockets' at another nuclear armed state, and nuclear arms exchanged did not, in fact, ensue.


I'm highly certain no mock ICBM's have ever been fired by nuclear powers at one another.

Even if it is true in a broad sense, you're deliberately positing an edge-case.


I'm pretty sure shooting "conventional" Topol-M or Trident-II at someone's capital, and then trying to say a nuclear response isn't necessary is an edge case from the get-go, yet it happens with a surprising frequency...

For example, my nation regards attacks on its ambassadors as a very serious act of hostility. However, if a new NS nation assassinates my ambassador, it would be a douchebag move of the highest proportion for me to subject the country to Ghengis Khanesque acts of war and insist this must happen as this is an inevitable consequence of their actions, and that they must accept a genocide or total occupation of their country simply because, in-character, Allanea possesses the firepower to inflict these.

If that's what you meant with your above statement, then I admit there was a level of misunderstanding present.
If you were referencing "You pissed us off, therefore genocide & torture!!!" or "You sunk my ship, therefore nukes!", then yeah, I agree.

I was referencing instances where the IC leadership of a nation is literally forced into a corner, such as one known nuclear power trying to shoot *non-nuclear* ICBM's at another's capital, or ones where one side refuses to negotiate (or perhaps knows that negotiations were meaningless and/or would break down in the first place) and are effectively forced into military action to protect their interests.


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Postby Ferret Civilization » Sat Jan 13, 2018 1:32 pm

Just a random thought out of me while reading this again and again, looking at the in character side of things. Compared to how things are in real life there is a higher ratio of well off nations here that can claim to be first world standard in terms of size and might. Of course when dealing with other nations there is always going to be one that is better off than another, with that top spot somewhere being disputed by some kind of wank term. That kind of is where the out of character comes into it with the whole, accepting or ignoring other player's creations comes into play? Thinking on it now it seems like a lot if near all the old nations that have a lot of community respect built up have large powerful nations unless for a roleplay one specifically takes the role of a created smaller power. As what this was written towards.

That was pretty much a ramble to lead up to a question, sorry for that, has anyone ever been able to build up a high out of character standing on NationStates roleplay community with ever doing anything at all in character? Or would that be considered an impossible task, despite the resources to chat with others and discuss ideas without ever needing to do anything in character with those that one talks to.
Currently traveling across the United States. Still up for any conversations though.

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The Macabees
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Postby The Macabees » Sat Jan 13, 2018 2:08 pm

Ferret Civilization wrote:...


Regarding your first thoughts, I do agree that empirically most OOCly influential players have powerful IC nations. There are two players that I would like to highlight as good examples, in this context:

  • The Kraven Corporation — although by no means a weak nation ICly, he is very good at playing both his strengths and his weaknesses. He does not try to compete economically (on the same standards as a market economy, at least); he does not try to compete in terms of moral influence. He competes militarily, but on the context that his country is like a giant concentration camp, which is a big exploitable weakness.
  • Ghant — an influential player (OOCly) and country (ICly), Ghant does not compete militarily. He competes via 'soft power.'

Both of them do a good job of defining the scope of their competition around the setting/world they want to roleplay within.

Finally, to answer your question, I do think players gain OOC influence without roleplaying. Like I said above, with experience I've realized that words are cheap and what really matters are actions, and in this game actions must be roleplayed.

United World Order, another player who does a very good job at defining and narrowing the scope of where he competes, put it very well to me today. We had a discussion on Discord and he told me that he considers himself the only player, or one of the very few players, striving for superpower status in our community. And I asked, "Don't you think everyone is striving for that?" And, to paraphrase him, he says no, he doesn't consider anyone else to be doing that because he's one of the few players who actually puts plans and words into action via RPing. And he's absolutely right.

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Re: The OOC Ethics of Being an IC Superpower

Postby Yohannes » Tue Jan 16, 2018 9:14 pm

Very much enjoyed reading the guide and reading the discussion taking place (between Allanea, Ferret Civilization, Inyourfaceistan, and The Macabees) regarding competition and NationStates power. Lovely!
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Pacitalia
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Postby Pacitalia » Tue Jan 16, 2018 9:39 pm

Great post, Mac. Good to see you are active!
Pacitalian Republic
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RP population (est. May 2021): 414,440,614
Capital and largest city: Timiocato
Founding date: 21st November 1503
Archonate (head of state): Vittoria Agradossa
Prime Minister (head of government): Damián Moya
Land area: 4,600,674 sq km
Official languages: Pacitalian, English nationally; Marqueríana (Spanish) and Empordán (Catalan) regionally
Location: On the continent of Foringana in southeastern Atlantian Oceania
Telephone calling code: +2
Internet TLDs: .pc, .rp

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The Macabees
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Postby The Macabees » Wed Jan 17, 2018 12:08 pm

Thank you both! Edit: Also, Pacitalia, awesome to see you back.
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Postby The State of Monavia » Wed Jan 17, 2018 8:59 pm

[Snip.]


Once again, you have written a player guide that insightfully examines a topic that nobody else had ever previously addressed. You are probably the first roleplayer to enumerate and explain a set of principles that can help others increase the satisfaction they derive from their RP threads and reduce the amount of OOC bickering that flares up on the N&I boards. I also appreciate the contributions that others have posted in this thread before I found time to share my thoughts as their remarks and your replies to them have aided me in understanding some of the points you made.

My direct personal experience does not entirely agree with a couple of the statements you made in the introductory section of your opening post. In my first few years on NS, the guides I read on various subjects (e.g. good and bad reasons for declaring war) often said that players should avoid confusing OOC stuff with IC stuff in order to avoid confusing reality with fiction because it is psychologically unhealthy to do so. I also “grew up” on NS learning that you should separate OOC and IC activities to avoid breaking the “fourth wall” or using IC activities to fulfill RL wishes or trying to take OOC issues out on someone else’s characters and their stuff. At no time was I ever under the impression that our IC activities remain unconstrained by normative principles. Furthermore, I contend that when one NS nation responds to another’s IC activities, it is because the player behind the account took notice of something the other player’s account did. In other words, our IC position only influences who we choose to roleplay with as a consequence of OOC interest. Again, these opinions I am articulating here represent nothing more than conclusion I have drawn from my own experience.

Having thrown in my obligatory round of hair-splitting, I have nothing but praise for the substance of your guide. I agree with the remarks Allanea posted to help you clarify what you consider an IC superpower. My own understanding is that an IC superpower is any country that assumes at least one of the following five forms:

  • It operates a major storefront that has an outsized presence in the GET forum (e.g. Lyras, Lamoni, Yohannes)
  • It has a long record of invading, conquering, and annexing smaller countries (e.g. Ralkovia, Kraven)
  • It sits at the helm of a major multilateral IC alliance (e.g. Stoklomolvi, GWO, Prussia-Steinbach, Jenrak)
  • It has great diplomatic reach (e.g. Neo-Ixania, Ghant)
  • It has a long history of successfully changing regimes it does not agree with (e.g. Allanea)

From my perspective, the people who need this guide the most are younger roleplayers who are new to RP, have been around NS long enough to crush newbies in a pure contest of stats, and believe that “successful” RP consists of racking up easy wins as conquerors or regime changers (it seems that everyone wants to be America liberating Iraq). In other words, this guide is for every RPer who wants to be the next Allanea, Kraven, or GWO without cultivating the OOC community presence and crafting serious lore, characters, or settings like the original Allanea, Kraven, or GWO did to distinguish themselves.

When it comes to IC superpowers, I think the basic etiquette formula “don’t act like a boor” really ought to mean “don’t throw your weight around just because you can.” In reference to my previous point, I cannot remember how many times I read threads where some country posted a provocative thread (e.g. Conservatopia bans abortion) and promptly gets told to “turn into Sweden by tomorrow or get invaded by our superior armed forces” and winds up in the middle of an unplanned war RP. I think too many players either try to establish their countries as “evil” by inflicting genocide and slavery on newbie nations while pursuing domestic policies they dislike in RL or try to establish their countries as “good” by threatening to invade any smaller country that pursues social policies they (and their fictional country) deem unacceptable. In many cases, the latter results when some kid posts a provocative thread aimed at “wish fulfillment” and gets dogpiled by foreign crusaders within the first page of posts.

The Macabees wrote:Those are good additions, Allanea.

Regarding competitiveness, I think this is a complex subject that is hard to wrap our heads around. It makes sense for IC characters and organizations to be competitive, but depending on what the player is competing toward I think OOC competition tends to be more harmful than beneficial. And not just when players cooperate, but also for the player on his or her own.

I recently had a conversation with a slaver state who wants to be a super-capitalist super-state, but also wants hundreds of millions (or billions) of slaves. And I pointed out that economies with a high demand for slaves are labor intensive, whereas economies with low demand for slaves tend to be capital intensive. And super-capitalist economies tend to be capital intensive. But he didn't want to go the labor-intensive route, he rather abandon the slavery aspect, because he doesn't think he can compete geopolitically. I said that the USSR competed geopolitically, despite diverging in productive output drastically over time with respect to the U.S.

I feel that the need to be "competitive" in that geopolitical sense can distract us from real value. Like, a slave, pariah state is interesting because it's unique, but it's only unique if you embrace the quirks of that kind of society. Otherwise, you're just trying to be everything at once and the world becomes disinteresting. And it's the quirks that we can exploit to write very good stories of political tensions, characters and their lives in this unique society, etc.


I think part of the problem you encountered with this player is that he failed to realize that the process of crafting an nation (much like the process of designing a tank) includes making trade-offs. You cannot create and roleplay with a “perfect” nation just because you managed to finagle your way into having “perfect” gameside stats and WA rankings. Of course, every trade-off has a workaround that leads to an alternative trade-off. For instance, a player decides his otherwise economically advanced nation needs slavery as a way of working undesirable people to death, or perhaps he does what Ralkovia did for years and simply uses slave labor to manufacture massive quantities of war materiel while having a poor consumer economy for all but the rich. A third possibility is to replace real slavery with the “wage slavery” of labor exploitation (e.g. no minimum wage legislation, no worker safety regulations, no unionization, etc.) lorded over by monopolists.

Allanea wrote:I happen to not agree. There’s a difference between ‘wanting to win’ and ‘just never being able to accept loss’.


Both of these items tend to motivate no shortage of godmoding.

I think people’s desire to ‘achieve’ things in-character can obviously be a terrible thing if it comes at the expense of enjoyment (their own or others), but, frankly, if I wanted to improve my writing I would write a novel.


Referring to one of my previous points, some partially-established players seem to believe that they can “win” at NS by influencing, suborning, conquering, or destroying enough newbie countries for other newbie countries to be afraid of their NS nation. Put another way, some players believe that they need to rack up “street cred” by throwing their weight around to build up a distinct “reputation” that others must acknowledge in character.

Allanea wrote:
The Macabees wrote:On NS, the far biggest problem has always been RPs that devolve into OOC conflicts, not RPs that are too bland because the players aren't competitive enough.


RPs devolve into OOC conflicts even among ostensibly 'good' roleplayers that are not 'competitive'.

But frankly I consider RPs that never happen, or that die at the start, to be almost as bad as RPs that evolve into a bitchfest.


I agree to a limited extent as an RP that gets somewhere before dying represents a greater waste of time and creative effort than one that dies at its inception. I have come to believe that miscommunication (and even more critically, non-communication) are the chief instigators of OOC conflicts. For instance, you have two RPers who are both competitive OOC enter a thread where their characters are competitive IC and neither party fully communicates its expectations for how the story should proceed. In many cases, OOC bickering winds up focusing on equipment stats (this gets especially bad when nobody is willing to disclose enough numbers to calculate anything so the whole argument devolves into competing lines of guesswork leading to opposing to conclusions).

Allanea wrote:
This also applies in reverse. It's just as dishonest to lure a player who is much more interested in roleplaying tactical operations and strategic maneuvers into an RP where their military is cowardly and powerless to act while cucks in suits & ties talk and talk and talk around a table...


Oh yes.

Yes.

I especially dislike the particular shade of individual who attempts to lure you into following some specific set of legal rules which your nation never IC agreed to, or use legal definitions from RL law which may not apply in your country for cultural reasons, or due to your country having chosen explicitly to use a different legal proceeding.


Amen! I cannot agree more! Why utterly violate the fourth wall with UN conventions when the WA has NS covered pretty well and its rulings do not even apply to most players? I think this phenomenon might have something to do with players trying to import as much stuff from RL into NS as they can get away with in order to avoid worldbuilding or learning a completely different set of geopolitical and legal.

Inyourfaceistan wrote:
Allanea wrote:I especially dislike the particular shade of individual who attempts to lure you into following some specific set of legal rules which your nation never IC agreed to, or use legal definitions from RL law which may not apply in your country for cultural reasons, or due to your country having chosen explicitly to use a different legal proceeding.

^This, 110%

Even worse when they try to use RL law which doesn't apply to tell you that the map you drew of your own nation is wrong, and you have no control of your own waters.
But I digress, and it's probably better to end this note here rather than go off on a tangent about the most distasteful ways of trying to force other players to do what you want...


This (and my desire to maximize my latitude for worldbuilding) is why I eschew RL maps and geography when I can.

Ferret Civilization wrote:Just a random thought out of me while reading this again and again, looking at the in character side of things. Compared to how things are in real life there is a higher ratio of well off nations here that can claim to be first world standard in terms of size and might. Of course when dealing with other nations there is always going to be one that is better off than another, with that top spot somewhere being disputed by some kind of wank term. That kind of is where the out of character comes into it with the whole, accepting or ignoring other player's creations comes into play? Thinking on it now it seems like a lot if near all the old nations that have a lot of community respect built up have large powerful nations unless for a roleplay one specifically takes the role of a created smaller power. As what this was written towards.


I see this as an example of the “every RPer wants to have the ‘best,’ ‘strongest,’ or ‘perfect’ nation” problem. In many cases, RPers create nations that either embody their own RL political views, satirize RL political views they dislike, or represent their ideal version of the RL country they inhabit. The RP environment you are describing is exactly what you get when RPers with these habits come together. At the same time, many of the players who are highly respected by virtue of the years they have spent writing well, helping others, etc. have also maintained their accounts long enough to rack up huge stats that keep growing at consistent rates. One reason RPers limit their stats for RP purposes is to avoid certain pitfalls that come with open-ended NS stat growth (e.g. population). For example, an old NS nation that gains six million people every day can afford to lose five million people every day to war or disease and still keep growing “bigger and stronger” when in reality losing millions of people daily should really, really suck from an IC perspective.

The Macabees wrote:
Ferret Civilization wrote:...


Regarding your first thoughts, I do agree that empirically most OOCly influential players have powerful IC nations. There are two players that I would like to highlight as good examples, in this context:

  • The Kraven Corporation — although by no means a weak nation ICly, he is very good at playing both his strengths and his weaknesses. He does not try to compete economically (on the same standards as a market economy, at least); he does not try to compete in terms of moral influence. He competes militarily, but on the context that his country is like a giant concentration camp, which is a big exploitable weakness.
  • Ghant — an influential player (OOCly) and country (ICly), Ghant does not compete militarily. He competes via 'soft power.'

Both of them do a good job of defining the scope of their competition around the setting/world they want to roleplay within.

Finally, to answer your question, I do think players gain OOC influence without roleplaying. Like I said above, with experience I've realized that words are cheap and what really matters are actions, and in this game actions must be roleplayed.

United World Order, another player who does a very good job at defining and narrowing the scope of where he competes, put it very well to me today. We had a discussion on Discord and he told me that he considers himself the only player, or one of the very few players, striving for superpower status in our community. And I asked, "Don't you think everyone is striving for that?" And, to paraphrase him, he says no, he doesn't consider anyone else to be doing that because he's one of the few players who actually puts plans and words into action via RPing. And he's absolutely right.


Returning to my previous point about trade-offs, there is a need for RPers to acknowledge IC weaknesses and RP them just as faithfully as they RP their strengths. There is much to be said about learning how to establish IC weaknesses and use them to tell a compelling story that leads to fruitful IC replies from others. When it comes to UWO’s goal of striving for superpower status, one item that remains ambiguous is the exact meaning of what such status entails. I attempted to reduce this ambiguity to a more tolerable level using my past experience to come up with a working definition of an IC superpower as a NS nation that does at least one of five distinct IC things. I think that UWO is aiming to meet the second and fifth criteria I provided.

At this point I feel it is prudent to mention that not all RPers seek to establish themselves as having IC superpower status. While having a widely-known IC reputation is nice (and I admit I was peeved years ago when a much more active Monavia had no discernible IC reputation with anybody apart from a few direct RP partners), so is the satisfaction of shepherding an IC thread from beginning to end or running an active storefront or completing a series of factbook dispatches. While I may not have received any RP awards (and I do not expect to without seriously redoubling my past efforts), I have derived no small measure of satisfaction from my accomplishments as a worldbuilder and comparatively modest achievements as a Mentor and writer.

If there is such a thing as “winning” NS, then it probably consists of creating a nation (an unending task, except where factbooks are concerned), roleplaying IC threads to their successful conclusions, making an IC impact on other nations even though they are not directly involved in my RP threads, and deriving great enjoyment from the whole experience. In many respects, an activity that started as a game evolved into a hobby, and I still wrestle with the task of making it evolve back into a game. This is one cross I suspect others carry, but in any case, I do think it is possible to “win” this game from a particular point of view.
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Allanea
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Postby Allanea » Wed Jan 17, 2018 10:18 pm

I cannot remember how many times I read threads where some country posted a provocative thread (e.g. Conservatopia bans abortion) and promptly gets told to “turn into Sweden by tomorrow or get invaded by our superior armed forces” and winds up in the middle of an unplanned war RP. I think too many players either try to establish their countries as “evil” by inflicting genocide and slavery on newbie nations while pursuing domestic policies they dislike in RL or try to establish their countries as “good” by threatening to invade any smaller country that pursues social policies they (and their fictional country) deem unacceptable. In many cases, the latter results when some kid posts a provocative thread aimed at “wish fulfillment” and gets dogpiled by foreign crusaders within the first page of posts.


At some point should I have more time and feel less sick, I will try and write down a few of my experiences on handling these sorts of RPs.

I actually quite enjoy the random II toss-up, I just feel that it's fairly simple to make these experiences less disruptive for everyone involved.
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