Overcoming Rumor System Angst

TI’s rumor system can be quite brutal — a noxious storm of what can often seem like unjust, inaccurate, and mean-spirited commentary. I’ve seen it drive both new and experienced players away from the game, and while the obvious and usual advice is to simply not participate (stay out of the kitchen if you can’t stand the heat), it’s not always possible to avoid the repercussions of rumors in actual RP, no matter how thick or thin your skin may be. Below, I provide some practical advice for dealing with what I call “rumor system angst.” Some of these tips/viewpoints may work for you, some may not. As always, they represent take-it-or-leave-it advice:

  1. Anonymity emboldens. Don’t let it get under your skin IRL. That’s the first thing I tell players when they complain about the rumor system. Don’t take it personally as a player; keep it in the realm of make-believe. People say things in rumors they would neeeever say to your character’s face in actual RP. Whenever something starts to rankle you, just remember that the biggest critics are often the biggest cowards: they would rather talk shit anonymously than risk a confrontation. You automatically get to feel superior about that, and your character does, too!
  2. Bask in the infamy. If people are still talking shit about your character a year after he or she did something controversial, good for you! Your character probably (hopefully) isn’t dead yet, despite having enemies, and you apparently managed to rankle someone else so much (or made such a strong IC impact, to put it nicely) that the other party just can’t let it go, even months after the fact. You get to feel superior about that, too! You made waves. Maybe not the kind you’d hoped, but you probably made the kind that matter: the kind that drive character development and RP. Also, feel free to totally downplay the criticism, even while you’re basking in your infamy: “That is so 370, Bryan. The only one who still cares about that silly incident is you.”
  3. Be misunderstood. Most of the nastiest rumors about my character are started not by his enemies, but by yours truly, through NPCs and vNPCs. I have fully embraced the fickleness of the rumor system, and when my character makes a misstep or does something controversial, I’m usually the first person to get on his case about it — provided that the misstep was public or could be easily misunderstood by the public or could conceivably be conveyed to the public (such as through indiscreet servants). When you’re busy criticizing your own misunderstood character, it’s difficult to feel rankled by anyone else’s short-sightedness.
  4. The loudest voices. Only a fraction of the playerbase participates in the rumor system at any given time, and it’s not usually the nicest fraction. This can make one or two mean-spirited critics sound extremely loud, giving the impression that they represent a large portion of Lithmore’s views — even when they don’t. Only theme decides what most of Lithmore thinks, not individual players. Remember that, and don’t be afraid to remind others in RP that one obnoxiously loud or bitter voice does not necessarily represent an entire city. It represents one obnoxious, bitter person. Two equals two, three equals three. Just because the rumor mongers are talking about it doesn’t mean they agree — it just means they found it newsworthy. Ooh, drama!
  5. Avoid metagaming. While sometimes it may be justified to suspect a particular person is behind a particular rumor (e.g. the rumor includes specific details no one else would know or features verbatim complaints from an outspoken critic), don’t forget that there are tens of thousands of other people in Lithmore, some of whom could have said the same or similar things. Familiarize yourself with the metagaming helpfile (HELP METAGAMING) and read the *STICKY* Avoiding Metagaming note on the General Board. Before making assumptions, ask yourself whether you’re acting on OOC knowledge of the playerbase or whether your character really is justified in suspecting a rumor came from a particular source.
  6. Attend to circle. This one is easy to stumble over, even if you’re an oldbie. A rumor’s circle is the social sphere in which it is being circulated, which can be a social class or a guild (or both, or multiples of either). Remember that your comments should generally fit within the indicated circle(s) — at least one, if there are multiple circles listed. For example, if the circle is Nobility, then you shouldn’t be using a Freeman’s accent and presenting a Freeman’s view, such as: “Who cares? Nobs are Arien bastids who don’t care ’bout us little folk.” But it would be a perfectly fine comment under a Freeman rumor railing on the injustices of a class system. When you first learn a rumor, the code does NOT display the circle to you, so be sure to rumor review # before you comment, otherwise your input could be reported for being unthemely.
  7. Dealing with unfairness. Unfairness can be a tough pill to swallow — perhaps the toughest of them all. Sometimes, it can seem like a player is taking advantage of OOC circumstances or constraints when they say something nasty in rumors. For example, a player may know you had to go on hiatus for RL reasons, but should it suit their own RP, they can still criticize your character’s absence or say your character fled due to cowardice or shame. Even though this might seem unfair, players are entitled to their own schemes and can choose to ICly interpret your character’s actions however they please as part of their own RP. Again, my advice is that you don’t let it get under your skin. When something like this happens to you, you really only have three choices: ignore the rumor (it’s just not worth it, man), roll with it (embrace the drama!), or set the record straight (time to lay the smack down). “Don’t be so ignorant, Bernice. We all know the Earl Marshall was forced to leave on important business.” Ultimately, you just have to accept the fact that the rumor system isn’t fair.

If you’ve been dealing with some personal angst over the rumor system, I hope this post helps lower your blood pressure. TI is just a game, after all, and no one should feel shitty at the end of the day because of how his or her character was treated in a make-believe world filled with make-believe gossip.