It occurs to me that really, we only tend to grade on one level for role-playing guilds: Light RP, Medium RP, or Heavy RP. Not that this isn’t a hugely subjective measure in and of itself: What exactly separates the three borders? (Some attempts have been made to answer this.) And I suppose it’s a decent measure of the level of RP commitment you’re looking for when you’re advertising a guild.
But what about other factors? Sometimes it’s not really commitment that will startle a person about your role-play. What about content? Some people just aren’t comfortable with either sex, drugs or rock and roll, or all of the above. And then there’s that most elusive of issues, the issue of tone. You may think that the idea of a guild formed of reckless, Jack-Bauer-like anti-heroes is a really cool one, but if someone comes into the guild hoping to play the knightly hero then they’re just not going to fit in.
As such, I’m putting forward the ACT ratings system: A method by which you can notify other people of exactly what sort of role-play they’re getting themselves into if they join your RP guild. It’s probably not the perfect system but hey, what is?
(Aside from libertarianism.)
ACT: Activity, Content, Tone.
(L)ight: Role-play here is optional. You really only need to role-play if and when you feel like it, and out of character is the norm.
(M)edium: Role-play here is compulsory but limited. There is a guild OOC channel available, and big raids, etc. tend to be out of character rather than in-character. Role-play is something everyone is expected to do, but not all the time. /say and /yell are always expected to be in character, but /party and /w aren’t.
(H)eavy: Role-play is the norm. All raids, instances and other guild activities are in-character. There is a guild OOC channel but it’s designed to be used to facilitate role-play by asking questions about what’s going on, and to co-ordinate future RP sessions and stuff that makes no sense to do in-character. /w may not be IC, but /say, /yell, and /party are definitely so.
(F)ull Immersion RP: There is no guild OOC channel. All communications in any channel are in character. You do not acknowledge at any time while playing that there is a world outside Azeroth. (And if this is the case, why are you advertising your guild OOCly?)
(A)dult themes: Discussion of sex, violence or drugs is allowed and unsurprising within the guild, although actual depiction of such may not be. This does not necessarily mean it will be commonplace, simply that when it occurs it will be unremarkable.
(D)rug Use: Depiction of drug use is allowed and unsurprising within the guild. This does not necessarily mean it will be commonplace, simply that when it occurs it will be unremarkable.
(S)ex: Depiction of actual non-violent sexual activity is allowed and unsurprising within the guild. This does not necessarily mean the guild is an ERP guild, but it does not shy away from depiction of sexual scenarios. Neither does this necessarily mean it will be commonplace, simply that when it occurs it will be unremarkable.
(R)ape: Depiction of sexual violence is allowed and unsurprising within the guild. Again, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the guild is an ERP guild. Neither does this necessarily mean it will be commonplace, simply that when it occurs it will be unremarkable.
(V)iolence, graphic: Depiction of discomforting violence is allowed and unsurprising within the guild. This includes depiction of torture, gore, brutality toward non-combatants and such. This does not necessarily mean it will be commonplace, simply that when it occurs it will be unremarkable.
(C)omedic: Play will be aimed at producing laughs and humour. Jokes are expected, pop-culture references allowed. Characters in this guild may be designed to be walking jokes, though are not required to be.
(P)ulpy: Play will be adventurous and preposterous, with off-the-wall plots and derring do at every turn. Characters in this guild may be little more than archetypes but not stereotypes, although more nuanced characterisations are welcome.
(G)allant: Play will be heroic and bold, with bravery and nobility the standard for characters. While fear, doubt, nervousness and even selfishness are acceptable, these are character faults that the character will attempt to rise above. Characters should be brave and true, but more than mere archetypes – They should be fully fleshed out human beings. (Or fully fleshed out orcs.)
(I)mmoral: While not evil, characters in this branch are expected to be complicated and morally ambiguous. Anti-heroes rule the day. They may be selfish criminals with human empathy and vulnerability, or stalwart altruists who none-the-less admit the ends justify the means. Characters should be multi-faceted and well thought out.
(E)vil: This is a guild of the truly nasty. They are not heroic at all, indeed, their goals are purely self-serving, and frequently whimsically nasty. Characters should be heartless and cruel.
Now, so how do you put these together? You can actually combine categories, none of these are exclusive. If your role-play encompasses medium and heavy categories of role-play (or hovers in between, more likely) then include both. If you’re fine with adult themes and violence, but want to rule out sex and drugs, include only the categories you’re comfortable with. If you’re fine with characters encompassing a spectrum of tones, say so. Here’s an example for a classic heroic guild:
The Knights of Good are recruiting for stalwart heroes to help fight the Burning Legion and the Horde! A(M)C:()T(P,G).
Got that? They’re a medium level RP guild, who don’t want any controversial content, and look for pulpy or gallant characters. How about a Horde equivalent?
We need you! The Circle of Fire serve the spirits and fight back the evils of the Alliance and the Scourge. We follow the ancient ways and preserve them. A(H)C(A,D,V)T(P,G).
So this one is still pretty heroic, but it’s got a more adult edge on it, with a lot of shamanistic drug use, some violence and definitely adult themes, although depiction of sex is still out. It’s also expecting heavy role-play. But what about a really dark guild, one with a lot of politics, infighting and the like? Well…
Second Legion needs new recruits! We’re an RP/raiding guild looking for new members. A(L)C(A,D,S,V)T(G,I,E).
Now this is a Vampire: The Requiem game in Warcraft form! They’re happy to have non-roleplayers in, presumably to help with raiding, but those who DO play are going to be all in for the politicking and nastiness. Note that depiction of rape remains out, so there’s some line here. Let’s finally obliterate it with an all out horror guild.
Servitors of the Old Gods are the true rulers of the world. Are you a ruler, unafraid to exercise your will? A(F)C(A,D,R,S,V)T(I,E).
Holy cats. Now there’s a guild I don’t want to play in. That one is pretty much unrelenting horror.
There’s always going to be stuff missed in any system. But still, if it were more commonly spread, we could easily use it to do a much better job at understanding what RP guilds are doing what. If nothing else, it’s a thing to think about when you’re making your own RP guild, to think about what you’re trying to achieve.