The Gossip System

Gossip is IC information and opinions that spread through a group of NPCs. Anyone who has contacts with those NPCs (represented by Lores) has access to the gossip, as well as the ability to influence what those NPCs think. Focus can be spent to hide the origin of gossip, discover who is involved in a piece of gossip, spread the gossip, and suppress the gossip. Gossip can also be turned into a Focus-invested token, useful for representing social warfare and politicking. You should think of gossip not just as a rumor system, but as the way to represent influence over NPC groups.

Some Basic Facts About Gossip

  • Gossip comes in two types: regular gossip and trivial gossip.
  • Regular gossip can represent information and NPC opinion. It can be turned into a token.
  • Trivial gossip represents minor facts. It does not represent NPC opinion and it cannot be turned into a token.
  • All gossip is posted to one or more groups. Each group is a lore.
  • You do not need to have a lore in order to post gossip to it. You do need to be aware of its existence.
  • A gossip's level of intensity governs the lore level someone needs to have in order to see that gossip.
  • All gossip begins at intensity 0, unless you have a gift that alters that.
  • If you post a trivial gossip, you can control the exact lore level needed to see it, initially. (It defaults to 3.)
  • If you post a regular gossip, it normally begins at the viewing level for intensity 0. You can increase the initial lore level needed to see it (but not decrease it).
  • A gossip's intensity increases when it is spread, and decreases when it is suppressed. This changes the lore level needed to see it.
  • Trivial gossip, and regular gossip posted with a public originator, have an origin visible to everyone who can read it.
  • Posting trivial gossip, or regular gossip with a public originator, is free.
  • Posting regular gossip with an anonymous originator costs 1 Focus.
  • Anonymous originators can be discovered by spending Focus to trace the gossip.

Starting Gossip

All gossip is linked to one or more lores. You may start gossip associated with any lore. This represents the gossip spreading amongst the NPCs associated with that lore — with that place, organization, set of interests, etc.

If the gossip is about you, you can (under reasonable circumstances) assert that a member of that NPC group, such as "Amber's Upper Crust", saw you do or say something and then told other people. If it's not about you, either you or one of your NPC associates was responsible for starting the gossip. Either way, it's potentially traceable back to you IC, and you have OOC responsibility for it.

If you want to be publicly associated with a piece of gossip, you can start it, at no Focus cost, with:

+gossip/public lores about title[=message]

If you want to start an anonymous piece of gossip, you can start it at a cost of 1 Focus, with:

+gossip/anon lores about title[=message]

lores is a list of one or more lore aliases. It's also possible to specify lore+level, increasing the necessary lore level needed to read a piece of gossip by that many levels. Note in this latter case that the lore level needed to read this piece of gossip is the base plus the specified level, not the specified level itself.

Note that in order to post to multiple lore groups at once, you need to be an admin (staff/GM), or have a gift that allows you to do so. Otherwise, you'll need to start it in one group, then use Focus to spread it to additional groups.

(Note: If you want to try to spread an alteration or contradiction of someone else's existing gossip, you don't need to do anything fancy. Just start your own gossip.)

Trivial Gossip

You can start trivial gossip, publicly associated with you, and readable at a specific lore level, at no Focus cost. Trivial gossip cannot be cashed out as a token; it is specifically trivial information.

To post trivial gossip, use:

+gossip/trivial lore[/level] about title[=message]

level defaults to 3, if not specified. The editor will be invoked, if message is not specified.

Please exercise some restraint when posting trivial gossip; ask yourself if having this piece of information circulating actually does anything useful for play. Our intent is for trivial gossip to be used for the conveyance of information that shouldn't be known by everyone (and therefore doesn't warrant a bulletin board post), particularly for information spread within large play circles (the military, the nobility, etc.), but where that information has no real influence. Trivial gossip should be used only for information spread; it never represents or influences NPC opinion.

Miscellaneous, "X has been romantically linked with Y!" gossip should be posted to the AO-Romance group, and nowhere else. AO-Romance is effectively a free lore; you can buy it with the +gimme romance command. We recognize that some players love this kind of stuff, and others find it to be uninteresting spam; by segregating it off into its own lore, players can decide whether or not to read it by deciding whether or not to get the lore.

Writing Good Gossip

When you write the text of a gossip message, keep the following in mind:

  • It should make it clear who the gossip is circulating amongst. (Lores are fairly broad, so a more specific description of the NPC group is desirable.)
  • It should express information or an opinion. Please note that gossip should never be used as a way to leak information that you know OOCly only into IC play.
  • It should be colorful. There should be a way to turn what's being gossiped about into actionable play.
  • Gossip never starts spontaneously among NPCs. It always ultimately has a PC as its origin (either through that PC directly or through a prop that PC controls), and as the gossip's poster, that PC is you.

Common courtesy and sensibility still applies to what you write in gossip. Do not use its nominal anonymity as an excuse to be discourteous to other players; the staff will take a dim view of this and will readily agree to remove gossip that is offensive or otherwise against the spirit of good sportsmanship.

Hearing and Sharing Gossip

You can potentially "hear" gossip associated with any lore that you have; the greater the intensity of the gossip, the lower the lore level necessary to hear it.

+gossip/check is meant to be put in your @aconnect, and just tells you how much gossip you know about that you haven't read.

+gossip/new shows you all the new gossip that you have access to.

To get a quick overview of gossip messages, just type +gossip. To get a more specific list, use:

+gossip parameter-list

where parameter-list is the keyword "all", the keyword "new", a "search:string", a list of lore aliases, or a list of gossip numbers.

To read gossip messages, use:

+gossip/read parameter-list

where parameter-list is the keyword "all", the keyword "new", a "search:string", a list of lore aliases, or a list of gossip numbers.

You can make a piece of gossip accessible to someone who ordinarily wouldn't be able to hear it (because they don't have the necessary lore), by sharing it with them:

+gossip/share gossip-number with player

This will allow that person to read that gossip, as well as use the other commands that require knowing about the piece of gossip. This doesn't cost either of you anything, but the assumption is made that your character is sharing, ICly, that piece of gossip with the other character.

Being Aware of a Gossip

You are considered to be aware that a gossip is circulating in a lore group if one or more of the following applies:

  • Your lore level in this group is equal to or greater than the level needed to see this gossip in this lore (a function of intensity, the lore level specified when the gossip was posted, and obscuration efforts).
  • You are the originator of the gossip, and the group is the lore you originally posted it to.
  • You have spread the gossip to this lore.

If someone has shared a gossip with you, you merely know the information — you don't know where it's being spread or through whom (i.e., without the lore yourself, you don't have the appropriate contacts). Without those contacts, you can spread the gossip (since that just requires knowing it), but you can't suppress, hide, or trace it.

Spreading and Suppressing Gossip

All gossip has a level of intensity — the degree to which NPCs are talking about it, or holding the opinion encouraged by it. The more intense the gossip, the longer it takes for it to die out. Intensity levels are on a per-lore basis — just because it's prevalent in one social circle doesn't mean it's common in another.

Gossip can grow in intensity, if people spread it:

+gossip/spread gossip-number in lore spending Focus

You must always specify which lore group you're spreading the gossip within. If you spread gossip into a new lore (i.e., one that the gossip wasn't originally posted to, and that someone hasn't already spread the gossip into), the first point of Focus you spend will go to putting into that group (so it begins there at intensity 0).

Spreading gossip costs at least 1 point of Focus. Anyone can do this as many times as they want (if they know that piece of gossip). The Focus cost reflects the IC effort that you're putting into spreading the gossip (encouraging the rumor, influencing people to hold that opinion, etc.), either personally or through your NPC agents or other assets.

Gossip can also lessen in intensity, if suppressed by people:

+gossip/suppress gossip-number in lore spending Focus

You must always specify which lore group you're suppressing the gossip within. You must be aware that the gossip is circulating in that group (i.e., have the lore at an appropriate level to hear it within that group) in order to suppress it in that group.

Suppressing gossip costs at least 1 point of Focus. Anyone can do this as many times as they want (if they know that piece of gossip is circulating in that group). The Focus cost reflects the IC effort that you're putting into suppressing the gossip (contradicting the rumor, influencing people to hold a different opinion, etc.), either personally or through your NPC agents or other assets.

The intensity of gossip is equal to the total number of points of Focus that have been spent on spreading it, minus the total number of points of Focus that have been spent on suppressing it. The intensity of gossip is also reduced as time passes. At intensity zero (the base level), gossip takes one week to die out.

Hiding and Discovering the Origins of Gossip

If you are aware that a piece of gossip is circulating in a particular group, you can attempt to trace who started the gossip, who has been spreading it, and who has been suppressing it. (Spreading or suppressing gossip associates someone with it, and therefore makes their involvement subject to discovery.)

Conversely, if you are aware that a piece of gossip is circulating in a particular group, you can attempt to anonymize that gossip, obfuscating where it came from. This effort requires expending Focus. Use:

+gossip/hide gossip-number in lore spending Focus

Gossip is traced with:

+gossip/trace gossip-number in lore spending Focus

Anyone who reads a piece of gossip will always be told how well-obscured the gossip's origins are, as represented by the total number of points of Focus that people have expended hiding those origins. An investigator tracing the gossip has to spend 1 more point of Focus than was spent hiding it. If no one has tried to hide the origin, this is just 1 point. Some gossip may be so well-anonymized that no one is able to discover the origin.

Obscuring a Gossip

If you are aware that a piece of gossip is circulating in a particular group, you can attempt to obscure that activity. This raises the lore level necessary to see this piece of gossip. It is useful for attempting clandestine activities that require the build-up of Focus to represent NPC influence, but which should not become widely known.

Gossip is obscured with:

+gossip/obscure gossip-number in lore spending Focus

Turning Gossip into a Token

The real power of gossip is the ability for the gossip's originator to turn it into a Focus-invested token:

+gossip/token gossip-number in lore

The token is invested with as many points of Focus as the gossip has intensity (i.e., Spread Focus minus Suppress Focus). The intensity must be at least "moderate" before the gossip can be turned into a token, and there cannot have been spread/suppress activity on it within the last 48 hours.

The intensity of the gossip is reduced to zero when it's turned into a token; it will die out in a week, unless more Focus is spent in spreading it again. (If more efforts are made in spreading the gossip, those, too, can be "cashed out" into tokens later. However, those additional tokens will be stamped with a note indicating how many previous times this piece of gossip was "cashed out" as a token.)

The token is also stamped with an expiration time; the higher the intensity, the longer the token lasts. This represents the amount of time that this gossip is useful. After that time, the information is passe', and/or the hold that it has upon public opinion has faded. Consequently, past the expiration date, the token should no longer be considered influential. Players should not accept the use or spending of expired tokens.

Uses of Gossip

Gossip can be used for both trivial and serious things. Want to start a fashion trend? Start a gossip, spend Focus on it, and you can get an NPC group to pick up that fashion. Want to boost morale in the Navy? Start a gossip with the Navy group, spend Focus on it (representing your efforts made at quality-of-life improvements, buying drinks for sailors in taverns, or whatever), and you can cash out a token that represents some sailors that are happier, which you might find useful later. Need to persuade the NPC nobility that they prefer Corwin to Eric? Feel like starting a rumor that Feldane is cheating its suppliers? All these things are legitimate uses for gossip.

By design, gossip isn't intended to be heard by everyone; it rewards people with higher lore levels by giving them access to more information. Gossip is intended to be shared IC, not just read about OOC; people with high levels of gossip have the opportunity to share, in scenes, the gossip that they've heard that others might not have.

If you have a piece of information that everyone should know (and it's information, not opinion), it belongs on the bulletin board, not as gossip. Gossip is for information whose circulation should be limited, as well as attempts to influence opinion.

Additional Rules to Keep in Mind

  • Use gossip for all IC announcements, not the bulletin boards. The bulletin boards can be used to supplement with OOC information, or for things that are so universal to the game that there is no way that someone would miss hearing about them.
  • Gossip is IC. Any actions you take on it can be discovered and traced back to you. That means that if your character is involving him/herself in gossip, you're responsible for justifying that involvement. Your level of Focus investment is indicative of the strength of your efforts to influence that gossip, so you should keep that in mind when considering your RP. Before you take any gossip action, you should be prepared to answer the question, "What did my character do to achieve this?"
  • Cross-alt interaction is forbidden, as always. You should not take action on gossip on behalf of your alts. This is directly prevented by code in some cases, but in general, multiple alts should not be cooperating on the same gossip, whether you started that gossip or not.
  • Non-active characters should not be getting involved in gossip. In general, characters who are not currently involved in active roleplay should not be used to take actions on gossip. The GMs regard this as cheating, and will compensate for it accordingly.
  • Choose the lores for the gossip carefully. AO-Romance should be used for who's-dating-who gossip. AL-Amber and GL-GC are global lores, and thus, should be only used for those things that are truly widespread. More often than not, a more focused lore is more appropriate. Within Amber, AO-Upper, AO-Lower, and AL-City are useful divisions, and outside of Amber, nation-specific lores should be used to localize rumors. For gossip that is more general interest, the UP-* lores serve as an excellent way to get word to people by the subject of interest.
  • Never post the same gossip multiple times. It should be spread to other lores using +gossip/spread.
  • Gossip is not only a way of disseminating information, but also influencing the NPCs that make up the vast unseen majority of the game. Gossips can be taken to represent "public opinion" and the mind of the man on the street, so you should incorporate this into your roleplay when you can.
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