Prop control is the OOC control over a particular entity in the game, whether a formal prop in our Props system, or an informal prop like "my home".
Props are divided into two general categories — game props, and personal props. Game props, such as Amber, the Pattern, and anything else that "comes with the setting" (either from the books or designed by the staff) are ultimately subject to the staff's control, even if day to day handling has been delegated to a player. Personal props are generally player property.
Prop controllers of all props, both personal and game, have the following rights:
- To assert what is true about their prop in the present, subject to the prop's formal charter, informal agreements with the staff, and general reasonability (including a respect for other people's "cool").
- To assert what was true about their prop in the past (subject, in some cases, to staff approval where it touches on broader historical or cosmological issues).
- To be notified of player backgrounds that are related to their prop. (The corollary responsibility is the willingness to negotiate backgrounds and hooks in good faith, and to sign off in a timely manner. See the propco background signoff guidelines for details.)
Our prop control is "soft" prop control, rather than "hard" prop control. Mutual rights and responsibilities of prop controllers and the players who deal with them include:
- Prop controllers are entitled to negotiate on behalf of their prop for issues related to consent. Players who wish to involve a prop in a conflict are encouraged to consider negotiating with the prop controller in advance, but it is NOT a requirement. (This is similar to the Trouble preference for players; a player may express a preference for pre-negotiation but it is never a requirement.)
- Controllers of game-owned props DO NOT have the right to tell others that they cannot involve their prop in something, except to the degree that the formal rules of consent apply. However, common courtesy should indicate that forcing a prop controller into a situation they don't like is probably rude.
- Facts that can be mechanically challenged are subject to a contest. For instance, you cannot assert, "House Chantris's guards are so strong that you can't overcome them," or, "The guards cannot be intimidated into allowing you to enter," as both of these statements can be resolved via indirect contests. Similarly: You can say, "The guards are generally loyal to their Captain", but not "The guards are completely fanatical and entirely under my control." You can say, "It is difficult to hide in this shadow because of the secret police," but not, "The secret police automatically catch anyone who is trying to sneak around."
- For location props, the controllers should be notified OOC when significant events happen in their props.
- For organization props, the controllers should be notified OOC when their organizations would be aware of something.
- For "public" organizations that can reasonably be expected to appear in regular scenes even when the controller is not online, such as the Watch and the Palace Guard, the controllers should be notified OOC of any non-trivial scenes involving members of their organization.
Broadly, when the prop controller is not online to answer questions, players should err on the side of conservatism when making assumptions involving the prop.
Prop Control vs. IC Authority
Prop control is not the same as IC authority. In fact, they're explicitly split in our props and resources systems. There is also a vast gulf between making an IC declaration and actually making it so within the context of the prop.
For instance, Moire, Rebma's IC ruler, could theoretically declare that someone is banned from waters that Rebma controls. Although the staff tends to frown on consequences that limit the target's ability to play, this has minimal impact on most because Rebma is not really a significant play center. (It would be different if it were Amber City, the game's primary play center.) However, enforcing that ban is another matter.
For instance, consider what might happen if the target decided to sail a ship within Rebman-controlled waters. Has Moire left standing orders to look for the target, and is that been backed up by a token (preferably a resource token indicating actual resources spent doing so)? If not, the target might not be noticed, although per prop control respect, the target should OOCly notify Rebma's prop controller and Moire that they're violating the ban. If the target is noticed, then Moire has to decide whether to enforce the ban, and what form that enforcement takes. If she decided to use Rebma's military to attack the ship, that would be an indirect conflict, resolved with +compare, with consequences possible on either side (i.e., enforcing the ban presents an element of danger for Moire).
Similarly, Rebma's prop controller cannot simply declare that Rebma's NPCs are now hostile to the target. That is something that can only be accomplished IC by a character, mechanically represented by investing in a gossip to GL-Rebma or something similarly relevant; someone has to make those NPCs hostile.
IC Leadership vs. OOC Control
Because we split the idea of OOC prop ownership and control from IC leadership, it is possible for a prop to be OOCly controlled by someone not in its IC leadership structure, and in some cases, not necessarily someone who is really part of its IC playgroup at all (particularly in cases where players have taken on an almost GM-ish role in a prop, or have previously been involved IC, but through character death or other changing circumstances, are no longer).
In general, the staff does not interfere in prop ownership and control as long as there is at least one active propco. If all propcos have been absent for 90 days or more, the prop is subject to reassignment. In general, we try to respect the wishes of former prop owners when considering the disposition of props.
Challenges for IC leadership can take place, and be successful, without changing OOC prop control. Changes of IC leadership are like any other conflict in the game. Prop controllers are expected to respect IC outcomes, but the two are explicitly detached from one another. In the case of most props, it will make sense for IC leadership and OOC prop control to go together under ordinary circumstances, but this does not have to be the case.
Prop Control in the Context of Staff-Owned Props
Some of the props in the game are wholly owned by the staff and do not have a player prop controller at all. Examples include Amber itself, Amber City, and the Black Road. A somewhat separate set of rules apply to these props.
Amber and Amber City
These props are under staff control specifically so that they're easy to play within, and subject to very few rules. Amber's IC rulers have their own resourced props representing their mechanical heft, but they do not possess prop control.
Here are some general rules of thumb to use:
- Broadly, any NPC reaction couched in a qualifier like "some", "a few", "maybe", or similar words, are probably okay. It's usually reasonable to say "some people think"; it's not reasonable to say "everyone thinks". Hedging allows other people flexibility.
- If you need to pose crowd reactions, be reasonable and balanced in your assertions. If Corwin and Eric are brawling in a tavern, either of them can legitimately pose a part of the crowd cheering them on — but it would be unfair to simply claim that the whole crowd loves only Corwin. Corwin or Eric might be able to use a gift to back up an assertion of who the crowd favors, though. If who the crowd favors is important enough that it should merit a consequence, or it's otherwise in OOC dispute, this can be settled mechanically via a +compare, and crowd-swaying gifts can be used in conjunction with that comparison.
- If you want to assert something as being true about people in Amber, and you want the truth of that to be expressed mechanically for more than the length of a scene, you should probably use Focus to spread an appropriate gossip. For instance, if Eric wants to assert that the NPC nobles are quietly plotting to return him to the throne, an AO-Upper gossip is appropriate.
- If the reactions of NPCs are relevant to something else that you're doing that's being expressed in token form, it's okay to simply make reasonable claims — there's just no additional mechanical weight to that beyond what you've invested in the token. For instance, if Eric writes a resource token against the Throne of Amber prop, declaring that he's using the Crown's resources to provide free beer for everyone, he can legitimately claim that this is by and large a popular move amongst the rabble and that some tavern-keepers are grumbling at the loss of revenue, but he can't claim that this buys undying loyalty. He does not need to post a separate gossip, as the reaction is an inherent part of the resource expenditure.
- Use +setting to mark anything that others would notice that lasts beyond the scope of the immediate scene.
- Remember that significant actions taken in the city draw the attention of the Watch; similarly, significant actions undertaken in the palace may draw the attention of its Guard.
- If you plan to do something with major impact upon the architecture, like burning down a district of the city, the GMs will want to discuss it with you in advance (and may need to provide building support for relinking, redescing, and the like). Use +submit gm for this.