Shalazar is intended to be a fun experience, not only for the players, but also for the GM team, who intend to put a lot of blood, sweat, toil, and tears into the game. In order to make sure that all of us enjoy what we're doing, we've put together this list of things we believe will make the best game, so that everyone knows where we stand before we start
1. GM Commitments
First, the things we promise to our players.
- The GMs commit to listen to the players: First and foremost, games function best with communication between players and GMs, both in and out of character. If there's something that's concerning you about the game or your character, talk to a GM, and we'll see how we can sort it. We can't promise to go along with everything, because we may in fact disagree, or there may be a reason for a decision that you don't know. But we promise to discuss any issues as openly as possible (without giving away sections of the plot, of course). If a player has a problem with the game, we'd like to hear from it from the player, before we hear something through the rumour mill.
- The GMs commit to making the game as enjoyable as possible for each player: No society game has ever been enjoyed by 100% of its players, and the GMs know it would be foolish to try. We've made a lot of controversial decisions: having a strict and regulated society, having a social structure in which women are dominant, enforcing a monotheistic religious concept. Not everyone will appreciate these, but within realistic limits, our goal is to make things as enjoyable as possible for everyone, ourselves included. After all, this is a game, and our jobs as GMs are to make sure that you have fun (as players-and for some of you, we know that means making your character's lives miserable).
- We will act with respect and politeness: This goes without saying. If you feel you're being treated rudely or without respect out of character, please tell one of the GMs. Note that this does not extend to in-character interactions: the Grand Vizier or Calipha will most likely be haughty and aloof to a peasant, but a GM will be respectful to a player when not in character.
- We will act impartially: This is a rock-solid guarantee. If you feel we are not being impartial, please bring this to our attention.
- We will try to remember everyone's name: At the time of writing, there are 24 cities, over 50 human NPCs, eight Great Families, four foreign nations, a bestiary of exotic creatures, 5,000 years of history, and several PCs to come. The GMs are only human, and while we'll try to remember everyone's name, doubtlessly we'll flub it a few times. But we will can promise you we'll do our best.
On the other hand, there are things we do not promise:
- There may be unbeatable NPCs: For one thing, there's always a creator of heaven and earth. Which is about as unbeatable as anyone is likely to get. There will also be NPCs with stats significantly greater than any PC will have, or is likely to gain.
2. Player Commitments
Since we've committed to all the things above, we expect the following from our players. If you have a problem with these commitments, please tell us, and we'll do our best to address them. However, we do not promise to bend on these issues, as we consider them critical to the our smooth running of the game:
- Trust the GMs: The first rule of any large live-action game must be that a GM's call is respected. Something that looks inconsistent to you probably isn't: there's much more to the world than you might expect. If you think something is wrong, please point it out (outside of session, if possible), and we'll check to make sure we're not in error-but if we confirm a ruling, it stands.
- Turnsheet on time: Shalazar is a game of high magic, a challenge that few GM teams have taken on recently. We fully expect that trying to turnsheet each week is going to be a difficult process of figuring out which of a dozen conflicting realities go ahead. Please make our lives easier by giving us those realities by midnight every Friday, so that we don't have late contenders. Any turnsheet handed in past that point, we reserve the right to 'adjust' to fit with any plot we've decided before then.
- Do not break character: Don't come out of character during session unless specifically necessary-we expect that a lot of the enjoyment of Shalazar will come from good roleplaying as much as an exciting plot.
- Avoid killing other PCs, or wrecking the game for them unnecessarily: This is not to say that we don't want inter-PC conflict. Indeed, we positively encourage it. However, there is a difference between a) engaging a PC as an enemy, building up a storyline of rivalry and intrigue, and finally undermining their power base, and b) just whacking another PC on the back of the head because they're there, and it'll give you a couple more points of power. Good conflict can be frustrating but enjoyable for both participants, and this is what we want to encourage. This is a fine line, and we'll tell you in advance if we think you're crossing it.
- Realise that this is fantasy: The world of Shalazar is a fantasy world, in which many things you shouldn't try at home are possible and indeed normal. For this reason, we'd like you to understand that:
- The laws of physics do not apply here: There are Djinn, dragons, and magic in this world, and they make a kind of consistent sense. The procession of the equinoxes, sub-atomic particles, and the Uncertainty Principle not only haven't been heard of, but have nothing to do with Shalazar. Real-world physics works to a point, and only to the point described by the GMs. Those who make arguments based on real-world physics ('you can't do that, or you won't have seasons') will have their characters mocked as members of the Round Earth society, that risible minority of fruitcakes that think Shalazar is actually a sphere…
- This is not the real Arabia: We've tried to keep an Arabian flavour, but there are a lot of social differences between Shalazar and the real cultures of the Middle East. Though we have drawn heavily from the Arabian Nights; the religions of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism; and Egyption and classical myth and legend, don't think that because the real Arabia did something, it automatically carries over into our world.
Likewise, we are not making statements about any of those societies and cultural institutions. We've done our best to avoid real Arabic names (though we've kept similar naming conventions in places) and casting aspersions upon anything. As much as we can, we've taken measures on the website such that it won't be indexed by search engines, so that no one searching out a real history of Arabia might stumble upon it and get annoyed. In short, we've been almost politically correct-if anyone is offended, please accept our apologies, but we've done all we can.
- Realise that you are not immortal or indestructible: As we mentioned, we'd prefer you not to kill other PCs needlessly. On the other hand, we will not go too far out of our way to save a PC from death if they act in a self-destructive, foolish, or overly-optimistic manner. PC death is a real possibility in Shalazar, and we ask you to accept this and plan your turnsheets accordingly.
- You will not always succeed immediately: PCs are exceptional people, but they are exceptionally above the average of society-they are not the most powerful creatures in existence. There will be NPCs who, while not indestructible, will be too difficult for you to vanquish or eliminate on your own, at least directly. Similarly, many of your efforts will require more than one action in consecutive turns.
- Accept Shalazar society: The society of Shalazar has existed for 3,000 years, from the founding of the city all the way through the Golden Age. It is not likely to undergo revolutionary change in the sixteen weeks spanned by the game. Please bear in mind that unless your characters have very good reason to reject the status quo, there are certain concepts they are likely to accept at face value:
- There is one god, that god is Shaliq, and the Calipha is her representative on earth
- Men are fundamentally more frail and given to temptation than women
- For this reason, women are the leaders of Shalazar society
- The Tablets set down the rules that all should live by
- Shalazar is the greatest city on the face of the earth
Unlike in many society games, the social system of Shalazar is designed to bite back if players defy social convention-do so at your own risk.
3. Concepts to Embrace and Avoid
Along with the rules above, we'd like to suggest some concepts that we'd like to see characters embrace, some which while you may choose we'd suggest you avoid, and some concepts that we will not allow:
Concepts to Embrace
- Highly heroic characters: Shalazar should be a game of high heroism, high magic, action, and excitement. Characters designed to fit this mould will do well.
- Highly political/scheming characters: Similarly, characters who want to participate in the intrigue between the Great Families, the Visible and Invisible Colleges, the Court, and the various religious factions will find ample opportunity within the game.
- Highly amusing characters: What would the Arabian Nights be without the trader selling strange and wonderful objects to the hero, the mysterious old women who have just the right remedies, etc? If you'd like to do character role-playing in this style, we'd be happy to provide you with plot hooks in other player's storylines, giving you the chance to character role-play more than plot.
Concepts to Avoid
- Revolutionaries: Shalazar society is very stable, and the game time which will elapse during the game is very short. If your objective is to cause some form of massive social upheaval (overthrowing the Calipha, instituting equal rights for men, establishing a new religion) be prepared not to accomplish these goals.
This is not to say that you can't play someone outside the Shaliqar status quo, but you should understand that the penalty for most revolutionary crimes is death, and the GMs will not act to save your character if you transgress these social norms.
- Paradigm-shifters: Don't try to invent a working firearm, an internal combustion engine, etc. If that's your goal, it won't work.
Concepts we will not allow:
- Non-human characters: players may not be Djinn, dragons, demons, etc.
- Restricted NPCs: players may not play the Calipha or the Grand Vizier, or several other NPCs. However, all of the Stewards are open to be played by PCs.