RAWA's Guidelines For Writing
What follows are a few guidelines set down by RAWA in a discussion topic on the MO:ULa forums for writing official Ages and story.
A few disclaimers
- These guidelines are a work in progress. While attempts have been made to have them be as complete and accurate as possible, we reserve the right to alter, amend, change, update, fold, spindle, and/or mutilate them at any time. We also reserve the right to add other verbs to that list at our sole discretion.
- You (collectively) are now part of the creation process, and I have it on good authority that "with great power comes great responsibility." Specifically, in this case, that means that since we're going to be working out these kinds of details as we go along, even more patience, flexibility, and understanding is going to be needed on all levels from everyone involved.
- Past performance is no guarantee of future results.
- Void where prohibited.
- Objects in mirror may be closer than they appear.
[End of Disclaimers]
Without further ado...
The Five Rules of Writing, in their most basic form
- Writers must live within the D'ni limitations of Writing.
- Writers must not break continuity with previously released D'ni information.
- Writers must not reveal "new" information about characters, places, groups, etc. used by Cyan.
- Writers must limit "new" information about D'ni society to specific, smaller groups within D'ni.
- Writers must not use the intellectual property of others.
- Except for Rule #5, these rules mainly focus on attempting to minimize continuity issues, so, when an Age is submitted for approval, enforcing these rules will primarily be the responsibility of the Guild of Archivists. You can think of theses duties of the Guild of Archivists as providing "information quality control" for the Ages.
- Duties for the other Guilds will be spelled out as we move forward.
- These rules are specifically intended to be guidelines for Ages and/or Storylines which are intended to be considered "official" (i.e. "canon"), where continuity is a prime concern. We also intend to provide separate guidelines for Ages and/or Storylines that which are intended to be considered "fictional" within the context of the Cavern. Those guidelines will be much less restrictive because continuity in those cases will be less of a concern. So if you want to tell a story that these rules do not allow (e.g. the story of Ti'ana between the Book of Ti'ana and the Book of Atrus), you'll need to abide by those guidelines when they become available.
The Five Rules of Writing, further details
- The Writers do not have Yeesha's special, innate abilities. They have to live within the limitations of the traditional D'ni Writers.
- The members of the Guild of Archivists need to have a decent grasp of released D'ni information, so that they can have working knowledge of what will contradict established D'ni information.
- Note: Also included under "contradictions" are issues that have been intentionally left open for debate by Cyan. A Writer's storyline must not attempt to definitively confirm one side or the other of those issues.
- Characters, places, groups, etc. that have appeared in Cyan's games, novels, etc. can be mentioned or used, but Writers must not reveal any new information about those characters, places, groups, etc., where "new information" is defined as information that would in some way change what is known about the character, place, or group.
- For example, one can "find" an old D'ni Age that was once visited by Veovis (the fact that Veovis may have visited that Age doesn't constitute any significant "new" information about Veovis, since it is very likely that he visited countless Ages, but they can't "find" an Age that was owned by Veovis or Written by Veovis (those kinds of things would be releasing new information about Veovis.)
- The main City in the Cavern is also included in this. Areas that have been in Cyan's games or novels can not be changed. If one wants to reveal ("restore") a new area in the Cavern, it must be self-contained and only accessible via the Nexus (e.g. the Great Tree Pub) or via another Age (e.g. the Uran Silo linked to from Er'cana).
- An exception of a place that was used by Cyan but can have "new" information revealed: specific D'ni neighborhoods. They can be considered as self-contained places. New information can be revealed about a Writer's neighborhood as long as it doesn't affect other neighborhoods or the main Cavern as a whole.
- In short, the rule of thumb for determining what should be allowed is, "How likely is it that this new information will cause a contradiction with information released by Cyan or other Writers in the future?" If it's likely to cause a contradiction, then it is not allowed.
- The Writers should come at this with the mindset that they're expanding knowledge of the D'ni Universe by revealing new facets of a multi-faceted civilization, rather than revealing new information about the D'ni society as a whole. That is to say that any new information one reveals about the D'ni or its history should be specific to a particular (previously unknown) group within D'ni, so that the likelihood of future contradictions by Cyan (or other Writers for that matter) is minimized as much as possible.
- For example, one could reveal that there was a group within D'ni that only ate a certain broccoli-like vegetable found in one of their Ages. Since this "revelation" is limited to one group, it doesn't affect the whole of D'ni society and is therefore unlikely to be contradicted by other stories in the future. Saying that all of the D'ni only ate certain broccoli-like vegetables is not allowed, as it is something that is very likely to be contradicted (in this specific example, of course, it already has been).
- This includes references to trademarks, copyrights, etc. Writers cannot write an Age where their character meets Captain Kirk, their Age cannot contain a Coca-Cola machine, etc. Everything in their Age or mentioned in their storyline must be their own work.
- Writer wants to create a storyline where Gehn escaped his prison.
- Verdict: Denied. This would violate Rule #2 (continuity issue: as far as has been revealed by Cyan, Gehn never escaped his prison) and Rule #3 (attempts to reveal "new" information about a character used in Cyan games and novels.)
- Writer wants to "find" an Age that Gehn had visited prior to the events of Riven.
- Verdict: Approved. Does not reveal "new" information about Gehn, or contradict previously released information about Gehn.
- Writer wants to "Write" a link to a specific instance of Myst Island.
- Verdict: Denied. This would violate Rule #1 (player Writers do not have Yeesha's special abilities to be able to write to specific instances of an Age.)
- Writer wants to "find" a link to another instance of Myst Island.
- Verdict: Denied. This would violate Rule #2 (continuity issue: there are no known links to other instances of Myst Island) and Rule #3 (by revealing "new" information about a place used in Cyan games and novels).
- Writer wants to "find" more information about the Guild of Illusionists.
- Verdict: Denied. This would violate Rule #3 (by revealing "new" information about a group used in Cyan games and novels).
- Writer wants to "find" information about the Guild of Reptile Trainers.
- Verdict: Approved. This does not reveal new information about a group used in the Cyan games and novels.
- Note: only "minor" guilds are allowed. It cannot be claimed that the Guild of Reptile Trainers was one of the 18 Major Guilds at any point in D'ni history, as the 18 Major Guilds are covered under the groups that have been used in Cyan games and novels. It is also something that would likely be contradicted in the future.
- Writer wants to "restore" a new area in the D'ni city itself.
- Verdict: Denied. This would violate Rule #3 (by revealing "new" information about a place used in Cyan games and novels).
- Writer wants to "restore" a new area in the D'ni city, but it is self-contained and only available via the Nexus.
- Verdict: Approved. The key to this being "self-contained," so it doesn't cause any continuity problems with the City, neighborhoods, etc. as it has been shown in Uru.
A Writer is limited by the fact that countless Ages on the Great Tree will match any given description, and the normal Writer (unlike Yeesha) has no control over which of those "matching" Ages his/her Book will be tied to. So while they will link to an Age with similarities to Myst Island, it won't be close enough to be considered an "instance" in the sense of "instances" that were seen in Uru (where "instances" were, for all intents and purposes, "identical" rather than just being "similar" to one another).
This goes back to the age old question "If two Writers write identical Descriptive Books, will they link to the same Age?" To which the answer was along the lines of "No, since so many Ages on the Great Tree will match any given description, the chance of writing links to the same Age are so small that it is 'impossible' for all practical purposes."
Q: If I wanted to, say, "discover" a journal in my neighborhood Bevin written by a young D'ni lad living there, that would be alright as long as the journal only revealed information about the author's immediate family and neighborhood. But if I decided I wanted to find an open door in the Bevin and explore the boy's house, that would be a no-no. Correct?
- A: A journal would be fine, though you're likely only going to be able to provide a translated version of it. Revealing what's behind a previously locked door in Bevin would problematic, as that is something that would be likely to be contradicted later. If it were a separate type of neighborhood (i.e. not a Bevin, Kirel, etc. 'hood layout) that would be ok, as there are likely many 'hood layouts that have not been revealed yet.
Q: If someone wants to restore an area of the cavern that's self-contained and can only be reached via the Nexus AND turns out be Faresh's house on Katha Island (a longtime dream of mine), I assume that would be given the big NO as well. Is that right?
- A: Correct, as those are places that have been mentioned/used in Cyan's games, novels, etc. However, I would personally be OK with you finding an area that might be Faresh's house, which leaves open the possibility for us to reveal Faresh's "real" house at some point without contradiction. It also leaves open the possibility for others to find places that might be Faresh's house, as well, so it's not just limited to one person getting to officially "lock down" anything that's been mentioned by Cyan. It would probably be safer, though, to do something like this under the looser guidelines for things that aren't intended to be "official", once those guidelines have been made available.
Q: One question, if we are not allowed any of yeesha's "powers", does that mean we cannot make relto pages?
- A: SCGreyWolf is correct. Yeesha's Relto pages are off limits. Other collectibles would not be off limits, though the guidelines for props, clothing, etc. do not exist yet, either.
Q: So, just to be clear, I could "restore" a section of D'ni itself, but only if it were some self-contained place? Does that mean it cannot have a view of the lake or would that be similar to how we explain why the neighborhoods all see the same spot in the City?
- A: The specifics of these guidelines are still in flux. So I don't have a definitive answer to your question. But here are my thoughts, in case unofficial comments will help to give an idea of what's currently intended:
- The main point of the guidelines is to minimize contradictions as much as is humanly possible. An area of D'ni with a view of the lake is more likely to cause a contradiction than one that doesn't, so my personal preference would be to lean toward areas that don't have a view of the lake.
- Part of the Fan Created Art License is that if we make changes that affect your work, you are responsible and required to change your work to match up with the new information. So in this case, if, hypothetically, the Arch of Kerath were destroyed, and you can see the Arch of Kerath from your area, that's going to cause a contradiction, and you're going to be responsible for keeping your area in compliance to that agreement.
- So... my initial instinct would be to start with strict rules to minimize potential conflicts, as it is always easier to start with strict rules and loosen them as we go as it is to start with loose rules and try to tighten them as we go. Does that help, even if it doesn't give a concrete answer?
Q: So, someplace in D'ni, accessable by Nexus, that could be wildly speculated about is ok? Whee! What about things like items, and people? Fan run characters?
- A: The guidelines in this thread are pretty much limited to answering the questions of "Hey, I want to make a story, can I use <insert name of Cyan character>?" or "Hey, I want to make an Age, can I use <insert name of Cyan Age>?" or "Hey, I want to make a story, can I reveal that the D'ni <insert revelation about the D'ni>?" The answers to which are: we're trying to provide as much flexibility as we can while trying to maintain continuity as much as possible.
- Items - separate guidelines will be created... eventually.
- Fan run characters - I don't see these changing much from MOUL. Fans made all kinds of characters and character-oriented stories within the Cavern. You'll still be free to do that.
Q: You see, in my age, I have a linking book to the hood instance of The Great Library in Ae'gura. It is not a custom instance I made myself, it would just lead to the hood instance Ae'gura like the book on your Relto bookshelf in MOUL did. Would this be against the rules because I have it in my age in general, or is it allowed since I didn't make the instance of the age myself (a custom instance)?
- A: So you essentially just found a second copy of the City Book in your Relto? Off the top of my head, it seems like that should be OK.
Q: Are we allowed to put clothing Items in our ages, that will appear in someone's wardrobe? Can we put a copy of The book of Atrus in a bevin? or would that fall under copyrighted
- A: Clothing - yes. Under separate guidelines, though. Book of Atrus - no. Copyrighted material.
Q: So I could have an area with a view of the lake, but if there were a contradiction I'd be responsible for changing it to reflect that.
- A: It depends on how strictly the rules are interpreted, which, in turn will depend on how much effort is going to be available for making sure FCA remains in compliance if/when changes are made. The safest way would be to say "no lake", so that once the area is approved, those approving the areas don't have to worry about contradictions with the lake later. But that's less than ideal. If it's going to be feasible for those approving the areas to make sure that released areas remain in compliance, then maybe things like the lake can be allowed. I don't know the answer to that at this point.
Q: What would be the ruling on some minor Age made by the Writers, or a Caterers' Granary Age?
- A: Some of this comes down to presentation. If you say the Age is the only place where the Caterer's got <insert specific plant/ingredient here>, then that is likely to be contradicted. If you say the Age is one of the places where the Caterers got <insert specific plant/ingredient>, then you'll probably be fine.
Q: Fan-made areas in D'ni must be self-contained. Does this include with each other? Could a group project like Ahra Pahts work to create some D'ni district that is self-contained, but fans are able to set up areas inside it?
- A: The point of "self-contained" is to avoid contradictions with things Cyan or other Writers release. A project like Ahra Pahts would be fine, since it is self-contained, even though different areas within it are created by different people.
Q: In coming up with new practices of parts of D'ni society, must a sequestered group be denoted as the sole participator in those practices?
- A: No. Others groups in D'ni may have participated in it. In fact, saying that no other D'ni participated in <insert specific behavior> is as likely to cause a contradiction as saying that they all did. Basically, your goal is to not do anything that reveals information about D'ni society as a whole, because those are things that would be most likely to be contradicted.
Q: I would assume that a newly-designed Prison Age could not have been for a criminal who had attempted an assassination of a King, or some other nefarious deed which had Cavern-wide consequences or effects on the society. However, I assume that a Prison Age for a less high-profile murderer would be OK. Is there a particular limit to the area of influence this criminal could have, or could it be left as a crime of indeterminate effect on society?
- A: Attempted assassination of a King would be an indirect problem, because revealing a new assassin would imply that assassinations were commonplace enough to not be considered "new" information about D'ni society as a whole. Since that hasn't been revealed, that would be a problem.
- Trading in illicit Books, however, is something that is known to have been commonplace enough that one would expect to be able to learn about many people guilty of that who haven't been heard of before.
Q: Regarding your mention of making areas that "could be" Faresh's mansion, would Cyan eventually be in the business of choosing if it is or not, as a way of having fans create canon like that with Cyan guidance?
- A: I'm not saying that, but I'm not not saying that...
Q: Is MORE itself canon?
- A: If MORE at some point turns into Something Other Than MORE(tm), we will do our best to incorporate the events of MORE into it as we did with incorporating the events in Until Uru into MOUL.
Q: My journal that is in my age actually says I wrote the book on the surface and brought it to my age, but I think it would still work for my age either way. (correct me if I'm wrong)
- A: A Linking Book to your Library would need to be written in the Library.
Q: My request for clarification concerns Red Herrings. I am in the midst now (and have been dabbling with for 2 years) some red herring and a couple of not red herring story lines. A "story setter upper" has to say or not, because it would give away the red herring to say a storyteller only wrote red herrings. Anyway...say a storyteller (not the same as an age writer) were to create a character who will take explorers willingly on an Uncle Wiggly branch of a story that requires some allusion to canon, but the character(s) is eventually found out (someday)? Will this be ok?
- A: I suppose that depends on how long "someday" is. I don't have a problem with this in theory, as long as one doesn't use this as a loophole to get around the rules and then "conveniently" end up not revealing it was, in fact, a deception.
Q: Are there limits on what the surface backstory of a character can be? Can all of my characters be, say, famous archeologists/Millionaires/Professional Wrestlers/All of the above as long as the above writing limits are adhered to?
- A: As far as your own characters go, if it was acceptable in MOUL, I don't see why it wouldn't be acceptable in MORE. The other players will decide for themselves whether your characters are believable and reasonable. Until we see specific problems that are serious enough to address, I'd rather let these kinds of things work themselves out. If you have a character that "dies" and then shows up in the Cavern again a week later, the other people are just going to write you off on their own.
- If you're seeing an obvious problem here that I'm not thinking of, feel free to enlighten me. :)
Q: How about places on the surface? What if I want to make an 'age' that is a gas station in New Mexico? My garage? If purely story elements, how much can I fiddle with details of real places? Can I make up fictional places on the surface?
- A: This, too, is more likely to be measured by the other players rather than by restrictions from us. As long as you're not using a trademarked brand of gas station, for example, I don't have a specific problem with this that is leaping to mind.
Q: Is there any way we can have a few minor details clarified for background purposes? Such as:
- Where do new people get their Relto books?
- How much do surface governments know about D'ni?
- Do explorers ever make it home when 'going to the surface'? Are they just considered to link to the cleft and find their way home, wherever that is?
- The Relto Book Faerie.
- How much do surface governments know about anything?
- Yes, they link to the Cleft, but once they're on the surface, it's up to them where they go.
Q: An example posed in the rules was an isolated section of the city accessible via the Nexus... This implies a couple of issues:
- Nexus link: The most common mechanism for adding a link in the Nexus is to register it using a Nexus pedestal. Are we allowed to copy the Nexus pedestal for this purpose? Is there a restriction as to whether the registered link is Public or Private?
- Initial Access: If the Nexus is the means for revisiting a new area, there must be a way to get there initially since the area is isolated. The only example of this I can think of is the Yeesha portal leading to K'veer. Are we allowed to create floating portals (of our own pattern design) or should we create some other non-book means for linking? I assume these portals would also have to be located in fan-created areas. Are we allowed to create something like a Bahro tablet for linking? If we access the area via a book, the Nexus link seems redundant.
- A: Good questions, for which I don't know the answers at this point.
Q: I have an idea that goes like this: my character would write an Age, and, while it doesn't have stuff like Yeesha's powers (no time travel, or instances, or weather control, or stuff like that), it has an oddity in it more along the lines of the Catherine-style of writing
- A: While I don't oppose this in theory, in practice, Catherine's style is meant to be uncommon - few could pull it off and result in a stable Age. If too many people want to make "bizarre" Ages, we'll have to become more strict with this.
Q: I know the rules of writing state that you can't change the descriptive book once you link to it, does that mean we will not be allowed to modify an age once it's approved and incorporated into MORE? Does it have to be the final version before we can submit the age? Thanks for answering our questions RAWA.
- A: This will likely be dependent on the Guilds doing the approvals. If you make changes to your Age, it will have to go through the approval process again.