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[MAJOR] Disguise & Appearance Policy
Major update to the disguise/appearance policy

We are at a point with our coded and roleplay systems where you can effectively change your identity in character to the point where you should be able to fool another player entirely. The onus is now on you to do exactly that. The GMs will no longer be arbitrating 'how did JoeBaka know it was me in the shroud' or 'how could JaneBaka have guessed it was me that killed their ace kool' or ANY situation that involved someone recognizing you, or assuming you were someone (correctly or incorrectly).

If someone thinks they know who you are, they are welcome to think that, and act accordingly. The sheer amount of xhelps we get on a weekly basis with people asking us to arbitrate these issues, or investigate why or how someone knew who they were, is not tenable. It started out as 'suggestions' that people up their roleplay game and not just make assumptions about who someone was, but has turned, over time, into more of a 'rule' than a suggestion. This has resulted in frustration on the staff side at consistently having to field questions from people who are, potentially angry, that someone rightly or wrongly assumed their identity when they were shrouded or disguised or standing on a crowded street or whatever.

I still have an expectation that if you want to up your roleplay game, and a shrouded skinny punk chum walks into the room, you don't immediately assume that it is 'Joebaka' just because you saw him lose their disguise with that shortdesc in the past and know they are skinny. However, this is NOT a requirement. If you think you know it is JoeBaka, you can go ahead and roll the dice. We as a staff, will not be arbitrating this stuff any longer. It is a huge time-sink and takes away from time we should be spending writing code or running plots or picking up puppet requests.

Every player has at their disposal a varying degree of ability to hide their identity. And a varying degree of ability to hire other people to do their dirty work. And a varying degree of ability to muddy the waters when it comes to the identity and reasoning behind a crime or action or murder or whatever. It is now up to each of you to use those tools to their fullest extent to hide your actual identity. This will require a combination of not just coded features, but also roleplay. Just hiding your identity or gender isn't going to stop JaneBaka from wondering why right after getting into a SIC fight with JoeBaka, someone in a shroud pops up and ghosts them.

Disguises & appearance changes & ambient populations are not cloaks of invisibility or get out of jail free cards. They are each tools in an arsenal used when attempting to obscure your identity. They are useful for planting a seed of doubt about who you are or giving a measure of plausible deniability for your actions. To be useful you must convince the other person you are not who you say you are.

Other characters are under no obligation to believe your character is someone different than who they assume they are.

Characters have disguises, stealth, appearance, @describe, @holdback, @voice, clothing, weapons, pose, and emote that can all be used together to craft a 'different' appearance. If a PC notices your PC they can assume you are whoever they want to assume you are. They do not need to justify it. You need to use the tools to make it hard to guess. Again, that's assuming that you are noticed at all and not lost in the crowd.

Just like you the player can CHOOSE to have your character eat when it is not REQUIRED, your character can CHOOSE to not recognize someone if you the player think you know who it is, but you think it makes sense for your character not to recognize them. This is great for roleplay, and we encourage it. However, staff will not be the roleplay police on this. You have the tools at your disposal to completely obfuscate your identity. Use them.

Too much time goes into the GMs arbitrating if someone 'would really know it was person X' and in the end the decision is still entirely subjective. If you truly want to convince someone you are not who you say you are, you have to be thorough and plant the seeds of doubts through role play, actions, inactions, and in any number of other ways both codedly possible and those that are role play specific.

Again, if a player chooses to ignore these and make assumptions about who your character is, through a disguise, a disguised name, an appearance change, their voice, their description, their nakeds, their clothing, their attitude, the slang they use, the actions they take, the actions they fail to take, or anything else, that it fair game.

This approach means that the onus is on players to attempt to deceive others in game and out and it does not require a GM to arbitrate if someone should have been able to 'guess' who you were. This results in fewer situations where people felt that they were treated unfairly by another player or didn't like the result of a GM investigation, where a GM was unable to give them the full view of what happened because it would reveal IC information.

The responsibility is on the players to hide their identity successfully.


Some Examples to provide context: If a shrouded short boy is attacking your chums and you are on the way to give them backup and a shrouded short boy enters the room from the direction of your boyos, you can decide this is the same shrouded short boy that was attacking your boys and act accordingly. You can also decide it isn't the same person and continue on. You may be right, and it was them, you may be wrong and it was not.

If you want to fuck with some Sinners because they just robbed you on Sinn Street, but at the same time shift the blame to the Snakes, you could hire a big hulking dude (or someone who can do a decent impersonation of one) and equip them with a pick axe and a shroud and pay them to go kill some Sinners. The Sinners can then choose to either believe it was one of the Snakes that attacked them based on the evidence at hand, or they can choose to believe this was just a veiled attempt to get revenge and start a war by the person they just robbed.

If you want to commit a crime and don't want to be easily identified, you could utilize the stealth skill to get around, the appear command to change your appearance, the disguise code to change your display name or hide your body entirely with a shroud, you could change your @voice, craft a new persona on the SIC that justifies the actions you are taking and shifts blame.

You can @holdback some of your stats to make yourself in excellent condition, change your @describe before disguising up, buy a new set of clothes that you've never warn before, and establish yourself as a different person through interactions with various characters at a bar, before setting about committing your crimes. Thus, tricking the people you are dealing with into thinking they are not dealing with your character.

There are plenty of ways to hide your identity. If someone can see through it, they see through it. Improve, and try again.

Seems like a great idea.

You would think that means that people who can't or don't set themselves as shorter or thinner would be meta identified (like it was commonplace back in the day), as they would be the only PC with that shortdesc active in the area.


If you are a hulking mano, wearing a black shroud. Then your enemy would find a hulking mano, wearing a black shroud randomly, and they would assume it is you and attack you, because now they don't have to justify their "assumptions" (this happened all the time before, and still did until recently). It is likely that they're right, and if they are, that means they just identified you, a random shroud, out of millions in the street, because of your shortdesc. How unfair, right?

However, it's also possible that they are wrong, and actually targeted Seven Ecks who was making himself look fatter, and get their ass owned.

So it is actually a double edged sword. People could be setting themselves up to be wrongly identified based on OOC assumptions, or set themselves up to be hilariously wrong and targeting all the wrong people.

What this really needs to actually work is self policy from the community, and the initiative to respect disguises. Now you could be right in your assumptions, but you could be very wrong and adds another layer of complexity to your decisions. Your arch enemy known for being tall could now be short, lithe, or hell, the opposite gender. And now, if you're wrong and attack the wrong person, you could easily get vatted for being hotheaded. The chances of that happening are now much higher.

In all, this sounds like a great improvement.

Do wigs and lenses still not match skintone? Or is there a skill requirement for them to match skintone?

I'm just going to repeat something I said as an admin a long time ago. This happened VERY VERY frequently back then, and I don't doubt that it happens just as frequently if not more so now:

"My favorite thing is when people metagame based on information they ARE WRONG about."

OK maybe calling it "metagaming" is a little ungenerous, now that several years and several iterations of feature growth have passed. So now my favorite thing is going to be IC action based on IC wrongness.

Please make fixing pose a priority in light of this MAJOR change.

(Edited by Slither at 6:15 pm on 3/2/2020)

The updated durations for appear modifications are on point.

Thank you for making those.

From what I've gathered, there seem to still be issues around this and players being enabled to make wild assumption with no consequences. If Staff want to maintain a zero investigation policy on this sort of thing - I think it may deserve a second look as with our severely dwindled player counts the meta is getting a bit heavy.
I agree - granted, some people are very nice about things, but some of the leaps I have seen recently are incredibly meta in relation to things such as voice, or even just assuming that X person is actually Y person when the disguise has not dropped at all. Some reconsideration or a reminder message of what it takes to recognize someone would be appreciated.
The amount of meta around disguises is somewhere between gratuitous and surreal. I've heard somewhere (though forget if it was an OOC shout or on the BGBB) that whenever you're doing something (for instance walking down the street in a poncho) you're to assume that at least 100 other people are doing the same thing.

It should be nearly impossible to ID someone just standing around in a poncho that isn't saying or doing anything in a crowded area, yet the number of times I've been singled out in a crowded area without speaking, posing, or emoting, just either standing there or happening to walk by is honestly staggering. Everything from gangers shaking down shrouds for tolls to being killed by solos that enter the room and immediately attack with no regard for ambient population, to seemingly being the victim of "shroud roulette". Not acting in a suspicious way or even being smelled by someone as a form of identifying me .

I've notice that the people doing that kind of thing frequently also use the disguise system to appear identical. A shrouded average denizen and a shrouded average denizen, a shrouded lithe punk and a shrouded lithe punk, etc. in a blatant attempt to meta the targeting system. Sure, this can accidentally happen from time to time, but after a while it becomes obvious that it's intentional. Informing staff of this behavior is seemingly met with being told to read Help Multiples.

The entire concept of shroud roulette/lottery feels inherently meta and gamey. "Shroud roulette" should be when there's a shroud lurking in the shadows outside your apartment and you take a chance and attack or confront them, not "This shroud walked into a bar and then left so I'm going to chase and attack them because they're clearly a PC". I know people will say that you never know who's under a poncho, and shroud roulette can backfire, but when you have multiple max ue characters doing it together, it's a lot less roulette and a lot more shooting fish in a barrel.

Then there's the issue I've brought up before of how easy it is to tell which shrouds are PCs and which are NPCs by either talking to them and getting a standard NPC response, or examining them.

I feel that at the very least you should have to recognize someone's voice or smell or mannerisms and not "I know that this person is in this bar/area and there's only one shroud so I'm going to attack them" or "I know this person is in this bar so I'm going to wait outside and attack the first shroud that steps outside." The latter being maybe acceptable if you've got eyes on the inside letting you know what color poncho they're wearing and exactly when they leave.

I feel like a huge QoL improvement would be spawning hooded NPCs that wear depot clothes or generic DuWear pants/boots/gloves. Currently you can easily tell if a hooded person is an NPC or not because hooded NPCs don't wear pants.
Having NPC's topside in shrouds and hoodies to would be kind of awesome. It is legally the norm now, but anyone in a shroud or hoody topside is a PC. This was mentioned previously at a town hall I believe.
Another way to help reduce disguise meta would be to allow people with the appropriate skill to appear in 'excellent condition' without having to @holdback everything. I think this has been suggested before but I'm just reiterating it here. That way we can prevent the whole "Oh this shroud is in magnificent condition and I know my enemy is also in magnificent condition so this should be my target" sort of thing.
@svetlana: Spawning hooded NPCs with (glued on) pants, shoes, and gloves would be a huge QoL, and I think having a threshold where you can appear in excellent condition wearing just a hoodie would be great. Ponchos hide your condition but apparently if you're fit enough your legs and hands will give you away.

@fopsy: For some reason I thought that shrouded NPCs were introduced on topside sectors in lower numbers, but now that I think about it I'm not sure why I thought that.

Huh, I've never seen a poncho hide anyone's condition. Just tested and it doesn't hide mine.

I think an 'appear excellent' command or something would be very useful. Like the recent 'appear uglier' command.

@svetlana: Looking at yourself always shows your actual condition as far as I'm aware, though others will see it as excellent.

I think a lot of these coded changes have been considered and are being implimented on a basis of ease.

Appear uglier for instance - was a very easy change to make with no real impact.

Messing with condition and HP is much more complicated.

I don't think any disguise hides condition. But hoodies and poncho's should, it would be easier that having additional appear for condition (I assume with no experience with coding in toast)
@svetlana: Looking at yourself always shows your actual condition as far as I'm aware, though others will see it as excellent.

This is accurate. It's only for ponchos, which obscure everything, and only as long as you're not severely hurt. This is mentioned in the actual feature post... wherever that is.

Shrouded topside momentos exist, but I think the script is currently disabled. It was a little buggy (moved momentos would walk back through the express tubes to their original stop destination no matter if you moved them, or how far you moved them) and when the old IC policy about shrouds was in effect it was timeconsuming and annoying for the factions who had to respond to respond to multiples a day that provided no RP in anything.

Since that policy isn't in anymore, I think reenabling the shrouded topside momento script is a good idea to add help for shrouded PCs blending in.

We may be long past this point now, but I do find it a bit strange that ubiquitous poncho use got formalized into the game theme. Isn't a bit weird to have it be normal that millions of people are wearing face-concealing ground-trailing garments everywhere? Maybe if it acid-rained everywhere, all the time, for decades thence.

Shrouds being such a common nomenclature feels pretty gamey in and of itself, and maybe ponchos being as everyday carry as phones might speak to issues with the disguise system itself: Which is to say the overreliance that everyone has on bedsheets for everything. Is there not perhaps a better way to improve the system without turning it into a city of Casper cosplayers?

The elephant in the room here is that disguise is disgustingly overpowered in pretty much every aspect.

You shouldn't be able to stack disguises.

You should need way, way more skill to successfully sit in a bar and chat with people without a significant chance of the shroud falling.

There should probably be hard-coded limits preventing it's universal usage. See: Stealth and sneaking. Perhaps a diminishing returns system of sorts.

Some people simply don't seem to give a %*@# about RPing anything but slamming down W's on the resume all day, and since the policy for metagaming IC has changed to 'no enforcement' it's been pretty much a dumpster fire.

I do think relevantly to my point above that common disguise items are so useful that they in some ways dwarf the skill itself. The skill itself I think is kind of weak overall, and really buoyed by ponchos being themselves really good in general.

Disguise suffers I think from scaling really strongly at first, so a small investment is extremely good but then it tapers pretty quickly afterwards, so really advanced uses of the system are kind of unexciting in potency in comparison to just throwing on a poncho with a bronze soft.

One of the suggestions I made in chat was having a point at which disguises (actual disguises, not shrouds) do not degrade after a certain quality of application, which frees players up to do more elaborate and prolonged things with them without have a sweat-fest on every casual interaction.

Of course then the question becomes, why bother raising past that point then, which is a valid question and I think it would need some additional features if it's central dice roll got a fixed ceiling.

Maybe if it acid-rained everywhere, all the time, for decades thence

I mean...

Imagine a world where there wasn't plastic tarps and oversized hoodies, where you might have to actually weigh the pros and cons of your actions instead of simply getting a get out of jail free card whenever you like.

Imagine having to own the fact you murdered someone.

Imagine having to own the fact that you burgled your best friend.

Imagine having a criminal record and interactions with the HOJ players.

Sure seems like there would be an awful lot of drama going on, imagine that.

Don't get me wrong, ponchos as a ubiquitous default choice are a bit silly but they do serve an important function, and the counter-argument to their removal would be that players sometimes already feel like they can't get into trouble without being quickly found out, even with these tools available. And that if they didn't exist there might be even less conflict than there is now because there would a strong disincentive to rock the boat, and everything becomes even more lawful and suburbane.

I don't really have a good suggestion for what could take their place, so I probably ought to not have criticized them in the first place. They're certainly better than no alternative.