This model was one of the first 'projects' I did for Usenet back in 97. The idea was to provide a model to allow the discussion of the limits people place on each other for in-game actions.

The whole thing ended up more complex than I wanted, with the result of course that very few people really use it. However the threads where it was developed remain one of my favorites. There was a lot of good give and take and some really neat ideas expressed there.

In any case, the final model is posted here for reference.


An Interaction Model of RPGs

The Interaction Model is designed to give a player an idea of what to expect from a campaign as far as what events are likely (or possible) to take place in character. Players vary widely in their tolerance for certain in game events such as realistic torture, rape, or murder. They also vary widely in their acceptance of the degree that such things may be described.

It is hoped that a general rating system, based upon a "General View" scale of such things can be an aid to the GM in setting player expectation.

It is not a measure of good and bad. It is not a measure of character viewpoint. This is a tool for game contracts and as such is for the GM and player, not the character. It is not a complete description of a campaign, additional models would be need for completeness.

The Model is made of the following parts: General Descriptive Rating, PC Lethality, Conditions, and the Interactions themselves which have the four sub-sections of Player vs. Player, Player vs. Game, Game vs. Player, Game vs. Game.

A descriptive rating is applied to each area describing the normal expectations for that campaign.



This is the level of descriptive detail allowed to the common events of a campaign. This includes general combat and GM description of any events not covered under the Interactions.

Unpleasant description is avoided at all costs.
Example: You take 8 hit points of damage, looks like you're down. Better hope someone first-aids you quick.
Description is detailed to the extent it would be in a PG movie. Example: The shot hits Mad Dog Joe in the left chest spinning him into the wall where he falls to the ground.

No non-heroic detail is to described. The details are never graphic.

As Normal, but allows non-heroic detail to be added for non-heroic actions. Example: The Dark Avenger fires his sniper rifle from hiding-killing the unsuspecting target, spattering blood across the room into the faces of the peaceful people having dinner who break into panic. The villain's girlfriend bends crying over the bleeding body.
The details are never highly graphic.
As Pragmatic, but allows the addition of non-heroic detail to any event. The moans and slow death of the wounded. The crying child, etc. The details are never highly graphic.
As Realistic, but Description has no limit. Any amount of detail is allowed.


This measures the chance of PC death resulting from game events.
The PC never dies, at least not in the end. Think "Golden Age" of comics. Superman CAN'T die, not really.
The PC may die as a result of a combination of poor play, bad situation, and/or bad luck. Such an event is rare however. The player can expect that his character will survive the Campaign except under extreme conditions.
Death is now not an uncommon event. The campaign doesn't pull punches when characters bite off more than they can chew. Still, good play increases PC chances notably. With such play, it is common for a character to survive the campaign.
The chance of Death is now high. Think Dirty Dozen or similar movies. The question is not who will die, it's who will survive.
Death is all but certain. It will be a rare character indeed who lives until the end of the campaign, and maybe even the end of the adventure.


Interactions are used to determine if vile or disgusting things can happen, under what conditions. and to whom from whom. As such they are the heart of the Model's goal.

Interactions are broken down into how parts of a campaign act against other parts. The reason for the separation is that what's acceptable for a NPC to do is not always acceptable for the player.

Interactions are sub-sectioned into the following four groups.

Player vs. Player (how the PC treats other PCs) PP
Player vs. Game (how the PC treats NPCs/World) PG
Game vs. Player (how the NPCs/World treats the PC) GP
Game vs. Game (how the NPCs/World treats itself) GG
Allows no action that is vile in nature or even questionable, i.e. torture, rape, killing of prisoners, assassinations, etc.

This is the Heroic/Adventure conduct at it at its best and cleanest. There are no exceptions allowed.

At the Game vs. Player- such events may be threatened or attempted. They just will never happen. "Thank goodness you came along Masked Rider, I didn't like the look in his eye."

At the Game vs. Game Level- such things happen only to those that deserve it ("Great, Mad Dog Joe back shot his partner Evil Slade, less work for us."). They may be threatened freely however.


Has the same basic conditions as Heroic except:

It is realized that conditions in a campaign may conspire to force vile events to occur. Disallowing such events under those conditions would damage SOD or other concerns to the point that allowing the event is less damaging to play than disallowing it.

Hence, under VERY RARE conditions, the vile event is allowed to happen. This is called an Event Escalation.

It is assumed good play, the avoidance of a bad situation and/or reasonable luck in play would be sufficient to protect characters from such things.


The mindset now becomes one of the vigilante, a dark avenger. Assassinations, Killing of prisoners (without trial), and other questionable acts are now seen as justified when there is no other reasonable option left to the player.

This is NOT Dark. There is never a reason to justify rape or the murder of innocents under Pragmatic.

Pragmatic allows Event Escalation as in Moral.

At the Game vs. Player, Game vs. Game level, the world no longer plays completely fair. Don't except the villain to always step out into the open before being allowed a go at you. Still You can except a reasonable chance however in the case of bad play or worse luck.


At this point, any event is allowed if the campaign calls for it. Skilled play will have an impact on if such things happen, but don't be surprised when they do.


Such events are now desired. They will happen.


While the General Descriptive Rating determines the overall descriptive level applied to the game, there are those cases where players may desire graphic combat description, but will only allow the barest description for the events covered under the Interactions, i.e. vile events. This Interaction Descriptive limit follows the same guidelines as the General Descriptive Rating.

Thus, every Interaction has a Descriptive Limit of its own. It represents the upper limit of allowed description when vile actions do occurs. Note that a Descriptive rating at Heroic has no meaning- no vile event will ever occur in any case.

Game vs. Player: Moral (Explicit)
Result: It will be very rare for a PC ever to be tortured. But will when it happens, it will be very graphic and detailed.


Conditions are exceptions to the rules. Not every Model can cover all the possible results and some people will disallow certain specific events for personal reasons.

Example Condition:
No child abuse is allowed at any rating


My own Middle Earth game

Descriptive Rating: Transitional
PC Lethality: Limited
Player vs. Player: Heroic
Player vs. Game: Moral
Game vs. Player: Pragmatic (Transitional)
Game vs. Game: Pragmatic (Transitional)
Conditions: None




The restrictions are on upper levels of 'bad things'. It is quite allowable to run a Heroic character in a world rated completely black. It's just quite likely he'd end up a martyr.

Last modified: 5-31-2001