Hello, and welcome to Omen, the Michaelmas 2016/Hilary 2017 freeform game for the Oxford University Roleplaying Games Society. If you’ve never played any sort of roleplaying game before, never fear! We’ve got you covered with this handy introduction. If you’re a seasoned roleplayer, a lot of this should be familiar, but feel free to scroll through for a quick refresh.
One important thing to be aware of: You don’t need to read this entire website!
There’s a lot of material here, and you certainly don’t need to know all of it to start playing (though if you do want to, that’s great!). Read what interests you and what feels relevant to a character you might like to play. Not sure where to start? We recommend:
Got questions or concerns, or looking for advice or help? Feel free to email the GM team at any time.
Omen is a live freeform roleplaying game - a style that sits somewhere between amateur dramatics and collaborative storytelling. You turn up, create a character, and then take on their role as you play the game. There are no scripts or predetermined outcomes - just a setting, a bunch of other characters to interact with, and some GMs to make sure it all runs smoothly. Instead of narrating your character’s actions or controlling them through a controller, you actually perform them, talking, gossiping, trading, eavesdropping and orating just as your character would. This doesn’t mean you need to be a great public speaker - just be able to speak as your character.
Combat and other harmful activities are not generally possible during session. IC this is because the meeting venue has centuries of wards against harm applied to it, along with a friendly Gaian keeping everything under control. OC there are various reasons, including health and safety regulations and the feasibility of determining the outcome of such events in session. If anything unusual has to happen which can't be acted out, the GMs will freeze the scene and describe what occurs. A lot of the time, the more dramatic events won’t be happening in the meetings themselves, but during downtime (discussed below).
The most important thing about playing is that roleplaying is about having fun and creating stories with other players. Absolutely no experience is required to play the Society Game and there will be plenty of supportive people on-hand to help if you have any questions. Just turn up and enjoy yourself!
Every Tuesday during Michaelmas and Hilary terms, players meet in Mansfield College. These sessions represent meetings organised by a group of witches to address the mysterious portent which appeared a few weeks before the first one. At these meetings, players try to work out what’s going on - and what to do about it.
The game is run by a team of GMs who will be on hand, usually playing NPCs, to offer help, advice and information, and to keep the game running smoothly.
Each week between sessions represents a month of in-game time. During this period, your character has a lot more freedom to act; you can explore, research, fight, trade, diplome and politic. If you want to take action against NPCs or other PCs, here’s the time to do it. Each week, we ask that players send in a summary (known as a ‘turnsheet’) of what they want their character to be doing in that month; the GMs will then judge the results of your actions and report back to you on how everything went.
There is a system for these Turnsheet actions, detailed here - but don't feel you need to memorise it all; we're more than happy to help you out if you're having trouble working out what you want to do in the early weeks!
The character creation system is there to help you get an idea of what your character is good at and where they stand in the world, but this is mostly here to help represent your ideas and provide a metric for whether they succeed at their actions. If your character has the appropriate abilities for their plan, they’re more likely to succeed at it, so pick out knowledge, skills, spells and quirks which support the sorts of things you want to succeed.
That’s not to say you can’t build a character around their abilities, however. If they’ve made a Deal With a Demon, think about why, or what for. Does it have something to do with their Magical Item, or does it explain why they have an Unfortunate Gaian? Alternatively, take a look at the factions for inspiration - if you think summoning sounds cool, for instance, you could probably do worse than to look at the White Quill.
Another popular idea is to look at works of fiction. If you’re trying to think of ideas you might like to play with, it often helps to check out books, movies and games with similar themes. While we ask you not to play a character taken directly from elsewhere, there's plenty of inspiration to be found.
If you’re still having trouble, please feel free to ask the GM team or other players for help or inspiration. We can help you develop a character concept you already have, suggest groups which need extra players, or find a concept you can get stuck in to. In addition there’s almost always a veteran gamer or two looking for an in-game cousin, student, spouse or deadly nemesis to play alongside!
Costume is by no means mandatory, but some people like the excuse to dress up as their character. Even if you don't want to wear a full costume, it can be fun to use 'phys-reps' (or 'physical representations’) for things like significant jewellery, or injuries picked up in play.1)
There are a few acronyms used throughout the website which might be a little confusing. Never fear! We’ve built a glossary of roleplaying terms used on the website. If you’re still confused by anything, again, feel free to email the GM team!
Sometimes, GMs will shout things during sessions. While sometimes this is just because we have information, or are playing shouty NPCs, sometimes it’s because we are making an OC call. These are triggers for roleplaying certain effects. IC, there are beings who can cause a variety of effects to happen. OC, asking you to remember 50 different calls is unreasonable, so rather than telling you that you feel an invisible force crushing your insides, or you’ve just been hit with a fireball, we will call ‘rend’.
You may roleplay the effect of being hit with a call in any way you choose, as long as you have regard to the physical wellbeing of yourself and others and the need to respect those around us, i.e. don't scream loudly if we've been asked to keep the sessions quiet owing to being near student accommodation. If you are physically unable to comply with the effect of a call, please speak with the GMs and we will find an alternative effect you can enjoy playing.
These calls are likely to be used infrequently, especially during the early sessions. If a call is likely to come up in session, we'll brief you on it beforehand, so don't worry about memorising this list! Please note that players cannot make calls unless specifically told so by the GMs.
There are also some non-roleplaying calls which will be used by the GM team, included here for completeness: