Freedom City Play by Post maintains a rating of content similar to those of the major superhero comic publishers, very roughly in line with PG-13 rated films or cable television. Since the prevalence and definition of those ratings can differ from country to country and don't always apply precisely to a text-based medium the following page serves to clarify some specific guidelines with regard to depicted violence, sexual situations and mature subject matter.
It will also explain our content notice system, which labels threads with elements which are more extreme while still within our overall standards. Note that this system was introduced in mid-2016 and threads from prior to that may not be properly labeled.
Above all else, use your best judgement and when unsure, ask a staff member!
Violence is a core element of the superhero genre but it is a specific style of violence. While a character with super-strength may theoretically be capable of doling out traumatic injuries they are typically fighting opponents with abilities which mitigate that. From a mechanical standpoint we default to non-lethal damage and most injuries will be resolved by the character's next appearance.
There are, of course, exceptions. Villains and monsters by definition may commit acts of greater brutality and recovering from or adapting to debilitating long-term injuries can be an important character arc for a superhero. While player characters on the site should hold to a code against killing, rare exceptions that have been suitably thought out and handled maturely may be presented to the referee team for consideration. As an example Marvel's Punisher would be a morally grey non-player character or antagonist on the site, not a suitable player character but death is not wholly verboten.
Threads should be labeled with the Brutality Content Notice if they include depictions or references to:
- the infliction of long term or permanent injuries
- gore, including highly descriptive scenes involving blood and viscera
- strong elements of body horror
- ongoing physical abuse - see Discrimination below for other types of abuse
- 'on-panel' death
As with all of our guidelines context is important. Plainly stating that a bone has been broken presents a very different experience for the reader than spending a paragraph describing the pain and physical details of the injury. As a rule of thumb if you are writing a scene with the intent to shock the reader you should consider using the Brutality Content Notice.
'Acceptable targets' are opponents who are either unfeeling, such as robotic drones or mindless zombies, or fundamentally inhuman, evil and incapable of change, such as demons or particular types of vampires. Our setting's cosmology is such that there can simultaneously be several varieties of such entities so common sense must be applied - player character vampires, for instance, are obviously off-limits! These are targets against which the heroes need not hold back in the usual manner but descriptions of the damage done to them or horror elements such as cannibalism may still recommend the Brutality Content Notice.
The superhero genre has a complicated relationship with firearms. Certainly Iron Man's armour is a weapon capable of greater devastation than a handgun but the heart of the matter is that while Tony Stark's most notable invention is fantastical, gun violence is an all too common reality. With that in mind, player characters should not have realistic firearms as part of their standard equipment, which is to say represented on their character sheet.
That does not preclude the use of high tech - and conveniently less lethal - energy weapons, be they the product of super-science or alien technology. A hero might also use unconventional ammunition, such as rubber bullets or chemical concoctions fired from a paintball gun. The ever-popular bow and crossbow are both options and as one moves into rockets or vehicle mounted weaponry it would be best to consult a Ref on a case-by-case basis. Remember that player characters are by definition exceptional; they don't need to use a handgun!
If a specific plot point or thread hinges on a player character using a gun then a discussion should be had with a Ref and if approved a Brutality Content Notice would likely be appropriate.
Sometimes consenting adults are going to do what consenting adults do! Relationships between characters can absolutely include physical intimacy, though actual sex acts are handled with what is colloquially called a 'Fade to Black': a scene change or time skip that offers the characters a little privacy.
Note that player characters must be at least sixteen years old both in terms of physical and emotional development - or the equivalent with regard to clones, androids, etc. This is not to encourage the youngest characters' involvement in more mature activities but allows them to be more understandably involved in plots with mature themes.
In a text based medium nudity is naturally less of a concern than in some other media. Context is key. Any degree of nudity in a non-sexualized context - changing into one's costume, enjoying the beach, breast feeding, etc. - is acceptable and does not require a content notice. Nudity in a sexualized context - removing clothing in an intimate setting, descriptive nudity - should be labeled, again regardless of degree or gender.
Which side a specific instance fall under will frequently come down to how the scene is handled by the writer. As a rule of thumb if you are spending more than a single sentence describing the exposed body part(s) or using tactile adjectives then regardless of in-character context there is a good chance the character is being sexualized. The human body is, as they say, only weird if you make it weird.
Threads should be labeled with the Sexual Situations Content Notice if they include:
- intimate touch in the 'bathing suit areas'
- groping or heavy petting
- references to or stated intent to perform specific sex acts
- sexualized nudity
As a very rough guideline provided only because of the prevalence of the metaphor, 'second base' warrants a Sexual Situations Content Notice while 'third base' and beyond warrants a Fade to Black.
This site provides a safe and welcoming environment to players regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity and so forth. For some players this is a place to explore themes of injustice while for others it is a form of escapism from the injustices in their real lives - sometimes both simultaneously. The Discrimination Content Notice serves to warn readers about potentially upsetting elements in a thread that they would rather avoid.
Though it should go without saying this section relates to depictions of discrimination which the heroes are opposing. Just as player characters are expected not to be serial killers they are expected not to be bigots. They are, after all, heroes.
Slurs are to be avoided entirely. In dialogue they can be replaced with asterisks or random punctuation with little loss of clarity. See further below for more information on profanity.
Threads should be labeled with the Discrimination Content Notice if they include:
- antagonists motivated by explicit bigotry
- crimes singling out minority groups or religious affiliation
- themes of institutionalized discrimination
- themes of self-loathing or internalized prejudice
When deciding if a thread warrants this content notice ask yourself if a character involved is significantly upset by the situation or events of the thread as they relate to discrimination. If so, then ask yourself if it seems reasonable that a reader might be similarly upset. The goal is to let the reader make an informed decision about what they want to read.
'Fantastic racism', such as the animosity between Atlanteans and Deep One tribes in-setting, should rarely if at all require this content notice. As always, use your best judgement and ask for clarification when unsure.
Freedom City enjoys a diverse international player base and we recognize that which words are considered profanity and the degree of offence they carry varies dramatically from location to location. With that in mind, our stance toward profanity in-character is simple but ultimately flexible.
As stated above slurs are not to be used whatsoever and other 'hard' profanity should by default be replaced with **** asterisks or random @#$%ing punctuation. As most threads take place in the United States you can consider hard profanity to be words one might need to be careful about saying on American broadcast television. More mild profanity such as hell, damn or crap are not an issue unless used to excess.
If you're not sure about a specific word, such as profanity in a language other than English or in an unusual context, ask a Ref.
Edited by Gizmo