Most local roleplaying conventions currently have a form of rating system for their blurbs. These ratings can be a bit arbitrary because one person's M is another's R, but at least they provide a basis for people looking at the booklet or browsing the site to see what the writer thinks that their game might be like.
An event at Arcanacon usually has four or five ratings at the end of its blurb. These ratings generally include Adult Content, Characterisation, Genre Knowledge, Rules Knowledge and Seriousness. For some events, Rules Knowledge or Genre Knowledge is irrelevant, but all other non-special events should have information for the other ratings.
The Adult Content rating is required for all events. This is to help make sure than no one ends up in a game that they weren't expecting - no one wants to find themselves in something with what are commonly referred to as "Adult Concepts" when they were expecting a G-rated romp. Please pay careful attention to the Adult Content rating. Games rated MA or R can be surprisingly disturbing, especially those that also have a high Seriousness rating.
Events are rated between 0 and 5, except for Adult Content which typically uses a movie-like rating for content. Sometimes ratings are expressed in a more qualitative way, but you should only do this if it is still clear what you mean.
Here follows a rough guide to what the ratings mean from the point of view of the Convention.
Adult content is in some ways the hardest rating to set for your game, as what constitutes "appropriate" varies from writer to writer, and from player to player.
- Very mild adult content, if any. Anyone old enough to be at the convention could play this. Sesame Street, Mary Poppins, The Wind In the Willows.
- Mild adult content. E.g. The Princess Bride, Doctor Who, Ghostbusters.
- May not be suitable for younger players; discretion is advised. The Twilight Saga, The X-Files, Angela's Ashes
- Unsuitable for players under 15 years of age. E.g. Blade, Torchwood, Being John Malkovich.
- Unsuitable for players under 18 years of age; discretion is advised for adults. E.g. Hannibal, Queer As Folk, A Clockwork Orange.
- Sexually explicit. Unsuitable for players under 18 years of age. E.g. Dracula Sucks, What's the Lesbian Doing in My Pirate Movie?, Because I Can.
Please note that the Adult Content rating also should apply to the behaviour of the GMs in the session. If the game is publicised as G rated, the GM is expected to make sure that his or her speech and behaviour is also G rated. Players are likewise expected to behave appropriately for the event, especially when participating in a group with younger players.
Seriousness can be a measure of both the content of the game, and how seriously the participants are expected to take the game.
- The players will probably gibber like loons and giggle constantly.
- Not really serious. Players aren't expected to sit there and make monkey noises at each other (unless that's part of the game), but it's meant to be a fun game.
- The game is not a giggle fest, but it's being run for entertainment.
- It's meant to be fun, but there is a serious topic in the game, or the characters should be played straight (as opposed to the players being totally serious).
- This is serious, dammit. The topic or plot of the game is serious, and it is best that the players treat it so.
- This game has nothing lighthearted in it, from beginning to end
The Characterisation rating is a means of letting players know the balance of plot and characterisation needed to have fun playing a game.
- You could play this drunk or dead.
- Characterisation is not essential to play.
- Without playing the characters to a reasonable degree, the players will definitely be missing something from this game.
- Unless the players definately get enthused about playing the characters, this game isn't necessarily going to work very well.
- Unless the players step into the characters straight away, there will be real problems running the scenario.
- The game is solely about being these characters.
Some games are systemless, and therefore have no Rules Knowledge rating at all. For some games, a rough grasp of how conflict is resolved in the chosen system can speed things along, and prevent the game getting bogged down in explaining dice rolls. A Rules Knowledge rating tells players how intensively the system the game is written for is expected to be used.
- What little system there is may never even be explained to the players.
- There's a system in use, but only just, or it doesn't matter at all if the players don't know it.
- An approximate understanding of the rules would be useful.
- A good grounding in the rules of the game will add to the enjoyment of playing the scenario.
- Without knowing the rules of the system, players will be at a definite disadvantage.
- The rules of the game are essential to the story.
Sometimes the genre is implicit in the system or so loose as to be very difficult to define. If a Genre Knowledge rating is given, the genre should usually be specified.
Genre Knowledge generally pertains to what players will be expected to know about the genre and setting going into the game. Many writers like to make setting briefs available to players, and these can help players attain the desired level of genre knowledge. However, this may not help players who lack the time or desire to read such material, or who are simply too exhausted from three days of roleplaying to retain it.
- No genre knowledge even exists. The game might not reference anything outside of itself, or the genre might be defined during play.
- While players could know something about the genre, such knowledge is unlikely to add much to the game and is entirely unnecessary to play.
- A general knowledge of genre tropes will improve enjoyment.
- A solid understanding of genre tropes will improve enjoyment. Players should seek to understand the specifics of the setting and genre, not just generalities.
- Lacking knowledge of the genre is likely to impair enjoyment.
- Strong knowledge of genre and setting, including subtle nuances, is essential for enjoyment of this game.