Stringency
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Basic Information

Stringency is a meta-concept within RPGs referring to the degree to which a given campaign setting enforces consequences to player actions - usually those concerned with anti-social behaviour.

In high stringency campaigns, law enforcement respond predictably, bad behaviour leads to bad reputations and, in general, actions have consequences. Lower stringency campaigns tend to be more plot driven - even cold blooded murder will be winked at as long as the NPC in question was a statted encounter and PCs will have considerable plot armour against most other things not directly related to adventuring.

Stringent campaigns will also tend to be more consequential in general - economic, social and material consequences will all need to be explored and even "monsters" are less likely to sit around staring into the middle distance until attacked.

Sources

Bibliography
1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • High stringency campaigns are likely to put a lot more emphasis on social skills and trickery than combat - especially when combined with an appropriately realistic combat system1.
  • "Certain editions of certain RPGs" managed to popularise the concept of the "fifteen minute adventuring day" whereby the party stroll into the dungeon, exhaust their daily combat powers in a couple of carefully choreographed encounters, collect level appropriate loot and then retire to rest, repeating the next day until the dungeon is cleared. If this actually takes place in a functioning campaign, without the inhabitants of the dungeon taking any countermeasures, then the cause will fall somewhere between a lack of stringency and a complete failure of verisimilitude.
  • Again, in high stringency campaigns, contacts are likely to be important - a black market doctor becomes a far more attractive character if your PC can't just stagger into A&E when he's shot. Likewise, where local vendors ask significant questions about the provenance of "treasure" that the PCs are trying to offload2, it pays to know a fence.
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