There is much more to the game of roleplaying a fictional country than answering issues and telegrams. Indeed, much of the fun in having a fictional country lies in having it interact with other fictional countries and seeing what happens as a result. Owing to the fact that NS does not contain the same types of direct interaction channels that other nation simulators do, we typically create these interactions by inventing characters, settings, technologies, and other details that we can use as building blocks for stories about the ways our nations deal with their neighbors. These interactions can assume any number of political, military, economic, or cultural forms, as unless you confine your NS activities to participating in the WA and forum lurking, there will be times when you will want to roleplay interactions of one sort or another.
How my Guide Came to be
Over the past sixteen years, numerous roleplayers have volunteered their time and talent to produce player guides aimed at making interactions easier. War and its attendant subject matter has always been the most popular topic. This is probably because war is perhaps the most technically complex topic that players write about and because the war roleplay is a genre that is more naturally suited for writing gripping, dramatic prose than most others. The second most popular topic I have seen others write about is factbook creation, though general roleplaying practice (e.g. worldbuilding, character creation, and the like) is perhaps tied with factbook creation for second place. However important these subjects are, trade and diplomacy are just as important and arguably just as complicated.
I became a roleplay mentor in September 2016, which just happened to be the same time Kyrusia established the International Incidents New Player Thread and turned it into a centralized directory that RPers could use to find player guides on roleplaying various subjects. In my zeal to prove that my fellow Mentors had made a good decision in recruiting me for their team, I started rethinking old ideas I had about roleplaying diplomacy and decided that it might be wise to write them down. It occurred to me that I might as well create a formal guide on the subject, and after receiving some encouraging feedback from my colleagues, I set to work creating a general handbook that would offer roleplayers a broad overview of the subject. The end result of my efforts was this thread.
The Importance of Roleplaying Diplomacy
Much of the interactions between NS nations takes the form of official communication, such as public statements, press releases, letters, memoranda, faxes, and electronic correspondence. If we assume our characters are rational and competent, they will prefer exchanges of words over exchanges of weapons anytime they want to make a deal. Indeed, most official interactions between countries (i.e. dealmaking between governments) is the result of diplomacy, which can range from exchanging diplomats with other countries to hosting or attending international conferences.
Although NS site and board rules do not prescribe specific rules for conducting diplomatic activities, experience (and seemingly endless research) have shown that there are certain "best practices" that are more convenient and effective than others at making diplomatic roleplay rewarding. As I explained in a past post on the NS forum,
Even if you set aside OOC considerations and focus solely on the IC ramifications of certain practices, you will find that there are practical reasons why real-life diplomats do everything in certain ways and that these considerations can often carry over into fiction. There are reasons why embassies and legations are organized the way they are, there are reasons why professionals format letters differently from memoranda, cables, or E-mails in real life, and there are reasons why treaties are written in legalese and not plain language.
Some Concrete Examples
Very few roleplayers have real-life experience in public affairs that can be regarded as authoritative on political subjects. I highly doubt that anyone who reads this thread knows much about the nuts-and-bolts of training and educating future diplomats, organizing the internal division of labor within an embassy, the full range of services that consulates provide, the business of organizing conferences and summit, the art of drafting a treaty, and a host of other topics related to these things. Research can only help so much since we never know whether something we read is really just a matter of opinion or out of date unless we consult multiple sources on the same topic and take time to compare them. Consequently, I have no desire to run around yelling "You're doing everything wrong!" every time I see common misconceptions bandied about.
Having made these points, I do find that there are certain basic rules that even newbies should be forced to learn if they stick around more than a few months and go about claiming to be "serious" about NS RP. These rules include:
- Diplomats are professionals. This means they typically go to school for what they do and need degrees and training and the like. Nepotism and connections can get people into positions, but unless they already have the right skills, they will be ineffective at their jobs.
- Embassies often consist of more than just an ambassador and a few secretaries. In many cases (especially when you want to roleplay your nation's relationship with another country in great detail and have lots of IC interactions), you will have entire departments answering to your head of mission.
- Diplomatic immunity and extraterritoriality are not just concepts you memorize to win the final round on a trivia show.
- Creating a successful diplomatic exchange program requires more than simply posting a "form" for people to fill in and keeping a roster of the players who responded. Chanceries and consulates can serve as RP settings and the characters people create on their application forms can often come in handy. I often think that too many roleplayers underutilize these resources.
- Diplomatic protocol is a lot more old-fashioned than most modern etiquette. So is the art of giving diplomatic gifts that do not spark a war because they insulted someone by accident. Gaffes and faux pas can be great tools for starting a new story or serving as tools for adding humor to an RP thread.
- A summit is a conference between national leaders. Anything else is just called a conference.
- Delegates to summits and conferences should not be toting around loads of weapons like they are about to start their own gun show or local NRA chapter.
- The host of a conference is responsible for providing security to guests.
- Failing to have someone greet arriving guests is often considered insulting.
- Diplomatic meetings follow some sort of parliamentary procedure because it make it easier to conduct business efficiently.
- When it comes to writing diplomatic letters, you should apply things you have learned about business writing. Polite communication is effective communication. You should not feel free to break the rules until you master them.
- Do not start messages with "To: Monavia, From: Bigtopia" or anything similar to that. Diplomatic letters are not Valentine's Day candies!
- Do not start diplomatic messages with giant pictures of the sender, or include your leader's full paragraph-long title, or center all of the text so they are disorienting to read, or forget to turn the caps lock key off!
- Look up real-life treaties before attempting to write a fictional treaty. They need not be alike, but at least try to learn formatting.
- Treaties usually do not take effect the moment they are signed. They have to be formally ratified according to the constitutional processes of the countries agreeing to them.
I hope all of you have found some value in my rather brief remarks on a guide that is wordy enough to speak for itself. I hope my efforts will continue to benefit the RP community and I eagerly await any feedback that enables me to improve upon my past work. At this point, I want to open the floor for questions, commentary, and discussion. Thank you for your time and patience.