Something that's "in-game" is what your character experiences, while something "out-of-game" is something that a player experiences but a character does not. Here are some clarifications on what is and is not in-game.
Showing That You're out-of-Game
There are multiple ways to show that someone or something is out-of-game. The oldest Quest method is the "Reality Flag," a strip of tacky-patterned cloth. Someone holding one of these, or an object with a Flag tied to it aloft, is out-of-game.
Many Quest players also indicate out-of-game status by holding a weapon (or even just placing a balled fist) on the top of the head. This is legal, but Reality Flags are preferred.
Don't put in-game stuff in an out-of-game location. For instance, at a weekend event, the inside of your cabin is an out-of-game location, so it's not fair to stash in-game items in your cabin. Stash them in a place where other players can legally get at them—at the very least, under your cabin.
Stealth and Awareness
Someone using Stealth cannot be seen in-game unless you have an equal or higher Awareness! It doesn't matter if your friend can see them; your eyes are not keen enough.
All props used to cast spells (spell books, spell pages, bells, whistles) are out-of-game. You should not look at a character and say, "He can cast spells. I can see his spell book." Instead, you should role-play that you are unaware of his abilities—at least, until he starts to cast a spell.
Other props used to perform a skill (Persuasion cards, Stealth cards, Status cards) are also transparent. You will not be aware that the person has that skill until you see them use the skill.
Verbal cues that must be spoken to show the in-game status of something are themselves out-of-game. Characters in a Safe spell are not saying the word "safe" in-game, even though the players must repeat it to make it clear that they are safe. The assassin sneaking up behind the Baron and stabbing him in the back is not saying "courtesy strike" in-game; you only hear the assassin if they make some other sound.
Skills and Skill Levels
The Magic skills have levels in-game. A character might say someone "is of the fifth circle," and you can describe a spell's level in a similar fashion. However, we encourage you to role-play it more elegantly. Instead of this:
"What level Mage are you?"
"Oh, I'm fifth."
"Great, you can cast a Barkskin on me!"
Try this instead:
"Have you studied magic long enough to cast protective spells?"
"Why, yes, in fact, I have! This one I know will protect you from the next blow you receive."
The Alchemy skill does not have levels in-game, nor do potions, but alchemists can describe the level of the spell whose effects they can duplicate. (That is, you wouldn't say, "I'm a third-level alchemist," but you might say, "I'm a skilled alchemist. I can make potions that duplicate the effect of sixth-circle spells.")
No other skill has levels in-game.
Instead of saying "I have Awareness 3," try saying, "I have a pretty sharp eye." Instead of saying "I have fourth-level Traps," try saying "I can make traps that will wound both your arms." Describe what in-game abilities the skill gives you, instead of naming the skill itself.
And no other skill exists in-game.
Once again, describe the ability, not the skill. Don't say "I have Monster Lore"; instead, say that your character is well-versed in the beasts that inhabit the area.
Other skill-related effects are also not in-game.
Characters do not have "spell points" in-game—although you might say "I am feeling very taxed and do not think I can perform much more magic." The concept of "mana" exists in-game, but it doesn't have points. Just as you wouldn't finish a marathon and say, "Wow, I'm tired. I'm down to two fatigue points," you wouldn't say, "I have two spell points." But you could say, "I'm feeling rather low on mana."
Magical "levels of protection" don't have levels either, at least not with that term. Instead of saying "I have two hits left," say, "I can absorb two more wounds safely."
Spells and Spell Effects
Casters' spell books are not in-game; they represent casters' knowledge base. Ditto the spell whistles. However, a person reaching for a whistle or standing there with an open spell book is performing the in-game actions of the gestures and preparatory work indicating that a spell is about to be cast. So while you cannot see or interact with the whistle or book, a ready whistle and book (out-of-game) do signify a person who is readying to cast (in-game).
If a spell affects everyone within "hearing range," that's an out-of-game way of saying it's an area-effect spell, and the range of the caster's voice is the easiest way to model that. Thus, you can't plug your ears and claim the spell didn't affect you. (Remember that Quest's code of conduct asks that you go with the spirit of the rule.) Similarly, you can't plug your ears and claim that a spell fumbled because you couldn't hear it.
The spell names in the Rulebook are mainly so that everyone has a common out-of-game name for the spell, and so that both caster and target know what spell is being cast during a spell freeze. In-game, you may use the Rulebook name of the spell, but you may also use more creative names, as is appropriate to your character.