From Tapestries MUCK
This guide is meant as an introduction to online Role-play (RP). While some parts may be specific to Tapestries Muck, most of it should be applicable to almost any online roleplay environment such as Second Life, IRC and others.
Work In Progress
Online role-playing involves acting out or playing the role of a fictional character that the person has developed. This character may range from a fairly close personification of the player, or it may have a personality, motivations and background wildly different from the player's own and thus act very differently than the player might in the same situation.
People role-play online for a variety of different reasons. It can be looked at as a game that you play with others to socialize. It can be an exercise to explore personalities or situations that the person otherwise would not outside of role-play. It can be used to virtually live out fantasies.
In and Out of Character
In Character (IC) refers to playing out the role of your character. When you are IC you are reacting as your character would, not as you would yourself. Being Out of Character (OOC) refers to speaking for your real self with out the biases that your character may have.
It is often important to make it clear when you are speaking as your character and when you are speaking as yourself. For example, when negotiating the type of role-play that you and another player want to engage in it is done OOC. When your character is acting in an antisocial fashion it is important that people understand that this is IC, and not necessarily representing your own views or how you would act.
There are times online where people are socializing and blurring the line between IC and OOC behavior. Most commonly this is seen in social areas online where role-playing commonly happens but is not strictly enforced. People may be there to socialize while waiting for someone to arrive that they may wish to role-play with at the same time that people are engaged in actually role-playing.
People who play characters that are very close to themselves can often make it hard to tell if they are talking IC or OOC, and in some cases they are doing both.
Prediscussion and Common Ground
Because of the wide range of personal goals that people can have for their role-playing, and because of different tolerances to some subject matter that people may have, it is important that you establish if you and another player have a common ground for your characters to role-play.
The most obvious way to deal with this is to ask someone if they are interested in role-playing, and discuss specific subject mater or directions that you may wish the role-play to go to see if you and the other player can find something compatible for your characters to do. However, there are many other ways to go about this first.
The environment that a player chooses for their character to hang out at may say a great deal about what the character or player is interested in. Seeing a character at a shooting range for example would lead to very different assumptions than if you saw them at a gay leather bar.
Most systems that support role-playing have some sort of profile system for characters. Often times this will be filled out with a wealth of information about a character and what their player wants to do with that character.
Please keep in mind the information that you find in these is something you as the player would know, not necessarily something your character would know.
If the activities you seek to engage in are something the characters would do consensually, you can often approach the possibility of the activity in question with IC role-play. This often has the advantage of setting the mood and making the resulting role-play more natural and fun.
In cases where none of the above make you absolutely certain that the role-play you wish to involve the person in is something they do or do not want, you should speak with them OOC. It is usually best to do this in private communications.
The purpose of the language you use is to communicate what your character is doing in the role-play. It needs to be clear to the other players involved, and any audience, what it is your character is doing. It also must be able to deliver this information in a timely fashion.
Quality, Quantity, and Speed
These three factors have to be considered when you are writing for RP. The requirements vary considerably from person to person how elaborate the descriptions of your characters actions they want, how long they are willing to wait between poses, and how accurate the language needs to be for them to not be distracted by errors in it.
Sometimes a person's profile information will give clues about what is important to them. Sometimes you can only find this out by experimentation.
It is normal for real time language on the internet to be a bit more sloppy than normal written language. This is caused by things like people not correcting typos for the sake of communicating faster, a lack of spell checkers in some clients, and other factors. Because it is one-use and throw-away writing for a small audience many people consider this acceptable.
Some people however find typos and lose sentence structure to be highly irritating and may require slower more thought out writing.
'L33t' speech and other internet slang is generally frowned on in most online role-playing environments. It should be used sparingly, if at all. In serious role-play it should only be used in speech where your character would actually say it, such as saying, "lol" or "lulz", or if describing written material or the internet as part of the role-play.
Excessive use is also frowned on in OOC chat, and often gives people the impression (true or not) that you have a poor grasp on the written language. This may impact their willingness to role-play with you.
Emoticons, primarily smiley faces, are sometimes used in quick speech to indicate a character or player's intended emotion behind a statement that could be taken wrong. This is tolerated more than most other forms of internet slang, though should not be heavily used in in depth role-playing.
Language of Choice
The specific language you use should be picked for what will be clearest to both you, the other players, and the intended audience (if any). If you share a language that all parties speak fluently, this is an obvious choice. For public role-playing, the system's default language should be used so that all parties can understand it.
In the case of Tapestries MUCK, this is English.
Posing / Posting
Posing (sometimes called Posting) is the act of actually sending text to the other player(s) describing to them what your character is doing. This can range from simple speech to complicated descriptions of actions taken.
When two or more characters start interacting, it is important for them to understand when they should write their actions and reactions to the situation, and when they should wait for others to do the same before they continue.
To help facilitate this a single pose should contain everything that your character will say and do before other players are expected to react.
With two characters this is fairly simple. The two characters trade off poses until the role-playing has ended. This sometimes also works for cases with three or more characters, where you establish an order and cycle through them. That order can either be agreed on, or implied simply by when they joined the rotation.
However, if there are cases where one of the characters is only partly involved in the role-play they may only react when specifically addressed by one of the other characters. An example of this would be a group reporting to a superior where they are asked questions by that person. This requires all people paying close attention to see who is likely to be required to respond to an action or statement, and give them time to respond.
Most online environments have two methods of presenting an action. One is used for character speaking, another is used for characters taking actions, or a combination of actions and speaking.
On Tapestries MUCK the command for this is say. You can also simply start a line of text with a double quote (") and get the same effect.
say Hi there! Character says, "Hi there!" "I'm saying something. Character says, "I'm saying something."
Note that others will see your character name, and you will see You. So to you those commands give the following results:
You say, "Hi there!" You say, "I'm saying something."
In many other environments this is accomplished simply by typing the text you wish your character to speak, and it comes out formatted as Character: text. So:
Hi there! Character: Hi There!
For your character to do something other than speak, you will need to use a command that gives you more freedom. Most systems have a command that allows you to start a line with just your character's name, and follow it with whatever text you desire. This means that you need to plan your pose so that the first sentence of it starts with your characters name, even though you don't actually type it.
On Tapestries MUCK, this is the pose command. You can start a line with a colon (:) to get the same effect.
:offers his hand for you to shake. Character offers his hand for you to shake.
You can include things your character says this way as well. Standard convention is to enclose speech in double quotes to distinguish it from actions.
:offers his hand for you to shake and says, "Hello." Character offers his hand for you to shake and says, "Hello."
Sometimes people will simply start a second sentence in double quotes instead:
:offers his hand for you to shake. "Hello." Character offers his hand for you to shake. "Hello."
When you are interacting with an area filled with people and are not engaged specifically with any of them, generally poses should be a sentence or two.
In a role-play with one or more people, the length and detail of a pose can vary wildly from a few sentences to tapping out the limit of the system you are on (and sometimes beyond). This is dictated primarily by what the people involved desire. Some people prefer very long and verbose poses, while others may prefer somewhat simpler ones valuing speed over detail.
One thing to remember is that even people that are quite good at writing verbose poses are presented a problem when they are bound and gagged and being lectured by the local crime lord. There is only so much struggling one can do.
Powergaming in free form role-playing can be summarized as either deciding an action involving another player's character with out them having an opportunity to act or trying to engage a character in role-play that the player does not desire.
It is almost universally frowned on as it is seen as a hostile act on the out of character level. Thus it can lead to people shunning others they see as using these tactics.
Unfortunately it is possible for inexperienced role-players to not realize that they are taking actions that qualify as power gaming, which can lead to problematic misunderstandings.
Assuming another character's actions
One of the most common forms of accidental powergaming in role-playing is assuming through your actions how the other party reacts.
A simple example
A fairly simple and typical example of a powergaming pose is:
CharacterA punches CharacterB in the face breaking his nose.
This takes the opportunity for CharacterB's player to respond to the situation away in two ways. By assuming the punch landed the first player denied the character the change to dodge, block, turn his head to take the blow on his cheek, or one of a number of other defensive actions. In defining the nose breaking, the player further denied the right of the second player to decide the fate of their own character.
An alternative would be:
CharacterA swings his fist at CharacterB aiming to hit him squarely in the nose.
To which the other player could reasonably respond with one of the following depending on their character and his skills:
CharacterB side steps, dodging the punch. CharacterB is surprised as the punch lands and staggers back with a bloodied nose. CharacterB stands there and shrugs off the punch because he is actually an android with a metal frame under fake skin.
A more subtle example
Something about assuming feelings of the other character or the like here...
Refusing to ever lose
During situations of conflict, some people simply refuse to ever fail at what they are doing. This can be in many cases no fun for the other parties involved. They dodge every blow, they write every feat that they attempt as successful, and are generally perfect.
In many cases this hurts the realism of the role-play. In real life no person, thing or situation is perfect. Even when the players have agreed that the outcome will be in one character's favor, it sometimes is a better story if there is some give and take before you arrive at the eventual end.
If your character is the sort that would be perfect in all actions, make sure that this is clear, and that the other players that you play with are alright with this.
Manipulating role-play to undesirable ends
When powergaming is appropriate
Sometimes powergaming in role-play is not only appropriate, but it can enhance the flow and fun of the session. Maybe a character is restrained and helpless, and really could not avoid the slap to their face that their captor gives them. Assuming that they don't allows the captor to write more elaborate poses with that in the middle. Or sometimes one of the characters is a demon from the ninth circle of hell, and no matter what the victim does, it fails and seems like the demon has thought of everything. This sort of IC frustration can actually enhance the role-play.
Doing such things is considered advanced forms of role-play, and should be done with caution, least they give people the wrong idea. You should be reasonably sure that the person you are playing with is ready for you to be making such assumptions, and that they are alright with this.
Public and Private
Differences between public and private play, use of explicit references in public...
Other people's RP, how to respect it... street performer example...
Non Player Characters (NPCs)
How to involve additional characters in a scene.
Stuff that should be put... somewhere...
- IC/OOC knowledge
- Language/grammar and suspension of disbelief (imperfect language section?)
- Better example than lulz?
- Advanced powergaming example: Something like they show their teeth and growl, and assume the other guy's heart will race and he'll cower.
Other related stuff on this site...
Useful guides on other sites...