Guide to Roleplay

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A: What Role Playing is not.
All too often I see people say that they don't want to be a role player on the simple grounds that role players are either disconnected from reality or that they always talk like idiots. I really have to agree that there are a large number of role players out there that take it way too far. I'd like to clear up that you do not need to talk like an idiot or be unplugged from reality to be a good role player. Look at it like Shakespeare did: "All the world is a stage and all men actors". That is in my opinion the best description of a good role playing environment. Something else that role playing is not is running around screaming "I am the l337zorz!!!1111!" and bragging about how you have levelled your character up to L120 with +9 everything. That is not playing a role at all, unless it is the role of the town crazy man. If you saw someone in real life walking around talking about their "+1 Silk underpants" you would probably think it was a joke at first and later wonder about their mental status.

B: What role playing is.
Role playing is defined in the Webster's as:

Function: verb
transitive senses
 : act out <students were asked to role-play the thoughts and feelings of each character -- R. G. Lambert>
intransitive senses : to play a role

If you need a bigger explanation then stick with me on this example.
I am taking a trip in a time machine and without dealing in the quantum mechanics of it all (few of us are physicists) I do not want to cause too many problems with the future. In order to do this I need to fit into the time and area that I am entering. I need to speak appropriately (not using conjunctions that would not exist), dress appropriately and not talk about things from the future that the people I am interacting with would know nothing about. In the time machine example I would need to use an accent so that I don?t seem to out of place but that is not needed in a role playing game. Basically role playing is being an actor. A good actor does not break character while on stage and neither should you.

I see a lot of confusion as to what this is; especially among developers lately. A RPG is a Role Playing Game. "Duh!" you say. Well it seems that developers miss just what role playing really is. A role playing game has begun to be "any game in which an Avatar is able to grow in strength and abilities and become more than it was." Now I love the Final Fantasy games but I have to place some of the blame for this on them. The fact that you are getting stronger at your own discretion does not make it a role playing game. Remember what role playing is?
Some of the more recent games, in which you are making decisions that cause you to become one thing or another, are closer but still they are missing something. I watched a great friend of mine play a more recent "RPG" called KotOR. I liked that game a lot, but he considered it the quintessential RPG. If it were he would have lost the game terribly. He made decisions on what he thought would help him get to the end of the game, not based on what the character he was playing would do. Sure it hurt him in some instances, but for the most part the game did not care.
People dispute all the time what a RPG really is. You can define it as you see fit. I can't decide for you what one is. I do think that people use the term to loosely though.

D: So what makes you Out Of Character (OOC)?
Here, I'll give you a short list. While these are not all the ways that people slip out of character they are the most common.

  • Evil vs. Good: Sometimes people slip out of character and help when they should not, hurt when they should not, steal when they would not, etc. Remember that if you are Evil you will not help people unless it makes you more powerful and if you are Good you will help people without regard for yourself. There are a lot of areas in between Good and Evil in the role playing environment but people seem to play the Chaotic Neutral role a lot. This one gives you a chance to do whatever you want. I don't personally like any of the Neutral alignments, I think they are a cop out, but hey to each his own.
  • Talking out of character.: People do this more than they know. It can be hard to keep from doing it. Especially when you are talking to someone about how you have been advancing in ranks. In most games there are "tell" or "whisper" commands that you can use to avoid breaking the common RP channels. Some games have added an OOC (or Out Of Character) channel to help people have an outlet. I don't think that the OOC channel is a bad idea, It can be really helpful; but the tendency is for players to use it as the only chat channel, never using the yell or talk commands and always being out of character. A bad habit to get in is to use this channel for talking. If you really need to talk to someone that you know in real life who is online, then get a messenger client or use the phone. Just try to stay in character while playing unless you have something that really needs to be said OOC.
  • Marriage: I love games with this feature. My wife and I play a lot of games together and we always get married in game, but people tend to get married online for the wrong reasons. If you want to get married in a video game fine, do it but try to get married to someone that you spend a lot of time with online anyway. Don't break the mood by asking every other person that passes by to marry you.
  • Monster bashing.: Every game out there has the ability built into it for you to kill, kill and then, you guessed it, kill some more. After all, what kind of game would it be if all you got to do was walk around collecting sticks and making arrows out of them? I know what kind: the boring kind! The problem that a lot of people run into while playing is that they see monster bashing as the only means to any kind of profit or progression through the levels of the game. I blame this mostly on game developers who make monster bashing the quickest, easiest and in many cases only way of gaining attributes and levels.
    It all comes back around to what kind of person you are playing. If you are a hunter or a gatherer then by all means you would, indeed be out there hunting and killing everything so that you will gain what you need to sell for money or equipment. But if you are, on the other hand, a crafter of silken pillow cases the chances that you will be in the wilderness hunting bears is a little lower- no, a lot lower. Again trying to stay in character does not exclude you from hunting, it just means that you should have a reason for doing it. Be creative, you can find one.
  • Too much knowledge.: Perhaps the most sad thing that I see in MMORPGs is the following exchange.
    "Hey! How do I kill the Master Ogre?"
    "You need the Orb of suffering. Just throw that at him and he'll die."
    How the hell do you know that? Most people know this kind of stuff from reading the forums and asking on the OOC channels. I'm fine, in fact I encourage the exchange of knowledge. But if you are going to do it, for heavens sake stay In Character. The exchange could be redone this way.
    Yell "Does the Master Ogre have a weakness?"
    Yell "Yes, he can be injured by emotion altering magic. I would say that an orb of suffering might be what you are looking for."
    Now how hard was that?
    So what is the difference? Well one was overtly obvious while the other seemed to fit into the world. You have the same information but it has a reason in the world as opposed to just being what you should do.

All that said there are a hundred (at least that many) other ways that people slip.

E: Some easy ways to stay In Character (IC).
Having shown the most common ways that people slip out of character, I'll try to show you how to keep in character.

  • Do not use conjunctions. It's, we're, they're, they've- the list goes on. They are great in the OOC channel and we use them all the time in modern English, but they are generally frowned upon in role playing linguistics circles. You usually will not be ostracised by the people that have not taken RP too far but it does elevate you to another level. Do use proper techniques to create accents, slurs and gibberish though. After all everyone speaking high Elven would be boring.
  • Avoid the use of numerals. We, in the English speaking world and those in some others, tend to use numerals (1, 2, 3, 4) interchangeably with the words to which they relate (one, two, three, four). Avoid doing this in the game world. It is in the same line and the use of conjunctions.
  • Avoid the use of statistical modifiers. So you found a sword that has an increased attribute ratio of "+1". Great! But do not use that in your common speech. Try to use a more common word to identify it and then, if someone wants to know the actual stats they can ask via the "tell" "OOC" or other channels that do not break the RP environment.
  • Avoid LEETting! We have all seen the people that use numbers and symbols as words and most of us can't understand a damn thing that they are saying. If you want to use that kind of language, then by all means- find an appropriate place! I also lump into the category of Leetors those that use MSN/AOL/YM short hand on the main channels. U all know who u r.
  • Have a goal. Your goal can be to be the greatest fighter in the world, the most powerful mage or the most well known drunk. Just have a reason for the character to be alive.
  • Have a history. It can be the hardest part of any RPG. Creating the character's history. Look at it this way though. It can be as easy as: "I was born a poor farm boy and came to the city to liven up my life." There is not a single Player Character in the world that is not looking for an adventure. You do not need a deep and adventurous past to begin -that should come with time.
  • Do be a thief, murderer or assassin. Please be evil if you want. So few games have evil characters that are really, truly evil. Just be in character while you are doing it.

F: Naming conventions.: There are a lot of things that get overlooked in guides like this. Naming is one of those. You should already know that numeric characters are out. Characters that are supported but not necessarily normal to names, like ? or ? or better yet ? can make names look cool but also make them impossible to type. My name for instance, XpYtZ not a good in game name, which is why I have a different name in a gaming environment. I hear people complain about their name being taken already and the like. Pfft, most names of role-players are made from a series of random consonants and vowels anyway. Just make sure that it is A) pronounceable and B) sensible. Names tend to fit in certain environments as well, so just keep the setting in mind while typing out those names.
If I am in a tight spot for a name (Mine is "taken" or doesn't fit.) I take four consonants and two vowels and try to make something with them. I usually take about three sets and do this. Another good option is to add a consonant or vowel to a real name. If you can't think of many names or don't know many, don't worry I've attached a link to a good name site at the bottom of this thing.

G: Know who you are.: If I have seen it once I have seen it a thousand times. People who are just playing to see if they like the game and don't want to try and "be" something while they are there. They are just testing the mechanics to see if they like them. If you find you are doing this with a game it may be time to get out. A shooter or a Diablo type game is one that lives on it's mechanics but a RPG lives on it's community. I have been a member of a number of games that were nothing but forums and some pretty background stories before and they have been more alive than some of the mechanically sound, beautifully well illustrated worlds that I have been in. It all comes down to who you are in the world.
How do you know who you are? Well, if you took my advice from earlier and made a Background story then you know something about your character already; now you need to expand on that.
Let's take the guy from the demonstration. We know already that he has lived a simple life on the farm up until now. He probably left because he felt repressed, or wanted to get noticed. So we know that he is looking for recognition. Now if he has an alignment (Evil, Good, Chaotic, Neutral- there are lots more) he can look for recognition in a number of ways. Since I like playing Good characters the most we will make him good. Now as a good person our farm boy (let's call him Ned Flanders. I don't think Matt will mind a little more publicity.) can go two directions. He can either try to help people by rescuing them (as either a healer or something of the sort) or by serving them (as a hunter or gatherer) for the sake of this example we will make him a hunter.
Now what do we know about our character?

  • He has come from the farm looking to be a somebody as opposed to a nobody.
  • He is Good.
  • His name is Ned Flanders.
  • He serving his community through being an active member of commerce as a hunter.

What else can we have him do? Hmmm. Let's make him like to dance and go to recitals of poetry. Now we will add a crush on a random person from the game (Maud? Na, too obvious. Hmmm- Laura.) and we are about done. We now know how he is part of his world. One more thing will be added for fun's sake. We'll give him an accent; now all his words are shortened like so "I like 'em 'er purdy flowers." We have a character, and hopefully his player has read all the above suggestions and will try to stay in character.
Some other things that you can ask about your character are:
Does he/she believe in magic? Sounds dumb I know, especially if the game has magic in it. But you could be one of those people that attribute everything to something other than magic.
Does he/she follow a god? You do not have to believe the religion of the world that you are entering. You can serve your own deity or even none at all.
Does he/she have neuroses? These can be so much fun to play. A player who is afraid of spiders, bears, skeletons- oh man you name it. I played a Fire Dragon that was afraid of snakes, spiders and carrion (rotting, dead things) before. He was a barrel of laughs.
All this to say that the more you know about the character, and the deeper you play them, the better a role player you will be considered and the more depth you will add to the game. So as they say "Know thy self."

That about wraps it up.
I'm sure there are a lot of good things that I forgot, but you can learn those as you go. This little guide is supposed to help you avoid the common mistakes and help guide you toward what it really is to role-play. Above everything that has been written here, try to have fun. The only bad role-players are those that forget it is a game and make it into a reality. Those folks need counseling.

This guide will be updated on occasion to include things forgotten and to remove typos and points that are either mute, or repetitive.

Links: ~Names, names and more names, with meanings. ~An interesting quiz for those that can not decide on an alignment, but know how they would act In Game.

The D&D personality alignments are: Good, Evil, and Neutral.
The D&D Ethics alignments are: Lawful, Chaotic, and Neutral.
Most characters are comprised of a dual alignment such as, Lawful Good or Chaotic Neutral, etc. While the D&D ones have become a standard for most game systems there are the occasional weird sets that follow way different rules.

copied from here