A lot of people in my online gaming circle of friends are unwilling to role-play (RP) at all because they think they’ll be bad at it, or else just really don’t know how to get started. They mistakenly think that one must need to be a great actor and a great writer to be able to do it at all, and so they just don’t bother. I hope that some of them are reading this now, because I want to try to explain to them that it’s easier and more rewarding than they may think.
Today, we’re just going to start with the very basics: the “ground rules” that are useful to know when interacting with RPers. I’m going to talk as if explaining the concept to someone who’s never so much as seen RPing before, so if it seems a bit overly simplistic I apologize.
In Character (IC) vs. Out Of Character (OOC).
When someone is talking about their kids or their computer or their real life job, they’re OOC, short for “out of character”. When they talk about local customs, their imaginary lives, or some adventure or quest they’re on, then they’re probably IC, or “in character”.
Usually, as a general rule of thumb, IC interaction takes place by default in local/public chat, unless otherwise specified. And, generally, OOC interaction takes place in private messages or IMs…unless otherwise specified.
So, if you’re in a RP sim and someone asks you, “So, where do you come from?”, chances are they’re asking where your character is from. But what if you’re not sure?
OOC conversation in local chat is usually marked somehow. They may say “OOC: where are you from IRL?”, or they may put OOC conversation in brackets [like so] or double parentheses ((like so)). If a person just asks without specifying and you’re not sure, your best bet is to ask in such an OOC way for specification.
Carnyx Bloodaxe: So where are you from, stranger?
Bob Newcomer: ((Do you mean IRL?))
Carnyx Bloodaxe: ((I meant IC, sorry))
Bob Newcomer: ((I’m new, I don’t really have that worked out yet.))
Really, it is OK to do that. You could also make up an IC answer, such as, “I come from the South (or East, or West…)”, or “I am from a land far from here, I’m sure you never heard of it”, or even “I don’t wish to say.” The last one sounds oh-so mysterious.
A decent RPer will be more than willing to help you out if you’re new.
Speaking and Emoting. These are the two basic ways to RP: by speaking, or by emoting. Emotes are actions that are typed in text, usually in third person. In SL it’s by typing “/me does an action.” The result is “Bob Newcomer does an action” in chat.
Sometimes, people emote and speak in the same posted sentence. It will generally look like this:
Valgar the Red: It is a pleasure to meet you, Bob Newcomer. *offers his hand to shake*
Bob Newcomer shakes Valgar’s hand. “Good to meet you too, Valgar.”
One very important rule of RPing, regardless of setting or local rules or what have you, is this: YOU decide what YOU say, feel, or do. THEY decide what THEY say, feel, or do. You would not like it if someone were to tell you that you reacted a certain way to their action when you wanted to react a different way. If someone tells you what your actions are, that’s called “godmoding” and it’s a big RP no-no.
Bob Newcomer walks into the inn, and looks around.
SweetJezebel sees you and smiles in your direction as she continues to dance.
Bob Newcomer returns her smile and silently sits down.
SweetJezebel can tell that you’re excited to see her as you nervously shift your weight, trying to hide your “growing” enthusiasm.
Whoa! What happened there?! SweetJezebel just godmoded, that’s what. Instead of letting you decide what excites and entices you, she decided for you. She even decided for you how you react as a result of that. OK, so, you know it’s not cool. What do you do? The polite thing to do would be to say in an IM to her that you should decide what turns you on or off, not her. And supposing that doesn’t work? Well, really it’s up to you. You could say OOC in local chat, hey quit godmodding. You might just leave. You might be really evil and godmod back, ha ha. I for one don’t advocate two wrongs making a right, but, it’s your call. It does bring up another thing to know:
Pause the action if/when you need to. There are times when a pause is needed. You might have to go eat. You may have a phone call. Your friend’s computer may have just crashed. Or, you need to clarify some details.
Avalon Ravenfeather flexes her white butterfly wings in the morning sunlight.
Valgar the Red wonders to himself how she would sleep with those wings.
Avalon Ravenfeather: on my belly.
Valgar the Red: What?
Avalon Ravenfeather: I sleep on my belly.
Bob Newcomer: ((Hold on a second. Avalon, are you telepathic?))
Avalon Ravenfeather: ((Well he asked how I sleep so I answered.))
Bob Newcomer: ((But he didn’t ask. He wondered it “to himself”, which means you wouldn’t have been able to hear him unless you can hear his thoughts.))
Avalon Ravenfeather: ((Oh well then yeah, I can.))
Bob Newcomer: ((kk))
Valgar the Red: It isn’t very polite, Avalon, to not let me have the privacy of my thoughts.
Wait your turn. This is one that I personally have had to work at learning. Generally the rule is one post at a time, which is easy when it’s two people interacting. It gets a little more complicated when three or more people are talking, thus it becomes all the more important to give everyone a chance to speak, act, and react before you act again. It doesn’t keep with the flow of normal conversation, so it feels unnatural a lot of the time. If you have a lot to say in once go, then break it up into segments with ellipses (…) to show you’ve got more to say.
Bob Newcomer: My friends, a day will come when our loyalties will be tested, our fears will be before us, and we will have to find deep in our souls who we truly are…
Bob Newcomer:…but this day, let us enjoy the peace that has settled over the land and have a drink! Woo!
Valgar the Red: Well said, Bob!
Well said indeed, Bob.