Hello and welcome to the next part in a series of blogs on role-playing. I discussed the very basic “ground rules” in part one, and the basics of building your character in part two. Today I’m going to talk about the setting: that is, the time and place in which you will be RPing.
When most people think of role play games (RPGs), they immediately think of a quasi-medieval fantasy setting, with elves and wizards and travel by horseback and combat with swords and axes. And it’s true, this is a very commonplace setting. However, it is only one of myriad possibilities. Other popular settings are based on a “canon”; that is, an already created series of novels (such as Gor or Harry Potter) or TV series (such as Star Trek or Dr. Who) or movies (such as Star Wars or Alien). Other settings still may be based (in varying degrees of looseness) on history: I’ve seen ancient Greek, Roman, and Egyptian RP sims; as well as Wild West, strict Medieval, and 1930s-1940s. I’ve even heard of RP sims based on video games like Sonic the Hedgehog, Final Fantasy, or Resident Evil. Others have a concept that may be inspired by some books or movies but go in their own direction to take on a life of their own, such as the ever-popular Steampunk genre.
Know where you’re playing.
If you’re new in town and may be interested in RPing, your best bet is to ask a local some questions about the sim you’re in.
Valgar the Red:…and then I had that dragon begging for mercy!
Avalon Ravenfeather applauds
Valgar the Red: Welcome, stranger. Have you come to hear about how I defeated the Dragon of Wilgaard?
Bob Newcomer: ((actually I have some questions about this sim when you have a minute))
Valgar the Red: ((np! I’ll just finish my story first, k?))
Bob Newcomer: ((kk ty…I’ll be over here shopping))
Valgar the Red: And that was when the dragon said to me, spare my life and I will give you three wishes!
That was a good way to state what you needed to without totally breaking the interaction between Valgar and Avalon. It paused the story, but for no longer than necessary. Valgar gets to finish impressing Avalon before turning his attention to Bob. So what sort of things should you ask once you get the chance?
- Should I have an “observer” tag? Some RP sims are stricter about this than others. An “observer” tag is a worn object that displays in text over your head words saying that you’re here to watch for now, that you’re not quite ready to jump in and play but you want to see what’s going on. Usually, if the answer is “yes”, you will then either be given one or be told where/how to get one. If not, then speak up and ask that too.
- What are the rules here? Some RP places have a strict set of rules for allowed races, occupations, classes, etc. Others have only one or two. These rules are in addition to the “ground rules” discussed in Part One; godmodding still won’t be allowed, even if your local guide doesn’t mention it.
- What sort of roles are needed here? or, its variation: I’m interested in playing a ______. Would that work here? For example, a roving dragonslayer would be bored if there are no dragons indigenous to the area.
- Who’s in charge here? While Valgar may indeed be very helpful today, that doesn’t mean he’s always available to help whenever you have a question. He’s a character in this story himself; he’s got adventures to live, stories to tell, and women to try to impress. He’ll be able to tell you either the owner of the Sim or the head of the RP group or both; they are the ones to ask questions of later on.
- What is your policy regarding “outsiders”? Second Life is a world as big as the imagination, and if you’re in a strictly medievalish sim it’s likely you’ll see the occasional arrival in Sci Fi clothes or a race unlike the “allowed” ones. What do the locals here do as a result of that? Do they marvel at something they’ve never seen before? Do they just ignore him? Do they toss him an “observer” tag and be done with it? Do they make him part of the story?
- Can I have a look around? Usually the locals in an RP sim are all to happy to give a tour, provided they’re available to do so and the lag isn’t too bad. Ask also what places are off limits (as a general rule of thumb, don’t open closed doors unless you know they go to a public building…this could be someone’s house and they would not be happy with you if you just barged into their home!). Also as a general rule, RPing tends to be much more lenient in/around marketplaces because so many outsiders pop in just to do some shopping and aren’t interested in RPing. This also goes for live events, such as live performances by musicians. People come to see the show, not to RP.
You’ll also get an idea about what the setting is like: what technologies are common and what aren’t, how people react to magic (or if it even exists here), what people wear, what people do for work, how they live, and so on.
The rules apply to everyone, and that means you too.
Nothing disrupts an RP like someone coming into town and deciding that the rules, whatever they may be, do not have to apply to them. In fact that’s often a one-way ticket to banning. If you go into a Star Trek RP sim and decide that you get to have a light saber and can choke people by looking at them, you won’t be winning any friends or influencing people. For one thing it’s the wrong canon. For another, it’s not fun for anyone. The same rules apply now as did when you were four: if you can’t play nice in this sandbox, all the other kids are going to take their toys and go home and leave you with nobody to play with. And all you end up in charge of is a pile of dirt, which is not terribly satisfying. It’s more likely however that the other kids will tell the teacher and you’ll be removed from the sandbox and not get to play in it at all.
So, know the setting, respect the setting, make sure the role you want to play works with the setting. More next time…