Articles on Roleplaying

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Articles on Roleplaying

Postby XLCS » Thu Feb 28, 2008 12:27 pm

RoleCraft: Roleplayers Set S.A.I.L.!

by Jim H. Moreno

It is well known and accepted that there is no one set in stone method for roleplaying in the MMORPG genre. I've been roleplaying in various games since 1980, and I have come to see that there are as many ways to RP as there are roleplayers. Each individual game that allows for RP has done so in their own way, and to various degrees. So, it would be futile to try to list every possible way players roleplay their characters. Still, we roleplayers do have a few unique marks that quickly identify us and set us apart from the crowd.

Taking a good look at my fellow roleplayers in the four MMORPGs I play, and across many other RPGs I've played, I see a vast number of ways we display our RP talents, way too many to count. Yet, I think these methods may all be categorized under four main traits that we focus on - speech, actions, interactions, and look - and are very easily remembered with the acronym SAIL.

Your character's speech is probably the first thing about them that makes contact with other players. It is also the quickest way to clue them in to the fact your are roleplaying your character. Many MMORPGs have a multitude of chat channels built in to facilitate communication between players, and these channels are usually focused on one important game element. RP is one such element, and often has a number of channels devoted to it. So whether you type text into a General or Trade or Looking For Fellowship chat channel, roleplayers and non-roleplayers alike will instantly know whether what you typed was in character or out of character.

So, is there one certain method how roleplayers should or shouldn't chat across all those various channels? Of course not. The way that works best for you is the way you should choose, provided it doesn't interfere with others players' RP ability. There are often general guidelines for RP speech when grouped with other players, and also often depend on where the group is currently located, whether it be in town, out in the wilds, or deep within a dungeon or instance. Guilds often have preferred ways and separate channels set up for IC and OOC chat, as often do the game servers themselves. It should, however, be expected and condoned that all chat across every chat channel on game servers designated for RP should be IC, as this would make for an incredibly vibrant and much more mature RP atmosphere.

Local vocals, or how your character talks in game to other characters in the vicinity, is another way to RP mark your character. It's a simple thing to keep in mind: orcs should sound like orcs, hobbits should sound like hobbits, and on and on, depending on the race of the character in play. Also keep in mind that RP speech should adhere to the realm and setting in which the game is set. I simply cannot understand it when a troll or elf approaches my character for conversation and spouts off something completely void of vowels and punctuation. There is a place for real world leet speak, and that is the real world, not a world of swords or laser rifles.

Character actions are another vital part of how we show our RP to the worlds in which we play. Another very quick way to pick a roleplayer out of a crowd is to see which characters are walking through the towns in your favorite MMORPGs. This is almost always a subtle sign roleplayers use to notify other players they are roleplaying and are open to RP contact. Walking is not of course the only action that can do this. Maybe you have a character who constantly talks to his pet, to himself, or to invisible 400 pound pink gorilla friend named Alfred. Anything that is a part of your character's personality could be displayed, even if it's mostly through emotes and macros. Many MMORPGs have a detailed number of physical emotes available, like dance, cheer, smoke, laugh, cry, and so on. Watch your character while experimenting with the list available in your favorite game, find one that may compliment your character's personality, and use it as often as you like.

How your character interacts with other characters is another integral part to the whole RP process. Within this is a part I sadly see many roleplayers missing, and that is interacting with NPCs in game. Both are prime opportunities for RP, limited only by the players' imaginations. Roleplayers greet each other according to their characters' personality, and continue IC throughout the conversation. They may know the other character well enough to say or do things that only they understand, like talking in a language that only they understand, or using a special handshake known only to their clan. I have one character in WoW that greets and says farewell to another character with an ear pull. Be inventive, but also respectful, and be aware that not every player is an adult (in one way or another) in these games.

I'm not sure about what's considered rude on non-RP servers, but I feel it's very rude on any server for a character to cold contact another character with a guild invite, fellowship invite, duel challenge, open a Trade window (on purpose that is, as I've done it many times on accident), or even outright asking for gold in an obvious non-RP way. It is most easy to simply ignore a character who pops up with events like these, but that's not a proper RP way either. I reply in character, which either makes them go away, or rephrase their offer in a more acceptable RP fashion, which I am always happy to see.

In WoW, General Marcus Jonathan sits astride his horse before the entrance to Stormwind. Did you know, if you target him and /salute, he will turn to face you, return the salute, and say "Greetings, citizen."? In LotRO, throughout the Shire, the Bounders will greet your character with a friendly "Hello, Bounder Holo!" (or whatever your character's name is) once you have completed the quests to attain the title of Bounder. Point is, quality game designers put an immense amount of work into creating a living, breathing world for us to play in. Yet, many players are too busy running everywhere trying to 'win' the game, or just choosing to simply ignore the beauty and skill making up their surroundings. Roleplayers learn about such things, and add them into their own RP style as they see fit, which in turn helps to evolve the game for them above and beyond what is merely visible.

All the above certainly give roleplayers their own look, but we are not always content with just that. We very often make available choices according to our sense of fashion, and equip our characters with clothes, armor, weapons, and other trinkets to better match the character's personality. One important factor many roleplayers take to heart is looking beyond any race / class / level considerations for what may or may not be best for them, and garb themselves ever how they see fit. With the thousands of available armaments, armor, and clothing to be found, why is it so common to see more than a few characters dressed very much alike? Simply un-equipping weapons or exchanging a battle helm for an old worn hat while walking through town is a small yet very visible act of RP. Then, of course, there are those special occasions where a change of outward appearance is not only welcomed but often warranted, such as weddings, festivals, or some non-combat RP event. Again, the possibilities here are expansive, limited only to what items can be found in game.

As always, these are only tips and examples from my mind, written here for any who might benefit from the spark of RP creativity I hope it brings. Feel free to share your own thoughts about setting SAIL in your favorite MMORPGs in the Comments section here, or by emailing me directly at Until next time, role on!


RoleCraft: What Level Is Your RP?

by Jim H. Moreno

"Hail, adventurers! I am Stormcrow Stardust, herald of the Drunken Boxers, extending our invitation for any and all interested to come and join our steadfastly growing ranks. We are primarily a heavy RP guild focused on all forms of military conquest and intoxicated debauchery, with our own Vent server, and IC and OOC channels in game. Oh, and we have pie! Whisper me with your questions and for an invite!"

That's merely an example of something I see at least once every game session in every MMORPG I play, either in game or on the message boards. It's a guild invite, and that's the general format they tend to take, at least as I see them on RP realms and from roleplayers. For the most part, such invites read and sound okay, with just enough information to hopefully spark the interest of any players looking to enlist their character into a guild. However, there is one vital piece that I see missing, or in dire need of a better explanation, and that is the question of rating RP.

Roleplaying guilds, kinships, and clans very often label themselves as being either light, medium, or heavy RP, but what exactly does that mean? What are the differences between these three level of RP? Well, I am here to make an attempt at answering, or at least providing some helpful insight into, that very question.

I spent last week trolling the forums of my favorite MMORPGs, specifically seeking out the guild recruiting announcements and reading through the threads and posts where people had given their opinions on various RP related topics. I did not find any question or comment directly addressing the subject here, not one. What is most commonly found are posts similar to the example guild invite above, yet, even these seemed to me to have no solid base or uniform explanation linking them together. That's not too surprising, given the abstract and subjective nature of roleplaying. What one RP guild master may consider to be light RP, may at the same time be what another RP guild master considers heavy RP. I also found that much of the information was very confusing and often conflicted with itself. I read through many posts where, for instance, the advertisement used words and phrases like "rigorous application process" and "RP behavioral and communication standards", yet was labeled overall as "light RP". More than a bit befuddling, indeed, and probably downright disconcerting to players looking at getting into RP for their first time.

So, let's see if we can clarify and quantify what the levels of RP are into a more easily understood standard set, as it may be regarded by both a guild of characters and an individual player. As usual, this is by no means meant to be written in stone. Think of this in the same light as the Pirate's Code - more like guidelines.

In the last RoleCraft article, Roleplayers Set S.A.I.L.!, I set forth a guiding premise about an easy way for roleplayers to break down the main areas in which they RP: speech, actions, interactions, and look. Using S.A.I.L. I think provides a solid base from which to build on further, and also gives a quick answer to our question. These levels of RP can be separated by considering to what degree players incorporate RP speech, actions, interactions, and look into their games. To what degree is the tricky part, as there is no measuring stick to gauge and compare RP against. Instead, I can list some examples and give my experienced interpretations, and hope you will do the same.

Optional is the word to best describe all the potential elements of light RP. Speech is most likely done in RP mode 'if and when you feel like it'. This is especially true in RP guilds, where it may be just as fine to speak IC on the Guild channel as it is to speak OOC, though the use of the double parenthesis to signify OOC speech is common courtesy. Basically, chatter at this level is not monitored or enforced, and helps provide an adequate training ground for a new roleplayer.

Medium RP speech may include the addition of emotes and macros, with some even directed at NPCs. Speech may also be done with racial and class characteristics in mind. Guilds may have a channel set aside for OOC, and may restrict the Guild channel to IC only. Titles and nicknames may also be added to characters at this level, helping to give them a more unique identity.

Heavy RP will most likely include any or all of those elements and more, and put them to use much more often. Rarely will public speech be OOC and will always be racially correct. Characters will address their friends in the most proper manner, no matter the circumstances, whether in or out of combat. Such decencies will also be directed towards NPCs, like the banker, barmaid, and town guards, all depending on the current situation.

Actions and interactions across the three levels are probably the most difficult to articulate, but are very essential for roleplaying at every level. Light RP may simply be firing off a macro now and then when the time is right, like a /wave to a friend, or an appropriate /cheer, /smile, or /nod. Medium RP may include ample use of /bow and /kneel to those worthy, even NPCs. Physical traits and personality characteristics may also be introduced here, like a player whose character is constantly wringing their hands, or flipping a dagger through their fingers. Heavy RP players raise the bar by connecting all these elements, often at the same time:

Thank you for repairing my armor, blacksmith. *slides a few gold coins across the counter*

The look of a character is perhaps the easiest and most often roleplayed item in MMORPGs. Being that it is also one of the primary game mechanic elements does much in the way of making it so, and this also makes it a bit more difficult to divide into levels of RP. The vast majority of players are constantly on the lookout for equipment and clothing upgrades, unless you are roleplaying a character who just isn't at all concerned about such things. Some things I know more serious roleplayers do to handle their RP look include having more than one set of armor or clothing. They will have gear to give them an exclusive look when attending a party or celebration, such as a wedding. They may also switch out their combat and adventuring gear for something more comfortable when in town, or when riding their mount. Even something simple as donning a lucky hat when fishing is a sure sign of a roleplayer.

A few words on my own feelings about the levels of RP. Personally, I say, you're either roleplaying, or you're not. And here's the kicker: everyone playing a roleplaying game is roleplaying. Remember that the next time someone blatantly makes fun of RP, and they are playing the same game, and / or on an RP realm. No one bought and continues to pay on a monthly basis for any MMORPG to be themselves in game. Everyone creates a character so they can 'be' that race in game, or so they can wield those spells or weapons in game, or so they can see and experience the lands, atmosphere, and ambience of the game through their created avatar. Everyone wants to 'play' a certain 'role' in each of these games, things they cannot or will not be able to encounter in real life. All these are fundamental aspects of fantasy, and why we roleplay.

As stated earlier, all of these examples are very subjective and completely open to debate. That's one of the reasons I am writing about it and all other topics here in public. I only have almost twenty-eight years of RP experience, and while I don't know everything, I do know a few things. What ways do you see light, medium, and heavy RP divided? Discuss, and role on!

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Postby earthwulf » Thu Feb 28, 2008 2:51 pm

I'm gonna throw the PnP styuff here, too.. I'd like to find more, if anybody knows of any boards that run games.
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