Monday, 20 May 2013

Teach Me Some Roleplay Basics

When I saw that Strawberry Singh's meme this week was to do a tutorial on something I cried. "But, but....I don't know how to do anything!" I wailed pitifully as my mascara melted and ran down my cheeks. It's true. I'm pretty clueless about computer thingies like drivers, routers, and IP's. I don't know exactly what those things are! I don't have photoshop, I use GIMP for my limited post processing of pictures. I have no idea how to take a screenshot of my computer screen.

Then it hit me. I could cry like nobody's business. I could roleplay. I love roleplay and think roleplayers are amazing. They are by definition the most social people on the grid, because they interact with others ALL the time. There is an etiquette to roleplay and common sense rules that experienced roleplayers follow, no matter what type or style of roleplay they engage in. So here is a very basic tutorial on Second Life text based roleplay.

1. When you go to a roleplay sim, read the rules and the backstory. If they calls for a certain type of dress, comply. If you merely want to observe - and I highly suggest observing before jumping into roleplay - follow the sim rules for observers. Roleplay sims are typically immersive environments and it's just common courtesy to respect their right to keep it that way. If you don't like the backstory for some reason or find the premise offensive, just leave and look for a roleplay environment that makes you more comfortable. They're out there.

2. Pay attention to the style of roleplay. By this I mean one-line roleplay - where each post is a quick line of text; paragraph (often called para) roleplay - each post being a carefully crafted and descriptive paragraph; and my favorite - semi-paragraph (semi-para) roleplay - which combines the two. None of these styles of roleplay are wrong, but people have definite preferences and tend to prefer to play with others with the same preferences. If you're new to roleplay, you'll quickly learn which style you prefer by experimenting with all three.

3. In character and out of character are terms that are shortened to IC and OOC. Most roleplay sims have similar rules about OOC postings in open chat. Open chat is for IC. IM's are for OOC unless you need to say something to a group that is assembled to roleplay. To make it clear to everyone that you're making an OOC comment, double parentheses are typically used ((like this)). If you are observing at a roleplay sim and most of the posts in open chat are OOC, then you may want to look for another place to roleplay.

4. Once you've chosen a roleplay environment that suits you, choose a role and build a back story for your character. You should speak with a sim administrator about the roles available, but what you do with the role is up to you. Accept feedback from the administrator about your back story with good grace. He or she probably has a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn't in that particular sim. If you want to be a 20 year-old princess from a far away land who has run away from an evil and aged royal fiancee, fine. But if every female roleplayer comes in wanting to be a variant of that same princess, and no one ever wants to be a saucy serving wench whose penniless parents need to be supported by her meager wages, then consider that other idea. Roleplay is more interesting when there is variety.

5. So, after all that observing and creating your character, you're ready to play. Have a plan and a direction you want your character to go in, but stay flexible. Roleplay isn't a novel written by a single author. It's a subtle dance between multiple players. You need to pick up on signals from other roleplayers. For instance, if you decide you want an in character rivalry with another player, explore that idea through your postings. A good roleplayer will pick up on your idea and may be delighted to engage in that rivalry. Or they may not, because their character just doesn't roll that way. Don't be discouraged, try something else. The most popular roleplayers are players who are generous with their storylines, bring others into them, and participate in furthering other players' stories.
6. Learn what godmoding is and avoid it. Godmoding is dictating the actions of another player in your post, or refusing to accept the consequences of roleplay. I think it's easiest to understand through example. In the first example:  
  • Dolly gives Ayla a tight little smile as her eyes fall on the fragrant peach pie, still warm from the oven. Without considering her action, she picks up the pie, weighs it in her hand and reaches over the small table, grinding its peachy stickiness into Ayla's surprised face. 
That's godmoding. Ayla has no chance to react before there's warm sticky pie in her face. In addition, it isn't Dolly's job to tell Ayla that she's surprised. Instead, Dolly should have posted something like this:  
  • Dolly gives Ayla a tight little smile as her eyes fall on the fragrant peach pie, still warm from the oven. Without considering her action, she picks up the pie, weighs it in her hand and reaches over the small table, aiming the flaky pastry straight at Ayla's face.  
See the difference? Now Ayla can react. She can throw up her hands to protect her face, duck under the table, or even accept that she's going to have a face covered in peach pie. It's up to her.

The other example of godmoding - refusing to accept the consequences of roleplay - is less common but more infuriating when it does occur. Let's use the pie example, and this time we'll make Ayla the godmoder:
  • Dolly gives Ayla a tight little smile as her eyes fall on the fragrant peach pie, still warm from the oven. Without considering her action, she picks up the pie, weighs it in her hand and reaches over the small table, aiming the flakey pastry straight at Ayla's face.
  • Ayla quirks a brow. As soon as she sees the gleam in Dolly's eye she draws a wooden shield from her apron pocket, blocking Dolly from hitting her in the face with pie.
Wait a minute! She had a wooden shield in her apron pocket? Are you kidding? Those are two simple examples of godmoding. Just don't.

7. One last basic rule that may be obvious, but is often flouted - take turns posting. Once you post, your roleplay partner begins to craft a response. If you then post again before they have a chance to respond, they have to stop, read the addition to your post, maybe erase what they posted and incorporate the new material you provided into their response. That is very frustrating with two players. Imagine six players in a single scene all posting willy nilly. It's chaos and doesn't work. Experienced roleplayers often work out an order of posting and stick to it. Wait your turn, even if you think of something brilliant to say!

Well, there it is - the basics of roleplay. If it sounds like too much trouble, then roleplay probably isn't your thing. That's okay. But if the idea of telling a story through interaction with others makes your creative juices flow, give it a try. I hope I was a little help to someone who has an interest but wasn't sure how to get started.

Now excuse me while I try to figure out what an OS might be.


Izzie's - Mascara Tears + Redness Tattoo more intense
Izzie's - Sad Eyes *brown*
One Bad Pixel Cuffed Denim Shorts Taupe
Baiastice_Lari Halter Neck Top-leaves coral
Pure Poison - Leah Necklace - Gold
Slink Mesh Hands (av)
TRUTH HAIR Lotus - Gingers02Fade
Glam Affair - Lilith - America 05 Red

The partially seen Cheeky Pea sofa and Alouette bookshelf are available at Catnip Carnival.


  1. That was really really informative. I had no clue about any of this stuff and even though I am not really a role player I realized some things about godmodding and stuff when I'm just know...sometimes...for no reason whatsoever. *coughs* :P

    1. Oh you mean - ummm... well *coughs* That's roleplay too!

  2. I'd love to add one of my own (as I did on plurk :p)

    - If you see a roleplay in a public area that is already in progress feel free to join in... but use common courtesy. Ask somebody in IM if it's ok and then wait at least one whole cycle of posts before you jump in. Make sure you know the order, or at least know who you are before and after. The more you watch the better because you'll get an idea of where the story is in that role play.

    Also, if you do jump in and find that your post is ignored completely by everybody (this is rare), post a second time on your turn. If you're ignored again move on. Usually this happens if the group are not interested in adding somebody or are too involved in the story line to notice. Don't take it personally.

    Sorry, I don't explain things as well as Dolly.

    1. Thanks for adding that comment. It's an excellent addition!

  3. I have never really been one to role play but if I ever do get into it, I WILL be using this page as my go to for the basic guidelines LOL it's so very informative and helpful!

    1. I'm so happy you found it informative!

  4. Aprilmae eyes Dolly's hand as it slid across the table and couldn't help but grin to herself. Knowing her friend Dolly so well April thought, "Ohhh this is has the makings of a sticky mess". So just in case that pie did fly out across the table (as it has done before), April casually scoots her chair back a fraction just enough to be out of arms reach. "So, lovely weather we're having, eh Ayla?"

    Adding to that RP advise that even though you can read Dolly's words you really can not read her mind.

    Great post, Dolly. I miss RP too.

    1. Another great point about godmoding! No mind reading! I could do a whole blog post on that alone! LOL

  5. Thank you for a great RP tutorial! My favorite used to be para style simply because I got to fold heaps of laundry while waiting for the other to post (thats top secret lol) ~

    1. I always found para style roleplay to be exciting, too. My only caveat is not to respond to a simple greeting with a paragraph that takes 10 minutes to post!

  6. RP is one thing I've never done in SL. I've never even visited a RP sim - I was always afraid I would be intruding. Now that I understand the etiquette, I'll add it to the list of things I need to check out.

    Thank you!

    1. I'm really glad I could help a little! Thanks for telling me!

  7. And then there are the other examples of a poor RP response on Ayla's part in blocking the RP, such as
    1. "Ayla quirks a brow and yawns, knowing that the anti-violence shield she erected over the room would stop the pie from ever reaching her." [said anti-violence shield being invented with this post]
    2. "Ayla turns to the man who just walked in the room and smirks at his unusual mode of dress. 'Little cool out for the metal codpiece look, ain't it?' she purrs." [ignoring the other player's post entirely]

    1. LOL At least the Ayla that I know would never respond poorly. The first response would stop roleplay entirely. The second, well - she had her chance to block the pie in the face! Too late now!