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Guide to Roleplaying

by Jarok

These are some ideas on the basics of role-playing, whatever follows is most likely biased and may not work for you. Whatever problems this document has do not really matter, because the only way people are going to truly learn to role-playing is by doing it.

I just hope these ideas might help newcomers get started and give experienced role-players something to think about. If you disagree with any of this, great! Submit something argueing a different method. Great thanks are due to Lorelei for her advice and editing.

Being in character

What is that?  I think it is a mouse.
I never forget a face, but in your case I will make an exception
Groucho Marx

This is probably the easiest part of role-playing, the sine qua non. If you're not in character, you're not role-playing. Of course, to be in character one first needs to have a clear idea about who your character is.

Creating a character is an extended process. The initial character you create during character creation is only a rough sketch. One of the primary goals of your role-playing should be to flesh out this sketch and create a whole person. There is no way to know in advance how your character will react to every situation as the list of possible situations is infinite. As you take your character in different situations, however, you will add bits and pieces to them, deciding on the spot about how they would react to this thing or that. Other players will help by asking you questions that you would never have thought of in a million years, forcing you to fill out parts of your character that you didn't even know were there.

Creating a believable character is tricky process. It helpful to remember that real people aren't consistent, that we have bad days and good days. Some of us even have beliefs and facets of ourselves that conflict. A fearsome orc warrior could also be an avid gardener, for example. Don't limit your view of your character to those things likely to come up in an average conversation either. While you may never speak of a given habit or incident, it subtly informs all of your role-playing, making the character seem more alive.

The most important part about being IC, however, is maintaining a balance between you and your character. It is good to put some emotional distance between your character and yourself. Always remember that the successes and setbacks of your character aren't yours. This isn't a game with winners and losers, it's a form of improvisational theater. Your character can fail miserably and have their life completely destroyed, while the rest of us will congratulate you on how well you played it.

Playing well with others

What makes role-playing wonderful is the interaction with the other players. A good role-playing session is a cooperative enterprise. It requires that all the players work together to create a scene. Because players do not go into a scene with the same ideas, everyone in a scene has to work to maintain the scene's equilibrium. By this it is meant that each player should try to balance their desire to push forward their own agenda with the right of the other players to express themselves and promote their own ideas.

Some of the worst role-playing occurs when a player goes off on their own, acting without respect for the other players' ideas. For example, I've seen a character emote that they jumped up, ran across the square, and plunged a dagger into someone's back. Such behavior is obviously ridiculous. I'm not saying that you can't do something that is detrimental to another character, but it needs to be done in concert with that player.

Goals and the art of being proactive

There are multiple levels of goals when you role-playing. First and most basic are the character's goals. The character may want power, love, money, revenge, a warm place to sleep. These are fairly easy to come up with and act out. Second, and more interesting, are your goals as a player. Rp'ing the character well is the most obvious of these, but there are an infinite number of others. These tend to be centered around exploring the character and putting the character in interesting situations. Finally, there are goals for the mud as a whole, the basic plot lines and places we want the world to go. Most of these are set by the Imms but sometimes the actions of your character can shift the whole world, bringing different factions into alignment and creating wonderful role-playing opportunities for everyone.

One of the signs of good role-player is that they don't wait for any of these goals to fall into their lap. Instead they create situations for role-playing instead of waiting for them. This is easy to say but fairly hard to do. Here are some examples of what one could do to spark role-playing:

Lose something and see how many people will help you to find it. Find a lost object and try to return it to its owner. Have a vision or a dream and try to convince others to join you on a quest. Lose all your money gambling and go ask another player for a loan. Realize that you are broke and try to get a job...or start a business on your own.

The common thread here is that you are making up a tiny bit of the plot, rather than just reacting to everyone else. This is not to say you should ignore the rest of the empire and live in your own little plot world, but that you can balance action and reaction to create realism. One of the telltale signs of a good role-player is how well they weave their plots and ideas into those of the rest of the mud.

Jarok from Aarinfel mud, which is a strong role playing mud set in the time of elves and dwarves.