Tips for Effective
Roleplaying
Compiled by Malkav @ Twilight MUCK
(twilight.tigerden.com 6010)
Based on suggestions, comments and questions from the users, helpstaff and wizards of Twilight MUCK



Okay, you've got yourself a well-defined character. Your abilities, weaknesses and personality are sculpted out, either on paper or in your mind. So now you're about to thrust this work of art into a world full of dozens of other characters, constructed with equal care, and run by other players. Interaction and conflict will ensue. So what do you do to make this role-playing (RP) experience a success for everyone involved?

This is a tricky situation. On Twilight MUCK, there is no active gamemaster. The rules are minimal. So how do the players work together to make the RP between their characters fair, fun, and effective?

This document (I hope) will give you a few principles and a few guidelines to remember to help.

 

Principles

You are creating a story. This is the most important principle to remember. By your character's interaction with others, you're defining relationships, conflicts, and striving towards a resolution, through the course of the plot. On MUCKS, we call these plots tinyplots (TPs). Keeping this in mind, it's easier to understand that the object for you, the player, is not to make your character "win" against her opposition (though your character may want to win), but to make for an interesting, engaging story.

You are here to have fun! It's amazing how often people forget this. Twilight MUCK is a form of recreation. You're supposed to be enjoying yourself. If you keep getting your character into messes that you don't enjoy, it's time to rework how you play your character. We want everyone to enjoy himself here.

Every other character has a player too. And with that player comes her own desire to have fun, and her own concept of where the story might lead next. Be flexible. Think about what you are doing and ask yourself if anyone's going to not like it. While your character (or the other guy's!) might have any form of personality, you as the player should try to be nice to the other players, so that everyone has a good time. Wrecking a home that a player spent six hours building and describing, hypnotizing or coercing a character into a role-played sexual encounter (known as tinysex or TS), or similar activities are things you might want to think twice about, or at the very least discuss the matter out of character (OOC) with the other player(s) involved.

It's also important to remember that these players' concept of their characters may surprise you. For example, a Forever Knight-based vampire may differ from a White Wolf-based vampire. Tossing lamb's blood on a White Wolf vampire won't harm him. Sorry.

The most difficult situations are when systems conflict. An AD&D cleric can turn the undead with a strongly presented holy symbol. White Wolf vampires don't give a rip about holy symbols, and many wear crosses themselves. So which system overrides? Well, find compromise. Decide, for example, that the True Faith rule of White Wolf applies, and the cleric has the ability to scare off the vampire. In general, find the solution that makes the most sense for all concerned.

Respect the game in progress. This means that your character shouldn't turn everything on its ear all of a sudden. Give other chars a chance to do their own role-playing. Don't "control" the situation. As in real life, most circumstances are beyond individual control and how you RP should reflect that.

Violence can hinder roleplaying. More than that, innately violent characters tend to meet an untimely end early on. If you want a character to last a while, don't pull a gun on everyone who pisses you off. In the real world, warriors may receive more accolades than diplomats, but in RP, the mark of the best role-players is the ability to defuse a hostile situation without the use of force. Moreover, some of the best TPs are ones where manipulation, negotiation and intrepidity are the weapons of choice, rather than guns, bombs and blades. On a more basic level, you're operating in the equivalent of a real-world city environment, and you have the police to deal with -- and if you're supernatural, there are far more sinister forces out there that can effectively "disappear" your character if you rouse suspicion.

Guidelines

Make open-ended actions. The object is to control your actions, not the effects of them on others. If you're in combat, and you're going to attack your opponent, there is a right way and a wrong way to do things. Here are some examples of the right way:

>Remy fakes a left at Owen's head, and throws a right at Owen's stomach.
>Iria leaps at Fox to try and tackle her.
>Felix slashes with his katana at Hobbes' throat.
>Manfred squeezes off two shots at Gisselle's back with his handgun.

And here are some similar poses done the wrong way:

>Remy fakes a left at Owen's head, and throws a right into Owen's breadbasket, knocking the wind out of him.
>Iria leaps at Fox and tackles her to the ground.
>Felix slashes with his katana, slicing Hobbes' throat.
>Manfred squeezes off two shots with his handgun, sending hot lead ripping through Gisselle's back and out her chest.

Making actions like these is known as powergaming.

The distinction is to let the other player determine what happens to his character. This is important.

And what do you do if you get someone who poses something like this:

>Twinkie slashes with his broadsword, decapitating Sunny.

and you don't think being decapitated is an appropriate thing to happen? Well, respond with:

>Sunny ducks Twinkie's swing.

Respect reality. If you're holding a six-shot revolver, you have to remember that you need to reload before firing a seventh shot, and that reload may take a bit (especially without a speed-loader!). If you're firing a pistol, squeezing off eight shots in a second is beyond what the pistol is capable of doing, even if you possess the superhuman speed to do it. If you have the strength to pick up and throw a stone statue, the structural integrity of the statue may not be strong enough to sustain the G-forces required to throw it without breaking. In short, while your character may have the ability to do something, the tools she's using may not be cooperating.

If you engage in violence, be ready to suffer the consequences. This includes being killed if you end up being outnumbered, overpowered, or outmaneuvered. (On the other hand, you can always make new characters if you do so). If you don't want to chance it, have your character seek escape rather than engage in combat.

This rule also applies to most nasty actions: deception, theft, fraud, adultery, whatever. There are going to be short and long term consequences of these things and your character will have to endure them. You are going to have to live with your mistakes in real life, likewise your character has to live with his. This is what makes for believable and engaging stories.

When in doubt, inquire OOCly. If you are getting confused about what's happening, or if you want to ask another player a question about where she wants to go with the RP or TP, then make an out of character inquiry to the other player. This either means dropping out of character completely (using the OOC command), talking, and going back in character (IC) using the IC command to resume the RP, or by whispering or posing a question prefaced with "OOC", example:

You whisper, "OOC>What caliber bullet did you just shoot at me?" to Elea.
Elea whispers, "OOC> Rock salt shotgun blast." to you.

Don't retcon unless you have to. Retconning is the practice of "erasing" a role-played scene and effectively pretending it never happened. Its proper use is when a mistake is made by the player or when things get too confused to work out. A good example of a retcon would be if you greet someone for the first time, "Hello, Falx." Falx responds, "Who are you? How did you know my name?" Whoops. You forgot your character never met Falx. "OOC> Whoops! Retcon that. IC> Hello, miss. My name is Brannon. What's yours?"

The WRONG time to retcon something is when you're facing the ill consequences of your character's actions. If you chased that Nosferatu into the sewers and straight into its lair, where four of his friends are waiting for you... well, that's what you get for chasing a Nosferatu into his own territory. Don't retcon something just because you don't like it.

The other time when retconning may become necessary is when players develop unresolvable conflicts out-of-character. It does sometimes happen, though we hope this isn't often. In such a case, we hope the players involved retcon only what is necessary to pull their characters away from continued RP with each other, and cause minimum disruption to anyone else's characters. Usually, such separation requires no retconning at all, but once in a while it is necessary.

Don't use OOC information and experience IC. This particular infraction is known as metagaming. The most common way this problem surfaces is when a player has more than one character, and one of her characters learns something important. Suddenly, the other character knows this information and uses it to her advantage. This is a nono. Likewise, if one of your characters gets killed, don't make the new character you create into a "revenge character" to get back the guy who killed your other character.

Don't unbalance the game. Make your character balanced. Don't give him the ability to stomp all over his opposition, toss fireballs large enough to incinerate a skyscraper, or turn a werewolf into julienne fries with a thought. Give your character some vulnerabilities (like vampires' vulnerability to sunlight and fire, faeries' to cold iron, werewolves' to silver). And let your vulnerabilities affect what you do. Don't be invincible. Don't be flawless, even in your strengths. Nobody's perfect. Making characters that are too powerful, or too invulnerable, qualifies as powergaming. Powergaming spoils the RP for everyone. So just don't do it.

Play by the rules. There are a small number of global rules about role-playing, which can be found in the MUCK's news files. But when you make your character, you are making her under the rules that you craft for her. If you make a White Wolf vampire, don't make him of the first three generations. (There are seven living Antediluvians, and six of the effective third generation through diablerie.) If you make a Shadowrun mage, tossing six fireballs will knock you unconscious.

It's also important to not "invent" new abilities or suddenly have a new possession off the cuff. If you're wandering around unarmed, don't suddenly have a gun in your back pocket if you're ambushed. Doing so is a form of metagaming, and a bad thing.




With practice and cooperation, role-playing without a gamemaster or rigidly defined rules can be a rewarding, fun, exciting experience for everyone. Be patient, be courteous, and be understanding. Together we can continue to make Twilight MUCK a great place for role-playing.

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Music: Dreamline by Rush.

This page is Copyright © 1999 Brian A. LaBounty(twilight@tigerden.com). All rights reserved.