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The One True Way to Roleplay, Online:


The One True Way to Roleplay, Online:

I haven’t played on a text MUD (or MUSH) since Ultima Online came out. I have spent a year and half or so in the world of Ultima Online. And then I played Baldur’s Gate for a while. Right now I’m in EverQuest and eagerly awaiting the release of Asheron’s Call, Hero’s Journey, Middle Earth and a ‘persistent world’ massively multiplayer version of Freelancer (supposed to be out some six-months after the non-massively multiplayer version).

There’s just not enough free time in the day.

People in Multiplayer Online Games have some very strange ideas about roleplaying. And they got them from people who play roleplaying games. And from MUSHers. Weirdoes ruining the fun for everyone.

Here’s the deal: People are not attracted to roleplaying games with the promise of being able to roleplay. People are attracted to roleplaying games with the promise of being able to pretend they have fantastic powers in a fantastic world.

Difficult to make the distinction, isn’t it?

Let me put it this way:

True Role-Playing: Each character has a personality that is the character’s personality. It doesn’t even matter who plays the character. True Role Players could actually swap characters and the characters would behave the same as they did before being swapped.

What People Do: “Pretend you’re an elf”. That's it. If Grumpy Player’s grumpy Dwarf is being played by Happy Player this week, then it’s going to be a happy Dwarf, instead. This is what non-roleplayers do, in any case. Non-gamers. If you could convince your Uncle Harvey to give RPGs a whirl then he’s going to be Uncle Harvey the Elven Wizard.

What People Do is what people wanted to do in the first place. People go pick-up EverQuest or Asheron’s Call or Ultima Online - not to roleplay, but to pretend that they are, themselves, in a different world and with very different abilities. Joe the Banker is going to be Joe the Warrior.... but still Joe.

You might say, “Fine. That’s still roleplaying. It’s just a different kind of roleplaying. Like method-acting isn’t the same as character-acting, but both are still acting.”

The thing is, thousands and thousand of True Role Players will disagree with you. They will go so far as to Refuse To Play with the normal people. In EverQuest they petitioned the developers (and received) an “RP-switch” so that they could distinguish between “people who roleplay and people who don’t”.

You type “/roleplay” and the game tells you, “You are now roleplaying!”

It’s a riot.

Something else True Roleplayers do: They play evil people. Which means they do Evil Things. They do Evil Things to other True Roleplayers and the do Evil Things to Non-roleplayers. And the non-roleplayers, if they get a chance, ask, “Just why are you being such an ass?” They are told “I am roleplaying!”


True Roleplaying enters into the picture with a paper-n-pencil RPG because the GM must play the role of all the NPCs. And all the NPCs cannot be Uncle Harvey. Perhaps over the years every single person in your weekly group has GM’d a game at some point, or maybe you even take turns. Sick of being “Joe the Warrior”, you want to try something new and be “Someone Else the Warrior”.

That’s fine. Heck, that’s even normal. That’s also why only about 1 person in 10 that ever played a RPG in High School still plays RPGs. They wanted to pretend they were warriors, they didn’t want to pretend they were Someone Else.

That's really what gets to me - more than the "method of roleplaying" is that attitude that it is the Only Right Way To Play. Driakos calls them RP-Nazis and explained it in a post to alt.games.everquest:

Role-Playing Nazis.  I haven't seen as many of these guys as I did in UO, but they are out there.  I like to Role-Play don't get me wrong. I am having trouble RP'ing Daiugen.  One reason is the Snake Pliskan head I picked by accident....  Another is it's hard for me to imagine a karate guy running around an open plain in the middle of a night where he hasn't slept for 9 months beating the crap outta rats and ripping their whiskers off.  It just doesn't lend itself to easily played out fiction.  Additionally Daiugen comes from a character I have already made up in my head, and it's hard to place that character in Norrath.... with an eyepatch.  All of that aside, Role-Playing Nazis are the players who never break fiction, ever.

They aren't even entertaining.  They say all of their words Olde English. They don't crack jokes, even in Olde English.  Basically they are powergamers with an effite attitude.  They never use the /ooc command, they never break fiction.  "/ooc where is the bank?"  They wont talk to you.  You can't even get them to say "/ooc I don't break character ever, so piss off"

They have double standards.  You can RP with these guys for years, and the second you crack a Spice Girls joke they wont talk to you anymore. Yet if a girl comes along she can say whatever she wants and they treat her like gold, so long as she throws out a "oops my kitty cat knocked my drink all over my boobs, AFK" once in awhile.

They aren't as bad as Dewds, but they definately bug me.

Or as we see in this humorous bit from suprachiasmatic nucleus, the attitude of the 'roleplayer' in the story:

Llololynoluynlynlolyn (AKA Lolly) - newbie elf cleric
AdventureDoer - shouting warrior
Shopkeep - shopkeep
Drolololynlokoloyn - roleplayer
Tupacalypse - mysterious stranger

Lolly: Ah, I finally have my Club and first spell! Let's fight.
<Lolly takes two steps>
Lolly: <shouts> Help I am lost!
<Moss rabbit kills Lolly>
Lolly: Hmmm..I had better go buy...
<Moss rabbit kills Lolly>
Lolly:<shouts> I am lost! Someone help me!
Shopkeep - you are inside the armor shop.
Lolly: <types H, A...>
<Lolly attacks shopkeep>
<Lolly dies ... loading>
Lolly: Damn, I have to remember to hit the enter key
Drolololynlokoloyn: Enter key? What's an enter key? You are speaking a strange language. What is an enter key? Enter key?
<Drolololynlokoloyn tells Lolly: Type OOC you bitch. You are ruining my roleplaying environment.>
Lolly: I am sorry. I am a newbie.
Drolololynlokoloyn: Newbie? What is a newbie? What a strange word...newbie...Newbie?
<Lolly runs outside>
AdventureDoer: <shouts> Selling moss armor! 2 plats per piece!
Lolly: Ok...I am now ready to fight. Maybe I should take on a decaying hamster skeleton with my new spell, Turn Undead into Attractive but Inexpensive Christmas Ornaments.
<Hamster skeleton attacks Lolly>
<You must target what you want to attack>
<You must target what you want to attack>
<You must target what you want to attack>
<You must target what you want to attack>
<You must target what you want to attack>
<Hamster skeleton attacks>
<You have periodontal disease>
Lolly: Great, my guild doesnt have quests, let alone a dental plan...
<You must target what you want to attack>
<You must target what you want to attack>
<You must target what you want to attack>
AdventurerDoer: Has anyone seen Star Wars? It ROX! I love Boba Fett!
<You must target what you want to attack>
<You are too close to target>
<You are too close to target>
<You are too close to target>
<You are too close to target>
<Hamster skeleton attacks Lolly for no damage>
<You are too close to target>
<You are too close to target>
Lolly: OH, I need to move closer...
Drolololynlokoloyn: Closer, what is this word "closer." What strange tongue do you speak?
<Drolololynlokoloyn tells Lolly: YOU ARE RUINING IT FOR EVERYONE!>
Lolly: Oh dear...well...
<Lolly moves closer to hamster skeleton>
Lolly: Finally!
<Lolly attacks shopkeep>
<Shopkeep hits Lolly for 200 damage>
<Lolly dies>
Lolly: OOOOoooOOOOooo
Tupacalypse: U SuK.
Lolly: OOOoooOOO?
MarilyNMAnson: Hey..you stole my ingots!

Regardless, the game developers are trying to mass-market a game.

You cannot mass-market roleplaying. Normal people have zero desire to roleplay. Normal people do have some desire to pretend that they are superheros (be it a literal Superhero, a Wizard, a Mythical Warrior or a Vampire - whatever it is, I call it “Superhero” because I haven’t seen one yet in which you roleplay “Bob the Accountant”).

Computer Roleplaying Games do have mass-appeal. You can mass-market a CRPG. That is because CRPGs haven’t got anything to do with Roleplaying. They are called Computer Roleplaying Games because the players control characters with stats-n-skills. Actually Roleplaying - True Roleplaying or Otherwise - has nothing to do with it.

If you make a massively multiplayer online computer roleplaying game, then roleplaying still has nothing to do it.

Particularly the True Roleplayer’s version of it.

Now, in a face-to-face tabletop paper-n-pencil sort of RPG no one ever gave much thought to whether a comment was In Character (“Let’s go to town so I can buy a new sword”) or Out Of Character (“Let’s order a pizza after this encounter”). No one ever gave it much thought because it was Bloody Obvious.

But sometime, a long time ago, some True Roleplayers on a MUD somewhere decided that it was very important to clearly label Out-Of-Character remarks as Out-Of-Character remarks. Type “OOC:” before your comment so everyone knows it is Out-Of Character. “OOC: Phone call, I’ll be right back”.

So as not to confuse anyone into thinking your Character is saying that.

You should even say, for example, “OOC: The Stars just won the Stanley Cup!” and if you don’t put that “OOC” in there, then you have Broken Fiction by having your Character say something very Out-Of-Character.

Even though, yes, it is still Bloody Obvious that the statement was OOC.

I’ve had people say “OOC: Run!!” And to this day I don’t know why that is an OOC statement.

That “Don’t Break Fiction” is big with the online True Roleplayers. Of course we “broke fiction” all the time around the kitchen table. We actually broke into Monty Python skits and scenes from Red Dwarf or The Princess Bride. It was of no consideration whatsoever, but it is So Important in online games that if you so much as whisper your Armor Class where a True Roleplayer can here you, you have Broken Fiction and Destroyed His Gaming Experience, unless you put “OOC” in front of it.

As if this weren’t peculiar enough, it gets worse: These True Roleplayers have completely forgotten that there is, or even can be, a difference between player-knowledge and character-knowledge.

When you power-up into roleplay-mode in EverQuest, it sets you to Anonymous - this prevents other people from seeing your characters race, class and location with a /WHO command.

And why? Well, because their character wouldn’t know that.

But waitaminute... just who is typing /WHO in the first place? The character or the player?


The kicker is, the player needs to know this information in order to find people that he can adventure with - whether they are roleplaying or not. But in order to prevent the character from seeing information that the character wouldn’t normally have, the player is also denied that information. And the player needs it.

But only for True Roleplayers - the very people that ought to best be able to distinguish between player-knowledge and character-knowledge to begin with. These are the ones forced to ask each other, “What class and level are you?”

It’s just so sad.

Meanwhile, the online worlds themselves remain shallow and cartoonish to the point that one has to wonder why anyone would even bother trying to “maintain fiction” or stay in character in the first place.

Shallow how so? Well, let’s take EverQuest. There are no old people and no children. There’s one farm that apparently feeds the entire world, although nothing ever grows there. There’s is a lady in one town that wishes for you to deliver a note to her sister in the mountains. Thousands of people have delivered the note, and yet she still wants you to deliver that note. If you don’t deliver the note, or do, or deliver it twice, or give it to the wrong person... this makes no difference on anything. There is an escaped catman which you must find and kill, bringing back a stolen key to prove you killed him. I have killed that catman maybe fifty time, but he’s still on the loose and every now and then, he still has that key. You can tell when you get close to town by all the corpses of new players strewn all over the place. They are out there bashing rats and snakes trying to “level up” so they can go to fight tougher critters.

In short, it’s absurd. But if you shout “all right! I made level 10!” then someone will shout back, “Use the OOC channel you are RUINING the GAME for EVERYONE!” because you “broke fiction”.

When people ask, “Do you roleplay?” I felt I had to answer with, “That depends on your definition of roleplaying.”

I’ve been told that I don’t roleplay and so I should just go play Quake, because By God This Is A Roleplaying Game.

But I gotta tell ya... I’m sick of the debate. From now on I think I’ll just say, “No, I never roleplay because it’s a CRPG, and CRPGs don’t have anything to do with roleplaying.”

“Now would you like you to meet my (In-Game) wife?”


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