I read an excellent rant on Dundee’s site (not the MoB Dundee, the RCGUO Dundee) about “roleplayers”. Damn if this doesn’t bother me about as much as it seems to bother him. After a boring weekend which consisted largely of replacing my car and wondering if it was worth it to ever attempt to run an RPG campaign ever again, this one just set me off. I started typing one of my typical super-long boring Mu replies to his message board, when I realized SitePowerUp would probably cut it in half, so here it is.The RP Nazi attitude is prevalent everywhere, even (and most disturbingly so) in the realm of pen and paper RPG’s. The problem lies in the term, “roleplaying”. It would seem pretty simple to define… “playing a role”. But people add all sorts of nonsense to the definition based on their experiences, what they’ve read in some really terrible fantasy fan fiction, and their own delusions. This is where the problem happens… people enter an “RPG”, whether it’s some tabletop thing, EQ, even UO, with an expectation that (1) it is a roleplaying game, and more importantly (2) it will fit perfectly with their idea of what roleplaying is. These people wear the badge of “roleplayer” proudly, and gives anyone who even thinks about roleplaying a bad name.
The primary issue is tolerance. I mean, come on, everyone needs to say something out of character once in a while, or maybe they just feel like it. How hard is it to just answer someone when they ask, “Where can a level 3 gain some experience and a little money?” Is everyone in the damn game world so incredibly shallow that they can’t talk about something that’s not listed on Stratics? I suppose a hardcore RPer might insist that we create a whole new mythos to talk about when we’re not thee-thouing each other to death. (“Forsooth, didst thou catch the wandering minstrel performance of Kuchsan and Melota? Har har, how jovial!” *the two RPers then enact a scene from the made-up show, which no one understands*)
As for “ruining the experience”, this sort of claim usually comes from someone so self-centered and arrogantly righteous about his own view of what roleplaying ought to be that their play mainly consists of running around looking for “RP criminals”. There should be a harassment call button for when one of them starts badgering you about messing up their pretty mental picture. These individuals should be locked up in tiny personal cells, where they can pretend the world is however they imagine it should be, without bothering everyone else. Granted, there are some cases of people running around spouting nonsense in all caps, but you might as well treat them as insane people and just keep your distance. This advice can also apply to the RP Nazis… ironic eh?
So then, how does one roleplay in an OCRPG without sucking completely or relying on some cartoony world-image that only a writer of bad swords and sorcery fiction would appreciate? It’s really simple, in my experience. Just enter the world as your weakling, neophyte new character. Give him a name, maybe a backstory which isn’t too ridiculous (i.e., stay away from claims of a great destiny or such crap… leave that stuff for when you play Fallout), and just act like yourself. Walk around town. See if people are willing to talk to you. Generally, people tend to react the best towards other players who speak in plain, legible English, with a minimum of unnecessary Olde English trappings. As you progress, your character’s story is shaped by his experiences. (If you are really a conniving bastard, you can turn these experiences into dumb stories on a web page to gain a modicum of fame amongst your fellow players.) As you meet different kinds of people, just accept that they play the way they play, and if it’s too annoying for you, just don’t play with them (or kill them, depending on the situaton and presence of a PK switch). Before you know it, you are “roleplaying”… playing the role of your character, created by you and shaped by his encounters and interactions. Easy, and no need to be a dick about some imaginary world you think everyone should conform to.
From here, it’s surprisingly easy to play a character who is significantly different from yourself. For example, on Catskills my low budget character experiment was a backwoods hick bowyer who spoke with a southern drawl. “Ah gots no need fer these, erm, ‘regs’… mebbe you kin use ‘em. Jus’ make me one o’ those hams er somethin’.” This guy was in character almost all the time, only slipping out when someone asked a question that required out of character language. Big deal. Cats Mu was well-liked by most of the RP-heavy Catskills population (probably partly because he was so obviously non-macroed… zzz). The only people who took offense at his style of roleplaying were… you guessed it… RP Nazis. They weren’t even pissed at any OOC comments, they just thought the southern drawl got in the way of their precious, ever-fragile worldview. Boo hoo.
Is it impossible to roleplay in an OCRPG? No. It is possible to roleplay as well as you can around a table with some friends? No. The tools are different, the environment less dependent on on’s imagination, the interface with other people too clumsy. Given these factors, though, you can still play your character to an extent which will not disturb the illusion of fantasy for most people (except for RP Nazis, who are hopeless), which will allow you to interact with a wide variety of people, and most of all, to have more fun. And ultimately, this is what these games are supposed to be for. If you think the ultimate goal of an OCRPG is to accumulate wealth and power so that you can “make a difference” in the game world, uh, you probably have serious problems. I don’t know about most of you, but I want to have a good time as often as possible. If a limited approach to roleplaying will help me do it (and it has, in my experience), then I’m all for it. And if some RP Nazis want to hassle everyone around me about the way they speak or ask questions, well, they’re RUINING IT FOR EVERYONE!