Thursday, March 5, 2009

Roleplaying Successfully in Second Life

The following was written about 6 months ago when I was helping others in SL learn to roleplay in a few RP sims. It may be still floating on a notecard somewhere. If it is, then I am happy because it means the information was important enough to keep in circulation. I feel (as a roleplayer) it is important to teach people how to roleplay. It adds spice to any game system and virtual setting.

SL was created as a virtual world for artists and people to gather, create, and make it their own. With a little elbow grease and imagination, just about anything could be created in this environment.

One of the biggest challenges in SL is to create a Role Playing Game. Objects and HUDs hold the scripting to make the combat systems work but even the most primitive role playing Sim can be successful if one element is done properly…. ROLE PLAY! Everyone wants to act out a fantasy but in order to do it effectively in a group environment there are a few simple guidelines that will make it fun for everyone.

1. Create a character background: Write up a notecard with a brief description on who you will be playing. What is your demeanor? Do you have any quirks or fears? Where did you come from? Take the time to read the notecards the Sim owners give you as to the background story of their RP world. These cards will give you inspiration and ideas you can use in your personal stories helping you mix into the local environment. Your personal notecard will serve as a great foundation to your character plus great information to give to the RP hosts so they can help incorporate some of your ideas into the overall storyline. Don’t hand your information out to every player in the Sim… Take the time to act out and talk out who you are to the people around you. This is a great opportunity to role play with other players. Also, if you have written in any character flaws into your notecard, you don’t want everyone in the Sim to know what they are right off the bat …. Some may try to exploit that information which is wrong since your notecard of background information is considered Out of Character (OOC) information.

2. Get in character: SL has soooo many shops and places to go to find not only freebie items but also some very nice costumes, skins and props for a fair amount of lindens. Take the time to make a full outfit of who you think your RP character will look like. For you mysterious types, a good cloak and hood will definitely draw some attention. If you are handy with textures and prims…. Go build something to supplement your character and make yourself truly unique. Be mindful of your weapons, particle effects and spells. Some RP Sims work off a special combat meter system and only allow certain items for the sake of fairness. Be sure to read the Sim's combat guides for more information on this.

3. Learn a few gestures and use emotes! In an RP, you are essentially an impromptu actor walking about on a large stage with other actors. To play your part and to help others be convinced of the role you are trying to convey, emote often and have a few neat gestures handy for visual appeal. In a medieval/ fantasy RP Sim, I would highly recommend at least having 1 salute, 1 bow (or curtsy for women) and a kneel gesture. This will give the illusion of common courtesy to those you meet especially anyone of the Nobility line. It adds character and charm. Of course in a more evil Sim, there are other gestures you can use to supplement your characters behavior. Think of how you would greet and meet people out there and see if there is a corresponding gesture you could use. When you don’t have a gesture…..emote! Nothing adds drama and realism to a scene then typing out a one or two line emote of your characters actions. To emote, type /me and then what you wish to do. For example:

/me walks into the room cautiously scanning the room for potential threats.

(on screen)

Joe Blow walks into the room cautiously scanning the room for potential threats.

If you don’t like using /me you can also do something with * or = like **hugs Shelly warmly** or =slashes the orc with his mighty sword =. I found the ** works nicely for this but I have seen others use other symbols too. As long as it makes your emote stand out for the crowd then do it.

4. Keep In Character (IC) and Out of Character (OOC) separate: The biggest poison to the fun of any RP Sim comes from players and developers breaking common IC and OOC rules. I have seen in countless RPGs online, live action and tabletop where someone cannot tell the difference between what is in character and what is out of character. KEEP IC information in character and KEEP OOC information out of IC. How to do this?
A. Use brackets {{ }} when you need to speak out of character in the Sim make use of the brackets so people know to pause their conversation with you or help you with what it is you need. {{ my HUD is not showing the current info. Can someone help me?}} {{ Hey are you ok with this idea? I am not trying to offend}} Please keep idle OOC chit chat to your respective IM group chats or to private IMs, that way it won't take away from the scene. Talking OOC during an event for a long time is like talking at a theatre… you don’t want to be rude.
B. IMs and Group IMs should be limited to important OOC information and NOT used as a tool to pass notes during combat situations. In a roleplaying environment, how can you justify your buddy, 2 Sims away, coming right over to rescue you from the evil villain when he cannot hear you shout that far? It's not cool. If your friend is next to you and is talking to you in IM then you can treat that in character as a whisper but talking in character from several Sims away in an IM is not right unless you have valid justification from the developers of that Sim to do so. Is it written in your character history that you have a scrying magic to "see" battle a Sim away? Do you have telepathy and can hear your friends from several Sims away? If your friends came to your aid while they were out shopping in an unrelated mall then that is wrong. Scrying abilities and telepathy should not be working this way. Another point to note is Developer/GM/DM/Council use of IMs and Group IMs. This should be used by the hosts of the Sim for crowd control, stop griefers, talk over important implements to storyline. IMs and Group IMs should NEVER be used to gain an unfair advantage over a player for your personal enjoyment… Like with players…. Developers of the Sim need to play fair too or lose their playerbase.
C. What you know OOC is not always what you know IC. In real life we have access to tons of information. Depending on where you are roleplaying and by what theme, your character may not know all the things you know. Your medieval character would have no clue how to work a computer, play with a phone line and so forth. Your character may know a really cool spell but of course IRL you cannot magically make a pig fly. In your time of playing you will have access to information that is for the betterment of the Sim you are playing in, it may be about your friends or about the overall storyline. Your SL friends who play evil characters may tell you OOC about an upcoming raid idea but IC your character will know nothing about this…. Don’t be a spoilsport and automatically assume your character knows. Work with your friends and peers as to what you "should" know and don’t know. The raid idea could turn out to be a lot of fun for the others involved. Play along and act surprised when it does happen. When in doubt on what you hear… ask. Is this something I should know IC? Is this something I need to keep to myself? This will solve a lot of problems later. Like with every staged event, it's nice to have the insider information but it's also nice to not spoil the ending or outcome for the rest involved. "Hey dude…..that guy is really his father"

5. Don't be God. It's not much fun to have someone come in as the most beautiful, strongest, invulnerable SOB on the block. Whoop-dee-do, you are prince charming **twirls a finger**. If every one comes in like this then the place becomes boring real fast. What makes for great RP is a great hero with an equally great flaw. Being a great villain that convinces the public they are right in their actions makes for very conflicting roleplay because it plays on everyone's morality issues. Have something up your sleeve that makes you unique yet still touchable. If you are a very brave character that saves the damsels, perhaps you have a flaw that makes you afraid of snakes. Maybe your ultimate villain has a soft spot for truffles, who knows, but some of the best played characters have flaws or weird quirks. Write one in! Roleplay that limp! Do something that makes you mortal yet extraordinary. You may not be the best looking character but maybe it is your charisma and leadership that wins the crowd.

6. Don’t always hold the spotlight. Remember….SHARE! Everyone has a story. Everyone has a part to play. If you see a chance for a friend or even a new RPer to shine, help them along. Help them play out their daring search attempt. Encourage others to interact and speak (if their character speaks). Don’t hog all the attention because it will surely drive people away if they see that there is no opportunity for personal progression or involvement. In every theatrical play, there are leading parts but without a great supporting cast the whole thing will flop. A RP Sim is a constant running play and all the characters in it will have a chance to make it evolve… let them have that chance.

7. Don't be your healer's favorite visitor. Yes there is battle and there will be a chance for everyone to act out some great wound they received but don’t try to always go for an Oscar moment with every battle wound. Having the same character come in every week with some new wound or affliction gets old. Ok last week you were blind? Oh this week you broke your leg? What? You got poisoned this week? You do that in a Drow society you might get your character permanently dead since this would be a major sign of weakness. I have seen this in several game systems and the term used here is "attention whore" they are people that come up with new afflictions when they feel they are not getting enough attention. Stop it. Its not always fun for the rest of the populace.

Thank you for reading this guide and I do hope it helps you get off to a good start in the RP environments.

((for more on Second life, visit their website at ))

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Books with Sound Advice for D&D

Greetings and Merry Met

I have found two books recently that can help out when trying to dip your feet into table top RPGS like Dungeons and Dragons. I highly recommend them to the new player but they are also a good read for those who are seasoned players as well.

"Through Dungeons Deep: A Fantasy Gamers' Handbook" By Robert Plamondon
--- This book has some great tips and tricks for both the player and the future Dungeon Master. I was finding tactics in there that gave me some new ideas for a few of my characters. This is a good book for the new player because it gives a few great examples on what to do, what to expect, and some seasonal advice about how to handle yourself in situations. Reading the section for creating campaigns is a help to me since I have a lot of great ideas for running my own adventure but I want to refine what I have into something memorable for my players.

There's a 1982 publishing book that has some outdated material on a few systems that are no longer in existence like Tunnels and Trolls or High Fantasy. If interested in those systems, you may be able to find them on ebay or a specialty store. Good news is the fact that you can find a more recent copy of this book through places like Amazon. I can't tell you if the material is updated or not for the games mentioned but the concepts in this book make it timeless and applicable in any RPG including D&D 4.0.

"Confessions of a Part-Time Sorceress: A Girl's Guide to the Dungeons and Dragons Game" by Shelly Mazzanoble
-- This book was cute. Sound advice from a girly girl who isn't afraid to say she's into shoes but found a flair for fashion with her accessory matched Elven Sorceress. It breaks down everything you need to know to get into a D&D game using layman's terms that targets the female gender of today. Although seasonal gamer girls may find some of her information redundant, there is still a great story mixed with delightful humor that will have people from any background enjoying it. There's even a few munchie ideas in there that will fit in with any crowd. I think my favorite part was her "Top 10 Reasons D&D is Better then Dating". All in all I'd say I was happy to add this book to my collection. If Shelly is anything like her written self in that book, then I would love to meet the lady. She projects in her writing someone with a very fun loving and positive personality.... although I think I be a bit leery of the pink ;')