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Guidelines for Role-playing

Neshomeh February 5, 2017 User blog:Neshomeh

I'm gonna chuck some thoughts up here just to start getting organized. It will probably change dramatically. I'll put it up for discussion when it's in a state to be worth discussing. {= )

What Is Role-play?

In order to do something well, it is crucial to understand the purpose of what you are doing. In the case of role-playing, that purpose is to create a story in cooperation with other people.

Role-playing isn't quite the same as co-writing. Role-play can be more or less improvised, but is generally more improv than plot. A role-play also has as many main characters as there are players, whereas a co-written story must focus on a select number, like any other story.

In order to work, a role-play must be enjoyable for everyone taking part in it. It is crucial to remember that you are not the only one who should be having fun, and that you have a responsibility to the other players to help make sure they're having a good time, too. That may mean letting your character step out of the spotlight sometimes, but it can also mean being willing to engage more if needed. If there are only two players and one of them is doing all the work to move things along, that's no fun.

Key Principles

There aren't a lot of hard and fast rules about role-playing, but there is one:

NO GODMODING/POWER-PLAYING!

This means a couple of things:

  1. No controlling any other player's character(s). You do not decide what they observe, think, say, or do. You also do not decide anything that happens to them physically. There are in-character ways of politely suggesting a response from another player's character, but ultimately it is up to their player whether to go that direction or not.
  2. No meta-gaming. This means that just because you, the player, may know something, that doesn't necessarily mean your character should know it, too. This applies especially to other characters' thoughts and feelings. Their player may provide that information for context and to suggest the best course for other players to respond, but your character should not be reacting to other characters' unvoiced thoughts.
    • Even if you have a psychic character, in most cultures (including the PPC), it is considered extremely rude, if not an outright violation, to read someone's mind without permission. Unless your character is a jerk, they should not be doing this; and even if your character IS a jerk, you should make sure that the other players in the RP are okay with your character doing that before you try it.
    • This also applies to other characters' history and background information. If your character doesn't know their character well, your character shouldn't be talking about anything from their past unless someone has actually told your character about it in-game.

The key concept to understand here is consent. Nothing should happen in any RP without the full consent of everyone involved. (That doesn't mean the characters have to like everything that happens to them, of course.)

Now, consent for many minor things is implied simply by the player choosing to take part in the RP; things that might be expected from the setting and general tone of the game, such as being hit by flying meatloaf in a food-fight or being hit on at a bar.

Consent for other, more major things may be obtained through the RP itself. For example, if your character rises, extends their hand, and invites another to dance, and the other character says yes, also rises, and takes their hand, it's pretty safe to assume it's okay for your character to lead them to the dance floor and begin.

Even fairly serious things, like taking wounds, may be agreed-upon in character. You may always aim a weapon, fist, etc. at another character; however, you must always leave room for them to avoid the blow. Aiming at them is asking for consent to hit them. They'll give consent (or not) by having their character get hit (or not).

It is worth noting here that a rule of good improv is "always say yes," which means engaging with a scenario instead of refusing it. To engage is to keep a scene moving forward; to refuse is to stop it dead in its tracks and possibly kill the whole set. In RP context, this means that it's not very fun for other people to play with your character if your character is impervious to everything happening around them. In the PPC specifically, well, we have a word for characters that never get slimed in a food fight or injured in a real fight. {= )

Some very serious things will need explicit, out-of-character consent, though. Anything life-changing for a character needs explicit consent; anything that would change the overall tone of the RP, such as starting a fight in an otherwise quiet room, probably needs consent. It is ALWAYS acceptable to ask questions OOC if you're not sure something is okay. In a more serious RP, there may be almost as much OOC chatter as there is gameplay.

Further Guidelines

  • If you're joining an ongoing RP, do your homework on the setting and any rules the community may have. In the case of the PPC, that's respectively Headquarters and the Constitution. You may find it helpful to observe a session or two before jumping in to get a sense of the tone and etiquette of the room.
  • Don't be that person who puts their character in the darkest corner of the room, only posts one-liners, and rebuffs anyone who comes over to talk to them. It's fine to have a dark and brooding character, but if you don't intend to let them to interact with anyone at all, don't put them in the RP.
  • Also don't be that person who puts their character in the center of everything, whether they're welcome or not, and will not shut up. If you're posting more than everyone else in the game combined, you are doing it wrong.
  • Related to the above, all RPs are turn-based. It may not be necessary to keep to a set turn-order all the time (though the RP may settle into one naturally), but it is rude to keep posting without giving everyone involved a chance to respond. Try to fit your whole turn in one post. If the limits of the medium prevent that, include some sign that you're continuing so people don't jump in before you're done.
  • In a plotless, free-for-all style RP, players and/or characters will tend to divide into small groups. This is fine. As in real life, it's much easier to manage a role-played conversation between two or three people than between six or seven. The more people involved, though, the more important turn-taking becomes.
  • Respect the format of the game. If it's past-tense and third-person, make your posts in past tense and third person. If it's script-format, make your posts in script format.
  • Often, especially in threaded RPs, the person who starts the RP is nominally in charge. That means they get to decide on tone, plot (if any), rules, format, etc., and they should be consulted on any potential changes to the same. They also have an extra responsibility to help things run smoothly and to step in if someone is being left out or if someone is causing trouble. If they want it to be a free-for-all, though, they may say so, and that's fine.
  • You can't always get what you want. Deal with it. If a particular RP isn't working out for you, sometimes the best thing to do is something else entirely. But if you try sometimes, you'll find you get what you need.

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