Monday, August 5, 2013

Roleplaying - Some Basics

“Opinions are like assholes; everyone's got one.”
-P. T. Barnum.   

I wanted to write a couple of blog entries on roleplaying.  And these articles are my opinion.  Everyone has their opinions on the right and wrong ways to do it.  So, what makes me an expert?  I’ve been roleplaying for as long as I can remember.  Starting with Dungeons & Dragons in my pre-teens, MUDs in their heyday in the 90’s, various MMOs (Everquest, Anarchy Online, Neverwinter Nights), and Second Life.  I’ve seen most styles in my 25 years or so on the ‘Net.

What’s Your Type?

There are a few different types of roleplayers out there.  For the most part, I’ve only seen three major categories.


We’ve all run into them.  The Mmmm’ers.  The masters of monosyllabic communication.  If you’re lucky, you might get a “oh baby u so good”.   I don’t know if they’re so busy with their other hand that typing is just too difficult for them, or what’s going on.  I like to think I was never this bad, but I may have been.  It’s my hope that they just don’t know and want to learn.  Sadly, many don’t seem to improve over time.


What on earth is a para-RP’er?  Let’s break it down.  We know what RP is.  But what’s the definition of para?
 The noun PARA has 5 senses:
1. (obstetrics) the number of liveborn children a woman has delivered
2. 100 para equal 1 dinar in Yugoslavia
3. a soldier in the paratroops
4. an estuary in northern Brazil into which the Tocantins River flows
5. port city in northern Brazil in the Amazon delta; main port and commercial center for the Amazon River basin

I doubt they mean #1.  #2 is highly unlikely.  #3, hmm...maybe.  Not #4 and certainly not #5.

Digging a little deeper, I found:
As an English prefix, para-,  may have any of these senses; it is also productive in the naming of occupational roles considered ancillary or subsidiary to roles requiring more training, or of a higher status, on such models as paramedical,  and paraprofessional:, paralegal; paralibrarian; parapolice

Does a para-rp’er have more training than the rest of us?  No, that’s not it either.  What it means in this case is paragraph.  These folks like a lot of text in their RP.  They are a bit of an elitist group and I personally feel they go too far with this theme.  Rather than typing something like:

Kittin waves. “Hello!  How are you?”

a para-RP’er is more likely to type:

Kittin takes a sip from the cup of tea she had sitting on the table beside her.  Her eyes move from the book and spy you.  With a smile, she quickly puts down the cup and marks her place in the book with a finger, folding it and standing up.  She smiles and offers a hug.  “Hello!  How are you?”

While the second example is far more interesting to read and adds life to a scene, if the typist is a hunt’n’pecker, you may wait 5 minutes to see it.  And since they start everything with an emote, you don’t always get that “Kittin is typing...” message.  

TIP:  If you’re using Firestorm, turn on the option to use : as your emote character.  It has the advantages of being shorter to type (just ‘:’ instead of ‘/me’) and it will show the “Kittin is typing...” message.  Firestorm also lets you do chat bubbles when typing, but not have to show the final message in the bubble.  That way you can see people typing, but your screen doesn’t get cluttered with chat bubbles everywhere.

Everyone Else

So that leaves the rest of us.  I place myself in this category.  I like to borrow a little from the Mmm’ers when appropriate.  I also like to spend the time the para-RP’ers do.  Mostly, I try to keep a balance between the two so that the dialog keeps going.  A typical stream of text from me looks something like this:

Kittin looks up from her book and sees you.
Kittin: Hello!  How are you?
Kittin marks her place and puts her book down, standing and offering you a hug.

I’ve found this style to be more interactive.  The drawbacks are you sometimes step on another’s toes if you dont’ strictly follow the exchange of you say something / they say something.  Overall, I think it’s worth it because no one likes to think they’re being ignored.

In my next article, I’m going to talk about Empathy and Viewpoint.


  1. I'm with you in the last category, although I do worry that my multiple-messages-in-a-row style feels to others like I'm swamping them and not giving them a chance to respond, as they often start typing in response to the first line and I get a response later (once I've paused), where they've clearly shoe-horned several responses (one for each of mine) into the one line.

    The : rather than /me is *gold* though, thanks for that! I emote a lot, although usually not an elaborate description that you'd characterise as the paragraph RP style; however as I mention above, it's frustrating for those I'm playing with when I keep popping out lines even though I didn't appear to them as typing.

    Looking forward to your next post on the subject :-).

  2. The thing that bothers me about paraRP is, well, ok, the time. I get a little bored thank you and don't like how it feels to break up a rp by playing solitaire in another window while I wait for my next cue. But what I MEANT to say is if you give me six lines of information, I may want to interact with the third one, but you've changed the state of the scene by the sixth. Tell me what happens, give me a chance to react and if I don't or am to slow add the next detail. I feel it creates a far more dynamic and natural scene where both players have to share control and focus with the other. Which I think leads to more interesting scenes.