Telling Stories: You are responsible
You all know that I absolutely hate the idea that roleplaying is some silly thing that has no consequences or stresses. This would be because it’s absolutely not true, and it’s harmful to everyone trying to roleplay with you, but it has even further reach than that: it destroys the idea that you have some responsibilities to your fellow roleplayers. And you do. You have several responsibilities. There are things that you should do when you are roleplaying that obligate you.
Obviously, you’re just trying to have fun. But just like organized PvP or raiding or any other sort of regular activity, that does not mean the fun is without some level of responsibilities. So let’s talk a little bit about what your responsibilities are simply as a roleplayer, even if you’re not running a whole lot of large-scale events or involving everyone you meet in storylines. Just as a roleplayer interacting with other people, it’s reasonable to assume that you can be responsible about certain things.
You can play whatever you want to when you’re roleplaying. Seriously, much as I said two weeks ago, as has been said elsewhere, I can’t tell you that you’re wrong for playing a half-vampire half-elf half-demon half-fae half-robot. It’s your game, dude, your character might be super cool, and while I’m not obligated to play with you if I think your character is too far out there, there’s about a thousand miles between that and saying “you can’t play this.”
That having been said, you do owe it to me to at least be moderately up-front about your five-half keyword phrase there.
I’m not saying that every conversation has to start with that discussion. (“My name is Kieran Featherwind, and I am a registered potential Mary Sue.”) I’m saying that you do owe it to your other roleplayers to give them the necessary information to determine whether or not they want to hang out with you. You can play whatever you want, other people can choose not to play with you, but it’s kind of a dick move to specifically pretend that you aren’t in questionable territory.
Play whatever you want and however you want. Just let others know.
Don’t stomp people’s feelings
I’ve talked a lot about unintentionally hurting the feelings of others. That will happen. You can’t prevent it. Assuming no malice is meant, there’s not much more to be done. You accept that it happened and you move on.
It is also possible to intentionally hurt someone’s feelings, though. Which is incredibly douchey. And yes, I’ve seen people do this, usually on the basis of “well, they deserved it” or “they need to toughen up a little bit” or something similar. If you think any of that is defensible, kindly just… stop. That’s not all right. You are not someone’s parents, and even if you were, that would still be inexcusable behavior.
No one should go into roleplaying worried about whether or not someone is going to just decide to hurt them. Yes, it happens by accident sometimes, and when it can’t be prevented, well, it can’t be prevented. Accidents happen. But doing it because you want someone to hurt is beyond cruel, and it probably indicates that you shouldn’t be allowed to play with others. Or with small animals. Roleplaying is not an opportunity to make people upset without consequence for yourself.
Be available (when you say you will be)
Do I even need to say this? If you say you’ll do something at five PM, be online and ready at five PM. This is beyond basic. This is the minimum level of respect for other human beings.
Real life happens, sometimes you have to change plans at the last minute. Sometimes you have a long day at work and you forget about what you had agreed upon, or you wrote the wrong time. But if you consistently can’t be bothered to show up when you said you were going to be there, then either you don’t want to roleplay with someone or you think your schedule and whims are more important than those of other people. That’s simply not the case.
Well, maybe if you’re, like, the President or the Pope or something. But I kind of doubt that.
As I have said elsewhere, when you are roleplaying you are trading away the possibility of progress in exchange for entertainment. You’re saying that for at least a little while you’re going to act out an impromptu play and weave a story with other people. That’s really great, and it’s really fun, and I love roleplaying. Obviously.
But there’s a certain sort of player – for our purposes, let’s call him Kyle. Kyle is eager to get involved in roleplaying. He’ll urge people to roleplay with him. He shows up for events. And yet Kyle’s character is boring, it’s quite possible that Kyle himself is boring, and roleplaying with Kyle turns into an exercise of sitting around and trying to carry a conversation entirely by yourself without any motivation to do so.
In short, Kyle is a jerk. Don’t cry for him. And don’t be Kyle. No one expects you to have a personal three-ring circus going for every single roleplaying event that you show up for, but do the bare minimum to at least strive for entertainment value and interesting developments. Don’t be boring. Kurt Vonnegut said that one of the goals of writing was to use the time of a complete stranger in such a fashion that it was not waited; the same applies for roleplaying.
Keep things out
Roleplaying is a tool to help you work through your issues in exactly one set of circumstances: when there is a therapist there to guide you through the process. The rest of the time, you are there to play with other adults who are not necessarily just there to help you work through your issues and should not be treated as such.
I’m not saying that there’s no space to bring in stuff that’s going on in the real world, just that it needs to be done with a delicate touch and as a way to help focus your character portrayal rather than as a trick to wrap your real problems in circuitry and ethernet cables. If you’re jumping into a game after a fight with your spouse, you should not immediately start dragging that into your roleplaying and asking your friends to take sides. If you want to portray a romantic spat, that’s fine, but it should be something that flows from the roleplaying you’re doing and feels natural.
Sometimes that means you’re too upset to really roleplay, and that’s fine. That’s even normal. There are times when real life is just too much for me to deal with character drama on top of everything else. But you owe it to your other roleplayers to recognize that rather than treating them like free therapy. Livejournal and Tumblr exist, go get on them if you need to just vent into the open air.
Or handle things better. I don’t know all of your situation.
Next time around, let’s take a look at what you shouldn’t do in character creation rather than what you can’t do. The time after that, let’s talk about roleplaying concisely and providing text descriptions that do what you want.
About expostninjaI've been playing video games and MMOs for years, I read a great deal of design articles, and I work for a news site. This, of course, means that I want to spend more time talking about them. I am not a ninja.
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