Saturday, December 19, 2009

To be.. or not to be.. and who to be.... that is the question...

I'm agonizing, probably unnecessarily, over the rebirth of a character. What to do, who to be, oh me, oh my?

Well, yes, one might think this would be unnecessarily as I did "kill off" the same character, the adult Marrant Vita, in Deadwood last October.

However, this isn't a case of bringing a character back to life as the same avatar a few months later due to a case of mistaken identity (i.e., the body found in the fire wasn't really Ms. Vita) or the identical twin sister nobody knew she had appears suddenly in Deadwood.

In the case of Deadwood, in March 2010, the town of Deadwood 1879 is being burned down, as it was in real life in the fall of 1879 -- and after a short wait, we'll be re-opened as Deadwood, 1876, the same (but improved our founder says!) beginnings of a mining town with tents and mud and lawlessness our characters walked into two years ago.

Most of us are very excited to be re-living this once again! And many of our regulars who found the town after it had become more tame and established are thrilled to be at the re-opening, too! There's discussion on the Deadwood forum board, as folks decide how to end their character's 1879 stories as most of the town burns down -- will they live or will they die? Will their characters stay in Deadwood or move on? And then after that..... who will those characters be in 1876?

You would think that would be simple -- you'd just be your same character, 3 years earlier. But many are using this opportunity to consider adding to or completely changing the histories, and sometimes the appearances of - their avatars.

And this is where I'm finding myself, with Marrant/Elizabeth. I have other avatars in Deadwood - the legal limit I assure the Lindens who are no doubt scouring my blog - and it's not been a problem to think about changing one from an upstanding citizen to the owner of a brothel, aging another from 7 to 18, and leaving another the same, just bringing him into Deadwood earlier in time than he originally arrived.

But Marrant / Elizabeth, oh my. I'm finding all the difficulties in this that I used to have when I'd think about (before I gave up doing this as a useless exercise) "what-if-I-could-go-back-in-life-and-undo-the-mistake-I-made-when-I-made-that-first-big-mistake-which-I-will-not-go-into-detail-explaining-here-as-you-do-not-need-to-know".

When I would try to do that little "what-if", in retracing my steps there would be people I'd met or decisions made, all kinds of interconnections that led to happy things that would have not happened if I'd made that first fix.

It isn't quite the same with re-doing Marrant and Elizabeth, but almost. Although Marrant was not my first avatar... nor my second... just an alt I built to have a little fun with, she's now my main avatar.

And not only do I like... okay, love... her name, she's my prime builder, and shopkeeper and has a lot of no transfer stuff in her inventory. Sure, sure... she could be the main me, and never role-play in Deadwood at all, that would make sense, though it would break her heart. Okay, so perhaps I'm somewhat emotionally attached to her.

I could get rid of Elizabeth then. She was "born" when I became bored with Marrant's character in Deadwood, but did not want to entirely do away with her. Now I've become attached to Elizabeth as well, so much so that I killed off Marrant's character in Deadwood, but kept Elizabeth.

But I am finding that it's a bit difficult using the same avatar to play two different characters. There's the switch and change, plus the annoying green emoter. And folks who would call Elizabeth "Marrant" as well as prims that do the same ("Marrant Vita sips her delicious cup of tea".. when as we all know, Marrant is long dead"). And you can't be in the same room together, ever, except in a photograph.

The positives, of course, are that you can run into another room to fetch your aunt and emerge a few seconds later to discuss Elizabeth's misbehavior - and you save a ton of linden dollars because you can share everything!

This dual avatar idea was copied from my friend Addison Leigh, who is a brilliant and creative role-player (and I would say this even if she were not a friend). Her adult character had a niece, little Addie, who I met when I first came to Deadwood back in 2007. I was new to Deadwood and new to role-play, and fairly new to Second Life. It took me a bit of time to realize that Addison and Addie were played not only by the same typist, but inside the same avatar.

I've never said I was the brightest light on the street corner.

But I slightly digress.

For 1879, Marrant is taken care of - she's buried in the cemetery, a huge marble monument selected by Elizabeth and paid for from monies inherited by her, stands over her grave. Elizabeth won't die in the fire, nor will any more orphans because Elizabeth insisted brick walls for the inside of the orphanage, buckets of water are in every room and ladders are all around.

For now, what to do with Marrant and Elizabeth in 1876 is my main concern.

One person or two?

If two, mother and child, aunt and niece, friends or foes?

If one, adult or child? Named Marrant (good-bye Elizabeth?)

If adult, wholesome or harlot? Married, widowed, divorced, unwed? (and what about all those Victorian/western children's clothes and toys?)

If child, attached to who and why and how?

And as I agonize and reflect on the possibilities, I'm mildly amused at the worry and effort I'm putting into this.

In any case, this is one hell of a time to be in Deadwood! If you were thinking about visiting, the next few months should be a fun time to make a character and a little life knowing it's short lived.

And being there when it turns back to the beginnings of Deadwood should also be a lot of fun! Check out some of the writings Dio has done on her blog -- she also has some books to offer that give an idea of what fun could be ahead! Read up on old newspapers (Deadwood Free Press) actually role-player's news. And get your long johns from Mlle DuFaux -- she's also going to have some muddy clothing for the rebuild!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Act like a child

I'd wanted to write another bit about child role-playing, this one explaining a bit about how it can be difficult to rp a child in Deadwood, where people are trying to be historically correct. How realistic would it be for a child, especially a girl child, to be wandering the streets alone? Add to that the oddity of timezones in RL and SL -- what if the only time you can sign on to play is 9 p.m. where you are, but that makes it 8 a.m. or 1 a.m. or 9 p.m. in Deadwood?

Other players also have their own understanding of how children should be role-played and role-played with -- we children can get bossed around, sent home, sent to school, lectured to -- even if we are NOT the snotty nosed little kids that drive other players mad. What newer players may not realize as they try to send us somewhere realistic and safe, but where there is no role-play going on (i.e., home, school) is - if we obey (and many adults really expect us to) then we cannot role-play, or not for long. We try to find as realistic ways as possible ways to role-play our way into places and events where children might not be.

But I thought instead of trying to write a long-winded lecture, it might be more fun to put together a long-winded vignette based on actual experiences I've had over the past two years while role-playing children in Deadwood. This only deals with child-to-adult experiences -- others no doubt have their own adult-to-child and child-to-child incidents.

Hopefully this can give folks an idea on how to work with child role-players so they don't end up being isolated either alone or in groups of children only.

Elizabeth carried Faith with her as Alice tagged behind, the two older girls holding small baskets soon to be filled with goods from the Deadwood General Store. Elizabeth marched on down the crowded sidewalk, chin high, nodding politely without stopping. “Excuse me, pardon me, good day, excuse me,” she said in as adult a manner as she could.

“Stay with me, Alice,” Elizabeth said firmly. “Do not lag behind and do not talk to strangers.” Alice said nothing, but grasped Elizabeth’s apron tighter as she scurried to keep up.

Saturdays and Sundays were so much better than week-days, Elizabeth thought. On Saturdays, she could go about her errands largely undisturbed by annoying little queries, interrogations, or condescending commentaries; Sundays were quiet times, in church and then following the Streeters about as social calls were made.

Both days she managed to maintain her feeling of her self as who she knew she was, without the constant irritating interruptions thrust upon her during the week.

Elizabeth could not wait until she turned 16, or even 15, for she noted that girls of that age were treated by adults as young ladies and not helpless children. She was chagrined to note that little boys as young as seven had more freedom than a girl of eleven, left alone to amble the streets, climb trees, run and jump the alleys with little comment from adults other than “boys will be boys.”

As she strode toward the General Store, the two orphans in tow, she reflected on the irritations of the previous week.

While standing on the orphanage porch, a complete stranger had approached and demanded to know where her parents were and why she was out so late.

Elizabeth had struggled with her desire to reply to the adult with some pointed questions of her own such as “Who are you to ask?” and “None of your business” or “Since when is 5 o’clock late.” She refrained from those replies.

She had then wanted to reply by retreating into the orphanage, slamming the door behind her. She also decided this would not be proper in the eyes of Miss Jemima, head of the orphanage, or Mrs. Streeter, her current guardian.

“Are you deaf? Or just rude?” the stranger had snapped as Elizabeth struggled to find a suitable response. The second set of questions found a new series of possible replies spinning their way through Elizabeth’s head, sharp little words dancing pointedly on her lips, struggling to spew out. She was saved from getting herself in sure trouble when the door to the orphanage opened and Miss Jemima’s appeared.

That was Monday.

On Tuesday, heading home for lunch from school, she had been stopped by yet another stranger.

“You! Why aren’t you in school?”

Elizabeth blinked. “I.. I’m going home for lunch,” she said, a bit uneasy.

“Oh? Is your mother waiting? And where is home?”

Elizabeth looked uneasily past the stranger’s shoulder toward the Inn. Mrs. Westland would be inside, alone in the kitchen as the Inn tended to be empty during the day. The stranger looked clean cut enough, but the girl was not sure if she should be informing him of anything. She’d heard many a story of women alone being held up by gun point by strangers.

“I… um…the hotel, downtown,” she said and ran off.

“Hey, you, wait!”

She could hear the sounds of the man’s heavy boots as he pursued her; she ran faster and faster stopping only when she slid through the doors of the hotel, to the safety within. It had not gone smoothly – the man and Miss Cookie had had some harsh words, and Miss Cookie had pulled out a gun. Little Addie had followed her from the schoolhouse and had bitten the man. It had not ended well for either of the girls, or for the man.

On Wednesday evening, she’d been sent on an errand by Mrs. Streeter to pick up a set of new gloves at a local shop. Again, two strangers – two ladies this time – had stopped her in the street.

“Oh, aren’t you the cutest little thing?” one had gurgled at her. “Are you an orphan?”

Elizabeth had blinked, not quite certain what it was about her that had led the woman to ask this – she was certain it was not the usual question one placed when first meeting someone. The girl had looked around, desperate for a familiar face but had seen no one.

“Um, yes ma’am,” she’d replied politely.

“Ohhh,” the lady’s friend had replied, smiling at her friend.

Elizabeth started edging away. “I have to go now,” she’d said.

“You poor little thing!” the first lady had said. “All alone in the world! I bet you want a mommy.” The lady smiled at her sweetly.

“Um,” Elizabeth said. “I’m supposed to get Mrs. Streeter’s gloves. From there,” she pointed toward the clothing shop, and backed away. “Um, but thank you. I am not alone, Mrs. Streeter takes care of me. And Mr. Streeter. Um, I mean she takes care of him. And he takes care of us. And, I have to go. ”

“Wait, wait, don’t go, I can adopt you!” the first lady called, but Elizabeth ran off as fast as she could.

On Thursday, she’d been sitting on the bridge near the cemetery, waiting for Carrie Anne. Her chores were done, school was out and it was a really nice day. She dangled her legs and looked down – the water was so clear, you could see fish swimming in circles. She was in the midst of thinking about the time she and Carrie had pushed that boy in the river, when the sound of a deep voice startled her so much she almost fell in herself.

“Hey, get away from there! It isn’t safe!” Elizabeth turned and saw a man and a woman approaching the bridge. “What are you doing out here by yourself?”

“Um. I’m waiting for my friend.”

“Well, you should wait somewhere else. It isn’t safe here.”

The lady smiled gently at her. “That’s right dear. Why, there are Indians. And people shooting. This just isn’t a safe place for a little girl to be,” the lady giggled. “Unless she’s with a big strong man.”

Elizabeth stared as the couple eyed each other for a moment before turning back to her.

“Someone might kidnap you if they find you out here,” the man said gruffly. The woman nudged him.

“Henry, don’t startle the child,” the woman said. “What’s your name, little girl?”

“Elizabeth. “

“Hello Elizabeth. I’m Cynthia and this is Henry. Come with us and we will walk you safely back to town.”

“Um. I’m supposed to meet Carrie here."

“She can meet you in town, come along now.”

Elizabeth had followed the couple reluctantly back into town where they dropped her off at the empty Inn and told her to stay put. She’d sat patiently waiting for Carrie but somehow they hadn’t met up that afternoon.

On Friday she’d arranged to meet Carrie and a few other children over by the Gem. The whole town was over there watching the fights. Although they weren’t usually allowed in, the children usually gathered in the alley and took turns standing on empty kegs under the window. Most often the adults were too excited or happy to notice the children.

When Elizabeth got there, none of the other children had arrived yet. That was alright with her – she knew they’d show up eventually. She’d gone quietly to the side of the building and crawled up on the keg. She supported herself and leaned against the building, watching the fight inside.

She was so fascinated watching the adults moving around, the men seeming to dance around each other, their fists up in the air as they jabbed at each other while the crowd cheered and jeered, that she hadn’t noticed the woman inside staring at her. She was so busy watching as one man fell down and the other raised his arms over his head while people applauded, that she didn’t notice the lady stalk out the door of the Gem. Elizabeth’s head was plastered against the window, watching the winner helping the loser to his feet when the shrill voice of the woman almost knocked her off the keg.

“What are you doing up there?”

Elizabeth got her balance back just in time, and she turned to see who was being shouted at only to find a red faced woman glaring at her.

“You mean me?” she asked, seeing nobody else around.

“Of course you,” the woman sputtered, her words seeming a bit slurred to Elizabeth. “This isn’t a place for a little girl.”

“I’m not little,” Elizabeth offered. “I’m eleven.”

“Eleven or seven,” the woman barked. “You’re a child. Now get out of here. Go home. If you have one.”

“Er.” Elizabeth paused. “I do, but I’m allowed to be here, long as I don’t get in trouble.”

“You’re in trouble now. This is a dangerous place. Children don’t belong here. They aren’t allowed.”

Elizabeth paused, then slipped down from the keg.

“Um, Mister Clay, he lets us be here. As long as we don’t go in.” She tried to smile appealingly at the lady. “Ma’am.” She added, hoping that would be a nice additional touch.

“Don’t ma’am me. There could be a shooting. This is violent. Children shouldn’t see this!” The woman seemed to be waving her arms as she yelled.

“Um, yes ma’am. Only, they aren’t fighting, you know. It’s just.. a contest,” Elizabeth smiled a little and then added, “ma’am" again for good luck.

She decided not to go into how many deaths she herself had seen, how many shootings or drunks lying on the streets, and how she and her friends would always run for safety when a shooting started. She had the feeling the woman might not be using her best listening ears at the moment.

“Go home, or I’ll call the law on you,” the woman said, crossing her arms and glaring at Elizabeth.

Elizabeth sighed and thought how home would be boring. From home she could look out the window and see everyone over at the Gem, but she wouldn’t be able to see what was really going on or hear the excitement. If she had to go home, she may as well go to bed, she thought. She signed again and nodded. But just then, one of the adults stuck a head around the corner.

“What’s going on?” a familiar face said.

“Just sending this brat home,” the woman said.

“Brat?” the person said. “Oh, hell, that ain’t no brat. That’s Lizzie. She and the other kids are usually here on a Friday night – they ain’t no trouble, are you Lizzie?”

Elizabeth shook her head. “No ‘m, we aren’t, really!”

“Come back on in and watch the fight and let the kids be,” the regular said, motioning toward the angry woman, who scowled, stomped her foot and then shrugged.

“Fine. But if anything happens, don’t say I didn’t warn you,” the woman said and sashayed around the corner, slamming the door as she re-entered the Gem.

“You be good now,” the regular said to Elizabeth, who smiled broadly and nodded.

“I will be.. thank you!” She climbed back on the keg and continued watching as she waited for her friends.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Thousand White Women

When I viewed the Pope Joan book , up popped another book I'd almost forgotten -
...One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd

Talk about books perfect for Deadwood! This is a book people are going to love or hate... It is great for history buffs - but only if they don't get hung up on little things like reality.

Set in 1875, the storyline is based on an agreement between Ulysses S. Grant and Little Wolf, chief of the Cheyenne nation.

Little Wolf brings his men to Washington to make peace, and suggests to President Grant the way to bring peace would be if there could be a bonding between the white man and Native American. His suggestion? 1,000 white women be traded for 1,000 horses. The white women will marry into the tribes, children will be born, peace will be made.

(Evidently there was such a suggestion made, but it was not well received in reality)

In this fictionalized story, Grant thinks this is a keen idea, though he's wise enough to think this should be done in secret. The women to be traded are recruited from prisons, mental institutions, debtors prisons, houses of ill repute in exchange for pardons and promises of freedom after two years of indentured service (after bearing a child or two).

Heroine May Dodd is the child of a wealthy Chicago family who ended up in a mental institution, not because she was insane, but because she fell in love with a poor man, ran off with him and bore his children out of wedlock. Her own father snatched her back and threw her into the insane asylum.

May marries chief Little Wolf (of course) and lives in a tipi with two of his other wives and their children. She writes about life among the Cheyenne, where some of the new women show up the braves in some of their sports (i.e. arm-wrestling, foot-racing, bow and arrow shooting, etc.)

There are savage experiences with alcohol, with other tribes, the winter, the calvary attacking by mistake.

It isn't a story filled with happiness and there's not a happy ending for all. But it is an enjoyable read, one that might offer some good role-playing ideas, even in a sim where Native Americans aren't, as of this writing, allowed unless they are "civilized".

I swear I've heard of similar backgrounds from some of our women folk as they've stepped off the stagecoach into Deadwood!

Pope Joan? A role-play character possibility....

I had a lengthy e-mail conversation with a customer, helping her to place a rush order for something non-SL. Turns out the woman I was e-mailing with is the author of an intriguing book -- one that looks like it could lead to an interesting role-play....

I'm pretty sure I remember reading a line or two somewhere in a college history book about this historical figure.

The copy on the website says, "For 1,200 years her existence has been denied. She is the legend that will not die--the woman who disguised herself as a man and sat for two years on the papal throne."

Now, there's an intriguing female character to play. Of course, someone would have to either build a sim around it.. or I'd have to find one where it existed. And a bit of research would be needed too.. on my reading list now.... (in my spare time)

More about the book, which is coming out as movie: here

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Thoughts and reflections on the "weaker sex"

On one of the pages of fellow role-player and blogger, Merry, I found some musings about women in Second Life role-play that gave me pause to think, for it raised in my mind some of my own thoughts and reflections about the selection of roles in historical rp sites, especially for women!

She comments:

"Recently I was reading reviews of the PBS show "Frontier House. In that show, three families from various economic and social backgrounds were forced to live for months just as the settlers did....

"Their inability to submit to authority, constant determination to be top dog of the community, and stubborn refusal to compromise resulted in making the experiment even more difficult. In the case of the Colonial House, such behavior endangered the entire community.

"What is fascinating about the failure of the participants is that they were most often adult female cast members. This compares similarly to my experiences in the historic role play of Second Life. Females seem unable to accept and enact the truth of the era.

Modern women see only the limitations of the role, viewing their foremothers with disdain. Her historical counterpart is put down as weak, ineffective and helpless. Nothing could be further from the truth. For women to have accomplished as much as they did given the restrictions in their lives is heroic."

How true that last sentence is! However, I would have to respectfully disagree on the generalizations about "females being unable to accept and enact the truth of the era" and "Modern women see only the limitations of the role, viewing their foremothers with disdain." This may be true of a few lost souls, but I am very thankful I stumbled into role-play in Deadwood, a historical sim where I do not see among the women I regularly role-play with any disdain of the women whose lives are used to recreate the times!

What I have seen sometimes among newcomers to historical role-play is a difficulty to find or create an appropriate role for a female character, balancing the reality of the times with expectations of fellow players while making a role that is still interesting to play.

Those who role-play historical women may be damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

Those who choose the “historically correct” path have the challenge of creating and developing interesting characters from a reality that was not glamorous or earth shatteringly noticeable.

Those who decide to play more exceptional women of the times may be criticized for playing women who seem more like a modern woman set back in the 19th century.

In Deadwood during those times (1876-79), women (respectable ones anyway) were in the minority. Many of those who were there were a tough bunch, or led short lives. Most could not be independent and had little access to their own finances. Bound by family expectations, legalities and the need for marriage to secure their place in the world, the position of the majority of women were more to be pitied than envied. Those who worked in their homes, in the fields or on their backs 24/7, 7 days a week, 365 days a year were incredible women.

That women made any "accomplishments" as defined by today's terms would have been amazing! High falootin' big payin' careers, Masters degrees let alone PhD’s, ownership of large businesses, political lives, world travel, a carefree single life -- dream on!

The average woman’s measure of success back then might have more to do with who her father was, how powerful and wealthy her husband was, how many children she had born him, how well she managed her home, or – in some cases – how she managed to keep herself out of prostitution in Deadwood – rather than her own personal academic or business accomplishments.

If they want to be “historically correct”, role playing women in Deadwood, as with their real life counterparts, often have few roles to choose from that are also enjoyable to play.

Men, as always, have more choices. We’ve had a flood of men who wish to play powerful bad guys or wholesome heroes. But we also have a lot of men stepping up to be Mayors and Sheriffs, Union leaders, thieves, robbers, entertainers, Homestead manager, Saloon owner, drunken doctor, mortician, hotel or store owners, farriers, miners, bankers.

Realistically, women would not have had most of those roles except as supporters - entertainers, nurses, bank teller - saloon owner perhaps. Add teachers, parlor girls, shopkeepers, cooks, midwives, mothers, wives.

These are all interesting role-play opportunities, offering a chance to really go back in time and live a woman’s life. These women would have been second class citizens, many living lives of quiet desperation, perhaps exhausted, depressed, using laudanum or alcohol to numb themselves. If single or widowed, they may have been quietly or frantically seeking a husband, not as a love match but as a pratical solution to what could turn into a frightening situation.

A rich possibility for role-play – Jeni Trefusis comes to mind as someone who got deep into her abused prostitute role, then killed her character off in a fairly historically correct style murder. Dio Kuhr’s character is another whose history is convincing, having lived a rough life then pulled herself up by her @#$%&* bootstraps (ah, that I could curse like Dio does!) Widow Hannah Shinn, left in debt to raise two children found herself in deep despair, indentured to shady businessman (aka killer) Blackjack Lander.

Along with these, we’ve had our hotel manager/owner and her cook (Cookie and Coodnank), newspaper writers, successful shopkeepers and small business owners, teachers and (ahem) “entertainers”, some resourceful women who moved themselves out of the “business”, becoming wives or madams (Miss Wilder, owner of the Bella Union; Lola McGinnis Kanto, who married out) and a handful of women who were wives of successful businessmen. In reality, the women these characters are based on may have led lives that were fulfilling but undocumented, details and stories forgotten after the last of the grandchildren died.

In Deadwood roleplay, there have been many more of these characters, most gone, not all forgotten.

Many players of females seem to prefer to start from templates of modern day success for women for their Deadwood characters. Since I’ve been there, we’ve had female Mayors/Town leaders, lawmen (including a great Sheriff), bank robbers, murderers, physicians, lawyers. We’ve had an endless supply of females claiming degrees from Ivy League colleges, widows with vast wealth, heiresses of royal blood and fortune.

These roles are somewhat based on realities of the times, albeit a tad stretched, and the popularity (perhaps due to the familiarity) has resulted in a heavy flood of strong females, ironically making the historical accuracy of the sim doubtable. No doubt, there were successful female outlaws back then. There were a few female doctors and the first woman mayor in the country,Susanna Salter, was elected in 1887 (a stretch but close enough for most of us). In fact, there were a lot of real women for players to base their characters on – though many were successful for work that in our times (and then) was illegal.

Of course, we are merely human, and when we come to role-play we may not want to play an average woman, we may want to be exceptional, someone different than the person we might have been had we been born back then. (Or maybe we think though we are ordinary today, back then we would have been born with all of our 21st century liberated woman thinking set firmly in stone and would have been extraordinary!)

That is all well and good except if you multiply that times 10 or 100, you can end up with an overload of powerful or successful women in a time period where it is not historically correct or realistic to have more than a handful (if that) of important women.

We cannot seem to drop entirely our modern selves as we enter into role-play, no matter how good a player we might be. We try, but it may be virtually and realistically impossible for a role-playing woman (or man) to fully grasp the second class citizen position a nineteenth century American woman (or foreign woman in America) would have encountered, regardless of her marital, economic, and social status, no matter her education, intellect, beauty or psychological superiority to the males with whom she interacted. It would be the rare and exceptional woman who would have had any noticeable power or access to her finances.

There is some stretching and accepting that has to be done. It would be something if more people would be willing to be ordinary people and grow their characters from there. Perhaps that’s why I prefer being a child – children would be backdrop to the adults around them, with few expectations. Most adults if they cared for my character would only want her to grow up to find a good husband and would have fit her education to do the same. She wants to be a mortician (don’t ask) but I don’t have to play that or realize, as a child, how unrealistic a future that is for a little girl in 1878. We are there to have fun and we do!

Like those PBS shows, role-play in Deadwood is not reality – it is a sampling of life in a times that looks appealing from afar. We get to play around with some of the realities that would make us want to tp home if we found ourselves really in Deadwood in 1876 -79, having to live as the folks did back then.

I cannot resist adding I watched both of the PBS shows when they first came out. Frontier was fascinating to me, psychologically and historically. Of the 13 participants, only one, who did happen to be a woman, was credited with nearly ruining the operation and possibly her marriage through her behavior -- the other 12 which included 2 other women, 3 men and several children -- did their best. Karen Karen Karen… I wonder where she is today?

Colonial life was memorable to me not for women being unable to work with others or desiring to be in charge, but for a whole group of people, male and female, who found it difficult to impossible to play by the rules of the times -- refusing to go to church on Sundays, a young man coming out to pilgrim fellows and receiving no time appropriate response, leaving the set to walk into town (men), etc. These were harsh times, and as I recall there were servants, pilgrims and Native Americans (uncast real ones) adding to the mix. The difficulties were shared pretty equally by men and women, one couple in particular being quite the “pill”.

Of course, nobody was forced – this was a choice the people made to participate – it must have seemed a good idea at the time. I can relate to their inability to live in the reality of the era they were set in – we have a lot of comforts we take for granted, not just those we remember when the power is out for more than a day or two.

In Colonial life, one of the men quit when faced with the emotions of life as a black indentured servant. I have a hard enough time as a liberated woman in 2009 submitting to the authority of the IRS, doctor’s orders, and those who determine who can get the swine flu vaccine. I’d be a miserable failure trying to follow the rules for a woman prior to the 1960’s.

And I’m not sure I’d want to do my historical role-playing on a reality TV show, exposed to the world on DVD forever!

What makes a good roleplayer?

When I stumbled into Second Life in the summer of 2007, I had no idea what was ahead. As noted in my profile, I was looking for a way to get closer to my sister who lives half a country away and isn't fond of talking on the tele. Facebook was for teens back then.

She'd mentioned Second Life. I'd tried it once and left after a few hours, not seeing the point. Everyplace I'd visited on my first trip was either bereft of life or stuffed with strange beings who approached me in a way any introvert would find frighteningly familiar, with offers of help or sex or both.

This time I was determined to spend more time and effort. My first avatar (not Marrant) spent a lot of time inworld doing the things that newbies do. Visiting places that specialized in handing out freebies, changing appearance, shopping, visiting all kinds of adult places and making friends with strangers, coloring cubes and even buying a small bit of mainland from my sister, who knew the ropes.

My sister was the one who first introduced me to roleplaying. At least I thought it was roleplaying. The avatar who captured me and typed out something about ripping my clothes off and a few more things evidently did not think it was roleplaying and got really pissed off when my avatar happened to have undergarments that could not be ripped off and a throat that could not be cut.

As unpleasant as that near death experience was, I decided that a new character and new kinds of roleplay were needed. And so Marrant was born. It took another month of experimenting with roleplay places in Second Life before I stumbled into Deadwood one afternoon.

Either I wish I had the chat log from those early days or I am thankful the computer they are stored on has passed on ~ I'm not sure which. I had no idea what OOC meant, or how to leave a scene without telling everyone something like ((have to go, toodles)).

I still don't know a lot about roleplaying, but I know more than I did. And I've learned it from fellow roleplayers, the good, the bad, the incredible and the horrific.

I've gone to roleplaying classes in Deadwood and other places. They are helpful and fine, with tips and examples, like not knowing somebody's name until they are introduced, how not to suggest rather than force a slap onto someone, how not to god mode, using emotes, etc.

But for me, they seem to leave out some basic points I've seen in good and great roleplayers I've known and have gotten to play with -- most of whom I am so fortunate as to call my good friends outside of roleplay.

I offer these thoughts here, just from my observations:

The best roleplayers - (this being my opinion only, and with the notation that I am not an experienced role-player and only have role-playing experience in one sim) are those who do several things.

1) They are good writers and editors.

Not necessarily good spellers, they seem to be able to write a short but descriptive dialog that sounds like someone would really say it, not like it was being read from a novel.

Some might add a little more to it than the basic "Howdy, ma'am" *tips his hat - but the best roleplayers don't need an epic paragraph to introduce their characters and storylines.

2. They are aware of the human condition.

They view life (sl and rl) as a tragi-comedy, not solely tragedy or solely comedy and they bring this to their roleplay.

Most of the good roleplayers have watched a lot of plays and movies and/or read a lot of good novels -- they can play a tragedy, they can do light comedy or every day roleplay, and they can blend them in together.

This piece perhaps explains it better than I can.

3) They are improv players --

Though they may have started a scene with specific players and a large or small plot in mind, they are flexible and responsive as the presence of new players or twists and turns moves the whole story away from where they wanted it to go.

4) They are not prima donas, and are inclusive rather than exclusive in their role-play.

They will work with anyone who appears. If OOC issues appear, they can leave them aside or work them into their storyline.

5) They are most often ensemble players rather than stars.

Which makes them stars in my eyes.
Addition: Some excellent thoughts on this topic, can be found on Dio Kuhr's blog - Is There Such a Thing as Good Roleplaying? . Her much more detailed and kind-hearted view of this topic cast a light for me on my own rather judgmental attitude toward other players. Hopefully I will learn to be more accepting of fellow role-players of all kinds.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

On Killing Your Avatar Self

There have been some who thought it brave that this typist killed off her character in a roleplay in Deadwood in October, and some who thought it sad. There were others who kept their thoughts and feelings to themselves. I can only assume some thought it was an improvement, some just shrugged it off, and most of course barely knew Mrs. Marrant Vita.

I never bothered to explain a good deal about the sudden death by fire of the orphanage director, who expired holding an orphan infant in her arms. Fellow roleplayers determined that four more infants also died before the fire was put out.

Our town funeral director was excited about the opportunity to manage a funeral, complete with a day long viewing followed by a service at the funeral home and then a few graveside songs and words. The whole event offered a chance for regulars and newcomers to participate in an ensemble event, and it was well played by many
It was very odd to be present at one's own funeral, odder still to be reacting to it as another player because I was there, as the same avatar who plays Marrant also plays her 11 year old niece, Elizabeth.

Nobody has asked Why, probably because I explained it to friends though typically of me, it was not a well thought out rational plan, but rather following some kind of ethereal leading. Things in Deadwood had been .. well, dead for a while. Behind the scenes there'd been some upheavals brought about by major dramas among some of our players. I'd been roleplaying infrequently, having taken a long break from my admin duties. The character of Marrant had been absent due to long migraines; when I roleplayed, it was as Elizabeth, a depressed child avatar with a dark history of losing family members and taking the guilt on herself.

The fire in the orphanage came about while Elizabeth and other regulars were up on the hills, celebrating a great Halloween event co-sponsored by Miss Salissa Wilder, owner of the Bella Union Saloon and (ironically) the orphanage.

This typist came back down into town and saw a few players about and wondered how long it would take for someone to notice the orphanage was on fire. People came and went and walked by, the doors of the orphanage were wide open, flames were flickering. Nothing happened. Another fire was added. Still nothing. The flames were moved up so they peeked out of the top of the orphanage. It took about an hour, but eventually the fire was noticed, and I have to say, the roleplay was incredibly good... I was going to say fun, but that's not quite right, given the deaths and reactions. There was definitely humor in there.. dark tragi-humor... but also some tragi-drama.

There were three parts at least to it

Why why why? Well, I was a bit depressed about the goings on in the sim. The orphanage really needed to be burned down so it could be rebuilt. Marrant is fun to play == in the worst case, I could dig up (so to speak) a twin sister and drag her back in. But Marrant really is my builder and shopkeeper, so when she's in Deadwood, I prefer that she is the dark 11 year old Elizabeth. Also, I wanted to be an admin again and Elizabeth's role is minor which makes admining much easier. Finally, someday Deadwood will be burning down (as it did in 1879) and going back to 1876, when Marrant can be reborn.

I miss playing her sometimes -- in roleplay, she's been the part of me who still believes in Happily Ever After and positive endings, in fairy tales and Santa Claus, a comical innocent I've loved playing. And strangely, it's my child avatar, Elizabeth, who doubts all of that and is more concerned with gloom and doom and darkness that I-the-typist see as more like real life. She reveals a lot about me - I look forward to the day when I can bring Marrant (French for oddly amusing) back to life in Deadwood.

Being dead is not so bad, at least in these circumstances.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Whoo hooo something new

I don't really know exactly what I'm doing but... one of my bestselling items is a low cost animated clip board and pen I made (for some reason, I enjoy making animations!).

But people have IM'd me or come to my store, expecting to see it working. I don't quite know how to present the clipboard and pen as a test someone can try on, though I've had them floating around..somehow it's just not the same.

Today I made my first (hopefully not my last) little video -- this one shows Marrant using the clipboard. A bit of work and a little too long for an item that is selling for 50L, but it was fun!

The feather duster --

And the oh so necessary hair brush and primping mirror - I will be putting this in a box with grooming supplies...

Sunday, November 29, 2009


Another group, just what is needed -- but if you want, come and join Former Xchange Shopkeepers.

It's intended to be used as a way to share information on what others are doing, or just a griping place.

My latest post to members:
Hey, how are you -- and what are you doing to market your stuff?

I've started a blog, though it's mostly about how I'm marketing now to work around these changes and explaining a little why I am still on xchange while looking around.

Note that is FREE -- it is a way you can market your goods and let off steam if you want to.

On the commerce forum, there are some who are offering places to park your boxes, and discussion of free shops inworld.

Where you find out that SL exchange is going to be down for new software installation on Wed. Dec 2 starting at 8 a.m. for they say 5 hours (yeah, right).

I've been trying out MetaLife, finding it a dream to use. Sales sluggish everywhere! I think ppl are recovering from Thanksgiving in the US, but the economy is still dinging everyone in SL and RL.

Prokofy Neva is putting together a Welcome Kit offer - using freebies and ads from his renters - he'll carry the 99L fee for posting, and no cost to the renters using this.

Read more here.

What are you people doing, if anything?

Have you tried out alternatives? What is working, what isn't? Send me a notecard or post on my blog (address below signature)

Alternatives to xchange (as long as allowed by LL):

Marrant Vita
Former Xchange Shopkeepers

Saturday, November 28, 2009

On being a child in SL

90% of the time in Second Life, I'm in one of my child avatars. I have a couple, children from Victorian times ranging in age from 7 to 11.

And 80% of the time I'm one of them (most often Elizabeth, under Marrant Vita's avatar) I'm someplace safe for people playing children avatars -- Deadwood (Phoenix Pass) or my tiny bit of mainland, my residence at my friends' place in Caledon.

But the rest of the time I'm out and about, visiting my own shops or shopping. I'm very comfortable being a child in SL -- I didn't start out that way, mind you. I tried out the adult life, the wild life. My oats have been sown here and there, I've fallen in love, I've done adult things as an adult with adults.

Being a child, though, has somehow felt right to me, more and more. And in my limited travels, I've been lucky enough to only have interactions with fellow Second Lifers who are pleasant in their dealings with a child avatar. Of course, mine are always dressed in charming Victorian costume, so that may make a difference.

It always comes as a big surprise when I read posts wherein someone declares that anyone playing a child in Second Life is a pervert of some kind, looking for age play sex and the defense from others often is, not all are perverts, some are just messed up in the head.

Hmmm. This comes from a place where people using adult or furry avatars often are going around looking for on-line sex with strangers who may or may not be anything like the person they claim to be.

In any case, I hope I'll be able to continue with my 7 to 11 year old child avatar roleplaying. I love this age -- I used to be it once and now I have offspring in that range. These are people, by the way. We label them as "children" for many reasons, good ones. They are children, innocent, optomistic, full of hope and promise and possibilities for tomorrow. This is the age when for the normal child, friendship and love have nothing to do with sexual encounters. But what I think many forget both in RL and in SL is, children are people - often intelligent, observing adults and drawing conclusions that can be close to the mark and very amusing.

My characters are not in need of parents, either -- they are loners or orphans, but they have caretakers who are somewhere offstage (that would be me, HELLOOO, I'm an adult, the typist, and the caretaker of my avatars). They are at the age when children are learning that they are separate entities, stepping out a bit to see what they can do independently, then rushing back to the comfort of home when things get shaky.

For those who find my avatar upsetting or attractive as a child, I would just ask that you walk on the other side of the street and leave me be. My child avatars are interested in things like wondering if fairies are real, how hummingbirds stay up in the air so long, talking about how stupid boys and grown ups are with her best friends. Most often they don't notice the grumpy, paranoid, name-calling adults around them -- life is too magical to be bothered with all of that.

Where to Begin?

Blogs are everywhere -- not sure we need another blog about Second Life, but here mine is anyway!

I'm starting this one primarily because of the changes going on in Second Life's marketplace, popularly known as the Xchange. Most merchants there or shopkeepers inworld are aware of those, some shoppers may be. It's a long drawn out story having to do with new charges to the merchants causing some reactions among us

Some are outraged and panicked - the cost of doing business has risen from the considerable time we put in to designing and uploading pictures and writing descriptions to a Linden dollar amount.

Freebies are no longer free for the merchants but are now 99L a pop and as of this writing, it is unclear whether demos will be charged likewise.

Whatever we sell now will be charged 10L a month whether or not it sells, plus 3L commission for items 1 - 3 Lindens to customer, 5% of price to those above that.

Many have removed everything from the market -- that was my first reaction though this does not go into effect until January or February 2010.

Others are dancing with joy because lower end items will be removed, taking a lot of competition off the table.

While it is good to freshen up the marketplace, there seems to be much more that's negative about the changes than is positive. There are many things that need improvement in the marketplace before prices get raised .

If you REALLY want to know more about it, you can see it on the SL Commerce forums

But you need a lot of time and energy to slog through that!

After I calmed myself down, I decided I had a lot of dead products on Xchange. I went through the (now) inactive inventory and deleted those.

Next I decided to reactive the bestselling items that would be worthy of the 10L a month charge and to combine some of the inexpensive items into one box items that would cost more.

Not the popular "Fat Packs" -- as a shopper, I really don't "get" those. Not a big fan of four or five of the same item in different colors or - in one case I saw, 4 different widow outfits (was that for the Black Widow who kept murdering her husbands and didn't want to wear the same outfit twice?)

Me, I'd really rather get a collection of 4 or 5 different items - so, for example, I made one that would allow you to completely outfit your child avatar, from undergarments to winter coat and a couple of everyday dresses, a fancy dress and a toy thrown in.

Winter is up now, I'll be adding the other seasons real soon.

Also, I took my best toys and threw them in a toy chest.

Not that I expect your average shopper to buy these collections -- shopping on Xchange for me has always been kind of catalog shopping. I go there first to see what is around, and then go inworld most of the time to shop. Though I do like the convenience of shopping from my computer while my avatars are not inworld, or giving things as gifts, I like to see stuff, too.

So, my more expensive collections (well, cheaper if you add up the items, it's really a bargain to buy them all together) are really an advertisement. And that 10L a month becomes an advertising cost -- if I'm paying 900L a month it compares to renting a shop inworld, though the added commission on top of that is kind of a kick in the pocket book.

I also went exploring and found MetaLife -- nice vendor displays that are so easy to set up and change -- though I'm a bit worried that nothing seems to be selling out of them. Going to send an alt in to make a purchase, just to make sure they are coded right.