Wednesday, December 2, 2009

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.


  1. Excellent points, Marrant. And I appreciate the advice as a relatively new rp'r. Much of my characters growth has been inspired by chance interactions with other players-hopefully mimicking exactly what would happen in rl; that our environment forms us.
    I would, however, gently disagree about the ooc issues being woven into the rp. I think it tends to muddle the separation between what's real and what isn't and tends to cause needless drama. But no one is perfect and I suppose it's bound to happen at some point.
    You're putting a nice blog together here. I'm enjoying reading your thoughts and learning from your experiences.

  2. I absolutely agree that in the hands of drama queens/kings, newcomers, youngsters and the emotionally immature or damaged, it doesn't work for OOC issues to be dragged into roleplay.

    That causes problems for admins that are a nightmare and can ruin things for everyone.

    I was speaking of good roleplayers, not those who cannot tell the difference twixt OOC and IC!

    Good roleplayers can make light and play with each other or help newbies by turning OOC issues (i.e. inappropriate dress; calling someone you haven't met by name; referring to a modern day event or term) into very amusing roleplays.

    It's a sight to see -- Dio, September, Deac, Addison Leigh and Neil are just a few I've seen who excel at this!

  3. Ah, that's the stuff you meant! Well, I'll add Cookie's name to the list. I've seen her take on an Indian Princess in a bikini and couldn't continue with the rp as I was laughing too hard to type. Clay and Rod are also equally skilled at it.
    I've been called on things of this nature. For example, Dio and Rod have both mentioned that Merry has an extensive wardrobe for a 'poor girl'. I really had to think fast to explain it!
    That sort of correction is a good learning experience, and if accepted in good grace, can turn into some excellent rp.