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Roleplaying FAQ

Being an avid roleplayer for about a decade now, starting in text base freeform roleplay on QLink (AOL in zygote form) all the way up and into the 3D engine MMORPG's of today, I tend to like to see some form of accepted standard.

Needless to say I've written versions of this FAQ for UO, EQ, DAoC and now AO, in efforts to try to help this great game develop a stronger roleplayer base. In most all cases the FAQ's are offered up as a broadly generalized reference piece, but quickly become the recognized standard.

My simple disclaimer is that I am, by no means, attempting to force my version or vision of roleplay on anyone. But merely distilling about a decades worth of knowledge as a reference for those unfamiliar, or possibly uncomfortable with roleplay as a concept. Many things here established roleplayers will know already, in their own form. Some things might be new. Overall, please do not mistake this for anything other than what it is, a broad reference for those that wish to roleplay online, as it would specifically pertain to Anarchy Online.



Roleplaying: FAQ - How to Be Someone Else in Anarchy Online (For Dummies)

Table of Contents

I - What Is Roleplaying?

II - Character and Development

III - In Character/Out of Character interaction

IV - Hostile Roleplaying

V - Improv - Knowing when, and how to play it by ear



I - What Is Roleplaying?

Roleplaying is a many spotted beast. With the evolution of the concept itself since the late 1970s when Dungeons and Dragons originally came out, into the online age where the concept has undergone a fierce fusion of opinions from millions of players across hundreds of games....it is hard to say, definitively, what roleplay is.

Also, outside the gaming world this word has meanings of its own that apply to many different things.

So, suffice it to say that for the purposes of this FAQ, this is the definition of roleplaying we will be focusing on:

To develop a persona beyond your daily self with which to develop and interact with others in an online roleplaying game.

So, essentially, roleplaying is acting.

When you make the conscious choice to roleplay. You have made the choice to immerse yourself and invest yourself far more deeply in a game than many others. In the MMORPG era, the standard player is concerned with loot, money, and playing with friends. The roleplayer takes things a step higher in all respects.

While a roleplayer may still be concerned with loot, money and being with friends, their motives behind them are much more interesting, because instead of just gamer greed, they are playing their characters whims or desires or needs. So essentially, loot and money and roleplaying are not mutually exclusive. Which means that while anyone could roleplay, it takes someone with a bit more creativity to actually do it.


II - Character and Development

So, now that you've decided to roleplay. There's a few things you need to figure out.

Who is your character? This is a very seminal and un-alterable decision. While all creativity has certain amounts of flexibility, characters that change in personality or attitude or allegiance once a week are very hard to keep track of...and thusly hard for other roleplayers to interact with.

With AO's system, you've got a very good base creation system that allows you to generate any of four human genotypes and 12 different base professions. With its skills system, unless your one of the "my stats have to be perfect or I'm gimped" crowd, you've got alot of flexibility to develop what skills you believe your character would focus on to make their way in the world. And while there is a finite amount of faces in the game at this time, AO's character generation system does allow for some customization (though admittedly...not enough) of your avatar in game.

There are probably thousands of different ways to actually develop a character...but in general, if your just starting out, I usually recommend sitting down with a pad of paper (or Wordpad, if your graphologically challenged in a manual mode) and roughing out the basics of your character. The first thing of course is your name.

Name - Things to keep in mind here for AO is that your visible name is not your -name-, your name is actually not set unless you use a Random Name Generator in the Training Yard....or contact an ARK via petition for a name that you've predetermined. I generally contact the ARK, the petitions can take quite some time to be answered, but I find it is often much easier to play a character with a name I've chosen, versus trying to adapt to a randomly generated name. Also keep in mind that your visible name is not going to be "visible" to anyone that is a hardcore roleplayer. Hardcore roleplayers won't know anything about you unless you tell them....or in some cases, they may have some limited biographical information via a gridfeed neuro-link or some other character development of their own.

Then you need to decide on what race your character will be. Needless to say when playing your character, a choice of race can have alot of impact on the perception of you character other roleplayers have. There are certain genetically designed stereotypes. Homo Atrox is not very intelligent, and is not likely to be seen plotting genius military strikes on enemy encampments. Whereas your not likely to see Homo Opifex or Homo Nano crashing through a doorway guns blazing to save their comrades either. Of course, in freeform roleplay, the sky really is the limit, and if its your interest to play an Atrox rocket scientist...or a Nano-mage professional wrestler...its really up to you. But in some cases, racial choice will have an effect one way or another on the overall believability of your character when in interaction with other roleplayers.

Then you want to rough out a light background. Where your character is from, of course, slightly colors how they look at the world. On top of the well known cities of Tir and Omni-1 and Athen and Rome...there are other, smaller towns and settlements all over Rubi-Ka. Its often good to integrate a place such as Galway Castle, Newland or the 4 Holes mining settlement into your background to give your character a bit of a history to draw on. Its easy enough though, if you don't know enough about the game...to be from any of the major settlements. Backgrounds give you a vague roadmap to how your character sees the world, how they react to stimuli,...it gives them their own triumphs and trauma's which color how they interact with others. Then a brief outlining of any major events in their life up to the point where you (the player) have taken up residence in the avatar. Backgrounding is really the foundation of roleplay, with it your character has a history to draw from and hopes and dreams to build for, Without it, your character will seem cardboard and contrived.

After the initial creation, you get into the development period. In MMORPG's development, at its purest, requires your focus on three things.

1.) Personal Storyline Development - This can be a process of writing, or just taking notes internally on where your character is in its own pursuits. Evolution of a storyline on a forum, such as these, can be a good thing to help that along, but can also be confusing for other roleplayers if your character...in story, is currently being held hostage by Dust Brigade soldiers that caught you out in the wastes, but in game is sitting around in Omni-1 Trade scheming for good deals on IQ Rings. So written SL's that are "real time" or concurrent with the timeline the avatar currently occupies require focus to be where "you" are in the story. Whereas internal development..or non-concurrent SL's do not apply.

2.) Game Requirement Development - This is, of course, a hotly contested part of development focus in most MMORPG communities. But, to truly be a highly well known and revered soldier of fortune...one can only assume that you will have had to put the time into developing your characters static statistics into something resembling that. While some purist RP'ers will say that the only part of roleplay that matters is what they develop their character to be in story line, it would...in general, be very hard for most people to accept a level 2 agent who was developing themselves as a hitman contracted to kill Phillip Ross. Once again, unless in the company of the most extreme RP purist, developing your characters game statistics to be within the "reality" of their personal storyline, or keeping the personal storyline within the "reality" of their game statistics is sometimes the best way to go.

3.) Interaction with other roleplayers and involvement in in character actions or discussions is possibly paramount to character development. This requires time investment in finding like minded players (as there is no RP Only server) and further time investment once you have to ensure they know who your character is. Essentially ....stomping into Babboons and announcing that your the new owner of the club is all fine and wonderful...from a certain RP perspective...but unless your character is known and accepted in the role you've designed them for by other roleplayers, the role is effectively null, thusly making further development null.

The biggest thing to remember about character development is that your character is not "you". Developing ideologies for your character is a cumbersome process, and sometimes it is much easier to fall back on what you already believe and force that into your characters personality. This can work, and in most cases is what most roleplayers do, but there is a huge difference between "me with a mask on" and "a character with a life of its own." For beginners, I suggest trying for somewhere in between the two.

Also, development requires emotion....and motion. Both of which are easily worked into the game via the use of two different systems.

The emotes system in AO is pretty extensive, you can do many things in the game that you cannot do in others. So with that tool you can add physical expression to your character. Many established roleplayers will have a ready made hotbar bank of common emote mannerisms they may use, or even a macro set of several emote commands strung together. This gives you a bit more than the cardboard feeling of watching someone make an emotionally charged statement in character...while the model just stands there and does nothing.

But, in cases where the emotes bank fails...there is the /me command. Which basically allows you to emote thoughts or actions not within the boundaries of the emotes bank. In example....

/me is tired, and his fingers wander on the keyboard, causing occasional typos

This would produce in the chat bar in the game:

Sid Scheer is tired, and his fingers wander on the keyboard, causing occasional typos.

There are basically two categories of /me command emotes.

External Descriptive - An external descriptive is what it sounds like. It describes actions or expressions. These are things your character can "see" and possibly comment on in dialog.

Internal Descriptive - An internal descriptive emote is usually something that a character is thinking, in most cases it is used as a colorful way to deepen a dialog. In most cases, interaction between two players would not focus on an internal descriptive because only the initiator of the internal descriptive emote would be "aware" of it. (This is of course, flexible in a game where psychic abilities are part of the world.)

So otherwise, development is up to you...the tools are all there.


III - In Character/Out of Character Interaction

In Character = Anything that pertains to the game world, storyline, politics or character development.

Out of Character = Everything else.

The hardest thing, of course, in a community that has so many different people from different gaming experiences is of course to be able to roleplay effectively.

In character interaction is simply that. In character. Nothing really transfers from one side of the game to the other with any reality except in extreme cases.

While in character you may completely and totally despise another character, this is not something that should in most cases transfer out of character. Once it does, it becomes BLENDING and it can be harmful to not only the principles involved but the community as well.

Blending IC and OOC in game can be confusing as well, and is often the mark of a new roleplayer or someone that isn't putting alot of effort into roleplay itself. Needless to say if you spend half your conversation talking in character and then suddenly explode in chat with LOLOLOLOLOLOL, that is disruptive to the roleplay experience. You may of course just be in your own way acting out your character laughing, but from a roleplay perspective, internet acronyms are not IC, and thusly tend to break the immersion. Consistently talking in character then switching to OOC real world events in a chat without an OOC delineation is also blending and can cause confusion or annoyance to more seasoned roleplayers as well that are wishing to play their experience as IC as possible.

Blending can also become severely detrimental to the community when it is used in a fashion to attack characters because of your personal feelings about the mun(mundane) behind them. Or attacking the mun because of how you feel about the character. Which is why OOC and IC in game should always been clearly delineated, so people can know what they wish to ignore, and what they wish to listen to

Essentially to ensure that people know what and how your communicating in game. There has to be a generally accepted symbol code that says what's in character, what's out of character, what is an action and what is a thought.

To know how to properly react, you have to understand what is being said and how its being presented. In The Duel of Swords, we used a pretty simple system.

Any text not delineated by a symbol of some sort was considered your character talking IN CHARACTER. Such as;

Sid Scheer says, "Damn clanners, they've knocked over our tower complex again!"

That would be seen as an in character statement offered up to the rest of the party or people in the general vicinity.

Text delineated by parentheses or (( text )) was considered to be an OOC statement to pass information in game between mundanes as it was needed to (And usually as little as possible so as not to spoil immersion.) In example;

((Just a heads up all the Broncos just won the game tonight.))

The OOC chat delineation in AO can help quickly pass information in chat groups or group/public channels with just the added effort of adding a double parentheses to each side of the statement, this not only makes it easier for people to determine who they are talking to (the mun or the character) but it also does alot to help preserve the immersion aspect of a roleplay game.

Respecting other peoples immersion is what RP is about. And knowing the difference between what is IC and what is OOC is the largest part of that.


IV - Hostile Roleplaying

Hostile Roleplaying is playing your character, or acting out actions, thoughts or emotes that assumed a predetermined result.

In example. Someone roleplaying in a hostile fashion would do the following

BigButtHead grabs Sid Scheer by his throat, yanking him around like a rag doll and choking the life out of him

This in game RP action is hostile because it nullifies, in its own statement....any response my character might have....such as...whipping out a neuro-prod and turning off BigButtHead's lights for a few minutes so I can exit stage right.

A more open approach is to state INTENT in your actions, in example;

BigButtHead growls and rushes at Sid Scheer, big hands reaching for his neck.

Interactive roleplay is a game of give and take. Think of it as table tennis...if you need an analogy. When you serve, its intent is a response. You do not serve to knock the ball off the table. To roleplay well, your actions must leave the next move up to your fellow player. Leaving a give and take between you will make for a more exciting interaction for others to take part in or observe and act off of, and its the mark of an experienced roleplayer.

Otherwise, the assumption that no one can stop you because you think your character is a god is not often the best way to approach a roleplay interaction.

Hostile roleplay also rears its ugly head in storylines where you use other peoples characters without their knowledge...or even static game storyline characters in a fashion outside of their roles within the game. To whit....your writing may be wonderful, but if your story includes Phillip Ross as your shoe shine boy, your story is hostile to the game storyline.

When writing involves other active players, it is always best to collaborate if at all possible. This gives people creative control of their characters, and ensures that your portrayal of them does not go outside that characters personal ideologies and capabilities. When collaboration isn't possible, obtain permission....and if neither is possible...don't use them at all. Your character is your intellectual property...when introducing other peoples characters into your writing, you are in control of -their- intellectual property and thusly portraying them in a fashion they see as negative to the development of their own character is hostile.


V - Improv - Knowing when, and how to play it by ear

Roleplaying is acting. And even in the best scripts...there's always room for a little improvement.

And in a game....often your going to have to roleplay situations from the hip. Interactions will be in real time...and it will be only rarely that you and the constituents of the interaction will talk beforehand.

Things to keep in mind in improv or from the hip roleplay is to stay true to your character. By the time you reach this level of RP...you know who your character is. So just react them naturally with the RP going on around you. Improv RP is usually the best and most unforced or unchoreographed....and thusly the most pure form of RP there is.

As you get to know other roleplayers, you will begin to have in-character relations with them. They will know how your character will react to certain things and you will know the same about them, this leaves alot of room for dialog that will be entertaining for all the players involved.

For example, if my female companion starts dancing and drinking....I might RP Sid as looking slightly nervous or embarrassed as she tries to entice him to join her (Sid is very conservative), or even slightly jealous if she's getting too much attention from other men in the club. This is just spontaneous RP that's not part of any large, world defining story...but makes the difference between cardboard cutout characters made to fit a story role...and real, living breathing characters that have their own lives on Rubi-Ka.

So that's the entirety of it so far. Additions welcome, of course. I'm stuck on RK2 where the roleplay community is much smaller (I'd come to RK1 but the lag is just unbearable) and more dispersed, but I hope to do what I can to try to build it up and centralize it a bit somewhere. Needless to say, I hope the information here is helpful to new players to RP, and even to those that aren't.


Hope you all have a fine day.

Sid Sheer

Last updated on 12.07.2011 by Khuri
Sid Sheer
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