It has come to the mods' attention that in our midst we have a large collection of the uninitiated, the newcomers to our sordid world of playing in roles that are not our own. There has been confusion, there have been tears, there have been flailing of limbs, tearing of hair, gnashing of teeth and once, regrettably, the smearing of ash over the brows of the penitent.
But fear not. Out from the Heavens descends a guide made specifically for you, dear newbie, you who are a tender, succulent virgin to our ways and to our means.
Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Wanκ
What is this role-playing nonsense?Edit
Roleplaying, or RP as it is commonly shortened to, is the act of assuming a persona and its accompanying mannerisms, attitudes and beliefs. Roleplaying is something that every human being does at work (playing the role of a receptionist, teacher, head fry-cook or whaler) and on Livejournal for play. Discussion of the complex and fascinating world of roleplaying whalers can be read in my other ninety-page document The Short and Simple Guide to Running a Whaling RPG, and it can be found as one of the many how-to guides on whalergames-unlimited.com (not to be confused with the many other whaler forums. Beware of imitators!). However, for this document we will only consider the world of Livejournal RPing.
Essentially, RPing is when you adopt a persona. This persona can be one of your own creation as an OC (Original Character) or by using a ready-made persona from a game, book, movie, television show or folk story (fandom character). That’s it. However, since it’s not as fun to RP on your own as it is with friends, people congregate in communities and co-operate with rules of conduct to test their writing, screw with hilarious concepts (such as putting Yagami Light in a cocktail dress) and experience the emotional highs and lows of a powerful movie with the added bonus of being able to control the action!
Different Styles of RoleplayingEdit
Generally, RPing takes place in either first-person or third-personforms. In the case of the first-person, internal monologue and emotional reactions are emphasized. In the case of third-person perspective, actions are emphasized, and describing the scene plays a greater part. Emotions are shown through actions rather than directly stated.
Example of a first-person narrative might be:
- I stared down into the grave, tears welling up in my eyes as dirt began to patter down onto the coffin. He’d been too young. Too innocent. A sob worked its way up in my throat and I turned into the shoulder of Captain Ahab. “Arrrr,” he said, his cheeks wet with tears. “He was a good baleen whale. God collects the best too soon. Too soon.”
Example of a third-person narrative might be:
- They stood in front of the pet store window, hands clasped as they gazed in at the adorable baby whales splashing around in the tanks. Genetic engineering had made the creatures as small as goldfish and the two men linked their fingers together, giving each other a look of mutual love and respect. “This is how we’ll start our new family,” murmured Lieutenant Worf, leaning down to kiss Sasuke on the forehead. The shorter man scowled, embarrassed but at the same time, a little bit thrilled. A home, someone to love, a whale—it was perfect.
Another variation is past-tense versus present tense. Some communities RP in the present tense exclusively (ie. writing as if things are going on right now instead of in the past) and some communities write in a mixture of the two.
Different Styles of Communities and ForumsEdit
There are three main styles of RPing communities: centralized, forum and networked. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses and we’ll look at each in turn.
Centralized RPs operate by having each character journal join one central community and posting entries to that community for everyone to read, and NOT by posting any entries in the character’s personal journal.
Example: Jenny McSmuckerpants has the character of Yuna from FFX. Yuna’s journal name is summonsthedumb and Jenny adds summonsthedumb to the central community called baleenadventures.
This RP is in past-tense, third-person form so Jenny writes an entry for Yuna that will appear in the main community, NOT in her personal journal. Other players are free to comment on this entry.
- Yuna walked down the beach towards the water. There was a barbeque there and she smiled to herself. Hotdogs had always been a favourite of hers, and now she was going to be able to eat as many as she wanted without worrying if it made her look fat. Hell, she was gonna pork out while she was away from Spira.
The benefits of a centralized community is that all the posts are in one location and there’s no need to fuss with complicated friends-add and friends-remove crap. It’s simple, it’s fast, it’s easy. The downside is that once you leave the RP, all the entries are in that community—often locked from you if you want to re-read later, or to take down because you later have regret for that incredibly explicit Yuna/Voldemort sexlog.
Centralized communities are much simpler, but they’re less customizable. Alas.
This is not a Livejournal format, but will be briefly discussed. In this format, there is one central forum for posts with sub-forums for each location in the RP (the main deck, the harpoon stations, the captain’s quarters, etc). Someone will make a post in a location subforum and other players can respond.
The upside is that forum RPs are highly organized. The downside is that they’re often too organized, making them feel fractured, because most players can’t comb through every single subforum every day to see exactly what everyone is up to (despite the riveting high seas action).
Networked RPs operate by having every character journal friend-adding every other character journal and posts are made to personal accounts to be read on the other players’ friends pages.
The upside of this is obvious: complete control over your written material, including the option to create filters to protect underaged players from inappropriate content and other filters to dispense OOC information or just funny pictures of beluga whales in tophats.
The downside of this is equally obvious: if you don’t keep your friendslist updated regularly, you’re gonna miss entries. In a leisure time activity that relies on interaction, missing entries defeats the entire purpose of RPing.
Basic Rules and TheoryEdit
Roleplaying is a remarkably simple concept that has, over time, developed its own set of internal rules. Often these are simply assumed to be known, which can cause problems for new players, or for people who don’t want to offend other players inadvertently!
To keep it short, good RPing manners can be summed up with a few basic concepts.
ICA = ICC
IC != OOC
Don’t drop tags, jerk.
Respect the wall.
My character’s precious head is made of glass.
Stay IC. Edit
IC is an acronym for In Character. What this means is that each character you play has certain beliefs, fears, hopes, dreams, a favourite food, collection of WhaleFact cards, etc. Basically, with each action you should ask yourself "If X were in this situation what would s/he do?" If you have Revolver Ocelot screaming in terror when he sees blood in a movie, delivering a lecture on feminist studies to a rapt crowd of undergrads, forgetting what calibre his guns are or sleeping with a woman, you’re obviously not IC.
ICA = ICC Edit
"In Character Actions = In Character Consequences." In real life, throwing yourself into the churning, gnashing jaws of an aluminum shredder will result in death. Characters, despite their lack of flesh, are not exempt. Going up to a violent character and saying, “Guess what, buddy? My dog came home really satisfied last night so I suppose I owe your mother ten bucks!” is possibly going to get your character laid out on the floor after a vigorous haymaker on the part of the other character.
If you don’t want your character to be hurt, then consider the consequences of actions. Constantly demanding that characters suffer no consequences for reckless, foolish or rude actions is incredibly bloody annoying and will make people drop logs and tags with you quicker than a chainsaw going through warm whalemeat.
IC != OOC Edit
"In Character does not equal Out of Character" is another vital concept. A character’s thoughts, actions and words are not yours. Let’s repeat that: A CHARACTER’S OPINIONS, ACTIONS, THOUGHTS, FEELINGS, ETC. ARE NOT YOURS.
If your character hates someone that does not mean that YOU hate them. Someone else’s character might hate yours. THIS DOES NOT MEAN THEY HATE YOU. A character might believe some truly heinous, wacky crap, but this does NOT mean that the player believes the same or would act the same in real life.
I can’t even come up with some ridiculous joke or comparison here, because this concept is so important. Let’s hear it once more: A CHARACTER’S OPINIONS, FEELINGS, ACTIONS, FEELINGS AND THOUGHTS ARE NOT THE PLAYER’S.
Don’t Drop Tags, Jerk Edit
This one is simple. If you get into a log with someone, don’t just get up and walk away without a word of explanation. If you have Real Life things to attend to (children, parents, homework, building a fallout shelter, accordion recital) that’s fine, but for God’s sake, tell your partner that you’ll be back and tell them when. If you can’t finish a log for whatever reason, tell your partner that as well. They will understand!
However, if this is made a habit, then people might become reluctant to have their characters interact with yours. It’s uncomfortable to have characters hanging in limbo while the other person is off scaling the Alps or cooking meth from the trunk of their car. Be considerate!
Don’t Godmode. Edit
Another simple one! You control your character. You do not control your partner’s character. You do not have permission to state actions completed on someone else’s character. You must ask them first. Let’s look at two examples of a fight, one with godmoding and the other not.
Godmoding DON’T DO THIS:
- Jak spun around and his heel smashed into Daxter’s face. The ottsel flew back and threw a window and through the air. Jak tilted his head, waiting for the splash that would mean that Daxter had gone into the lake. He smiled when there was a loud sploosh!
Not Godmoding YES THIS IS RIGHT:
- Jak spun around as he lifted his leg to smash it into Daxter’s face. The impact would fling the small orange creature through the air, through the window and all the way into the lake where it would make a very satisfying splash.
See the difference? In the non-godmode example the other player is free to reply that yes, Daxter went fling into a lake or not. It’s co-operative, which is the point of RPing.
Respect the WallEdit
The invisible fourth wall is the wall that keeps RL from entering RP. Essentially, while YOU may know all there is to know about Lady Natasha Petrovich because you have, of course, read all the books in The Flukes of Terror: An Antarctic Nightmare series, your character will not. Your character, even if s/he comes from the real world, has not read Harry Potter, played Mario Brothers or Resident Evil, hasn’t seen Twilight, hasn’t listened to their grandmother tell them the story of Thumbelina. Why? This gives your character too much of an information advantage over poor Harry Potter when he wakes up in his cabin, and also it inflicts existential crises on the poor dears where they have to wonder if they really exist or not—and maybe the first time it’s fun, but it gets really old, really fast.
So don’t do it, respect the wall, keep the game fun for everyone!
My Character’s Precious Head is Made of Glass.Edit
This one is a common mixup of new players. They understand that ICA=ICC, they don’t godmode, they don’t drop tags (jerk), but they are so protective of their characters because they love their characters so much, no one can upset, hurt, harm, surprise or otherwise disturb the character’s precious equilibrium.
This is incredibly, mind-numbingly, drool-inducingly BORING for the other players.
To play any character there has to be a certain fondness for the little bastard deep within our crispy black hearts, but there is a steep difference between not throwing Chase Stein into Abu Ghraib, never to emerge again, and not allowing someone to shove him after he pranks them with a whoopee cushion.
All of these concepts are generally respected because there is one central principle in mind: This is a game, and the game should be fun for all parties. Consideration, team-work and flexibility are all vital characteristics of someone who is known as a good RPer, and minding these basic rules is a good way to cultivate that reputation and have lots of fun!
Interacting With Other PlayersEdit
Much noise and fuss so far has been made about how the players has characters talk to one another, but there must be some discussion of the rules and concepts for interacting with the people pulling the strings of the invisible dolls you’re both mashing together on the rolling, storm-swept decks of the intrepid Podhunter as it hunts that old demon, the awe-inspiring Dreadspout.
Again, to keep it short here is a quick reference list of the principles you’ll want to keep in mind:
You are not a submarine.
We’re all friends here.
Let’s have it out.
Climbing the evolutionary ladder.
No, but I’m an exception, you see.
Let’s examine each in turn!
You Are Not a Submarine.Edit
Anyone who has ever watched any movies with submarines in them knows that as soon as the Captain screams out "SONAR! SONAR! THEY’RE PINGING US!" everyone on the boat loses their shit—quietly. They know that if they make noise, if they cough, sneeze, finish doing their five-knuckle shuffle in the can, the enemy sub will pick up on this noise and blast them out of the water. Sonar scenes are tense, gripping pieces of action because the crew knows that if the enemy sub discovers they exist, they will be crumpled by the ocean’s merciless pressure like a day-old tabloid. They must not be discovered. They must remain hidden. Stealthy.
You are not a Goddamn submarine.
Get AIM. Get MSN. Get Y!M. Get something so that you can be contacted and when people contact you, don’t freeze up like rigor mortis. Other players are just like you: reasonable, friendly folks whose goal is to have fun, make buddies and play with imaginary dolls.
If you have a question about the scene, the motivations, the time of day, the locations of the characters in the scene, don’t hesitate to look the other person up and ask. Communication is the key!
We’re All Friends HereEdit
This is an important concept that also gets overlooked when tensions run high. People get into a tiff and before you know it, grudges are established and someone’s hacking your Photobucket account and setting all your website layouts to a tile of goatse.
Remember why you started RPing? Was it to spend hours on the computer, tense, agitated, shaking like a San Franciscan earthquake? No. It was to have fun and to make friends.
Before you declare war on anyone, remember that it’s just the internet, it’s just imaginary dolls and We’re All Friends Here.
And hey, even if we can’t all be friends, we can all be friend-ly.
Sometimes you’re in too deep.
Sometimes you’ve been standing in the rain for hours, watching your life tick away on your watch while the bus is late, your cat is sick, your bank account is emptier than you’d like and your parents are quick to assure you that despite the perfect job they’ve done raising you, you’re managing to turn it all to crap on your own steam.
So you get home and sit in front of the computer. Some escapism would be perfect right about now. You open up your browser and click the familiar link to whalergames-unlimited.com and log into your lj account, dorsalfinwin.
Oh, look at that. Some chump who couldn’t tell the baleen from the blow hole has taken a literary dump all over your latest thread and left mean comments. You open up a chat window and get ready to show them the real meaning of angry words typed at someone else on the internet and—
Wow, hey. Let’s stand up and go for a walk.
A rule for interacting with other players is that if you start to feel like you’re out of control, like you MUST reply, like you’ve desperately GOT to protect your reputation or characterization or whatever, get up and go for a walk for fifteen minutes.
Trust me. It will still be there when you get back, but if you take fifteen minutes to pet your cat, you’ll feel a lot better. You don’t HAVE to reply to anyone. You don’t HAVE to engage in flame wars. You don’t HAVE to do ANYTHING.
Refer to the previous principle: We’re All Friends Here. You didn’t join this to be miserable, so if you start feeling like the game is holding the leash instead of you, it’s time to Walk Away, whether that’s for fifteen minutes, a day, a week, a month, or longer.
Let’s Have It Out Edit
While it’s important to know when to walk away, it’s another set of skills to say "Alright, dude. Let’s hash things out so we can get back to the important thing—blubber."
Conflict is difficult for a lot of people, so many of them will go through great lengths to avoid this part, but it’s important to be able to discuss personality conflicts reasonably and productively.
First of all, if you are a person who dislikes conflict and can’t seem to speak your mind, it’s time to do this divorce-court style. You grab a buddy. The other person grabs a buddy. Your buddies talk to each other to reach a settlement. It’s important here to choose buddies who are at least somewhat neutral and reasonable, otherwise your buddy will need a buddy, and that buddy will need a buddy, and before you know it you’re playing a sordid, Soviet-esque game of emotional Telephone where you start out explaining that you didn’t like it when your partner kept Godmoding Major Kusanagi’s actions and what they hear is that you’d like to worship some major cursin’ naga as gods. Not good.
Moderators of games are the first people you should go to if you have a conflict with another player and you don’t feel as if you can speak to them. This is their job, as moderators, to moderate. If the moderators are not moderating, then they don’t rate as moderators.
If you decide you do want to talk to the other party yourself, remember to be non-accusatory because We’re All Friends Here, to Walk Away from the conversation if you need it, and to have a goal in mind. If you simply want to vent, go to your personal journal and blast that room-temperature IQ cretin behind a friendscut. If you want to get the drama under control and go back to harpooning those blubbery bastards, then come up with a reasoned list of what went wrong, how the other party can fix it by modifying their behaviour (reasonably) and what you’ll do to modify your behaviour in return.
Climbing the Evolutionary Ladder Edit
As humans diverged off the evolutionary path of the other primates, there were several key body structures that underwent fundamental changes. In our ancestors who moved horizontally the spine functioned as a suspension bridge, supporting the body’s organs. When humans began to walk upright as their primary form of locomotion, it necessitated a large number of changes to the entire body; the thigh bones had to slope in to place our feet under our centre of gravity, our gluteal abductors had to increase in strength to keep us from toppling over to the side when our weight was placed on one foot and our spine went from being a suspension bridge to being a load-bearing column, something that unfortunately has doomed us to a much greater likelihood of back pain and injury.
Having a spine that is extremely strong is the sad burden of being a human being, and this load bearing structure is so abused that it not only must carry our physical weight, but the punishing loads of dignity and Acting Like an Adult as well.
Basically, show spine. If someone is putting too much pressure on you? Say so. If someone is pushing you for logs that are outside your comfort range, or nagging you to drop Real Life engagements so you spent your entire life chained to the computer? Say no. If you simply don’t want to talk to someone, say so.
No one is psychic, no one can magically intuit your deep inner feelings, so it is your responsibility as the glorious result of millions of years of evolution to move your fingers to carefully type out N-O if someone does anything to make you scared or feel like you aren’t an awesome, worthwhile person.
To get all touchy feely here, if you’re creative and literate enough to try and weave complex emotional narratives with other human beings, there’s something terribly right with you. Revel in that and have fun, and if someone tries to rain on your parade, flip them the bird and ride off into the sunset on your motorcycle.
Your spine demands it.
No, But I’m an Exception, You SeeEdit
No, you aren’t.
Glossary of TermsEdit
Plain language has been used in this document, but any foray into the jungles of roleplaying communities will confront the new player with a dizzying array of terms and words. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it should make many of the conversations you see finally resolve into actual meaning.
Roleplay, both as a verb and a noun.
A suffix attached to the name of a character to refer to the character’s player. Contrary to anything you might have heard, this is not Japanese. It is a degradation of term 'mundane' to refer to the player instead of the characters. In some RPs a 'mun' will have four or five characters, and there might be dozens upon dozens of muns. Given that it would be a fantastic feat of memory to remember who plays who and their names (even if you really cared, let’s be honest you don’t), it is much easier to refer to "Apollo-mun" or "Adama-mun."
Shortened term to refer to a character.
No, not puppies, but a shortened term for "puppet." Another term for a character.
Yet another term for a character. This term, however, has some stigma attached to it, given that certain groups of people use this same term to refer to people that they believe live in their heads and speak to them. Yes, that’s right, certain groups honestly believe that dead (or alive) rockstars and celebrities live inside their heads and speak to them. While many fine, normal people use the term 'muse,' it is a term that can be polarizing. Beware, lest someone start telling you exactly what Gackt commanded them to burn down on their way home from school the day before…
"Played By." When a character is an original creation of a mun, small icons of celebrities that vaguely resemble the character are often used, simply because it’s nice to have icons. It is considered bad form to use a PB that another mun is currently using. Besides, imagine if four OCs who all had Brad Pitt as their PB met in a room. There’d either be fistfights or pornography, so don’t do it. No, wait, on second thought, do this and send me the logs. (Please.)
A formal log is a log that is written in a style you would find in a novel in print. Third-person, past tense, proper spelling and grammar.
Halfway between commenting on another character’s journal and a formal log. These logs have relaxes rules on grammar, are often in present tense and move a lot faster than formal logs. Different communities have different styles of comment logs, so it’s best to lurk for a day or so to see just how business is conducted.
Short for "relationshipping," which is a ridiculous word. To ship something in this sense is to support a romantic pairing between two characters. For example, someone saying "zomg Hermione/Link I ship it!!!!" means that they’re a fan of that pairing.
You precious lamb, let me sit with you a while. If you have made it this far into RPing and you haven’t encountered ‘wank’, I wish to reflect upon your unspoiled countenance, to bask in your pure radiance as a scaled lizard unto the sun. Wank, which comes from British slang (wanking off, to have a wank) means to masturbate. Wank refers to fruitless, furious, frantic, pointless interpersonal drama that is a lot of sound and fury and is ultimately nothing (wanking). Often hilarious when it doesn’t touch your community or circle of friends, but potentially community-wrecking if it does, wank is the darkness that accompanies the light of RPing. How do you deal with wank? Like that cheesy movie about nuclear bombs said so famously, "The only winning move is not to play."
Conclusion (At Last):Edit
I hope this document has provided you, dear Reader, on how to approach the wild, funny, often obscene and lurid world of online role-playing. Though this is only a brief overview of this bizarre sub-culture, I am sure that you will learn a lot more from actually goingout and inflicting yourself upon various communities—so in the interest of science and personal improvement, go forth, young mun! Go forth!
Given that RPers are highly emotionally charged people, it is no surprise that tensions and strange feuds can erupt, but remember that the point of all this is to have fun and enjoy yourself (even if you aren’t playing a whaler.)
Dedicated to a true patriot and a hero: Shamu