The Spaces Between

Commentary: This is my fourth article for TESO-RP.com. It seems to be getting a pretty good response from some of my favorite posters over there. I was expecting a little bit of hate for it actually. If you’ve been involved in a roleplay community before you know that people can be very touchy about what they consider ‘acceptable’ or ‘good RP’. But I really dig the community over at TESO-RP, they seem to generally be a very chill crowd. It’s funny how you can get attached to a group of people you don’t even know and hardly communicate with directly. But anyway, onto the RP!

Original Link: http://teso-rp.com/home/m/9324622/article/1762940

The Spaces Between

by The Human Floyd

Roleplaying is driven by imagination. If we didn’t have imaginations, our characters would just be a bunch of pixels, soulless and empty. It is the player who makes the character what they are. In fact, we don’t even need all of these fancy graphics and customization options, people have been roleplaying without visual aid since Dungeons and Dragons. In tabletop RPGs like DnD the players and game master are free from binding mechanics and the limitations of computers. Their minds can roam as far as the parameters of the universe they’re playing in. So why would we limit ourselves by only being able to do what the creators of an online game allow us?

There are a lot of reasons, actually. First and most obvious is the audiovisual stimulation that comes with playing a video game. I mean, who doesn’t want to actually see their character represented in a beautifully rendered game world? A world they can fully explore with other players. The control a game master has in a tabletop game can make for some awesome stories, however, you have other limitations such as the amount of people who can play, how many scenes can be occurring simultaneously and how much content the game master can pump out. Not to mention the fact that you have to get everyone together to play.

In an MMO you can jump into the game at any time and get as immersed into it as you want. Once ESO comes out Tamriel will always be there, a world that exists even when you aren’t playing in it. However, there are still a few things in MMOs which roleplayers have to suspend our disbelief of. After all, the developers can’t include everything.

Some of these are simple, like the food and drink. Obviously they aren’t going to include every single type of food a person living in Tamriel could eat. When you consider how much variety of food and drink there is in real life the seemingly large amount of tasty consumables in lore seems tiny. It’s common sense to assume that there are other meads out there besides the handful of examples we have from the TES games. Likewise, just because they don’t include bananas as an item in the game doesn’t mean they don’t exist in Tamriel.

People figure out small things like that pretty quickly. Most of us have been into gaming long enough to know that suspension of disbelief is necessary. In-game books, for example. I’ve seen several Elder Scrolls books which indicate they only show a segment of the ‘actual’ book. I don’t think Tamriel is full of leather bound, six page pamphlets on Imperial history and the bookstores probably don’t sell short stories one chapter per volume. In my opinion, this is a space our imaginations are required to fill. I always imagine that I’m just getting a snippit of the actual volume when I read an in-game book.

The amount of books in the TES games is so impressive. You could spend as much time reading as you could adventuring if you wanted to. I love it! It’s one of the things things that really made me fall in love with these games. But I always try to make my fantasy as realistic as possible, and while 300-400 books is really impressive for a video game, it would be meager if Tamriel was a real place.

To me, this means it is up to the RPers to fill the spaces between. Like emoting that your character is eating a banana (despite them not being in the game) I see it as not only okay, but expected for us to RP that other books exist. My character might be sitting under the shade of a tree reading a novel about the Dwemer returning to conquer Tamriel, even though no such fiction exists in the game. I don’t see that as a problem, after all the imaginations of the mortals of Tamriel are just as vibrant as our own, right?

I can’t imagine anyone would oppose such small additions of our own little flavor to the universe as long as it’s realistic and doesn’t break lore.

What about something bigger than food and books? Something that actually affects your gameplay experience? I’m talking about distance, the true size of Tamriel. Skyrim the game is sixteen square miles and it’s huge! As an aside, this is actually something I’m kind of concerned about as we anticipate ESO’s release. That’s a lot of space to fill with content. Even recreating that sixteen square miles seems like an undertaking, much less the rest of the continent.

But even as big that is for a video game, some people don’t realize how small sixteen square miles is in real life. I live in a town that’s 23 square miles with a population of some 67,000. Are you telling me that the entire province of Skyrim and most of the Nord race can fit into a region smaller than an average American town? I don’t think so, but the developers obviously can’t build a whole continent.

Because of this I feel RPers should be justified in referencing villages, towns and other small locations in their backstories and RP that don’t necessarily appear in the game or lore. Making up a lake in the Jerall Mountains that your character likes to go fishing in that isn’t actually from lore isn’t going to break anyone’s immersion. At least I hope their imagination isn’t that flimsy. Now, making up a major city or province of your own is probably a little too far. Balance, my friends.

So far, my examples have all been pretty easy fixes that most RPers do naturally. However, there is one aspect of the space issue that could potentially cause some controversy among RPers. And that’s the literal spaces between locations in the game world. I’m talking about one of my favorite activities in MMOs… Journey RP!

Roleplaying the adventure from one location to another can be so much fun, especially if you face real threats along the way like appropriately leveled monsters to fight or enemy players to ambush you. You can take it a step further and consider other elements like having to eat and rest, heat exhaustion, illness, etc. In some games, the world is literally too small to do this because you arrive at a new location before your RP has time to get anywhere. I really hope that ESO transcends this, being a world with enough space between quest locations and towns that we can roleplay a journey from one place to another and actually feel like it takes some time.

But even if they manage to create the swaths of wilderness necessary for that to be possible, the distances will never be completely realistic. That’s where your suspension of disbelief comes in. It’s all about communicating with the folks you’re playing with. You can send an OOC message saying, “Should we say some time has passed and we’ve been traveling for awhile?” or something of that matter to make the journey feel longer. Splitting up the journey into multiple RP sessions can help make it seem longer too.

Zenimax says the days in ESO will be roughly four hours. This should help, allowing RPers an excuse to say more time has passed than it actually has.

Now, not everyone will agree with me here. A lot of people prefer to keep it simple and use the game world as it is. This is where you see some small conflict of realities, when one character says, “I just came from Stros M’Kai by boat, it was a long and arduous journey, the days seemed to pass so slowly” where another PC arriving from the island will say,”We rode over this morning after breakfast on Stros M’Kai and are both looking for whatever the rabble around here consider food.”

This is a small conflict, of course. Nothing worth getting bent out of shape about. After all, your roleplay is whatever you make of it and no one can tell you you’re wrong. But at the same time one of the reasons we play in an MMO is to feel like we’re part of a greater, larger world. It’s easier to feel part of that if you’re on the same page as other RPers. Unless someone in the lore department decides to tell us the ‘real’ dimensions of Tamriel though, it’s up to speculation and opinion.

There are a lot of gaps that the creators of the Elder Scrolls universe haven’t covered, and may never cover but we don’t have to cry over that. In fact, we should rejoice! The door is open and the canvas blank, awaiting our input. The best way to keep everyone in your group of fellow RPers happy is to keep open communication about what you consider ‘real’ and ‘not real’ in the game world versus what’s actually happening in your story. So don’t be afraid to think a little outside the box that game mechanics put us in!

I know there are other examples of times when roleplayers have to suspend our disbelief or go into the realm of OOC to modify the world to be more realistic or fit the story better. Let us know your experiences and opinions in the comments! As always, it’s great to get different perspectives on these things. Thanks for reading and until I see you again, take it easy and stay sexy TESO-RP!

WTF is MMO RP?

If you haven’t already, you’re gonna want to read this first: WTF is RP Anyway?

Roleplaying in an MMO is fast-paced and visually stimulating. For those of you who don’t know, MMORPG stands for Massively Multi-player Roleplaying Game. Unlike other video games, MMORPGs take place in massive worlds filled to the brim with other players. Before entering this world for the first time, players create their character, customizing their physical appearance as well as choosing a class which will define their character’s role in the game. In MMOs you are one drop in a sea of other gamers, all playing the same game together at the same time, but each with his or her own goals within the game.

Most people who play MMOs might not even be able to tell you what roleplaying is though. RPers tend to make up a smaller portion of the MMO playerbase, though our numbers seem to be rising.

To RP in an MMO you simply narrate your characters actions through text and the avatar itself. You can move your character around where ever you want and most games come with a helpful set of animations to visually represent some of your character’s actions. These animations, and the narration you write for your character are called emotes. Your character can also communicate by speech, which will appear in the text window following “Your Character Says…”

Using these tools, RPers go out into the open worlds of MMOs, often wearing armor and gear that suits their character’s persona, race, storyline or whatever. Taverns are a common gathering area for RPers, who go there to drink and chat IC about their adventures. Unlike tabletop, RP in an MMO doesn’t have a specific time it takes place, aside from planned gatherings or events. Anyone can hop in at any time and begin searching for other roleplayers to interact with.

RPers often find that they can better get involved in storylines and tabletop-like-plots by joining a guild. This isn’t always true, but a good RP guild can be just the place to go to get into the deeper, more complex RP. Guilds are organizations of players within the MMO. They have their own ranking systems, collective goals and scheduled events. For an RP guild these events usually somehow progress the story of the guild.

“Random RP” as opposed to guild or planned RP is when you stumble upon another roleplayer and engage them IC. This can be as simple as asking another player for directions through the city or as interesting as attacking a passerby on the road in the dark of night. Many new connections can be made this way. You never know what to expect from another RPer. Unlike the static, straight-forward stories most games come with, roleplaying is an ever-shifting, constantly evolving story created by hundreds, sometimes thousands of authors.

As always the best way to learn more about roleplaying is to just do it. So go! Go my friends and roleplay!

WTF is RP Anyway?

Roleplaying is difficult to explain simply to someone who has never witnessed it. It’s nearly beyond my scope as a writer to come up with an precise explanation that isn’t long-winded and confusing. That’s why it’s always best to just go try it for yourself and learn as you go. Until then, I’ll try to accurately describe what you can expect from RP.

Anyone familiar at all with theater or TV shows like Whose Line is it Anyway? knows what improvisational acting is. Roleplaying is very similar to that. You have to think on the spot and come up with something that suites the character you’re trying to display. Roleplaying is all about having fun pretending to be someone else, the better you do at that the more fun you’ll have.

Generally, RP is a group activity and takes many shapes and forms. If it’s tabletop you’ll meet with friends on a night you all have free to snack, drink and laugh as you participate in the game. Online, you could be in a virtual world filled with hundreds of other RPers to interact with. Live Action Roleplay (or LARP) is when people dress up as their character and fight with foam swords. Whereas in one-on-one email RP is more like co-writing a novel.

Each of these ‘players’ has taken on the role of their character. They will narrate their actions (through text or vocally) and speak as if they are their character. The idea behind RP is that a group of people collectively creates an interesting plot by playing individual characters. Kind of like a much more advanced version of the Choose-Your-Own Adventure books a lot of us grew up with. It’s fascinating to see how different scenarios play out. Without a single person controlling all of the characters, the outcome of a RP story could be anything!

Here are some of the different types of RP and more detailed explanations of them:

MMO

Play-by-Post : coming soon

Tabletop : soming coon

LARP : lasjkdfoiwefh

RP Glossary

Roleplaying can be very complex, to the point that special vocabulary becomes necessary. My articles are directed at Roleplayers, but hopefully this glossary will help give non-RPers a basic idea of what’s going on. As always, the best way to understand RP is to actually just do it. Until then, here ya go! I’ll add more as I think of them.

RP : Woah, back up!

RPG : Roleplaying Game.

MMO : Massively Multi-player. It means there’s a lot of people playing one giant game together over the internet. The 21st century is nuts, right?!

PC : Player Character. These are the fictional characters created and controlled by the people roleplaying them. Usually a single player portrays a single PC, but this can vary.

NPC : Non-player Character. This could be anyone from a moldy beggar to a purfumed king, NPCs are everyone the PCs are not. That’s every single character involved in the story or setting. In video games the vast majority of NPCs are represented visually, and some can be interacted with. In other RPGs (tabletop, play-by-post, etc) NPCs are controlled by a GM.

GM : Game Master, also called DM for Dungeon Master. The person who controls the environment, setting, story and NPCs. In video games GMs are usually players granted the power to GM them by other players. A GM serves as a guide and a storyteller, helping focus a roleplaying session into something more than random encounters.

IC : In Character. This means that what you are saying (or typing) is coming from your character, not you. Be it their thoughts, actions or actual words.

OOC : Out of Character. This is what you, yeah you, human! That’s what you’ve got to say. In internet roleplay IC and OOC are usually separated by having different colored text, being divided by windows or having ((brackets)) of some sort around them.

roflmaogt2tgg^ : fuck if I know

My RP History

Part I

The thought of trying to sum up the experiences I’ve had through roleplaying into something coherent and readable is daunting. I could tell so many stories, but most of them wouldn’t be of too much interest or even make sense to most readers. Roleplayers have a culture of our own. Like any culture, you have to live it to fully understand it. By sharing some of the times I’ve had while roleplaying I might help the average non-roleplayer understand the culture a little better. Of course, this is all just my personal history. The thing that many roleplayers learn is that everything is about perspective. The way that I see our culture isn’t going to be the exact same as everyone else’s.

Most children like to play pretend. I lived for it. I was GMing the playground in elementary school starting in third grade. My friends and I had a complex Star Wars game in which they were apprentices (and eventually masters) of the Jedi Order. I would “be everybody”, which meant being the Game Master. We were serious about our lore, being hardcore Star Wars nerds, so our story never contradicted the films or books we had read. I don’t believe in being born to do some specific task or fill some role but I really want to say I was born to roleplay. Somehow my genes and upbringing, combined with my unending interest in roleplaying and fictional universes, would eventually lead me off of the playground and into the world of the internet.

The internet was like one of the fantasy worlds I longed to explore. It was endless, exciting and sometimes scary. I was eleven when my parents signed up with Walmart Connect. I’ll never forget the sound of the old dial-up modem screeching, trilling and whining for ten minutes every day after school as it connected. I found my way to Neopets (yeah, I know) where I discovered forums. I was slowly introduced to internet roleplaying when I saw people using astriks to indicate actions. I remember the first thread I started, a camping trip RP.

That was it, quite simple. I wasn’t roleplaying as anyone but myself, but it was fun! I could set up a tent and roast marshmallows and tell a ghost story and my imagination was vivid enough that it made it real. Of course, the roleplaying rabbit hole goes much deeper than that.

One day, in Sloth’s Lair (a message board on the Neopets forum) I saw a thread claiming that the poster was a traveler from another dimension and had come to save us all from some evil darkness nobody knew about. I wasn’t niave enough to think he was telling the truth but I was interested in what he had to say, so I messaged him. “I believe you,” I think I said. From there he went on about portals and dragons. We talked a bit before he linked another thread to me, one on a board called “Roleplay”.

I always skipped right down to my usual hangout, never thinking twice about what the Roleplay forum was. My multi-dimensional friend told me it was a wolf roleplay and I would need to create a character for it, showing his character as an example. I quickly thought up my wolf, taking every other letter out of my username to create his name, Teoamn. You can guess the username.😛 My outline was simple. He was aloof, angry and totally badass! I took inspiration from a character named Wolf in a cartoon I used to watch. Monster Rancher, anyone?

The setting of the roleplay was a small glade in a forest. My friend with the tall tales was playing as the alpha of a pack called the Moonwolves, a winged wolf with all sorts of magical abilities. This pack each wore necklaces which gave them specific powers. I, being the noob, wasn’t aware that any of this had been established before the roleplay I was jumping into. I was under the impression that everyone was as new to this particular RP as I was. I also didn’t know that there are certain customs to RP culture, as well as taboos.

So, when I saw that one of the other RPers mentioned their wolf had a pendant around her neck I decided that she had stolen it from my wolf’s parents and I was going to get it back. I had no idea that all of the Moonwolves had these necklaces or that they were even a pack. When my character swiped at the necklace to take it the whole pack came and surrounded him. I was claiming up and down that she stole the necklace when the alpha put in an OOC comment, “No, really. She didn’t steal it.”

I laugh, cringe and shit myself at the same time as I remember this first RP experience. But really, I do cherish it. After the RP I was so hyped. I finally found a way to do more of the things I loved the most, pretending and play-acting! I joined the Moonwolves guild and spent an entire summer playing with them on their proboards. I later joined a wolf RP site called Au Claire De La Lune. It was there that I met my first friend who I would roleplay with online for over five years, and eventually meet in real life.

I ran my own proboards for awhile and joined many other RP sites/groups, developing my budding writing ability and working out the worst of the kinks. Having such an open, fast and fun way to express myself through words I quickly learned a lot about writing. Although the early days of my roleplay were full of cliches, mary sues and some really terrible writing I’m still thankful for them.

Having my start in chatrooms and forums was probably for the best. After all, MMOs are a lot more complex than play-by-post games, and I would spend the better part of my high school career deeply invested in World of Warcraft. In the next part I’ll discuss why I don’t think that’s a bad thing. *gasp!*

The Birth of a Character (Part II)

Commentary: My third article for TESO-RP. Woo! It’s a lot shorter than the previous one. I enjoyed writing this two part article but it’s pretty basic stuff. I’m excited to get into the more in-depth aspects of RP.

Original Link: http://www.teso-rp.com/home/m/9324622/article/1616105

The Birth of a Character

by The Human Floyd

Part I

Part 2 – Personality

In the first part of this article I offered some tips on creating a character’s history and beliefs. In Part 2 I’ll be talking about personality. You can use your character’s backstory to build upon and reference when beginning to develop their personality. As always, race will also have an influence. If you’ve played any of the Elder Scrolls games in the past, you’ve probably picked up a thing or two about the different racial personalities, and you can always look them up in the Unofficial Elder Scrolls Pages.

Even more than backstory, a character’s personality will evolve and even change completely. Significant events or other PCs they encounter throughout the time you’re RPing should have some sort of impact on who they are and how they act. You’ll also find yourself fine tuning different traits as time goes on and you become more comfortable with your character. A static character who never evolves (or devolves) will get boring not only for you, but also for the people you RP with.

Personality is one of the main characteristics we look at when deciding whether or not we like someone. Even if your character doesn’t like another’s personality, it doesn’t necessarily effect whether or not you enjoy RPing with them. An interesting personality will make your character immediately more entertaining to yourself and others. When I say interesting, I don’t mean that they have to be charismatic or extroverted, a brooding mercenary who doesn’t speak much is just as fun to RP as an excitable inventor who cracks jokes at inappropriate times. You just need a little direction and practice, most characters’ personalities take time to develop and learn to express.

This isn’t something you can always just write down, in my experience. Personality is more complicated than that. Some people think that making a unique character is all about their powers, backstory or whatever, but I think every character is unique mostly by their personality. Much of how your character is presented will probably come directly from your own persona, especially at first. As you play them more and more they will become more independent. This list is just a guide to some of the answers you can come up with to lay the foundation for your character’s personality. It will likely grow far beyond whatever you come up with before character creation, but it’s good to have somewhere to start!

1. Disposition

Some people roleplay their character as generally always being in the same mood. They’ll have them set in a static characteristic, always gloomy or ever the happy-go-lucky one. Changing a character’s mood keeps things fun and realistic. Some things that could affect a character’s mood could the company their in, how tired or well rested they are, hunger, recent events, thoughts they’re having, etc.

While keeping a character ever-changing is good, there tend to be things about people which don’t change so often. A person might feel differently from one day to the next, but they don’t always show it. Likewise, most people tend to have a boundary for how high or low their emotions tend to stretch. One person’s idea of being angry might be completely different from another’s. You can come up with a few things that really upset your character. Think of situations or conversations that might upset others but don’t bother her, and vice versa.

It’s always fun to improvise, but spending the time to consider backstory elements and how they might affect your character’s personality traits can make them more complex and believable. Race usually has some bearing on that too. An average orc is more likely to lose his temper than an argonian for example. A character’s ideals will obviously play a part part in this too. Cursing Saint Alessia might not go over well with a human but I can’t imagine that offending a mer or beastfolk.

2. Likes vs Dislikes

This can range from food to hobbies to fighting style. A real person has unlimited likes and dislikes, more than you could ever come up with for a RP character. That, and the fact that my character’s preference for dark vs white meat isn’t usually very important to roleplay are two reasons I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about this one before character creation. There’s plenty of time to develop the little details. I do, however, like to come up with a hobby or two for my character before entering the world for the first time. This could be an in-game ability like picking herbs or hunting foxes, or it could be something like fixing watches or writing novels.

3. Extroverted vs Introverted

How social is your character? Does he only say what needs to be said or only talk when it’s about something that really interests him? Maybe he talks too much. How much a character speaks doesn’t always correlate with how open or closed off they are though. We all know some people who can talk for days without ever saying anything. We also know people who might be less talkative but aren’t afraid to share their emotions.

Some wear their hearts on their sleeves while others only tell their closest companions anything deep, and may keep secrets even from them. Personally, I think everyone has some secrets and it’s fun to have RP characters who do as well.

This test, based on the famous Myers-Brigg’s personality types can be helpful in figuring out if your character would make a better introvert or extrovert, and adding more layers to it.

Linkypoo: http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/jtypes2.asp

4. Friendliness

Even an introvert can be friendly, and friendly doesn’t have to mean bubbly. There is a wide range between friendly and not-friendly, which can mean many different things itself. Friendliness can also be a lie or a cover. Basically, the question to answer is: How does your character interact with strangers, friends, family and enemies or those he dislikes?

Well, I guess it’s more like five questions. Speaking of the number five…

5. Intelligence, Wisdom, Common Sense

Everyone likes to play a smart character, unless they want to do the exact opposite and play an irredeemably moronic one. There’s several aspects to how ‘smart’ someone is. A character could be very book smart but be lacking in common sense. Some are wise beyond their years, full of insight into complex social or intellectual matters but have no practical, day-to-day knowledge. I’ve seen talented RPers play characters who are complete buffons at everything except for a few specific areas in which they greatly excel. It can make for some pretty funny RP at times.

As I’ve said before, a lot of RPers find it fun to play the learning process when developing a skill. It can be the same for a character starting to grow more wise as they learn from their mistakes or a mage delving deeper into the pages of magic and cosmic philosophy.

There’s more to a character than even all this, but it’s a pretty good start. As a final note I’d like to say that, while realistic characters make the RP feel richer, most people do play heroes, and heroes have to be a little extraordinary. Otherwise they wouldn’t be heroes, right? It’s easy to overdo, but don’t be afraid if your character seems like something out of fantasy… because they are.

Thanks for reading and feel free to comment, after all RP is about Perspectives!