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!*