It’s time for a list. Today, it’s a list of the many ways you can make role-playing suck. This is targeted mainly to experienced role-players, but I’ll throw some newbie things in at well. Wall of text powers: activate!
1. Pedantry about grammar. Chat in MMOs is a real-time medium. People do not always have the time to proofread their posts, and this leads to typos and misunderstandings. A certain amount of give and take is needed when doing roleplay. Yes, if they are talking to you like a text message, go nuts. But resist the temptation otherwise, and don’t be the guy who corrects what people he isn’t roleplaying with says in public chat.
2. Captain Boringman Syndrome, or attack of the Anti-sue. A Mary Sue is shorthand for a perfect character with no flaws. Well, its more complex than that. As you can see from the links, you could write term papers on the variations of it. However most people overcompensate in the opposite direction, and create what I call “Captain Boringman.”
They name their characters things like John Smith in a superhero game, and make him an ordinary fellow. Painfully. He’s just there, sticking out of the milleu. He doesn’t do much because there’s not much he can do. He just sits there being normal. In other media, normal people are used to show up the fantastic situations happening. And when done well, this is excellent, as G.K. Chesterton explains in his book Orthodoxy:
In short, oddities only strike ordinary people. Oddities do not strike odd people. This is why ordinary people have a much more exciting time; while odd people are always complaining of the dulness of life. This is also why the new novels die so quickly, and why the old fairy tales endure for ever. The old fairy tale makes the hero a normal human boy; it is his adventures that are startling; they startle him because he is normal. But in the modern psychological novel the hero is abnormal; the centre is not central. Hence the fiercest adventures fail to affect him adequately, and the book is monotonous. You can make a story out of a hero among dragons; but not out of a dragon among dragons. The fairy tale discusses what a sane man will do in a mad world. The sober realistic novel of to-day discusses what an essential lunatic will do in a dull world.
The problem is that people are so paralyzed with being thought a Mary Sue they don’t do the fantastic adventures. The elf cook doesn’t slay dragons, he just sits in the town hub and cooks. An old man just complains about his arthritis. Normal characters need to do extraordinary things. If you can’t, it’s better not to be one.
3. High school all over again. The lifeblood of any role-play is done IN PUBLIC. If you join a RP guild, it is not so you can hide behind your guild chat and role-play, but to coordinate live role-play with others easily. You might think this is unfair of me to order how you should role-play in a group, but it’s important because if you keep RP in private, it leads to a high school clique mentality, and makes for very poor gaming.
RP is organic, and often improvisational. There’s a place for scripted and planned events, but your character will grow from interaction with others done off the cuff. Limiting your RP to a single guild is going to make your character feel cramped, and you’ll soon get to know the other players’ tic and habits too well. RPing in public constantly has you meet people who react in different ways, forcing you to re-evaluate who you are. Why are you X’s boyfriend despite your characters having no chemistry? Did it arise because of RP, or because your guild leader pairs people up unconsciously?
Also, without public RP, the game feels very cold and barren. The reality of the guild has been to isolate players in their own self-selected channels. For parties it’s bad, but for RP it’s terminal.
4. Take your damn anti-depressants. This is NOT about the player, though seriously: if you think you are depressed look into counseling. MMOs can warehouse people and help them avoid problems like this. What this is about is this: making a player crazy for the sake of being crazy.
This can be ANNOYING AS HELL. I’ve been guilty of this. You create someone who is pure unbridled manic energy, and who RPs like a William Burroughs novel. Even if the concept is good, dealing with someone who realistically should be in some kind of therapy, and who people would avoid if at all possible makes for wearying RP. They don’t role-play with you. Instead, you become Elmer Fudd to their Bugs Bunny.
While this can be inspired if you have a RPer who is good at being a straight man, always be wary of being too nutty. Your character should be more than a collection of oddball quirks.
5. OMG I HATE U MOM as the peanut gallery watches. Often linked to RP guilds. This is the syndrome where a guild stages a public fight between two of its members while the rest of the guild does nothing. This can lead to fights of profound negativity that last for hours. Yet they never come to blows, often solved by one person storming out.
Look, we know conflict is the spice of fiction, but overtly negative public RP gets wearisome, and makes your characters look bad to the rest of us. This is similar to real life: we hate people who cause scenes. Think about it: if what you did in RP would cause you to get thrown out of a RL bar, should you do it? People though do, and what’s worse they prolong it.
This is because in RP, it’s very hard to resolve conflicts meaningfully. There’s no RP jails, and PvP is a problem often due to level disparity. My advice is to be very careful about public fights, and to cut them short when it’s obvious you are prolonging them. Also, keep this in mind: most RPers are method actors. This means they draw on their own experiences and emotions to shape RP. However, this means as they RP a fight, they often can “feel” the fight inside, so be wary of long fights.
6. Hello! I’m drinking over here! This isn’t what you think. Rather than it meaning someone who is negative about any public RP and heckles it, this means people who want to RP but are passive aggressive.
This person comes to a bar, sits down, orders a drink, and drinks it. That’s all he does, describe his drinking hoping that someone walks over and interacts with him. He keeps mulling over his drink until he gets disappointed no one talks to him, and leaves. Just say hi to someone, drinking man. Be active. If your character thinks the elf girl has nice legs and would say it, walk up to her and say it. If he does, but is too shy, have him approach her and waffle a bit.
People don’t because they are afraid of rejection, but people who reject you when you are role-playing are the exact kind of people you would never want to RP with anyways. Rather than be passive, be active. It’s a principle that is good in real life, too.
7. In the old country, we do not have what you call personal space. From the Dilbert comic here. A newbie mistake, most commonly used with Male characters and female.
So you see this really hot elf girl at the tavern. You sidle up next to her to zoom in the camera, to check her out. This is a quirk of MMOs since camera angles are often zoomed out to show the surrounding area, and not to show fine detail. Except for one thing. You are standing right behind her, maybe a foot away. While not saying anything.
For one thing, we know you are doing it. For two, people don’t do this, hover less than a foot away. Part of good RP is remembering how people act in a world, and not falling prey to how MMOs disembody us.
That’s enough for part one. Part two will be even more fun, ERP suckage. Pun fully intended.