What is Roleplaying?Edit

Simply put, "roleplaying" is the act of assuming a role within a fictional environment. Like an actor in a play or the author of a novel, you put yourself in the shoes and in the mind of a character that is separate from yourself.

This can be as simple as assuming the part of an elf in a hack-and-slash MUD and as complex as immersing yourself into the role of an alien smuggler in an intensive, RP-enforced sci-fi MUSH.

How Does It Work?Edit

In most cases, the art of online roleplaying harkens back to tabletop gaming (but generally more immersive) and the childhood pasttime of cops and robbers (but often with a referee).

Online RP games come in a couple of forms: consent based and non-consent based. In a consent-based game, nothing significant (and especially nothing harmful) can happen to the character without the permission of the player behind the character. In a non-consent-based game, a character can be hurt or killed in the course of events whether or not the player behind the character approves.

Activities in online RP games can happen just about any time, day or night, depending on the playerbase. Many RP games aren't focused on levels, so progress is generally measured on something less tangible, such as a character's personal growth as a result of various experiences. There really aren't many ways to *win* an online RPG, although every major crisis your character survives should be counted as a victory.

Roleplaying occurs in scenes that generally involve two or more characters. The types of events vary depending on the theme, but can range anywhere from social outings in taverns to political intrigue to courtroom drama to epic space battles.

As a basic form of etiquette, to help reduce chaos in the real-time evolution of a scene, players often determine a "pose order" to keep track of whose turn it is in the scene.

Players take turns posing and talking, indicating any actions they're trying to accomplish while they converse.

If combat is called for, a referee is often used to judge the conflict and apply situational bonuses and penalties as required.

Regardless of whether a game is consent-based, it is considered poor form to try to force any action on another player without a chance for them to react. Here's an example of a bad pose:

Bob hammers Ed on the noggin with a rock.

It assumes a few too many things. What if Bob isn't close enough to hit Ed? What if Ed's agile enough to dodge the blow? And where did Bob get that rock, anyway?

Here's a better way to approach such a pose:

Bob looks around for a rock. If he finds one, if it's small enough, and if Ed doesn't notice, Bob will grab the rock. Bob will then try to hit Ed on the back of the head with the rock.

It's a little more work, but it does a good job of not taking Ed for granted. If you want to hit things without any challenge, stick to single-player RPGs. Online RPGs are collaborative works by nature and should be respected as such.

Finding the Theme You WantEdit

Your search will start with what interests you. Do you want to immerse yourself in a world inspired by the works of J.R.R. Tolkien? Or would you much rather seek out some moody, brooding vampire haven? Maybe you want something totally original and untried.

The MUWiki's MU* Promotional Pages are set up with subcategories based on various themes, from Harry Potter to Stargate.

Narrow down your hunt by checking out those pages and find which game appeals to you. Explore the game's website. Check out their news and help files in-game. Talk to other players. Get a feel for their character creation system, their community attitudes, and their openness to newbies.

When you find the right match, start making yourself at home.

Developing a ConceptEdit

Once you've decided on a theme and game to play, you'll need to work on a concept for your first character.

Things to avoid:

  • Orphan bent on revenge against parents' killers
  • Destroyer of worlds
  • Creature not offered in character creation
  • Villain faction member who defects to the side of light
  • Soldier who left the military faction but still wants all the military faction skills
  • Uber-rich tycoon
  • A total loner who hates everybody

To get the most out of the interactive RP experience, it probably would be best to start with a fairly balanced character who fits within the framework of a specific faction (if factions are necessary). You should consider playing a character who has led a fairly unadventurous life so far, who is embarking on a new phase in their existence with the potential to try new things. If your character is coming into the game with a background full of adventure, then how can they be challenged or amazed by what awaits them in the game?

As has been stated before: There's no winning or losing, per se, in an online RPG. It's all about character growth. If you're trying to start the game with a character who's seen it all, then there's not much growth to be had.

Taking the StageEdit

After your character gets approved for the game grid, it's time for the adventure to begin.

You'll want to find logical reasons to roam around town (shopping, a desire to drink a pint of ale) or travel from town to town (job hunting, trading, singing and storytelling). These activities will lead to opportunities for RP with other players who might be hanging out in taverns or shops, or offering jobs for new adventurers like you.

Some rules of the road to remember as a newcomer:

  • Avoid speedwalking. It's always a temptation to try to see everything, zooming from room to room to check out descriptions. While doing this, however, you might zoom past other players who are actually in the process of roleplaying. It's important that you take your time and pose your way into and out of a scene.
  • Don't just barge in. If you happen on an RP scene, especially in a large public area, you can't always assume that you see the people involved *right away*. So, it's bad form to just walk in and blurt out "Hi" and expect people to respond to you. Wait for a scene pose and then determine how best to inject yourself into the scene.
  • Have a look around you. Take a moment to read the description of the room carefully to understand the basic concept of the space represented there. A common error which newcomers make is assuming that upon entering room, their characters are standing right next to the other characters. This may not be the case, as one room may represent a space as small as a broom closet or as large as a forest. Refer to the previous point to figure out how to step into the scene.

Once you've gotten involved in the scene, be sure to respect pose order and don't trample over other people's lines. Keep in mind, always, that this is a collaborative pursuit and a performance - a combination of theater and writing in real-time - and much of the joy of playing the game at all is derived from this.


As the game progresses, your character should grow and change as a result of the storylines in which they have played a part.

This is one benefit of starting the game as a fairly "normal" character: Your character can be affected by the things that happen to them in the course of the story. Perhaps they're in a war and they lose a limb. Maybe a friend dies, pushing them to the brink of madness. Or what if a government to which the character was once loyal is revealed as corrupt and must be toppled?

With some players, there's a temptation (sometimes a compulsion) to struggle to maintain the status quo for their character. This is perfectly normal human nature. However, it's also important to remember this: Your character is not YOU. So, as a player, you're going to have to accept change as the norm in an RP-intensive environment. You should welcome it. It bears repeating: Victory isn't acquired in games like this by winning in the traditional sense. The victory comes from the experiences and evolution of your character through the course of the story as it progresses.

Bringing Down the CurtainEdit

Over time, you may find that your character has done so much and experienced so many things that what remains for them on the horizon sort of pales in comparison.

When you find yourself confronting that moment for your character, it is time to consider an end to that character. You may find it more enjoyable to develop a new concept for a new character on that game or perhaps you'd prefer to explore opportunities somewhere else.

Perhaps it's a contradiction to the assertion that Your character is not YOU, but it is important that you maintain an emotional investment in a character for them to grow and evolve, and for you to enjoy the experience of the game's changing story. It is just as important, however, to recognize that when you've lost that affinity for your character or the experience.

When you're done, you're done. It's okay. You can't worry about letting everyone down. It's a mistake to keep a character rolling along just out of a sense of obligation to other people. You're not doing them any favors if it amounts to phoning in a performance.

It is probably the hardest decision, knowing when to say the show's over and usher your character offstage for good. But it can also be a time for reinvigoration as you discover a new character to explore.