RPer's Ramblings on VR Role-playing
This page contains my own advice on how to locate a world and begin to play there. These are my own opinions based on my experience and things I would have liked to have known when I got started! I hope these ramblings assist you in some small way to brave the world of interactive role-playing on the internet. It can be great fun and I have afforded myself many hours of amusement. You may either scroll down the page or go straight to one of the following topics:
Finding a place to play that you'll enjoy is the first
step! Most M*'s let you visit their site as a guest. Guest characters
generally have the freedom to wander around the world and take it
all in before being required to come up with some kind of background
story for themselves. You can generally connect as a guest by typing
"connect guest guest". Some M*'s require a different guest
login - read the information when you first connect to see if there
are any specific instructions regarding guests.
I have provided some lists
of worlds by theme to help you find a place to play. I recommend
that you begin with a world you are familiar with; that of a favorite
author or movie, etc. This will allow you to give some depth to
the fleshing out of your character and help you to interact with
other people in a way that is appropriate based on a shared knowledge
of how that universe "works".
When you log on as a guest, take some time to read
the information the M* administrators have provided about their
world. Generally there will be guidelines on what they are hoping
to create in terms of the environment. There may also be rules on
"do's" and "don'ts" for interacting with one
another and help files on basic M* commands. M*'s generally have
"wizards" and "help staff" to assist you. You
will find instructions on how to get in touch with these folks if
you need to ask a question. If you don't see instructions for new
players when you log in, generally typing news, +news, help or +help
will point you toward the appropriate files.
Wander to your heart's content! Typing "WHO" will generally give you the names and numbers of characters on-line. You may find a M* deserted or have trouble finding the people who are currently logged in. Don't despair. It could be the time of day. Ask someone when the most popular log-in times are. As a guest you may not be paid much attention. This could be a good thing... it allows you to take things at your own pace. I find that people are willing to help guests who are polite and non-intrusive. Just saying "Excuse me, I'm exploring this world for the first time. Can you tell me something about it or recommend any parts of it that I might explore?" should get you some results or at least pointed to someone who'd be willing to talk to you.
Let's take a moment to talk about what a M* "looks"
like. Generally you will find a description on the room you have
logged into and the contents of the room. Say that you have logged
on as Guest1 and are wandering. You find yourself in a room described
The kitchen has a large central 'fireplace' over
which hangs a variety of burnished pots and pans. A large butcher's
block stands in the center of the room. Cabinets line the walls
above long counters. There is a deep sink to the back of the kitchen.
The descriptions on the rooms will fit the mood of the universe you are in. If a word in the description is bracketed by quotes or apostrophes, this generally means there is something to "look" at. In the example I have provided, the word "fireplace" is so marked. You, the player, would type look fireplace . Having typed that and pressing your return key, you would see some kind of description scroll onto your screen such as:
The fireplace is lined with stone turned nearly black over the years. A pile of logs rests neatly on the hearth. There is a pot of stew bubbling over the fire.
The contents of the room show that you are in the room and so is someone named Ralph. You can look at the contents of the room by typing "look nameofobject". In this instance, look Ralph would show you the description that Ralph's player has set on his character. It might be something like:
Ralph is a portly man of swarthy complexion sporting a handlebar mustache of immense proportions, meticulously waxed and twisted at the ends. His bushy brows shadow dark eyes, the left eye possessing a slight squint. His clothing is utilitarian; a long-sleeved shirt and trousers. Over them he wears an apron that is stained with a variety of sauces.
There are two exits listed on the room: Dining Room and Out. You can type either and you will exit the kitchen. If you see an exit with two words, like "dining room" you can often just type the first letters of the words such as "dr" to exit the room.
How does one talk to Ralph? Talking on a M* is pretty
standard. One basic way is to type the word say followed
by your message The M* will prepend what you say with "Guest1
says". This is how you do it. You type say I am a guest
here. Are you the cook?
Ralph would see "Guest1 says, "I am a guest
here. Are you the cook?"
The M* will add your quotes for you.
Ralph would type his answer and you would see something
like "Ralph nods, "Yes. May I help you?"
If you wanted to do an action rather than say something
you could type the word "pose" followed by the
action. Again, the M* will prepend the action with "Guest1".
You type pose crosses to the fireplace to smell the stew.
Ralph would see "Guest1 crosses to the fireplace
to smell the stew."
You can combine the "say" and "pose" together by using the pose command and putting your own quote marks around your speech. This would be done like this: pose crosses to the fireplace to smell the stew. "Mmmmm! That smells good!"
Ralph would see "Guest1 crosses to the fireplace to smell the stew. "Mmmm! That smells good!""
Say and Pose are the two most basic commands, along
with "look" and moving in and out of a room using the
exits. The other basic command you need to know is "Page".
Paging allows you to send a message to someone that won't be seen
by other players and is of an "OOC" or "Out-of-Character"
nature. Say and Pose are considered "IC" or "In-character"
actions. To use page you type page charactername=message.
Here is an example:
You type page ralph=I'm new. I hope you'll bear with me as I learn how this M* works.
Ralph would see something like "From afar, Guest1
pages "I'm new. I hope you'll bear with me as I learn how this
You will hear the acronyms "IC" and "OOC"
bandied about on M*'s. IC stands for "In-character" and
"OOC" for "Out-of- Character". It is important
to understand the distinction between the two terms. IC is when
your character is interacting with other characters in the world
of the M*. OOC is when the players of the characters interact as
When I said on my main page that I prefer "role-playing"
to "chat", I meant that I like to be IC as opposed to
OOC. I don't particularly care for the people I play with to know
if I am male or female, old or young, American or European. I don't
talk about what I do for a living or if I'm a student. I don't go
into whether I'm disabled or I like to eat peanut butter on celery.
My character, however, might tell you all those things about him
Generally, on a M* that is dedicated to role-playing,
being OOC when people are trying to play their characters is frowned
upon unless it's by mutual consent. Some M*'s have a command that
lets you preface a pose with OOC so the players know you are breaking
character for a moment. For example, if you and I were role-playing
and I suddenly got a phone call and had to leave the keyboard for
a period of time I might type the OOC command and a message. In
the absence of a command, a pose like "pose OOC: Phone. BRB"
would show up as:
Guest1 OOC: Phone. BRB.
BRB stands for Be Right Back. The other player might
type "Ralph OOC nods". You both are agreeing as players
to suspend the action. When you come back, you would probably go
right into character and continue your scene.
I tend to use Say and Pose for IC interactions and
Page for OOC ones. Try to avoid talking about your day one the job
or how hard finals are when people are trying to role-play.
You might hear someone say that a player has "good
IC/OOC separation". This is a very important thing! This means
that if your character says something mean to that player's character
he/she won't take it personally in RL (Real Life). Or if your character
admires the curving lashes of the other character, the player doesn't
think you want to date her RL. It can also help you to enjoy playing
with that sexy female barmaid even if you OOCly know the player
is a man. Or take seriously the authority of the Captain of the
starship over your Ensign even though you OOCly know the player
is 14 RL and you are 46.
Okay! You've chosen a world. You've practiced says
and poses as a guest and you think you've got the hang of it. Now
it's time to log off and connect as a new character. Some M*'s let
you create the character at the log in screen. Others ask that you
mail to a certain place and request a character. Once you have a
character name and password you are ready to create him or her.
The first thing you will generally be asked to do
is assign your character a gender. Depending on the M* code it might
be @sex me=male or @sex me=female or @gender male or @gender female.
There should be instructions on creating a character in the area
where you first log on. Assigning a gender makes the M* give your
character personal pronouns such as "he, his, him," etc.
"Edmund is tall and handsome and bulges with muscles. He was born on a farm as one of six siblings. His father used to beat him. This has scarred him for life and he doesn't trust anyone he meets. His brooding presence sends a chill down your spine."
Why are these "no no's"? Because where you are from and
what happened to you comes out through knowing you. It's not always
intuitively obvious. That's the fun of role-playing. Maybe Edmund
is motivated by a hate for his father, but I, the other character,
may never know about the father if Edmund never discloses it. And
I resent being told that you send a chill down my spine. I want
to role-play my own reaction to you. Otherwise, go write a book!
You don't need the rest of us to interact with if you already know
how we'll react!
Probably back in "Lit" class you read about a character's
"one fatal flaw"...hubris, or whatever. It can make your
character fun and interesting to give him or her, if not a fatal
flaw, at least a few quirks or personal mannerisms. I have found
that these will often come out through role-play for me unexpectedly!
It doesn't hurt at the beginning to come up with a few for your
Let's take Edmund in the example above. His player wants him to
be strong, handsome, brooding and mistrustful. He was born on a
farm, has six sibs and an abusive father. Perhaps Edmund mistrusts
all the /adults/ he meets, but he was close to the children in his
family; protective of them? He could be played stand-offish to adults
and warm and funny around children. It might turn out that he knows
how to pull quarters out from behind their ears! Thinking about
things like your character's background, education, formative events,
likes and dislikes, etc. go a long way to making him or her a person
and not a cardboard cutout or a clone of his/her player.
I once had to create a character quickly. I did a desc without having a background story in place. It was in a futuristic universe and I made him a spacer wearing a plain coverall. The coverall was described as having the identifying patches removed. Even though I didn't have his story in place, the missing patches gave me fodder for coming up with the "story" of why he chose not to have his ship be identified. That small detail launched me into ideas for his background. What comes first..the background or the desc? That is one of those chicken and egg puzzles.
The title of this section has to do with "code" versus
"role-play". There are two kinds of people on M*'s...coders
and role-players. Bless the coders, they are the ones who make sure
we have rooms to play in and cool things like wagons that carry
us around or elevators that appear to move or machines to vend us
drinks when we are thirsty.
Guest1 sips some water.
I, myself, prefer role-play to coded bits. I find it more interesting
to type poses. My role-play might look like this:
Guest1 finds himself feeling thirsty and looks around. He sees
the sink in the corner and opens several cabinets to find a glass.
Locating one he crosses to the sink and fills the glass.
Guest1 sniffs experimentally at the contents of the glass. The
water appears to be clear and clean. He presses the cool glass to
his hot cheek and sighs happily at the chill.
Guest1 brings the glass to his lips and takes a sip. He mmms softly to himself and tilts his head back, glugging down the rest of the contents....
You get my drift...
What the heck is a clueless newbie anyhow? Well, you'll know if
you meet one. Hopefully, you won't be one. A newbie is basically
someone who is, well...new! We're all new at some point but we can
avoid acting cluelessly. A clueless newbie might be someone who
talks OOCly in the middle of some obvious role-played scene. He
walks in on a battle on the bridge between the Federation and the
Klingons. He asks "Anybody here go to Kansas U? I'm majoring
in Chemistry there. Hey, didja see the X-Files last night? I thought
that was really gross!" This newbie belongs on a chat m*, not
a role-playing one.
Here are some basic "etiquette tips" from yours truly
that I believe will probably keep you from getting the clueless
Ester's and Mary's players had fun with using unspoken thoughts.
But imagine how Ester's player might have felt if the character
Mary had said "What do you mean I look like an old bat"
and hits her over the head with her purse? It takes some discipline,
but don't let what you know OOC affect how your character responds
Let's look at these four examples of ways the players /might/ have posed to keep from powerplaying on their partner:
If you role-play for any amount of time you are apt at some point to run into a character who wants to have sex with your character. I am not going to make a moral judgment on whether or not this is good or bad. I just would like to make a couple of observations:
Many of us have the capability of making logs of our role-playing adventures. They can be fun to read later or to mail to one another. I've heard lots of arguments back and forth on the ethics of logging. Here's my own two cents. If you are rping in a "public" area such as a saloon or the bridge of the starship, I believe logging can be done with impunity. If you are rping a more private scene, the sharing of which could be hurtful to the other player, I recommend two possible courses of action: 1) Log for your own personal use and don't share. 2) Ask the other player if they mind you logging and sharing. I think, often, people forget they are playing with real people and not cardboard cutouts on the holo-deck. Treat each other with respect and communicate!