RP101 is a course led by Brody that discusses roleplaying in a text based environment. This is a mix of posted articles and seminar logs. An excellent source for someone new to text-based roleplaying, and a high quality source for anyone interested in prevailing roleplay attitudes at JTS.

RP101: An IntroductionEdit

Roleplaying: It's inherent in our nature. As kids, we pretend to be good guys and bad guys, chasing each other around the yard. Bang-bang! You're dead! Am not! Am too! Our games have rules, we're expected to play our roles within certain parameters. When we grow up, we play new roles: Parent, employee, spouse. But it's still a lot like childhood: The games have rules, and we're expected to play our roles within certain parameters.

Many of our world cultures have put a high value on roleplaying, from the tragedies of the ancient Greeks to Shakespeare to motion pictures such as The Lord of the Rings. Through roleplaying, lessons can be taught and traditions can be passed on. Stories can be told.

With the advent of the Internet and easy access to the programs required to develop text-based MUDs (multi-user dungeons or dimensions), hundreds of games evolved in the digital Petri dish. Many of these games are incorrectly labeled roleplaying. Many of them are more accurately called roll-playing. You create a character, but you don't inhabit a role or bring that character to life. Instead, you wander the virtual map, killing monsters, gaining experience points and collecting loot and gold.

True roleplaying games, such as OtherSpace, Chiaroscuro and Reach of the Empire, actually hold a higher expectation for the people who play them. You create a character, give that character a history, a reason for existence, and you set them into a matrix of other characters with their own goals and aspirations that may create friction, opposition and alliances. Your character accrues real experience: Victories, failures, battle scars. Personal growth in a roleplaying game can be measured in much the same way as your real personal growth: Events transpire, you react, you deal with consequences, and you scour the wreckage in the aftermath of bad choices and revel in the successes yielded by good choices.

In true roleplaying games, it's common - and not unwelcome - to get a strong attachment to your character. If you're buying into the fiction of a virtual world and immersing yourself in the moment, then you're likely getting the most out of the experience. The key often comes in keeping a healthy back-of-the-mind sense of context: When bad things happen, they happen to your character, not you. This is one of the prime pitfalls of novice roleplayers.

Roleplaying is an escapist environment, and you should be encouraged to have a good time. No one likes to lose. But, in environments where factions form, it is inevitable that someone will win and someone will lose. If no one loses, if no risk of failure exists, then the environment stagnates. No one grows.

Watching a movie, you can easily separate yourself from Frodo and Saruman, while still feeling for them. But you don't face any risk if Saruman wins over Frodo. If someone decided to act out The Lord of the Rings in a real-time MUD environment, with real people inhabiting the roles of characters both good and evil, then one would begin to see the price of immersing real people into such roles: Squabbling, bickering, logging off in a huff when Shelob jabs them in the belly after they escaped fair and square. But, it's not all bad, folks. We'd also get to see the benefits: Players can often take storylines down unexpected paths.

Each player brings something different to their roleplaying environment. In a real-time, evolving RP environment, each player also has the opportunity to make their mark on the growing history of the live game.

In my experience of running games for the better part of a decade, I've found that most problems encountered with players stem from one of the following:

  • Inexperience with roleplaying as opposed to roll-playing
  • Lack of familiarity with basic roleplaying etiquette
  • Lack of familiarity with interface commands
  • Failure to separate the player from the character

In this course, Roleplaying 101, I'll endeavor to address as many issues as possible to help remedy these problems.

The goal of this course is to provide insights and information that a player new to our games can absorb to help assimilate them into our society. We've got a lot of basic rules and concepts that seem second nature to veterans, but to a total newcomer, they can seem alien. It's unfair to expect everyone to come into a roleplaying environment with the same baseline of knowledge as the most astute veteran. But it's absolutely fair to expect a new player to learn the ropes. If I go to England, I'd better get used to driving on the left hand side of the road. If I visit New Jersey, I'd better be ready to deal with the lack of left turns off major roads. So, if I visit Chiaroscuro, I'd better know how to talk to people, how to interact with them, and how to shape my character over time.

This course should be a useful guide. Much of it will be conducted on this website, but at least three workshops will be conducted live on the games of New and old players alike are invited to pose questions and share insights.

Good luck!

RP101: Roll-playing vs. RoleplayingEdit

The first important lesson that should be learned by participants in our games is the difference between roll-playing and roleplaying.

It's a fairly common misconception, perpetuated by computer games like Baldur's Gate and Fallout, that roleplaying is just a matter of picking how your character looks, giving the character a selection of skills, and then roaming a virtual world solving quests, exploring and killing monsters to gain experience and cool new weapons and armor.

That's not roleplaying. It's roll-playing. When we talk about roll-playing, for purposes of this course, we're referring to games where dice determine just about everything (although the dice rolls may all be handled invisibly, behind the scenes in an automated system) and the main goal of the player is to gain experience, rise through levels, and, ultimately, win the game. Victory in a roll-playing game is achieved by completing all the quests or reaching the highest player rank.

Most MUDs are roll-playing games. That doesn't make them inherently bad. Quite a few roll-playing games are absolutely fantastic. But they perpetuate an expectation that causes an occasional problem for true roleplaying games, such as OtherSpace, Chiaroscuro and Star Wars: Reach of the Empire.

Many players who make the shift from roll-playing to roleplaying find the culture shock overwhelming. They come to a roleplaying game without understanding certain basic concepts and principles that stand in stark contrast to what they've become accustomed to in roll-playing.

Roll-players are often accustomed to:

  • Gaining levels
  • Killing monsters
  • Seeking out treasure and equipment
  • Automated combat
  • Unrestricted naming conventions
  • Interacting with other players only to take down tougher monsters
  • Around-the-clock activity possibilities, such as automated quests

When a roll-player first arrives in a true roleplaying game, they find a culture that doesn't usually put much value on levels, killing monsters usually only happens as part of a non-automated plot developed by the staff, combat is refereed by staffers and likely requires consent of all parties, staffers impose restrictions on the names players can choose and may require players to write in-depth backgrounds before their characters can be approved for the grid, most activities run by the staff are scheduled - not automated, and interaction with other players for character development and entertainment is absolutely critical.

It's like the difference between a video arcade and a dance club. In a video arcade, it's fine to wander from diversion to diversion. On your own, you can have plenty of fun as long as the quarters don't run out. But, in a dance club, you're wasting your time and cover charge money if you don't interact with other people, either by talking or dancing with them.

Roll-playing prizes material acquisition and scorekeeping; roleplaying prizes player interaction and character development. No wonder it seems like such a disconnect when roll-players make that switch to a roleplaying game for the first time. For them, a true roleplaying game seems too personally demanding, too boring, too reliant on other people for fun. It's perfectly understandable that, upon first sticking their toe in the water, they declare it too damned freezing cold and go diving back into the familiar pools of MUD.

That disconnect, that shock, is natural. Experienced roleplayers need to demonstrate patience in helping to acclimate such newcomers into this culture. And they need to try not to take it personally when roll-players express disdain or just don't seem to "get it" right away.

Roleplaying is an acquired taste. It's about socializing and character development. It's a sort of improvisational performance mixed with storytelling. People are judged based on how they perform their roles, the quality of their writing, their grammar, and even their spelling. Success is gauged via the character's experience: The plots they've survived, the villains they've thwarted, the friends and enemies they've made. These accomplishments are satisfying to roleplayers, but to a roll-player fresh out of the traditional MUDing ranks it's fairly alien.

The gap between roll-playing and roleplaying can be bridged by players who want to cross the breach. But the roll-player must do it from a position of informed choice. A roll-player choosing to play a true roleplaying game without understanding what they're getting into is likely to experience frustration and embarrassment as they roam the game looking for monsters to kill and quests to solve, totally ignoring other players who are gathered in popular roleplaying hotspots, doing what it is that roleplayers do.

RP101: Taking the StageEdit

Roleplaying, with its primal, deep-plunging cultural roots, gives people a chance to exercise their imaginations and participate in what-if experimentation.

So, let's dispense right away with the myth that our text-based roleplaying environments are "just games." They're not. They do contain game-like competitive aspects, and they've even got referees for purposes of resolving in-character conflicts. But, at its heart, what truly sets a roleplaying game apart from roll-playing is the immersion of the player into an assumed identity as part of an evolving storyline. The story may be driven by staff-crafted plots, player actions, or a synergy of both. No matter what form of engine the storyline uses, the player's assumption of a specific role within the saga is a constant.

In a true roleplaying game, the player takes on a job that is equal parts writer and actor.

Repeat after me: "It's not just a game." Keep repeating it until you've got it. I'm not sure you're repeating it. In fact, it's possible you don't buy that premise just yet. After all, I've been referring to these environments as roleplaying games, so isn't it contradictory for me to argue otherwise? No! Because I'm not telling you to convince yourself it's not a game. I'm arguing that it's not just a game.

What else is it, then?

  • Improvisational theater: Players interact in real-time, and bounce unrehearsed, impromptu actions and reactions off each other.
  • Creative writing: Players experiment with language, descriptive writing and dialogue.
  • Cheap therapy: Players can use the roles they play to work through frustrations and real-life issues.
  • Community: Players from around the world aren't always "on stage." Behind the scenes, friendships grow and communities are built.

So, roleplaying games offer potential to be far more than just the waste of time many detractors would have us believe.

Wait. Perhaps you hadn't heard that roleplaying of this kind has detractors. Well, it does. Many of these detractors are also convinced that our true roleplaying environments are just games. They simply don't understand.

Among other things, they think:

  • Roleplaying is a waste of time; hours and hours of your life you'll never get back.
  • Roleplayers are geeks without lives.
  • Roleplaying without graphics is pointless.

I'll address these misconceptions one at a time.

First, roleplaying's not a waste of time. It's an activity that takes advantage of modern global communication technology to hone creativity and social skills. It combines aspects of a traditionally solo activity, writing, and a traditionally social activity, theatrical acting. It gives players a chance to entertain themselves and others with minimal expense. In "the real world," some people collect stamps, some sing karaoke, and some plant gardens. Their hobbies are no more valid for the expense of time involved than online roleplaying.

Second, all right, I concede that many roleplayers are, to some extent, geeks. Yes, you too are at least a minor geek. If you know words like "Telnet," "blog" and "retcon," then you have to admit at least a small percentage of geekitude. I'm a geek. I'm fine with it. But even geeks often have lives. Roleplayers come from many different walks of life. Very few of them, in my experience, are shut-ins. Most are high school and college students whose attendance waxes and wanes depending on homework, exams, school activities, vacations and dates - yes, dates! The adults who play often come from technological fields - information technology workers, Web customer service workers, computer repairs, web designers - but I've also seen law enforcement officers, soldiers, actors, journalists and artists. Almost all roleplayers I've met have lives, even if they frequently insist they don't. Nevertheless, even if a specific player arguably has little social life in the real world due to their circumstances, the fact that they seek socialization in some form, even if it's with a bunch of relative strangers via the Internet, is positive in my opinion.

Third, I'd argue that roleplaying with graphics doesn't exist yet. Roll-playing with graphics, such as Everquest, Planetside and Star Wars Galaxies, makes for great eye candy. I'm not sure I'd want to spend $15 a month for the privilege to wander around a graphical version of a MUD, where socialization is minimal (usually limited to grouping for monster hunts), killing is rampant, and character development can only be gauged by increased experience points and improved skills.

So, it's okay to roleplay. It's not a complete waste of time. Those hours spent watching Star Trek: Enterprise, however, are hours you'll never get back. You should have spent them roleplaying instead.

Now, one final point before we conclude this lesson: Although true roleplaying games are more than just games, it is imperative for the player to separate themselves from their character. Our hobby can become mentally unhealthy for players who fail to make this all-important distinction. The player is an actor who brings to life a character.

In that vein, consider an actor like Harrison Ford. His characters have included Han Solo, Indiana Jones and Jack Ryan. All three characters experienced triumphs and tragedies during the movies in which they appeared, and although Ford certainly imbued each character with emotion and personality, the actor is clearly distinguishable from the characters. What happens to those characters stays on the screen. You aren't likely to find Harrison Ford lamenting how unfair it was that Han got frozen in carbonite and shipped off to Jabba the Hutt.

On the other hand, you've got actors like George Takei, who in recent years seems to have become obsessed with how much he deserves to command a starship. Er, wait, no, how much Hikaru Sulu, his character from Star Trek, deserves to command a starship in his own series. The line between actor and character is thinly drawn. It's not a healthy situation. If Sulu got killed off, Takei would likely be the roleplayer who spins off the deep end, crying about the unfairness of it all and embarking on a campaign of truth to protest.

In a roleplaying game, it's great for players to throw their energy and creativity into a character, bringing it to life. But for your own mental health, keep a clear distinction in your mind between the player and the character.

One rookie mistake that tends to foster confusion between player and character: Creating a character that is little more than an Internet puppet version of yourself. If you're just playing you, then, naturally, you're going to take it more personally when bad things happen beyond your control. Players who fail to make an adequate distinction between themselves and their characters are often the ones who end up complaining that they have to deal with bad things happening to them in real life, they shouldn't have to deal with it in a game.

But, remember, it's not just a game. Winning and losing aren't the point. Developing a character and sharing a story: Those are the real points. Conflict, failure and strife are part of building character. So, if you don't want those bad things to happen to you, don't create yourself in a character's shell.

It's okay to imbue a character with some aspects of your personality, but you're always better off creating a character that's different enough so that when you log in and jump into roleplaying mode, you feel like you're slipping on a mask and a costume. You're not you when you take the virtual stage. You're playing a character. One day, by your choice, by someone else's choice, or by accident, that character's going to be gone. Dead. Lost. Accept that now. Every story has an end. Make the most of these characters while they last, but understand from the outset that their existence is finite and separate from your own.

RP101: Tree of KnowledgeEdit

Of particular trickiness for a new roleplayer is the concept of what one knows out of character as opposed to what one knows in character. This distinction is known colloquially as the separation of IC/OOC.

In a text-based online roleplaying game such as OtherSpace, Chiaroscuro or Reach of the Empire, it's extremely difficult to prevent Player A from finding out what happened to Player B or what Player C did to Player D. Players are able to page each other, talk on OOC channels, e-mail, and instant messenger. Staffers occasionally post logs of major events that involve specific groups of players so the entire playerbase can get a sense of what's going on in a storyline. So, it's important for players to distinguish between what the player knows and what the character knows.

Let's think of all that information out there as the fruit of a tree of IC knowledge.

What staffers know exclusively can be considered the roots: The sort of information that isn't likely to float around outside administrative circles.

What everyone knows forms the trunk, which everyone can see: Broad-based thematic information and IC news accounts about major events.

What individual players know can be seen as branches spiraling off from the trunk: Each branch is a single player's perspective of events they experience.

Sometimes, during the course of a storyline, branches can become intertwined because separate players come together for a plot. For the duration of that entwining, the separate players share IC knowledge of events. But, once they drift apart, their experiences diverge along with their IC knowledge.

Problems arise when a player who only knows about something through an OOC source, without personally learning of it while in character, assumes they know the information ICly and then uses that information ICly.

For example: Player A walks into a dark alley, where Player B lurks and waits. Player B attacks Player A, beats him senseless, steals all his stuff and drags him to a warehouse to hold him as a prisoner. Player A is friends with Player C. Because Player A is imprisoned and isolated, he cannot share information ICly. But it's possible to talk to people through OOC means. He tells Player C about his plight, revealing who mugged him and where he's being held.

If Player C just commiserates OOCly, but takes no action himself without a purely in-character motivation, the line between IC/OOC is unbreached.

But if Player C takes that OOC information, attacks Player B and rescues Player A without any real IC motivation, the line between IC/OOC is shattered.

The only reason Player C should act on Player A's behalf is if Player C learns about Player A's plight through IC resources.

For example: Perhaps Player A tells Player C that he's leaving on a trip to Destination 1 and that he'll only be gone two days. After three days, Player A still hasn't come back. At this point, it's perfectly acceptable for Player C to visit Destination 1 to investigate, asking around about his missing friend. Maybe Player C's investigation leads him to that dark alley and the waiting Player B. A scuffle ensues as Player B tries to mug Player C, but Player C prevails, subdues Player B and learns where Player A is being held.

Another problem may arise, however, if Player B abuses information obtained through OOC resources.

For example: Maybe Player B knows from reading logs on the website that Player A and Player C are IC friends. When Player C shows up in the dark alley, Player B drops out of character, leaving the IC grid to avoid the confrontation with Player C.

That's a breach of IC/OOC.

When in doubt, ignore what you know behind the scenes and run with what your character knows. As important as it is to keep the player and character persona separate for mental health sake, it is just as important to keep separate what you know as opposed to what the character knows. It's okay while watching a horror movie to yell at the screen "Don't go down in the cellar!" because you know a monster's waiting for the victim-to-be, but your input must be ignored. There's no way the victim-to-be can know what you know outside the context of the movie.

It's worth repeating: As a player, you may know much more than your character about what's happening in the IC universe. Don't abuse that abundance of information. Don't assume you know things that your character hasn't personally experienced or learned about through resources such as news outlets or other players' characters in an IC context.

Channels, pages, @mail, e-mail, logs and instant messengers are OOC context; not IC. If you learn about something only through these methods, then you cannot, should not, must not allow that information to be used by your character ICly.

Your character should only use IC information gleaned from news articles, common knowledge sources, or interaction with other players.

RP101: Persistence of Action and SpaceEdit

In some MUDs, 24 hours a day, I can walk through the city of Midgaard and encounter the brutish city guards who keep order. If I do something wrong, they're around to beat the snot out of me, until such time as I exceed them in strength and I get the chance to return the favor and snatch their armor and weapons.

Many MUDs enjoy this sort of self-policing aspect, which gives a feeling of persistence, authority and limits for lower-level players: You know you can't get away with something when those guards are around. However, there's an expectation that comes with the absence of those guards. The expectation that you can get away with just about anything.

It's fairly common to find newcomers to a roleplaying game walking through an unlocked door, gathering up items that belong to another player, and then walking out again. When confronted about it, they say: "The door was unlocked. No guards stopped me. If I'm not allowed to do it, I shouldn't be able to do it." To which I reply: "You're allowed to do it and you're able to do it, so long as you call on a staffer to referee the break-in, give the other player a chance to catch you in the act, and accept any negative consequences that might arise from your actions."

New roleplayers must learn that our games rely much less on automated self-policing and more on the effectiveness of IC consequences for IC actions. If you get caught stealing, your character may face criminal charges.

They must learn that they can't assume that just because no players are in a room, then no characters are around. The actual players represent a small percentage of the actual world population. Many intangible characters, known as non-player characters, also must be taken into account.

That goes for crowds on city streets, guards on military bases, starship traffic around a planet: Even if you don't always see it shoved in your face, these elements exist within the fiction of the game universe.

If you break into someone's apartment, expect to have to roll your stealth skill to avoid detection by the NPC neighbors, who might call the NPC cops, who will surely show up to arrest you. That's the nature of the roleplaying beast. But, you may protest, my character's not a thief! Well, I'd reply, your character just entered someone else's home and took someone else's property without someone else's permission. That, my friend, is the definition of a thief.

"But my character didn't take the item. I did!" <-- And here we go, the player failing to distinguish between the human at the keyboard and the character on the screen. Dispute it all you want, but if you're taking a gun from someone's IC apartment and letting your character have the weapon, then your character benefits from the act and therefore should bear the potential consequences for committing the act. In other words, if you steal something, you're a thief. If you're not a thief, don't go wandering into someone's home. Don't take their stuff.

Newcomers also must learn that rooms have size, space, dimension: Just because you walk into a room occupied by another player doesn't mean you magically appear next to that player or that you even notice them. Many times, I've seen a new player pop into a tavern where characters are sitting at a table engaged in their own private conversation and the newcomer just barges into the conversation.

Don't do that.

Instead, first allow the people already in the room to provide you with a scenepose: A pose that illustrates what the characters are doing, whether they're readily visible, and whether it seems wise to approach them.

Then, if they're readily visible and you feel inclined to approach them, pose doing so. Get their attention and proceed. But, remember, as with so many other things in a roleplaying game, your actions may yield unexpected consequences. Be careful who you interrupt.

RP101: Proper Table MannersEdit

Our virtual stage holds much potential for chaos.

Get 12 players in one room and try to maintain a semblance of order.

It's possible, but it's rather difficult.

Of course, it's also easy for a room with just a few players to fall into chaos if people don't have a grasp of the etiquette involved in a roleplaying situation.

Etiquette? Holy hell, you may be thinking. I just want to play a game! Why should I have to comply with a bunch of dogmatic rules and regulations? What are you people? SNOBS?!

Well, no. We're not snobs. Mostly. All right, some roleplayers really can be snobbish. But the good roleplayers - the polite roleplayers - can be snobbish without being rude. The etiquette goes both ways, you see.

So, before diving into an online roleplaying game, let's cover some basic rules of etiquette:

  • The issue of pose order. In a scene, the wheels can really come off if people are posing without any real organized approach. Some newcomers fall into a shotgun-effect sort of trap, in which they say or pose things one line at a time, regardless of whether it might be someone else's turn to pose or speak in the scene. It would look something like this:

Bob turns to Ed and asks, "What do you think about all this?

Tom says, "I've got a car."

Tom says, "It's a nice car."

Ed looks toward Bob and says, "I'm trying not think too much about it."

Tom says, "You want to borrow my car?"

Tom says, "It's a really nice car. It's better than your car. Borrow my car."

In the above example, Tom hasn't been brought into the conversation, yet he's going on about the car without paying any heed to the fact that he's stomping all over the scene. He's like a kid tracking mud across a nicely polished floor.

Here's a better way for the scene to play out:

Bob turns to Ed and asks, "What do you think about all this?"

Ed looks toward Bob and says, "I'm trying not to think too much about it."

Tom says, "I've got a car."

Bob looks at Tom, eyebrow lifting. "That'd help."

I'm a big proponent of pose order in small group scenes. But I think it's a terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible idea to require a strict adherence to the concept of pose order in a massive group scene, such as a large gathering in a public tavern. Taverns are noisy. That's the point. That said, I think with players sitting at different tables in a tavern, the players at each table should have their own pose order within the scene to avoid a complete spiral into utter chaos. So, instead of requiring everyone to wait for each individual player to pose in a cycle regardless of table, establish a pose order at your table.

Another option would be to create a table-based pose order: Treat each table as if it were a "character" in the scene, and assign it a place in the pose order. Each pose would come from a different table in a specific order. This may be a more acceptable compromise for roleplayers who prefer more order even in a tavern, but I wouldn't want to call this mandatory.

  • OOC chatter. Keep this to a minimum, especially during larger group scenes and major RP events. If a referee is in the room, keep discussions with that person to pages. If you think you've got something really funny to share with other players - perhaps a pun comes to mind based on another player's pose - then use the multipage feature (or OOC channels or instant messenger software) to share a laugh with your friends. It's tough enough to keep track of what's going on in some of these major scenes with the normal pose spam without compounding the situation with a lot of OOC chatter. In small doses, OOC chatter can be useful as a tension breaker and a community builder. But if not kept in relative check, it can derail the mood of a scene and break everyone's sense of immersion.
  • Powergaming. Learn this one, folks. It's critical. Few things raise the hackles of roleplayers like this one. Do not powergame. Powergaming involves a player's presumption that a certain outcome is guaranteed just because they say so. For example:

Bob draws a gun and shoots Ed in the belly, killing him.

No. No. No. A thousand times: No. Don't do this. Let me repeat: Don't do this. It's okay, if the circumstances warrant it, to try and shoot another character, assuming you've got a gun and justification to use it. But the pose that would properly initiate such a sequence of events would start like this:

Bob draws his gun, trying to aim and fire quickly at Ed's belly.

This would allow for two things. First, a referee would be able to judge the scene, asking Bob to test his weapons skill against Ed's ability to dodge the shot. Second, Ed would have the opportunity to pose attempting to evade the gunfire, like so:

Ed sees the gun drawn. Eyes widening, mouth falling open, he tries to leap out of the line of fire.

When I run a scene, I prefer to tell players the outcome of their skill rolls and then let them pose the outcome. So, in this case, let's say Bob succeeds in shooting Ed. Bob's next in the pose order, so now he could definitively pose something like this:

Bob squeezes the trigger, and the bullet hurtles inexorably toward Ed's stomach, dead on target.

We've determined Ed won't dodge, and he's not wearing any protective gear, so this gut shot is going to leave him in a world of hurt. We let him pose, and it looks like this:

Ed takes the shot in the belly as he's jumping - just a second too late, it seems - and he looks simultaneously agonized and surprised as he falls into a sprawling, bloody mess on the floor.

Another subtle form of powergaming is the inner thought pose. Now, poses that feature a player's internal dialogue are a matter of personal taste. I avoid it, simply because it's not the sort of information another player could use without looking like they're violating IC/OOC sanctity. But it's the cup of tea for quite a few players who like doing it to flesh out their storytelling skills. Fine. But I draw the line at inner thought poses like this:

Bob stares at Ed, wondering how that moron ever got this job.

In my opinion, this is just as bad as posing a successful gunshot as a foregone conclusion. Bob gets to insult Ed without any possibility of IC repercussions. That's not fair. If you want to insult someone, either say it out loud in the scene or express your disdain through posed body language. Grimace at Ed. Roll your eyes at Ed. Offer an exasperated sigh. If you give some indication that you're peeved with Ed, then Ed can take the opportunity to respond.

Powergaming defeats the purpose of roleplaying, which is creative interaction in a shared storytelling environment. If you want to powergame, consider single-player adventure games or write a novel. Both are valid pursuits. But keep it out of the more fluid, dynamic environment of a text-based multiplayer roleplaying game.

RP101: Pose/@emit WorkshopEdit

The following workshop on poses and @emits was held for RP101 participants on Chiaroscuro. The log is posted as a convenient record for participants, and for those who couldn't attend but still want to share their thoughts and feedback.

Brody snaps his fingers, making a podium materialize. He steps up to it. "All right, thanks for coming. Nice crowd. Tonight, we're gathered for a workshop of the Roleplaying 101 course, which is a class that's been ongoing in the E-Zine. This is the first of three workshops that will be held in real-time. The other two will be held on ROE and OtherSpace, respectively. Tonight's topic: Poses and @emits."

Brody says, "If you want to cut down on channel spam, which I recommend, +silence :)"

Brody says, "Now, in an effort to maintain some semblance of order here, I'm going to give some opening comments and then people who have questions can page me. I'll then announce the order for questions, and players can ask them, then I'll answer them. If you also want to follow-up on something someone else has said, you can get in the discussion queue by paging me. Clear?"

Adaer Kahar nods.

Dianna Lomasa nods meekly.

Guest says, "Affirmative."

Ezirith nods, "Clear."

Jacib ayups.

Guest3 nods while doing a handstand.

Gage nods.

Malakim nods. If she keeps having connection problems, she'll stop spamming with reconnects. :>

Varal Mikin says, "Perfectly."

Brody smiles. "All right. First, I'll talk about poses. Without poses, we're not much more than a chatroom. Poses set us apart, and give us the best opportunity to flesh out our characters with gestures, facial tics, expressions. They add nuance and context to the dialogue spoken by our characters. They also give our characters the opportunity to demonstrate immersion within the environment. In theater, it's called 'stage business' - if I own a horse, for example, I can groom it while talking to someone, or if I'm a sloppy, slimy Hutt, I can shove wriggling frog-things into my mouth."

"Opinions vary on how long poses should be and what they should include," Brody says. "Some people are governed by the shackles of their typing ability. I'm one of the oddballs who can type more than 90 words per minute and have it make some kind of sense, a skill honed by more than a decade working in deadline journalism. But I find, regardless of typing competence, that it's always best to take into account a couple of important factors in determining how much time to spend on your poses: 1) Number of people in the scene and 2) the urgency of the scene."

Brody notes: "If it's a fairly laid back scene with just a few people, I don't see much need in rushing it. It's often fun to bounce creative, colorful, well-worked poses off each other, turning it into a literary jam session. But if it's a crowded scene with pose order and a note of urgency - say, a gunfight in the Mos Eisley Cantina - then I'd try to be thriftier with the poses - keeping them shorter and producing them at a faster pace, remaining mindful of the other players in the scene."

"Now, what to include in a pose," Brody says. "Like I said, this is often a matter of opinion. Personally, I tend to include actions - what he's doing with his hands, for example - and facial expressions - knitting a brow, frowning, smiling, grimacing, doing something to indicate my character's emotion without saying Character A looks angry. I let the other roleplayer translate the expressions on their own and act in response to them."

Brody ponders. "Some people will include internal thoughts. This is absolutely a matter of taste, although - in my opinion - it's a subtle violation of the IC/OOC line. *My* character can't know what your character is thinking unless you come out and say it, or I somehow discern it from your facial expressions and dialogue. But I recognize the value of using those internal thoughts as an anchor for you, as the writer behind the character, to get *in the moment* and *in the head* of your character. If that's a useful hook, then go for it. Whatever it takes. Just keep in mind that it may lead to occasional frustration for you or some other roleplayer who doesn't recognize there's a difference between what you think outside those quote marks and what you say out loud."

Brody says, "Any questions about poses? I'll talk handraising via pages and start the question queue. Once we finish with poses, we'll move on to a discussion of @emits."

Brody says, "take handraising, even"

Brody says, "Ok, the opening Q&A speakers are: Icarus, Adaer and Gage. Everyone else hold off till the next round."

Icarus says, "On what to include in a pose: I always found that while ideally one may use non-verbal cues, there's always a problem with how it works in a text based envirorment. For example, if I have a character that is, say, angry (something recognized on a near universal basis with humans) I've found it easier to show a couple signs, and indicate what it represents. For emphasis I'll put some nonverbals in, but looking someone in the eye when affectionate and indignant are extremely different. Have I been missing something or are there any tricks to be more explicit without giving away the emotion itself?"

Brody nods. "Good question. If you give the right cues, a player should be able to detect the emotion fairly easily," he says, with an exasperated sigh and a roll of his eyes. "I'm not saying you shouldn't drop clues, but I think that it's a good idea to spell out your emotions with nonverbal cues as much as possible without ending up with poses that look something like this: Bob gets angry and says "I don't like you, Ted."

Brody says, "Adaer, then Gage."

"Back on OS," Adaer begins, "I was instructed by a staff-member not to use my character's personal thoughts in my poses. I have learned not to and prefer it now but," he continues, "your official stand is that if it's your personal taste to include personal thoughts in poses, then by all means do so?" Adear then adds, "If it is the personal taste of the other Role-Player that you don't do that and they ask you to stop, would you say that you should stop?"

Brody nods to Adaer. "If it's disruptive to them, I'd show some consideration if I want to keep RPing with them. Nothing wrong with compromise in that situation."

Brody says, "Gage?"

Gage stands up and clears his throat, "During my years, i've noticed alot of people that equate length of pose to pose quality, and even talked to people who refuse to RP with anyone who doesn't pose at least 300 characters long or such. Now, I've never run into this problem on RoE, but I have run into people who, no matter the situation, refuse to shorten their poses, which does cause problems in large, quick moving scenes. If two or three people in a scene are like that, it can take me up to half an hour between poses. So my question is, when running a Scene, or just Roleplaying in one, how would you recommend actually dealing with people who refuse to shorten their poses and thus disrupt the RP with long silences?"

Solas Creek hehs. "Good question. This is especially thorny in those crowded cantina fight scenes that seem common on ROE. First, if there's a ref, I'd privately implore the ref to get a handle on the situation and impose a compromise. If you're the ref, I'd just jump in OOCly and say: Look, we're trying to move through this rather frantic scene as quickly as possible, and it requires us to keep the flow going as much as possible to retain some sense of urgency and immediacy. Your poses are eloquent and well-crafted, and under normal circumstances I'd like nothing better than to read it all, but right now, we've got people trying to kill each other/sort out a major issue and we'd like to get the scene done before we're eligible for Social Security. If you can encourage them to speed it up and give more Hemingway-esque poses for the time being, everyone should get along great later. If they *refuse*, well, I think at some point the ref needs to invite them out of the scene somehow. I don't imagine many players would be *that* unreasonable, but if they are: Kick them out until they can be reasonable."

[OOC] Solas Creek eyeshifts.

Brody sends Solas to get him a drink.

Brody says, "Any questions/comments following up on the first three? Page me to get in the queue."

Brody says, "Okay, the new queue: Hassar, Guest3 and Caladan. Everyone else, sit on your hands! ;)"

Brody thinks Hassar is typing an epic!

Guest3 hopes so...

Hassar Lomasa aherms. "Right. Well, I'd also like to add that I enjoy people who pose long, unless its a fight, or I have to leave sometime soon. I'd also like to bring up nonhuman characters on OS and ROE are sometimes restricted in expressions, maybe due to their lack of facial features, or in the case of the Grimlahdi/Zangali types, don't express much nonverbally other than headspines, hissing, and tail-flicking. Any way you might be able to lengthen non-combat poses? I've been trying to work on that, adding a bit more when not in combat. I also have a Trandoshan character on ROE who isn't a great conversationalist, so his poses are often quite short." Hassar Lomasa sorries, got a bit sidetracked.

Brody will use the Centaurans as one example. "They are probably the most limited as far as visual cues go: They're crystalline jellyfish. Now, they have *one* out: They can send out waves of telepathic thought that convey emotion. But when you're playing an alien, the fact that they're alien and odd can be emphasized by the extension of your poses: Have the light catch on your pebbled skin - or, in the case of a Centauran, the light plays off your translucent pinkish-blue shell. Your crystalline tentacles tinkle against each other. You rotate slowly as you levitate. When frightened, you can convey that sense of caution by trying to levitate away from the threat, quickly as possible. In short: Use the characteristics that make your character alien to expand upon them in poses."

Brody says, "A Trandoshan has claws: Tap them on things. They've got fangs: Gnash them. They've got snouts: Scratch them with those clawed fingers."

Brody nudges Guest3. "Next."

Guest3 stands up, "I've gotten flak in two directions when 'sceneposing' The first being that I did not have enough...flesh to them i.e area info, length and whatnot and the other direction being that I shouldnt include NPC's like the various people in the Mos Eisley square or that I should shorten them...I'm confused as to which is correct.

Brody hrms. "If you're sceneposing, the scenepose should cover what's going on at the moment. If it has been established that NPCs are running around in a panic after IG-88 went on a shooting rampage through Ord Mantell, for example, you can include that. I think the trouble comes if you're imposing something not already established on the NPCs, and you're not running the scene."

Brody says, "As for length, a scenepose should be kept fairly brief - just enough info to bring someone walking in on the scene up to speed with who's where in the area and what they're doing, so they can figure out how they might get involved (or run for cover)."

Brody says, "Caladan?"

Caladan turns and waves a hand, "Just wanted to add a quick thought into those internal thought poses. I personally..have used one, now and then. As Brody said, to get inside my character, or illustrate something I thought important. But as one of the most important things I believe, if you use them, is to make sure you are not blatantly crossing that IC/OOC line, with personal attacks in your thoughts, announcements of your intentions, or anything that is designed to provoke a response from someone else in the scene. It's unfair to rile people without giving them a chance to fight back." He grins and wanders back towards his pentagram, a silent, 'I hope they don't remember that this is almost exactly what was said in Leonidas' Powerposing Talkback re-emphasized.' Running through his head. CAUTION: This is not a question. Really.

Brody nods to Caladan. "That's something I mentioned in the etiquette lesson in the E-Zine, and it can't be stated often enough, given the number of times I see it: Limit any internal thoughts to yourself, about yourself, without using subjective thoughts about another player that they can't respond to - that's terribly unfair and likely to get you +vote/coached."

Brody says, "The only reason I'd recommend *against* any use of internal thoughts is this very problem. If you don't do it at all, you never run the risk of insulting someone that way."

Brody says, "Okay: Any questions/comments in response to these? This will be the last round of Q&A for this topic before moving on to @emits."

Brody accepts handraising via page.

Brody hrms. "All right, hearing none, I'm going to move on to my own comments about @emits."

"@emits are awesome," Brody notes, "because they save you from the mundanity of always seeing 'Brody . It offers a chance for variety, mixing things up. Looks more like what I'd read in a book!"

"@emits, even more than poses, help us demonstrate the flexibility of our roleplaying environment," Brody says.

"Now, when using @emits, I type @emit ," Brody says. "But be sure to include your name or a descriptive noun that indicates who's speaking. One hazard of @emits, if you forget to do that, is that the @emit is a pose coming out of nowhere."

"@emits are also extremely useful if," Brody coughs, eyeing Solas warily, "you happen to be playing multiple characters on different screens, and you want to avoid mis-alting. If you *always* use @emit, even when apparently using the pose command, then you're not as likely to embarrass yourself."

"Now, @emits can also be handy for creating atmospheric elements within a scene," Brody says, "but it requires responsibility and consideration, and it's not to be taken lightly. Most of the etiquette surrounding use of @emits is common sense: Don't use it to powergame other players; don't use it to suddenly manifest the cavalry to rescue you from a sticky situation; don't use it to introduce non-thematic elements to the game."

"If you're standing at the Vozhdya Crossroads and you check the weather report on the who list and it says it's snowing, then, by God, feel free to @emit that, as you're standing on the corner, huddling in your thick coat and watching your own breath billow out in the chill, there are horses drawing carriages and people scurrying to get from one side of the street to the other to find their way into the warmth. That's an example of a good atmospheric @emit." Brody lifts his eyebrows. "However, unless you're a ref or authorized by the staff to run an RP event - or, at the very least - granted permission by the other player to be entertained in this fashion, don't be @emitting something for another player that says a group of thugs is skulking toward them, demanding money."

Brody says, "That'd be an example of a bad atmospheric @emit. Another bad @emit would be one that creates a negative impression of a player-owned business or organization. Let's say Hassar and I retire for a meal at the Lightholder Tavern one night. Let's say *I* don't own the tavern, but I @emit a waiter who's an absolute jerk to us, or I @emit roaches crawling in the food. That's powergaming. It's unfairly imposing something on that establishment and, by extension, its owner.""

Brody smiles. "@emit can be a powerful and handy tool, but it can be easily abused. Use it right, and you've got a nifty tool in your RP toolbox. Abuse it, and you'll possibly be labeled a twink and saddled with an ugly collection of +vote/coach comments."

Brody says, "I'll now accept handraising via page for Q&A about @emits."

Hassar Lomasa blurg. Gotta run.

Hassar Lomasa flees in his skirt.

Brody says, "Okay, Kalla and Adaer. Everyone else, sit tight."

Kalla says, "I have a tendency to add characters to a scene when I am RPing. If I am in a bar or a tavern and I notice people apart from the main action, like the lonesome types that sit at a table by themselves, I will sometimes @emit a drunkard or some kid or usually some sort of silly or goofy character to interact with that player. When I do this, I don't ask for permission in advanced, although if someone were to complain I would stop. My question is: is it wrong for me to go ahead and use @emit to create characters that are not there as players, even if it is just to spice up a scene a bit? Or would that be abusing the @emit power?"

Brody hrms. "That's a very good question, and it's tricky. It *is* a bit of an abuse. In your hands, I consider it a fairly benign abuse, but I've known you since OtherSpace's early arcs, and I trust your ability and your knowledge of the theme. But, regardless of how much I trust you to play responsibly, I think it's only fair to at least page the other player and say: Hey, I'd like to involve you, would you mind if I @emit a character? Because, you never know with people: Maybe they just want to watch you RP and don't have much interest in being caught up in the action themselves. If you ask, at least they feel like you care what they think AND you want them to be involved. If you don't, and you @emit this potential annoyance (benign as it may be), they could take offense."

Kalla nods. "Okay."

Brody grins. "Adaer, then Guest2, then Varal."

"I use @emit to pose my NPCs," Adaer says, "Some people don't accept that as my pose in the pose order however. I'll get an occasional, 'That it?' or 'Are you going to pose?'.. They do this because sometimes I will pose a few times without Adaer even being in the room yet. I'll run a few rounds with my NPC then have Adaer enter. Or Adaer will go into his room or inside to stay warm while a few of his guards are left. I usually stay there OOCly and run with the NPCs a bit with Adaer gone. Not all the time but sometimes. Is this abuse?"

Brody nods. "Another excellent question. On Chiaroscuro and OtherSpace, players are able to acquire NPC retainers and/or henchmen - and it's fair for them to be included in the action. But I'd incorporate them into Adaer's poses/pose@emits primarily when he's in the room so that they are included in the pose order. If you create that slippery slope, well, consider that some people own 100 NPC retainers - or more. And if you get to throw in an @emit for your NPCs, so do they. That road leads to chaos."

Adaer Kahar nods.

Brody says, "Guest2?"

Guest2 says, "Do those rules about no @emits for other characters without at least permission apply for spaces you 'own'? IE: I have a ship. For the entertainment of my own crew, I run things aboard. For example, the ship is showing signs of being haunted right now. The crew on the ship knows about it, and has registered no complaints. But if another character comes on board as a guest, they should logically be feeling some of the same effects. @emits of feeling cold. Flickers at the corner of the eye. I wouldn't ever do this to someone on the street, but by boarding this ship, they've entered an area that I'm trying to do things with.. and frankly, asking permission in /that/ case has always seemed to take the mystery out of it. Would that be considered abusing by that?"

Brody grins. "It's your house. They came of their own free will. They get to share the fun. I consider people who own keeps, ships, taverns to be, at least to some degree, the game masters of those spots. It's up to them to run events and use those areas and keep them lively. Naturally, I might want the right to throw my own plots at people who run those places but, by and large, you're the day-to-day managers, as it were. If I tell you not to do that sort of thing, it creates a chilling effect. When I was on TOS TrekMUSE, the first roleplaying game I joined online, I captained a ship and I cut my teeth on running plots aboard the FSS Neon and FSS North Star - and then the USS Excelsior. No one told me not to run plots, and no one really complained when they got caught up in the mix. As long as you're not doing something that flies blatantly in the face of the theme, you should be fine and you should be encouraged."

Varal Mikin says, "Kind of to build on what Kalla, and Adaer, said, I'd like to hear your take specific case of 'sideshow @emits'. For example, I'm sitting in Mos Eisley Cantina (the place I've seen it the most), and one of the other people in the room decides to start a bar brawl or the like, but none of the PCs are actually involved. And, sometimes, they do it to the exclusion of their actual character. While it's all in good fun, it's more atmospheric and not as good a catalyst for throwing and developing a character, at least in my ever-so-humble opinion. =) Do you think this is acceptable, or perhaps borderline +coachable?"

Brody hmms. "Another good question. Y'all are doing great tonight. :D I think @emits like that are, like internal thoughts, mostly harmless and a matter of personal taste. There's nothing wrong, in my opinion, with @emitting a brawl in the Mos Eisley cantina if it doesn't directly affect the other players: 1) It's the Mos Eisley Cantina, a most wretched hive of scum and villainy and 2) it actually gives other players a potential RP hook. Maybe it catches their eye, or gives them a chance to comment wryly about another quiet night in Mos Eisley. If done properly, it's a nice touch."

Adaer Kahar cheers as he likes that.

Brody says, "Okay, any other questions/comments in follow-up to these? Page me if you want to get in line."

Brody nods. "All right, now we get to the work part. I'll accept volunteers via page to produce three decent poses and three decent @emits. Total of six."

Brody says, "And that's one each, BTW - not three ;)"

Brody nods. "Adaer gets to do a pose."

Brody says, "Kalla gets to do an @emit."

Brody says, "Ezi does a pose."

Brody says, "Guest2 does an @emit."

Brody says, "Two more folks :)"

Brody says, "Malakim gets a pose."

Brody says, "One last volunteer for @emit: Adaer, you already have one ;)"

Adaer Kahar snaps his fingers and swears under his breath...

Brody will pick the last volunteer if no one volunteers :D

Kalla says, "Dun, dun, duuuunnn."

Brody says, "Meredith! You get to do an @emit."

Scribe escapes!

Brody says, "All right, Adaer: Dazzle us."

Adaer Kahar says, "Any sort of scene or anything at all? Should it be in character for it?"

Brody says, "Just pose Adaer hanging out in the mastery of the Warren."

Adaer Kahar says, "Should it be in character?*"

Brody nods.

Adaer Kahar's example of a pose:

Adaer Kahar sits high on his throne looking through some scrolls when a servant enters the Mastery. The servant comes forth with information of the arrival of his brother. With a patriarchal wave of his hand he ushers Tash inside, "Brother, you seek my wisdom?"

Brody nods to Adaer. "All right, thanks. Kalla, your @emit."

Kalla says, "It can be any character from any JTS game, yes?" Brody says, "Sure."

Kalla's example of an @emit:

The natural noise in the tavern seems to fall deaf on Fulton's ears, his gaze religiously aimed towards the waitress now bent over the bar counter. He unconsciously drums his fingers against the table, each tap a signal for his lips to spread wider. "I do wonder," he muses, leaning back and folding his arms while his eyes devour the wench's anatomy, "if /that/ is in the menu."

Brody chuckles, but nods. "Yep. That's Fulton."

Brody says, "Okay, Ezi, your pose."

Guest hopes hes in the right place...

Brody nods. "We're in the middle of a workshop :)"

Brody says, "If you need help, Guest, just pipe up on Newbie with +new "

Guest is Guest3 back from his disconnect

Brody nods.

Ezirith's example of a pose:

Ezirith glowers in mild annoyance at her horse as he tries again to devour the fruits of her labour: the herbs she's been gathering for the past hour. She swats him on the nose gently, "Ach, these are fer Cook, nae greedy beasties." She drops a handful of garlic into the basket containing the rest of the herbs before picking the container up and carrying it out of the gelding's reach.

Brody grins, nods. "Good one, Ezi. Okay, Guest2: @emit."

Guest2's example of an @emit:

A woman wearing a large and badly tailored trench coat scuffs at the carpet as she walks to the receptionist. Her eyes, overly large with nervousness, focus as she gives her name and, presumably, her reason for being in this place at this time. Then she sniffles loudly and slumps down into the nearest seat. "I hear that its lovely in spain this time of year." She announces quietly in a soft whine. Her voice lowers to a grumble, "Stupid navy husband..." Meanwhile, an auburn haired woman with the name tag of "Jest" looks up from her seat at the left of the door. She eyes the muttering woman, then rolls her eyes. "Gods. I can't take her anywhere." She drawls tragically.

Brody snickers.

Brody nods. "Excellent. All right, Dianna, you've got Malakim's pose. Share!"

Malakim's example of a pose:

Malakim pauses at the entrance of the tavern and gives a skimming glance over its occupants as the door shuts behind her. Shifting her shoulders under her jacket, the woman heads towards the bar with her hands jammed into her pockets. "Busy night," Malakim remarks to no one in particular before shouting down to the bartender, "Something drinkable that doesn't taste like mud." She moves closer to the end of the bar, keeping her back to the wall as best she can while waiting for her drink to arrive.

Dianna Lomasa thus shares.

Brody grins. "Thanks. All right, Meredith Storm, wrap it up with an @emit."

Brody liked your pose, Mal! We're now waiting on Meredith's @emit.

Malakim says, "My thanks to Raisa for passing it along for me. :)"

Dianna Lomasa says, "No problem, Mal. :)"

Adaer Kahar says, "Long one.."

Adaer Kahar says, "She's been idle for 15 minutes..."

Brody ahs. "Well, then. Dianna: An @emit!"

Meredith Storm's example of an @emit:

The sound of a hammer on metal causes a stir from beneath the blankets followed by the toss of a pillow in the general direction of the horrible racket. The empty vodka bottles on the table are a testament to state of the bed's occupant, the and the dark circles under the woman's eyes as she peers out from the darkness of the quilt leave no doubt as to Ace's hangover. "Keep the hoopin' noise down," she says, only then realizing there were no hammers, only the sound of a spoon on the edge of a coffee cup as Jest mercilessly stirs her drink.

Brody w00ts

Brody says, "There ya go, folks :D"

Adaer Kahar smiles.

Brody says, "Meredith saves Dianna from real work!"

Adaer Kahar chuckles.

Dianna Lomasa grrs softly at Brody.

Brody nods. "Those were all great examples. And, with that, we're done. Thanks a lot for attending! I'll post a log in the E-Zine tonight."

RP101: Description workshopEdit

The following workshop on descriptions was held for RP101 participants on Star Wars: Reach of the Empire. The log is posted as a convenient record for participants, and for those who couldn't attend but still want to share their thoughts and feedback.

Brody snaps his fingers. A podium magically appears. He steps up onto it and waves. "Hello, thanks for coming. Tonight, ROE is hosting the workshop on descriptions, part of our Roleplaying 101 course."

"Philosophies vary from player to player when it comes to descriptions," Brody says. "Some like to keep them short and economical, but informative enough to get the point across. Others like to write a hundred words or more."

[OOC] Guest says, "I like the latter."

[OOC] Bindah Morposs likes the latter, but has always felt anything more than a paragraph or two gets ignored.

Brody says, "But there's one constant requirement I have when it comes to descriptions. It's really very simple. It's actually common sense. But some new players don't *get* it, so, that's why we have a class like this. My constant requirement: Only tell me what I can see, objectively. Don't tell me what your character thinks, don't tell me what *my* character thinks about your character. Just tell me what he looks like, what he wears, how tall he is, how much he weighs.""

Brody cannot stress this enough: "The most frequent sin committed by applicants for new characters who end up getting rejected tends to be the power-gaming description: A description that tells me the player's life history or how the character makes me feel - tremble in my boots, stares through my very soul, etcetera."

Brody says, "Then you've got the players who think *this* is a proper description: 6ft. tall, 150 pounds, white male. Pants. Boots."

[OOC] Aiden laughs.

Acksaba Zubri says, "Sometimes, their 9 feet 5 tall..."

Anubis says, "And a Jawa? :P"

Dronosk says, "What about the Big Boom Weapon? I recall something to that effect."

Acksaba Zubri says, "And a 13-year-old assassin."

Ares says, "Hey, no need to pick on my alts ok! ;)"

Brody says, "A description *is not* a grocery list. It's a first impression. You're stepping onto the stage and this is your costume. It's the immediate measure of your RP ability. And if your first impression is power-gamey, people will think of you as a power gamer. If the first impression is illiterate, people will think you're illiterate. Usually, the people who do this aren't really power-gamers or illiterates - they're just lazy."

Adaer smiles.

Anubis says, "Does this class apply to only people descriptions, or can it be applied to room descriptions, or any other kinds used in MU*ing, as well?"

Acksaba Zubri says, "Or, all too ofte, lazy illiterate powergamers."

Brody says, "It's a roleplaying course. It refers to player character descriptions."

Caladan whip cracks, "Boss talking. Hold questions."

Brody says, "Some players put their names in the descriptions. I usually don't put them in mine. The people who do can, accurately, argue that the name is already apparent when you see them in the room. It's a matter of personal taste."

Brody says, "Some players put armor and weapons in their descriptions, but don't actually have armor or weapons. This is a no-no. Want to describe a holster? Fine. But don't include the weapon until you've actually acquired it. Descing it won't make it real when you get in a Mos Eisley cantina fight."

Brody says, "If you're playing an alien, be sure your description accurately reflects the alien race. I've seen Nall on OtherSpace described with blonde hair, blue eyes and fair skin - when, in truth, they're 3 foot tall reptiloids with sharp claws and pebbled greenish-brown flesh (no hair). I've seen Castori - 4 foot tall bear-like creatures - described with tentacles for fingers.""

Adaer lols.

Raisin thwaps Adaer into silence.

Brody grins. "Now, if anyone has questions, the queue will form via page. You page me, I put you in the line to speak."

Brody nods to Guest2. "You first, then Kash Narr."

Kash Narr says, "Okay, You mentioned that having a weapon in a description was a no no. What about if you have things hidden on your person, like when Kash was running around in that cloak all the time? And the second question, is there a preferred method of how descriptions should be laid out. Honestly I have one already, but if there is a better way..."

Brody says, "Guest2 first."

How often do you recommend changing a character's desc? With every equipment/clothing change? Never? Each new scar?

Brody says, "It's a matter of personal choice. Some people set themselves up with a desc for every occasion and change it religiously. In the old days, when I only had one character, I'd keep a selection of descriptions and change them from time to time. Now, with a lot of alts, it's one desc fits all occasions. For the average player? I'd be sure to change your desc to reflect important changes - if you suffer an injury that visibly alters your appearance, for example. Beyond that, it's up to the individual player and how attentive they want to be to it.""

Guest says "Thanks Brody"

Brody says, "Kash: If it's hidden, you don't need to desc it. As for layout, the way I do it tends to be a description from the head down - height, race, facial features, idea of shoulders/bulkiness - and then clothes."

Brody says, "Thondar, then Acksaba."

Thondar says, "woop, one sec"

Thondar says, "Okay. I've seen players with descriptions of only one or two lines, as you were describing - and I've seen players with descriptions that made my screen scroll. I was always told back when I desced rooms on MUDs that the ideal length for a room desc was 5-11 lines. Is there any "ideal length" for player descriptions?"

Brody says, "I think a description of 5-11 lines for a character is adequate to get the point across. But different strokes for different folks, when it comes to that: Some people like Hemingway; some people like Stephen King. And some people like *both*. As long as you convey the information that needs to be conveyed, without powergaming, then you're in good shape."

Brody says, "Acksaba, then Ares."

Acksaba Zubri says, "Going LIFA. :> On length: as Brody has said, one can get across the point with less than a screen's worth of text; personally, I consider the desc on this char to be a short one, but that is only because I, too, have (had) chars with descs in excess of a screen on a 1024x768 rez. Many people like longer descs because they can go into great detail on, well, the details. On most JTS games -- I think -- there is also the +inspect code, which allows players to set up sub-descs which other players can /choose/ to look at, which I think is a major plus. It allows for descriptions of things like jewelry or scars that aren't important to the first impression, but might come in handy in the course of RP. On desc changes: this depends a lot on the environment you play in, and differs even between JTS games. On OS, we even have a +wardrobe code to allow people to store preset descs in-game; and on Chia, one has to be very careful indeed to only desc what one has in one's +inventory, as the amount of wieldable and wearable items surpasses that of OS and ROE, and is in fact a major backbone of the economy in said game."

Brody says, "Ares. :)"

Ares says, "When Kash asked about hidden weapons, you said that you didn't need desc them. This makes me wonder, would you be able to get away with hiding an E-web under your jacket? I've always been told that you need to be reasonable about it, and if you are hiding something that could not be very easily concealed you should at least add something to either your pose or desc mentioning something like a bulge in your jacket or something of that sort."

Brody nods. "Something like an E-Web would have to get admin approval to be hidden up your rectum. It IS a matter of being reasonable. But that's actually a topic for another lesson, dealing with what players can get away with in the course of RP ;D"

RP101: Character BuildingEdit

The following workshop on character building was held for RP101 participants on OtherSpace. The log is posted as a convenient record for participants, and for those who couldn't attend but still want to share their thoughts and feedback.

"Good evening, and thanks for coming to our third and final real-time workshop in the RP101 course," Brody says as he steps up to the podium. "Last week's was about descriptions, and some people were surprised it only lasted about 45 minutes. Well...tonight's is probably going to make up for that. Descriptions are fairly superficial, but *character* is the road map of your existence within the matrix of a roleplaying game's storyline. It sets up where you've been and, perhaps most importantly, what you've got in mind as a goal for your character. As in a work of fiction, it's important to have a character who *wants* something, who's striving to accomplish some kind of a goal - even if that goal is just looking out for number one."

"So, tonight, we're going to discuss building a character and share thoughts on the best approaches to establishing who the person is that you're trying to play," Brody says. "

Brody says, "There is no *right* way to do this. Many approaches can and have worked in the past. But there are some pitfalls that we can discuss so perhaps you can avoid them in your own endeavors."

Brody says, "As with the other two workshops, when I complete the opening statements, I'll take pages from people who want to get in the queue to be heard. Hold off on that for a bit, though. I still have more to say."

Brody says, "First, I'll talk about some things to avoid - regardless of theme. 1) Orphan. Now, It's actually hypocritical of me to say this. See, when I first started roleplaying on TOS TrekMUSE, I wrote a bio for a character named Gavalin X. Brody. His parents ... were killed by Romulans! So, I had my emotional hook for the character and a reason to RP a grudge against any Romulans I happened upon. Ultimately, though, I twisted my own bio, proving that a human pirate group - not the Romulans - killed the parents. Still - pirates. Oy. Orphan is easy. It doesn't require a lot of thought. And, I suppose it's not a bad place to start if you're new. But if you really want to have an interesting character, consider having family - even parents. Kalouri's character on TOS TrekMUSE lost her mother, but still had a father - and I played him. It was a lot of fun to harass her in front of her crew ;)."

Brody says, "Having family is also useful for those times when, due to the peskiness of RL, you need an IC excuse to be gone from the MUSH for extended periods of time."

Brody says, "2) Superhero. Look, you're just setting yourself up for a fall. This is the guy who can often be spotted because he a) has a nobility/chivalry complex (you almost expect him to throw himself in front of a truck for anything in a skirt) and b) often wears a cape. Seriously. I've seen lots of these apps, and they almost always wear some kind of cape. All superheroes need a cape. And when they try to do superheroic things and *fail*, they blame people like me for their trouble."

Brody says, "3) Supervillain. Like the superhero, this person sets themself up for failure and tends to blame everyone else when their master plan falls through and gets them killed. Trying to be a *super* anything is effectively setting yourself up for trouble."

Brody says, "Over the past six years, I've seen many, many apps. And the best almost always are characters that come from fairly normal backgrounds, sometimes even privileged family lives, who are on a fairly even keel as they enter the game grid. That's good - starting on an even keel - because if all goes as planned with a story-oriented MUSH, their character is going to grow, evolve and be changed by the course of events."

Brody says, "If you've got a character who's starting out on an even keel, who just wants to live a normal life, then as events begin to sweep that character into the tumult of the evolving story, then you can watch with interest as what the character wants and believes begins to shift and change. Grow."

Brody says, "Okay. I'll now take pages for people to get in the queue to ask questions or comment."

Brody says, "Thender, then Brokichev."

Brody says, "Michela, after Brokichev."

Thender says, "Okay, the first thing: In the introduction, you mentioned that a character should have some kind of eventual goal. Is just "living a normal life" a goal? And, second: Most of my characters start out having overcome some obstacle in the past. The loss of a family member, or simply dealing with unfortunate circumstances like poverty. In one case, a character is still struggling with issues that he developed offstage. All of them are centered around a pre-existing conflict in their lives, that motivates their actions in certain situations. I've found starting on an uneven keel, as it were, to be more interesting than entering the grid as a normal Joe, but perhaps that's just me."

Brody nods. "Well, this is one of the reasons I said there's no one right approach, there are just a few definite wrong approaches. First, yes, living a normal life is a great goal. Second, overcoming a past obstacle is great - as long as it's not the sort of obstacle that's likely to make anything else you deal with in the storyline pale in comparison."

Thender says, "Could I clarify a little?"

Brody nods to Thender.

Thender says, "I try to pick something that colors their interactions with other people and how they act under pressure. Arnassis for example is an ex-guerrilla. His first choice of action, if forced, would be an aggressive one. He deals with the stress soldiers deal with. Another character was altered to be a killer in the past, and forced to kill, so now will avoid violence however possible. To the point where if he does get violent, he gets physically ill or depressed. These are things that may not show up during the climax of action, that is, they wouldn't be readily apparent, but the time before and after a crucial moment is colored by experiences like these. I think that adds more depth."

Thender says, "The character's reactions and consequences of actions he takes as a result of the storyline are affected - but do not require time in the spotlight, as it were, detracting from the plot that's happening now. I'm done :D"

Brody nods to Thender. "Those are good approaches to a character. If you're going to create hooks like that, do it so they'll be useful in the course of RP. That's especially useful if you're an experienced roleplayer. One reason I recommend the "even keel" for a newbie is that they won't necessarily know how to play within the confines of a character who might be skewed to act one way or another. Too often, they confuse how THEY, the player, would act, rather than the character."

Brody nudges Brokichev.

Brokichev oofs.

Brokichev would like to note that first impressions often steer which way your character is headed. "Example: First thing I did when Brokichev went IC was go to Rockhopper's and ruin a business deal. Needless to say, the party in need of credits did not like me too much from that point on. Brokichev's trip to TK didn't help matters much either, but that's another story."

Brody nods, chuckling. "Michela?"

Michela hms 'I've always been leary of setting strong goals because i've seen too many people create there own story in their head off-screen and then sort of march right through their script without letting themselves be changed or altered. I've always looked at the values as the crux of the character something that helps define how the character looks at the word Amanda for instance, Constantine gave my hints about what kind of background he wanted the character to have as he wanted to be on the low end of the pecking order but in her mid thirties so i was faced with a middle manage character who'd been there awhile and came up with a why she was to principled to get ahead and so I basically set her up for all the messes that came after Also my characters usually aren't done being developed when they hit the grid. i'll have a general idea of where I'm going and then fill in as something that happens on grid....

Khamura dies from lack of punctuation.

Stolichnaya revives Khamura quietly.

Michela continues "forces me to examine them a little volidana I knew i had to build into the bio a reason for her to be off vollista so i came up with this sort of evangeli..has to go

Delarme isn't saying you need to know how the future story of your character's life. "But everybody's got ambitions. How we cope with the challenges to those ambitions make a story worthwhile. Now, you look at a character like Sharptongue Sandwalker. His goal is blatantly apparent: He wants to rule Demaria like a furry Napoleon. But, he doesn't have the power, the influence or the *ability* to do it. So, now he's working in the cargo hold of the Athena, ostensibly to raise money for the revolution. But he's fooling himself. Nevertheless, he has a goal. I just happen to know it won't be a realistic one."

[OOC] Delarme eyeshifts

Brody sends Delarme back to rehab.

Khamura says, "He hears voices again, oh dear."

Brody says, "Guest2, your turn."

Gallahad has left.

Brody says, "Gage, after Guest2."

"These supervillians," Guest2 says, "Do they have an evil mustache fetish, like with the superheroes and their capes? :) I kid. The word 'kid' brings me to my question though: I've noticed that in a lot of places, people like to play under-priveledged people. Not normal Joe, and not anyone with much of a goal other than to steal a few coins for the night's meal. Now, most of those *are* the orphan-type, but some have really impressed me. Like, say, 'Ix, on ROE. Not quite even-keel, though. It seems to me that it would be harder to develop and flesh out a character like this, with no real goal or purpose other than to survive. It seems like so much backdrop. Not that there aren't exceptions - I'll use the 'Ix reference again."

Brody nods. "Phoenix on ROE was a good example of a character - an orphan - who was well-realized. One nice thing about these rules I talk about is that they can be bent by people who can do it right. ;)"

Gage coughs and stands from his seat, waving to the gathered people. After a second he blinks,and pulls his gum out and sticks it to the bottom of his desk, before speaking. "Ok, my question deals with Admin alts designed for a specific purpose. Usually, those characters are deleted or @named into other characters once their use is done I believe. But every so often, one of those admin alts takes on a life of its own, and becomes a feature character for regular play. Because of those rare situations, do you recommend creating a bio for a temporary character in case he becomes permanent, wait until they do become a feature character and then write up a bio then, or not write one at all?" Gage says, before dropping back into his seat.

Brody chuckles. "I've had characters start off as @emits that ended up taking on a life of their own. When it comes to staffer characters, feel free to just wing it at first and, if the character catches on, set it up with its own object and story. You're a staffer - that means you're trusted to do that sort of thing."

Brody says, "Thender?"

Thender once had a player ask him what else was in an alley, when the PC woke up with a bad hangover in said alley after a bad encounter with a telepath. "I said there was nobody there, just a bum in a dumpster. The entire group spent the next 2 hours playing with the bum. It's sort of like giving a kid a really expensive Christmas present and he has more fun with the paper. I'd say being able to think on your feet and being prepared to go from cardboard cutout to complex sidekick is a pretty useful skill :).

Brody nods. "Indeed. :D Any other questions or comments? Page me to get in line."

Brody says, "Laetrosi?"

Brody says, "Ic after Laetrosi."

Laetrosi has had a lot of chars. Most of them, she's at least tried to start them on an even keel. "Ix, really, is the only one who /wasn't/ on an even keel, before Skunkpelt. And..oddly enough, Ix is the one I've had most fun RPing as, to date. I did try and even her out a few times..but generally my attempts were thwarted by IC events and after the first couple of times, I just stopped trying. Can a character be, eh, lopsided and still develop properly, if they're RP'd correctly?"

Michela sorries

Brody nods to Laetrosi. "I think so. But the key is in RPing them properly, being willing to put yourself in the mind of the character and follow that path - wherever it might lead."

Brody says, "Go ahead, Ic."

Icarus says, "One thing I think happens in character development is excessive overstatement and understatement of abilities and faults from a character point of view. It seems that since change so often in development must be a near overpowering force in so many situations people change in drastic ways. You'll see people severely traumatized or unaffected. I've always been curious to how often success with moderation has been achieved, and more specifically, how it is done. In all the extremes, any useful methods to show the more moderate aspects of personality, or for that matter skills and abilities."

Brody nods. "That's a good question. It really is troublesome when you've got those extremes: A player who didn't expect they'd fall so hard, and then lashes out at the staff when it goes wrong, or the player who just blows it off and moves on as if nothing happened. Success in moderation often depends on the *player* - if they're not able to wrap their minds around the idea of acting appropriately for the IC situation, there's not much we can do. Regardless of what role they play, they're liable to keep trying to face down the evil villain of the plot like they're Superman and end up vaporized for their trouble. But I've seen players like Phoenix go from bad situation to bad situation, spinning RP off it. Some people can handle it; some can't. There's no quick fix."

Brody says, "Michela, back to you."

Brody says, "We're waiting on Michela. Anyone else wanting in the queue, page me."

Michela hms with voli had a reason for her to leave and that was really my sharpest detail until the beginning of the arc when the kamir started killing people on sanc and one little line and a pair of conversations forced me to define her in greater detail. One stupid little line, one moment through things into relief A "come to see daddy" and later that night when she was having a breakdown and he said something about birthright. I realized this was a major shift for her but i needed to know more about who i was shifting so I went back and put meat to the skeleton of the bio with an incomming transmission down to the conversation she had with her parents before she left so i'm always fleshing out I guess

Khamura dies again.

Gallahad pats Kham.

Brody nods. "I expect people are always fleshing out their bios over time. Thender?"

Brody says, "And, after Thender, I'd like to hear from Kham about his approach to character development. We can all check for typos ;)."

Khamura harrharrs.

Thender says, "Incoming transmissions rock. People mull over big decisions, they stay up late some nights and think about their past and how it has affected their lives up to the point they're at. Just as we do that in real life, our characters, presumably, do too. Writing "backstage" scenes that are just your character, or your chracter and some PCs - or your character's interpretation of a scene that you played out with other PCs, even - are a great way to get inside their head. In day to day RP, expressing what a character thinks blatantly in a pose is discouraged - we are limited to the outward signs of those thoughts. But backstage, we can let our characters pontificate, flash back, and rave at the air all we want. It's a great tool to realize more depth in a character."

Brody nods to Thender. "And I'm accepting those for the E-Zine!"

Brody says, "Kham, go ahead. :)"

Khamura says, "There's been the interesting question raised by Gage earlier about staffer characters that start out as throw-away chars but evolve into fully fledged characters through circumstance or, as it may be, through growing on the staffer playing them. I don't usually follow that approach -- my chars have notoriously detailed bios, and some of them, the Vollistans and Timonaes especially, have families larger than you can shake a Nall at --, but that has opened up a rather peculiar trap for me. I find that my chars often are over-developed, which has led me to the insight that there /is/ such a thing as a bio that restricts RP rather than opening it. Out of that realization I started to cut down on details in my characters' backgrounds and gave more consideration to their actual self -- their character in the psychological sense. It has proven to be an even better way of handling situations in the game for me than relying on knowledge of their defining history alone."

Stolichnaya twitches slightly from Khamura's good use of grammar.

Khamura zings Stol.

Delarme nods. "Wrapping your brain around their psychology, what makes them tick emotionally, can often be more useful than a full-blown history. With Neidermeyer, I never wrote about his background until the series of articles for the IC news. It was totally about his mindset: Cruel, probably overcompensating for some physical shortcoming, usually picking on people without the power to do anything to him. With Stumppaw, I dealt with the idea of an old, set-in-his-ways noble who had overcome adversity - born without a hand, surviving a trial in the Sand Mother Desert, and then living to see the fall of his civilization - he kinda reminded me of a grandparent who lived through the Depression. I'd say many of my characters these days are driven initially by emotional sketches, and then flesh out through the course of events."

[OOC] Delarme sighs! :D

Khamura says, "Worse than a Theorian."

Brody says, "Anyone else want to throw in? :D"

Brody nods. "Hearing no takers - thank you all for coming! We're done!"

RP101: Staying in the MomentEdit

In general, you'll find among experienced roleplayers the following types of poses: Short and descriptive or long and elaborate. Neither style is better than the other in ALL instances, but I personally prefer to mix them up as I do when writing a more static piece of fiction.

During smaller but intense dramatic scenes, I don't mind going off on verbose tangents with my poses and dialogue. But when scenes are more crowded, with a faster pace, it's preferable to switch to economy mode - especially if your hands can't type quite as fast as your brain puts those eloquent poses together.

Few things kill the tension of an action scene like having to wait five or ten minutes for someone to pose. It's like watching an episode of The Dukes of Hazzard when the General Lee is leaping over yet another ditch and they cut to commercial break with a freeze frame of the car in mid-jump with Roscoe P. Coltrane in hot pursuit, and then coming back from the commercial with the same freeze frame for five more minutes. Eventually, you don't care WHAT happens next, just as long as something happens, SOON!

So, have a heart. Think about your fellow roleplayers and think about the good of the scene's vitality as it unfolds. If you're a megaposer who likes to carefully craft a block of text for presentation, consider the circumstances and determine whether it might not be better to try for something brief yet informative. Some roleplayers equate the size of their poses with quality. All a huge pose really equates with is verbosity. If it takes you ten lines to describe your character's drawing of a weapon from his holster, then chances are you're delving too far into the quantity over quality quagmire - like Tom Clancy outlining in detail everything he knows about the bolts that hold down a deckplate on a destroyer. You can easily justify large blocks of text - descriptive posing and dialogue - when your character is giving a speech to a fairly captive audience. But in a more interactive scene where the flow of action and the feeling of intensity relies on a more rapid-fire posing style, strive for something shorter to keep the scene moving.

When I pose, I also try to incorporate elements of the environment around my character. I find that this helps put me in the place and in the moment, allowing me to visualize the scene as if it's unfolding on a movie screen.

Aboard a crippled starship, I'll incorporate the reflection of sparking damaged consoles in the beady eyes of my Nall. Standing outside on the Palace Road, I'll borrow some of that wind-whipped chill rain to trickle down my Emperor's Bladesman's face.

One of the keys to really getting into a roleplaying game is a sense of immersion. Borrowing elements from the environment in-game helps to immerse yourself while encouraging other players to do the same.

Give it a try, if you don't do it already. You should find that, long or short, poses that put you in the place and in the moment are the most effective.

RP101: Learning to FishEdit

When I first started roleplaying online 10 years ago, it was at a game called TOS TrekMUSE.

Set in the 23rd Century era of the original-cast Star Trek movies, TOS offered several interesting RP factions: The Federation, the Klingons and the Romulans chief among them.

Initially, of course, I wanted to be in Starfleet. That's what I'd grown up with in the original series. Who wouldn't want to be Captain Kirk, gallivanting around the cosmos and romancing hot alien ladies? I created a character named Gavalin Xavier Brody and prepared to embark on this new adventure.

TOS required a brief biography before a character could be considered for approval. So, I wrote about Brody's parents dying aboard a Federation research vessel near the Neutral Zone, presumably killed by Romulans and leaving him an orphan with a hatred for Romulans. That's right. My first bio ever was an orphan with a burning need for vengeance. All he lacked was a black trenchcoat and dark sunglasses to score the hackneyed concept trifecta. As much as I mock similar bios these days, it occurs to me that the orphan-needing-revenge bio allowed me to grasp the character concept more easily. It came with built-in biases and motivations. So, if it was good enough for me once, then I suppose it's only fair that all newbies get the same chance. From now on, in my book, I'm instituting the Lonely Orphan Rule: Basically, you get one shot at playing the vengeful orphan, if that helps you get into the mix. But just one. After that, you expand your creative horizons.

Where was I? Ah, right. My bio got approved and Gavalin Brody applied to join Starfleet Academy. As a cadet, I had to complete several courses, pass their exams, and put together a final project to demonstrate at least a limited grasp on the coding used by the game. Brody's final project: A holographic imaging cube that could be switched on to show a picture of his long lost parents.

For the training cruise, Brody was assigned to the USS Yorktown. Aboard the Yorktown, Captain Zachary LaVasseur taught Brody how to use the various consoles: Navigation, weapons, communications, science, engineering and transporters. But not much else went on. I was the only trainee aboard. So, one day, I got bored and decided to practice with the transporter's cargo functions.

I put Brody's holocube on one of the transporter pads. Then I selected the San Francisco transporter station as the destination before locking on the holocube and energizing. POOF! Moments later, it materialized on the planet below. Then I beamed it back up. Satisfied that I knew how to work the transporter just fine, I picked up the holocube and returned to my quarters.

The next day, Captain LaVasseur confronted Brody about the use of the transporter. What was this holocube? Was Brody a spy? Didn't Brody realize that any unauthorized use of the transporter would be logged in the system?

This had become my first experience in in-character actions leading to in-character consequences, or ICA=ICC.

I kept it totally IC. The cube was only my Academy project, absolutely harmless, I explained. I wasn't spying. I just wanted to practice with the console.

The captain and the Academy commandant felt sure Brody wasn't a spy. The holocube did, in fact, seem harmless. But regulations were regulations, and by using the transporter without permission, I had violated cadet regulations. They couldn't leave that unpunished.

So, they kicked Gavalin Brody out of Starfleet.

Well, suddenly, I had a new hook for my character: A Starfleet washout with something to prove.

Brody next joined the Federation Merchant Marines - a bunch of cargo-haulers without all the stick-up-the-butt regulations of Starfleet. In that organization, I thrived as a roleplayer and a leader, both OOC and IC. Eventually, I became the organization's leader, supervising two starships: The FSS Neon and FSS North Star. Over time, from an OOC perspective, the FMM became the most popular and envied RP hotspot - even more so than Starfleet.

What was our secret?

Well, we never relied on the game's staffers to provide entertainment for us. I never served as a staffer on TOS, but I considered myself the de facto RP admin for the people who played aboard the ships I supervised. As such, I took on the responsibility of making sure people had things to do, from training exercises and what-if scenarios to cargo runs to nights out at the starbase tavern. Working with my RL wife, known online as Kalouri, we crafted lots of small plots, including an homage to the old TOS "Mirror, Mirror" episode.

This philosophy of self-sustaining RP proved especially critical for our organization's survival when the space system got shut down for rehab work.

While other organizations started foundering because of the lack of a space system, the FMM prospered. It was during this period - considered by many to be particularly dark days for TOS, but some of the most fun times by FMMers - that I ran my first story arc ever. By this time, I recognized how hackneyed the orphan-seeking-revenge bio was, and I decided to run a plot that would reveal to my crew that Romulans didn't kill Brody's parents. Instead, a human terrorist organization known as the Magenta Squad destroyed the ship, but made it look like the Romulans had done it. Despite the lack of a space system, FMM players hopped to several planets, including Earth, Nimbus III and Vulcan, and finally confronted and captured the villain: An NPC I played named Clayton Forrester, leader of the Magenta Squad.

Eventually, the space system returned and people started flying again. Unfortunately, this quickly led to the destruction of the USS Yorktown, when one of the players, a navigator, accidentally flew into the sun. A dozen characters wiped out, just like that.

That waste of characters bothered me a lot, especially since it seemed like more of an IC consequence for an OOC action. A real Starfleet navigator wouldn't likely make such a rookie mistake. It seemed unfair to make everyone else pay for it. Such an accident was a massive blow to morale, both IC and OOC. But the admins let it stand.

Fine. I could respect the decision to let the disaster stand ICly, but I couldn't allow people to believe that the Yorktown was destroyed due to an IC navigation error. So, during the Yorktown memorial service in Golden Gate Park, I had the starship's message buoy crash land nearby. Inside, I planted evidence and sensor reports that showed another vessel, belonging to Clayton Forrester and the Magenta Squad, had used prefix codes to sieze control of the Yorktown and force her into the sun.

This did two things. First, it gave an IC explanation to justify the IC consequences and provided the Starfleet folks with someone to go after in-character - someone to blame, someone to take out their vengeance upon, rather than griping OOCly about the admins. Second, it gave Brody motivation to once again pursue a career in Starfleet. With Denna Kalouri as first officer, Brody commanded the USS Excelsior, and brought along a few friends from the FMM.

During my three or four years at TOS TrekMUSE, I can only recall one seriously massive admin-driven plot: The Ikaran War. This happened during Brody's time in Starfleet, and involved a race of psionic brain-eating fabric softener bears called the Ikarans. It lasted about six months. Such a huge plot, spanning the entire game universe, was the exception rather than the rule. I think the fact that admins on TOS usually took a back seat when it came to storytelling really allowed for more encouragement of day-to-day roleplaying. It encouraged self-sufficiency among RP groups and really put the pressure on players to make their own fun as much as possible.

On OtherSpace, I've run seventeen major arcs over the course of six years. After a while, two problems manifested. First, some players would avoid major plot activities for fear they might suffer harm to their characters. Second, when major plot activities weren't in progress, we'd get some players complaining that they were bored. As the old saying goes: "Give a man a fish, and you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish, and you have fed him for a lifetime."

That's true for roleplaying too. One of the goals of this course should be for the people who take it to become more self-sufficient in generating RP opportunities for themselves and their compatriots without relying so much on staffers or admin-driven plotlines.

Your assignment: Whether you command a ship, run a town, sell flowers or run for elected office, brainstorm ideas for fairly standard day-to-day activities that you and your friends can roleplay without depending on the staff.

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