Hyrkanian Insight: Behind the Scenes Pt. II

Well met once more, dear gamers. Last week we talked about the basic concepts of Roleplay (RP), what’s to be avoided and generally accepted rules of behavior while interacting with other fellow RPers. This week we will go a step further and get knee deep while wading into more subtle and delicate matters because, after all, everything is the eye of the beholder and fun is a very personal subject.

As always, Age of Conan will be the base theme, for that’s what’s all about in this column: Hyrkanian Insight. Keep your wits and follow me after the jump for more.

Naming

First of all I would like to say a few words about naming. Many of you will probably know that RP servers have special rules for naming your characters. This is important and tricky at the same time, because, even when RPers won’t use the name that appears in the tag above your character, that is the first thing they’ll see and it is like a first impression: you cannot change that.  Choose your name with respect for the naming rules, and if possible, making it according to the world you’re playing in.

Character creation

The first thing that one should consider when starting to roleplay is the Character. Questions like: Who he is? Where is she from? What profession is she? How old, what personality will our character have, etc. There is no perfect formula for this, and each roleplayer in the end finds what best fits their style, and here comes the “but”; when you decide all these things, you also should keep in mind the community you will be joining, because roleplay is interaction and what you decide will affect to how others see your character and how they react to his/her presence in their surroundings.

Can’t help but remember a particular case that happened not too long ago in the Hyrkania server (EU version of the game) which is PvE-RP server. Someone wanted to create a new character, a powerful necromancer who didn’t hide her trade or powers no matter where she was. (I am not sure if the player behind the character was male or female, nor the character, since the discussion was going on in the server forums.) The question is, the reaction of the community in general wasn’t too friendly, mostly because such a mage user would be feared and hated in most Hyboria; and too open a display of such powers would probably lead to a lynch mob seeking to put the head of said caster in a pike. People can discuss whether it’s appropriate with regard to the in-game lore, or the original lore the game is based in, but wha counts in the end, is how the other roleplayers react to what you’re doing.

What I’m trying to explain here is that overly powerful characters from the start aren’t easy to introduce into a new community, because the rest of the roleplayers don’t know you and won’t easily accept that your character is a frightful assassin, or an imposing towering barbarian who can intimidate anyone with just a glance of their cold-piercing eyes. One should start slowly, not from scratch but neither trying to impose your character as the savior of the Kingdom or the super-mega-villain who is threatening to subdue a whole village under their foot. Well, you can, of course, but then you should be aware that such character won’t last long, and the result will be in the majority of the community not wanting to roleplay with you.

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A way of starting without having to think too much is to decide some aspects of your character so you can start RPing with it, and then decide whatever other detail is needed to go on with the RP on the go. Personally, I think this is a way of allowing your character some flexibility, letting it grow and evolve more easily than if you’re tied to certain details, (though some mannerisms or habits from past experiences can help give form to the character.)

Something that people sometimes don’t realize is that, even if the game provides a limited choice of race: Stygian, Aquilonian or Cimmerian, it doesn’t mean you have to forcefully RP one of those races. The Cimmerian race can make up for Vanir, Aessir or other northlander peoples. Aquilonian may perfectly pass for Nemedian, Zamoran, Argossean… and so on. That is why it’s important not to use the information the game provides from a player while IC, because the tag will say “stygian” when the person is RPing a keshian, kushite, shemite or even maybe a Vhendian.

The same goes for classes, one doesn’t have to let their class limit their RP, and though sometimes a certain class can help because it provides a wider variety of outfits to choose from, certain abilities, or even a particular weapon you want to be able to wield, doesn’t mean you have to roleplay a demonologist, a priest of Mitra or a Dark Templar. There are so many options outside the classes available. To name a few; your character can be a Scholar, a travelling merchant, a noble, a bodyguard, a hermit, a slave, a serving wench in a tavern… and those are just a very few of all the things one can come up with.

Consequences

Other important thing that one should ALWAYS take into account is the consequences of their actions IC. Even if RP allows you to do things you would not in your day-to-day life, it doesn’t mean those things won’t have consequences. If you rob someone, that someone probably will want some kind of revenge. If you behave harshly, people will walk away from you. If you insult others, you’re asking for a fight. And not only IC consequences are to be expected because, in the end, we’re all human and can’t help but get into our character’s skin, somewhat at least. You cannot expect everyone else to like your way of RPing, just as you cannot expect everyone to like you in real life, so keeping things friendly and nice is advisable too. If you’re about to perform actions with your character that aren’t too friendly, or your character is one of the “bad guys”, it might be good to just let know the other RPers in advance, (unless they’re your friends and already know what’s going on) this way other gamers will be aware and won’t feel it has to do with them instead of with their characters.

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Emoting: descriptive vs dynamic

Yes, you’ve read right, I’m going to talk again about emoting, but going again a step further. And again this is a matter of personal preferences, but also sometimes it’s a question of what we’re RPing at that moment. Some people like extensive and very descriptive emotes, which can be very nice, but can also take a long time to type, thus slowing the advancement of the RP or making it take simply too long to keep track of what’s going on. This is why sometimes you’ll see people standing or sitting and apparently idle, they’re probably typing. :)

On the other hand dynamic emoting doesn’t mean that your emotes lack any description at all because that would be dull and even lead to  misunderstandings (for example, if you’re engaged in a fighting scene.) So a certain balance should be achieved, knowing that certain scenes might require that you describe a bit more thoroughly while others require more dynamism to allow the roleplay to be more fun for everyone involved. This particularly affects emote fighting action, where one wants dynamism but also needs to describe their actions and movements well, to prevent misunderstandings. Emoting *attacks* *parries* *counterattacks* doesn’t lead anywhere; instead you can emote *thrusts an attack aiming for the man’s legs*, or *lowers the sword to parry as he jumps backwards*. And yet there’s a third option when you even describe the direction of the sword, or the expression of your face while you perform your attacks, making the emotes longer.  Tip: if you have doubts what an emote means, or what the other roleplayers are trying to do, the best option is to ask them in tells and clear any doubt before going on with whatever youre doing.

And that concludes this week’s article, see you all next Saturday. Meanwhile practice your skills and come back to us with your impressions and ideas. Happy weekend!

11 Comments

  1. Just on the naming ‘rules’, they aren’t rules. Rolling to hit involves rolling a D20 and adding your bonus to hit, that’s a rule. ‘Stay to theme’ or suchlike is not a rule – it’s simply a weasel words, which can be made to mean anything the speaker likes. That isn’t a rule.

    And if roleplaying your character involves threatening to subdue a whole town, people will stop roleplaying with you? So if you roleplay, people wont roleplay with you?

    Look, I’m imagining you can’t actually subdue a whole town in AoC? So your more talking about someone trying to talk up an act they can’t do, expecting other players to act out quaking in their boots at an act that can’t happen?

    Or can you do it? Then why would people stop roleplaying with you for saying your going to do it?

  2. Hi Callan, thank you for your comment, I’ll try to clear out the points you bring out.

    It’s a rule imho, from the moment a name you choose can be changed by a GM, or can be reported.
    But anyway, I tried to state that all this is very subjective and personal, since everyone will have a particular view on how it should be handled. Whith this article and the previous I made an attempt to transmit a general view on things, and a set of non-written but widely accepted rules of behaviour to make one’s experience of roleplay the best possible.

    One has to keep in mind that roleplaying in an MMO is not as sitting around a table with your friends, where one of them will act as Game Director, and the rest will react to situations presented by the first. In an MMO there is no such Game Director, so every roleplayer is at the same time a player and a director, so to speak.

    Maybe I didn’t express the concept as clearly as I thought, I’m not saying that if you roleplay other roleplayers will stop roleplaying with you, but if you try to impose your personal view of things, and try to impose your character (when such character is that powerful) unless that has been agreed to beforehand, people will walk away. Being the key word there “Imposing”.

    Another thing that one should try to keep in mind, always from my point of view of course, my view on things maybe doesn’t work for you and that is perfectly valid; another thing I was saying is that game mechanics actually DO restrict roleplaying, there are things that the actual game doesn’t allow you to, but imagination is a very powerful tool and will let you and your friends or anyone wanting to get involved achieve anything. After all, when you are sitting with your friends around a table, everything happens with words and in your minds. In an MMO is pretty much the same, except you’re seeing a character, and a certain enviroment.

    I will just say once more, that of course this is a collection of my personal views and what I’ve learned and experienced through various MMOs, and different RP forums. And this doesn’t intend to be a statement of how things should be, but merely a guide to help people find their own way. It is a shame that some gamers give up RPing just because their first impression isn’t as good as it could be.

    Hmm, that was a wall of text, but hope it cleared out your questions. *smiles warmly*

  3. Hi Sema,

    I think as I’d describe it, I don’t think ‘rules’ work. Your kind of stuck making a character name that fits a certain fiction you think of, and if the GM doesn’t get that fiction, then they might think you were just making up crud. Myself, I’d suggest just try and think of novels one has read and try and draw a name that would fit those novels. And maybe the GM’s will get it or wont, but be true to the name you think would fit.

    On the second thing, if in game you can subjugate the village, then the other players can’t stop roleplaying with you. They ignore your characters rants, then he goes and takes over the town. In such a case you can’t stop roleplaying, only roleplay a character ignoring the future.

    If you can’t subjugate, I should have noted in my prior post, I think I pay what you mean. It’s, ironically, an understanding thing between players and you can’t demand to be a demanding tyrant (there’s the irony).

    Personally I prefer to keep roleplay around what you can actually do in a game for those reasons.

    Do people often try to be some scary badguy (sans the actual ability to subjugate anything) often in roleplay? They seem a bit silly to do so?

    One thing I’ve kinda done on a roleplay server is play the heel and offer actual game money for people to kill monsters for a bad guys cause (bad guy made up by me, based on existing NPC’s). Be the tempter…with real game cash to back it.

  4. There is no such thing as Role playing in mmos. It is a cute little incentive, but no one does it. Generally because role playing requires books and live audience. With a graphical world, it is impossible to act as if you have a sword when your character clearly has a sword. You cannot roleplay a warrior if you are a mage. The only thing MMO does is make people try to have accents or old english chat room discussions…

    “What shall I do my lord?” “Thou shalt slay the dragon”.
    *click left button. Auto attack. Dragon dies*.
    “Let us rejoice!” “YAY”!
    thats it..

    to market a game for any other role elements is a lie and very obvious to gamers.

  5. Callan, it does not seem silly to RP a scary bad guy, in fact if everyone chose to RP the good ones, the heroes and Knights in White Armor, it’d be quite boring. I, personally, tend to RP characters that move in the shader greys of things, to use a D&D analogy, a chaotic-neutral alignment. So it makes perfect sense. What I was trying to explain and hint is that if you’re bringing a new character to a server, and you don’t have a circle of friends that will support you, having a first contact with the already existing community may prevent some misunderstandings.

    @Turdinballs: I can’t disagree more with you. In fact, I know very few people that resorts to using the mentioned old English language, there ARE more than a few roleplayers in MMOs, and the stories brought up are more colorful and imaginative than what you describe. Of course, that doesn’t mean everyone must roleplay, because one joins a game to have fun, and not everyone enjoys RP. Every experience is a valid as the next one, though.

    On another note, RP is a very subjective as I may have mentioned before repeatedly, therefore is very difficult to reach an agreement, and why I try to encourage achieving a balance and an understanding with other roleplayers and to be aware that not everyone sees things the way you do.

  6. Nice article :)

    Firstly, I have seen enough RP in SWG, AoC, CO and even *gasp* WoW to disagree with the assertion that you cannot find any RP in an MMO. I do agree that the built-in content is mostly not all that RP-inspiring and a lot of games have mechanics that make it hard to RP but that does not by any means mean there is no RP in an MMO. I do agree that often the advertising makes some games seem more RP-friendly than other titles do even if the game in question is not actually more RP-friendly, but in the end, if you have enough people with the imagination and the will to RP, you can have it anywhere. I have even seen people RP in FPS games so I think the limit on RP is in the mind of the player, not the game necessarily.

    Secondly, I am all for having bad guys in RP, preferably bad guys who are played by players. However, as with anything, I think moderation and a degree of community consensus are in order. Over-the-top claims about your character’s powers are at the least bound to get ignored or at worst bound to end up as a flame war on one forum or another. Bad guys are good and add a lot of necessary conflict and flavour to RP, but in the end, I think the uber-anything (good or bad) is best left for specifically arranged plot events where they are required and NPCed properly.

  7. I respect both ways of playing. If you don’t like to RP in MMOs, or you even think it’s ridiculous, ok. If you like to RP and you chase “perfection” in the way you perform your stories, your backgrounds, well, everything related to the RP, it’s ok too.
    Two different worlds, living on a RP server.

  8. Callan, is as usual as seing people wanting to be the superheroes, invincible and never failing. I used that example to try and express that there must be a balance, a sort of understanding. It’s not that a roleplayer will be insta-rejected because they want to RP evil characters, but the fact that they try to RP a character that cannot be defeated in any way possible, be it because it’s an allmighty villain or the opposite: the Knight-in-white-armour-who-cannot-be-defeated. Mostly, because that brings boring and conflictive RP.

    I, personally, tend to choose the not-so-good-characters; my main char is RP-wise a thief who doesn’t hesitate using everyone around her to reach her goals. So it’s not unusual and it’s not silly at all.

    Let me say again that all of this is based on personal experience, and it doesn’t have to work for everyone. In the end, it is a matter of trying out different things and see what works for you.

    I hope now I did answer your question. *offers a smile*

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