Basic Roleplaying in Second Life

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Basic Roleplaying in Second Life

Post by AmeliC »

This is my guide to roleplaying in Second Life. It's aimed at beginners, but I have a lot in it that doesn't seem to make it into other roleplaying guides.

I'd like to know about errors, omissions, and anything else you'd like to say.
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Basic Roleplaying in Second Life 1: Genre, Setting and Character

Post by AmeliC »

So what is a roleplaying game, exactly?

I'm going to assume you don't know. You may have heard about roleplaying through cultural references to Dungeons and Dragons or allusions to something kinky. Those are roleplaying, but if you really want to understand what a roleplaying is, and how it can become a game, think back to Cops and Robbers.

Roleplaying games are nothing more than let's pretend for grownups. In a roleplaying game you assume the role of a character (usually fictional, and usually one you created yourself) and play them according to the rules of a make-believe world.

(Note that not all roleplaying is done in the context of a game. Certain kinds of therapy rely on roleplaying, as well as the aforementioned kinky stuff. We're leaving aside the broader notion of roleplaying as a whole to concentrate on the game aspect of it.)

* So what are the building blocks of a roleplaying game?

The game always begins with a genre and a setting. While these are distinct, they often overlap. Genre defines what one can expect from a fictional world, in terms of style, form and subject. The description 'heroic fantasy' sets up expectations of heroism (that a character of noble character can make a difference) and fantasy (that the world includes elements which cannot be explained by reference to physical materialism.) The description further calls up expectations of swords and elves and prophecies, but these are common tropes of the setting rather than the genre.

Setting is the fictional world itself. A setting can have more than one genre (compare a Marvel comic about the Avengers to one about the Punisher, for example) but for the purposes of Second Life roleplaying, it will usually have only one.

I belabour this point because setting and genre function by excluding as well as including. Understanding the genre and setting are vital to roleplaying well! A Frank Miller-inflected Punisher probably wouldn't fit too well in a game inspired by the cosmic exploits of the Kirby-era Fantastic Four. This leads us into character.

* Okay, what is a character?

A player character is a fictional persona you, the player, assume within the game world. Everyone else in the world is termed a non-player character. These terms come from real-world roleplaying, where all non-player characters would be controlled by a gamemaster, who was also responsible for adjudicating everything that happened in the world other than the player character's choices. Second Life roleplaying usually doesn't have a gamemaster, and this leads to a lot of complications and new conventions, as we'll see.

In Second Life, playing a character on a sim often requires an application. The application is your proof to the mods of the sim that you understand what roleplaying is, you understand the genre and setting, and that you're not an asshole.

(If you get the first two wrong but the last one right, that's okay, because those can be taught. The last is much harder.)

There may also need to be a character sheet or meter. These specify how your character will interact with the game rules. We'll get to those later.

* How do I make a character?

Imagine who you want to be. Imagine who it would be fun to be. Me, I am a good girl all day, so when I get online, I play bad girls.

This is your chance to fulfill a fantasy, and to show you can craft a character worthy of Lee (Harper or Stan, or anyone else.) Being fun to play is the most important trait a character can have. If you keep thinking about all the hijinx your character will get into, that's a very good sign.

They still have to fit into the genre and setting, though. The better you understand those, the less likely you are to make a mistake.

Many people choose to play themselves, or a variation of themselves. That's easy and safe. I use my own personality as a baseline, and then work on it like a sound engineer at a mixing board: many of my characters will do the opposite of what I would in a similar situation.

* How do I make a good character?

That's a lot more tricky.

First understand that while your character is the center of your personal RP universe, no one else cares about your character until they can do something for them. You will need to interact with other player characters, and to do that, you will need to be proactive.

The best way to be proactive is to ensure your character wants something. It may be a long-term goal, but to be interesting it needs to motivate your character in specific, concrete ways that other players will see and can react to.

The other way is to have something other player's character will want. This could be a rare skill or power, or willingness to do unusual services.

* What are some common mistakes people make when creating a character?

Here are some common pitfalls when making a character:

- Cliché
If your character is too obviously a ripoff of some other fictional property, or if you're just like every other character of your type on the sim, people will be reluctant to play with you.

- Unearned Awesomeness
Virtually every character other than designated victims are a power fantasy of some sort. It's considered gauche to make that too obvious, though. Trying to impress other characters through what your character is, rather than what you the player do with that character, is bound to cause resentment.

- Passivity and Overly Reasonable Characters
If you don't do anything, there's a very strong chance nothing will happen. If your character is intelligent and reasonable, they're more likely to shy away from risk and less likely to do something entertaining. You've got a chance at a Second Life; don't use it sit around a virtual coffee shop.

- Not Understanding the Genre or Setting
I've belaboured this point enough, but it's up to you to fit into the game universe, not vice-versa. Second Life RP sims are simply too big and have too much invested in them to accommodate everyone. (Note this applies to Second Life RPing. In real-life roleplaying with a small group, this rule may not hold and may even be reversed.)
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Re: Basic Roleplaying in Second Life

Post by Narelle Leia »

I wish I had read that when I started SL. I would have made things so much easier!
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Re: Basic Roleplaying in Second Life

Post by Chyleste »

This is great. It's well written and easy to understand.

I like the explanation of rp as pretend for grownups. I usually describe RP as co-writing an impov story with everyone involved.
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Re: Basic Roleplaying in Second Life

Post by LillianVickson »

The "Pretend" vs "Improv" description depends upon how adult I feel at the moment.

I'm still wondering if my character is "Cliché"
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Re: Basic Roleplaying in Second Life

Post by BluePhalkon »

You definitely should include information about RP etiquette, such as the difference between a "public" RP and a "private" RP, asking to join private RPs, and avoiding powergaming/godmodding, auto-hitting, and metagaming.

Also, you may wish to flesh things out with concrete examples.
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