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Role Play 101: Role Play Etiquette

By: Qai

These were originally written while role playing in WoW, but all of the general concepts and advice still very much apply. Even if you've been role playing for years, there are some things in here will likely help you develop even further.

While I take no credit for writing this guide, I cannot actually name the person who wrote it. It is a handbook that has been passed around for a little over 9 years now, the authors have changed (or at least user names) many times over. Though I thought it would be good to share for those who do actively or are interested in role playing.

Role Play 101: Role Play Etiquette

Is there such a thing as Role Play Etiquette? Certainly there is! It may not be so obviously called that but you can usually tell when someone is breaking it. How can you tell? By listening carefully to what others say.

I’m going to try touching on the subject of Role Play Etiquette. Mind you there are hundreds and hundreds of RP pet peeves that individual Role Players might have that I certainly can’t cover, but I will try to cover some of the most common ones. I will also discuss how to know if you’re breaking RP etiquette and possible alternatives or solutions to such behavior. Making role play fun for everyone is the goal. So let’s work towards that goal together.

Interrupting Active Role Play

Like in conversation, it is considered rude to interrupt a Role Play conversation that is going on. Though often role players are more open to others joining in, it is usually wise to try to determine if others are welcome before jumping in.

The simplest and usually fastest way to do this is to send an OOC whisper. Something along the lines of “(( I see you are engaged in role play conversation. Is this a private conversation or may others join in? ))” Quite often you’ll find that role players are seeking others to join them. But be prepared for the times when it is a private conversation not open to others.

There is also the technique of simply listening in to see what is going on with the conversation. Don’t worry! Mom won’t scold you for eavesdropping this time. In life, you can catch a few lines of conversation quickly and determine if it is something you can join or if it is a private matter you should step away from. In WoW Role Play, because typing takes longer to accomplish than speaking, it takes a bit longer to determine this.

Snowplowing

This is the term I use though others probably have different ones that mean the same thing. Snowplowing is stepping into someone’s active Role Play conversation and overwhelming it with YOUR Role Play. You plow right through with what YOU want to talk about without regard to what is already going on.

Not good. Everyone gets their time in the spotlight. It does not have to be your time every time. If there is already an active conversation going on or someone’s RP plot, don’t snowplow through it with your own plot.

A good example: We were all at Role Play night in Stormwind one evening enjoying some casual conversation, doing a bit of fishing, a bit of drinking, and sharing some bawdy jokes. Up walks Darkandspooky (I’ve changed his name to protect the guilty). Immediately he begins spamming us with his description (in the form of bad emotes) and starts in with bizarre behaviors that are meant to reinforce the fact that he is “dark and spooky” (which I will discuss in a later article). Now the characters already present either continued with their conversation as if he hadn’t interrupted, or reacted in the way people who had imbibed large amounts of alcohol would. He seemed terribly upset that the other characters didn’t appropriately react to his all-powerful “dark and spooky”, but that was because he was trying to snowplow his way into the existing RP. It simply didn’t fit and forcing it wasn’t going to make it fit.

There are much more subtle ways to introduce your Role Play thoughts, ideas, plots or conversations. Role Play conversation, like real life conversation, flows and convolutes and changes. It may start out as a conversation about the fish in the canals and end up discussing whizzing off the docks in Westfall. You never truly know where it is going to end up or what roads it is going to take in between. So if you’ve got something you would like to bring into the conversation, listen to it. Follow the flow. Bring it in carefully where it fits rather than trying to force it on others. Trying to force it where it doesn’t fit has a tendency to go over like a turd in a punch bowl.

Sometimes conversations don’t go down the paths that would best fit what you want to talk about. Sorry sweets, but that happens sometimes. It doesn’t mean you are a bad role player. It doesn’t mean the others are trying to be rude to you. It simply means that the conversation flowed just like in real life. It is unpredictable. That is what makes it fun!

Hovering

Now there are two different forms of hovering. One is rude and one is not. Telling the difference is subtle so pay attention.

The first form of hovering, the not-rude one, is the person sitting to the side just listening to the conversation. Maybe casually emoting something once in a while. The shy character that just wants to be near people but really doesn’t want to interact. Sometimes the hovering character has a player that is being pulled away from the keyboard frequently so lets the character sit quietly as the conversation scrolls across the screen and catches up on what is going on when they return to the keyboard. I’ve done this a number of times. This form of hovering is okay and is also a great way to learn things. By keeping the ears open and the mouth shut.

The hovering that is irritating and rude is of a completely different variety. The character that walks back and forth past the conversation participants over and over and over and over again…. but never says anything. The character that sits right at the edge of the conversation (usually with their back to the others) clearing their throat, emoting other trivial things such as spilling a mug or tying their shoe or picking at the lacings on their trews…. but never says anything. They make it clear they want to Role Play too but are not doing anything to reach out the hand to play. As a matter of fact, their behaviors generally are not something others would comment on. If I see someone picking at their fly I’m not going to call attention to it.

The latter form of hovering is a behavior that is guilty of waiting for contact. I discussed the difference between looking for contact and waiting for contact in a previous article. Inclusion isn’t a one-way street. In order for others to include you in conversation, you have to do something that they can react to. Simply wandering back and forth isn’t sufficient. I’ve seen characters just wander back and forth for twenty minutes not saying or doing anything but then getting upset because they weren’t included in the conversation. Role players are not mind readers. In order to be part of the conversation they have to be given something that they can comment on or notice. Don’t be shy. Try speaking out. It can be something simple like asking for directions or commenting on the weather. Be creative.

God-modding

This is by far the single most irritating Role Play behavior out there. God-modding is when you do something that affects another character without giving them leave to decide their own actions or opinions. An extreme form of god-modding would be emoting that you stab the other character, killing them instantly. It can take other, more subtle, forms though.

If you emote something along the lines of another person’s character noticing that your character has eyes red from crying, that is god-modding. A better choice would be to emote that your character rubs at eyes red from crying and leave it up to the other player as to whether they notice it or not. Sometimes characters have reasons for not noticing things.

Many role players won’t come flat out and tell someone they are god-modding. That is, perhaps, a fault many share. Generally they will ignore the god-modded behavior and continue on with whatever they were doing or simply ignore the character guilty of it. If you find yourself being ignored or legitimately snubbed and you truly do want to improve, don’t get angry, ask the person about it in whispers. Usually others are quite open to helping eager role players improve their Role Play skill.

Manners, Manners, Manners!

In general, role play behavior should mirror real life behavior. The same rules of manners still apply. Take time to think in these terms and you will find smooth role play laid out in front of you.

Inclusion in role play also takes effort on both parts. Don’t just wander around doing nothing and get upset when you’re not included. You have to try too.

Remember, everyone gets their time in the spotlight. It may not be your time at just that moment but it will be eventually. Patience is the key.

And as with all things involved in role play, be creative! Even if your attempt to reach out and be involved is awkward, it gives a place to start.



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