Friday, September 07, 2007

Does Not Play Well With Others

For many years, long before the great Karinthadillo emerged from the chaos of the shattered worlds and established hegemony over all that is right, just and bite-sized, I always thought I knew what roleplaying was about in this kind of MUD context. Roleplaying meant abandoning the out-of-character, focusing on your character and your character's aims and motivations, and playing from that viewpoint. Essentially trying to be your character, and doing what he or she would do.

Quite a while back though, I came across a situation where somebody got really quite upset with this and felt it was rude. They believed that roleplay was like a play script, to be shared amongst the actors ahead of time, and that it was antisocial to suddenly spring a negative scene on somebody. That, for example, if I had a character who was planning to overthrow the king, it would be impolite not to tell the king's player this plan before suddenly surprising both the character and the player with the attempt.

Personally, I don't buy that. While it might be proper for other genres and situations of roleplay, I believe that in our kind of MUD setting, the best way to avoid OOC influences is simply to avoid introducing them in the first place. That telling other players of future IC plans would simply encourage them to use this knowledge to thwart or otherwise influence them. That, in this example, if the king's player was informed, he would surely find one way or another to remove his character from that threatened position. Or, to pick a more benign example, roleplay would simply become the reading of a script, which while interesting for onlookers, would become static and boring for those actually taking part.

I feel that roleplay is best spontaneous and off-the-cuff, drawing on the players' skills at improvising, accepting that things are unlikely to go exactly according to their plan, and taking this in stride rather than demanding a do-over until they are satisfied. I believe that by having everyone come to a mutual understanding beforehand over what will happen in the end, removes the thrill and variability that make it worthwhile.

What do you think, though? Is it being antisocial to refuse to share these plans? Is it simply cynicism underlying this, that I don't trust the other players to keep this knowledge out of their in-character actions? Does any of it even matter?


Lalaynya said...

I can agree to a point...

Quite obviously if someone emotes

*sneaks up behind you, stabbing you in the back, killing you instantly* .... Well... that's pretty bogus. (Yes, I've had people try to pull stuff like that....)

Given proper support and all... yes, sometimes it's best to not share ahead of time... especially with something extremely serious... but to back a player into a corner where there's NO way out and no room for any ending than what YOU planned? Yeah, that's not very fair at all. Then.. life isn't always fair. Given the proper atmosphere and support, such RP may be very justified and good for the game as a whole.

Kinda hard to draw a hard line there, huh?

Karinthadillo said...

I agree, things like "closed emotes" are definitely bogus. Of course, you have to allow the other player to physically respond. But I think this is best done in the heat of the moment, rather than as a prepared response ahead of time.

I sort of liken it to a chess game (in terms of competitive roleplay situations) - of course people can plan and guess what you're going to do, but there's no reason for you to tell them. More of a battle of wits than a community storytelling session.

Fern said...

Pre-scripted roleplay and the assumption that we must reveal that path that it is going to take before it starts strikes me as just as fulfilling as reading the last chapter of a novel before tackling the rest. It defeats the purpose, the flow, the visualization, the backwaters and eddies that improv leaves in its wake.

Kolix said...

Well, my belief is that you don't need to ask or warn about anything. Unless, that is, you're about to do something fairly crazy and/or horribly derailing for the victim.

An example: One time, On an mu* I can't remember the name of. I joined in on a stupid, stupid, just utterly wrong RP. And the very first thing that happened was someone decided they were going to make me their undead servant. No warning, he just bursts into the room and "Hi. I'll kill you and make you an undead servant now."

A little problem there: I don't have any interest in playing someone's undead servant. I sure didn't create a character just to have him totally derailed and rewritten on the first day anyway. And yet this person wants to completely change my character without so much as a "Is that ok?"

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I don't play there anymore.

Conflict and change is nice and all. But I think there's something of a limit there. You can't just go around making these big, massive changes to other characters without letting their players have a say in the matter.

Besides, in my own experience. Most people don't have a problem with these things when they OOCly know it's coming.

Owl's perch said...

Spent a while wrestling on how to answer this. Always led from the original topic to a different one. In the end, I figured it was a good analogy for what the topic was about.

When RPing live, just improving while remaining true to the character's movitations and ideals, is an experience most of us seek. But when confronted with certain knowledge of future events, you're left to try to respond to things that haven't happened yet. You're given to contemplate how your character will respond, which reduces both the emotional changes for the character and your ability to respond.

Or at least, I've found that to be true in my case. When I've been told what someone intended to do, it left me wondering what I was supposed to do when it happened. How would my character react? It didn't matter if she would have reacted instantly or later in a normal environment. It would have been a natural and "true" reaction. Instead, it became something that I had to think about objectively as the player instead of as the character.

Inflicting large changes on someone else's roleplay is often inevitable if you've been playing a compelling character with a lot of interaction with others. The more depth your character has, the more currents in their social life can affect your own character and sweep aside the plans of others.

Deliberately inflicting changes is also not a strange thing. There are greefers out there that enjoy upsetting or destroying other people's RP. Of course, they aren't inclined to give warning.

Those who have a valid reason to cause change, such as an assassin or revolutionary can feel awkward about the direction their RP has taken. They have invested a lot in their character and the RP, and this is the direction it has come (intended or not). They also know that the characters they will shortly be affecting have had a lot invested in them and very likely have not intended on the course this RP will take them.

I don't think telling people that your character is going to make large changes the next time they play is a good idea. It provokes responses best saved for the actual event. Of course, I can't simply condone the destruction of another's RP. The happy medium here, that I see, would be asking what is permissible while the RP is actually unfolding.

Yeah, there isn't much time for doing anything BUT the RP. That's kind of the reason why it's the ideal point. There isn't time to wonder how your character would react to the changes proposed. It's just a question of what do you, the player, condone for your character and their RP. If you're the one causing the change, it is a chance to learn the limits of those you are RPing with, before you cross them and without compromising their ability to RP.

This is something best talked about away from the game and the names of characters. It is an OOC topic with unavoidable IC ramifications.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Yeah. Roleplaying is not supposed to be something you make up ahead of time.

And of course you're not supposed to just say "I kill you" or "I sneak past you." There's supposed to be some sort of conflict resolution mechanic in whatever game you're playing. Then you say, "I try to [whatever]," some dice are rolled, and you go from there. Unless you're playing diceless, but I never got into that.

Most muds don't really have any way of resolving conflict, other than sometimes the normal automated combat. You can't really arm wrestle without both agreeing that someone won, or it devolving into "I won" "No, I did" "Nuh uh" "Uh huh."

You should look into how regular roleplaying games work. There're a lot of good ideas you could mine from them.

Sage said...

I have a little bit of experience on this topic, bad and bad unfortunately, though lessons have been learnt.

For my part though, in the majority of RP situations, I feel that not knowing ahead of time allows for a more natural response from said character and can decrease OOC/IC conflict. I feel it can also make RP appear and flow more smoothly.

Foolish closed emotes (ie. emote stabs you dead.) are highly out of order and by no means should another person walk in and just expect to successfully force random and/or completely inane RP on another (unless its that sort of mud...).

There's a right and wrong way to handle or create any RP situation, it just takes a bit of creativity, give and take, patience and willingness to go along with or simply heed another's ideas.

Owl put it best I think.