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Storyboard

Storyboard: Six things people (falsely) believe about roleplaying

Culture, Opinion, Roleplaying, Storyboard, Miscellaneous

What a charming long road it's been.
Roleplaying is one of those things that you know a lot about if you've done it and very little about if you haven't. That's fine; it's not as if you need to know the fine details of PvP balance if you never PvP. But there are tons of gaping holes in people's conception of what roleplaying actually entails.

So what do these people use to fill in the blanks? The horror stories. The nonsense. The garbage. A bunch of things that have no real resemblance to this important portion of our hobby.

All you can do to fight ignorance, of course, is provide information. So let's go ahead and look at some of the most common misconceptions I've seen about roleplaying and what the reality is behind the misconceptions. If you already know this, feel free to just pass this around to your non-roleplaying friends and family. Or just nod vigorously all the way through.

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Storyboard: Manipulative tricks

Opinion, Roleplaying, Storyboard, Miscellaneous

Look out for the things.
Playing a manipulative character is kind of a minefield because you wind up falling into one of two traps. The first possibility is that you wind up not being very good at it because you aren't very manipulative. This isn't a mark against you, as none of the hallmarks of manipulation is thought of as a positive trait, but it does make your portrayal somewhat suspect.

On the other hand, maybe you're great at manipulating the people around you, which starts to blur the lines between players and characters and raises some uncomfortable questions all around. So that's not fun either.

Not that any of this tends to dissuade people; we love watching manipulative people, and the idea of playing one is appealing. It's a chance to make everyone dance to your tune, after all, even if it's just for a little while. So let's take a look at how you can play a manipulative character to the fullest without hurt feelings or informed traits.

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Storyboard: Skipping scenes

Opinion, Roleplaying, Storyboard, Miscellaneous

Nah, we're not doing that scene.
There are certain bits of roleplaying that I like to think of as mechanical. They're there, they're necessary, but they're not terribly interesting. They're like random battles in Bravely Default: kind of neat the first time, altogether forgettable all subsequent times, and never blessed with an abundance of fascinating stuff. You need to get through them, but you can't really look forward to them any more than you can look forward to the most routine-filled parts of your day.

So the best bet is to say they happened without acting them out.

Yes, I'm saying there are bits of roleplaying that are best acted out only in reference. And I'm not just talking about your characters' bathroom visits; I'm talking about things like dates and shared experiences. So when is it actually an advantage to roleplay by not actually roleplaying at all? How do you determine the scenes that you know happened and are important but aren't important enough for you to actually play them out?

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Storyboard: Only mostly dead

Lore, Opinion, Roleplaying, Storyboard, Miscellaneous

You said that you would die for me; you must live for me, too.
Dead is dead. I can't stand when comics endlessly bring back dead characters, I can't stand when shows bring back dead villains, and I can't stand when death is treated less like the final note and more like a brief inconvenience. If you want someone to come back from the dead, don't kill the character in the first place! Death needs to be permanent to have any impact.

So this week's article is all about ignoring that and bringing characters back from the dead anyhow because the only reason to have rules is to know when to occasionally break them.

Roleplaying deaths are already rare, of course. I can count how many characters I've actually killed on one hand, and that's stretching back to roleplaying in Final Fantasy XI (abortively). But sometimes you decide that you want someone alive after all. And when it's done carefully, you can actually make the revival interesting again because you're not doing it for shock value so much as making a point.

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Storyboard: Secrets that aren't helping

Culture, Opinion, Roleplaying, Storyboard, Miscellaneous

It's a faceless week.
Roleplaying characters are often secretive sorts. This is understandable; a lot of people are secretive sorts. Sure, you're not deceptive, but you harbor a secret affection for Lady Gaga that you don't want to tell anyone about, or you secretly did forget to feed the cat that one time she broke into the cupboard and ate an entire bag of cat food, or you're secretly cheating on your girlfriend (but it's fine because she's cheating on you, you think).

The problem is that in roleplaying, some secrets are just plain better than others.

Keep in mind that I'm talking about specific secrets here, not just things that people might not know yet. There are certain secrets that are just plain counterproductive, and it's better to have these things stated outright rather than held in reserve for the future. Even if it's supposed to be a secret, some secrets are better revealed than kept because keeping 'em isn't doing you any favors.

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Storyboard: How to say goodbye and mean it

Culture, Opinion, Roleplaying, Storyboard, Miscellaneous

Liars, A to D.
So you know it's time to say goodbye. Your previous group of roleplaying companions just isn't filling that need you have for roleplaying, and that means it's time for you to pick up shop and move on. Great. Your metaphorical bags are packed, you're ready to pick up shop, and all that remains it to figure out where you're going to go.

Right. That part. Where are you going to go?

When you've been with one group of players for a while, it's tempting to see the game in pretty narrow terms because the focus narrows. The game is less about the whole server and more about the people whom you spend your time with in the game, naturally. But when you take away the group that you've been immersed in for so long, you're back to looking at an overall environment you hadn't considered. So here are some tips to make leaving as painless as possible.

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Storyboard: Being who you aren't

Culture, Opinion, Roleplaying, Storyboard, Miscellaneous

Pretty sure I've used one of these before, but oh well.
There is, as I have discussed, a group of roleplayers for whom the game is the thing. If the game doesn't allow you to be a moisture farmer, then why would you want to pretend to be a moisture farmer? Similarly, if you're not actually a master of the marketplace or sitting on huge assets in the game, why would you want to pretend that you are?

I am not one of those people. I'm playing a financial wizard partly because I am not a financial wizard. And it's not that I don't love games where that's a viable option, but that's a different discussion.

However, this does raise the question of how you can pretend to portray something you aren't intimately familiar with. If I'm playing a doctor, I'm going to run into the simple problem that I'm not a doctor in real life (full-time writers rarely receive extensive medical training). All of roleplaying is some degree of pretending to be something you're not, but how do you do so when it's something that's a bit harder to fake?

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Storyboard: Maybe I should go

Culture, Opinion, Roleplaying, Storyboard, Miscellaneous

There's a hidden message in there, but to be fair, there usually is.
Friendships don't always last forever. The people who made great roleplaying partners a year ago might not make such great partners for you today. Sometimes it's time to stop hanging out with the same old crowd and start finding yourself a new group to call home.

Maybe it's a clash of personalities. Maybe it's a change in characters. Maybe it's just that you know as long as Tim and Anna are your main roleplaying partners you're going to be doing the same three plotlines from here to eternity because Tim really likes those three plotlines. The point is, there comes a point when it's time to say farewell and move on to a new group.

So when is it time? That's a slightly more difficult question. Obviously, the people you gather around you for roleplaying are people you like to roleplay with; otherwise, you wouldn't have them around you in the first place. Telling them that you just don't want to any longer is a bit of a step. So let's talk about the when, and in a couple weeks we can talk about the how.

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Storyboard: What housing does for roleplaying

Culture, Opinion, Roleplaying, Storyboard, Miscellaneous

Note to self, really need to replace this header this year.  No cheating!
Those of you who read the other meanderings that I post on the site already know that I am very, very unhappy about the mess that Final Fantasy XIV has made out of housing. You don't need to hear about it again, though. What's far more relevant is addressing a question that at once seems screamingly straightforward and yet barely gets answered: Why does housing matter so much for roleplaying?

Pretty much no one argues with the basic premise that housing is a boon for roleplaying, but that discussion usually stops there. It's assumed that the reasons it's helpful is self-evident in much the same way that having a game that does not set fire to your face is desirable. But it's useful to examine why at least affordable entry-level housing in a game is important for roleplaying and how it can lead to benefits for the community as a whole.

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Storyboard: Working without /random

Game Mechanics, Opinion, Roleplaying, Storyboard, Miscellaneous

Little bit gone, little bit not yet, little bit probably never.
Two weeks ago, you might recall, I ranted about using random rolls as a mechanic of resolution when roleplaying in MMOs. For those of you who can't be bothered to go back and read the whole thing now (which I totally understand; you probably have holiday games burning a hole in your pocket), the core point was that random rolls don't actually tie to anything for resolution and wind up coming off as an obvious and unfun kludge for the sake of random resolution.

"Well, if you're so smart, why don't you come up with alternatives?" And I did. Readers also had some wonderful suggestions and feedback in the comments last week, which make the article even more worth reading, so really, go ahead and take a look at it. This week, I'm taking a look at how you're going to resolve conflicts in roleplaying without relying on what amounts to a coin flip. And as you may have expected, they're all taking tips from tabletop games.

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Storyboard: You ruined your own event

Events (In-Game), Opinion, Roleplaying, Storyboard, Miscellaneous

Friendly reminder, what you're seeing now is decided on and written ahead of time more often than not.
You're running a roleplaying event, and it's going well. It's lively, people are having fun, characters are playing off one another well, it's ideal. So you decide to push things a little further, to take things up a little more, and the next thing you see is people mumbling excuses and leaving until you're left with one or two people who remain less as a function of fun and more as a testament to bitter determination. What in the world happened?

I'll tell you what happened: You ruined your own event.

This has kind of been a week for me of people ruining good stuff, which makes this week's column unintentionally apropos. A lot of roleplaying events start out great, with everyone invested and happy to be present, but they quickly dissolve when a few well-intentioned but poor choices are made by the people running the event. And while I can't chronicle every possible pitfall, I can at least talk about the most common ones that I see again and again.

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Storyboard: Don't fight with /random

Culture, Opinion, Roleplaying, Storyboard, Miscellaneous

There is a subtle message here, except it is not subtle.
Most of my Storyboard columns center on larger issues, providing advice in some way. This one does not. This one is purely about one of the elements of roleplaying in MMOs that I particularly dislike: using in-game random rolls to determine the outcome of actions during tense scenes (or out-of-game rolls in games that don't support /random or /roll or something similar).

This is a time-honored practice in MMOs, but I've never had many nice things to say about it, to the point that I wrote an entire column about dueling without even discussing it. In practice, it makes sense, casting otherwise unresolvable situations back to the realm of tabletop gaming. What's not to like?

Lots of things. Resolving conflicts with random dice rolls is unsatisfying and to be avoided at all costs. And if you want to compare it to tabletop gaming, you're making a lot of logical leaps that don't hold up under scrutiny.

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Storyboard: Why am I still here?

Culture, Opinion, Roleplaying, Storyboard, Miscellaneous

I like you better when you're not around.
Sometimes, the biggest problem you face isn't whether or not you can find dramatic roleplaying but whether or not your character has a reason to keep subjecting herself to it.

I ran into the problem recently in Final Fantasy XIV. As a player, I enjoyed what was going on with one of the many organizations my character belongs to. The problem is that she wasn't enjoying it, and she didn't have any reason to keep subjecting herself to it. She didn't like most of these people, she didn't need money or resources from them, and she wasn't really deriving any benefit from it any longer.

Obviously, I wanted her to stick around. But every so often you find yourself in situations where your character isn't happy and wants to leave... and has both reason and opportunity to do so. Two weeks ago I talked about getting someone out of your life; now it's time to talk about keeping a character in the mix.

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Storyboard: Pacing and numbers in roleplaying

Culture, Opinion, Roleplaying, Storyboard, Miscellaneous

I'm almost certain I've used one of these before.
I attend a lot of roleplaying events. This is not a surprise to anyone, I'm sure. What also probably isn't a surprise is how many of them turn out to be slow, meandering, and generally not all that great. It's like wading through any bunch of player-generated content; you've got a lot of people who have a great idea in their heads to the point that they'll ignore signs about how badly that idea will shake out in reality.

A lot of it comes down to two major issues: pacing and numbers. In some ways, this is an extension of the problem of people not playing to the medium, but it's also a problem of pacing and overall event flow. If you're not thinking about how you're pacing an event, you haven't fully thought things out, and if you aren't thinking about what that means for the people attending, you're going to wind up with a lot of bored people complaining via whispers.

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Storyboard: Now I only want you gone

Culture, Opinion, Roleplaying, Storyboard, Miscellaneous

Well here we are again.  It's always such a pleasure.
Roleplaying friendships are like any other sort of friendship. The person you started roleplaying with at the launch of the game may not be someone you want to keep roleplaying with through the whole of your time with the game. The question isn't whether or not this will happen; it's when it will happen and what you're going to do when you realize that you don't want to play with this person any longer.

What sounds like the simplest thing in the world becomes much harder due to the simple fact that none of us likes telling someone else, "I don't want to interact with you any longer." That means you've got to read the signs and derive a lesson -- and also learn the way that your signals are going to be read, even if you don't mean it that way. So what signs do you get, what signs do you send, and what do you do?

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