Roleplay 101

Roleplay 101 – Part 1: What NOT to do

Over my years in Second Life, I’ve entered several roleplay sims and situations. Many have been great fun, but some have been… dire. (I’ve always said I’ll be nothing but upfront in this blog; there has been direness galore.)

Sometimes the direness has come about purely via the assholeish behaviour of others, but far more of it has come about through simple ignorance/innocence of basic roleplay conventions (not to mention common courtesy). While some may say that rules are there to be broken, there are some rules – unspoken among roleplayers, but nonetheless understood – that should not even be bent, let alone busted in two. And then, there’s all that other stuff.

So, this first post in the Roleplay 101 series is a kind of What Not To Do list. It’s written with the roleplay newb in mind, but – as my past experiences attest – there are a few ‘seasoned’ roleplayers out there who might benefit from it.

Let’s start with those big no-no’s.

You might find God-moding written as God-modding or Power-posing. No matter what it’s called, it’s a HUGE no-no within roleplay circles.

God-moding is the name given to the process whereby player A writes the actions/reactions of player B, without player B having any say in the matter.

Meet Amanda and Bruce, who are going to guide us through the mechanics of God-mode:

Bruce looks exasperated as Amanda stands up to him. “You have to understand,” he says, “you can’t just run away from your father. He will send his men after you to bring you back!”

Amanda growls softly and unsheaths her hunting knife. “I’ve had enough of you and your, ‘you can’t do this, you can’t do that’. Why don’t you let me do what *I* want sometimes?” She hurls the blade at him, and it sinks into his chest. She watches as blood starts to pump out, and bites her lip. Oh God, she’s killed him! “I… I’m sorry…”


Amanda has God-moded Bruce there, big-time. Who is to say he might not have dodged that knife, or that it might have hit him in the arm and not been fatal? Amanda has decided what will happen to Bruce, without giving him any choice in the matter.

So how should  she have done it? Let’s re-run that, without the god-moding:

 Bruce looks exasperated as Amanda stands up to him. “You have to understand,” he says, “you can’t just run away from your father. He will send his men after you to bring you back!”

Amanda growls softly and unsheaths her hunting knife. “I’ve had enough of you and your, ‘you can’t do this, you can’t do that’. Why don’t you let me do what *I* want sometimes?” She readies the blade in her hand, her stance aggressive, her gaze fixed on his chest where beats the heart she thinks must be made of pure stone.

Alarmed, Bruce ducks and makes a lunge at her, trying to wrest the knife from her hand…

That’s more like it. Amanda has shown her intent, and is letting Bruce decide what happens to his character, instead of deciding it for him. In turn, Bruce has given Amanda a chance to say whether he was successful in getting the blade away from her (note that Bruce is trying  to wrest the knife away from her, giving her the choice to say whether he’s successful).

At this point, you may reach an impasse, and here is where I suggest using RP dice to decide the outcome. Both players roll their dice, and the highest score wins. Thus, if Amanda rolls 47 and Bruce rolls 63, Bruce managed to get the knife from Amanda. If those rolls are reversed, then Amanda keeps hold of the knife and the battle continues.

In a fight situation, where you are perhaps using dice, state in your pose where you are aiming, so after you have both rolled dice, your RP partner can react accordingly.

God-moding doesn’t just happen in situations like the one above: they can come about in simple, innocent RP. This following type of pose is God-moding, too:

Amanda advances on Bruce, her hunting knife raised. She laughs as she watches Bruce scuttle away from her, clearly afraid of her.

Bruce OOC: Oh FFS, not again!

Never, ever, EVER God-mode or power-pose. Always leave your poses open, to give the other person a chance to respond. And use dice to settle outcomes that you cannot decide upon between you.

Meta-gaming is the name given to use of player-knowledge within roleplay.

SL has a big advantage over RL: you know someone’s name immediately. After all, it’s there right above their head! There’s often a tag or meter, too, which offers information about the character, such as affiliations to gangs or clans, health stats, professions, etc.

But our RP characters are the same as our RL selves, in that they, too, don’t know other characters’ names or professions. Here are Bruce and Amanda again:

Bruce saunters into the cocktail bar, confident that his smart business suit disguises his real intent. He knows the landlord keeps cash in the register overnight – the idiot! – and Bruce knows that his pals in the Hardnutter Bastards Gang would love the chance to rob the poor fucker blind. He’s just discreetly scoping out the locks on both windows and doors when the pretty barmaid distracts him.

Amanda: “Hello, sir. What can I get for you?” Her voice is steady as she presses the hidden distress button under the counter. She’ll have no thieves coming into HER bar!

Bruce OOC: Wow, a telepathic barmaid…

In this scenario, Bruce was giving NO visual or verbal clues as to his intent. He’s in a smart cocktail bar, but dressed in a flash business suit so he doesn’t stand out visually. Sure, he’s scoping out the joint, but he’s doing it discreetly. Amanda has meta-gamed here, because she’s using player knowledge (Bruce’s thoughts about his disguise and his gang’s robbery plans) in her response.

Here’s another example. Bruce walks into the same bar, and he’s wearing the sim’s meter, which reads thus:

His first morning in Urbania, and after a restless night’s sleep in the Roach Motel, Alex meanders into El Posho Cafe in search of a hearty breakfast. His suit may be a bit crumpled – the motel charged way too fucking much for the loan of an iron – but he hopes he still presents the image of a businessman. Maybe a businessman after a long red-eye flight. Yeah, that would do.

He sits at one of the tidy little tables, pushing the vase of perky flowers out of the way, and opens the menu card, tapping it against the table as he reads.

Amanda looks up from her position behind the counter. Oh no, she thinks, not another one of those Hardnutter Bastards lot. Her boss had only just replaced the windows since the last time they got robbed!

She clears her throat and tries to sound confident. “Good morning, Mr McKinley. Please let me know when you’re ready to order.”

Bruce [ Alex ‘Knuckles’ McKinley ] OOC: *headdesks*

Only once a character has introduced him or herself to you, using their name, should your character refer to them by that name. And incidentally, if they introduce themselves by a different name than the one floating above their head, they might have simply taken on a new name for this RP world, or their character might be lying to your character for some reason. Whatever it is, just run with it (and in the latter case, make a note of it, because until enlightened to the other person’s TRUE name, your character should continue calling them by the FALSE name they gave you).

Likewise, group tags and meters. Let’s imagine a sim based around Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, wherein two of the group tags are for the houses of Montague and Capulet. Unless your character already knows the other person (for instance, they are a relative) then you should not refer to them by their family name until they have given it to you. And you’ll only embarrass yourself if you manage to refer to “the spy behind the bar” in your RP, when said spy is in disguise as a tavern worker and your only clue to their true identity is the meter stating ‘spy’ above their head…

In the same vein come other characters’ thoughts. Unless your character is telepathic, he or she cannot read minds. Please don’t make yourself look daft by responding to another player’s thoughts when they pose them, unless you can pass it off as an amazing coincidence. A good RPer will, if you happen to do this, probably stare at you and register alarm at your ability to read her thoughts (most likely she would pose that as a thought, and not out loud), and if THAT happens, you should take it as warning not to do it again. A good RPer will run with that situation and respond once, but not too many times in an RP, and will probably take you aside, either OOC or in IM, to let you know you’re using player knowledge that your character shouldn’t, by rights, be aware of.

Likewise whispers. If Amanda poses that she whispers to Bruce, yet the whisper is typed in open chat instead of sent in IM, and you are standing 14m away from them both, there is no way in reality you would hear that whisper! By all means pose that you notice them whispering, but don’t respond or react to the words that were whispered, unless you were standing very very damn close indeed!

Deus ex Machina: the God in the machine. In an inescapable situation, suddenly – miraculously! – your player finds a way out, even though all realistic  possibilities of escape have been removed.

Bruce and Amanda are playing in Gor:

Bruce smirks down at Amanda’s naked, bound, shivering form. Divested of every blade, this pretty young panther isn’t so tough now, and she will make a fine kajira for his chain once he’s tamed her to it.

Amanda waits for Bruce to look away, then forces the tiny blade she’d hidden up her backside out into her hands. She snaps it out of its covering handle and – in a few quick slashes – she’s free and she POUNCES on Bruce with a scream of rage.

Bruce OOC: Seriously? You just pooped a knife out of your butt?!

Amanda beats Bruce into a bloody pulp and runs free.

Bruce OOC: You’re starting to get really annoying…

The sudden telepathic ability, the knife hidden up the butt, the lockpick sewn under a fingernail, the friend who arrives at precisely the right moment. All of them are examples of Deus ex Machina: the unexpected event, power, or ability that saves what appears to be a hopeless situation.

Try to roleplay your way out of that situation, even if it means you have to wait  for rescue. And, in waiting for rescue, for god’s sake don’t just TP your friend to your location so they can pick the lock or untie you. You need to get a message to them somehow, but do it in an appropriate manner to the theme of your roleplay. Here’s an example from a roleplay I was involved in, way back, in a medieval-themed sim. I sent one of my character’s relatives a notecard, titled: A crow flies overhead and drops a note at Lady Mia’s feet.

My Lady Mia,

Dearest coz, I write this with a hand that trembles. Dost wish me dead, my Lady? My heart weeps while it can, for soon it shall rest on a platter, served up to thy door.

I do not wish to die! For the love of your coz, give Zin a room in the castle. My room. Please!

Your loving,


(Sadly, Lady Mia [name changed, naturally] didn’t want to give up a room, even temporarily, because it meant she would ‘lose’ – more on that in a minute – which brought the whole plot that my captor and I had concocted to a grinding halt.)

Bruce and Amanda are having a small in-character disagreement:

Bruce [ Alex ‘Knuckles’ McKinley ]: “All I asked for was a drink. What’s got you so het up, little lady?”

Amanda: “I’m not your little lady! You come in here and I *know* your plans! I’m sick of this place getting turned over by your gang!”

Bruce [ Alex ‘Knuckles’ McKinley ] OOC: Dude, we’ve been over this…

Amanda pulls her trusty AK-47 out from where it’s tucked in the back of her panties and aims it at Bruce.

Bruce [ Alex ‘Knuckles’ McKinley ] OOC: OK, I’ll run with that, but damn, Bridget Jones has nothin’ on your knickers…

Bruce [ Alex ‘Knuckles’ McKinley ]: “Holy shit!” Bruce ducks and makes a run for the door. “You’re insane, lady. I’m outta here!”

Amanda vaults the bar and sets off in hot pursuit. She catches up with Bruce in the alley behind the bar and fires at him.

Bruce [ Alex ‘Knuckles’ McKinley ] is running madly, ducking behind the tall industrial garbage cans for cover as he flees into the street, losing himself in the press of the crowd.

Amanda: Never one to give up, Amanda keeps giving chase, catching him up, shoving people out of her way left and right. She fires again, not caring if she hits any innocent bystanders. Knuckles McKinley and all the Hardnutter Bastard gang must DIE!

Bruce [ Alex ‘Knuckles’ McKinley ] OOC: OK, this has gone too far.

Amanda corners McKinley and shoots him dead, kicking him in the nuts as he dies. And, to send a message to his stupid gang, she tugs a can of gasoline from her backpack, pours it over his lifeless body and drops a lit match on it, watching with satisfaction as his remains are consumed by flames.

Bruce [ Alex ‘Knuckles’ McKinley ] OOC: Um, you just killed several innocent people back there. Also? I lost myself in the crowd. Also? D’you always wear a gasoline-filled backpack when you work behind a bar? Also? You have… issues.

Amanda OOC: Shut up. You’re dead. I killed you.

Bruce [ Alex ‘Knuckles’ McKinley ] OOC: I give up.

This ties in with the damnable need to win at all costs that some roleplayers have, and that includes winning the person they want. I’ve seen it (and experienced attempts at it) many times in roleplay sims. A roleplay arena is not a meat market.

That big, handsome Gorean jarl you’ve got your pretty kajira eyes on? He’s very happily SL-partnered to the female avatar who runs your favourite OOC clothing store. That gorgeous sassy tavern wench you think would look great tied to your sexbed? She’s actually married in real life to her SL partner.

It doesn’t even need to be a desire to get jiggy with another player; it can be as ‘simple’ as the need to keep someone to yourself as a friend. Daros and I have experienced (on multiple occasions) the friendly-friendly approach, wherein someone within the sim sends nice, chatty IMs to one half of an established partnership. Then the IMs start coming when offline. And then there’s the small divulgences about real life. And slowly, slowly that player is winkling their way into the partnership, but the other half of the partnership is someone they ignore completely. They want this person, not that person. Sometimes – if you’re not accustomed to the tactics used – you don’t even realise you’re the filly being cut out of the herd until it’s too late.

One thing that many people forget when it comes to roleplay (and, again, it often ties in with the need to WIN) is that roleplay is a team game. You may be playing  a solitary character, but you’re playing with  other people, and those other people will not look upon you kindly if you try to make everything about YOU.

Let’s suppose that Bruce’s Hardnutter Bastards Gang has a new member. His name’s Dan. Dan arrived in the Urbania roleplay sim a few weeks ago and wheedled his way into a fairly important position in the gang: in charge of all the weapons. Dan only got that position because he whined and whined at Brendan ‘Thug’ Jones (the gang’s boss), nobody else had stepped forward to fill the post, and well… the gang needed someone  to procure the guns and explosives they needed for their raids.

Brendan has been discussing with his lieutenants a new raid that he’s planning. It’s a huge jewel heist that involves an agreement to share the spoils with some bent cops from the Urbania Police Force. OOCly, the raid is planned for the weekend, when as many of the players can be online as possible (to make it fun for everyone and so nobody is left out) – the raid itself on Saturday and the aftermath on Sunday. In the middle of one of the discussions, Dan is hovering just within chat range of the gang’s planning room.

On Thursday afternoon, all hell breaks loose in Urbania. Rumours spread like wildfire. The Hardnutter Bastards have robbed the Blingtastico Store. The gossip on the (almost empty at that hour) sim is that Dan, together with his brand new sidekick Fred (a four-day-old newb avatar) mounted the raid early. Dan now has a million Blingybucks in the bank and is strutting around the sim, preening about pulling off the most daring raid seen on Urbania…

…and he’s wrecked weeks  of carefully-planned roleplay for many  people, because HE wanted to be the hero.

Don’t be Dan. Be a team player.

Meet Amanda, the perpetual victim. She’s wearing hooker heels and what looks like a bit of dental floss and two postage stamps, and she’s flirting outrageously with Bruce – the most dangerous man in the ultraviolence sim they’re roleplaying in. She knows Bruce’s character is a convicted rapist who has escaped and is on the run (he’s drunk and boasting about all the women he’s abused) but that doesn’t stop her from turning the conversation in a direction that shows she’s very interested in getting into his pants. However, when Bruce takes her up on her advances, suddenly Amanda slaps him. She’s not a whore; she’s a virgin, dammit! How dare he make approaches like that?!

The next day, when Bruce logs on, all of Amanda’s friends have formed a posse and pile on him, and then the GM (apparently Amanda’s best friend) comes along and tells Bruce he must either spend the next month of gameplay locked in the sim’s jail, or he’ll be banned.

Reluctantly, poor Bruce agrees to be jailed and he sits in his cell night after night, getting no roleplay at all, while watching the OOC group chat scroll by. He’s soon joined in his cell by Max, a drug dealer character who tried to sell heroin to some woman dressed like a hooker. She’d been suggesting all night in the bar that she needed a hit, but when he made his subtle approach, she’d slapped him, told him she wasn’t a junkie whore, and called the cops.

Two nights later, Adam joins them. Adam makes seedy little porno films, and guess who was draped around him in the bar last night and talking about her luuuurve for exhibitionism…?

In Summary

That’s a lot of don’ts, and it’s by no means all of them. Those, however, are some of the biggest annoyances that roleplayers complain about. In the next post in this series, I’ll be dishing out some hints about how to get the best out of a roleplay situation.


IC: In-character (used for all roleplay dialogue and actions)

OOC: Out of character (used for all non-roleplay interactions. Some roleplay areas request that you keep all OOC interactions to IM only)

Pose: A single piece of text from a roleplayer; their ‘turn’ in the scene

GM: Games Master (the owner or moderator of a roleplay location)

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