[MUD-Dev] Roleplaying in Muds

Travis Casey efindel at earthlink.net
Sun Jul 23 14:59:07 New Zealand Standard Time 2000

On Sunday, July 23, 2000, J C Lawrence wrote:
> Travis Casey <efindel at earthlink.net> wrote:

[Please note, through all of this, that I'm talking about how *I*
define roleplaying.  Others may disagree with me, and even have good
and valid points in so doing.  It's possible that I might decide to
change my definition is someone makes an objection that is good enough
to some aspect of this.  And, of course, I can't guarantee that anyone
else who mentions "roleplaying" has this definition in mind.]

>> Roleplaying is playing your character as if he/she were a real
>> person existing in a real world.  To do this, you must decide what
>> the character is like (i.e., his/her personality).  With that in
>> mind, you try to make the decisions that your character would
>> make, based on what he/she knows about the situation.

> What part does the enjoyment of others have in this, and does this
> in fact take any account of RP as an inherently social activity, or
> are the social trappings views as accessory to the central function?
> Additionally, does this fully accomodate the differences between say
> consensual RP and non-consensual RP wherin the social milleau may
> (and does) restrict the actions of a character outside of his own
> predilictions?

The enjoyment of others plays no part; if you're roleplaying, you're
roleplaying, whether you're playing a character everyone hates or one
people like.

Roleplaying is not "an inherently social activity" -- it's perfectly
possible to roleplay by yourself.  Ever seen a child playing alone,
pretending to be a cowboy, or Tarzan, or a mommy, or whatever?  That
child is roleplaying.

Consensual roleplaying is a form of "play the way I want, or I'll
pick up my toys and go home".  It inherently restricts roleplaying by
limiting the roles that can be played.  That doesn't necessarily mean
it's a bad idea -- these are roleplaying *games*.  Roleplaying is an
important part, but it's not the only part.

>> GoP play can be roleplaying, *if* the goals are the *character's*
>> goals.  Roleplaying is a way of thinking about your character and
>> the game, so terminology can be important.  For example, "I want
>> to be the highest level fighter on the mud" and "I want to be the
>> best fighter in the world" may be essentially the same goal in
>> "game terms", but the first is stated in a non-roleplaying way,
>> while the second is stated in a roleplaying way.

> Quite some time ago Jon Lambert accused me of being a closet RP'er,
> which got my goat at the time, but which I now agree was true.

> At one time I had a habit of playing characters in MUDs for the sole
> purpose of leading others to a particular viewpoint or deception (I
> did this to advantage my other characters I was more interested in
> in a purely GoP manner).  I would create a character and then use it
> to manipulate other players into a belief/view I wanted, typically
> setting them up so my primary character could gain some in-game
> advantage.  To do this I'd play both a fake human (who was playing
> the manipulative character), and the manipulative character himself,
> neither of which made any apparent serious attempt at RP asides from
> the occassional self-concious "thee" or "thou".

Using archaic speech is not a serious attempt at roleplaying, unless
you're playing a character whose speech should sound archaic to the
other characters in the world.  Sorry, pet peeve of mine.

> I defined and assumed a character.  The character I assumed, and
> played exactly as if it were real AS DEFINED BY THE PERCEPTIONS OF
> OTHER PLAYERS, was that of another human player who just happened to
> be playing the same MUD I did.  The caps bit is important.  I had no 
> interest or concern for the human I was masquerading as.  My entire
> intent was the control of the perceptions of others.  I wasn't
> playing a character, I was calculatingly doing what I thought I
> needed to do to make another think that I (in the form of ht other
> identity) was real.

> Is that not RP?

I would say that it is not, but it's difficult to tell from such a
short description.  Roleplaying is not a simple binary thing; it's a
continuum.  Asking "is so-and-so roleplaying?" is like asking "is
so-and-so being nasty?" -- there are degrees and shadings to it, and
the ultimate answer depends not on what the person is *doing*, but
on *why* they are doing it.

(To use another analogy, asking "is this roleplaying" is like asking
"is this a chair".  Something can *look* like a chair, but not be
designed to be used as a chair.  On the other hand, something can be
designed to be used as a chair without looking like what most people
would call a chair.)

I would say that what you were doing was role-acting; you weren't
*assuming* the role, but simply *acting* it in a consciously
manipulative way.  It can be likened to the difference between
"method" acting and traditional acting -- in one, you try to think
like your character and "get into" the character; in the other, you
simply try to portray the character in a believable fashion, without
worrying about the character's internal processes.

For my internal definition of roleplaying, there is a definite
difference between the two; for someone whose definition is based on
social aspects, there might be no difference.

[snip most of the Quake stuff, since neither of us seems to know the

> Which is why the above questions.  Is RP a question of perception by
> others, a purely internal matter to the individual, or a mix of
> both, and if its a mix, where's the line?

By my definition, it's purely internal.  If you don't like that, feel
free to create your own definition.  :-)

>> That leads to an interesting point, though; you can't tell whether
>> someone else is *really* roleplaying or not except by asking them.
>> Someone who goes straight for the treasure, kills on sight, and
>> never speaks to anyone *could* be roleplaying a greedy, vicious,
>> taciturn character.  Someone who speaks in flowery phrases and
>> participates in plenty of in-game conversations may be consciously
>> trying to gain influence in the game by making friends with other
>> players through their characters.

> And the functional difference?

What do you mean by "functional?"  The two are obviously different
from an internal viewpoint.

Roleplaying is not the only area in which motivation and other
internal factors make the difference.  Consider, for example, trying
to create a reasonably definition of "cruelty."  Is it cruel to slap a
child's hand so that it hurts?  If someone does that because they
enjoy seeing the child suffer, the answer is yes.  If someone else
does it to keep the child from touching a hot stove burner, the answer
is no.

That's a case where motivation is easy to see, but motivation is not
always so easy to see.  If we see a man cross the street to stay away
from another man of a different race, is that man prejudiced?
Possibly.  However, there are other possible explanations -- perhaps
the first man and the second had an argument earlier today, and the
first does not want to continue it.  Perhaps the first man owes the
second money, or the second man has been pestering the first for a
favor.  Without either asking the man questions and getting true
answers, or being able to read his mind, we simply don't know.

>> Therefore, if you want to appeal to roleplayers, you can create a
>> game that encourages people to act in ways that roleplayers think
>> indicates roleplaying.  

> Bingo.  Is somone acting in a fashion that appears to be RPing not
> RPing?

They may or may not be, just as someone who's acting "nice" may or may
not actually *be* nice.  They could also be doing it for an advantage,
as a setup for a cruel joke, or for many other reasons.

However, the motivations of the person who's being nice don't matter
to the people he/she is being nice to until or unless they cause that
person's behavior to change.  In the same way, whether someone just
appears to be roleplaying won't matter to others until or unless that
person's internal processes cause him/her to do something different.

> Gawds, I wish Jaime were still on the list.

The name doesn't ring a bell... who's Jaime?

       |\      _,,,---,,_    Travis S. Casey  <efindel at earthlink.net>
 ZZzz  /,`.-'`'    -.  ;-;;,_   No one agrees with me.  Not even me.
      |,4-  ) )-,_..;\ (  `'-'
     '---''(_/--'  `-'\_)      

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