[MUD-Dev] Roleplaying in Muds

Travis Casey efindel at earthlink.net
Mon Jul 24 16:17:21 New Zealand Standard Time 2000

Sunday, July 23, 2000, 11:57:35 PM, J C Lawrence <claw at kanga.nu> wrote:
> Travis Casey <efindel at earthlink.net> wrote:

>> Something to be aware of is the split between "game reality" and
>> "game system".  For example, in some single-player games,
>> long-distance travel is glossed over -- it happens "off screen".
>> However, the *characters* shouldn't be aware of this -- it's part
>> of the game system, not part of the game reality.  Thus, someone
>> playing in character might complain about how long a journey took,
>> even though to the player it only took a fraction of a second.

> <<Should have written this on the first reply but forgot>>

> Yup I coined a term for this that Raph ended up champioining:
> "functional roleplaying".  This describes a player who makes
> decisions regarding their character to best take advantage of the
> game using the game systems.  They act exactly as if the game world
> were real, but not necessarily as if there were any distinction
> between themselves and their character, or the real world and the
> game world.  

Hmm... I think I see three different types of roleplaying floating
around in this thread.  Let me see if I can anchor them a bit:

Internal roleplaying:  This is roleplaying under my definition.  The
player tries to make decisions for the character on the basis of what
the character would do.  The player is not primarily concerned with
whether the character seems to be roleplayed well or consistently
to other observers, but rather with whether the character is
internally consistent.  If this is being done successfully, the
character should seem consistent to outside observers who understand
the character's motivations.

External roleplaying:  This is attempting to play a character with
attention to consistency from the point of view of an outside
observer.  The player is more concerned with whether the character
seems like a real personality to an outside observer than with whether
the character is internally consistent.

Functional roleplaying:  This is playing a character consistently as
if he/she were in a real reality, not for any principle, but because
it works well within the game (i.e., helps the player to accomplish
his/her goals).

(A related note:  a long-ago Dragon magazine had an article entitled
"The Vicarious Participator", in which the author argued for people
"playing themselves" in games rather than creating distinct
personalities.  I mention this because it seems to me to be related to
functional roleplaying -- by JCL's definition above, functional
roleplayers don't draw a clear distinction between their characters
and themselves, so they would be "vicarious participators" as per that

Note that I have not addressed switching in and out of character in
any of these.  IMHO, these definitions are all independent of the
amount of time spent in or out of character -- they define what the
person does while "roleplaying", but say nothing about how often
he/she is roleplaying.

My own speculative thoughts about these and IC/OOC switches are these:

External roleplayers seem to me to be the most likely to dislike
IC/OOC switching, especially when it's difficult to tell when the
player is IC.  This would be a natural extension of their concern with
appearances -- constant IC/OOC switching can give the appearance that
one is not roleplaying well.

Functional roleplayers seem like they really wouldn't care much
about an IC/OOC distinction -- their characters are simply their
extensions in the game world, as much or more playing pieces than
they are true "characters".

Internal roleplayers seem likely to freely switch in and out of
character, possibly without giving anyone any visible sign that
they're doing so.  Since they focus on the internal process rather
than on the visible aspects of roleplaying, they're not as concerned
with a character apparently taking actions that don't make sense.  If
they can figure out that someone's now OOC, they'll react to them OOC;
if they can't, they may simply assume that the character is performing
those actions for some reason they don't understand.

Some thoughts about enforcement/encouragement of roleplaying:

(Hmm... at some point, I've stopped writing "seems" all the time
instead of "is".  Please note that these are my personal thoughts, and
interpret "is" to mean "seems to the author at the moment to be".
I've only had an hour or two to think about these definitions much, so
I'm probably going to wind up changing some of these initial

Internal roleplaying is impossible to enforce (short of being able to
read minds) and seems to me to be very difficult to encourage.  At a
guess, I'd say that internal roleplayers make up a considerably
smaller portion of the "roleplayers" group on muds than external

(The proportions may be different with paper & pencil gamers, who are
faced with the problem that in face-to-face games, it's much harder to
keep up the illusion that you are your character.  Thus, I would
figure that internal roleplayers would make up a larger group of
roleplayers who play P&P games.)

External roleplaying is possible to enforce to some extent, simply
by monitoring what players are doing.  Some OOC actions are easy to
tell -- if someone starts talking about things that don't exist in the
game world, you can figure they're OOC.  Others are more difficult,
and come down to the question of "is this character being consistent?"
It's possible to try to enforce character consistency; people have
presented schemes for doing so here before.

It seems to me that it would be difficult to encourage external
roleplaying through game mechanics; social factors seem a much more
likely way to encourage it.

Functional roleplaying can be enforced and encouraged through mud
design; if you can make a mud in which behaving the way the characters
ought to behave works best, you've done it.  Dave Rickey's experiences
with that Battletech game that he recounted would be an example.

> This where the RP distinction gets scary and I think why I have so
> much trouble with it from a game design perspective.  The RP
> definition attempts to cover both the internal view of one's own
> actions and the internal intent for one's own actions AND the
> exteriour perceived aspect of those actions and the deduced (or what
> is understood from statements) of the intent behind those actions,
> and depending on who you talk to/play with, one or the other side of
> that pair are primary (either personal qualities is key, or
> perceived qualities are primary).  Further, the divide between say
> consensual RP and non-consensual RP appears to rest exactly on the
> point of which of those sides is primary.  Consensual RP appears to
> state the the internal values are most valued and that therefore the
> game is consesual to acknowledge and respect those qualities, and
> non-consensual RP appears to assume that the external perception is
> primary so that the "created reality" is self-consistent as per the
> perceived characters in it.

I disagree on the nature of consensual RP; it seems to me to value
external values over internal ones.  As an internal roleplayer, I
don't see what someone else does to my character as being a violation
of my concept of the character.  The only ways that my character
concept can be violated are if (a) I have the character do something
that breaks it -- in which case, I have no one else to blame, or (b)
something makes my character behave in a way that I believe it would
not.  (B can be possible under some systems, but IMHO, if it is,
either the system is broken or the character I am trying to create is
not possible under it with what I have.  In the latter case, the
system should have given me a better idea of what is or isn't
possible, or I should have paid more attention when creating my

To put it another way, external roleplayers seem to be more concerned
with the visible features of the character; if I'm an external
roleplayer and want to play a dwarf, I'm likely to object to my
character being permanently shapechanged into an elf -- that's not the
character I wanted to play.  Since internal roleplayers are more
concerned with the internal consistency of the character, they seem to
me to be less likely to object to such changes -- this is simply a new
experience for the *personality* I envisioned to react to.

Some internal roleplayers may be more likely to object to events that
would be likely to change a character's personality -- e.g., physical
assaults, rapes, etc.  Personally, I wouldn't be, but I can see where
other internal roleplayers might be.

Well, I've spent way too long writing this.  Feedback is welcomed.

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

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