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All the World's a Stage: A good roleplayer is a good person first

David Bowers

All the World's a Stage is a source for roleplaying ideas, commentary, and discussions. It is published every Sunday evening.

Gamers, and citizens of the Internet in general, are not known for being very sociable people. To me, it's always been a big mystery why John Gabriel's GIF Theory seems so apt for so many of us. It's hard for me to fathom why people enjoy acting rude, crude, or unpleasantly in any situation. I hear them telling me "because it's fun!" but personally I can't imagine getting any kicks out of it.

The roleplaying community is one of those few online spaces where things actually seem a bit different, however. Many people are not roleplayers at all, but they join up on RP servers just because roleplayers care about things like grammar and seem to be more polite in general. Since roleplaying is an inherently cooperative activity, people who want to roleplay first have to be willing to communicate nicely with others. There are, of course, players on RP realms with whom real communication seems impossible, but those people usually aren't actually roleplayers to begin with. They get about 10 seconds of attention before most roleplayers start ignoring them completely.

To be a good roleplayer, one must first be a good person. The qualities of character that open doors of friendship and cooperation in real life are the same qualities that will help make roleplaying a positive and rewarding experience for you in WoW. Even if one wants to play an evil character, one must do it in such a way that others can tell you're actually a really nice and caring player behind the evil mask. Sometimes it's also handy to remind oneself how not to act like that proverbial Internet Fudgewad.

All the World's a Stage is your weekly source of roleplaying tips and helpful ideas that many players can benefit from. Be sure to read on below, follow the 10 commandments of roleplaying, and avoid acting like Mary Sue in order to assure surefire protection from the evil voice of Internet Fudgewaddiness within us all.


Far and away the biggest social mistake roleplayers tend to make is talking too much and listening too little. This shows up in all kinds of situations, from spilling their character's entire life history at the first meeting with a new guildie. Before typing, a roleplayer must be aware of one's company and surroundings and decide if this is really the appropriate time and place to type out what you have at the tip of your fingers.

Personally, I don't mind if a guildmate says that he's actually a bronze dragon lost in time and trapped in the form of a lowly gnomish mage, as long as he's studied the lore and he actually makes sense. I do mind if he starts telling my all about this as a way of introducing himself, however. It doesn't make sense that his character would do this, and it breaks all my suspension of disbelief in his character idea. I would have loved to discover the truth of his character after knowing him a while, perhaps after becoming good friends and having been able to guess at some things myself. I'm sure such a character could have lots of reasons to do things in the Caverns of Time, and adventures there could lead to some interesting roleplaying experiences.

One time a player and I were chatting along nicely when he suddenly began to whisper me out-of-character about how his female priest had once been a man, but for some reason had gone through a magical sex change. I don't mind so much that he wanted to explore transgender issues in roleplaying, but I do mind that he didn't let me learn these things at my own pace, and in a natural way.

Be aware

The mailbox can be a dangerous place to stand. You've heard of naked dancing night elves, but too often I see people carrying on a romantic love affair while I'm trying to receive my auction sales. I can surely appreciate how nice it is to be in love, but I really don't need to know about how she rests her head against his muscled chest and all that.

Azeroth is a world with only three volume levels: whisper, say, and yell. Keeping these limitations in mind, a good roleplayer should make sure that whatever he says is appropriate to the place he is in and the people that can hear him. This is particularly important in the case of other players who wander by in public areas, but some people also like to treat NPCs as if they might also be listening in on a conversation.

Either way, being more aware of the environment also lets you take more advantage of it, using boxes, food or other items as props in your roleplaying, and creating a deeper sense that your characters live in their own real world. It also lets you show different sides of your character depending on different environments you share with others.

Say hello

Some people call it the "Norm" effect -- it really matters to you when everyone knows your name. You can do a great deal to make people in your guild or circle of friends feel welcome just by saying hello to them every single time they come online. This shows that you care about them and it also creates an atmosphere where people are more likely to start roleplaying together, rather than just going separate ways and doing their own thing every time.

It's also important to not merely say hello and then leave it at that. A roleplayer needs to make an effort to invite other people to roleplay, not merely wait for others to do so. Many of us fall into the habit of only chatting a bit in guild chat while we do our daily quests or fight in battlegrounds, which leaves other people feeling that we don't really care about getting to know them. Just like talking too much can be anti-social, talking too little can be almost as bad. The people in such a community have no right to complain when feelings of warmth and friendship start to dry up - a community of silent people is hardly a community at all.

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