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All the World's a Stage: The basic mechanics of roleplay


It can be interesting going from server to server in order to experiment with different roleplaying groups. Everyone goes about the business of roleplay in their own way. It's not like you suddenly come across a server where Goldshire is filled with giant robots who are going to stomp Tokyo. No, it's the little stuff -- the mechanics. When they're emoting roleplay,do they do it in /say or in /yell or just in pure emotes?

Each roleplay group has their own methods. They tend to be formed by the most dominant roleplayer or maybe the original founders of the group. Their way of doing things just becomes popular over time, spreading among new players and even veteran roleplayers who join the group. And then, if a group and its methods are the most popular, that way of doing things becomes the way that server does things. That's my best guess to how it happens.

But it can still be a little rough for brand new roleplayers who are trying to get started. We've talked about how to create story and character, but we didn't hit some of the more common mechanical pieces that are associated with roleplay. These little pieces of mechanics and etiquette could make your life a lot easier.

(Insert the standard caveat here about how every roleplayer and roleplay group can be different, and your mileage may vary.)

How to communicate out of character in game

You've probably seen this all over the place. Most roleplayers assume that they're spending most of their time in character. That's the default; they're playing the game by existing in the role of their character. But even though that default usually works out for most of the time, there are plenty of occasions during which you will want to communicate directly from player to another player. There's a couple of ways to handle that out of character situation.

The first rule of thumb about communicating OOC is using the parentheses. Some groups use a single pair of parentheses -- (Howdy!) -- while others will use a double set. The double parentheses method seems a little more common to me and it's definitely my favorite way of indicating I'm out of character.

Once you've laid down the parentheses, though, you've got a certain amount of carte-blanche. This is how you go OOC whether you're talking in local, official forums, in-game mail, or even emotes. Most players will recommend that you keep your out of character communication relatively brief; you want to keep it to a few sentences or a paragraph.

If you need to go way out of character in order to have a longer conversation, then just say so. The most common phrase is just "Can we go OOC?" You should take your conversation away from the general public eye. This isn't out of secrecy; you just want to avoid interrupting other folks' playtime. If you're ready to go back to your in character time, then simply say so.

In character posts and documentation

A lot of roleplay stories are just awesome. People work hard, invest a lot of emotion in their stories, and get incredibly creative about their roleplay. There's a lot of energy and imagination being shared out there, and people want to share that work. And since roleplayers tend to be pretty creative people anyway, they frequently spend some time writing fiction about their adventures. And, again, they put so much effort into the work that they want to share it with an audience.

Roleplayers share their character in fiction in about three different ways. First, they hit the official forums and start roleplay threads. Some forums have a single thread for this kind of thing, while other forums frequently start a new thread for each character. Sometimes, folks will even start a new thread for discrete chapters in a story, although this is more common on a very busy forum.

Secondly, many servers or roleplay groups will create a website or other shared medium for sharing these stories with one another. This serves a couple purposes. First, it puts the writing somewhere that the roleplayers can be sure they'll completely control, and that will never disappear without their knowledge. Second, since some roleplay will naturally involve a bit of violent or sexual roleplay that's outside the rules of the official forums, a third-party website will allow them to post any material they wish. These third party sites frequently grow into rich, wonderful resources for roleplayers. One of my favorite examples of a third-party roleplay website is, which is the unofficial roleplay center for the Shadow Council server.

Lastly, the occasional roleplayer will go to other outside means. They might start a blog expressly for their character. They could hit up an event like our own For Gnomeregan! Some people will even share a little roleplay over email or instant message. Really, there's a whole lot of personal preference here.

In-game mail

The in-game mail system is a great way to introduce yourself to potential roleplay partners. If you find yourself near someone roleplaying, if you group with someone, or if you even just find another person's character name interesting, take the time to send them an in-game mail.

It doesn't need to be something filled with poetry and prose. Just send someone a simple in-game mail saying something to the effect of, "Thankee for the group action yesterday, sir warrior. Your skills were impressive and I appreciate your time. ((Great RP, man, thanks!))"

That cements you as a roleplayer to the person, and will perhaps lead to further development later.

All the World's a Stage is your source for roleplaying ideas, innovations and ironies. You might wonder what it's like to sacrifice spells for the story, or to totally immerse yourself in your roleplaying, or even how to RP on a non-RP server!

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