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Behind the Mask: Cliques are the bane of roleplaying

Patrick Mackey

Although Demonflame has just launched and is quite an entertaining little addition, there have been a few things in Champions Online that have been bothering me. I spend a large amount of my time in CO roleplaying, and I have a pretty tight circle of friends. The problem is that I tend to be sort of exclusive when it comes to roleplaying with people.

I'm not openly mean in most situations, but I tend to avoid certain kinds of people. You know the types: godmodders, selfish jerks, and people with only the thinnest grasp of the English language. Most of my friends kind of tolerate these people, but I am pretty adamant when it comes to keeping them out of my RP.

Unfortunately, this kind of makes me a tool. No one wants to roleplay with idiots and godmodders, but no one wants a loudmouthed jerk making a big deal out of everything, either. This realization made me understand why people form tight, exclusive cliques and how to get involved in them.

Social interaction is a strange, difficult game all on its own. Complicating it with backstories and superpowers just makes things harder, and a lot of roleplayers use these elements to make their characters out to be literal gods with little to no flaws. When you find a few people whom you enjoy RPing with, it's easy to just stick with those people rather than risk having to deal with a godmodder destroying your storyline. How can you simultaneously find good people to RP with and avoid the bad elements?

The short answer is: you can't.

For a person in an RP circle, the best answer is to listen to others' opinions. If one person is frequently noted as a troublemaker by a lot of people, it's probably a good idea to remove him. If people are unwilling to exclude the troublemakers, the best answer is honestly just to put up with it; it's often the price of good roleplaying.

This does not mean you should generally exclude everyone, even if he or she seems a little rough around the edges at first. I'm big on jumping to conclusions about people, but I am a bad example. You should give everyone the benefit of the doubt. I've found that people who don't fit in tend to leave on their own.

I'm on the outside, I'm looking in

The meat of this column is going to talk about what to do on the outside of a clique. I'm assuming that you actually want to involve yourself with these people; if you don't, just avoid them and find someone else.

First, before you ever interact with anyone, write a good-quality biography; have a friend proofread it. Your bio is your cover letter and your resume all in one. People aren't going to go to PRIMUS Database to look up your character's detailed history, so you have to make your 1000-word bio count. I rarely face any trouble with exclusivity for this reason alone. Don't just assume that your one paragraph is good enough, and don't leave it blank.

If someone reads your bio and doesn't like it, he is not going to spark up a conversation with you, and he is less likely to respond if you try to spark up a conversation with him. On the other hand, a well-written bio often gets complimentary out-of-character tells, which can lead to RP or just some OOC conversation. Either one can lead to friend invites. If you are a roleplayer, neglect your bio at your own peril.

The next is to be polite. A lot of people act like jerks in-character, then apologize in ((OOC brackets)). This is a universally bad idea, no matter how good a roleplayer you are. First impressions are huge, and when you're dealing with someone for the first time, you want to put your best foot forward. I've mentioned already that even bad guys can be likable, so even if your bad girl supervillain is rotten to the core, she's best off acting likable. This doesn't mean she can't express negative character traits (flaws are always good), but you're best bet is to portray her in a way that makes people want to be involved with her.

If you have an antisocial snob of a character, don't play her around strangers. Friends already know you're a good roleplayer, but she'll leave a bad impression on anyone who doesn't know you.

massively is a pretty cool guy, eh writes articuls and doesnt afraid of anything

If you suck at spelling and grammar, I have news for you: they matter. People will read your crummy English and assume you're a moron. You can get someone else to proofread your bio, but you can't have someone else proofread your speech.

The number one thing to consider when writing is to type more slowly. Most grammatical errors can be caught if you reread what your character is saying. It may sound dumb (and might not be plausible, depending on your living situation), but reading what your character is saying aloud helps a lot. If you can't read it aloud, read it in your head before you push enter. It's better to give a slow response than a dumb-sounding one.

Most of all, you need to practice typing properly. Instant messaging is a great way to train this skill. Your grammar does not have to be perfect, but it does have to escape the scrutiny of an average reader. Get your friends to point out your mistakes and endeavor not to repeat them. An amusing story about Behind the Mask: I used to spell "Millennium" (as in Millennium City) incorrectly and gave our beloved editor Brianna Royce fits. Finally, I just made the conscious effort to spell it right, and now I double check to make sure that every Millennium I type has two Ns.

In much the same way, you have to make a conscious effort to improve your typing. Don't use words you don't know, and don't be afraid to bust out if you don't know how to spell a word. It may seem like a small thing, but people do notice spelling and grammar mistakes, and most people will think you are much less intelligent than you actually are.

If English is your second language, just do the best you can. I recommend putting in your bio that you speak English as your second language unless you're really comfortable with typing it.

Now is not a good time to be an introvert

Now you've got a good bio and you're aware that you need to be polite. Your next step is to just walk up.

Listening to other peoples' conversations first has a bit of merit. You can tell right away whether people are good or bad at roleplaying, and it gives you some time to read everyone's bio too. You can see at a glance whether the RP is something you want to get involved with. However, eavesdropping only does so much. You have to take the plunge.

I would say that a good 90% or so (yeah, that's a made-up figure) of roleplayers will just go along with you. It's really weird and awkward for people to do this in real life, but even in real life, most people will let you into their conversation as long as you're polite. If you sit and eavesdrop, people may address you, but most of the time it's best to dive in.

I think at least half of you reading this article are shaking your heads.

Consider this scenario: You're in a public RP hotspot (most likely Club Caprice), and you're hanging out with a couple of RP friends. Your characters are talking about random plot events that have happened lately. Some random person walks up to you and sits there for a bit, then butts in with "I heard you talking about topic X, well..." You find the statement to be incredibly awkward, but it's obviously an RP hook, so you throw him a bone and explain some of what's going on.

Next, consider another scenario: You're talking with your RP friends, and the new person walks up to you with the same line. You don't really feel like including him, but then your character's best friend answers his question. Now you're stuck RPing with this new guy; hopefully he doesn't destroy your RP.

How many times has either of these scenarios happened to you? If you're an experienced roleplayer, you already know it happens all the the time.

Therefore, don't be afraid! I realize that roleplaying favors socially adept extroverts with good typing skills and a large vocabulary (or maybe a broad vernacular). However, if you are "good enough" a typist, all you need is just say hello. You'd be surprised how many "exclusive" cliques you can penetrate if you are bold.

When he's not touring the streets of Millennium City or rolling mooks in Vibora Bay, Patrick Mackey goes Behind the Mask to bring you the nitty-gritty of the superhero world every Thursday. Whether it's expert analysis of Champions Online's game mechanics or his chronicled hatred of roleplaying vampires, Patrick holds nothing back.

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