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Handling style conflicts in roleplay

Anne Stickney

All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players. In World of Warcraft, that player is you! Each week, Anne Stickney brings you All the World's a Stage with helpful hints, tips and tricks on the art of roleplay in WoW.

Last week, we talked about roleplaying guilds and how to successfully find one to call your own. As I mentioned with last week's article, there are tons of different roleplay guilds out there with a wide variety of themes behind them. There are advantages to being in roleplaying guilds; generally speaking, you won't be looking for roleplay because it's a standard part of your guild's operations. And wearing the guild tag for a roleplaying guild lets people know that yes, you do roleplay, and you're open to doing so.

However, because there's such a wide variety of roleplaying guilds out there, there is also a wide variety of styles in which people handle roleplay. Some guilds work off the cuff without planned storylines; some have epic, sprawling tales that a player or three have carefully crafted. Some require signups for roleplaying events, and some let spontaneity call the shots. Some simply act out combat without really fighting, and others use rolls to determine who has the upper hand in a fight.

So what do you do when a roleplayer's style choices don't mesh with the way you or your guild happen to roleplay?

Handling style conflicts in roleplay SAT
Style and roleplaying guilds

Just like any other guild out there, roleplaying guilds tend to have rules and guidelines. These guidelines and rules aren't just for player behavior, though. They're also for roleplaying purposes. Don't get rankled at the idea of having to follow a set of rules, because they by and large aren't there to restrict you at all. They are put into place to make sure that everyone in the guild is playing roughly the same way, therefore keeping everyone roughly on the same page as far as roleplay is concerned.

Where this can become a problem is when you encounter someone from another roleplaying guild. The reason this can be tricky is because while you are working within the guidelines of your guild, they are working within the guidelines of theirs. Sometimes, guilds have vastly different methods of dealing with things like combat and even speaking out of character -- and if they are really, really different, players can clash over the "right" way to roleplay.

Let's make one thing perfectly clear, here: There is no "right" way to roleplay. It's an incredibly subjective thing, and there's no set-in-stone method of doing things that everyone absolutely should be following 100% of the time. Even when you're dealing with tabletop RPGs, you run into differences in rule sets depending on which game you happen to be playing. There's nothing wrong with having different rules, as long as everyone's happy with the rules that are set.

That said, when you run into a player that is playing by different rules, there is no reason at all you should be irritated or put out by their methods of roleplay. They're doing the same thing you are, roleplaying, because it's something they like to do, just like you do. If you want to equate it to tabletop roleplaying games, it would be like a D&D player trying to play a game with someone following the rules for GURPS. Although the two systems have different rules, there are enough similarities that a compromise can be reached.

And that's what it's all about -- compromise.

Handling style conflicts in roleplay SAT
When combat styles clash

One of the biggest issues people deal with is the problem of combat situations. Some people like to just roleplay the combat and reactions to it. It requires some quick thinking, and it's a pretty fun, spontaneous way to play. However, using that method can become problematic if you've got a player who is unwilling to deal with the possibility that there may be a character out there who is stronger than theirs. This usually leads to a situation I like to call "endless dodge" in which two characters do nothing but poke at each other and dodge each other's attacks ad nauseum.

One solution that some guilds have adopted is the roll method -- using rolls to determine who has the upper hand. Both characters roll /100, and the person with the highest roll has the upper hand or wins the fight. You can extend this if you like and turn combat into rounds. It works roughly the same way, only there are a predetermined number of rounds for a fight.

So let's say, for example, you have decided all fights last for 10 rounds. This means that there are 10 rolls made, one for each action carried out. Whoever wins the roll has the upper hand and can take the next action. This continues until all 10 rolls are played out, and whoever wins that last roll wins the fight. The reason you limit the number of rounds isn't to determine the winner by tallying the score; it's to keep the action going back and forth and give both sides a chance to get their licks in.

And it also makes sure that fights never go on until the wee hours of the morning, by limiting how long exactly a fight can carry on. This is actually a pretty cool method for doing combat, but a lot of people prefer free-form fighting, where there is no roll of the dice and no winner is determined. Free-form fighting is just as valid as rolling for combat -- and honestly, free-form fighting can be a lot of fun.

If you've got one person used to free-form and another who is dedicated to dice rolls, have a chat out of character before you proceed with the fight. Let the other player know that you're used to a different method of combat, and tell them what that method is. Ask them about their methods while you're at it. They may even have a system that could be fun to give a try. And before either character makes a move at each other, make sure that both of you as players are cool with whatever style you're going to use.

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Communication is key

The same can be applied to any other roleplaying situation, honestly -- and it absolutely should be. What it boils down to is this: Everyone has their own method of roleplay, and every method is fine. It's when you start criticizing the roleplay of others that you run into problems. Communication is absolutely key when you're roleplaying with people who don't follow your style of roleplaying. Talking things out beforehand eliminates the possibility of clashing with other players entirely. If that player doesn't want to deviate from a style you're uncomfortable with, there's no reason you need continue to roleplay with them.

In fact, communication is key in every facet of roleplay, whether there's a clash in styles or not. If you're at a point where you're uncertain how things should go, tell the other player you need to take a break and think about a few things. If you're not happy with how a situation is turning out, talk to the player you're roleplaying with and figure out a solution that works best for everyone involved. Clashes aren't just limited to styles and methods of roleplay.

The same rules apply to how you'd like your character's story to play out. Want a drama-free lifestyle for your character? Let other players know if the drama seems to be ramping up more than you're comfortable with. Not happy with the idea of your character getting hurt? Let the other players know this while you're roleplaying. You are absolutely not required to do anything you aren't comfortable with doing.

Simply talking to the people you're roleplaying with can clear up a lot of the quibbles and drama that seem to go hand in hand with roleplay. Whether it's a clash in style or a clash in the direction of your character, these squabbles can usually be handled with some well-timed, out-of-character conversation. Most people appreciate being talked to, especially if it seems like there is tension that ought to be addressed.

In the end, a clash of style doesn't spell the end of roleplay for your character. Trying out new styles and methods of roleplay can actually be pretty fun. You may even discover some methods and styles that you like better than what you've been using. If that's the case, share the information with your friends and your guild -- they might end up liking the idea, too. And if you're not really happy with the idea of trying another style or there seems to be no compromise to be had, there is nothing wrong with simply walking away.

All the World's a Stage is your source for roleplaying ideas, innovations and ironies. Let us help you imagine what it's like to sacrifice spells for the story, totally immerse yourself in your roleplaying or even RP on a non-RP realm!

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