August 20, 2004
Daedelus' Super Fantastic RP Newbie Guide
1. Why, hello, there!
2. The Basics
2.2 Common Sense
2.3 OOC Niceties
2.4. The Player-Character Relationship
3. Acting! (the meat)
3.1 You Write What You Know
3.3 The Problem of Good and Evil
3.4 The Stat Wall
3.5 Speaking of Violence....
4. Creative Writing
5. Exit Theme
Welcome to the fun and lovely and life-consuming world of Roleplaying MUDs. And welcome to ShadowSiege. There are three kinds of players that ought to be reading this: 1) people who are new to roleplaying, 2) people who are new to ShadowSiege MUD, and 3) everyone else who is playing currently or would like to play ShadowSiege MUD in the near future, new or not. We begin with the basics.
This guide assumes that you know the difference between OOC and IC. If you don't: find out, then come back.
2. THE BASICS
Roleplaying, if you didn't know, is pretending to be someone you happen to not be, in an environment where everyone else is doing so, also. Why? Because it's fun: it's communal storytelling; it's improvisation; it's writing and acting and (some) directing, all at the same time. And it also happens to - on SS - be in....
MUDs are completely (usually) text. This means you must, must, must try your absolute and very hardest to write in proper English. This means:
- capitalize words you ought to, like names and other proper nouns.
- Use correct and complete punctuation.
- Use correct (or nearly) grammar and sentence structure. I say 'nearly', because English is actually a very stupid and complicated language; no one expects you to be an English major, but we do expect you to follow the simple and more common rules.
- Watch and learn. You'll be amazed how quickly your English will improve when you pay attention to someone else who is using it properly.
Again, I want to clarfiy: there is no stress, here. Just do your best, and your best will improve; it's inevitable.
2.2 COMMON SENSE
Characters are people, too; treat them as such. That goes for NPCs and PCs alike. Do you just walk up to strange people when they are talking and interrupt them to mention the weather? I'm pretty sure you don't. And if you do, then you probably have multiple personalities, and therefore don't remember. Do you just walk into other people's homes to see what's inside? Not even professional thieves do that - they scope out a place, first. Do you stab an old man or a wandering dog on the off chance they have any money? I think you see where I am going with this.
Remember that your character is a part of a society, just like you are. Remember that your character is afraid of getting stabbed in the eye, just like you are. These two things will give your character a long and relatively un-stabbed life, in most cases. Accidents happen.
'But,' you say, 'I want to do the stabbing!'
We'll cover that later. I promise.
2.3 OOC NICETIES
When using OOC channels, be nice. MUDs are not just games - they're also communities. People get to know each other. People make friends. People expect everyone to be relatively friendly. The same social rules apply here as elsewhere. If you're rude, right off the bat, you will find yourself party to the cold shoulder. That's just the way it goes. Let people warm up to you before you turn into an insult comic, or before you hit on them. When people know you, it's funny. When they don't, its not.
And a note about staff members: There are some people in the MUDding world who are convinced that all admins are power hungry megalomaniacs with no sense of humor; these people have never been an admin. There is a hell of a lot of work involved. inevitably, staff members will be protective of the MUD and its community. So be patient with them. Just so you know, there are two particular things (apart from breaking the rules of the house) that will earn you bad street credit with the staff:
1) Being new and complaining about their MUD, or the MUD's code, and
2) Yelling at them. They're here to help you. They're here to help everyone get along. People who volunteer to help do not like to be yelled at. People that get paid for it mind less. We are of the former. Writing in ALL CAPS SHOULD BE AVOIDED AT ANY COST.
2.4 THE PLAYER-CHARACTER RELATIONSHIP
Firstly, IC information must never be spread outside IC means. What does that mean? Never discuss things that your character knows about other characters with other players - especially if those characters are involved together. Never discuss events that occur in-game over OOC channels (that includes private channels, like 'tell'). For example: someone is kicking your character's ass. It is never ok to use the 'tell' channel to get help. If you think that somehow some situation isn't fair, you need to alert a staff member privately. The reasons for the above should be evident; some players work very hard to be wiley or keep secrets. If those things get out by OOC means, then all their work is ruined.
ShadowSiege is, of course, a game. And while I like watching people getting 'in character', I also am pleased to see people adjusting their RP for the greater good of the game. What do I mean? Here's an example:
Your character is a murderous thief. He runs into someone else, alone, in a dark alley. But you notice, as the player, that this character is very new. So, maybe this time you simply leave them alone, instead of killing them and taking their valuables. It is certainly something to consider. Maybe killing this character on their first day out will make them never want to play, but just taking their money and letting them live might put your career in danger. So, you decide - as a player - to ignore the 'natural' thing your character would do, and instead do something good for the game.
3.1 You Write What You Know.
It's simple and beautiful and true. This does not mean that your character has to be an extension of yourself; it does mean that your character will only have the depth and detail that you can imagine them having. So don't over-extend yourself. I say this with hesitation, because we want you to try new things. But if you are trying to play a character you know nothing about, you have to do a little homework, first. Players who over-extend themselves without doing their homework fall into cliches. Cliches are the mind killers, the little death.
If you, on the other hand, can't seem to come up with a character to play that isn't a cliche; don't sweat it. Play on. Characters get better over time. You get to know them, just like new friends. If you happen to run into characters that are amazingly deep and fun to watch, its because they've been around a long, long time, and their players' know them very well. Everything which takes skill takes practice, and everything that takes practice takes time; roleplaying is no different. So don't despair; relax and enjoy the show you are participating in.
Everyone wants to be or do something, wether they know it or not. It's the basic rule of psychology. So your character ought to have motivations, too. In fact, they have to; if they don't they're not a character anymore, but only a prop. Props are not fun toys.
Here's a tip (you might disagree, but I don't care): all motivations, no matter how noble or righteous, can be reduced to something that seems selfish. People like Ghandi and Mother Theresa are not exempt. Even the most selfless martyr is trying to get into heaven. Even the most faithful and loyal soldier is serving out of (what they have decided is) their best interests.
Fact is, no one just wanders around aimlessly. All of the actual drifters I know personally are either looking to slowly destroy themselves, or to find something akin to enlightenment. Or something as esoteric.
Motivations drive a character forward. Motivation gives birth to Will, and Will makes decisions. So pick a 'selfish' motivation or two, and assign them to your character before you roll them up. It's alright if it's kind of vague at first (for those of you who are looking to get a feel for the game before you dive in).
Eventually, when you have your character's motivations down pat, their choices seem to come naturally.
3.3. The Problem of Good and Evil
In most games, you have a hero and a villain. In this one, those black and white terms are inescapably shredded into many shades of grey. If everyone is moving around on the power of motivation, and if everyone's motivations are unique and personal, then people will sometimes (of course) get in each other's way. The roles of hero and villain become, more often than not, a matter of perspective, flying from character to character like flashlight beams in the dark. So remember that if your character is someone's hero, they are also someone's villain. And somewhere in there is where half the fun of RP is.
Or look at it this way: even if Good and Evil were each a set of standards, no good or evil person can stick to their appropriate at all times: a captain might assassinate his general if he's seriously concerned about his leadership; the witch in the forest might send the children home with a smile instead of eating them, knowing that next time, they'll bring their friends.
Besides, people make bad judgement calls for a variety of reasons. Allow your character a few; they're not perfect, either. Which leads us into....
3.4 The Stat Wall
Yes, your character has attributes and skills, they have strengths and weakness. When playing an RPmud, these values don't just decide wether or not you hit something with your sword, or wether or not you get that spell off. They also serve as a guide for roleplaying.
Does your beefy warrior have a pathetic intelligence? Then make them a little slow. Does your acrobat-like thief have a low wisdom? Then be sure to remember that they are a little naive. Low perception? Then don't emote a reply to everything in the room; maybe they missed much of it. Low psyche? Make them nervous at confrontations, or weak-kneed in the face of violence.
The stat wall works both ways, too. It's really, really hard to play a character who's smarter than you. Figure out what you think you are capable of. If you're not good at problem solving, but you want a wicked mage with a high intelligence, then take the high stat, but dumb him down a little, anyway. Think of it as bookish intelligence, and not quick thinking. Come up with a trick.
3.5 Speaking of Violence....
Violence, like it or not, is a part of the game. Most of us, I think, like it more than not. But before you set out for that first weapon - before you even look to take a weapon skill - ask yourself, 'Would this bloke/lass even own a weapon, or know how to use one in any shape or form? Or even if they did, would they carry it around? And even if they did, would they whip it out and stab someone with it at the first insult?'
Chances are, the answers will be yes, yes, maybe, and no. The same line of thinking applies for armor. Except for the stabbing.
Anyway, the trick here is to adjust your character's equipment to their situation. No one sleeps in their armor, and no one totes their assault rifle along with them to the pub. Unless you're an Israeli or extremely paranoid. Why? Because very few people worry about their personal safety at all times. Again, unless you are a very dangerous person with many, many enemies.
Yea, its a dangerous world, but not all of it. Going to a bad part of town? Drop by home and snag that boot knife. Going to the market? Leave the steel in your room. This ought to go for that backpack full of random crap, too. Don't have a place to store stuff? Stop living like a vagabond and get one.
The most important thing I have to say about combat is this: if your character sucks at it, your opponent (and everyone else) will know when those dice come a-tumblin' down that conceptual table - no matter what you put in your emote. So you might as well play along. And the same is true in the other direction.
So, remind yourself of your dagger skill when you pull that knife out; if it says 'inept', then you are. Emote as such when you hold it in front of you awkwardly, when you strike in wild desperation. Make it apparent that you don't know what the hell you are doing, but hoping for a lucky hit. If your physical stats are high, and your sword skill says 'grand master', then go ahead and show off. Describe the ferocity of your timing, your powerful, lean muscles in motion, the simple, devastating grace of your well rehearsed footwork; the dice will back you up.
Don't know enough about sword fighting to describe it? Look it up. We've got internet access if we're MUDding, right?
There is a re-occurring formula, here. Figure out what really makes sense for your character, then do it. Eventually, they'll seem to do it on their own.
4. CREATIVE WRITING
We're nearly through, but before we finish, I thought I'd leave you with a few tips about writing.
First of all, no one expects you to be Milton or Dostoyevsky. Again, there isn't any pressure on this front; having a firm grasp on your character's motivations and personality is far more important than your writing style or skill.
The best, single piece of advice I ever read on writing was in an essay by Vonnegut. I'll paraphrase: every sentence you write ought to either further describe a character, or move the plot along; the trick is to find a balance between the two, or accomplish them both at the same time.
Keep a thesaurus handy; words are perishable, and they get stale after hitting the screen too many times. I'd put money down that the letters 'g', 'a', 'z', and 'e' are rubbed off on a few keyboards from over use.
And posting an emote without a spellchecker active is like not pausing to check your fly before you exit the bathroom.
5. EXIT THEME
I, for one, am thrilled about your interest in ShadowSiege. I hope you'll be playing for a long time. Just remember the golden rule of roleplaying ('If it makes sense, do it; if it doesn't, don't.'), and I think you'll have an easy time finding fun and stimulation.
I'll see you around. Keep on...er, trucking.
-- Daedelus, staff member (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Backgrounds submitted for a character ought to cover at least these topics:
-- A mention of your character's early life. Where did they come from? What was their family/home life like? And so on.
-- A depiction of your character, attribute-wise. Are they clever? Are they strangers to hard work? Were they sick, often? etcetera
-- A roughish (or more detailed) description of your character's skills and how they acquired them.
-- Mention if your character has connections or a relationship with another character already in the game (possible, but not likely).
-- Describe why or how your character came to live in or about Telantha (they might be from there, of course).
-- Mention if your character ought to have a current income, and why.
If you can't find suitable answers for some of these questions between your imagination and the website and forums, then feel free to ask a staff member or player aid, and they will do the best they can to help you. More information about the geography and cultures of Aagos will be forthcoming.