Ah, sweet roleplay. This is a topic near and dear to the hearts of all of us here in Shards. Like any enthusiast community, we have very strong ideas about the "right" way and "wrong" way to roleplay. While we cant possibly agree on what makes a "perfect" roleplay, this guide is an attempt to lay down some of the most common principles of "good" roleplay etiquette. In this, the 3rd rewrite of the venerable Shards Roleplay Etiquette Guide I will attempt to make the guidelines more relevant to the types of roleplay that occur in Shards, improve the clarity and organization of the guide, and provide information helpful to newbies as well as experienced players. This is a general guide, intended to offer generic guidelines that will serve you well in most freeform roleplay situations. Many of these guidelines don't make sense outside the freeform context, and some areas in Shards have opted to adopt a classic RPG system instead of allowing freeform RP. You should always check the posted room rules before you start RPing in any particular location.
With all that said, let me start with some definitions. If you've been RPing a while, you can skip to the next section. If you are new to RP, I highly suggest you read on because this language is used extensively throughout the rest of the guide.
RP - Role-play or roleplay. You could write entire volumes on what RP is, exactly. For the purposes of this guide, RP is the process of creating a character, with a unique background and psychology, then taking on the role of that character to play in an imaginary setting that has a set of internally consistent rules all characters must obey, interacting with characters played by other players to create cooperative storylines. That is, RP has four components: characters, settings, storylines and interaction. This sets it apart from activities like writing, where you generally wont be interacting or cooperating with any people to tell the story.
Freeform - (Aka FFRP) Freeform roleplay is roleplay that does not require a dungeon master or have anyone formally controlling the storylines being played out. Freeform RP is driven entirely by individual actions (i.e. there is no "god" pulling the strings), and as a player you have just as much say where the story evolves as anyone else. Freeform roleplay can and usually does still have rules, but they tend not to be as elaborate or mechanistic as pen and paper RPGs due to the lack of a central arbiter (e.g. 'play realistically').
Freestyle - Not to be confused with freeform RP is freestyle RP. Freestyle is RP without dice or any other numerical mechanics deciding the outcome of play. Simply put, your "success" or "failure" in any given situation will only be determined by the quality and creativity of your writing and more generally the willingness of other people to go along with your actions. Most RP in Shards combines freeform and freestyle to create a "system" that only requires good imagination and basic writing skills. This does not have to be the case; freeform allows for the possibility of dice (e.g. FORCE), and freestyle can have a GM who arbitrates posts based of writing quality or other subjective criteria. It is up to you to decide what system suits you best.
Character - (Also referred to as "c") The persona you adopt when roleplaying, including physical description, abilities, personality and so forth. While you could theoretically roleplay as yourself, this is highly discouraged.
Player - (Also referred to as "p") The man behind the mask as it were. This referes to you as a person.
Hardcore RP - There is roleplaying, and then there is roleplaying. I cover this topic in depth in my introduction to Shards RP, but in brief, hardcore RP is to "normal" RP as (for example) professional sports are to amateur sports clubs. It's the same activity, but carried out on an entirely different level. Hardcore RPers are much more dedicated to the art of RPing than a more casual player. They are much more likely to have elaborate rules and high expectations of quality than a casual RPer. Put another way, casual RPers just want to have fun, and don't particularly care if what they do is "right" or "perfect", whereas hardcore RPers believe much more strongly your play has to be "correct" to be fun. Hardcore RPers are much more likely to see RP as an artform or serious creative enterprise, whereas the casual RPer basically sees RP as pure entertainment.
Hub - This is a Shards specific term. A hub is a basic unit of organization and is a collection of rooms that are linked together to form a coherant setting. A hub can also refer to a community of roleplayers, particularly if those players all tend to limit their play to one setting.
OOC - Out of Character. This simple acronym has expansive scope. Out of Character, simply put, is everything that goes on outside the context of roleplay. OOC posts reflect what you, the player, think, feel and say. You can think of it in terms of acting - OOC is what happens back stage, outside of the theater, basically anywhere but on stage in front of the audience.
IC - In Character. This is the opposite of OOC. It is everything that happens within the boundaries of the roleplay. IC posts reflect your character's thoughts, feelings, actions and words. Again, taking a page from acting, when you slip IC it is the equivalent of putting on your costume and makeup, getting out on stage and delivering a performance for your audience. When IC, one should pay the strictest attention to making sure their posts are consistent with their character and the fantasy world around them.
Pseudo-IC - I'm introducing this definition because in the world of online RP, there isn't a clear cut distinction between IC and OOC. Somewhere between the strict realms of OOC and IC lies the murky realm of the pseudo-IC. When you're pseudo-IC, you're still technically roleplaying, however the role you're playing is yourself (more or less) and your posts still have OOC elements. It's important to understand that pseudo-IC posts occupy a broad spectrum from "almost purely IC with some OOC taint" to "mostly OOC with a few IC trappings." At the one end, you have what could be considered "bad" RP - that is, RP with little to no effort to maintain suspension of disbelief or separate the character from the self. At the other, you have your typical chat room silliness where emotes and actions are used to convey a sense of "presence," although often ignoring things like physics and realism. The key distinction here is the mixing of IC and OOC elements in varying quantities.
Article text ©2004 Chris Wyman. Redistribution is permitted provided this notice is retained. All other rights are reserved.