Jim Moreno's "RoleCraft" MMO ColumnRoleCraft: Roleplayers Set S.A.I.L.!Jim Moreno's "RoleCraft" MMO Column - RSS 2.0
It is well known and accepted that there is no one set in stone method for roleplaying in the MMORPG genre. I've been roleplaying in various games since 1980, and I have come to see that there are as many ways to RP as there are roleplayers. Each individual game that allows for RP has done so in their own way, and to various degrees. So, it would be futile to try to list every possible way players roleplay their characters. Still, we roleplayers do have a few unique marks that quickly identify us and set us apart from the crowd.
Taking a good look at my fellow roleplayers in the four MMORPGs I play, and across many other RPGs I've played, I see a vast number of ways we display our RP talents, way too many to count. Yet, I think these methods may all be categorized under four main traits that we focus on - speech, actions, interactions, and look - and are very easily remembered with the acronym SAIL.
Your character's speech is probably the first thing about them that makes contact with other players. It is also the quickest way to clue them in to the fact your are roleplaying your character. Many MMORPGs have a multitude of chat channels built in to facilitate communication between players, and these channels are usually focused on one important game element. RP is one such element, and often has a number of channels devoted to it. So whether you type text into a General or Trade or Looking For Fellowship chat channel, roleplayers and non-roleplayers alike will instantly know whether what you typed was in character or out of character.
So, is there one certain method how roleplayers should or shouldn't chat across all those various channels? Of course not. The way that works best for you is the way you should choose, provided it doesn't interfere with others players' RP ability. There are often general guidelines for RP speech when grouped with other players, and also often depend on where the group is currently located, whether it be in town, out in the wilds, or deep within a dungeon or instance. Guilds often have preferred ways and separate channels set up for IC and OOC chat, as often do the game servers themselves. It should, however, be expected and condoned that all chat across every chat channel on game servers designated for RP should be IC, as this would make for an incredibly vibrant and much more mature RP atmosphere.
Local vocals, or how your character talks in game to other characters in the vicinity, is another way to RP mark your character. It's a simple thing to keep in mind: orcs should sound like orcs, hobbits should sound like hobbits, and on and on, depending on the race of the character in play. Also keep in mind that RP speech should adhere to the realm and setting in which the game is set. I simply cannot understand it when a troll or elf approaches my character for conversation and spouts off something completely void of vowels and punctuation. There is a place for real world leet speak, and that is the real world, not a world of swords or laser rifles.
Character actions are another vital part of how we show our RP to the worlds in which we play. Another very quick way to pick a roleplayer out of a crowd is to see which characters are walking through the towns in your favorite MMORPGs. This is almost always a subtle sign roleplayers use to notify other players they are roleplaying and are open to RP contact. Walking is not of course the only action that can do this. Maybe you have a character who constantly talks to his pet, to himself, or to invisible 400 pound pink gorilla friend named Alfred. Anything that is a part of your character's personality could be displayed, even if it's mostly through emotes and macros. Many MMORPGs have a detailed number of physical emotes available, like dance, cheer, smoke, laugh, cry, and so on. Watch your character while experimenting with the list available in your favorite game, find one that may compliment your character's personality, and use it as often as you like.