Jim Moreno's "RoleCraft" MMO ColumnRoleCraft: Roleplaying Without RoleplayingJim Moreno's "RoleCraft" MMO Column - RSS 2.0
In the last article, The Rule of Roleplay, I mentioned the Law of Player-Character Separation as being the one rule to follow if I had to choose one. Thankfully, I don't have to choose any rules for roleplaying, but I do nonetheless. Well, you know what they say, rules are meant to be broken, and here I go breaking another one.
I am an stout believer in the Law of Player-Character Separation, as mentioned in the above article. I firmly believe that your roleplaying should mesh with the spirit of whatever MMORPG you roleplay in. However, as I have said here before, I also believe that roleplaying should be creative, imaginative, and above all, fun. With those precepts in mind, throw the Law of Player-Character Separation through the window, and read on as I share some thoughts on how you can roleplay as yourself.
Wait, what? Roleplaying as yourself? But, that's not really roleplaying, is it? Yes, and no. Much like the art of fighting without fighting, roleplaying as yourself is roleplaying without roleplaying. You are being yourself, but in a different environment and set of circumstances. It's the one time I think it's quite alright to be yourself in your favorite MMORPGs, provided it's done in a fun and believable manner. Let me show you a few examples.
Time travel is often a fun explanation for a lot of things, especially if your a huge sci fi fan like I am. So, say your favorite MMORPG is of the sci fi genre, or is akin to sword & sorcery. Creating a character in those games and injecting your own personality into it could work well, since those two genres are linked in our real life timeline. Simply purpose that your character is a time traveler, with a solid supporting story, and run with it.
It's rather fun to roleplay entering into a new world that you know absolutely nothing about, being totally lost, and possibly having to rely on the kindness of (roleplaying) strangers who can see there's something not quite right about your character. Have fun with letting your character speak as you speak, and make mention of things completely off the wall to those whom you roleplay with. "Doctor Who" is a prime example of this style of character. Discuss roleplaying this way with them ahead of time, and let them help make your character that much more believable.
The sibling to the time travel concept, roleplaying as if your character has been swept off into an alternate universe is another way to roleplay as yourself and get away with it. In reality, I don't think this is actually very far from the truth of what happens when I log into a MMORPG or any other computer game. They are worlds beyond my current everyday one, where I am just as alternate as the cyber-universe these games inhabit.
Ever watch "Quantum Leap", or "Sliders"? Two excellent TV shows in my opinion, and also perfect examples of how you could premise your character entering into the alternate universe of your favorite MMORPG. The former show presents the way of having no control of when your personality will enter into the body of your character, and the latter show presents having a form of control over what universe you enter, and when, through some device or other mechanism.
One simple example is explaining to the beings in whatever alternate universe you enter that, one day you sat down at your computer just as it was struck by (lightning, hackers, aliens, etc), and suddenly found yourself in this world, and in another creature's body. Hopefully they'll play along and say you are talking nonsense and gibberish, yet still be intrigued enough to hear more. Another way is to roleplay as if you can implant your personality into one, a few, or any humanoid beings in this universe on purpose and at will. Watching "The Matrix" series, "The Thirteenth Floor", "Dark City", "Surrogates", and other movies like this may help.
My first experiment in roleplaying without roleplaying was back in the days when my MMORPG time stretched across Ultima Online, EverQuest, and Asheron's Call. I enlisted the aid of a few fellow roleplayers in each game, explained to them the new roleplay I was attempting, and rolled up three new characters, one per game. Then, one by one, I entered each game in grand RP fashion, and my friends met me at the appointed times and places and helped me roleplay my way into these shocking new realms. The next months were spent being jerked from one game to another as my friends and I searched for a way for me to return once and for all to my original world. Fun!
Currently, my roleplaying without roleplaying is done via Myst Online. I love the entire Myst series of games, despite having thought myself into more than a few headaches solving their puzzles. Myst Online is much the same, with the benefit of being able to create an avatar that looks quite like I do in real life. Many of the so-called roleplaying rules can be thrown away here, since I don't have to be concerned with dialect, story, and lore, to name a few. I can just be my usual zen self and focus solidly on exploring, puzzle-solving, and roleplaying my own personality with others playing the game.
I'm not condoning abandoning the Law of Player-Character Separation, but there are times and occasions when it can be enjoyable to do so, as long as it's done tactfully. Take the above examples, or use your own, and step into the one and only role you were truly meant to play: you.