Introduction To Roleplaying

What is Roleplaying?

Role-playing is the act of taking on a persona of a fictional person and pretending, at least within a certain venue, that you are that person. It is similar to acting in many ways; for example, when you 'say' something, you are speaking as that character would. When you say 'I' or 'me', you are referring to the character.

A role-playing game is best described as a form of interactive fiction. It's like a play in which the audience participates — as actors. Everyone involved is both an actor and part of the audience, and the interactions between the characters is what makes the game exciting, fun, and challenging. Usually there is no 'script', no predetermined outcome (with some exceptions, called Tinyplots, which will be addressed later). You are free to do what you like — as long as your actions are appropriate for the sort of character that you are playing, and are respectful of the wishes and desires of the other players.

The game has statistics — objective pieces of information about your character, which are used to represent what your character knows, understands, or can do. There is a rigid set of rules that covers many actions, such as combat or research, but yet the whole question of what you say, where you go, what you believe and think — those are all wide open.

A role-playing game has no winners or losers. There are no chips to be counted, no 'go' to pass, no medals awarded for win, place, or show. The game continues indefinitely. And if your character should die (which can happen, unfortunately), you can create another. But until that happens, your rewards come in watching your character grow, exploring relations with other characters, meeting new challenges and (hopefully) overcoming them, and exploring the world that has been created for you by other players for you to experience.

Your actions will, of course, have consequences, just as in Real Life. If you make good choices, then you may find yourself advancing, expanding your character's abilities, or succeeding at some goal you set for yourself. If you make mistakes, then sometimes bad things will happen. Sometimes bad things will happen without you doing anything wrong — such is the nature of the world that is being played. But even if an individual character's story ends, the story that all of us participate in continues to flow.

The Meaning of a MUSH

MUSH stands for Multi-User Shared Hallucination — and the most important word in that is the word 'shared'. To you, the most important character in the game is your own. But you must also understand that you are interacting with other players who feel the same way about their own characters! This is why there must be rules involved — these are here not to restrict the players; they are here to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to have fun and to give them a chance to see their character progress in the directions they want.

Shadowrun: Denver is a role-playing MUSH. This means that in order to play the game, you take on the persona of a character who lives, breathes, works, and plays in the futuristic world of 2060, in the city of Denver. The first thing you need to remember, and keep in mind always, is that this character is not you, the player. The character has a life of his own, independent of your personal life. Try to avoid constantly using your character for an outlet for your personal problems or frustrations.

You, as a player, might be having a rotten day — and yet, your character just closes that major deal with your fixer, one that nets you a good chunk of cash. Despite how you feel in real-life, your character will likely be happy about this, and should be role-played accordingly.

In-Character versus Out-of-Character

A fine line is drawn in role-playing games to separate in-character (IC) knowledge, thoughts, attitudes, preferences, likes, dislikes, etc. that your character has from out-of-character (OOC) or real-life (RL). Some examples of this:

  • You might, as a player, know a good amount about repairing computers. However, the computers in 2060 are a lot different, and unless your character has the B/R Computers skill on her sheet, she doesn't know even what you know.
  • Another player you talk to on the phone tells you that Mr. Johnson in that playerplot he's running for you is lying to you. You need to remember that your character doesn't know this, and has no reason to even suspect it, probably.
  • Maybe you see an accidental pose by another player — one that was intended to be whispered. The player apologizes, and corrects the mistake. Your character doesn't know what was said, even though you, as a player, saw it clearly.

Likewise, sometimes your character will know things that you as a player do not. For example, you may not have the faintest clue how to stitch a wound in real-life, and may even faint at the sight of blood. But your Combat Medic character will know all about that, and more. Sometimes things get played off-camera as well. "How did you get here?" "Well, I took a taxi." No, you don't have to roleplay going out, finding the taxi, hopping inside, waiting to arrive, etc., all the while posing to an audience of one: yourself. You leave it 'assumed', 'off-camera', like the scene-breaks in a movie.

In a sense, you, as the player, have the responsibility to set the stage and do your own suspension of disbelief. You are an actor in a movie; you can look up and see the lights; you can look out and see the cameras; you have to ignore them and pretend, for the purposes of your character, that they are not there. Your character fully believes that she is a flesh-and-blood person living in Denver in 2060; only the players know that it's really just virtual reality.

Your cooperation in this is more than expected; it's required.

How do I Know What's IC and What's OOC?

First, anything said publicly within a public room is considered to be IC. This includes anything said or done with the " or say command, the : or pose command, or the @emit command. However, anything done using the +ooc command or its variants is considered OOC. The only other exception to this is when everyone in a room agrees to stop role-playing and 'go OOC' — to stop talking and posing as characters and start posing and talking as players.

This is not encouraged within public rooms on the grid, but is permitted if /all/ involved parties agree). In addition, some rooms may be designated as OOC rooms — your character is not really there, and everything is said as the player. Anything done using the page command is considered to be OOC unless explicitly designated otherwise. Most bulletin boards and channels are OOC, though some (like Rumours and Word on the Street) are IC. Whispers (done with 'whisper <person>=<message>' are always in-character! If you want to send a private OOC message, use page.

Descriptions are a combination of IC and OOC. They should contain information that is ICly visible to someone looking at you, but the actual 'text' of the description is OOC. The same goes for poses. Anything outside of quotes is something your character might well perceive, but the actual 'words' being used are, of course, not visible.

One important thing you must remember is that other people are also role-playing. Their characters are not them! If you dislike someone's character, keep in mind that you do not necessarily dislike (or even know) their player. If you dislike a player, let your character form his or her opinions ICly. Someone who can successfully play a character who is a jerk — and yet be a rather nice human being as a player — is simply a very good (and likely very experienced) role-player.

This becomes especially important with certain issues such as morals and sexuality. A character who is a female prostitute might actually be played by a happily married person. Some male characters are played by women, and vice-versa. The player of that 'obviously' gay guy you meet might actually be a mother of three. The point is, quite simply, that it is /not/ permissible to draw conclusions about someone's OOC lifestyle, personality, beliefs, or attitudes from those of that player's character.

Theme Issues

A Theme, in this context, is a series of rules that define what is, and is not, IC for the setting of the game in question. A medieval fantasy role-playing game would consider electric devices to be off-limits, while permitting the use of magic. A futuristic, science-fiction game might consider laser-rifles to be commonplace, but not Christianity.

A Theme extends to all aspects of role-play, encompassing technology, culture, history, religion, arts, daily life… everything. Within the confines of this Canon you are free to do what you want, as long as it does not conflict and it 'makes sense'.

The Theme here is that of FASA's Shadowrun around the year 2069 (or maybe a bit later; time does progress). While the rules and general 'overview' of the game, along with much of the history as printed by FASA, apply here, there are several chances that you should be aware of. When in doubt, please feel free to ask.

Tinyplots/Playerplots

All of the routine interaction is fine, but there is another side to roleplaying: plots. Plots are where the ordinary, free-style interaction of the game is interrupted for a time period — usually a few hours, days, or even weeks — because 'something is going on'.

There are two kinds of plots: those run by staff members (Staffplots) and those run by regular players (Playerplots). In either case, one (or sometimes more than one) player is 'in charge' of that plot. They are, to coin a term from tabletop gaming, the game-master (GM). They run the scene, describe what happens. They are in charge. If they say something happens, it does. If they say it doesn't happen, it doesn't.

If you want to join a plot in progress, it may be as easy as just reacting to what goes on around you. If you're in doubt, page the admin or player running the scene, or ask in general who that might be. Generally, if a plot is happening in a public place, it's fair game. It's usually not considered polite to intervene *too* much in a plot that's in progress that you're not involved in without asking first. When in doubt, ask.

Timestops

A timestop is a special case of a tinyplot/playerplot. During a timestop, normal time has 'stopped'. Instead of players responding to each other in turns, instead things occur according to 'rounds'. The most common situation in which this happens are combat-situations, where people are allowed to act in an order determined by their character's stats, and may not perform actions outside that sequence.

If you get involved in a timestop, try to avoid excessive 'spam'. If you have questions, ask for someone who might be able to help you via page to understand what's going on. If you encounter a timestop in progress, you may be asked to leave — the flow of time inside the timestop is different than outside, and you may not be able to interact with what's going on inside. Do your best to comply with those running the scene; timestops are usually fairly tense and stressful, just because of all the game-mechanics going on.

Powerposing

Powerposing is highly frowned upon. Powerposing occurs when you force an action, feeling, or thought on another character through your poses, descriptions, or other text. If your @desc says, "You feel a chill of fear pass through your bones as you gaze upon his visage", then you are powerposing. If you pose, ":grabs Jim by the front of his shirt and flings him through a plate-glass window", then you are powerposing.

The only time powerposing is acceptable is when you have just shown the stats to back something up, and either gotten the player's agreement that yes, you can do what you want to do, or you have had an admin tell you that it is acceptable to pose that. In other words, if you've just done the unarmed combat rolls to toss Jim through that window, and the admin agrees you are successful, then pose it for all it's worth.

Otherwise, it's considered polite to pose the 'attempt', and let the other character respond with whether you're successful. Example: ":reaches out toward Jim's collar, his muscles tensing as he prepares to hurl Jim as hard as he can toward… ah. That window." Now, Jim can respond as he will. It's far more polite, and results in fewer ruffled feathers and bruised feelings.

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