Roleplaying Guide

Roleplaying Guide (Or, How to Get More Noms Without TS)

Roleplaying is interactive fiction. It is a matter of using your character's poses to make that character and the world around her come alive in the reader's mind. However, roleplaying has been considered for far too long to be an art, something only gained through experience. Part of this is true — writing takes practice. But there is a lot that anyone can do to improve their roleplay, just by obeying a few simple steps.

I recommend that everyone read these and think about implementing them. You may think 'Oh, I don't need to do that'. However, if you do so, it will improve others' perceptions of your roleplaying. Many times, things you are doing may be getting in the way of your roleplay. These things are sending messages along with your roleplay that you may not want to send. If that's the case, it will serve you well to work on it.

Spelling. Capitalization. Punctuation. Grammar.

All right. How would you feel if you opened up a novel and saw this:

john says to mary "i thik u r hot!"
mary says to john "i think you r too lets go have sex"

I would think one of several things:

  • The writer was an idiot.
  • The writer was on drugs.
  • The writer was very young (10-12 years old).
  • The writer didn't care enough about what he was saying to even try.
  • The writer was using it for humorous effect, mocking others.

In other words, I would not take it seriously. My opinions of the work would be negative, and I would not read any further — perhaps I might check a few pages later to see if the writing was all that bad. If it was, then I would put the book down and never open it again.

On certain media, poor spelling and grammar is the norm and is even part of the culture. Examples include instant-messenger programs and IRC (Internet Relay Chat). However, on a roleplay-based MUSH environment, the culture involves giving your reader the best grammar and spelling you can.

You Are Judged By How Good Your Text Looks.

It may not be 'fair' or 'right'. But on a MUSH, people have no other criterion to use. We can't see how cool your haircut is. We can't see how well you dress. All we can see is the quality of the prose you turn out. That is what provides insight into your character. You may protest against this all you want, but fair or not, right or wrong, it is the reality of the environment, the culture. You can either conform, or you will not have the success you may desire.

The words you choose, the punctuation you use, the grammar you use, all are tied in to how people perceive you. In some media it may be 'kewl' to use 'leetspeak'. On a MUSH it is not. It says, "I am either so stupid I don't know better, or so immature I think it's cool." Unfair? Yes. But that's the way it is.

How Can You Improve?

The first step is: slow down. Put a little extra effort into it. A lot of the 'abbreviations' that get used on IRC or MUDs were developed because they are easier to type. However, they can obscure the message. Slow down. Type 'you' for 'U'. Type 'are' instead of 'R'. Take the time to see if you are typing real words.

If you are a chronically bad speller, then take the time to run your poses through a spell-checker first. The occasional typo is one thing, but when nearly every word is misspelled, this creates a problem. Learn the spellings of common words, and if you typo, try to notice and backspace. I understand if you don't type fast, but it is better to be slow and accurate than to be fast and emit strings of gibberish.

Capitalize the first word of each sentence. Capitalize proper nouns and the word 'I'. Capitalize acronyms like 'CIA' or 'UCAS'. Do not capitalize other words in your sentence. When you begin a direct quote, capitalize the first word inside the direct quote.

End your sentences with periods (if you forget to end the last sentence of a pose with a period, this can be forgiven easily. But the sentences that end in the middle of your pose should end in a period).

Ellipses (…) should be used to indicate a trailing off or significant pause in speech. Do not use them in place of periods. When somebody… constantly… talks like… this… it indicates that… they have… a speech… impediment… Either that, or they're William Shatner. Take your pick.

When you use a period to end a sentence, there should be a space following it. Commas should also have a space following them, as should colons (:).

Quotation Marks
Direct quotes have their own rules. First, the punctuation that goes with the direct quote always goes *inside* the quotation marks.

Example: John asks, "Do you want fries with that?"

When a sentence describes how something is said, and 'includes' the direct quote, the sentence should be separated from the quote by a comma. If the quote comes first in the sentence, then the comma should be inside the quotation marks.

Example: "There is no reason to panic," said John.

If you break off a sentence to go into description, you end the sentence if the 'quoted' sentence was complete.

Example: "Why," John asked with infinite patience, "do you think like that?"
"Why me?" John asked with infinite patience. "Why do I get all
the losers?"

Word Choice

There are many words that are commonly confused with one another.

Do not confuse they're (short for 'they are') with their (belonging to them) or there (over there).
Avoid confusing too (as well as) with two (between one and three) or to (toward).
Don't mix up lose (to be unable to find something) with loose (to release from captivity).
Note the difference between it's (it is) and its (belonging to it). In English, just like his and her, "its" doesn't take an apostrophe.
Don't confuse you're (you are) with your (belonging to you) or yore (time long past).
Avoid confusing where (something's location) with wear (to put clothing on your body) or were (past form of 'are') or we're (we are).
Don't use weather (rain/sleet/snow) instead of whether (whether or not).

IC versus OOC and Quotes

First, using improper grammar is much more acceptable in OOC conversation than it is in IC poses. When you are chatting on channels or in pages, your grammar isn't goin to be judged as harshly, especially if you just do it occasionally to make a point or a joke. However, as we said, people are still judged by how they present themselves, and posing using poor grammar is the MUSH equivalent of going out in public with dirty clothes on and unkempt hair.

Also, we understand that your character may not talk using proper grammar. That's perfectly fine, but confine it to the words within direct quotes. That indicates that while your character may use bad grammar, your player understands the difference.

Pose Length and Format

To some extent, this is a hotly debated topic. There are people who claim that you have to do a full screen-length pose for it to be 'good', and there are others who insist that their 'two-line' poses are perfect. What's the real truth?

There are several things that people can agree on. The first is that, in general, the 'say' command is bad. All that gives in terms of description is 'So and so says, "blah"'. That contains no description and except in the most basic of terms — that you're talking.

Instead, you should nearly always use the 'pose' command. MUSH etiquette involves putting all of your actions and words for 'your turn' into a single pose. That way, the other person knows when to go. You do your pose, then they do theirs, and so forth.

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