One of her recent discussions was about "what makes a good roleplayer?" It's a very thoughtful piece, based on her long-term, on-going experience with roleplaying in SL. And it really got me thinking about something that had been eating at me for a while, and I figured it was time to say something.
I can be pretty judgmental sometimes.
*waits for the gasps of shock and surprise to die down*
Yeah. I know.
But seriously, I tend to be that way about a lot of things, including roleplaying and roleplayers. Like a lot of folks, I have a tendnecy to think--and sometimes to say--things like "that's really good rp there," or "you're a great rp'er," or "that's some bad rp," or occasionally, "your hopelessly self-absorbed approach to roleplaying has produced such spectacularly indifferent results that it will take me a while to find the proper term to describe it since "wholesale shit-sucking waste of time and effort" is far too generous.
But for the most part, that's not really being fair. I realized this the other day when I was given a notecard about a situation that happened in Hogwarts. Judging by the chat that was copied in the notecard, one of the roleplayers descended into a screaming, obnoxious shit-fit because the other people he was interacting with didn't adapt their style of roleplaying to his style.
Before being banned, he stated in no uncertain terms that he felt that all the other people in the sim were terrible roleplayers, that he was the only one present who knew how to roleplay, and that he was in fact, just about the greatest roleplayer, ever.
Totally aside from the fact that, yes, this particular individual as a person (distinct from their qualities as a roleplayer) is clearly a bilious, narcissistic, crap-spewing pecker-faced baboon, as a roleplayer they should not be accused of doing bad rp (other than going out of character and turning into a flaming asshole in open chat). The reality of the situation was that no one involved should be painted as "bad" roleplayers--but neither should anyone claim to be "great" or even "good" at the art form. Why? Because the conflict was essentially over style.
There are different kinds of roleplaying you can find in SL and other venues. In this case in Hogwarts, the conflict seems to have been initiated by this one individual who prefers to do an extreme form of "paragraph" rp.
"Paragraph" roleplaying is a style that I assume has its origins in purely text-based rp. In this form of rp the players not only write lines of dialogue--as well as some short "emotes" such as "smiles," or "frowns" or "scratches crotch with considerable enthusiasm"--they actually write out an entire paragraph or paragraphs detailing their inner thoughts along with their facial expressions and extended dialogue. Practitioners of this style also tend to include elements of physical action combined with extensive descriptive passages such as "casually brushes away the loose strand of golden blond hair that the gentle breeze had pulled out of place on her otherwise perfectly coiffed hair," or "walks purposefully across the floor, the staccato clacking of his boot heels on the rough planks mingling with the sparkling noise of the silver jingle-bobs on his large-roweled, Spanish-style spurs."
Logically, in a text-based rp you have to include all this Bulwer-Lyttonesque type prose in order to compensate for the lack of actual visual evidence of what is going on or how the player-writers are imagining the scene. In text-based rp, if you don't tell the other players that someone has a huge rack of epic proportions or is pointing a large blued-steel revolver of a foreign pattern at you, how the fuck are you gonna know?
Now of course, in a 3-D environment like SL, you don't have to put everything into words in the same way. You can simply look at your screen and see that the gal over yonder has temptation bumps that make the Sierra Nevadas look like molehills, and that, yep, she has got a really big fucking gun out and is about to blow your punkin' head into applesauce. Unless, of course, you're still waiting for everything to rez, in which case, you're just boned. And you also might as well say fuck trying to type out paragraphs at that point, because chat is probably lagging as well.
Seriously though, paragraph style of rp in SL is a choice, not a necessity. But it can enhance the experience for some people, and if you enjoy doing it, then hey, knocketh thyself out.
It's not bad or good, it's just a certain way to play the game.
Similarly, there is a style of rp that some folks call "RP Lite." This version of roleplaying is the kind where, yeah you sort of have a character, and maybe you thought about a back story and maybe you didn't, but usually you have taken on some kind of "role" like sheriff or old-west pole-dancer. People in this form of rp typically are somewhat flexible about staying "in character" and are more casual in their approach to speech patterns and vocabulary, including the use of LOL's and other internet-speech abbreviations.
Again, I would argue it's not good or bad--it is just what individual players are comfortable with. However, there are places where this style of rp is not accepted, as it can distract others who are playing in a different style. Most places where it is not acceptable will make that clear in their rules, which is why players looking into a new sim should, by gawd, read the fucking rules. If there are none, or they don't mention things like "must stay in character" or "no OOC in open chat," then you may have hit on a place where RP Lite is going to work.
Finally there is the style of roleplaying that I call "real-time interactive" rp. This form of rp has really just recently evolved in virtual worlds, though I think stylistically it owes a great deal to the traditions of theater (particularly improv), and first-person interpretation in museums and history sites. In this style you the players perform more as an ensemble, interacting and playing off each other and developing situations in almost real time (obviously real time interaction is not completely possible due to the fact that most of us don't type as fast as we speak--plus you add in lag and a convo can take forfuckingever). But it is as close to real-time as we can get.
The players using this style concentrate mostly on short, quickly written pieces of dialogue that sounds like natural conversation as much as possible. As Marrant points out, spelling is not always as important as getting an idea across quickly. There is give and take, and if you wait too long, or take a while trying to generate a long paragraph, you often will get left behind.
Yes, there is a time and place for longer soliloquies, but they are the exception. And the emphasis is on the speech itself, not added descriptive elements. Mind you, players in this style do utilize some necessary and useful "emotes" such as "smiles slightly" or "grins like an idiot." Sometimes the emotes being used may be downright poetic, such "tries to smile bravely, even as a single tear etches its way down her face." But for the most part, the players only write out what is needed to compensate for the limitations that still remain as to what visual clues and actions are possible in SL. Furthermore, inner thoughts are eschewed (since nobody should be able to read your goddam thoughts anyhow).
I will freely admit this is my favorite style. But does that mean this is good rp, or that it is better than other styles? No. It's just what I happen to enjoy, which, considering that my background includes some theater and living history stuff, should come as no surprise.
Now I will tell you I firmly believe that the different styles are not mutually exclusive. Someone can come into a sim where real-time interactive rp predominates, and adapt their own personal form of rp to what is there. The only thing is, you have to be willing to make some adjustments--maybe break your writing into shorter segments and pay attention to what is going on around you so that you don't get too far behind. I have known some paragraph people who are real fun to rp with, but when they are wrapped up in cranking out a long segment of text, the interaction can kinda break down. Especially if they have their typing anim turned off, you have no idea if they are busy writing, have fallen asleep or are frozen up from lag. Other players tend to wander off and then the paragraph style player gets pissed off because no one stayed to hear what they had to say.
Likewise if a real-time interactive rp'er goes into a place where they like to do a lot of paragraph style, you need to slow down, wait for people to finish writing, and maybe go ahead and expand your own writing as well. I know I try to do a better job with controlling my typos when I'm around paragraph rp'ers, because what the hell, everything is going to take longer anyway, so why not try to fix shit?
So instead of saying something is "good" or "bad," or it's "great" or it "sucks huge purple-veined donkey schwanstuckers," let's ask if a particular bit of roleplaying "feels comfortable, or "fun." We can also ask, "was it successful?"
That's a topic for another conversation another time. But for right now, let me leave you with a snippet of some rp that I thought was successful.
This was from the time when Dr. Brooklyn Alcott, 9 months pregnant, is in a buggy accident and goes into labor:
[18:39] JanMae Jun: The head is crowning some more
[18:39] Brooklyn Alcott *throws her head back down, her hair soaked in blood and tears*
[18:39] Diogenes Kuhr: baby's head is showin Brook, yer doin it
[18:39] Silver85 Koba *cuts down a piece of the curtains and places them next to JanMae and takes some of the bloody pieces of cloth and throws them away*
[18:40] JanMae Jun: Push again, Brook *presses firmly but carefully on Brook's upper belly*
[18:40] Brooklyn Alcott *closes her eyes and prays for strength*
[18:40] JanMae Jun *gasps* Brook! Come on, you can do it.
[18:40] Diogenes Kuhr: dammit this would be easier on her if she warn't on her back, but we can't do much with them broke legs
[18:40] Brooklyn Alcott *musters up all her courage and strength...for her baby......*
[18:41] JanMae Jun: Dio, oh, lord, the baby's head is out
[18:41] Silver85 Koba: Want me to hold her up?
[18:41] JanMae Jun: Brook - a little more -- you can do it
[18:41] Diogenes Kuhr: the cord ain't round the neck is it?
[18:41] JanMae Jun: Dio, we need to clear the baby's mouth - check the cord
[18:41] Brooklyn Alcott *falls back on the table....exhausted and scared*
[18:41] JanMae Jun: Seth - please hold her head and shoulders so she doesn't fall off the bed.
[18:42] JanMae Jun: she's still very woozy
[18:42] Diogenes Kuhr: *peers at the little head and scoops in the mouth with her finger*
[18:42] Brooklyn Alcott *blinks at the man*
[18:42] Diogenes Kuhr: nope cord is fine *gently supports the head*
[18:42] Silver85 Koba *gently leans in behind Brook and grabs a hold of her*
[18:42] Brooklyn Alcott *body shakes uncontrollably*
[18:42] JanMae Jun *feels another contraction mounting* Push, brook! Push!
[18:43] Silver85 Koba: Remember me? *winks at Brook, trying to have a happy expression*
[18:43] JanMae Jun *reaches down to guide the baby's shoulder out*
[18:43] Diogenes Kuhr: here comes the shoulders, Brook!
[18:43] JanMae Jun: come on, come on now
[18:43] Diogenes Kuhr: Hon this is the big part, yer doin fine!
[18:43] JanMae Jun: Push, Brook! Stay with us! Push ---
[18:43] Brooklyn Alcott *screams as loud as she can, which is just under a whisper but pushes against the man's hands*
[18:43] JanMae Jun *tugs and pulls the other shoulder out*
[18:44] Diogenes Kuhr: *cups her hands under the head and and keeps supporting the baby as it starts to slide*
[18:44] Brooklyn Alcott *tears flowing like a waterfall, her body battered and bloody and in excruciating pain she pushesssssssssssss*
[18:44] Silver85 Koba *grits his teeth as he fight to keep Brook in place*
[18:44] JanMae Jun: *helps the baby as it slips out fully*
[18:44] Janmae Jun: Dio - do you still have that razor?
[18:44] Brooklyn Alcott *gasps and groans*
[18:44] JanMae Jun clears the baby's mouth area again*
[18:44] Silver85 Koba: In my back pocket
[18:44] Diogenes Kuhr: *places the baby head down slightly to allow it drain out some, over Brooks leg*
[18:45] JanMae Jun gasps: It's a girl, Brook! A girl!
[18:45] Brooklyn Alcott *musters up a slight smile and cries harder*
[18:45] JanMae Jun: *smiles as the baby cries out, a welcome sound to everyone*
[18:45] Diogenes Kuhr: ok Brook, gonna need to push out yer placenta in a bit don' take a goddam nap jus yet
[18:45] Silver85 Koba smiles "i'll be dammed"
[18:46] Brooklyn Alcott *spits up blood*
[18:46] Diogenes Kuhr: Jan mae let me get some thread fer tyin off the cord
[18:46] JanMae Jun: Seth - I need that razor
[18:46] Brooklyn Alcott *lifts her head a bit more to see her beautiful lil bundle*
[18:46] Silver85 Koba *looks down on Brook seeing the blood* "Something is wrong"
[18:46] JanMae Jun: * grabs a bolt of string from the shelf behind her*
[18:46] Silver85 Koba: reach for it . it is in my back pocket
[18:46] Diogenes Kuhr: * looks through the medical kit for sinew or suture thread*
[18:47] JanMae Jun *reaches filthy hands into Seth's pocket*
[18:47] JanMae Jun *hands Dio some string* - this will do, if you can't find any other
[18:47] Diogenes Kuhr: nah I got proper suture thread here
[18:47] Brooklyn Alcott *eyes roll around and she tries to whisper*
[18:47] Brooklyn Alcott: mmmmmmisssssss
[18:47] Diogenes Kuhr: I kin feel her crampin' agin...
[18:47] JanMae Jun: Dio, if you'll take care of the cord, I'll help her push
[18:47] Silver85 Koba *looks down on Brook, sees her lips move*
[18:48] Diogenes Kuhr: time to push the placenta out ain't it?
[18:48] JanMae Jun: Brook? Come on, hon, you're almost finished.
[18:48] Brooklyn Alcott: myyyyyyyy
[18:48] Silver85 Koba: What did you say Brook?
[18:48] Brooklyn Alcott *bubbles of blood form in her mouth as she speaks*
[18:48] Diogenes Kuhr: *steadies the baby lying across Brooks belly and guides the cord*
[18:48] JanMae Jun *notices Brook has suddenly gone very pale*
[18:48] JanMae Jun *reaches for Brook's arm to feel her pulse*.
[18:48] Silver85 Koba wipes the blood away from Brook's mouth with his sleeve*
[18:48] JanMae Jun: Dio, her pulse is very faint -- she's still losing a lot of blood from the inside.
[18:49] Brooklyn Alcott * talks soo low its hard to hear her*
[18:49] Brooklyn Alcott: baaaby
[18:49] Brooklyn Alcott *gasps for air*
[18:49] Diogenes Kuhr: just a minute Hon give us another push here
[18:49] Brooklyn Alcott: seeeeeeeeeeee
[18:49] JanMae Jun *wipes her eyes with her shirtsleeve*
[18:49] Brooklyn Alcott *shakes head*
[18:49] Silver85 Koba leans down to hear Brook better
[18:49] JanMae Jun: Brook?
[18:49] Brooklyn Alcott nnnnnnooooooooo
[18:49] JanMae Jun: Hold on, Brook!
[18:50] Brooklyn Alcott:* shakes head and cries harder*
[18:50] Brooklyn Alcott: babyyyyyyyyyyy
[18:50] JanMae Jun* lays the baby on Brook's tummy and reassures her *
[18:50] Diogenes Kuhr: Jan Mae that after birthing out yet?
[18:50] JanMae Jun: Brook? Stay with us! Look - here's your baby ...
[18:50] Brooklyn Alcott *blinks at the pinkness laying on her belly*
[18:50] JanMae Jun: oh, god, Dio - there's so much blood.
[18:51] Brooklyn Alcott *tries to raise her hands but they won't move*
[18:51] Brooklyn Alcott *blinks through the tears*
[18:51] JanMae Jun *reaches to pull the rest of the sac out, guiding it since Brook can't push*
[18:51] Diogenes Kuhr: allright here it comes *ties one piece of thread on the umbilical near the child's stomach*
[18:51] Diogenes Kuhr: gimme yer razor agin Seth
[18:51] Brooklyn Alcott *looking down at her newborn as she feels soo light and weak*
[18:51] Silver85 Koba: JanMae got it
[18:52] JanMae Jun: *hands Dio the bloody razor*
[18:52] Diogenes Kuhr: I jus gotta trim that thread off there so I can tie another piece on
[18:52] Brooklyn Alcott:* looks up at the man*
[18:52] JanMae Jun: Brook?
[18:52] Brooklyn Alcott: pleeeeeeeezeeeeeeeee
[18:52] Silver85 Koba *looks down on brook trying to smile*
[18:52] JanMae Jun *reaches to feel her pulse again*
[18:52] Diogenes Kuhr: allright *cuts the thread and puts the razor in her teeth to hold it while she ties the second knot a short way from the the first one*
[18:52] Brooklyn Alcott: baaaabyyyyyyy
[18:52] Brooklyn Alcott: mahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
[18:53] Diogenes Kuhr: Seth hand me that whiskey bottle behind ye
[18:53] JanMae Jun: Her breathing is so shallow ...
[18:53] Janmae Jun: Brook, look at me, Brook --
[18:53] Brooklyn Alcott * gasps*
[18:53] Brooklyn Alcott naaaaaaaammmmmmmmmeeeee
[18:53] JanMae Jun: Mah isn't here, hon - Look at me -- stay with me!
[18:53] Brooklyn Alcott: dahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
[18:53] Brooklyn Alcott: liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii
[18:53] Brooklyn Alcott: llaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
[18:53] Silver85 Koba *pulls out his own whiskey flask and hands it over* "This is stronger stuff. will work better I think"
[18:53] Diogenes Kuhr: *takes the bottle from Seth pulls the cork and splashes whiskey on the blade*
[18:54] Brooklyn Alcott: dahhhhhhhhhh
[18:54] Brooklyn Alcott: liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii
[18:54] Diogenes Kuhr: allright Hon hold the cord out there fer me
[18:54] Brooklyn Alcott: lllllllllllllllllllllaahhhhhhhhhhhh
[18:54] JanMae Jun *holds the cord with one hand*
[18:54] Diogenes Kuhr: ready?
[18:54] Diogenes Kuhr: *cuts the cord in between the two knots with Seth's razor*
[18:54] JanMae Jun: *checks Brook's heartbeat on her chest with the other*
[18:54] You: Brook?
[18:54] Brooklyn Alcott *tears streaming down...feeling woozey and lightheaded....trying to get them to hear her baby's name...........*
[18:55] Brooklyn Alcott: dahhhhhhhh
[18:55] Silver85 Koba * tries to make sense of what brook is saying*
[18:55] Brooklyn Alcott: liiiiiiiiiilahhhhhhhhhhhhhh
[18:55] Brooklyn Alcott: mahhhhhhhhhhhhh
[18:55] Brooklyn Alcott *sputters more blood*
[18:55] JanMae Jun: Brook - you stay with me now, you hear?
[18:55] Diogenes Kuhr: *wipes the cutthroat razor on the sheet and closes it with one hand and hands it back to Seth smiling*
[18:55] Silver85 Koba: I think she is trying to tell us a name
[18:55] Brooklyn Alcott dahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiilaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
[18:55] JanMae Jun *leans over closely to Brook's face*
[18:55] JanMae Jun: Dahlia?
[18:55] Brooklyn Alcott weakly smiles at the man*
[18:55] JanMae Jun: I think she said Dahlia.
[18:56] JanMae Jun: Brook? *looks at Brook's blank stare*
[18:56] Silver85 Koba *takes back the razor, smiling back at Dio*
[18:56] Brooklyn Alcott *uses her last bit of strength to nod*
[18:56] Diogenes Kuhr: *Folds up the placenta and mess in towel and places it beneath the cot out of the way*
[18:56] Brooklyn Alcott: give
[18:56] Brooklyn Alcott: Mah
[18:56] Brooklyn Alcott: Mahhhhhhh
[18:56] JanMae Jun: oh, sweet Jesus - Brook?
[18:56] Brooklyn Alcott: give
[18:56] Silver85 Koba *looks down* "Dahlia? is that it?"
[18:56] Diogenes Kuhr: Brook? think ye kin nurse any?
[18:56] JanMae Jun *strokes Brook's forehead*-
[18:56] JanMae Jun: Dio -- she's fading again'
[18:56] Silver85 Koba: Give Mah what Brook?
[18:56] JanMae Jun: her pulse - I can barely feel it.
[18:57] Diogenes Kuhr: *softly * goddammit
[18:57] JanMae Jun *wipes Brook's pale face and tries to listen to what she is trying to say.*
[18:57] Brooklyn Alcott *head falls back....her eyes roll back...she gasps her last breath.....and lies there motionless, no air escaping her lungs ......as she fades away quietly*
[18:57] JanMae Jun: *speaks softly* Please, Brook - Don't leave us.
[18:57] Diogenes Kuhr: *wraps another clean towel around the baby and tries to hold it where Brook can see it*
[18:57] JanMae Jun gasps: No ... Brook!
[18:58] Silver85 Koba *feels Brook's body go limp*
[18:58] Diogenes Kuhr: *gently lifts Brook's hand and softly places it against the baby's head*
[18:58] JanMae Jun *checks her neck, her chest, her wrist ...*
[18:58] Silver85 Koba: Come on Brook *start to shake her slightly*
[18:58] JanMae Jun *weeps and keeps checking for a pulse that isn't there*.
[18:58] JanMae Jun: No...
[18:58] JanMae Jun: *the baby cries*
[18:58] Silver85 Koba *looks up* "Anything?"
[18:59] Diogenes Kuhr: Seth...would ye oblige me by closin' her eyes?
[18:59] JanMae Jun *wipes her face on her sleeve and shakes her head*
[18:59] JanMae Jun: oh, Dio -- how can this be?
[18:59] Silver85 Koba * nods and slowly drags his hand over Brook's face closing her eyes and gently easing her back down on the pillow*
[18:59] Diogenes Kuhr: *softly almost a whisper* sonofabitch...dammit, where we gonna find someone to nurse this tadpole?
[19:00] Silver85 Koba: Maybe that was what she was trying to tell us
[19:00] Silver85 Koba: She said something about Mah?
[19:00] Diogenes Kuhr: *cradles the newborn*
[19:00] JanMae Jun: Mah is her cousin, but Mah is no nursemaid.
[19:00] Diogenes Kuhr: I think she knew she was goin...an she wants Mah to raise the babe
[19:01] Silver85 Koba *nods* "Yeah I think so to"
[19:02] JanMae Jun: surely there is a new mother in town who will nurse her
[19:02] Silver85 Koba *takes off his hat, holding it against his chest while looking down on Brook*
[19:02] Diogenes Kuhr: *Cradles the baby swaying gently, tears welling up in her eyes*
[19:02] JanMae Jun *looks at Brook's body in disbelief.*
[19:02] Silver85 Koba: Damn shame!
[19:02] JanMae Jun *covers Brook's body with the rest of the sheet that Seth ripped up earlier.
[19:03] JanMae Jun: Dio -- can you find Mah? Oh, gracious, me, she will be dumbfounded.
[19:04] Diogenes Kuhr: *looks up distracted briefly*
[19:04] Diogenes Kuhr: huh? oh..my word, yes
[19:04] JanMae Jun *turns to Seth* Thank you for helping.
[19:04] JanMae Jun *feels tears welling up again*
[19:04] Silver85 Koba: Don't mention it.
[19:04] Diogenes Kuhr: here Hon will you take the chile?
[19:04] Brooklyn Alcott is Offline
[19:04] JanMae Jun: *takes the infant carefully and holds her close*
[19:05] Diogenes Kuhr: *Looks at the pale, now peaceful face of Brooklyn Fargis*
[19:05] JanMae Jun: Seth - could you notify Mr. Deerhunter or whomever can arrange a funeral *feels out of sorts and doesn't know what to do with Brook gone so suddenly*
[19:05] Diogenes Kuhr: see ye in the happy huntin' ground Hon...*smiles sadly*
[19:06] Silver85 Koba: Of course. I'll see to it that she gets a proper burial
[19:06] Diogenes Kuhr: ye lived well and dammit ye died well too
[19:06] JanMae Jun *looks at Brook again and squeezes her hand softly: Thank you, Brook. You were like a big sister to me.
[19:07] Diogenes Kuhr: *shakes her head slightly and then gets a determined hard look on her face* right
[19:07] Diogenes Kuhr: well
[19:07] Diogenes Kuhr: life does goddam well go on