Jim Moreno's "RoleCraft" MMO Column

RoleCraft: What Level Is Your RP?

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“Hail, adventurers! I am Stormcrow Stardust, herald of the Drunken Boxers, extending our invitation for any and all interested to come and join our steadfastly growing ranks. We are primarily a heavy RP guild focused on all forms of military conquest and intoxicated debauchery, with our own Vent server, and IC and OOC channels in game. Oh, and we have pie! Whisper me with your questions and for an invite!”

That’s merely an example of something I see at least once every game session in every MMORPG I play, either in game or on the message boards. It’s a guild invite, and that’s the general format they tend to take, at least as I see them on RP realms and from roleplayers. For the most part, such invites read and sound okay, with just enough information to hopefully spark the interest of any players looking to enlist their character into a guild. However, there is one vital piece that I see missing, or in dire need of a better explanation, and that is the question of rating RP.

Roleplaying guilds, kinships, and clans very often label themselves as being either light, medium, or heavy RP, but what exactly does that mean? What are the differences between these three level of RP? Well, I am here to make an attempt at answering, or at least providing some helpful insight into, that very question.

I spent last week trolling the forums of my favorite MMORPGs, specifically seeking out the guild recruiting announcements and reading through the threads and posts where people had given their opinions on various RP related topics. I did not find any question or comment directly addressing the subject here, not one. What is most commonly found are posts similar to the example guild invite above, yet, even these seemed to me to have no solid base or uniform explanation linking them together. That’s not too surprising, given the abstract and subjective nature of roleplaying. What one RP guild master may consider to be light RP, may at the same time be what another RP guild master considers heavy RP. I also found that much of the information was very confusing and often conflicted with itself. I read through many posts where, for instance, the advertisement used words and phrases like “rigorous application process” and “RP behavioral and communication standards”, yet was labeled overall as “light RP”. More than a bit befuddling, indeed, and probably downright disconcerting to players looking at getting into RP for their first time.

So, let’s see if we can clarify and quantify what the levels of RP are into a more easily understood standard set, as it may be regarded by both a guild of characters and an individual player. As usual, this is by no means meant to be written in stone. Think of this in the same light as the Pirate’s Code – more like guidelines.

In the last RoleCraft article, Roleplayers Set S.A.I.L.!, I set forth a guiding premise about an easy way for roleplayers to break down the main areas in which they RP: speech, actions, interactions, and look. Using S.A.I.L. I think provides a solid base from which to build on further, and also gives a quick answer to our question. These levels of RP can be separated by considering to what degree players incorporate RP speech, actions, interactions, and look into their games. To what degree is the tricky part, as there is no measuring stick to gauge and compare RP against. Instead, I can list some examples and give my experienced interpretations, and hope you will do the same.

Optional is the word to best describe all the potential elements of light RP. Speech is most likely done in RP mode ‘if and when you feel like it’. This is especially true in RP guilds, where it may be just as fine to speak IC on the Guild channel as it is to speak OOC, though the use of the double parenthesis to signify OOC speech is common courtesy. Basically, chatter at this level is not monitored or enforced, and helps provide an adequate training ground for a new roleplayer.

Medium RP speech may include the addition of emotes and macros, with some even directed at NPCs. Speech may also be done with racial and class characteristics in mind. Guilds may have a channel set aside for OOC, and may restrict the Guild channel to IC only. Titles and nicknames may also be added to characters at this level, helping to give them a more unique identity.

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Heavy RP will most likely include any or all of those elements and more, and put them to use much more often. Rarely will public speech be OOC and will always be racially correct. Characters will address their friends in the most proper manner, no matter the circumstances, whether in or out of combat. Such decencies will also be directed towards NPCs, like the banker, barmaid, and town guards, all depending on the current situation.

Actions and interactions across the three levels are probably the most difficult to articulate, but are very essential for roleplaying at every level. Light RP may simply be firing off a macro now and then when the time is right, like a /wave to a friend, or an appropriate /cheer, /smile, or /nod. Medium RP may include ample use of /bow and /kneel to those worthy, even NPCs. Physical traits and personality characteristics may also be introduced here, like a player whose character is constantly wringing their hands, or flipping a dagger through their fingers. Heavy RP players raise the bar by connecting all these elements, often at the same time:

Thank you for repairing my armor, blacksmith. *slides a few gold coins across the counter*

The look of a character is perhaps the easiest and most often roleplayed item in MMORPGs. Being that it is also one of the primary game mechanic elements does much in the way of making it so, and this also makes it a bit more difficult to divide into levels of RP. The vast majority of players are constantly on the lookout for equipment and clothing upgrades, unless you are roleplaying a character who just isn’t at all concerned about such things. Some things I know more serious roleplayers do to handle their RP look include having more than one set of armor or clothing. They will have gear to give them an exclusive look when attending a party or celebration, such as a wedding. They may also switch out their combat and adventuring gear for something more comfortable when in town, or when riding their mount. Even something simple as donning a lucky hat when fishing is a sure sign of a roleplayer.

A few words on my own feelings about the levels of RP. Personally, I say, you’re either roleplaying, or you’re not. And here’s the kicker: everyone playing a roleplaying game is roleplaying. Remember that the next time someone blatantly makes fun of RP, and they are playing the same game, and / or on an RP realm. No one bought and continues to pay on a monthly basis for any MMORPG to be themselves in game. Everyone creates a character so they can ‘be’ that race in game, or so they can wield those spells or weapons in game, or so they can see and experience the lands, atmosphere, and ambience of the game through their created avatar. Everyone wants to ‘play’ a certain ‘role’ in each of these games, things they cannot or will not be able to encounter in real life. All these are fundamental aspects of fantasy, and why we roleplay.

As stated earlier, all of these examples are very subjective and completely open to debate. That’s one of the reasons I am writing about it and all other topics here in public. I only have almost twenty-eight years of RP experience, and while I don’t know everything, I do know a few things. What ways do you see light, medium, and heavy RP divided? Discuss, and role on!

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