Monthly Archives: August 2009

RP101 A Crash Course in Roleplaying Games

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I present to you the first installment of a well thought out article I came upon while looking through Mudconnect.com. The original author of this piece is Wes Platt and was posted as an article on MUDconnect on May 4, 2004. I am adding it to Aude Sapere so that you might enjoy it as much as I did. I will add the additional parts shortly.


RP101 (Part 1) Roll-Playing vs. Roleplaying

by Wes Platt May 4, 2004


Of more than 1,600 text-based games listed here at The MUD Connector, most of them are hack-and-slash monster killing and loot collecting games. Those games are great. But a smaller percentage of these games focus on interactive storytelling. OtherSpace and Chiaroscuro creator Wes Platt introduces readers to concepts in roleplaying.


The first important lesson that should be learned by participants in our games is the difference between roll-playing and roleplaying.

It’s a fairly common misconception, perpetuated by computer games like Baldur’s Gate and Fallout, that roleplaying is just a matter of picking how your character looks, giving the character a selection of skills, and then roaming a virtual world solving quests, exploring and killing monsters to gain experience and cool new weapons and armor.

That’s not roleplaying. It’s roll-playing. When we talk about roll-playing, for purposes of this course, we’re referring to games where dice determine just about everything (although the dice rolls may all be handled invisibly, behind the scenes in an automated system) and the main goal of the player is to gain experience, rise through levels, and, ultimately, win the game. Victory in a roll-playing game is achieved by completing all the quests or reaching the highest player rank.

Most MUDs are roll-playing games. That doesn’t make them inherently bad. Quite a few roll-playing games are absolutely fantastic. But they perpetuate an expectation that causes an occasional problem for true roleplaying games, such as OtherSpace, Chiaroscuro and Star Wars: Reach of the Empire.

Many players who make the shift from roll-playing to roleplaying find the culture shock overwhelming. They come to a roleplaying game without understanding certain basic concepts and principles that stand in stark contrast to what they’ve become accustomed to in roll-playing.

Roll-players are often accustomed to:

  • Gaining levels
  • Killing monsters
  • Seeking out treasure and equipment
  • Automated combat
  • Unrestricted naming conventions
  • Interacting with other players only to take down tougher monsters
  • Around-the-clock activity possibilities, such as automated quests

When a roll-player first arrives in a true roleplaying game, they find a culture that doesn’t usually put much value on levels, killing monsters usually only happens as part of a non-automated plot developed by the staff, combat is refereed by staffers and likely requires consent of all parties, staffers impose restrictions on the names players can choose and may require players to write in-depth backgrounds before their characters can be approved for the grid, most activities run by the staff are scheduled – not automated, and interaction with other players for character development and entertainment is absolutely critical.

It’s like the difference between a video arcade and a dance club. In a video arcade, it’s fine to wander from diversion to diversion. On your own, you can have plenty of fun as long as the quarters don’t run out. But, in a dance club, you’re wasting your time and cover charge money if you don’t interact with other people, either by talking or dancing with them.

Roll-playing prizes material acquisition and scorekeeping; roleplaying prizes player interaction and character development. No wonder it seems like such a disconnect when roll-players make that switch to a roleplaying game for the first time. For them, a true roleplaying game seems too personally demanding, too boring, too reliant on other people for fun. It’s perfectly understandable that, upon first sticking their toe in the water, they declare it too damned freezing cold and go diving back into the familiar pools of MUD.

That disconnect, that shock, is natural. Experienced roleplayers need to demonstrate patience in helping to acclimate such newcomers into this culture. And they need to try not to take it personally when roll-players express disdain or just don’t seem to “get it” right away.

Roleplaying is an acquired taste. It’s about socializing and character development. It’s a sort of improvisational performance mixed with storytelling. People are judged based on how they perform their roles, the quality of their writing, their grammar, and even their spelling. Success is gauged via the character’s experience: The plots they’ve survived, the villains they’ve thwarted, the friends and enemies they’ve made. These accomplishments are satisfying to roleplayers, but to a roll-player fresh out of the traditional MUDing ranks it’s fairly alien.

The gap between roll-playing and roleplaying can be bridged by players who want to cross the breach. But the roll-player must do it from a position of informed choice. A roll-player choosing to play a true roleplaying game without understanding what they’re getting into is likely to experience frustration and embarrassment as they roam the game looking for monsters to kill and quests to solve, totally ignoring other players who are gathered in popular roleplaying hotspots, doing what it is that roleplayers do.

Wes Platt is the creator of OtherSpace: The Interactive SF Saga and Chiaroscuro: The Interactive Fantasy Saga. He’s a head-wiz on Star Wars: Reach of the Empire. (All games can be reached through his official site at www.jointhesaga.com.)

RP101 – copyright © 2004 by [email protected] – All rights reserved.

Neopets – JellyNeo

Neopets has long since been my on again off agan habit. I haven’t touched my account for going on two years but everything is still sitting there as I log in today.

There are millions of new changes and things to learn and relearn about neopets. They’ve changed a lot of the games and scoring for the games and with one exception I’ve found there’s a limit to 1,000np per game.

The exception being of course, Key Quest, the newest (to me) addition to the NeoPets site.

The guides at JellyNeo.net have been most helpful in reacquainting me with Neopets. Also they have several services that will help you get organized, start making your own fonts and even tutorials on how to make neopets-esque banners and other nifty things.

Along with JellyNeo they also have their item database. You can look up any item on neopets and find out how much it’s worth.

At JellyNeo if you spend time at their site during the day you’ll see alerts pop up, such as ‘Alert! The Snowager is sleeping!’ and should you click on it it will take you directly to the snowager in the Ice Caves so you can try your luck at collecting a prize.

The site is usually updated with the latest faerie crossword answers and daily puzzle answers shortly after midnight NST.

The staff at JellyNeo do their best to provide their members with the most accurate and up to date information.

They also have several sections where you, the neopian, can assist them with their items databases.

With the advent of the new wearable items in Neopia, the staff at JellyNeo are in need of models for some of the newer wearable items. Though, trying to obtain some of these items may prove difficult (some items they need modeled currently include a 30,000np Summertime Fun Sloth Spray Mister Necklace.) The staff at JellyNeo readily award their models (the first person to post the needed neopet) with 500 Joodles. Joodles are the forum currency and you can even buy items and things specifically for the jellyneo forums.

Check JellyNeo out, you’ll be surprised.