Posts Categorized: MUDs

RP 101 Part Three: Tree of Knowledge

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you the third part of the RP101 series. Part four will be posted in the next couple of days and I will be updating more frequently in the coming months.

~Demosthenes

RP101: (Part 3) Tree of Knowledge

by Wes Platt September 24, 2004


Of particular trickiness for a new roleplayer is the concept of what one knows out of character as opposed to what one knows in character. This distinction is known colloquially as the separation of IC/OOC.

In a text-based online roleplaying game such as OtherSpace, Chiaroscuro or Reach of the Empire, it’s extremely difficult to prevent Player A from finding out what happened to Player B or what Player C did to Player D. Players are able to page each other, talk on OOC channels, e-mail, and instant messenger. Staffers occasionally post logs of major events that involve specific groups of players so the entire playerbase can get a sense of what’s going on in a storyline. So, it’s important for players to distinguish between what the player knows and what the character knows.

Let’s think of all that information out there as the fruit of a tree of IC knowledge.

What staffers know exclusively can be considered the roots: The sort of information that isn’t likely to float around outside administrative circles.

What everyone knows forms the trunk, which everyone can see: Broad-based thematic information and IC news accounts about major events.

What individual players know can be seen as branches spiraling off from the trunk: Each branch is a single player’s perspective of events they experience.

Sometimes, during the course of a storyline, branches can become intertwined because separate players come together for a plot. For the duration of that entwining, the separate players share IC knowledge of events. But, once they drift apart, their experiences diverge along with their IC knowledge.

Problems arise when a player who only knows about something through an OOC source, without personally learning of it while in character, assumes they know the information ICly and then uses that information ICly.

For example: Player A walks into a dark alley, where Player B lurks and waits. Player B attacks Player A, beats him senseless, steals all his stuff and drags him to a warehouse to hold him as a prisoner. Player A is friends with Player C. Because Player A is imprisoned and isolated, he cannot share information ICly. But it’s possible to talk to people through OOC means. He tells Player C about his plight, revealing who mugged him and where he’s being held.

If Player C just commiserates OOCly, but takes no action himself without a purely in-character motivation, the line between IC/OOC is unbreached.

But if Player C takes that OOC information, attacks Player B and rescues Player A without any real IC motivation, the line between IC/OOC is shattered.

The only reason Player C should act on Player A’s behalf is if Player C learns about Player A’s plight through IC resources.

For example: Perhaps Player A tells Player C that he’s leaving on a trip to Destination 1 and that he’ll only be gone two days. After three days, Player A still hasn’t come back. At this point, it’s perfectly acceptable for Player C to visit Destination 1 to investigate, asking around about his missing friend. Maybe Player C’s investigation leads him to that dark alley and the waiting Player B. A scuffle ensues as Player B tries to mug Player C, but Player C prevails, subdues Player B and learns where Player A is being held.

Another problem may arise, however, if Player B abuses information obtained through OOC resources.

For example: Maybe Player B knows from reading logs on the website that Player A and Player C are IC friends. When Player C shows up in the dark alley, Player B drops out of character, leaving the IC grid to avoid the confrontation with Player C.

That’s a breach of IC/OOC.

When in doubt, ignore what you know behind the scenes and run with what your character knows. As important as it is to keep the player and character persona separate for mental health sake, it is just as important to keep separate what you know as opposed to what the character knows. It’s okay while watching a horror movie to yell at the screen “Don’t go down in the cellar!” because you know a monster’s waiting for the victim-to-be, but your input must be ignored. There’s no way the victim-to-be can know what you know outside the context of the movie.

It’s worth repeating: As a player, you may know much more than your character about what’s happening in the IC universe. Don’t abuse that abundance of information. Don’t assume you know things that your character hasn’t personally experienced or learned about through resources such as news outlets or other players’ characters in an IC context.

Channels, pages, @mail, e-mail, logs and instant messengers are OOC context; not IC. If you learn about something only through these methods, then you cannot, should not, must not allow that information to be used by your character ICly.

Your character should only use IC information gleaned from news articles, common knowledge sources, or interaction with other players.

Comments / Discussions about this Article

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.

RP101 Part Two: Taking the Stage

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I present to you the second of six installments of a well thought out article entitled RP101. The original author of this piece is Wes Platt and was posted as an article on MUDconnect on June 5, 2004. Additional parts will be added to the blog shortly.


RP101 (Part 2) Taking the Stage

by Wes Platt June 5, 2004


Roleplaying, with its primal, deep-plunging cultural roots, gives people a chance to exercise their imaginations and participate in what-if experimentation.

So, let’s dispense right away with the myth that our text-based roleplaying environments are “just games.” They’re not. They do contain game-like competitive aspects, and they’ve even got referees for purposes of resolving in-character conflicts. But, at its heart, what truly sets a roleplaying game apart from roll-playing is the immersion of the player into an assumed identity as part of an evolving storyline. The story may be driven by staff-crafted plots, player actions, or a synergy of both. No matter what form of engine the storyline uses, the player’s assumption of a specific role within the saga is a constant.

In a true roleplaying game, the player takes on a job that is equal parts writer and actor.

Repeat after me: “It’s not just a game.” Keep repeating it until you’ve got it. I’m not sure you’re repeating it. In fact, it’s possible you don’t buy that premise just yet. After all, I’ve been referring to these environments as roleplaying games, so isn’t it contradictory for me to argue otherwise? No! Because I’m not telling you to convince yourself it’s not a game. I’m arguing that it’s not just a game.

What else is it, then?

  • Improvisational theater: Players interact in real-time, and bounce unrehearsed, impromptu actions and reactions off each other.
  • Creative writing: Players experiment with language, descriptive writing and dialogue.
  • Cheap therapy: Players can use the roles they play to work through frustrations and real-life issues.
  • Community: Players from around the world aren’t always “on stage.” Behind the scenes, friendships grow and communities are built.

So, roleplaying games offer potential to be far more than just the waste of time many detractors would have us believe.

Wait. Perhaps you hadn’t heard that roleplaying of this kind has detractors. Well, it does. Many of these detractors are also convinced that our true roleplaying environments are just games. They simply don’t understand.

Among other things, they think:

  • Roleplaying is a waste of time; hours and hours of your life you’ll never get back.
  • Roleplayers are geeks without lives.
  • Roleplaying without graphics is pointless.

I’ll address these misconceptions one at a time.

First, roleplaying’s not a waste of time. It’s an activity that takes advantage of modern global communication technology to hone creativity and social skills. It combines aspects of a traditionally solo activity, writing, and a traditionally social activity, theatrical acting. It gives players a chance to entertain themselves and others with minimal expense. In “the real world,” some people collect stamps, some sing karaoke, and some plant gardens. Their hobbies are no more valid for the expense of time involved than online roleplaying.

Second, all right, I concede that many roleplayers are, to some extent, geeks. Yes, you too are at least a minor geek. If you know words like “Telnet,” “blog” and “retcon,” then you have to admit at least a small percentage of geekitude. I’m a geek. I’m fine with it. But even geeks often have lives. Roleplayers come from many different walks of life. Very few of them, in my experience, are shut-ins. Most are high school and college students whose attendance waxes and wanes depending on homework, exams, school activities, vacations and dates – yes, dates! The adults who play often come from technological fields – information technology workers, Web customer service workers, computer repairs, web designers – but I’ve also seen law enforcement officers, soldiers, actors, journalists and artists. Almost all roleplayers I’ve met have lives, even if they frequently insist they don’t. Nevertheless, even if a specific player arguably has little social life in the real world due to their circumstances, the fact that they seek socialization in some form, even if it’s with a bunch of relative strangers via the Internet, is positive in my opinion.

Third, I’d argue that roleplaying with graphics doesn’t exist yet. Roll-playing with graphics, such as Everquest, Planetside and Star Wars Galaxies, makes for great eye candy. I’m not sure I’d want to spend $15 a month for the privilege to wander around a graphical version of a MUD, where socialization is minimal (usually limited to grouping for monster hunts), killing is rampant, and character development can only be gauged by increased experience points and improved skills.

So, it’s okay to roleplay. It’s not a complete waste of time. Those hours spent watching Star Trek: Enterprise, however, are hours you’ll never get back. You should have spent them roleplaying instead.

Now, one final point before we conclude this lesson: Although true roleplaying games are more than just games, it is imperative for the player to separate themselves from their character. Our hobby can become mentally unhealthy for players who fail to make this all-important distinction. The player is an actor who brings to life a character.

In that vein, consider an actor like Harrison Ford. His characters have included Han Solo, Indiana Jones and Jack Ryan. All three characters experienced triumphs and tragedies during the movies in which they appeared, and although Ford certainly imbued each character with emotion and personality, the actor is clearly distinguishable from the characters. What happens to those characters stays on the screen. You aren’t likely to find Harrison Ford lamenting how unfair it was that Han got frozen in carbonite and shipped off to Jabba the Hutt.

On the other hand, you’ve got actors like George Takei, who in recent years seems to have become obsessed with how much he deserves to command a starship. Er, wait, no, how much Hikaru Sulu, his character from Star Trek, deserves to command a starship in his own series. The line between actor and character is thinly drawn. It’s not a healthy situation. If Sulu got killed off, Takei would likely be the roleplayer who spins off the deep end, crying about the unfairness of it all and embarking on a campaign of truth to protest.

In a roleplaying game, it’s great for players to throw their energy and creativity into a character, bringing it to life. But for your own mental health, keep a clear distinction in your mind between the player and the character.

One rookie mistake that tends to foster confusion between player and character: Creating a character that is little more than an Internet puppet version of yourself. If you’re just playing you, then, naturally, you’re going to take it more personally when bad things happen beyond your control. Players who fail to make an adequate distinction between themselves and their characters are often the ones who end up complaining that they have to deal with bad things happening to them in real life, they shouldn’t have to deal with it in a game.

But, remember, it’s not just a game. Winning and losing aren’t the point. Developing a character and sharing a story: Those are the real points. Conflict, failure and strife are part of building character. So, if you don’t want those bad things to happen to you, don’t create yourself in a character’s shell.

It’s okay to imbue a character with some aspects of your personality, but you’re always better off creating a character that’s different enough so that when you log in and jump into roleplaying mode, you feel like you’re slipping on a mask and a costume. You’re not you when you take the virtual stage. You’re playing a character. One day, by your choice, by someone else’s choice, or by accident, that character’s going to be gone. Dead. Lost. Accept that now. Every story has an end. Make the most of these characters while they last, but understand from the outset that their existence is finite and separate from your own.


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.

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.