Written by | Posted September 8, 2015 – 9:51 pm Descent and Ascent

It didn’t take long to get from Thunder Bluff to the Echo Isles – Ankona took advantage of a wyvern so she could think and plan before getting to her destination. She had information to confirm with the spirits – was Gromnor dead? Was he really in the northern part of the Eastern Kingdoms, somewhere […]

filed under Feature, Guides, Roleplay
RP as a Performance
comment 6 Written by on December 16, 2009 – 3:59 pm

Though you may think RP is all about writing, RP is actually a lot more like a performance. (There’s a comparison to improvisational acting in here too, but that’s for another post). It’s actually kinda like a gaggle of street performers at times, and kinda like a crowd of friends at others. Depending on how much is actually going on? It’s easy to get lost, either in the chat window or to just lose track of what’s going on around you.

Let’s start a “choose your own adventure” of sorts.

We’re headed into a bar in a town you’ve never been to before. On arriving, you can interact with any of the following people – possibly even a few of them, but not all of them at the same time:

  • A crazy mage, who is somewhat inebriated, waving his arms around and being kind of loud
  • A battle-hardened looking warrior, armed, but not in armor
  • A woman sitting at the table, reading, with a large dog at her side
  • A dangerous looking man with a wolfish smile, telling stories and pouring drinks
  • A person sitting off under the stairs by themself, arms crossed, not following the conversation
  • A man there with his wife and redheaded child, who are pleasantly speaking with other people

When you read the list, they all sound interesting, right?

But when you walk into the bar, you don’t notice them all as a list, like you can when you read it. In a live situation, you’d be learning all of that in bits, depending on what you notice first. You notice that the mage is flailing and has just hit a waiter, knocking him into another table. You notice that the dangerous looking man has started a new story about a fight he was in as a younger man, and the battle-hardened warrior seems to find this story both interesting and worth commenting on. The child is currently trying to crawl up on top of the dog – and the dog seems to be quite friendly about the intrusion.

In other words? There is a lot going on to catch your attention.

From an RP perspective, I’ve met every single one of those people in game. I might have even met all of them in the Pig and Whistle. When Aely walks in, she’s going to respond to and interact with the most obvious people first. The woman at the table reading? Won’t likely get a second look until the mage gets escorted out and the two men leave. The person under the stairs is giving off a strong “LEAVE ME ALONE” vibe – she’ll respect that. Most likely, if she doesn’t know anyone, she’ll grab an ale and sit listening to stories – maybe even tell a story of her own.

Now there’s a tall redheaded woman sitting at the table with a drink, commenting on the stories.  The next person that walks in has to parse Aely along with everything else – and most likely will totally overlook her, in favor of one of the other people (depending on who it is – if it was Arrens who came in next, he’d probably go to speak with Aely, but I’m assuming that these are all unknown people.)

How does this relate to your RP?

When you go into that bar, you join in the performance. You’re now part of the “bar scene” to everyone else that’s there, and they will have to see and figure out your character along with everything else going on there. You’re now part of the performance, part of the show.

Obviously, not everyone can be the star performer every night, and demanding 100% of everyone’s attention all the time isn’t very nice for them or their characters. But realize that if your character is always the one upset in the corner, they won’t get a lot of attention either. Being hidey or off-putting says, very clearly, that you want to be left alone, and in the presence of other people who seem to be more acceptable to interaction, they’ll likely not give you much thought.

Much like in real life, wearing a “leave me alone” face is likely to get you left alone.

As the oft-touted saying goes – RP happens WITH you, not TO you.

If you want interactive RP, you have to step up and interact. Other characters don’t have ESP. They can’t see anything other than what is directly in front of them, and – like real people – are going to interact with those people who interest them most at any given moment.


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6 Responses to “RP as a Performance”

  1. That is, in a nutshell, why I find on-the-spot RP so darn intimidating. I have real trouble following that sort of thing in real-time, so I’ve never really got into the habit of carving out time to do it on a regular basis (which doesn’t help with the difficulty in following it in real-time — I don’t know if practice would help, but not practicing obviously doesn’t, y’know?). But ultimately, I am more a writer than an actress, and always have been. Acting was, in high school, the hobby I put up with in order to be able to get my dramatic writing on stage, performed by people much better at it than me. *g*

    To zero in on one of my pet peeves that I think is central to this post, though, I think one of the tough things about jumping into any online community is that you can’t just sit there and wait to be noticed — you have to be the one to put yourself out there and try to make contact with people. How much people respond to you is a factor of how determined you are to make that happen, and it isn’t going to happen overnight. A lot of people seem to give up awfully quickly, and I think part of the trick is that it helps to be as fascinated by other people’s stories as you are by your own. If you’re interested in the other people at the bar and are trying to get to know their stories better, it’s easy to consider time there well spent even if you were never the center of attention.

    It’s also important to recognize that people with fast-moving plotlines who are frequently busy are maybe not going to have time to pick up a whole ‘nother plotline just because you want to get involved with their character in particular. (Not that I have been burned by this in other RPGs. Ahem.)

  2. I’ve heard it said that acting is a series of responses. Your partner does or says something, and it makes your character respond in a certain way, then your* response prompt another from your partner…and so forth. Never is this more true than roleplay, *especially* in a busy bar environment with multiple players. You have to put yourself out there – or as I like to think of it, provide a hook so that others will want to interact with you.

    I once played an old undead mage. She was so fixated on the life she had lost that she was very very introverted and awkward. But she had a pet Jubling who was the most forward, innovative, and thought provoking pet one could have. When Cirene sat in the corner and wrote, it was Jubling who would hop over to others, sniff them, lick them maybe, or hop excitedly. When Cirene was feeling alienated by a situation, it was Jubling who would make sad frog sounds – or, nudge the woman to encourage her to speak. She was, in effect, Cirene’s best friend, the kind who would stick by you and see that only your best interests were served.

    But in effect, using Jubling allowed me to put an awkward introverted character into very extroverted situations – which caused unusual results, as well as a heck of a lot of fun.

    By Ellyndia on Dec 17, 2009 | Reply
  3. I find having a character with seemingly random moods gets me some interesting responses, it also lets me make up what she’d been doing that day to put her in that mood, the hard part (for me) is overcomeing my natural desire to sit and watch (ok ok I’m shy…) all in all it’s been interesting to say the least.

    Also Rico, mustn’t forget Rico or chompings shall commence…

    By Niv on Dec 17, 2009 | Reply
  4. My significant other has been roleplaying online in chat rooms and in tabletop games for maybe a decade, and in response to the notion of roleplaying in Warcraft, he declares that “It’s NOT REAL RP!” He claims his problem with it is that you can’t “write a real, ongoing story” in the limited text field provided. I respond by saying, as you do here, that’s it’s more of a performance than a narration of any kind…more like acting than writing. No go – he’s not convinced. Though I guess I can ask him what RPing face-to-face in D&D was like; I can’t imagine it’s really all that different from RPing in WoW, except that you can see the person behind the character!

    By Zoe on Dec 21, 2009 | Reply
  5. I should add that my S.O. isn’t a total elitist jerk all the time. Just when it comes to fanboy-ing.

    By Zoe on Dec 21, 2009 | Reply
  6. @Zoe –

    If he’s convinced that he’ll never have real RP in WoW, then he’s probably right, because he won’t give it a chance. I, and a good number of other bloggers, care to differ on that opinion, with proof of ongoing stories happening in WoW all the time. Is it the same medium as D&D? No. But then, WoW is not D&D. And I’m not saying that WoW doesn’t have its limitations. But it is ABSOLUTELY possible to have fun, engaging, extended RP in game.

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