Roleplaying is to quite literally play a role. In a roleplaying game, or RPG, you are like an actor taking the part of a character in a fictional setting.
There are three types of games that call themselves roleplaying games:
1) Games where roleplaying does not typically take place but that have classic RPG mechanics: experience, levels, mobs, and so on.
2) Games where players are expected to avoid being outright out-of-character and should avoid saying "player" and "game" and so on, and where plot events sometimes occur, but where roleplaying does not occur on a day-to-day basis.
3) Games where players are expected to have a solid character concept, be in character at all times, and cooperate with other players as well as the staff to create an immersive roleplaying environment.
Star Conquest is the third type of game, sometimes called a "roleplay intensive" game, or RPI. The RPI genre is not for everyone! But if you like the idea of inhabiting a pulp science fiction universe, read on to learn about how you can fit in.
ROLEPLAYING AS A COOPERATIVE EXPERIENCE
You've probably heard of tabletop roleplaying games, or at least Dungeons & Dragons. A tabletop RPG is played with a few friends or acquaintances seated around a table. One of the friends is the dungeon master, or DM, and this person creates the plot of the game as well as making sure all the rules are being followed. The other friends each play a character, a fictional person who belongs in that world.
Together, the friends create a story. While there are dice rolls and firm mechanics for combat and many other things, the game also allows for a great deal of creativity. If the party is being attacked by goblins and one person wants to create an elaborate trap with ropes and boulders, a good DM will let that person try the idea and then tell the party the outcome. In this way, all of the friends cooperate to make the game into an ongoing story, rich and full of character.
Let's think about some specific situations to get more of an idea of what cooperative roleplaying is really about.
- The characters are an elven archer, a human paladin, a half-elf thief, and a data entry technician from Toronto. Hang on a second! One of these players is just playing himself! That would certainly make it difficult to tell a coherent story, as this "character" simply does not fit into the world. The DM is sure to insist that this person create a fictional character which does fit within the world. Otherwise, the experience of every other player as well as the story would suffer greatly.
- One of the players, with the DM's blessing, is actually playing an antagonistic character! While in character, he disrupts the party's quest and creates obstacles in their way. Now, when the players are ordering their pre-game pizza, do you think they'll let the player playing the antagonist get his favorite topping? Of course they will, because he's just playing a character, and even though their characters are enemies, every player's contribution enriches the story. While the characters want to win, the players just want to have a good story, and that only works if all players can cooperate regardless of what their characters think and feel.
- The party finds a great treasure! But it's time for the game to take a break, and everyone hits the bathroom or tops off their drinks. In the kitchen, you run into Adam, a coworker and your best friend. You know each other better than any of the other players. Out of earshot of the other players, he suggests a plan for your character and his to split the whole treasure themselves. Once the game restarts, you put your plan into action! In the eyes of the characters, you and Adam, who were arguing mere moments before, are suddenly colluding with no apparent explanation. And the players, who know something fishy is going on, are unable to react without breaking character themselves. Even the DM is blindsided and isn't sure how to work this turn of events into the ongoing story. It's a big mess, and it certainly isn't fair to those other players!
Hopefully you're starting to get the idea! A good roleplaying game requires everyone to be on the same page, so to speak. Everyone must be willing to create a solid character concept and follow through with it, to respect the rules of the game, and above all, to respect the other players and the DM. Only in this way, by cooperating, can the world come to life and the players tell a rich, satisfying story.
ROLEPLAYING WRIT LARGE
Now imagine that instead of one DM, you have a handful of staff members, all working to enrich the world, expand on game mechanics, and make sure the rules are being respected. Instead of five players, imagine that there are a couple of hundred. And rather than being seated around a massive table, these people are all connecting to the same text-based world online. This is a roleplay intensive game.
The same concepts apply. While there are many mechanics in place which give your character things to do on a day-to-day basis, we also encourage creativity just as much as a tabletop DM. Do you want your character to do something which is not defined by the game's mechanics? Speak with the staff and we can make it happen.
If you've read and considered this carefully, the reasons for most of our policies and best practices should already be clear.
- We require character profiles to ensure that every player has a solid character concept. No one should simply be playing themselves, as this diminishes the experience for every player.
- We encourage players to consider the game to be an exercise in cooperative storytelling. This means that failing to respect the other players behind the characters, or the people in the staff, diminishes the experience for every player. It is also rather self-defeating. Again, this problem is generally nonexistent if players can refrain from playing themselves. If you find yourself leaving the room or simply going silent every time certain characters are attempting to interact with yours, you may not be as cooperatively-minded as we would like!
- Metagaming is a roleplaying game's biggest problem, because it's in human nature but easily creates unfair situations like the "stolen treasure" example given above. Other players, who probably realize exactly why it's happening, nevertheless can't react to it without breaking character themselves. It also presents the staff with situations that don't make sense and can't fit into the ongoing storyline. These situations quickly cause roleplaying to break down entirely. And this is not to say that metagaming concerns purely material wealth -- the most obvious metagaming typically takes place concerning organization membership and other exclusive groups. Players must roleplay cooperatively with everyone, not just the people who are their best friends outside of the game, or it will diminish the experience for every player.
When we decided to turn Star Conquest into a roleplay intensive game, we knew that it would not appeal to everyone, particularly when there are other games in the same genre which are less focused on roleplaying. We accepted that at the time and we still accept it today. Recall the tabletop roleplaying examples given above. To us, that dynamic -- one DM interacting with five very involved roleplayers -- is more appealing than having a peak of 100 concurrently connected players who don't roleplay. If you understand that, then all of our decisions ought to make sense to you.
If you love roleplaying, love the game's universe, want to immerse yourself in a fictional world, are eager to interact with all sorts of good and bad characters, want to cooperate with the staff to enrich the story -- please put together a character concept and join us!
MORE ROLEPLAYING GOOD PRACTICES
We've written in much greater detail about what we consider to be good roleplaying. Please read the "Good Practices In Roleplaying" help file.