An example of ongoing roleplay in The Lair of Roflgator

Check the RP Groups category for a list of active roleplaying groups that are documented on the wiki.

What is Roleplaying?

Roleplaying, role-playing or simply 'RP' is the act of assuming and playing a role other than your actual self. A form of make-believe and pretending. When roleplaying a character you might assume a completely different personality, values and goals or simply be an alternate version of yourself that is not really you. Some roleplayers also enjoy to imitate other people or celebrities.

Temporary relationships

The charm of roleplaying entails that what happens during the game session is temporary - it applies only for the duration of the game session. What happens during a roleplaying game session does not carry over into real life. Relationships like family, marriages or conflicts are only 'real' while participating in the game. What that character does is also dropped once the game is over or after changing character. Many long lasting friendships however also carry over and stay true in real life. Opponents in-character may become the best of friends out-of-character.

Getting familiar with roleplaying

Roleplaying in VRChat is in many aspects similar to playing a Live action role-playing game, also called LARP:ing.

Acting in a movie or a play is an example of 'scripted' roleplaying while improvising in an acting 'improv' class is a form of 'guided' roleplaying.

This article is intended to be a relatively short and an easy-to-read summary of some basic concepts for people who are new to roleplaying. Please correct and improve it but try not to make it much longer than it currently is. For more complex descriptions please create sub-articles and link to them for explaining specific concepts in further detail.

The concept of being in-character

When roleplaying there are two different states that are very important to separate. The difference may be very subtle or even impossible to notice to someone who doesn't know the character that a player is portraying. The concepts and difference however are extremely important. Don't confuse fiction with reality.

  • In-character - You are roleplaying.
  • Out-of-character (OOC) - You are NOT roleplaying. This is the real you.

Depending on the roleplay it can be very important to clarify when and if you go out-of-character, especially when roleplaying something dramatic or emotionally sensitive.

A method that is used by Roflgator and The Great Pug RP Collective is the act of clearly announcing that you're dropping/putting down your RP-card as their roleplay can get quite intense. When doing lighthearted roleplay this is seldom necessary.

The common rules of roleplaying

The rules of a game are usually decided beforehand in the downtime before the game starts or dictated and governed by a game-master (GM) during the game.

Turn based combat using dice in the Forbidden Knowledge RP Group.

When LARP:ing there are rarely if ever any game-master which means that everyone involved needs to play a fair game and follow common shared rules and principles. This means participants should attempt to be modest and live up to each others boundaries and expectations. Depending on the roleplay, the lobby rules can be either very clearly defined or lighthearted.

An example of implementing stricter rules could be taking turns in some situations. This is usually only initiated when great detail and structure is required, for example during combat. Turn based combat outcomes are usually decided by using dice rolls.

The suggestion of an action, situation and reaction

A common concept in roleplaying is the suggestion of an act, a play, a story arc or some situation and reading the response (action and opposing reaction) of the other person you are interacting with. Are they willing to or not to go through with that action?

In RP - shooting a gun at someone does not mean that the character has to accept death. Chipz points a gun at R3dzDead.

Acceptance

If the other person plays along, the suggestion is accepted and the suggested action or situation can continue.

Rejection

If the other person does not play along but rejects or ignores the suggestion they do not want to explore that route. Saying 'no' is not the same thing as rejecting if the natural response to the situation by the character is 'no'. In those cases saying 'no' can be considered acceptance. To make things clearer implementing a 'safe word' can be a good idea or clearly announcing that something is out-of-character. Doing this also risk breaking immersion so there is some thought required behind this.

Example interaction - Alice, Bob - and a gun

Bob reached for his gun and points it at Alice.

Alice says "Oh no please don't!" but Bob pulls the trigger anyway.

In this situation Alice could either choose to:

  1. Act like she is dying (Acceptance)
  2. Act like she is injured (Semi-acceptance)
  3. Act like like Bob missed (Rejection)

Depending on Alice response, being a fair roleplayer Bob would play along and continue in either path depending on Alice's different responses. While Bob may have pointed the gun straight at Alice's face this does not prove that she is dead. To participate and play the game some adaptations need to be done. Depending on how advanced a game session is and how experienced the roleplayers are, personalities participating can sometimes break the rules to a degree in order to make a game more interesting.

Death of a character is a very difficult concept and should not be taken lightly as many roleplayers are heavily invested in their characters which might mean it's a good idea to have this kind of roleplay 'guided' beforehand or performed using turn-based combat using dice.

Obviously the reality when playing is more complex than these interaction but it serves as an example that multiple parties can agree on before starting a game.

Summarizing or clarifying after-the-fact

Similar to an act on a stage improv performance, the exact series of events taking place might not portray the agreed upon outcome. Sometimes situations can get confusing with many things occurring at once and may need to be quickly corrected, changed, clarified or repeated after the events have taken place. This is called summarizing, clarifying or sometimes dictating after the fact of the occurred events that took place.

It's very important to summarize right away after the event occurred. If too long time has passed the rest of the roleplaying group wont be able to keep track if a correction was made. When the story is changed later it's called retcon.

Example interaction - Alice, Bob - and a gun

Bob shoots the gun at Alice and she acts like she is dying (Follows path 1).

But Bob still still asks Alice to make sure: "I killed you didn't I?"

Alice responds: "No it is but a flesh wound..."

Now the outcome has changed from 1) to 2) because Alice changed her mind about what happened.

Glossary

This article lists some common terminology used when roleplaying and explains some basic concepts common to live-action roleplaying.

Scripted

The plan of something that is going to happen is written down beforehand. This can be slightly planned by agreeing beforehand what the journey and goal or outcome is supposed to be or meticulously scripted in detail. A movie for example is scripted and the participants are acting.

Rehearsed

Similar to scripting rehearsing means that a group gets together and plans a particular scenario by practicing beforehand. This is similar in some ways to the above but there is no handwritten script.

Death of a character can be guided. AJLiddell is murdered by Doom Guy.

Guided

If something is guided the only similarity to scripting is that the goal (or parts of) the roleplay is agreed to beforehand but the way to get there is not. The destination is known but the journey to reach the destination is not. An example could be deciding who will win in a fight but leaving everything else to improvisation. It could also mean the reverse, that a fight was decided that it will occur beforehand but not who will become the winner.

Not everyone who participates in a roleplaying session needs to know if something is guided. It can be just two people who agree to play out a specific scenario and allowing the rest to improvise to that scenario.

Improv

Taken from the popular acting from improvisational theater 'Improv' is a common way to practice your acting by assuming different roles and following instructions while being guided by someone. This is similar to LARP:ing but someone supervising. (Similar to having a gamemaster)

A common method of practicing quick improvised acting is the supervisor announcing 'Switch!' which is an order for the player to change their character or role in some way to refresh up the game.

Shrimp pokes his head through a door.

Breaking immersion

The act of breaking immersion means that someone ruins every participants assumptions or expectations of what is going on in the current roleplaying setting. Here are some example of breaking immersion:

  • Talking about a cellphone while roleplaying in a medieval setting
  • Bringing up and talking about a Twitch donation when roleplaying in VRChat

Meta-gaming

Meta-gaming means that your character uses knowledge that he or she could never have known about unless learned while out-of-character. Depending on the type of roleplay where keeping secrets could be important, meta-gaming can break a game completely, especially if it's done intentionally.

Power-gaming

Power-gaming is when you attempt to force or push a situation that the other players are not interested in or wish to explore. It can also be creating an unbalanced character that wins in every situation. For example:

  • A character that is immortal with supernatural or god-like powers.
  • The player constantly rejects suggestions made by other people.
  • The player repeatedly makes suggestions that the other players reject but continue as if they accepted anyway.

Participants in a game will usually not enjoy the game if they cant play on somewhat equal terms. As the ultimate goal of roleplaying is to have a positive experience together exploring different roles, it's good to have modesty when creating a character and responding to interactions.

VRChat is mostly like a chat room where people can be quickly invited and depends on someone keeping track of and informing people if there are any rules enforced in a lobby. Unlike LARP:ing where everyone is well informed beforehand of any rules and limitations.

Some creatures are just too much to handle. Drekwiz portraying a crazy Hobbit.

Safe word

A word is decided upon beforehand that allows the person to quickly step out-of-character. This is most often used in ERP and is similar to the act of dropping RP-card.

ERP

This is short for Erotic Role Play. When attempting any kind of ERP in VRChat remember to ask people of their age to make sure they are old enough to give consent.

Trivia

  • Roleplaying may not be as complicated as quantum mechanics but Alice and Bob still find it more exciting than keeping track of their keychains.
  • The term 'RP BTW' (Role-Play By-The-Way) has earned meme-like reputation in the VRChat community as a reminder that something is in-character and not out-of-character. The etymology of this term has been construed in some circles and there are mixed opinions on it's proper usage.

Related articles

Here are some links to articles related to roleplaying and different roleplaying groups.

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