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Yet Another Role Playing Guide

  1. Introduction
  2. What is Role Playing?
  3. I Am Not Good at Role Playing!
  4. Character Background
  5. Speech Style
  6. Emoting
  7. Out-Of-Character
  8. Power Emoting
  9. Role Playing and Guilds
  10. Power Gaming
  11. Character's Knowledge
  12. Social Contract
  13. The Profile
  14. Other Role Playing Guides


Welcome, wanderer. I write this little guide for anyone, who does not have much or no experience with role playing and for new members of our guild. If you are experienced, you still may find some new ideas. There are many different opinions out there, what role play is or what it should be. My opinion is, that everybody should play as they like. After all we do it for having fun.

In this text I am trying to describe, how role playing is done the extreme way. This doesn't mean, that there is no going beyond these suggestions, nor that this way of leading your character is the "right way" to do it. Take from this text, what you like and skip the rest.

Ostard Express members are at least expected to being able to not break the immersion of other players and know about the basics laid out in this guide.

What is Role Playing?

Role play was first used as a method of therapy and is used also in educative environments. You pretend to be someone else and try to think like that person, for getting a first person perspective of that other position (E.g. a couple switches their roles and start an argument for getting a better understanding of the feelings of their partner).

In the 1970's, the first role playing games became popular, like Dungeons and Dragons. Story telling is one of the main aspects of such a game; the game master is telling a story, and the players can slip into the role of the protagonists. The master's job is to tell the main story, giving tasks to the heroes, playing non-player characters and providing an interesting atmosphere. The master also has to decide, what results the actions of the players produce. For this, a set of rules involving dice is often used and followed more or less strictly.

In the late 1990's the game Ultima Online had been released. It is a computer simulated world, that replaces the game master. There are so many players online all the time, that story telling is no longer needed, because stories just happen naturally. These two games are only mentioned as examples, since there are many other similar role playing games out there.

There are several aspects of role playing games. Some people prefer to battle against monsters or other enemies. They should try World of Warcraft, which provides a very nice world and cool battles, but the story telling aspect is rather low. Others like the story telling part more than rolling dice all the time. This guide concentrates on the story telling and role playing part. I write it as an RP manual for Ultima Online, but most information will apply to any other online role playing simulation.

When you start role playing, you will soon discover, that the world, your character lives in, tends to become more and more realistic. This can lead to very fine experience, but also to big frustration. Some people even feel such a strong pull, that they decide to quit playing forever. This is a serious warning: Monitor yourself and stay distanced. If you start to get too deep into the life of your character, talk to friends or professionals about it.

I Am Not Good at Role Playing!

You don't need to be good at role playing to be good at role playing. Seriously! If you believe, you lack experience in RP, just be yourself and use emotes every now and then.

Being good in role playing does not require you to have the skills of a stage actor, nor do you have to stay in-character all the time. Be relaxed about it and just have fun pretending to be someone else to the degree, that comes easy to you.

When you have a prepared backstory and an idea about the characteristics of your char, you will be able to naturally insert appropriate words, emotes and actions into your everyday play.

Character Background

If you want to give your character a deeper connection to the world, they are living in, you might prepare a background story. The background can be brief and superficial or rather detailed. The following list is not a fixed must-have, but meant as inspiration. You may want to write down, what you come up with for organizing or referencing your ideas later.

Speech Style

Screen shot of a bad example

When you are playing with hard core role players, you should watch your wording. Try not to change your speech style after every sentence. This will give other players the possibility to learn about the personality of your character.

Unless you are playing with people, who don't role play, never use the so called d00d3 Sp33ch (like good n8 m8) or common IRC-style abbreviations like LOL, because this can reduce immersion. Instead of *G* or *ROFL* use proper emotes like *grins*, *laughs insanely loud* an so on.

This of course depends on the players you are interacting with. Using d00d3 Sp33ch at the main bank of Britain will likely not disturb anyone, but doing so in a guild house while the superior soldier is talking to you, may be taken as lack of respect.


While emotes were initially used to express a user's feelings in a chat, in online role playing games they are more often used to describe physical things like facial expressions (*raises eyebrow*), gestures (*offers hand*) or mode of speech (*sings*).

One of the advantages of Ultima Online is the extreme number of built in possibilities. You can craft items, build customized houses, change the color of hair and much more. But sometimes the game does not provide you with the ability to do something. In this case you can simply emote it. You may describe things like *opens book*, *flips pages* and so on. Avoid to emote things, that others can not see, like *thinks, that it gets late*, if you want to be strict about role playing.

It is common to use the third person for emotes: *smiles*.


You are not your character. Try not to talk out-of-character in game. If you have technical problems or need leave your computer for a moment, your first choice should be talking to your friends via the Party-Chat or instant messengers like ICQ.

If you have no other choice than speaking loudly about things in the real world, you still can try to circumscribe them like I will take a short nap instead of typing AFK.

If circumscribing is too slow, another option is to use square bracktes to indicate [OOC-Text].

Power Emoting

So called Power emotes are expressions like *hits him on the head*. This takes away the possibility of response. If you instead write *tries to hit him on the head*, you let your mate decide, if you really hit, or if she *evades* your punch.

This is not only more polite OOC, but will also increase the story telling aspect, because you let them take part in creating the story. Also emoting *carves a small horse* would make no sense, if your character is not able to hold a knife without hurting himself.

Role Playing and Guilds

In Ultima Online, as in most of the online role playing games, you can form guilds. There are several reasons for being part of a guild. One is to support each other and to share resources. Another is to provide events or having the possibility of fighting other characters without being flagged criminal.

There are mainly three types of guilds: Role playing guilds (like the Ostard Express), Player vs. Monster (PvM) and Player vs. Player (PvP) guilds. Most PvP guilds are not involved in role playing.

If you want to interact with guild members, you should be aware of the fact, that most guilds have certain internal rules. For example, every guild member could have to carry a yellow bag, which is allowed to be looted, after a character has been knocked out. The players are encouraged, to carry nice stuff in their yellow bags, so that the winner is happy about getting the items. This may be a good weapon or simply gold. Read the guild's web site for closer information on their way of playing, and you will make friends with them more easily. Having friends (or enemies) is a big part of the success of Ultima Online.

Not every guild being in war with another is playing a war. They might have declared an eternal war just for having the opportunity to fight, if the story leads to such a situation. Their characters may be friendly towards each other most of the time, so don't attack everybody, that the program allows you to, without a proper reason.

Power Gaming

Some people prefer to play Ultima Online in a way, that has few or nothing to do with story telling. They like to get rich and powerful and they like the action-game aspect of UO. There is nothing wrong with this aproach; these players are just playing another game using the same software, playing in the same virtual space.

Power gamers most often do not play roles, some of them even think RP is a waste of time. Maybe they never experienced the excitement, that RP can create, but it's their personal choice which has to be respected. I had several situations, where I met non-RP-gamers. I quickly noticed, that they weren't in-character and started chatting OOC without using brackets. This, too, was fun most of the time, and they always helped me, when I needed something like resurrecting my pet.

Another aspect of Power Gaming is to control the skills of your character. The set of properties and skills is called template. Visit Skills and Professions on Stratics to learn what template works best for your needs.

Character's Knowledge

You are not your character, therefore your knowledge is not the character's knowledge. An example: A person came to my house and I invited him to sit down and drink some water.

We had an in game chat for a while, until I noticed his guild abbreviation. He was a follower of a very sinister mage, that wanted to find my character and to take revenge on me (In game!).

I told him on the Party Chat, that I just found out, that we were enemies, but my character did not change his attitude, because he had no chance to know about the guest being member of the enemy's forces. This was a very funny situation.

Some people find it difficult to separate OOC and IC knowledge, but sometimes this is crucial. If my mates can't separate this and start spreading information, their characters don't have, I can't tell them anything OOC about my plans on a campaign. Other characters might get confused or suspicious, or the whole plot may be spoiled as a worst case scenario.

Social Contract

A bad char doesn't mean, that the player is bad, too. Some characters are simply bad. They steal from your bag, they rob you in the woods or they lie. This does not necessarily mean, that you can't trust the real life person behind that character.

Finding out, if just the character isn't trustworthy, or if the player isn't, can be difficult. Just watch them for a while, meet their other characters in game, and soon soon you will see, if they are strictly role playing, or not. If you encounter a character, that does something evil to you, try to contact them OOC (e.g. using the Party Mode) and just talk. Their OOC response often shows clearly, what kind of player you are dealing with.

The Profile

Screen shot of the profile popup window

You can write a text to a scroll, accessible in the paperdoll. This is called the Profile. Many characters don't have any text in it, others just show their ICQ number. There are also people, who write about which items they want to sell. All this is fine, unless you want to do it like the perfect role player.

Screen shot of the paperdoll menu In this case, the profile helps, where the game engine fails: Providing information about the fist impression, your character gives. Tell the others what they can sense at the first look.

Make the profile short and descriptive. Don't write about things, that are obvious (Wears a green hat - This can be seen on the screen), and never write about things, that can't be perceived at all (Left his home town after her parents got killed).

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