Ostard Express
Britannia's Mail and Flower Delivery Service
Image of a post horn
An Ultima Online Guild

Yet Another Role Playing Guide


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 make role play as I will describe it here, but still I want them to understand this guide as a collection of suggestions, and not a list of commandments. At last this text only represents my personal opinion of how "hard core role playing" may look like.

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 argue 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 DragonsLink to external page. Story telling is one of the main aspects of such a game; the "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 heros, playing non-player characters and providing an interesting atmosphere. The master also has to decide, what results the actions of the players produce.

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

There are several aspects of role playing games. Some people prefer to battle against monsters or other enemies. They should try World of WarcraftLink to external page, which provides a very nice world and cool battles, but the story telling aspect is nearly zero. 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.

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 do no role playing at all. If you want to interact with guild members, you should be aware of the fact, that most guilds have some 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 characters 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 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. They may be friends most of the time, so don't attack everybody, that the program allows you to, without a proper reason.

Character Background

As you take on the identity of another person, you want to know, who this person is. Before you create your character, you should check out the background and the skill template, you find to be proper. Your character has a name, gender, parents, a personal history, likes and dislikes, fears, weaknesses, goals and dreams, principles, obsessions, quirks, and more individual characteristics. It's a good idea to take a long time to think about all this and write it down. Is your character good or evil? Would he steal, if he is hungry? Would she kill, if she is angry? You may also think about development of the personality over time. A thief may become a glorious paladin, if something important happens, that makes him overthink his life.

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. Except you are playing with people, who don't role play, never use the so called d00d3 Sp33ch (like "good n8 m8") or the common IRC-style abbreviations like *LOL*, ;-) and all the other neat stuff, because this can destroy the impression of the reality of the world, you are playing in. Instead of *G* or *ROFL* use *grins*, *laughs insanely loud* an so on. This, of course, depends on the players you are interacting with. Using IRC-style emotes in front of the main bank of Britain will 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.


One of the advantages of Ultima Online is the extreme number of built in possibilities. You can craft items, build customized houses, change the colour of your cloth and hair and much more. But when you find, that some action, you would like to play, is not programmed, you can always "emote" it. Emotes are known from the IRC-ChatLink to external page, where users tell others, how they feel by typing text like *loughs*. I sometimes see characters hugging in Britannia, by walking to the same tile and emoting *hugs*. You may also emote things like *offers hand*, *carves a small horse*, *looks puzzled* and so on. You should not emote things, that others can not see, like *thinks, that it gets late*.


You are not your character. Try not to talk "out-of-character" in game. If you have technical problems, your first choice should be using the "Party-Chat" or instant messengers like ICQLink to external page. If you have no other choice than speaking loudly about things, that relate to the real world, you still have the possibility to circumscribe it like "This meadow feels like it would be swamp. Maybe I am getting sick..." instead of "I have LAG" or you could say "I can feel the Darkness is coming" instead of "The server down is near". If you feel, that circumscribing is too slow, the last option is to parenthesize the OOC-text with either [ooc], {ooc} or (ooc). Most people understand that text in brackets is meant OOC, but some don't want to see this on their screens either. When I play with other people, I usually invite them to the party in the first place, for having the Party Mode chat available, when I need to go OOC.

Power Emoting

"Power emotes" are expressions like *hits him on the head*. This takes away the possibility of response. If you 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 on 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.

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 attitude, these players are just playing another game using the same software, playing in the same cyberspaceLink to external page. 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 (IC) and started OOC chatting without using brackets. This, too, was fun most of the time, and they always helped me, when I needed something like resurrecting my pet.

The other aspect of "Power Gaming" is to control the skills of your character. The set of properties and skills is called "template". Go to uo.stratics.comLink to external page and search for profession guides, 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, though. Some people have difficulties in separating OOC and IC knowledge, but this is crucial to role playing. 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 paper doll menu

You can write a text to a scroll, accessible in the paperdoll. This is called the "Profile". Screen shot of the profile popup window 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": 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. Don't write about things, that are obvious ("Wears a green hat" - This can be seen on the screen), never write about things, that can not be sensed at all ("Left his home town after her parents got killed") and you will get the effect. Make the profile short and descriptive. How often did you stop reading a profile, because it was too long?

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