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Role Players Need No Rules

September 23, 2008

Roleplayers need no rules.

If someone tells you that you are not roleplaying correctly, you tell them to shove it. Over the last 10 years of online gaming I have learned that even logging into a game is an exercise in roleplay. They are not called “mmoRPG’s” for nothing.

But, as someone that has made rules for himself, (called my Immersion project , now called my Station Project to represent the Station Access games) I can tell you that rules are handy, but never something to obey no matter what. I made my rules to help me feel more connected to my character, not to give me less options. They were made to make my real life feel something like my characters life, and vice-versa, and the rules have nothing to do with other people.

I have been asked a lot of questions about my Immersion Project , but the one thing I want to drive home is that it is less a role play project than a simple art project: how can I feel almost what my character might be feeling? How do I close the gap between him/her and myself? This is not an attempt to free myself from this horrible reality we call life, and to escape into a wonderland of dragons and swords, this is simply a look into how I feel about that little batch of pixels on the screen, and why I feel connected to it, and what they might feel if I were them.

Granted, we all like to escape sometimes. We all fear the same thing: to live a boring life. But some roleplayers fill their life up with details about their characters; a back story 48 pages long, drawings or writings, the meaning of their name…but I feel like more can be accomplished with less, simply by allowing ourselves to be part of the equation, and to stop concentrating so much on the limitless power of the character on the screen, and concentrating more on our own good and bad sides.

I am not saying there is anything at all “wrong” with roleplaying a 1000 year old elf that kills dragons on a regular basis. There isn’t, as there are no rights or wrongs in roleplaying. But I have met so many roleplayers in the last decade that simply want to concentrate on something else without recognizing themselves in the equation. Think about it: what WOULD you do if you really were transported to that world? How would someone like you talk or move or act when they saw a giant stomping at them, club drawn back? In my real life I am an average guy with above average intelligence (not that it does me any good) and with a simple face. But people always remember me, it seems. I have, literally, at least 100 friends. And I mean people that I can meet, stay at their house, have dinner with and talk about a few memories. The only reason I have found for this is that no matter what, even if it leads to an embarrassing situation, I always try to be ME. I can’t help it..I just am.

And so are my characters. My characters are not something alien to me, they ARE me. They act as I do, and while I admire players that put their heart and soul into dreaming up this character that they would LIKE to be, I have no issues dreaming about the character I am, if I lived in that world.

Back to the rules: if you want to make some rules dictating how your character talks or how to react to certain situations, then do it. But rule number one should always be: if it isn’t fun, then don’t do it anymore. For example, I tried out perma-death for a while, but once my character died, I couldn’t stand it. Also, the game had no mechanics for passing down traits to offspring, or for even leaving behind items that were on the body upon death. I scrapped that rule. I can adjust and tweak to my hearts content because, again, there are no rules. So when we make up our own, we have to fit them to what we think is important. Sometimes that takes time.

I understand that some roleplaying guilds do not want to allow for a player to just say “I’m Immortal, AND your father.” for fear of players simply putting on a God hat. That is not the type of rule that I am talking about. That is a rule made for a group of individuals. I am talking about those rules we make for ourselves, even if we don’t write them down. We all know those rules: the ones that we seem to rebel against, like walking instead of running, when deep down we just want to get to that Inn in a HURRY. So, just run to the inn, you are allowed some moments of yourself in your character. My goal, after all, is to make every moment of my character representative of myself.

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