The Newbie Survival Guide

Tabletop roleplay tends to be fairly straightforward; a game system is chosen and players sit around a table sharing cheetos and Mountain Dew.  The Storyteller calls the group of friends to order for a day or night full of shadowrunning, questing, exploring or personal horror.  dice rolls determine actions as books are consulted to streamline gameplay.  It is all a rather laid back, accessible, and comfortable experience.

The same feeling can be imparted by roleplaying games online, and this is what various channels generally strive for; however, those that are new to the internet or just internet roleplaying in general may find playing games online to be unnerving by dint of simply being a new and unknown thing.   This guide has been cobbled together by one single, noble individual of great puissance and charm for the benefit of others who might also wish for a bit of a field guide in the world of roleplay.  Delineated in this guide will be the following topics:

  • Lady Luck or snakeyes: Types of games available..
  • RPGServ: Serving your RPG Needs.
  • Netiquette and the modern player, or: How to avoid being booted.
  • Into the breach: Examples of a roleplay session.
  • Commands: How to emote, clone, and do other nifty things.

Hopefully the elaborations posted here will mitigate some of the difficulties potential players new to irc roleplay might face.

Lady Luck or Snakeyes

In general, roleplay channels can be categorized into three rather broad strokes: Freeform, Semi-Freeform, and Moderated.

In freeform games, players are more or less given carte blanche to create a character that fits with the setting and play that character as they feel is best with no stats, dice rolls, or the like to concern his or herself with. It is a common trend for even fully freeform games to have some sort of character approval process, but this is not always the case.

Semi-freeform games build on that theme, adding the occasional rule or possible dice roll to follow during play, but more or less allowing players to do as they will. Many of these games also require character sheet approval of some sort before play may begin.

Contrasting this is the moderated channel.  Moderated channels usually build on a set game type or rule base, such as Dungeons and Dragons, World of Darkness, or Pathfinder.  These channels follow whatever rules and character creation guidelines are set forth by said books, and usually there is some form of character submission to go through before one is approved for play.

RPGServ: Serving Your RPG Needs

Of course, games can be further separated into groups such as Dungeons and Dragons, Shadowrun,  and similar systems.  However there are also many homebrew games and systems that deserve equal attention, and listing each system available would take a very long time indeed.  It is usually advised that players use the RPG Hub to ferret out a game that fits whatever criteria the player desires.   The easiest way to use the Hub is to simply log onto DarkMyst and join the #RPG-Hub channel.   This is where many of the game owners may be found and spoken with directly.

Alternatively, channels may be searched using RPGServ; each roleplay channel is stored within the bot and has certain keywords attached to help players find the particular genre they desire after a brief search.  It is easy to use this service; all that is required is to log onto DarkMyst. Some common commands include:

  • /msg rpgserv help : this command delineates all other commands, topics and concepts for a player’s perusal.
  • /msg rpgserv list :  this command lists every single roleplay channel currently available on DarkMyst.
  • /msg rpgserv search (search parameter such as ‘fantasy’,’nwod’, ‘diced’ etc) : this command allows a user to filter roleplaying channels by theme, moderation, and the like.  More than one parameter may be placed in this search function. To get a complete list of search parameters, type /msg rpgserv help set

These commands are meant to help a player find a game, and the service is free.  It may be used constantly, so feel free to take advantage of what is there.

Netiquette and the Modern Player

There are very few solid, hard and fast rules that govern irc roleplaying.  Most of those that do exist are there more for simple courtesy than anything else.   However, there are a few things that are generally observed by players and channel owners alike:

  • Please do not advertise other channels: A channel owner invests large amounts of time and effort into making his or her channel great. To walk into a channel only to advertise another is basically denigrating his or her work and is usually not well-received at all.
  • Read the channel topic: Most channel owners use the topic of the main room to make pertinent information regarding the game instantly available to prospective players.   This usually includes rules on how to create a character, information in regards to the setting, links to websites, and other such sundry things.
  • Be respectful to channel owners: Channel owners create games for free; they also take time out of the day to entertain players, again for free.   It may be that a player disagrees with how the game is run, or would like to play something that isn’t currently allowed, or a thousand other niggling things.  This is all well and good, and when spoken with in a civilized tone, most channel owners are more than happy to address these issues.  However, being ignorant to a channel owner often espouses ignorance in turn; polite, civil behavior tends to garner the same.
  • Be respectful in the out of character channel: General common sense rules of etiquette apply in an out of character channel the same as they would in mixed company in real life.  It is generally frowned upon to bring up obviously inflammatory subjects such as political standing, religious views, and topics meant to upset or disrupt the channel.  If the channel owner or channel helpers ask that a topic cease being spoken of, then stop.  Otherwise, most reserve the right to kick or ban a player.

This is the gist of the general ‘irc etiquette’ rules followed by roleplayers on irc.  Following these rules will ensure fun and entertaining roleplay.

Into the Breach:

Roleplaying itself is fairly straightforward. While individual channels may have explicit rules regarding how to post, what style to post in and the like, most channels are fairly lax.  Here is a brief, simple example of what roleplay in a channel generally mirrors:
<@|Secrets|> Sirion, your head hurts. It -throbs-. Sticky, warm substances that smell of copper and pain run down your body and you’re pretty sure your face has been either shoved through a blender or taken advantage of by a pack of wayward orcs. Your arms are bound. Your legs are bound. You’re trapped in a completely dark compartment that smells of wood and some sickly-sweet scent, and it’s moving. occasionally you hit bumps in the road, and it jars your body, throwing you against a wall and forcing knives of pain to needle their way through your sore, raw nerves. [This is a flavor or setting post. Whomever is running the game may or may not deviate from this style of narrative, but it is fairly common.]

* Sirion lets out a light grunt at every bump, squinting his eyes shut. He licks his lips and then gives the bindings on his wrists a testing tug, just to get a feel of how tight they are. [This is action text. It often encouraged as a way to post without speaking.]

[15:54] <Sirion> ((Was gettin myself a quick drink)) [It is usually acceptable to post pauses, brb’s or afk’s into a channel when they are marked thusly.]

<|Secrets|> The bindings feel fairly tight; they bite into your wrists, rubbing the skin raw. Whomever tied them knew some complicated knots.

* Sirion sighs in frustration, trying to dig his way through the fog of pain encompassing him. He takes a deep breath before moving his legs a bit, seeing if he can get an idea of how big this compartment is.

<|Secrets|> Sirion can stretch his legs out completely forward without touching a wall; however, should he try to test that theory to the sides, he finds his compartment is suspiciously narrow. Sirion’s eyes begin to adjust in the light; he might notice two other bodies tied up similarly to himself. They are unresponsive.

* Sirion lies back down, muttering and wondering how he got into this mess. He then tries to get a closer look at the bodies, curious as to what other people were taken along with him.

<|Secrets|>Those bodies appear to be where that sickly sweet smell has been emanating from. Upon closer inspection, he can tell -why-. Those bodies are currently missing eyes. And most of their faces. Honestly what clings to those empty skulls are little more than a few sparse strips of black, mummified flesh so thick and leathery not even maggots that may have one time infested the corpse could have found it palatable.

Of course, some games aren’t always this verbose; some games are more, some less.  Some may have more pleasant subject matter, some less; it all depends on the game in question.

There are quite a few commands that can be added to irc via scripts and the like.  However, there are some that are intrinsic to any irc platform and help add to roleplay.  These commands are delineated below.

  • Action Text: This command is easy and used often in most roleplay channels.  It is as simple as typing “/me” before an action.  For example: suppose Charlene types “/me digs a hole.”  This will show up to the other irc players as well as Charlene herself as “* Charlene digs a hole.”
  • Cloning: Sometimes a player may wish to play more than one character at a time in a channel.  There are other ways to accomplish this, but the most commonly used one is to simply ‘clone’ oneself and join the channel under another nickname.  The command on mIRC is easy enough: /server -m will make a second connection to DarkMyst.  Then it is a simple matter of changing to the nickname desired and rejoining the channel.
  • Changing Nicknames: This command is about as easy as they come.  Simply type /nick (nickname desired).  Sometimes a nickname may be registered by another user; if this is the case, simply alter the nickname in some way.  Adding a dash or underscore is the current most popular method.
  • Joining Channels: This is another simple command.  Simply type /join #(name of channel to join).  Easy.

This guide should provide a general  idea of what to expect when roleplaying, joining a new game, or using commands.  Hopefully this makes finding and remaining in a game easier for new players.