This is the first of a set of roleplay classes designed to help you to roleplay on the Isle of Dee. Although it is tailored to Dee, much of the content is useful for RP anywhere. We are presenting it like this for self-study, as that means more people can have access to it. In addition, question and answer sessions can be requested, where you have the opportunity to ask about anything you don’t understand.
There is homework that you can do at the end of the lesson in order to enhance and practice your RP skills.
We suggest that you put your questions on a notecard as you read the notes here, so that you do not forget them.
In this part we’re going to cover some basics of building a character, and specifically of building it on the Isle of Dee.
The Roleplay on the Isle of Dee is created by roleplayers for roleplayers. The very first thing you need to understand is that each player is a part of the whole, and is expected to help make the roleplay enjoyable for EVERYONE.
The theme, the available races, the rules: all of these were carefully designed and developed over months, based on our experience, both good and bad, as and with roleplayers.
Before you begin to study you will need to have passed through the walk-through in the Isle Of Dee Lobby , and read and understood all of the signs and the information provided. If you’re going to roleplay in a realm, you need to know the story of the realm, and what the ethos is.
If you arrive as a stranger, you can play at finding out about the history and the inhabitants in character, but you need to know out-of-character what sort of place you are in, what is allowed, and how to behave towards the situations you are likely to encounter, in order not to look like a clueless tourist to the other players.
So if you haven’t been to the Isle Of Dee Lobby and got all the information yet, go and do it now, before you read further.
Done that? Now let’s begin.
Who and where am I?
First some definitions:
Who you are, we will call your “character”
Where you are is the Realm – The Isle of Dee
In some realms you can bring your character with you from a different realm, in some you have to start a new character. Whether you have to start a new character for Dee, or can play the one you are used to and have developed already elsewhere, depends on your chosen race, and which Realm you come from. You may need to drop parts, or add some, or change completely, to fit the theme of the Isle of Dee.
To make it more understandable:
Your SL avatar can be ANYTHING you want to be. Do you play a vampire in one place? It does not mean your avatar must be a vampire everywhere. Change place, change appearance, change name: voila, you are something else. Are you playing master or slave in one realm? Fine. That does not mean you have to be a master or slave everywhere. Switch appearance, switch role, switch to play something else.
Serious roleplayers wish to enjoy an intense experience and to immerse themselves into their roles and scenes. Picture if you will a theater stage. When you first arrive at the Isle Of Dee Lobby, you are backstage – but once you enter the Roleplay Entrance and land at the RP Area, you walk onto the stage and are a part of the show.
Your task is to make the show as enjoyable and realistic as possible, not just for yourself, but for others to watch and participate in. So, take your time, read the signs and grab whatever information or items are available to pick up BEFORE you start playing, and make sure you understand the world into which you are stepping.
Now, here we are…
It is the 1400′s
The Tudor Dynasty has just wrested the throne from the The House of Plantagenet after a bitter civil war which lasted more than 30 years. On the Forgotten Isle of Dee, located somewhere in the Celtic Sea, conflict still rages.
An older and more traditional conflict. because on Dee, creatures and races, long vanished from the mainland, still exist.
Sounds familiar? It should! Please make this knowledge a part of your character, because this is what Dee is!
“Creatures that a cynical man consigns to folktale and imagination. And so the ancient battle between the old races and the new continue, each struggling to survive and rule this forgotten land . A conflict that has long been erased from the memories of those who live in the lands just over the seas.
Man remembers them only in tales to tell children on dark stormy nights. And all seek, as all creatures do, to hold on to that which they hold dear, or take what they desire from another.
When races are so different from each other, their goals and ambitions so diverse, that can mean trouble!”
Coming and going by ship would be risky and highly dependent on wind and weather. Journeys from the Isle cannot be taken lightly. A ship comes every so often, and a rowboat ferries passengers and goods back and forth to the ship. But there should be a good RP reason to travel. It is always good when you go on holiday, for example, to have a valid reason why your character is absent for a while.
Now that you have decided to play here, you need to decide on a character. It’s not enough to have an appropriate looking character — it’s important to have a character that fits appropriately in to what is already in play. So you have to consider how your character fits into what is already established.
What is appropriate then? Let’s start with a word about appearance. Think what it would be like to watch a play set in Medieval England, then have someone walk on stage talking into a headset. Or if, say, Arwen in the Lord of the Rings movie approached the camera wearing red patent leather stiletto heels. If you saw that, how would you feel? What would your reaction be?
If you walk into a medieval realm wearing a Rolex, or an elven realm wearing shiny, blinking high heels, you are not believable and won’t be taken seriously. It’s likely that they will consider you disruptive and offensive for spoiling other players’ enjoyment. The same goes for bling or glowing, emitters, face lights, and overhead floating text.
The appearance of your avatar helps people to recognise what your character is – are you poor or rich, are you one that likes the towns or are you always in the forest? What does that mean for your attire? What does a tattoo on your arm mean? What hangs from your belt?
Ask yourself how authentic your outfit is, for the period that we play as well as for the situation your character is in.
Ask yourself where your character – logically – got the outfit from. Think of available – and affordable – materials of the time period. And think above all, how realistic it is to wear that outfit in the given circumstances… would a knight wear full armour at a wedding when not on duty? What is your character’s everyday wear? What do they wear for formal occasions? What for work?
You are part of everyone else’s experience, and in roleplay, we strive to contribute in every way to the unfolding scenes. So your attire must not be a DISTRACTION to the roleplay, but an ENHANCEMENT.
Another aspect of your character’s appearance is your AO. If you don’t have one, you need one, if for nothing else to stop you walking like a chicken. If you are new to SL and don’t know what one is, please ask, and we will help you. If you do have one, ask yourself, are your animations appropriate to your character? Most AO’s are simple devices: you can remove inappropriate animations and add more suitable ones, or have different sets of animations within the AO for different situations. Many good animations are available at low cost.
But all that is not enough. Your characters MANNER has to be appropriate and believable, too.
For example: someone who is obviously dead and stinking, looking strange and scary, dark, dangerous, comes your way – would they likely start a polite talk about the weather? Is that believable? Appearance alone does not make a character.
The point is, playing your character means you have to be convincing, to be believable as that character.
The best way to do that is to learn what it means to be that character. If you want to be a butcher, find out how to cut meat, some of the terms they use, some of the ways they go about their business. If you want to be a mer, maybe find some resources to tell you how they act, read stories of mer to see how they are presented in mythology and folklore, start thinking how a mer would think: e.g. hating land and legs.
For many, believability in roleplay is all about being able to roleplay with someone and forget that they are roleplaying, because they do nothing to remind others that they aren’t what they say they are.
Every Great Tree Starts with a Seed! Translated to roleplay characters that means – Start Simple!
No-one expects you to present the best character in the history of roleplay. No-one expects you to come with great stories for your character.
Simplicity is key.
Start small like that seed.
Then let the tree that is your character grow from that seed.
If you plan to play something other than human, you are going to have to do some research. You will need to understand what the races are. Read the Frame Work and about Races of Dee , and learn by watching and listening. It is said, “You learn more from listening than speaking”.
In fact, anyone who has been in Dee for some time ought to know about the other races with whom they spend their RP time. Newcomers to Dee might reasonably find out about these weird and wonderful creatures in RP, but older Dee characters ought to have found out already, and should be playing in full knowledge of their strengths and weaknesses, and their characteristics.
There are many people who want to create or bring in a unique race or a hybrid of multiple races (half of one thing and half another) and jump into our story with a set of fully developed skills and abilities, natural or supernatural. It’s often because that way the player can claim the advantages of a number of different races, whilst minimizing the weaknesses.
Be careful about that.
Why? Remember ‘believability’. Your character must be believable. Some races do not breed, others cannot or would not interbreed. Some can be infected by cursed creatures, others cannot.
Your chosen race will define a lot of your character’s social interactions and IC friendships. Playing a race with believability means your character is not necessarily everybody’s darling. It is not immediately believable for wild elves and dark elves to be friends. It is not immediately believable that a human would sit in the tavern and have a drink with a fae, that a mermaid would take a job as a kitchen maid, that a fairy would befriend a goblin. This is what you have to keep in mind when you develop your character interactions.
This does not exclude the option to achieve unusual combinations of social relations over time; but the point is these would be achieved in the RP story. You start as the simple character as detailed in our race cards, then let the character’s developing story define the path.
Growing a Unique Character
Regardless of the race you choose, regardless of the time you put into making them, even if it is nothing more exciting than an elderly human, your character will be unique. What will make them unique is how you play them – and how you play them will grow naturally if you set up some simple definitions.
The way to start this is to give the character a little bit of a personality– give them something to do, define a little bit of who and what they are.
- What does a human do? What does an elf do? What does a Dwarf do?
- How old is your character?
- Does your character have complete memories?
- What is your character’s personality like?
- Where does your character sleep? What is their favourite meal?
- Where does your character go when they are upset, how do they express joy?
- Does your character own an important item, or have a bad habit?
- What scares your character? What weaknesses does your character have?
- Did your character ever learn to read and write?
Keep in mind that when you define any small part of your character, you not only create roleplay direction but you create roleplay limitation.
If I am playing a feral dog or unicorn, opening a shop doesn’t really make sense. If I can’t write, I can’t take a job as a scribe. If I hate all humans, I would not greet them with friendly words when I see them on the street.
What you define gives you limitations, but these are part of what gives a character depth. Be open to the limitations and how they affect you. They do not take away from your character, but add to it.
You can add to the depth of your character by giving them tasks. For example, if you want your character to know more than one language, how do they gain it? Play it. Find teachers, read scrolls, play studying.
How does your character learn anything that they were not born to know or be able to do? Strive to play it… such details can create an amazing new chapter for your and others’ characters.
Try not to prescribe your character too precisely to begin with: make your character, roleplay your character, and let the character grow into itself.
“In-Character Actions have In-Character Consequences”.
Whatever happens to our character, we live with it and let it affect our character from that point on. When things happen to you in RL, you are affected, you have to move forward with it. Both good things and bad will affect you. Enriching characters have both the great memories and the scars – so welcome both. Don’t predetermine how things will go, take it as it comes, and you’ll find you can’t wait to see what will happen next in your story.
That is what “freeform” roleplay is. You play your character for who they are, respond in character to whatever may come, and just let it happen.
So don’t jump in too fast, feet first. Most Roleplay realms don’t like character hopping. One character per account is what’s needed, so as not to confuse other players. So make your choice wisely. Don’t try to play something that is absolutely impossible for you to play.
Remember you are part of the story as soon as you bring your character in the story of Dee, since your character has a meaning for other characters, and affects their story.
Take Your Time
You don’t have to have a full rich character from the moment you start playing. You don’t have to have a full rich character two weeks after you start playing. You don’t have to have a full rich character at all.
But if you want a really rich character, one that reaches to the highest heights, one that spans the width of the forest – you have to give it time to grow to its fullest extent. Remember the great tree that grows from a seed? Starting simple is important. It’s just as important to ‘grow simple’ too.
Many new players try to make the character too full and rich too quickly, without thinking through the potential issues with it. What starts happening is that they are creating definitions they either can’t live up to, or can’t maintain.
Also – don’t get discouraged if you play what appears on the surface as a small role. Some of the biggest characters have small beginnings. Taking a small role like hunter, or quiet fae, or carpenter… it’s a place to start your story. With time, that role can grow and grow.
Take a tavern worker as an example: A tavern worker could just be a small bit part, or they could collect the gossip of town and use it to their advantage, or help control politics, or poison people, or act as a spy. The smallest of roles can be the biggest of roles if you let it become that way.
By the same token a place is filled out and enriched by small roles.
If you don’t have that much time to spare in RP you can still be a vital part of the community. As part – time Dee player, you could indicate to be a traveling guest to the Isle , like a Trader as example. Or, one much loved player was a street-sweeper. He didn’t aspire to being a great fighter, or spy, or political influence, but enriched the RP of many by being there, sweeping the street, passing the time of day, sharing the gossip.
And if you don’t aspire to being a warrior, a leader, or a legendary enemy, great RP is there to be had playing day to day life as a cook or market stall holder, pageboy, town crier, bathhouse maid, barwench or baker. What you get out of roleplay grows with what you put into it. There is a castle and an abbey to be maintained and staffed in Dee, a bathhouse, a tavern where all comers hang around for a drink and gossip, and numerous other possibilities.
All characters are part of the big, main story of a realm, whether they are big trees, small trees, even the pebbles — they are all a part of the entire forest. Together they make the whole, and all are a valuable part of it.
Some backstory clichés you might want to think twice about using
There are some stories that crop up over and over again. Here are a few that you might want to rethink if you are developing your past, with apologies to any who have already claimed them 🙂
> I was the only survivor when my village was attacked/burned/hit by plague
> I am the last of my kind
> I am secretly royal (prince, princess, King, Queen) from far lands
> I do not remember anything (but I will probably reveal myself to be some sort of monster/royal/criminal)
> Someone is after me and might show up at any moment
> I got born at the isle many centuries ago and have seen all its history happen
That is not to say that these are never valid (except for the last one). Thickened up with a good follow up roleplay they could be great. But be warned that they are common, and might make people sigh.
Sometimes the ordinary is the best, and most believable foundation upon which to build a character.
And note, your characters backstory is mainly important for -you- to know the character that you are developing, better. You are not required to tell you characters backstory- ever- in roleplay, unless you want to.
– Day/ Night Cycles – Environment Settings – Full Moon
Special attention should also be spent on the day-night cycle. The Isle, and most RP realms as well, has its own specially-designed day-night cycle and environment settings. They are set for reasons.
In order that all players at any time are on same page regarding the time of the day, and have the same advantages or disadvantages, it is essential that you have your environment settings to region default and wear the Weather HUD. (available in the RP intro)
Play believably and authentically to your chosen race here. For example, night creatures would creep out of their holes only by night time in the sim, otherwise they would need to be hooded, for the sunlight would hurt their eyes. This also means that a being with no natural enhanced night-sight would be as good as blind on a dark night.
Let’s say a human… happens to enter the dark parts of Dee in the late evening… there he unluckily runs into a Dark Elf with excellent night-sight. It becomes darker. The Dark Elf has the clear advantage of being able to see far more than the human. HOW realistic is it, to draw a weapon against the Dark Elf right now, right there? The human character could not see enough to have a realistic chance to dare to fight!
So, if it is night in Dee, it is night for our characters. How realistic is a walk to the forest, alone, unarmed, as a woman? Not at all. The forest is not a park with street lamps and a bar around the next corner. It’s a medieval, dense, eerie forest, with a high chance of you meeting beings that even the most brave person would be scared of. This is even more true of the dark caves and the haunted castle.
Or even the streets by night.. not at all safe. Night is the time for the dark ones , the shadow crawlers, the dubious, characters.
On the other hand, think of a dark creature in the city by day… Why? And how?
For what purpose, with what realistic comfort would a being of the shadows enter the city to encounter the citizens there?
Keep it realistic and believable. Every creature would be aware of ‘other beings’, their territories, and the dangers they pose. In the day, everybody could go about their daily lives largely in peace, at night they would need to be more wary. They could stay at home, or gather in secure places for communal activities; or if venturing out they might carry torches, avoid the obvious hang-outs of dark or sinister beings, and be prepared to defend themselves.
Stay within your character limits, stay within and play along with the restrictions given by the environment, and enhance the Roleplay experience for everyone.
Full moon? Well, yes, sadly the moon in SL is always a full one. For those that are moonstruck.. for whatever reason… get a Weather HUD , it includes moon cycles.
So Now What?
Well – get out there and plant trees! You have a character you play; look to see how you can develop it and how it affects other players’ experience and their characters. Let a story come to you. Let it flow freely and develop.
Homework before you jump to the next class
– roleplay a scene where you give someone else something to do
– roleplay a scene where you mention St. Vitus.
– do something that makes others talk about your character
– send an input to The Cryer
– copy the chatlog from the scenes onto a notecard, name it :
“Isle-of-dee-rp-academy 1/3 – your sl account name” and drop it in the Staff box in the lobby. ( http://slurl.com/secondlife/DEE/156/84/4001 )
And don’t forget – Have fun out there!
©Isle Of Dee
All rights reserved. Alrunia Ahn, Isle of Dee, 2012