(Originally written by the management of the Mermaids Tale Tavern, this article strongly applies to many Free-Form RP areas such as the Red Dragon Inn)
It's funny how different RP rooms can have varying cultures. Once you get used to the style of a certain room, you can always spot the players who are visiting from other venues because their conventions and habits can be very different.
Different forums have their own idiosyncrasies and practices. It's usually a good idea to browse as much of the forum as you can before jumping into the fray. Look for any helpful information the forum may have about the setting, room descriptions, announcements, things that will help make your transition into the forum go more smoothly. Hopefully that way you can pick up storylines and playing partners faster. Knowing "What the Romans do" should help you avoid culture shock and fit in with the natives right from the start.
Players in the Mermaids Tale Tavern (MTT) take pride in the clean illusion possible when every player stays IC. We avoid ((OOC)) lines like the plague. When we need to go AFK, we'll find IC reasons for our character to be unavailable for interaction. Or, we'll use other strategies for going AFK without going OOC.
Typos Are Like Farts -- It's Best Just To Ignore Them
When we typo, we usually just keep going without a correction unless the line is incomprehensible as typed. If we feel a correction is necessary, we do it in narrative, like this:
Nomad: ::his fingers fanning out like a rooster's crow::
Nomad: ::comb, rather::
Why use this convention? Because players who were following your lines will see the correction, but it doesn't call undue attention to the typo. When typos are corrected using ((OOC)) or *, it's actually more distracting than the typo itself, especially for players who never noticed the blooper to begin with.
Your Character Might Think It, But That Doesn't Mean You Have To Send It
We've all been targets of narrative insults. You know what I mean ... those petty little remarks in double colons, like:
SirSnipealot: ::thinking the lady's wasting her time with a bore like Blackthorne::
SirSnipealot: ::wondering what she sees in such a pompous ass::
Thankfully, these kinds of lines are rare in the MTT -- and are almost never used by regular patrons -- which means when we do see them in the room, they're probably being sent by a visitor who's bringing that style from another venue. Unfortunately, it can make for a very poor first impression.
When it comes right down to it, narrative insults usually do more harm than good. Since there's nothing for another character to react to, lines like this never advance a scene, and because they single out others for disparagement, it's unlikely that they're "enhancing" the gaming for anyone.
Instead, rightly or wrongly, they're often perceived as passive-aggressive attacks from players who have OOC motivations for harassing someone IC. If the victim's separation skills are strong, they know there's no way to react IC, so in effect they're penalized for having good RP technique. What's worse, if the victim doesn't separate IC/OOC very well, they're likely to respond in kind with nasty narrative remarks of their own. And then the scene turns into narrator wars instead of interactive role playing.
So, remember... Just because your character thinks unkind thoughts doesn't mean you have to play them. Instead, give us something other characters can see or hear. Let us see his disgusted face or hear a muttered remark ... anything that keeps the scene moving and interactive.
Isn't That ?????
Uh, well ... Not really. MTT forum management strongly discourages the use of special characters, primarily because not every user's system will display them properly. They're also difficult to read. Stylistically, most regulars just don't use them, not only because they're unwieldy and unnecessary, they also connote certain lack of confidence in the writing. Using special characters suggests that the writer doesn't think what's being said is interesting enough, so they jazz it up with ornamentation.
No need for that! Just tell your story. We're interested in what your character says and does, not in how pretty your signature font is.
Is That A Proggie, Or Is My Monitor Dirty?
Similarly, text phaders are a sure sign of someone new to our forums. Text effects are an OOC affectation and really bring nothing to the depiction of your character. Lose the gimmicks and just role play your character. The MTT is never so busy that we can't notice an interesting character, even when they're presented in plain vanilla text. Give us something to react IC to, and save the text proggies for the Flirt's Nook.
Don't Leave Your IMs Off The Hook
Sometimes we forget to reset our privacy preferences before going in to role play and other players can't reach us by IM. OOC communication between players is often necessary, and since we have such an aversion to ((OOC)) lines in the room, IMs are the only way we can talk to each other. Room hosts may also be able to offer tips as to events taking place in a room when you first enter, so try to remember to unblock your IMs before role playing.
Punctuation Makes A. World, Of Difference?
Start your dialog lines with a capital and end with punctuation. It's the little bit of polish that can signal to other players that you're interested in the craft of writing. And that never hurts if you're looking for an RP partner for a significant collaboration.
Avoid "Energizer Bunny" Lines
Ever notice how some players' lines keep going... and going... and going... before they're finished? We'd LOVE to get a word in edgewise with your character. Give us half a chance. Unless you have an AOL add-on like PowerTools that allows you to send many lines in one burst, try to avoid lengthy narrative and dialog. It's difficult to follow a character in the room scroll when the player sends part of a line ... then takes 30 seconds to compose the next part of the line ... then takes another minute to write the next part ... before finally sending the end. Whew.
When You Have To Say It All, Send It In Complete Chunks
There are times when we know we have a lot to say and we don't want the other character or player jumping in until we're done. In these instances, send shorter, complete lines, but tell us that you're not done yet by using ellipses and narrative cues:
Nomad: ::giving Aria a sharp look:: I do think ...
Nomad: ... that were better left unsaid, my heart. ::pausing as he further considers his words::
Nomad: ::then finishing his admonition in a low, serious murmur:: King Charles is our sovereign. Tis his Letter of Marque under which you yourself do lawfully plunder. And therefore ...
Nomad: ... I do expect a measure of respect in your words when speaking publicly, here in my tavern, of our King.
This way, the lines don't hang ambiguously. Other players have a sense that they should wait until you're done, but they're not having to follow incomplete thoughts buried in the room scroll.
We hope you find these tips useful. With any luck, they'll save you weeks of observation and you can adapt to our role playing culture quickly and painlessly.
Welcome to our RP community! We're glad you're here.
(Edited from text provided and originally written by the management of the Mermaid's Tale Tavern.)