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  • StormWolfe

    What Is Roleplaying?

    andre-norton-pic.jpgAlice Mary Norton
    February 17, 1912 - March 17, 2005

    Science fiction and fantasy author.
    Pen Name: Andre Norton, Andrew North, Allen Weston

    Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep
    ~ Mary Elizabeth Frye

    Do not stand at my grave and weep
    I am not there; I do not sleep.
    I am a thousand winds that blow,
    I am the diamond glints on snow,
    I am the sun on ripened grain,
    I am the gentle autumn rain.
    When you awaken in the morning's hush
    I am the swift uplifting rush
    Of quiet birds in circled flight.
    I am the soft stars that shine at night.
    Do not stand at my grave and cry,
    I am not there; I did not die.

    Why am I starting this article with the image of a science fiction and fantasy author and a poem commemorating her death? Because I want us to think past the traditional answers to "When did you start roleplaying?" Most of us, including me, answer that question with "MUDs, Table-Tops, Neo-Pets, etc." And, for all intents and purposes, those are correct answers. Except for table-tops, they do constitute our early forays into online roleplaying. There is not one correct answer and no starting point is better than another.

    Before we go any further, we should try to answer another question. What is roleplaying?

    Per the Forum Roleplay site:


    Roleplay is assuming the role of a character and writing, acting, or playing as that character would. There are many forms of roleplaying: gaming consoles, live-action roleplay, tabletop roleplay, text-based roleplay, forum roleplay, and on and on.

    I particularly like the "and on and on" bit.

    Here are a couple more definitions for you. Both definitions come from Wikipedia. Keep in mind that Wiki articles are often written by non-professionals, so they are not carved in stone.

    An online text-based role-playing game is a role-playing game played online using a solely text-based interface. Online text-based role-playing games date to 1978, with the creation of MUD1, which began the MUD heritage that culminates in today's MMORPGs. Some online-text based role-playing games are video games, but some are organized and played entirely by humans through text-based communication. Over the years, games have used TELNET, internet forums, IRC, email, and social networking websites as their media.

    And this...

    A play-by-post role-playing game (or sim) is an online text-based role-playing game in which players interact with each other in a predefined environment via text. It is a subset of the online role-playing community which caters to both gamers and creative writers. Play-by-post games may be based on other role-playing games, non-game fiction, including books, television, and movies, or original settings. This activity is closely related to both interactive fiction and collaborative writing. Compared to other roleplaying game formats, this type tends to have the loosest rulesets.

    andre-norton.jpgLooking at the first line of Forum Roleplay's definition, "Roleplay is assuming the role of a character and writing, acting, or playing as that character would," it is likely that the majority of us got our start when we were children. During your grade school years, did you and your friends ever assume the identities of favorite book, movie, or TV characters and proceed to play out an adventure? Did you go a few steps further and write out or plan an adventure with your friends and then play it? If your answer is yes, then you were roleplaying. Were you the odd child out? A bit of a loner? Did you take a pen and paper and write stories, playing them out in your mind? That is also a form of roleplaying. 

    What does this mean? Well, it suggests that we all started roleplaying far earlier than we usually state when we answer that question. It is also likely that our childhood forays into creative roleplay led us to our enjoyment of online roleplaying. Who doesn't want to revisit the better part of their childhood?

    Suggested Forum Topics:

    What does roleplaying mean to you? Can you define it?
    When did you *really* start roleplaying? Tell us your story.
    If all technology disappeared in an instant and were eradicated forever, would you still roleplay?

    If this inspires you to start a topic, link back to this article and go for it!

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