Monthly Archives: September 2009

Roleplay, MMO style.

I’m sort of an odd duck.  I play tabletop rpg games, but only started about three years ago.  I don’t do forum roleplay, and the one time I tried a MUSH, someone immediately whispered me wanting cybersex, and I was so surprised I actually shut off my computer as an immediate reaction.  I’ve only played the 4th Edition of D&D.

What I do love, and where I really love roleplaying, is in MMOs.  I’ve been doing so since about 1998, with vast breaks between games or between finding non-insane groups in-game.  I started out in Ultima Online, my first MMO and my first ever roleplaying experience.  I literally chanced upon a bunch of rp’ers at – of course – a player-created tavern.  I didn’t understand half of what they were doing, and of course half of it was stuff you’d actually never allow in a bar, but still.  Little avatars talking to each other just seemed like an awesome idea.

I don’t even remember what shard I was on now, and I don’t remember much of the rp.  The overwhelming majority of it was dorky beyond belief:  a street-urchin-turned-princess who had about four husbands in the two years I played, and who was kidnapped or otherwise imperiled about every other week.  The military guild that went through a new leader every month, and was nothing.but.angst.  The necromancer drow evil guild who – and this is a consistent thing in every MMO I’ve played – did tremendously gory and awful things, in public, like putting huge “HI, I’m  EVIL” signs on their chests. Oh, and just to confirm the stereotype of MMO rp, I ran into a lot of roleplayed sex in odd corners of the world.

Roleplay in World of Warcraft turned the dial on everything I’d seen in UO up to 11.  Maybe 12.  Nekkid night elves sitting for hours on beds in the little inn in Goldshire, not talking outside /tells.  Evil evil evil kins desecrating public monuments and carrying out executions in the middle of Stormwind.  Good good kins acting as equally violent vigilantes.  Everyone running rampant in terms of what would be realistic, or best for the roleplaying whole, or fun.

And yet.  I had a blast through all of it.  An utter, complete, blast.  In UO, I made a lumberjack.  A simple red-headed (no, no violet eyes) lumberjack.  She later got religion, became an axe-wielding paladin, kicked a great deal of evil-creature ass, found a lover, found a kin, bought a house, was betrayed by her mentor, etc. etc.  My first Trinn.  She had a humble background, a plain way of speaking, several neuroses, and a fierce sense of duty, and WOW I just realized that there are few things more boring than hearing about someone else’s roleplay character so I will stop right now with the UO one and move on to the World of Warcraft version of Trinn.

I’d shed a tear for little Trinn if I could.  To date, with all the tabletop and writing and roleplay I do, she’s still the most complex, most interesting, most heartstring-tugging character I’ve ever made (now level 76, raar).  A simple Westfall girl, chosen to the Light (unwillingly) at 14, a veteran of many battles, a hard-drinking, formerly prudish woman with a sense of duty that went well past healthy.  She’s the one who met Bryant’s character and fell in love, and that’s how Bryant and I met (and fell in love), and even if that alone wasn’t reason to shake little Trinn’s hand and thank her, I have to give her great props as being the first time in roleplay I found it okay for my character to fail.

God, this is turning into a tome.  But fast forward a couple of years, after raiding and slowly letting rp slip away.  Fast forward into a much smaller-scale game called Lord of the Rings Online. (cue my loud squeeing).  I’ve always been a huge Tolkien fan.  Huge. Fan.  And roleplay in Turbine’s version of Tolkien’s world is sort of a combination of respect for Tolkien’s creation AND the same rp craziness that happens in every MMO.

I just wrote a two-paragraph screed about how people roleplay villians in MMOs, and instead of that, I’m going to sum up with the whole reason why MMO rp is so full of the crazy.

No GM.  No consensus, no decisions, no shared assumptions except about the explicitly stated lore of the game.  In that sense, LOTRO fares better than most, given the source material available.  But still, little things:  Elves drinking in the Prancing Pony, for example, and flirting with Women.  That’s…well, that right there is the subject of a gabillion indignant forum posts, all of which contain, no matter what the subject, at least one poster who says, “When you pay my $10 a month, you can tell me how to roleplay.”  And with that attitude firmly in place (and it’s one I happen to share, completely), you’ll always have tons of the inconsistent, wildly erratic, seemingly nonsensical rp that happens in MMOs.

And I’m not even getting into the OOC drama.  But seriously, I’ve had some of the best roleplay in my life in MMOs.  I’ve had drama! danger! true love! betrayal! faith! triumph! despair!  Happiness in MMO rp basically depends on a willingness – learned over time – to just roll with the punches, choose your friends wisely, and not be too surprised when everything goes sideways.  For $10 a month, can’t beat that.

TV worth watching (a completely subjective report)

Here’s what we set the TiVo to capture:

  • Criminal Minds – here’s my favorite almost too-gory and too-dark show about a FBI team investigating horrific crimes.  Criminal Minds is one of the two shows on TV that I just call downright smart – the leads are intelligent, their motivations are complex, their victims are portrayed as actual people. I can only contrast it against the various CSI shows, in which corpses are almost universally young and hot, and lovingly panned over during science!montages! (I’m looking at YOU in particular, Miami).  In Criminal Minds, the crimes are painful and horrible and the victims are not idiots.  Thomas Gibson plays a spectacular team lead; don’t be turned off by all those years of Dharma and Greg.
  • Mad Men – this is the show I’m measuring everything else against these days.  Fantastic writing, fantastic acting.  Season 3 was all style and no substance until this past episode (I think all I have to say is “the lawnmower one”), and now everything is in chaos, and I in no way know where the show is going next.  How great is that, to still be surprised by dramatic TV?  Special props to my favorite actors/portrayals on the show:  Jon Hamm’s Don, Elisabeth Moss’s Peggy, Christina Hendrick’s Joan.  If you haven’t been watching this, give it a try.  It’s what TV sets are for.
  • Glee – of course!  None of the episodes have reached the dizzying fun of the pilot, but if the show just wants to highlight Jane Lynch and Stephen Tobolowsky forever, I’m good with that.  It’s eminently quotable, the song choices so far are a  hoot, and if they’re lip-synching, so what?  It’s actual TV-fiction, not even “reality” TV-fiction.  I’m looking forward to learning more about the rest of the squad, especially the as-yet unexplored Tina and Artie (“You’re not trying hard enough.”  “At what?”  “Walking!”).  It’s not perfect – it can be far too broad and far too talky, and I wish the character of Will’s wife Terri wasn’t so utterly Evil with an E – but it’s still a great weekly dose of goofy musical theater.
  • Fringe – okay, give it a chance.  Yes, the first half of the first season draaagged, and lead agent Olivia Dunham was a shell-shocked victim careening from one supernatural event to another.  But then there was a winter break, and when the show returned, Anna Torv’s Olivia grabbed those supernatural events and kicked their asses.  John Noble (Denethor!) chews up the screen as the literally mad scientist, and Joshua Jackson (as the scientist’s handler/son) is good enough that I have almost stopped thinking of him as Pacey.  Don’t go in thinking hard about the science.  Don’t think about the science at all, actually.  But watch it for Torv’s death glare, and for the one or two audacious moments per episode that take your breath away.
  • Leverage – pure pulp goofiness.  The showrunner, John Rogers, maintains his own blog here in which he answers viewer questions.  Every week.  That’s the kind of show this is:  chatty, completely unrepentant about catering to fans, cheerful as all get-out.  There will never be nuanced, shades-of-grey villains on the show; Rogers says so!  There will instead be – every single week! – a caper plot, lots of witty banter, at least one fist-fight (no guns!), and an accent change by Gina Bellman (who is off having a baby right now, but hopefully will be back for season 3!).  This one, I might wait a few days before catching on TiVo, since it’s up against Criminal Minds, but it’s always great fun to watch.


  • Bones – forensic hijinks, and Angel is much better as a jock than an emopire.
  • FlashForward – give us your actors, Britain!
  • Top Chef – despite the jerky contestants, I really enjoy reality shows in which competence is key.
  • Project Runway – see above.
  • So You Think You Can Dance – see above, though the emphasis on contemporary dance and head judge Nigel’s perviness are dropping this from my list quickly.

And, these are the things the TiVo thinks I should be watching, but I don’t:

  • Semi-Homemade with Sandra Lee – fingernails down a chalkboard.
  • Burn Notice – Gretchen, you like this one, right?
  • Eight gabillion Iron Chef reruns, most of which I do break down and watch, who am I kidding.  Sea urchin battle!

Strange new worlds.

Every once in a while I run across a news story or corner of the Internet that makes me think:  “Wow, I wish I ran games instead of just playing in them.  I’d use X setting/story/background in a heartbeat!”  And then I forget, often within minutes, exactly what fascinated me so much.  So, here’s a memory post, since a few of those settings just popped into my brain again.


Ghost skyscrapers of Bangkok.  The link is to a skyscraper enthusiast forum; I make no claims about anything except how fascinating the original 2007 Wall Street Journal article reads.  There were, at the time the story was published, about a dozen 30+ story skyscrapers vacant and unfinished in the city, and after so long in the wet/hot climate, the skyscrapers have lost so much structural integrity that they’ll probably never be completed.  One man was quoted in the story as calling the structures “poetic,” though there is the very real hazard of bits falling on homes and businesses.

My idea:  post-apocalyptic, of course.  Not specifically Bangkok; I could do neither the city nor the culture justice.  The party lives and scavenges within this ruined structure.  Shades of Jack McDevitt’s great book Eternity Road, and a bit of The Planet of the Apes and Escape from New York, and a bit of an idea Bryant and I went on and on about once, regarding a far-future NYC.  But vertical, all vertical, and instead of walls as your boundary, think 60-story drops.


The Wall of Steles, as photographed by the writers at “Curious Expeditions,” and on display at the Istanbul Archaeological Museum.  As the blog says, “Carved portraits seem to act as labels for whose remains rest where in this grid of bodies.”

My idea:  For some reason, I started thinking of the Wizard of Oz, and then of undead powers whose bodies and bones are inert, but can speak through their statue reliefs.  And I saw a character standing in front of a row of these as they bickered and gave (conflicting) advice and direction.  Odd thoughts, but that’s what they were!


The National Road from Cumberland MD to Vandalia IL.  It was authorized in 1806, started in 1811, “completed” (they ran out of funds) in the 1830s, and started fading quickly in the 1850s.  Still, an important route for settlers heading into the Ohio River Valley, and busy in its time.

No real “my idea” here; road games are fascinating, and when you look at the complexity of human relations during any historic time period, you have a lot of material for a really interesting game.  I’m reminded of a dear friend’s Changeling game (Serene Again), and wow.  I would enjoy that a lot.

Oh, my brain.