Roleplaying Rules, Elitism, and Ethics

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Revision, Jun 21, 2012.

  1. There have been a few instances of late of people trying to tell one another how to RP. This goes beyond the advice offered in places like the Academy, which tend to help people learn and give them options should they choose to embrace them. Instead, it goes into flat out “My way or no way” mode. This smacks of elitism that has no place on Iwaku.

    Most roleplayers go through a phase where they find something that really works. For them. They then often proceed to forget that what works for them doesn’t necessarily work for everyone else. Often, this is an internal annoyance, but can lead to groups such as Bad RPers Suck and other elitist organizations that, rather than being willing to listen to why someone chooses to RP as they do or just walking away, feel that they need to deconstruct the posts of others, offer lists of unsolicited RP “rules”, and toss around terms such as “elite RPers only” in their advertisements.

    Thankfully, it has not gotten that bad here, nor shall it. Iwaku is a place for roleplayers of all levels. No matter how much we might hate someone’s style or talent level (or even their over or underuse of the thesaurus), we don’t drag them down about this. It is not our place to tell them that our style is so much better or to dictate rules to them. (I’m not talking about forum rules or where to post, but rather about rules trying to dictate how one should RP). Should people wish to learn, there is the Academy to help them do so.

    I, personally, write a great many workshops and hope that it has never come across that these are the only way to approach a situation. In fact, many of the things I write about are approaches that not everyone thinks of, new ways of looking at things that might click with someone for whom “traditional” methods do not necessarily work. I don’t expect anything I write related to RP to work for everyone. But some people genuinely think their way is the only way.

    The problem with many so called rules is that there are often many many exceptions. Rules can vary greatly depending on system, setting, a parody atmosphere, or many many other factors I won’t even begin to get into. The only rules that should matter in roleplay are someone’s rules for themselves, personal boundaries, and the rules established by the game master. (And the forum rules, of course). No matter what grasp you think you have of your particular area of expertise or what sort of community you come from, the elitist sort of thinking doesn’t really fit with Iwaku. We may have elitists, but our elitists aren’t going to come into a roleplay you are GMing and tell you and your players you are doing it wrong unless you legitimately do something horrible.

    Part of the problem is that many roleplayers come from private forums (which have roleplaying rules and a set GM) or large MMO communities, where it IS important to have rules because people are always always always in character and tensions tend to run higher. I know. I used to roleplay on an MMO where we always had to establish rules of a fight before it began because there wasn’t a GM to tell us what was alright. Even then, there were at least three accepted combat variants. The only standing rule was “victim of a hit chooses how much they are hurt within logical reasoning.” Really. That was the only common rule and that was only in two out of three styles.

    But even there, where rules and structure were more necessary because of the tension and lack of GMs, there were exceptions, group rules, guild guidelines, and so many varieties of everything.

    I’ve gone on a lot about why elitism and elitist rule sets are bad, but haven’t explained exactly why. See, there were a lot of rules on the MMO I was a part of. These rules were so important and so strictly enforced by the big guilds by means of blacklisting and utter inflexibility that compassion and ethics flew right out the window. So someone is playing a pacifist? The rules say that if I strike at him and he ignores the strike, we blacklist him, even though someone playing a combat inept pacifist would be killed by the attack. How is that compassionate, kind, or ethical roleplay? Remember, even though it is “just a character”, there is still a person behind the screen who had put a lot of effort and possibly love into creating that character.

    When elite rule sets come into play, ethics fade away. You find yourself forcing GMs to act outside their comfort zones**, players to bend against their will, and end up letting complete jerks who WILL use the rules to their advantage do so. I’ve seen it happen again and again and again.

    So how do you keep chaos from reigning? Agree on rules the group likes before combat starts. Dismiss them afterward if they did not work. Be conscious of the needs of your group. If someone roleplays in a way you don’t like, don’t roleplay with them. There’s nothing wrong with offering advice, but don’t tell them they “must do it” your way. If you are GMing, establish rules for your own game but be mindful that they only exist in your game and that trying to enforce them in other venues is unethical. Also, remember that while GMing, you DO have the right to enforce your rules and accept only who you want. Don’t be afraid to kick out a player who is ruining the flow of the RP, but at the same time, don’t follow them to other RPs to tell them and their coplayers what they are all doing wrong. That’s just bad form.

    Honestly, I’m sad that I felt the need to write this. I do want to recommend that those who have good advice to offer do it ethically and through the Roleplay Academy. I also wish to state that this is not directed at any one person, but rather at actions. Finally, I wish to remind people that there is nothing wrong with teaching others, but that all good teachers recognize that there are times when students need to find their own way in life and in scholarly pursuits. And, in this case, roleplay.

    **This is part of the reason there are so many many different roleplay systems. Some people just don’t like one rule set and prefer another.
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  2. I like the fact that this site doesn't have set rules, and allows people to write in their style.

    I have been a member of sites where they have said "Literate!" or "semi-literate!"...Honestly? Everyone is literate, otherwise how would they be able to roleplay. Someone gains experience and it a better writer when they have an opportunity to write. They will grow into a style that is right for them. Thank you for this encourages me that I can by myself on here and can get to know different styles.
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  3. The elitism and jerkbaggery that comes with that "literates only" is the reason why I wrote my blog post about it!

    I have to admit that once upon a time I WAS the elitist roleplayer, in my time before Iwaku. At some point during my roleplay career I got so wrapped up in writing skills, what was good writing, bad writing, and then actually forced that down the chompers of everyone that roleplayed on my site. :/ Back then it wasn't this whole literate trend, but just called "elite roleplays" and crap like that. I thought I was HELPING by creating this high standard of wonderful perfect godlike roleplayers. Something awesome to aspire to, right? But what happened instead is that I bred such a bad atmosphere of judgmental, elitist, rude people that it just wasn't FUN to roleplay anymore. You always felt like you weren't good enough to join things, or that every post you wrote was terrible. And when someone finally told ME my writing skills weren't up to par for their roleplay, it hit home really hard that I made a huuuge mistake with my attitude towards people's roleplay styles. D:

    When I got pulled on to staff at Iwaku I definitely wanted to make sure Iwaku didn't make the same mistake I did. ;__; YES there is good writing and bad writing. Good roleplay habits and bad roleplay habits. But we're all here to roleplay because we want to have FUN doing to. Not to impress people or meet standards. There are so many different ways and styles to roleplay, and my style of roleplaying can be so different from someone else's style. We should be finding playing partners that share our style and interests, not forcing other people to conform to ours.
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  4. I don't like when people put labels on roleplaying such as literate or semi-literate, I agree with GreenLady. I love to see new roleplay styles, it in turn helps me become a better writer.
  5. While I definitely prefer a relaxed, few-rules environment like Iwaku, I feel like this thread is starting to turn into a circlejerk of "look at us, we're so enlightened" which isn't much of a discussion.

    There are some valid points to having strict rules and guidelines. This applies everywhere- sometimes, you want a small, elite group of people who are incredibly good at what they do and don't take failure for an option.
    For the sake of a metaphor, think of it like exercising. Right now, Iwaku is pretty much an empty field in the middle of a suburb where a bunch of people of all shapes and sizes come to exercise for whatever reason they feel like it. That's great; it's the kind of place I like to go to. But does that give us the right to make fun of the pro-training gyms where bodybuilders and Olympic athletes go to exercise? Does that mean the pro-training gyms are filled with mean, snobby people whose primary joy in life is crushing the dreams of out-of-shape people? No. If a person training for the Olympics wants to join a gym which only has spots for a dozen people and all of those people are of approximately equal skill, more power to them. It is better training to play with people who are constantly challenging and improving upon their skills. I don't begrudge anyone for wanting to surround themselves with like-minded individuals and have them all work towards a common goal.
    As much as I love Iwaku, this is writing only for the sake of having fun. If I was intending to become a professional author in the near future, I would probably want to find a group of people who gave me a real challenge and pushed me to constantly improve, to write more and better and faster. Fortunately for me, I'm only in this for the kicks. But I don't want us to start sounding like the fat kids who make fun of athletes- just because they push themselves and take things seriously doesn't mean they're bad people.
    Athletes can be bad people. "Elite" RPers can be bad people. But it's wrong and pretty dumb to say that being really good at something means you're automatically a jerk to people who aren't as good, or that all people who follow a strict personal guideline ruthlessly apply it to all others.
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