Twenty-one Things I Wish I'd Known as a Newbie

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Twenty-one Things I Wish I'd Known as a Newbie

I started roleplaying at age fourteen in a crowded chatroom filled with so many people that you usually had to wait for space to get in. Most of the chatters were just chatters, most of the RP was silly, and the serious RP was something far different from what I am used to now. When there was RP, it was easy enough to make mistakes without a mentor to guide me. Yes, I was a newbie. I was the newbie that people wanted to throw chairs at because I had NO RP experience, had lived a sheltered life, and generally believed that honesty, loud honesty, was the best policy.

As I grew up, I went from RP situation to RP situation, finding myself new to everything time and again. People in this new place did things differently from people in that new place. There were different posting expectations some places, and live tabletop games were a whole new bucket of confusion. I learned. I learned over and over again, sometimes only the surface things, sometimes everything I could get my hands on. (I still have to refer to DnD manuals when playing that particular game; there is just so much to know!) Sometimes, I had teachers. Sometimes, I was all alone to figure things out.

Over the years, I realized that some things translated universally or near universally and others did not. There were things I should have known from the beginning, but some of them took me years to learn. This, therefore, is a list of things I wish I had known as a newbie, both pertaining to roleplay and to general interaction.

1) Everywhere is different. There are going to be different rules, even for the same sort of game. When in doubt, be sure you know the house rules. Don't think that, just because you are used to roleplaying on World of Warcraft, you are going to know just what to do on a shiny new forum. Read the rules!

2) It is okay to ask questions. When in doubt, don't keep struggling and putting on a strong face. It is often easier just to ask for rule clarifications, social clarifications, etc. than to keep on flailing in ignorance.

3) In fact, asking questions is a wonderful help, even once you know the rules of a place. Communication between roleplayers often keeps many a faux pas from occurring. If you are unsure of what just happened in a roleplay post, asking the poster or GM to clarify can save you from having to edit a post later if you just assumed you knew what is going on.

4) Read and reread. I still forget this one on occasion. Read each post at least twice, then refer back to them as you make your own. This goes for posts you wrote in the past, too.

5) Spellchecker is a wonderful tool. If you want to shine, either use a browser with a built in spellchecker or type everything into Word or Writer before you post it.

6) Spellchecker isn't perfect, and grammar checker lies. These tools should never replace learning how to spell new words or working toward improving your grammar, but they can often act as helping hands. If you think you are spelling something correctly and spellchecker is telling you that you aren't, or other dictionary sites are of great use.

7) You can be respectful and still have fun. Roleplayers like to posture. Many of us enjoy showing off, putting on personas to hide perceived faults, and acting somewhat abrasive. You don't have to do this at all, but even if you feel you need to or that it is a part of your personality, you can still be nice to others and show respect. Being respectful to another does not mean you must defer to their judgement. Rather, it is a way to act with decorum.

8) It is fine to just not talk to someone. If someone really bothers you, you don't have to talk to them. The flip side to that is that it is not fair for you to decide to ignore or not talk to someone and then go join all of their RPs.

9) Don't be negative just for negativity's sake. Everyone has an opinion and gamers are rather vocal about theirs being the best. Discussion is great, but if you find yourself talking about something just to trash it, you might want to choose another topic of conversation. While there is nothing wrong with expressing your distaste for something, when this crosses the line into bashing those who do like it or trying to impose your opinion on another who doesn't wish to be imposed upon, you've gone too far. Most people are not going to appreciate this.

10) Did you know there is actually a mark to indicate sarcasm? Normally, it is rather annoying to find and use, and then most people have no idea what it is. Instead, be prepared to explain if you are being sarcastic. Someone might not get it.

11) The line between reason and excuse is a fine fine line. If there is a good reason for you to have done something, let the person affected know. Once. Otherwise, don't make excuses. Most people will either see right through them or assume that you are just trying to dodge accountability. One of the most wonderful things we can do as humans is learn and grow from mistakes. If you find yourself offering the same reasons or excuses over and over, no matter their validity, try simply apologizing and learning from the situation, instead. If you believe you have nothing to apologize for, it is often acceptable to say that you wish to drop the discussion and move on to something else.

12) There are some matters that WILL need to be discussed, but try to realize when neither party is going to budge. That's usually a sign to drop the matter.

13) Combat is different everywhere. If you want certain combat rules in RP, be sure you establish this BEFORE combat is initiated.

14) You will never know everything. Continuing education is a must, even in your areas of expertise. If you believe you have learned all there is to learn, you might miss a wonderful bit of wisdom someone else has to offer.

15) You cannot learn everything there is to know about roleplay from observing. While it is a good idea to just watch for a while before dipping your toes in, there is so much to learn about interacting with other roleplayers and conducting yourself with respect and with an air deserving of respect that you are eventually going to have to just jump into the deep end if you really want to learn to play.

16) Flaws are wonderful additions to a character. Your character does not have to be a perfect badass to win the hearts of other RPers. The fact is that a few quirks and flaws make a character more believable and fun to play. How boring are movies where no one learns or improves or makes mistakes? Do you really want to watch a sports drama that is just one team winning flawlessly again and again or a martial arts movie where every villain goes down in one punch?

17) Overinvesting in a character is rarely a good thing. If you find that you are growing very protective of a character, it may be time to retire them, step away from the computer for a while, and remember two things: Even if your character dies in that RP, you can still use them in another. You are human and should be proud to be yourself, not so wrapped up in a character that their misery is ruining your life.

18) That said, it is alright to cry if a character dies, to be inspired or moved by their feelings, or to sniffle at a well written tear jerker of a scene. The problem comes when you cannot walk away.

19) If you ask for advice, consider taking it. Not all advice is going to be worth taking, but there will be some that is useful. Don't ask for it and just brush it off.

20) There is a difference between constructive criticism and bashing. Constructive criticism actually offers and teaches, helping the person learn and improve. Bashing brings nothing to the conversation aside from venting, which is normally not a good idea in a public place. Vent to friends, then try to teach or offer advice to the person who needs it if you think you have something to offer. If not, then it is always alright to ask someone with more experience for advice.

21) It is fine to say "no" to certain RP scenarios. If you don't feel comfortable doing certain things in RP, then make sure the GM and other players know up front. (I generally dislike hand injuries, and in the past have been known to tell onexone partners that I will not accept hand injuries without some advanced warning.)

So there you have it. I've been roleplaying for many years, now. I know I don't know everything, and I want to learn more as more years go by. I hope you do, too. This forum is full of wonderful resources and people happy to teach those willing to listen. Utilize it! Have fun!

Homework: Write a list of things you would like to improve upon. These can be anything from roleplay to hobby related. If it is a personal list, put it somewhere safe and try to work on your goals. Check to see how you've progressed from time to time. If it is something you feel comfortable sharing, leave a comment or, better yet, see if there is a group related to the interest you wish to improve upon.
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