JP On Gaming

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

[Old Pro Tricks] 5-points to better roleplay online edition

In my previous post, I focused on face-to-face role-playing. While most of that article remains true, there are things that do not translate to the online media too well. Unless you use a webcam body gestures and postures are impossible to see.

So let's start by analyzing the three types of media that we have while online:

- Web Cam I'll admit I'm not much on the webcam for online play. I've used it, it's fine but it also shows how bad I slouch on my chair and when I'm not overly paying attention. Still as a tool, the webcam does help translate physical motion. It is not used uniformly.

- Voice Whether the voice tool is Roll20 (my personal favorite), D20Pro, MapTool, or others the voice element significantly speeds up communication vs typing it all.

- Online Chat Is usually where the dice roller is and where the GM will post handout, boxed text and other things. Since this usually has a history or that anyone can scroll back, this is great for elements that are not directly important

So we have three media to play with. Let's see how we can use them to create memorable characters and games, online...

1- The Philosophy is the same

Now it is important to note that the idea and philosophy in the previous article is still all valid: Imitate don't duplicate, Start small, Go Big, Keep it in character, and Keep it consistent are all still valid. However, HOW we use them will change because of the different medium in which we operate. I already tackled the three main avenues with which we can play.

2- Don't hog the channels

One of the common thing people often complain about in online game is the amount of traffic on the voice chat. That does become a problem, though usually not so much because of role-playing reasons. People chat and discuss rule elements and other. In itself, this is more an issue of Netiquette than gaming.

Still, in the interest on RP, some players constantly talk on the channel, drowning the GM and other players who have some game-mechanics question. During times of great chatter, step back and only intervene if it is important. Don't be afraid of sending private notes (tells) to the GM or to another player or post it in the chat log. That helps keeping down the chatter to the important stuff.

During combat, there is a lot of traffic as the GM needs to provide a lot of information quickly: who is attacked, does it hit, how much damage, spell effects, etc. Without these communication, the game bogs down. This is particularly important to keep the game on-point and moving. Such time is NOT the time to go off into a major in-character tirade.

Keep quiet until your turn comes here.

3- Voice for important stuff, Chat for secondary

Directly linked to the above, but really requires a double mention. The voice chat is for things that directly affects the game in an immediate fashion, or that requires an answer from the GM. "I go see the merchant to see if he has potions" would require a GM answer. Or interaction with NPCs.

Anything you do that's not immediately important to the game should go to the chat.

One thing that is great about online playing is that you CAN use the chat instead of voice to roleplay side-events. This can go from a simple look at someone, to something your character whispers to themselves, to a short aparté or sotto vocce. This allows the rest of the players to see what you are doing and perhaps respond to it.

One thing I noticed is that the more you do this, the more others also do it.

4- Do it in small bursts

I know, I know, this seems to go against a lot of what I posted before about consistency. But because the format somewhat restraints overall chatter, when you do find your character's schtick, make it so it can be done in small doses. Perhaps its an expression, something you can say on occasion.

A good thing is to have just a few catchphrases. Something that will keep you in character and remind others that you are still there. This may be something you type or say. But it should ideally be short enough not to slow the flow of the game.

5- Use voice patterns

Since you cannot be seen by your fellow players, one trick I use is to change speech patterns. Think of characters like Yoda who are always recognizable just by their speech pattern. Another favorite of mine? The valley girl.

Even without doing a good imitation, just the tone and speed conveys of your speech can convey a lot about your character.

Of course, this only works when using voice and not so much through chat, but that's not impossible.


There are three of my characters and how I play them online.

Katja Alterborg Katja is a character I built for the Reign of Winter adventure path. She is a chubby, nerdy girl who is extremely passive aggressive, shy and quiet. To play Katja, I speak with a low, quiet voice, and rarely raise my voice. Similar to the little black woman from the Police Academy movie. I also created a number of macros that details some of the things that she frequently does. "Katja puts both hands over her mouth, horrified by what she heard" Usually after a sexual reference. She keeps telling people that they are "not being very nice".

Kermina val'Borda Known to almost everyone who plays Arcanis, Kermina is the ditzy patrician who adventures for reasons that are rather unclear. It has been said that she puts the "Val" in "Valley Girl". The inflections and frequent nonsensical epithets of Valley Speech make her very unique. Totally! Awesome! Like really? Duh!

Togo Togo is a primitive shaman I created for the Dragon's Demand adventure. As someone from a primitive culture, he speak without using the "I". Therefore "Togo likes music", "Togo loves women" and "Togo is a man of skills" are some of his catchphrases. He also frequently blows his antelope horn. PFFFFFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU! Yeah forget about stealth...


It is important to note that when playing online, you cannot have side conversation out loud. Those should be done through the chat. It is less obtrusive, but nonetheless allows you to interact with your party members without having to do strange voices.


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